Nat Hentoff – Journalist Extraordinaire

The passing of Nat Hentoff on January 7th left a discernible void in music and free speech. I have been richly educated by his writing for many decades. The NY Times published an article about his life that I encourage you to read, Nat Hentoff, Journalist and Social Commentator, Dies at 91.

What struck me was this photograph of him at his craft. Notice the use of the typewriter in Nat Hentoff’s Greenwich Village apartment/office. I will make it a point to rent the David L. Lewis documentary, The Pleasures of Being Out of Step and watch it in his honor.

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David L. Lewis/First Run Features
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M Train – Patti Smith

I just know this will be my favorite book this year. Patti Smith’s M Train is due to be released on October 6th by Knopf.

The photo on the book’s jacket is a sacred memento for Patti Smith: It shows her at Cafe ‘Ino in Greenwich Village, where M Train begins, and where Smith went every morning for a breakfast of black coffee and brown bread. On the last day before Cafe ‘Ino closed, a passing photographer took the picture. Smith calls it “the first and last picture at my corner table in Ino… My portal to where.”

Soon I can have that cup of coffee with Patti in the Village I have dreamed about…

((Photograph: Claire Alexandra Hatfield/ Jacket design: Carol Devine Carson))

 

Electric Lady Studios – Greenwich Village

Have you ever been (have you ever been) to Electric Ladyland?
The magic carpet waits for you so don’t you be late

The answer to that question is finally a resounding Yes!

My wife and I were walking in Greenwich Village yesterday when we stumbled upon this music landmark. We were on West 8th Street conducting a walking tour coming from MacDougal Street after cutting across Washington Square Park.

We happened upon electric lady studios at 52 West 8th Street, the futuristic recording studio that was built for Jimi Hendrix. I noticed the lettering and the brown curtains as I excitedly pointed to my wife my discovery. We watched as an electric lady studios employee lifted up the locked grate and unlocked the front door. Try as I might I couldn’t get a view over the shoulder of the employee as he quickly closed and locked the door behind him.

This encouraged me to visualize as much information as I could regarding electric lady studios. I definitely felt the spirit of Jimi Hendrix yesterday 🙂

©2013 ELECTRIC LADY STUDIOS

I especially love Patti Smith’s memories of Jimi Hendrix and electric lady studios where she has recorded four of her studio albums, Horses, Gone Again, Twelve, and Banga.

©2013 ELECTRIC LADY STUDIOS

“I put on my straw hat and walked downtown, but when I got there, I couldn’t bring myself to go in,” recalls Patti Smith in her

Electric Ladyland
Electric Ladyland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

award-winning memoir, Just Kids. “By chance, Jimi Hendrix came up the stairs and found me sitting there like some hick wallflower and grinned.

“He spent a little time with me on the stairs and told me his vision of what he wanted to do with the studio.  He dreamed of amassing musicians from all over the world in Woodstock and they would sit in a field in a circle and play and play.  It didn’t matter what key or tempo or what melody, they would keep on playing through their discordance until they found a common language.  Eventually they would record this abstract universal language of music in his new studio.

‘The language of peace. You dig?’ I did.”

©2013 ELECTRIC LADY STUDIOS
©2013 ELECTRIC LADY STUDIOS

Positively 4th Street

New York City’s 4th Street is at the heart of the Manhattan residential district Greenwich Village, where Dylan once lived.[17] Dylan lived from early-1962 until late-1964 in a small $60-per-month[6] studio apartment at 161 West Fourth Street[7]This area was central to the burgeoning folk music scene of the early 1960s, which centered around Dylan and many other influential singer-songwriters. For example, Gerde’s Folk City was originally located at 11 West 4th Street.

Bringing It All Back Home (Pantheon/Random House, 1986) by Robbie Woliver documents Folk City’s history and went into a second printing as Hoot (St. Martins Press, 1994).

David Hajdu took the title of the song for his 2002 book, Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina.

Down in Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection

I increase my knowledge of American folk music as time leads up to the release date of the Coen Brother’s film, Inside Llewyn Davis on December 6, 2013.

I noticed that WPKN is hosting a two-day American & Folk Music Special fundraiser. (Tue. 11/12 & Wed. 11/13) WPKN is a 100% non-commercial, listener supported radio station broadcasting at 89.5 FM in Bridgeport, Connecticut and formerly 88.7 FM (WPKM) in Montauk, New York. You can also hear WPKN via the Internet at WPKN.ORG or through their WPKN Live iPhone & iPad App available for free from the iTunes App Store.

The synergy between the WPKN fundraiser and the blog posts the past few days on The Music of Our Heart is that one of the musical premiums for a $120 pledge includes 1) Dave Van Ronk‘s Down in Washington Square: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection 3 CD Box Set, 2) Inside Llewyn Davis Original Soundtrack Recording, and 3) the DVD documentary Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation

dave

 

The Dave Van Ronk Box Set can be listened to in its entirety on Spotify and the liner notes which are a delightful, informative read can be downloaded as a PDF here.

Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation

We continue with the theme of Greenwich Village, Folk Music, the 60’s, Suze Rotolo, Bob Dylan, and Dave Van Ronk.

Tomorrow, November 12th is the release date for the documentary, Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a GenerationDirected by Laura Archibald.

In April of 1961, more than 500 musicians gathered in Greenwich Village’s Washington Square to sing folk songs to promote peace and harmony. The result was what would become a symbol of these tumultuous times, police riot squads attacking singers and civilians with billy clubs, arrests and lines drawn in the sand.

The clash became known as the Washington Square Folk Riot and put down in the history books as the first ‘freedom of speech’ revolt, and only strengthened the drawing power of Greenwich Village as the place of change for a generation.

The movie’s structural binding ingredient is the voice of Susan Sarandon reading excerpts from “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village,” a 2008 recollection by Mr. Dylan’s onetime girlfriend Suze Rotolo, who met him in 1961, when she was 17 and he was 20. (Movie Review, When They Hammered Out Justice in the ’60s ‘Greenwich Village: Music That Defined a Generation’ by Stephen Holden, NY Times, January 17, 2013)

Freewheelin on Jones Street in Greenwich Village

My son took me on a revelatory side-excursion in Greenwich Village yesterday as he turned me on to a “new” vinyl record store, Record Runner. Matthew loves to shop there and I became an immediate fan. As an avid music collector these past 50+ years I savor the moments spent browsing vinyl stacks in well-organized and managed record stores.

Record Runner is located on 5 Jones Street, New York City, NY. I was taken with the store owner’s interaction with customers as Matt and I flipped through the bins. It was fun to see him assume the role of tourist guide with Japanese customers as he explained the significance of Jones Street in record album photographic history.  Bob Dylan is a favorite son when it comes to the Village. Many of the local record stores feature Dylan’s music recordings lining their walls.

The famous photograph of Bob Dylan and Suze Rotolo was taken in February 1963 by Don Hunstein. Dylan lived a short ways away at 161 West 4th Street at the time. It is a beautiful romantic moment held in time by the camera lens as the couple traverses slush filled Jones Street.

The late Suze Rotolo wrote about her life in Greenwich Village in the book, A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties.

Here is a picture of Jones Street from the Bleecker Street end, note Record Runner in the lower right corner of the picture.

I have every intention of going back to Record Runner soon with Matt to purchase Bob Dylan’s “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” remastered on 180 grade vinyl. 😉

Inside Llewyn Davis Update

MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village
MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the 2013 Cannes Film Festival the Grand Prix prize (AKA, second place) went to Joel Coen and Ethan Coen‘s ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ which tells the story of a folk musician in Greenwich Village in the early 1960s.

I have been enthusiastic about this film since I first discovered its existence. I went out and purchased the book The Mayor of MacDougal Street about Dave Van Ronk on which the fim is based. I read it with a passion I rarely feel from authors.

I was in Greenwich Village yesterday on MacDougal Street actually spending time with our son and family walking about as we admired the sights and the scene.

Here is the new poster for the film, scheduled to début on US screens on December 6, 2013.

I am eager to hear the soundtrack when it is released as I believe T-Bone Burnett has the midas touch when it comes to music. T-Bone Burnett let it slip there would be a series of live music shows performed prior to the film’s release. The music of our heart is all ears for when these performances will be announced, trusting some will be in NYC 😉

 

Sing Out! Broadsides and Banjos: The Folk Music Revival with Elijah Wald

The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A MemoirI was unable to attend last night’s New York Public Library event, Sing Out! Broadsides and Banjos: The Folk Music Revival with Elijah Wald. I was there in spirit as I completed the audio book,  The Mayor of MacDougal Street (Dave Van Ronk/Elijah Wald) last night on the drive home from the campus. I swear I was listening to Elijah Wald’s Afterword as he was finishing up his public talk.

I was jazzed however to discover that the event was taped and available for viewing on the IRocke YouTube NY Public Library channel.

Dave Van Ronk and the folk music era of the 60s in the Village is vogue right now. This is due to the interest and energy centered around the Coen Brothers film, Inside Llewyn DavisThe book, The Mayor of MacDougal Street serves as a major source for the film. After listening to the audio book these past two weeks I totally get why the Coen Brothers chose that book to underscore the film.

 

Dave Van Ronk, The Anthology of Folk Music by Harry Smith

Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger
Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been sheer joy listening to Dave Van Ronk‘s memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street on Audio CD. Dave Van Ronk and Elijah Wald guide readers along like Robin Hood and His Merry Men on a passionate journey through the colorful past of Greenwich Village’s folk music scene. The story has added significance as our son lives right in the heart of the neighborhood. He is next to Washington Square Park and Dave Van Ronk Street across from Sheridan Square.

The book has rekindled my dormant flames of interest in folk music. I got the yearn for musicology when I attended the University of New Haven minoring in music. Thankfully that interest continues to guide my conscious flow. The first album by Dave Van Ronk  that played endlessly on my hi-fi was Dave Van Ronk, Folksinger (Prestige). I had no idea until I heard the book how important Izzy Young‘s Folklore Center (pictured on the cover) was to Dave and the folk music idiom.

Which brings me to the folk music foundation classic, The Anthology of Folk Music by Harry Smith. I first learned about the uniqueness of Harry Smith from Patti Smith’s book, Just Kids. Patti Smith and Harry Smith (no relation) were neighbors and close friends residing at The Chelsea Hotel. Harry Smith was also friends with Allen Ginsberg who captured his image in the last week of his life.

“Harry Smith, painter, archivist, anthropologist, film-maker & hermetic alchemist, his last week at Breslin Hotel Manhattan January 12, 1985, transforming milk into milk.” – Allen Ginsberg, Photo by Allen Ginsberg, Courtesy of Allen Ginsberg Trust and Fahey Klein Gallery, Los Angeles

After hearing Dave Van Ronk speak his praises of this essential box set I have to ask myself why haven’t I seen fit to add these essential recordings to my music collection. Arguably the most important release of all-time (1952), The Anthology is a collection of old-time music from the late 20′s and early 30′s that spawned the folk and blues revival of the 60′s and influenced everyone from Dylan to the Grateful Dead.

I must rectify that situation and trust me I will, soon ;). For the music of our heart is incomplete until I have the works by Harry Smith safely listened to and tucked away in my music library.