Fake Gun. Real Dead. Not His Fault.

Created by God. Killed by cop.

The city of Cleveland believes it has determined who is responsible for the death of Tamir Rice.  Tamir Rice did it!

The city of Cleveland’s response to a lawsuit filed by the family of Tamir Rice says the 12-year-old boy is to blame for his own death by police.

The young boy seen milling about his neighborhood park had less than two seconds to react to two Cleveland police officers who drove right up to the gazebo and shot Tamir, mistaking his pellet gun as a real and dangerous weapon.

Rookie police officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir dead just steps away from the park’s gazebo on Nov. 22, reportedly never knowing dispatchers had believed the firearm to be “probably fake.”

The majority of the city’s response lacked elaborate detail into their claims by leaning on Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office’s incomplete investigation for the inability to comment on Tamir’s death.

The case has not been completed by the Sheriff’s Office and no timeline exists for its hand off to prosecutors, Cleveland.com reported.

Despite the city’s recent hire of Loehmann, the city said it had no knowledge of the cop’s alleged applications to Akron, Euclid and Parma Heights Police and even failing the Cuyahoga County’s written examination.

The suit makes no mention of Loehmann’s brief ties to Independence Police where he was described as “distracted” and “weepy” during a firearms qualifications training before being fired in 2012.

“Nothing wrong with shooting people as long as the right people get shot.”

Blaming Rice for his own death is cruel to the dead boy and his family, but Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association Steve Loomis ups the ante to insanity as he calls Rice as “menacing” and “a 12-year-old in an adult body.”

Nothing gets Steve Loomis churning faster than questions about what happened on the day that Tamir Rice was shot.

His constant refrain: The police are heroes misunderstood by a public being fed a steady, media-generated, activist-fueled diet of false information about how they do their jobs.

“Tamir Rice is an absolute example of that,” Loomis said. “There’s this perception that police just slid up in the car and shot him. That’s not reality from the officers’ perception. They acted based on what they knew at the time.”

“Tamir Rice is in the wrong,” he said. “He’s menacing. He’s 5-feet-7, 191 pounds. He wasn’t that little kid you’re seeing in pictures. He’s a 12-year-old in an adult body. Tamir looks to his left and sees a police car. He puts his gun in his waistband. Those people—99 percent of the time those people run away from us. We don’t want him running into the rec center. That could be a whole other set of really bad events. They’re trying to flush him into the field. Frank [the driver] is expecting the kid to run. The circumstances are so fluid and unique. …

“The guy with the gun is not running. He’s walking toward us. He’s squaring off with Cleveland police and he has a gun. Loehmann is thinking, ‘Oh my God, he’s pulling it out of his waistband.’”

Oh my God. Those poor officers! What else could they do? They had to kill that menacing 12-year-old kid in an adult body.

Shame on Tamir Rice for scaring those poor officers. And shame on Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Eric Garner and Akai Gurley, Jordan Davis for scaring their killers.

So many scary Black guys. So many cops and vigilantes to make them dead and less scary Black guys.

There are times when I have no words. Mostly because those words would be unbelievably angry and profanely foul. All I have is cold, burning rage and the fire that burns would very much like to come down like God’s own wrath on someone like Steve Loomis who embodies everything Black Panther founder Huey P. Newton thought a “pig” was.

“We felt that the police needed a label other that fear image that they carried in the community. So we use the pig as the rather low-lifed animal in order to identify the police. And it worked.”

I never liked calling cops “pigs”. It was too extreme and I believed  it to be too debasing, disrespectful and dehumanized all police officers for the actions of the bad ones.  Yet the more I hear guys like Loomis in Cleveland or Patrick Lynch in New York and all these other leaders of police unions who debase young Black men like Tamir , disrespect young Black men like Tamir, and dehumanize young Black men like Tamir, the less resistant I become to calling cops “pigs.”

If the police do not respect us we should not respect them and where there is no respect, the response will be resistance.

This will not help Tamir Rice, but it might make a few killer cops take an extra second to consider the consequences before they pull the trigger. If justice can’t be found in the courtrooms,  people will go looking for it in the streets.

Giuliani: Obama Doesn’t Love America (and he doesn’t think much of you either).

An ugly man who tells ugly lies makes for an even uglier drag queen.

Rudy Giuliani chopped up President Obama, threw him in a blender and turned it on to “high.”

NEW YORK — Rudy Giuliani went straight for the jugular Wednesday night during a private group dinner here featuring Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker by openly questioning whether President Barack Obama “loves America.”

The former New York mayor, speaking in front of the 2016 Republican presidential contender and about 60 right-leaning business executives and conservative media types, directly challenged Obama’s patriotism, discussing what he called weak foreign policy decisions and questionable public remarks when confronting terrorists.

“I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” Giuliani said during the dinner at the 21 Club, a former Prohibition-era speakeasy in midtown Manhattan. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.”

With Walker sitting just a few seats away, Giuliani continued by saying that “with all our flaws we’re the most exceptional country in the world. I’m looking for a presidential candidate who can express that, do that and carry it out.”

In an interview after the dinner — Walker aides insisted all of the governor’s comments were off the record — Giuliani said he would “eventually” back a Republican presidential candidate. He also elaborated on his criticism of Obama by arguing the president “sees our weaknesses as footnotes to the great things we’ve done.”

“What country has left so many young men and women dead abroad to save other countries without taking land? This is not the colonial empire that somehow he has in his hand. I’ve never felt that from him. I felt that from [George] W. [Bush]. I felt that from [Bill] Clinton. I felt that from every American president, including ones I disagreed with, including [Jimmy] Carter. I don’t feel that from President Obama.”

Following his scorched earth attack on the President of the United States for his lack of love for the United States (and Rudy Giuliani), the former mayor of New York doubled down on his criticism of Obama with a flat-out refusal to apologize during an appearance on The Kelly File.

“Not at all. I want to repeat them,” he said. “The reality is, all I can see from this president, all I have heard from is he apologizes for America, he criticizes America. He talks about the Crusades and how the Christians were barbarians, leaves out the second half of the sentence that the Muslims were barbarians also.”

“He sees Christians slaughtered and doesn’t stand up and hold a press conference, although he holds a press conference for the situation in Ferguson,” he said. “He sees Jews being killed for anti-Semitic reasons, doesn’t stand up and hold a press conference. This is an American president I’ve never seen before.”

I have to carry this sign with me so people remember who I am.

Rudy Giuliani is a racist. Not the kind of racist who screams “nigger!” at the top of his lungs. That’s the old-fashioned, overt, uncool kind of racism and which makes everyone a bit weirded out. Dude, you’re being kinda racist. Rudy is far too savvy a politician to actually call out Obama that way.

There are other ways. Better ways. Ways that get the point across while leaving yourself wiggle room to plausibly deny you ever said anything offensive at all. Lee Atwater, the late adviser to George H.W. Bush, knew a little something about how to race-bait without actually saying anything that sounds racist. At least to White people who chose to willingly blind themselves to the truth.

You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger”—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”

Rudy understands the language of the racially abstract. How does one talk about a Black President without calling him a “nigger?” As much as Giuliani might like to, he know he can’t because that puts you in that David Duke camp and that’s too dangerous a place to enter even for the erstwhile “America’s Mayor.” Instead, you talk about Obama’s “otherness” and how he didn’t grow up as the son of a Kenyan Black father and a Kansas White mother the way Rudy did. Which means he must not love America the way Rudy does and is not to be trusted.

Whenever someone attacks the patriotism of another man, that’s bad enough.  The patriotism of Black people has been questioned for centuries, but sneer “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country” that’s a different sort of assault. That is speaking in CODE.

“Obama isn’t like you and me. You know….White and Christian.”

Wake up and smell the bullshit. This isn’t politics as usual. This isn’t any of that “oh, worse things have been said about other presidents” noise.   This is a sniper attack, a cowardly assault and a slander on the character of the President of the United States by a racist scumbag.

Rudy G. was a bully as a mayor, a failure as a presidential candidate and a racist all his miserable life. He was a racist when Patrick Dorismond and Eleanor Bumphers and Amadou Diallo were gunned down by the NYPD and he’s still a racist with his post-Eric Garner/Ferguson “why don’t you Black folks stop committing so many crimes and force the cops to kill you?” ranting.

I AM TOTALLY NUTS AND COMPLETELY RACIST!!!!

The degree to which the White Right is infected with Obama Derangement Syndrome knows no bounds. First, they said he was a Socialist. Then they said he had no birth certificate and wasn’t born in this country. Now they say he’s sympathetic to Islamic terrorists and wants to give your pretty White daughters to Boko Haram to be good Muslim wives.

Why should Obama love Giuliani? Why should anyone love such a repugnant, repulsive, racist? I know what I read, I know what it means and don’t play me stupid by telling me I don’t.

Of all the ugly things said about the president, coming from such a prominent member of the Republican Party is perhaps the ugliest. But then Rudy Giuliani is an ugly man. Ugly on the outside and uglier on the inside.

Selma Will Lose Because It’s Too Damn Uppity To Win

“Psst! Hey, David! You’d better get on your knees and show Hollywood some respect!”

If you’re the type of person who watches The Academy Awards because you think it means something, don’t be surprised when Selma loses out for Best Picture of the Year.  It would be a much bigger surprise if it did.   Hollywood thought it had proved last year it was full of good liberals with 12 Years A Slave.  The attitude this time around is We gave you Solomon Northrup last year and you’re back again for Martin Luther King?

 Selma isn’t going to lose because it wasn’t one of the best movies of 2014.   Selma isn’t going to lose because Ava DuVernay can’t direct and David Oyelowo can’t act.    Selma is going to lose because it was too damn uppity.

That’s not what I think because what I and you think about the movie doesn’t matter to the typical Oscar voter.  They don’t care one bit about what the peons think.   It only matters what they think as The Hollywood Reporter learned from one “brutally honest Oscar ballot” the first film to depict the civil rights struggle from a Black woman’s perspective has “no art to it” and “when a movie about Black people is good, members vote for it.   But it the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it because it has Black people in it?”

The Hollywood Reporter didn’t specify the race of the anonymous Oscar female voter who works in public relations (and presumably does that job better than these remarks would show) but the way she wears her White privilege like a perfume removes any doubt.   What  does matter is here we have an open window into how Academy member thinks about Selma and the director and actors “stirring up shit.”

Hands Up. Don’t Stir Up Shit.

First, let me say that I’m tired of all of this talk about “snubs” — I thought for every one of [the snubs] there was a justifiable reason. What no one wants to say out loud is that Selma is a well-crafted movie, but there’s no art to it. If the movie had been directed by a 60-year-old white male, I don’t think that people would have been carrying on about it to the level that they were. And as far as the accusations about the Academy being racist? Yes, most members are white males, but they are not the cast of Deliverance — they had to get into the Academy to begin with, so they’re not cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies. When a movie about black people is good, members vote for it. But if the movie isn’t that good, am I supposed to vote for it just because it has black people in it? I’ve got to tell you, having the cast show up in T-shirts saying “I can’t breathe” [at their New York premiere] — I thought that stuff was offensive. Did they want to be known for making the best movie of the year or for stirring up shit?

The p.r. flack isn’t completely wrong.  The Academy isn’t made up by cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies.   It’s worse than that.  The Academy is made up with intelligent, educated professionals who think about Black people exactly the same way as cretinous, snaggletoothed hillbillies.

This is liberal Hollywood talking here, raw and unfiltered telling you what they really think when they’re talking among themselves, sending emails and text messages back and forth and lying in bed with someone else’s spouse.  They clearly don’t think much about Black people who don’t stay in their lane and don’t act sufficiently grateful for being allowed to work in Hollywood.

Welcome to Post-Racial America. East of Narnia, South of Atlantis, North of Oz and Smack in the Middle of Nowhere.

It’s not only the actors who know how to recite lines when the cameras are on.  You know what I find offensive?  Brutally honest White people who are brutally racist when they tell Black people how they should act.   That offends the shit out of me.

Let Kanye Be Kanye!

To admire an artist means you are at times forced to defend their non-artistic antics.  To admire Kanye West,  means you’re going to do a lot of defending because for every one memorable musical moment Mr. Kardashian creates two palm-slap upside the head ones.

Kanye’s crap  used to annoy me.  Now after years of not getting it, I’m in on the joke Kanye is playing on everybody else and I approve.

I stopped watching the Grammy Awards ages ago and stopped caring who won longer than that, so I missed Kanye step onstage and scare the shit out of Beck with what looked like a Taylor Swift flashback. Nah. Just kiddin’, folks!   It was a head fake.  Kanye was holding his fire until after the show when Kanye  (aka “Yezus” or just “Ye” to his friends) unleashed a volley on Beck and he wasn’t kidding. Or maybe he was.

I’m not bothered when Kanye jacks these stupid award shows by making it all about him. If we couldn’t depend on Kanye pulling out his dick and stepping on it all we’d have to talk about is how Madonna didn’t look as old and creaky as she did in the Super Bowl halftime a few years ago. All award shows are pompous, self-important, self-congratulatory stroke fests and anyone who needs an Oscar, Tony, Grammy, or Emmy to certify their own tastes has bigger problems than another Kanye rant.

Sing ‘Loser?” Never heard of it.

“Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé,”

I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. “Flawless,” Beyoncé video. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should have given his award to Beyoncé and at this point, we tired of it. Because what happens is when you keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in the face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration. And we as musicians have to inspire people who go to work every day. And they listen to that Beyoncé album and they feel like it takes them to another place. Then they do this whole promotional event, that, you know, they’ll run the music over somebody’s speech, the artist, because they want a commercial advertising. Like no, we not playing with them no more. And by the way, I got my wife, I got my daughter, and I got my clothing line so I’m not going to do nothing to put my daughter at risk — but I am here to fight for creativity. That’s the reason why I didn’t say anything tonight. But y’all know what it meant when ‘Ye walked on the stage.

Am I the only one who wonders why Kanye is so protective of Beyonce and her divine right to win every award in the world and why he still gets invited to these shows?  This could all be easily avoided.  After Michael Moore pissed all over the Oscars after winning for Bowling For Columbine, the powers that be stopped nominating his documentaries. Problem solved.   Then we can get back to talking about Old Madonna.

Kanye publicly showing his ass has become as predictable as his wife baring hers. It’s what he does and if you can’t see this part him/part performance art, you’re missing the joke. Enter Shirley Manson, lead singer of the rock band Garbage,  who received much online love for delivering a succinct bitch slap to Yeezus in one devastating Facebook post.

“Hi, Kanye. A word?”

“Dear Kanye West,

It is YOU who is so busy disrespecting artistry.

You disrespect your own remarkable talents and more importantly you disrespect the talent, hard work and tenacity of all artists when you go so rudely and savagely after such an accomplished and humble artist like BECK.

You make yourself look small and petty and spoilt.

In attempting to reduce the importance of one great talent over another, you make a mockery of all musicians and music from every genre, including your own.

Grow up and stop throwing your toys around.

You are making yourself look like a complete twat.

P.s. I am pretty certain Beyonce doesn’t need you fighting any battles on her account. Seems like she’s got everything covered perfectly well on her own.”

Kanye considers himself a musical genius to be mentioned in the same breath as Stevie Wonder,  Miles Davis or The Beatles but he’s not about to wait until a decade after he’s dead to get his due.   He’s going to claim it right here and clearly he considers Beyonce and Jay-Z to be among his peers. Taylor Swift and Beck are definitely not.    Is is rude he said so publicly instead of privately?

I’m a bigger fan of Shirley than Kanye, but she was a little hard on him, after all he was only listening to the voices in his head.   “I was asked my opinion and I was given a platform. And when given a platform, it’s very hard as we know – and I’m going to talk in third person like I’m a crazy person – but it’s very hard for Kanye West to not be very true and vocal to what he feels.”

Whether driven by impulse or calculation, if Kanye is predictable at least he isn’t boring like the Grammy Awards are.  It’s like he told Rolling Stone in 2007,  “Rock stars can give their fucking opinion without having to deal with . . . what’s that thing I get dealt with every day of my life? Oh, yeah. Backlash.”

 

Troubled Child

Behind the smiles, so much pain.  (Photo: UPI/Jim Ruymen)

Behind the smiles, so much pain. (Photo: UPI/Jim Ruymen)

Though chronically an adult, the way Bobbi Kristina Brown grew up in public makes it difficult not to think of her as a child.   She’s a not a child, but barring a medical miracle,  she will be frozen in memory as an young woman who struggled  and largely failed to blaze her own career path while trying to deal with the heartbreak of her mother’s premature death.   This is the story of a child who never had a fair chance to grow up to be an adult.

Last Saturday, while the nation lost in the fog of the Super Bowl hype machine, the only child of Whitney Houston and Bobby Brown was found face down in the bathtub of the Atlanta home she shared with husband Nick Gordon, (or perhaps not her husband depending on who’s telling the story).  As soon as the news broke the speculation began Bobbi had been using drugs and attempted suicide in a grisly attempt to echo her mother’s death three years ago.

If the grim decision is made to remove Brown off the ventilator keeping her alive, there will an assessment of what the world loses by her passing so young.  She was not an iconic singer nor an accomplished actress.  Whether she had the potential to become a star is subject to debate.

What we don’t know about the circumstances that put Bobbi Kristina in that bathtub.   What we do know is she was a sad, tragic young woman suffering  a loss she could not continue to face.  What we will lose when Bobbi Kristina passes is a troubled child, a show biz kid who tried to follow in her the footsteps of her famous parents, missed out on inheriting much of their talent, but seemingly all of their self-destructive habits. Did Bobbi Kristina have what it took to step out of the long shadow cast by Whitney?  She never had a fair chance to find out.

Jezebel documented the harrowing downward spiral of the daughter of a diva into a perfect storm of misery.   There are lots of kids who see mommy and daddy fighting, but not many see mommy telling Oprah about daddy as Houston did in a 2007 interview.

“When we got back to the house,” Houston said, “he spit on me. He spit on me. He actually spit on me. And my daughter was coming down the stairs and she saw it. That was pretty intense. I didn’t grow up with that and I didn’t understand why that occurred – [why] he had such a hate for me because I loved him so much.”

Only the sickest of ghouls would take a swipe at a dying young woman for not approaching the achievements of her celebrity parents in her last, tragic hours and I am not sick or ghoulish. I feel nothing but sympathy for everyone involved and dumping on Bobbi because she set her sights high is for someone a bigger bastard than I am.

I feel both sorry and more than a little sickened.

It’s hard enough for any singer to come close to the pinnacles scaled by a superstar like Whitney and avoid the lows of Bobby, but Bobbi Kristina seemed to plunge headfirst into the trouble without enjoying any of the success.   The burden of expectations for the child who wants to follow in the footsteps of one parent is a high enough hurdle, but Bobbi Kristina hadn’t even cleared the New Edition/”My Prerogative” bar.

English: American singer Whitney Houston perfo...

English: American singer Whitney Houston performing “My Love Is Your Love” with her daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown on Good Morning America (Central Park, New York City) on September 1, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Standing on  the outside, the terrible wasting of an unhappy young woman’s life seems a  sad waste which could have been avoided if only someone had said to her, “You don’t need to be the next Whitney Houston.  You do need to be the Bobbi Kristina you can be.”

On the inside, there’s a daughter mourning and missing a mother gone too soon who found herself lost in the same darkness which dragged Whitney down.   Bobbi Kristina couldn’t find her way out and  may have chosen her own exit strategy.

Everybody loses when the young do not grow old.

Who Wins Super Bowl XLIX? Satan or Hitler?

Cheater vs. Cheater

Cheater vs. Cheater

This is all written with tongue firmly in cheek.   Am I really comparing two NFL coaches with an insane Nazi and the Prince of Darkness?   No, I am not, so unclench. 

We’re standing on the verge of Super Bowl 49 as the defending champion Seattle Seahawks take on the New England Patriots and because these sort of things are always reduced to a chess match between the coaches, it’s one lyin, cheatin’ ass coach in Billy Belichick against another lyin’ cheatin’ ass coach in Petey Carroll.

The game is billed as Patriots vs. Seahawks,  but when both sides are full of assholes you can stand it more like ISIS vs Al Qaeda,  explosive diarrhea vs inflamed hemorrhoids.  This is a battle between  Satan vs. Hitler because they’re both evil.  One is just more evil.   If only there were a way both of them could lose in a 0-0 tie after four overtimes that would be okay by me..   Mostly I’ll be happy if the Seawhores ram an inflated football up the ass of the Patsies.

As a 49ers fan I have no rooting interest for either side.   As a 49ers fan I already hate the fucking Seawhores,   As a 49ers fan its blasphemy to pull for the Seawhores.   As a 49ers fan, I’ve seen Russell Wilson rip apart the secondary, Mumbling Marshawn Lynch run around, over and through the D-line, and watched helplessly as Richard Sherman made All-Pro based on lighting up Colin Kaepernick.   As a 49ers fan, I hate fucking Seawhores because they absolute own the 49ers.

But I hate the fucking Patriots more.

 

Everything wrong with the NFL is what’s wrong with the Patriots.  The head coach is a cheater.   The quarterback is a whiner and a cheater.    Now I’m not saying Belichick is in league with Satan, but if Satan is pulling for anybody in the Super Bowl, it has to be the Patriots.   If the Seven Deadly Sins are Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy and Pride, I can make a case the Patriots are guilty of at least five of them.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of reasons to despise the sight of Petey Carroll including being a 9/11 Truther (possibly) as well as leaving as head coach at the University of Southern California to take over the Seahags just before the school got busted by the NCAA for rules violations (definitely).   The kids he left at USC got stuck with the sanctions while Carroll cashed big checks from Seawhores owner Paul Allen.

Am we evil? Yes, we are!

Carroll ethical lapses and questionable character make it hard to pull for him, but the repeated way the Patsies flip the bird at the entire NFL with their persistent insistence the rules do not apply to them the way it does to the rest of the NFL makes it impossible to pull for them.   The Homeless Guy in the Hoodie must have “if you ain’t cheatin’ you ain’t tryin’ on his scrotum and that’s enough to make me cheer for the Dallas Cowboys and I hate the stinking’ Dallas Cowboys.

Given the choice between Hitler Pete and Satan Bill, I’m gonna reluctantly roll with the dictator and hope like hell Belicheat, Lady Brady and the Patsies take the “L” today.   A humiliating loss would be good.  A vicious blowout would be better.

Seawhores: 24 – Patsies:  17

Annie Lennox’s “Nostalgia” Proves It’s Never As Good As the First Time

You can’t fault Annie Lennox if she gives the impression Nostalgia is her first swipe at a “serious” jazz record.   It’s an album of jazz standards and its released by Blue Note records.   Back in the 90’s she entered the scene as the gender-bending vocalist of the Eurythmics turning out perfect synth pop. Lennox turned 60 this year and along with her closely cropped grey hair, she displays the full maturity of a veteran artist.

However, the results here are bit muddled with peaks and valleys along the musical journey through the well-worn territory of the Great American Songbook, fast becoming the favorite vacation spot for aging rock stars.

In no way, shape, or form is Lennox a jazz singer. That is not to say she can’t sing or has no soul. She can and she does, but in comparison with Nina Simone, Ray Charles or Billie Holiday, she is emphatically not a jazz singer.   In fairness it’s a heavy lift for anyone to be compared favorably to a trio like Simone, Charles and Holiday and while Lennox gamely tries, she all too often face plants when she tackles material she clearly has no feel for.

Things start promisingly enough as Lennox turns in a credible performance on “Memphis In June,” previously popularized by Simone. Seek out her version and contrast if with Lennox and the differences are dramatically stark. Whether the world really needed another take on “Georgia On My Mind” is subject to debate, but what isn’t is Sweet Baby Ray’s has nothing to fear from Lennox’s stab at it (neither does Willie Nelson).

Where the album stumbles badly are on the fourth and sixth tracks, “Summertime” and “Strange Fruit.” The former is stripped down to a stark piano-and-vocal dirge with Lennox carefully enunciating every word as she strives to be poignant, but merely comes off as stiff.

“Strange Fruit” is a hot mess. Lennox comes off as utterly clueless and as a dabbling dilettante. By most objective standards Lennox is a technically superior vocalist to Holiday with a pretty voice, but “Strange Fruit” is not a pretty song and it does not need pretty vocalizing to get its bleak point across. Holiday presented “Strange Fruit” as a damning indictment of Jim Crow lynch law, but Lady Day‘s scathing indictment of Southern racism is absent from Lennox’s sanitized and bloodless interpretation and the completeness of the failure nearly sinks Nostalgia.  A singer must choose material which suits them and an English White woman attempting to a song about the lynching of Black folks in the South is completely unsuitable for her.

Lennox takes another shot at a Holiday with “God Bless the Child” which isn’t terrible, but its nothing special either. Memo to Annie Lennox: You are a great singer, but you do not “get” Billie Holiday. After the double Lady Day debacle Nostalgia gets a lift from three short songs. “You Belong To Me” has been covered by artists as diverse as Patti Page, Bing Crosby, Homer and Jethro, Rosemary Clooney, Ringo Starr and Michael Buble and Lennox gets back on track with a tune which plays to her strengths of perfect phrasing accompanied by a stylish presentation. “September In the Rain,” “I Can Dream, Can’t I?” and “The Nearness of You” are all well within Lennox’s comfort zone.

The purest “jazz” moment should be the closer, “Mood Indigo” but it’s spoiled by a silly middle and end section where Lennox starts freestyling and the band starts goofing around, so its left to John Green and Edward Heyman’s “I Cover the Waterfront” to give Nostalgia, previously covered by Sarah Vaughn, John Lee Hooker and (surprise!) Billie Holiday, what little jazz credibility it has.

As more and more pop artists turn to the Great American Songbook, some have hit and others have whiffed. Nostalgia hit with landing at Number One on Billboard’s Jazz Albums and as of this writing holding steady at #3. Lennox told Billboard, “I was drawn towards exploring and recording in the classic jazz genres interpreting 12 songs from the legendary American songbook —the fact that many of the compositions were written almost eighty years ago stands as testimony to the caliber of their legacy.”

Lennox’s sentiment’s are doubtlessly sincere, but unfortunately Nostalgia falls short of delivering an auspicious homage to that legacy.  I’m wary when the Great American Songbook is raided by older pop artists looking for a quick and easy fix to the musical doldrums. Rod Stewart has cashed in on this for a while now.   I hate to think Lennox followed suit, but it sure sounds like it.

Great singer, but not a great jazz singer.

 

Track Listing: Memphis In June, Georgia On My Mind, I Put A Spell On You, Summertime, I Cover the Waterfront, Strange Fruit, God Bless the Child, You Belong To Me, September In the Rain, I Can Dream, Can’t I?, The Nearness of You, Mood Indigo

Personnel: Annie Lennox: vocals, piano, fender rhodes, flute, percussion; Mike Stevens: guitar, Hammond organ, accordion, harmonica, vibraphone, keyboards, programming; Neal Wilkerson: drums; Chris Hill: double bass, bass guitar; Nichol Thomson: trombone; Simon Finch: trumpet; Richard Brook: percussion; Stephen Hussey: violin, viola, orchestration; Ivan Hussey: cello

Record Label: Blue Note Records

The King You Didn’t Know Is the King You Need To Know

Another Martin Luther King Day has come and gone.  Maybe you observed it by attending a King Day observance or you checked out Selma (which I did, but that’s for another time).  Maybe it was just an excuse not to go to work and you spent the day not even remotely thinking about Dr. King or his legacy.

Maybe you just can’t stand hearing “I Have A Dream” even one more time.  If so, you can’t be blamed if King’s Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence speech missed you.  It missed most Americans when MLK gave it on April 4, 1967.  Exactly one year later King was dead, slain by an American sniper named James Earl Ray for reasons and motivations which remained murky.

The speech is important because it was so different from the speeches King had given before.  This King was angrier and less hopeful  He was not the warm and fuzzy Santa Claus of race relations he’d been made out to be.   This King distressed at the direction American was going and he despaired seeing it debased by the immorality of the Vietnam War.   This speech wasn’t filled with the comforting words of the humble Baptist preacher nor is the bluntness of  the language the kind politicians feel safe invoking now.

This is not the Dreamer.   The Dream ran headlong into the nightmare of Vietnam and it sickened him.  That man has his time and place.

This is another Martin Luther King,  Raw.  Radical.  Straight, No Chaser.

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

American Sniper Victim

American Sniper Victim

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. On the one hand we are called to play the good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked and dejected with a lost opportunity. The “tide in the affairs of men” does not remain at the flood; it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is deaf to every plea and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: “Too late.” There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on…” We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when “justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”