“And No One Heard at All, Not Even the Chair” … Neil Diamond
“I am, I said” or so said Neil Diamond in the song by the same name. Travis Andrews writing for the Washington Post tells us that song was playing backstage during the 2012 Republican National Convention while a former member of the California State Park and Recreation Commission was trying to decide how to be different when he stepped on stage. He was experienced, no doubt. He served as the Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, a home to a population of 4,000 residents. He even overturned a law there that banned people from eating ice cream outside. Of course, you might know him better as Clint “Make my day” Eastwood, or the odd old man that spoke in adlib fashion to a chair in front of a National Convention full of people on national TV.
You might be wondering why I’m thinking of this just now. I’ll explain. It’s Friday night as I’m writing this, and WYAT-TV is playing “White Hunter Black Heart.” A movie directed by and starring Mr. Eastwood in a bit of a better time. Eastwood plays the part of the real and world-renowned filmmaker of the 1950’s, John Wilson. In the movie, Wilson neglects the film he’s responsible for making in Africa because he has become obsessed with shooting elephants for the prized ivory. I won’t tell you how it ends, but suffice it to say Wilson learns his lesson. “White Hunter Black Heart” is a movie that’s truly politically incorrect. To qualify it had to be done 25 years ago, about a story that’s 65 years old. Now, Eastwood calls “Gran Torino” politically incorrect, and was his admitted motivation for doing it.
Fast forward from that night in 2012 to an interview Eastwood gave before Trump’s win in the last election where he was asked “what troubled him most” and he says “I guess when I did that silly thing at the Republican convention, talking to the chair.”
Eastwood will be 87 years old in May and he’s lived a full life, great success, one of the most well-known actors of all time. BUT… he does well to prove a point, a source of contention with me, that I’ve had for quite some time. Hollywood celebrities do not possess any special qualities whatsoever in articulating anything of substance regarding American politics. Why the masses seem to think they have some insight on the subject is an example of mass ignorance. “Wake up America” as Earl Pitts used to say.
In fact, Earl Pitts used to also say “You know what makes me sick? You know what makes me angry?” Well, this is one for me. I’ve met a lot of professional musicians in my life. A fair number are like the rest of us, they became “concerned” and therefore “interested” in the political climate we live in. I’m down with that. No problem. Some of them even write songs about it. Back in the 60’s and 70’s we called them “protest songs” and they were great. Some of them today cut like a knife and sting like a bee. That’s art. That’s the craft of a musician. That’s why people come to see and hear them.
Too many musicians today take the lazy way out. They don’t write the song, they just hold their audience hostage while they stand on stage adlibbing like Eastwood. People didn’t come to see that and who do these musicians think they are taking advantage of their fan’s goodwill? How arrogant.
Madonna once said she wouldn’t be happy until she was as famous as God. John Lennon already topped that comment when he proclaimed the Beatles were “more popular than Jesus.”
“Aah baby, we gotta go now.” … John Prine