Monday, February 19, 2018

ROSEANNE VS FERGIE

There once was a time, a long long time ago, when performers sang the national anthem as it was written and it was good.  Then we were forced to endure a couple of decades of these singers creating their own arrangements of The Star Spangled Banner that left the listener wondering if it was indeed the national anthem they were listening to.  It was horrible.

One of these performances stood out as worse than any other public performance of the song and it was sung with the original arrangement.  In July of 1990, Roseanne Barr performed the song before a Padres/Reds baseball game in San Diego.  Now, Roseanne is a comedian, not a singer.  She went out and more or less yelled the song with a bit of a tune to make it recognizable and upon finishing the song, she grabbed her crotch and then spit before walking off the field.

There have been a lot of bad performances of the song but Roseanne's became known as the absolutely worst ever and a case could be made for that opinion.  Here is what Roseanne's version sounded like on that day:


So for 28 years Roseanne bore the title of the worst national anthem singer of all time... that is, until yesterday.

Roseanne received some competition for the title at the NBA All-Star game.  Fergie, of Black Eyed Peas fame, brought back the old self arrangements of the song and brought the bar to a new high for the title.  As Fergie sang The Star Spangled Banner, you could see not only fans at the game, but the players themselves trying very hard not to break out in laughter.  See if you can keep from at least a little chuckle while listening to her performance:


To compare an example of a great performance of the national anthem, one has only to look a year after Roseanne butchered it.  It was the Super Bowl when the late Whitney Houston set the bar for one of the greatest public performances of the song of all time.  To many, it is the standard by which all other performances should be compared:


So I decided to try to decide which version was worse,  Roseanne or Fergie.  This was not an esay excersize to work through.   For one thing, I put my brain through listening to each version several times.

Let's take quick comparison of these two performances.  We can look at Roseanne and say "She is a comedian, not a singer" and we can look at Fergie and say the opposite "She is a singer, not a comedian."  That is all well and good but a strange thing happened.  When Roseanne, the comedian, sang the song the crowd let out a chorus of boos even before the crotch grap and spit.  When Fergie, the singer, was performing the work it took for everyone to not burst out in laughter was quite evident.  Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Roseanne was herself during her performance.  She did not arrange the song differently, but sang it more or less the way it was written (I use the word "sang" loosely here).  Fergie took all of her musical talent and ability to arrange the song to her liking and performed it intentionally to a horrible outcome.  She put a lot of theatrics into her performance in order to make it more dramatic? I suppose.

After the the performance was finished Roseanne grabbed her crotch and spit on the ground.  Fergie on the other hand shouted out "Let's play some basketball!!!"  Now we could take Roseanne's gestures as disrespectful to the anthem and to the country.  I choose not to.  Looking at the two performances, grabbing of the crotch and spitting are an integral part of baseball.  Next time you watch a baseball game, try to count how many times players spit and "adjust" their pants.  I promise you it is a lot.  So I choose to see Roseanne's gestures as her way of saying "Play Ball" which is far more American than the announcer at a basketball game saying "Let's play some basketball".  I don't think I have ever heard that at a basketball game but 99.999% of the time at a baseball game, the umpire or the announcer will say "PLAY BALL".

The booing of the crowd in San Diego makes me think that perhaps the fans were not taking Roseanne as a comedian doing a bit, but rather as someone who was trying to sing the anthem the way it was written and failed miserably.  However the laughter at Fergie's serious attempt at performing the song made the crowd see her as a musician making a fool of herself.

MY conclusion ... congratulations Roseanne,  you are no longer the worst performer ever to sing the Star Spangled Banner in a public forum.  You aren't Whitney Houston of course, but you sure aren't Fergie either.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

FIVE YEARS OF JOHN LENNON

John Lennon only lived on this earth for forty years.  During this forty years, a transition took place as to how John Lennon presented himself and his philosophy.

Lennon's life was very complicated.  As a child his father abandoned he and his mother Julia.  His mother turned the young boy over to the care of his Aunt Mimi.  He was extremely intelligent and talented.  He was an artist in all aspects.  He could draw, write prose, write music, play several instruments and had a mind that saw the world and came up with a philosophy that was his and his alone, as most philosophers do.

His professional music career began with a group called The Quarrymen which would later morph into what became one of the world's all time great pop bands, The Beatles. When The Beatles solidified into the final line up of Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey (Commonly known as Ringo Starr) John found his life turned upside down.  Sudden fame that towered over the fame of Elvis and Dylan forced his outward life into a mold that the public wanted The Beatles to be.  He was married and a father in real life but in public, John was expected to be seen as one of "the boys" single and fancy free.  This forcing of his personification would put a strain on his marriage to Cynthia and he would drift away from her as well as his son Julian.

It seemed that everything The Beatles put out went to the top.  They could not do anything wrong when it came to music.  He and McCartney collaborated on songs giving each credit for the majority of songs The Beatles released.  As the group grew through the years Lennon, McCartney and Harrison began to be able to get away from the simple love songs they had been writing and Lennon, McCartney and Harrison began to write songs with a deeper meaning incorporating their individual styles and messages into their music.  By the time their 1968 album was released, known as "The White Album" each of the three were writing songs that were easily picked out as to who wrote what.  While McCartney stayed mostly with his pop love songs, Lennon and Harrison began to write more songs that expressed their ideologies that they were beginning to form.

Just to be clear, this was and is my own personal take on John Lennon's philosophy that he was forming.  I have always admired and respected Lennon as a philosopher, just as I do most philosophers.  And just as I do most philosophers I did not agree with a lot of it.  Anyone who can form a complicated view of life and nature and be able to present it in a form that is understood gets my respect.  It is not an easy thing to do and something that I have tried but come up very lacking in that ability.

The first song of Lennon's that I think was an in your face philosophical statement was "Revolution".  It was here that Lennon showed pure genius with his words to get a point across.  I think this song was written, not as Lennon lecturing us, but as Lennon saw society lecturing him and others of his generation.    Here are the lyrics and perhaps you can see what he was doing with the words:

You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it's evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
But when you talk about destruction
Don't you know that you can count me out

Don't you know it's gonna be
All right, all right, all right

You say you got a real solution
Well, you know
We'd all love to see the plan
You ask me for a contribution
Well, you know
We're doing what we can
But if you want money for people with minds that hate
All I can tell is brother you have to wait

Don't you know it's gonna be
All right, all right, all right

You say you'll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head
You tell me it's the institution
Well, you know
You better free you mind instead
But if you go carrying pictures of chairman Mao
You ain't going to make it with anyone anyhow

Don't you know it's gonna be
All right, all right, all right

He continued to write songs as The Beatles slowly grew apart and eventually broke up. When they went their individual ways and began to record solo albums, Lennon was totally free to do and write whatever he wanted.  He did a biographical song called "Mother" in which he was able to express his disappointment with his childhood and lack of relationships with his mother and father.  He wrote about his religious views and his belief in only his wife, Yoko, and himself, called "God" telling the world that he doesn't' believe in Jesus, buddah, or any cult or religion.  He expressed his anti war sentiment in several songs before writing his most beloved song "Imagine".

This song musically is so very beautiful.  The words of the song, however, show his political thinking and that was one of communism/socialism.  The words are often taken out of context and quoted to make statements of people getting along, of humankind's desire of love for one another.  If you take the lyrics as a whole however, you see the true political philosophy of John Lennon.  No God, No Satan, no heaven or hell, a one world government, the idea that everything belongs to everyone, there are no individual possessions.  It is "Revolution" as written from Lennon's point of view instead of from the western philosophy of a republic or democracy.  Here are the lyrics taken as a whole:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

In a live recording of this during a concert in Madison Square Garden, When he gets to "Imagine no possessions" he says under his breath "I try"  because let's face it, John Lennon had a LOT of possessions.  He owned a few mansions, lots of private land and was doing fairly well monetary wise. The song, to me, kind of like mostleaders in a socialistic system, where those at the top, those who condone the system the strongest, also live against everything the philosophy states.

Lennon continued writing and recording this type of philosophy until 1975 when he suddenly stopped recording and entered into private life in New York.  He and Yoko had a son, Sean, and Lennon retired from music to live the life of a father and husband.  After he had done to Cynthia and Julian much the same thing that his own parents had done to him, he had a chance to do things right and that was what he wanted to do. He became an average New Yorker. He could be found walking through Central Park with his son on his shoulders.  He never hid from people, but embraced them as friends, fellow New Yorkers.  There are clips of him stopping and just chatting with people in New York, not acting as though he were anything special.  I believe he was extremely sincere during this time of his life. He had become just an everyday normal man living his life while raising his family. For five years he lived this life, playing music in private but not releasing any new music to the public.  Music had become a hobby for him.

Then in 1980 after five years away from the music, he and Yoko released a new album titled "Double Fantasy".  This album showed a new Lennon.  It showed the family man, the loving husband and the father of a son he dearly loved.  The songs were of a more personal nature and more biographical than philosophical.  "Watching The Wheels" is a song on this album that somewhat explains what he had been doing for five years, where he had been and what he was about.  It was a mature Lennon that came out.  He may have still held onto his philosophy from the past, he he put it in a different place as far as importance was concerned.  He had a new perspective on what was important in life.

People say I'm crazy
Doing what I'm doing
Well, they give me all kinds of warnings
To save me from ruin
When I say that I'm okay, well they look at me kinda strange
"Surely, you're not happy now, you no longer play the game"

People say I'm lazy
Dreaming my life away
Well they give me all kinds of advice
Designed to enlighten me
When I tell them that I'm doing fine watching shadows on the wall
"Don't you miss the big time boy, you're no longer on the ball?"

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Ah, people ask me questions
Lost in confusion
Well, I tell them there's no problem
Only solutions
Well, they shake their heads and they look at me, as if I've lost my mind
I tell them there's no hurry, I'm just sitting here doing time

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go

Lennon had spent five years putting the things of life in what he thought were their proper perspective.  He had come out on the other side a more mature man and the respect that came with this release was much more than five years previous.  Sadly, this album brought Lennon back into the spotlight and he once again became a public figure.  The new mature John Lennon's 1980 statement on his view of life would lead to his death shortly after the album was released.

This is the Lennon I hope that the world will remember.  The ordinary family man finally happy with life and where it had taken him