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COUNTRY…. on the move! October 23. 2017

COUNTRY…. on the move!

 

     I read, just the other day with amazement, that there
are now people in America demanding that novels like The Color Purple,
Tom Sawyer, and the incredible classic “The Grapes of Wrath” should be
removed from libraries, taken out of schools, and banned from public
consumption.  Oh, we’ve heard this before haven’t we.  “Burn the
Books!”  “Destroy the Past”  “Deny Freedom of Speech”  Do you remember
where we heard these same statements?  I do!  I remember it well.  I was
ten years old before it sank into me what was happening.  “Burn The
Books,”  Who said that?  It was none other than Adolph Hitler.  Yes, can
you believe it, the same words, the very same words coming out of the
mouths of American citizens.  This is scary stuff in our beautiful
democratic country.  All of a sudden these incredible books are
‘banned.’  I immediately went to the book store and bought a copy of
each and every one of these banned books so I could at least have them
in my library.  I also decided to re-read “The Grapes of Wrath,” to try
to understand WHY this incredibly well written book by John Steinbeck is
‘banned?’  Wow, what a read, and how does this have anything at all to
do with my love for America’s old-time rural music?  That very same
music played an incredibly important part of Steinbeck’s book.  Let me
quote a small part for you.  Here it is, direct from “The Grapes of
Wrath.”

     “A harmonica is easy to carry.  Take it out of your
hip pocket, knock it against your palm to shake out the dirt and pocket
fuzz and bits of tobacco.  Now it’s ready.  You can do anything with a
harmonica: thin reedy single tone, or chords, or melody with rhythm
chords.  You can mold the music with curved hands, making it wail and
cry like bagpipes, making it full and round like an organ, making it as
sharp and bitter as the reed pipes of the hills.  And you can play
it and put it back in your pocket.  It is always with you, always in
your pocket.  And as you play, you learn new tricks, new ways to mold
the tone with your hands, to pinch the tone with your lips, and no one
teaches you.  You feel around-sometimes alone in the shade at noon,
sometimes in the tent door after supper when the women are washing up. 
Your foot taps gently on the ground.  Your eyebrows rise and fall in
rhythm.  And if you lose it or break it, why, it’s no great loss.  You
can buy another for a quarter.

     “A guitar is more precious.  Must learn this thing. 
Fingers of the left hand must have callus caps.  Thumb of the right hand
a horn of callus.  Stretch the left-hand fingers, stretch them like a
spider’s legs to get the hard pads on the frets.

     “This was my father’s box.  Wasn’t no bigger’n a bug
first time he give me a C chord.  An’ when I learned as good as him, he
hardly never played no more.  Used to set in the door, an’ listen an’
tap his foot.  I’m trying for a break, an’ he’d scowl mean till I get
her, an’ then he’d settle back easy, an’ he’d nod.  “Play,” he’d say. 
“Play nice.”  It’s a good box.  See how the head is wore.  They’s many a
million songs wore down that wood an’ scooped her out.  Some day she’ll
cave in like a egg.  But you can’t patch her nor worry no way or she’ll
lose tone.  Play her in the evening, an’ they’s a harmonica player in
the nex’ tent.  Makes it pretty nice together.”

     The fiddle is rare, hard to learn.  No frets, no
teacher.  Jes’ listen to a ol’ man and try to pick it up.  Won’t tell
how to double.  Says it’s a secret.  But I watched.  Here’s how he done
it.  Shrill as a wind, the fiddle, quick and nervous and shrill.  She
ain’t much of a fiddle.  Give two dollars for her.  Fella says they’s
fiddles four hundred years old, and they git mellow like whiskey.  Says
they’ll cost fifty-sixty thousan’ dollars.  I don’t know.  Soun’s like a
lie.  Harsh ol’ bastard, ain’t she?  Wanta dance?  I’ll rub up the bow
with plenty rosin.  Man! Then she’ll squawk.  Hear her a mile.

     These three in the evening, harmonica and fiddle and
guitar.  Playing a reel and tapping out the tune, and the big deep
strings of the guitar beating like a heart, and the harmonica’s sharp
chords and the skirl and squeal of the fiddle.  People have to move
close.  They can’t help it.  “Chicken Reel” now, and the feet tap and a
young lean buck takes three quick steps, and his arms hang limp.  The
square closes up and the dancing starts, feet on the bare ground,
beating dull, strike with your heels.  Hands ’round and swing.  Hair
falls down, and panting breaths.  Lean to the side now.”

     Oh yes, this is disgusting diatribe isn’t it?  What’s
happening in America?  WHY would anyone who calls himself an American
citizen decide this should be exterminated?  WHY would anyone who
‘cares’ about America’s past decide this should be abolished?  WHY would
this person stand in judgement over some of America’s most precious
writings?  I don’t get it, and I sure don’t understand WHY there is
something so dreadfully WRONG about any of the books that these people
now want abolished.  “Burn the books!”  Wow to me, that’s very scary. 
Man, take a look at television if you want to find something very WRONG
in America.  Take a look at the pornography you can find at the instant
touch of your finger.  Take another look at the people who want to
abolish the very core of American rural history, and wonder,  yes WONDER
who are these people?”

     I can’t seem to find them.  They are ‘hidden’ in the
very few controlling interests of America’s media.  Maybe Steinbeck
himself answered that question….”For man, unlike any other thing
organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work. walks up
the stairs of his concepts emerges ahead of his accomplishments.  This
you may say of man – when theories change and crash, when schools,
philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national religious,
economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward,
painfully, mistakenly sometimes.  Having stepped forward, he may slip
back, but only half a step, never the full step back.  This you may say
and know it and know it.  This you may know when the bombs plummet out
of the black planes on the market place, when prisoners are stuck like
pigs, when the crushed bodies drain filthily in the dust.  You may know
it in this way.  If the step were not being taken, if the
stumbling-forward ache were not alive, the bombs would not fall, the
throats would not be cut.  Fear the time when the bombs stop falling
while the bombers live – for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not
died.  and fear the time when the strikes stop while the great owners
live – for every little beaten strike is proof that the step is being
taken.  And this you can know – fear the time when Manself will not
suffer and die for a concept, for this one quality is the foundation of
Manself, and this one quality is man, distinctive in the universe.”

    Whew!  John Steinbeck just simply blows me away, HOW
could he know this so long ago, in 1939, when I was three years old, HOW
could he know this of the future, and how well it stands today.  Oh
yes, I heard it during the second world war…”Burn the Books” and I
remember well who said it. 

 

 

By: Bob Everhart, President, National Traditional Country Music Assn., Inc. www.music-savers.com for Country Music News International

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