Monday, 28 August 2017

Not Here, Not There, But Everywhere

"I've Been Everywhere," as sung by Johnny Cash and played by players whose names I don't know but who perform this number so flawlessly and beautifully that I couldn't help feeling better when I finally decided to listen to it. (And who doesn't need cheering up once in a while?)

I've heard parts of "I've Been Everywhere" countless times, but had never closely listened to the whole thing until yesterday. Shame on me. It's the human heartbeat sped up and amplified and the human brain humorized and satisfied and improved, and whatever functioning human limbs and digits and joints and muscles you've still got, energized. You don't have to move while it's in your ears, but I dare you not to. Some of the rhymes are even deft enough to have come out of a rapper's brain.* The song was born in Australia about sixty years ago and has been, if not everywhere, a lot of places where folks speak English, each locale supplying its own subset of "everywhere." Since Johnny Cash lived in North America and I live in North America, I've chosen his version. Well, that and the wittily twangy virtuosic combo playing the hell out of backing him up. Once Mr. Cash finishes his unerring vocal, they play us down the road, the crackerjack guitarist and pianist leading the way. What geographers, all of them!

(* I'm waiting for a hip-hop version of this gem. That's the kind of cultural appropriation I could get behind.)

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Basie Ball

"Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" by Count Basie and his Orchestra, with vocals by Taps Miller and Ensemble

I love baseball, especially daytime baseball: everything feels clearer (at least it did when I played). The baseball team I'm helplessly in love with is having an off year, but I still love it as I would a wayward child, and today* that team played a wonderful game with a hootingly dramatic conclusion (yes, I hoot when I watch baseball) -- a walk-off, extra-innings grand slam homerun. I've only now come down from the high, but you know how euphoria is -- it can always use some music.

So, of course, I had to google-meld baseball and songs (and singers and singing and playing and seeing and listening), and many of the results were -- forgive me -- hit or miss. But not this one, not "Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?" Everyone and everything is having absolutely brilliant swinging fun during this song: the voices, the horns, the reeds, the percussing personnel, the emerging zeitgeist. I was yet to be conceived when it was made, and although I may have seen Jackie Robinson on television in my infancy and toddlerdom (my father loved baseball, too), I have no memory of doing so. Which doesn't matter, of course, because I love history as much as I do baseball and music, and Jackie Robinson, for my money, and until I can be convinced otherwise, is still one of history's heroes.

(And how cool it would've been to have a name like Count Basie!)

* "Today" is now last week, which is when I wrote the three paragraphs above. Between then and now, the same hitter who walked the team off into that victory with his wonderful hit did an even more wondrous thing a few days later! What made it better and even more delightful? This time it was a "Super Grand Slam" [my italics], which the Baseball Almanac tells us is one consisting of (and I'm paraphrasing here) the guy at home having to bring three of his friends home and then coming home himself by hitting into the distance where it's now someone else's the ball they were all playing with. It was all very giddy and joyous and warm and strange and delicious, and it lacked Jackie Robinson's historical punch, but I'll never forget how stupidly happy I felt at least twice last week.