Amoeblog

Eartha Kitt 1927 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, December 26, 2008 07:47am | Post a Comment

Orson Welles
once called her "most exciting woman in the world;" Eartha Kitt, the singer, actress, sex kitten and cultural icon has died in Connecticut on Christmas Day of colon cancer. She was 81. Her flirty, sexy rendition of “Santa Baby” from 1953 has become a holiday standard, but that was just one part of a career that spanned more than six decades.

Her success extended far beyond the music world into stage, television and film. Just last year Kitt won two Emmys for her role in The Emperor's New School; previously she had been nominated for several Tony and Grammy Awards. In 1966, she made a guest appearance on an episode of I Spy which brought Kitt her first Emmy nomination. But her most famous role is probably that of the sexy villain the Catwoman in the 1960’s hit television series Batman. Kitt had replaced Julie Newmar who originated the role.

She is probably equally as famous for her anti-war comments on the Viet Nam conflict, especially since the most notorious words were spoken at the White House as she attended a luncheon held by Lady Bird Johnson. She adamantly stated, "You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed, they rebel in the street, they don't want to go to school because they're going to be snatched off from their mothers to be shot in Vietnam."

Needless to say, she spent several years being investigated by the FBI and CIA, and for most of a decade she seldom performed in the U.S. That is, until 1978 when Kitt was invited back to the White House by President Jimmy Carter.

Born Jan. 17, 1927 in the small town of North, South Carolina, as Eartha Mae Keith on a cotton plantation, her mother was said to be Cherokee and African-American and her father of German and Dutch descent. After the death of her mother she was sent to New York City to live. She entered show-biz on a whim when in 1946 she dropped by for an audition as a dancer for Broadway production of Bal Negre. Kitt eventually landed a gig in a Paris nightclub in the early 1950s where she met Orson Welles, who cast her in the role of Helen of Troy in his Paris stage production of Faust. It was in 1954 that she released her first album RCA Victor presents Eartha Kitt, featuring such songs as "I Want to Be Evil," and the classic "Santa Baby."

After well-publicized romances with the founder of Revlon cosmetics Charles Revson and banking heir John Barry Ryan III, she married John McDonald in 1960. They divorced in 1965 after the birth of her only daughter. Eartha Kitt is survived by her daughter, Kitt Shapiro, and two grand children.

Davey Graham 1940 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, December 16, 2008 05:51pm | Post a Comment

The legendary English guitarist and a major influence on practically every fingerstyle acoustic guitarist for the past 50 years, Davey Graham, passed away on Monday of lung cancer which was detected only a few weeks ago. He was 68.

Born November 22nd, 1940 in Hinckley, Leicestershire, England, he took up the guitar at the age of 12. By the age of 19 Graham composed what would probably be his most famous piece, “Anji,” released on his debut 1962 EP, 3/4 AD, and later covered by the likes of Pentangle and Simon & Garfunkel.

Here in the United States, Graham perhaps wasn’t as well known as some of his contemporaries but he has been credited with single-handedly inventing the concept of the folk guitar instrumental in the U.K.-- simultaneous honors in the U.S would go to John Fahey, who was making similar innovations. Graham influenced a who’s who of British guitarists from Bert Jansch, John Renbourn, Richard Thompson, John Martyn, Nick Drake, Martin Carthy, and Jimmy Page -- Page’s instrumental "White Summer" was heavily based on Graham's "She Moved Thru the Bazaar/Blue Raga."

In 1959 Graham first made headlines with his attention grabbing performance of “Cry Me a River’ in the BBC television documentary Hound Dogs and Bach Addicts: The Guitar Craze, produced by Ken Russell. During the 1960s he played a major role in the British folk revival, releasing a series of eclectic solo albums that touched on a wide range of music, from jazz and blues to Indian and Arabic and gypsy. He introduced to many an aspiring young guitarist the DADGAD guitar tuning, whose chief appeal is the ability to improvise freely, yet maintain a solid underlying rhythm and harmony. But Graham's career was somewhat unpredictable; his concerts were often hit or miss. Much of his reputation was based on a couple of brilliant albums, both released in the same week of 1965, Folk Routes, New Routes in a duet with the folk singer Shirley Collins and Folk, Blues and Beyond, a mostly instrumental album that combined all his world music styles. His live playing was best captured and recorded in 1967 on an incredible album entitled After Hours, which was recorded in a student's dorm room on the campus of Hull University in front of an audience of about eight people. Nonetheless, and in many ways, even as impulsive as he may have been, Davey Graham was the first guitar hero … and certainly one of mine.

There will be a private funeral held for Davey Graham later this week. A public memorial service is being planned for January.


(Wherein winter records receive writings.)

Posted by Job O Brother, December 16, 2008 11:32am | Post a Comment

It’s finally chilly in Hollywood. I mean, I still have my French windows open wide, but it’s about as cold as it ever gets, with breezes blowing from my hometown in the north, Nevada City, where loved ones are covered in white blankets of snow. (That’s a metaphor – probably very few of them have bed-sheets constructed of crystalline water ice.)

My friends in Nevada City, Jaime, Alison and Dan made a snowman. I don’t get that pleasure here. I suppose I could make a clumps-of-dying-grass-cigarette-butts-and-dog-feces man, but who has that kind of time? I have a blog to write!


Here's a picture of the snowman my friends made.
The best part will be watching him slowly melt over the next couple weeks.

My choices in music are always influenced by weather. When it’s hot city in the summertime, I’ll gravitate towards artists such as Stephen Malkmus, Thin Lizzy, or Sly & The Family Stone. If it’s a rainy day, you can bet some Siouxsie & The Banshees will be trilling from my stereo. I look out the window and see the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse trampling the Hills with all the fury of Heaven and Hell as they take the stage for a final battle in which every human soul will come to greet its eternal home in either the awesome glory of the Almighty God or the foul depths of Hell as lorded over by the king of wickedness, Satan, and more often than not I’ll play a little Burt Bacharach. Because it’s always a good time for a little Burt.


Don't make me over.

What do I play when it’s cold outside? Of course holiday music would be appropriate, but I never, never, ever listen to Christmas music when I’m alone. I’ve haven't asked myself why; it’s just something I noticed. There’s something somehow… lonely and… I don’t know. I guess I feel like people who listen to Christmas music alone are the same people who don’t get married – just get more cats. Am I wrong? I’m open to the possibility. And if you’re someone who does listen to Christmas music alone and I’ve offended you, you should write and set me straight. You owe it to your future kittens.

One thing I like to hear in winter are precious, 1960’s folk/pop lasses from Great Britain. An obvious choice is Marianne Faithfull, who, before descending into a (brief and thankfully conquered) foray into heroin, made some fabulous recordings in what was at first a somehow smoldering soprano (her voice, like Joni Mitchell’s, would eventually become lower and lower thanks to devoted smoking habits).


Another artist I fancy is Barbara Ruskin, who recorded perky songs about cats roaming streets and postal workers drinking tea and isn’t it lovely how horses and flowers and dreams and look a red balloon God Save the Queen. I’m paraphrasing here. She actually wrote much of her own music, which was unique in her time. Unfortunately, I’m unable to find any video clips of her music, or even some sound research on her. Why? Well, here’s a link to a song, anyway.


"Someone's stolen my guitar! I shall write a very cross song about it, indeed!"
Barbara Ruskin in her hey-day

Mary Hopkin I like for a little while. One side of one album is about all I ever want from her. Paul McCartney produced her debut album, which was one of the first releases from Beatles-founded Apple Records, and it included one hit which you may recognize from its constant play in most cafés which utilize cable radio:


Sandie Shaw is good fun. Her choices of songs are often grin-inducing, as she lends her feminine coolness to such records as “Lay Lady Lay” and “Sympathy for the Devil.”


She would enjoy a new generation of fans when Morrissey and Johnny Marr of The Smiths encouraged her to perform with them and cover their material.

Petula Clark is undoubtedly more square than the above artists, but I would be remiss not to include her here. The 1970’s would see a more polished, pop sound from this English superstar, but in the 1960’s she could smartly warble a folksy ditty. Of particular note are her French language recordings. They tend to be more produced and money than any Yé-yé contemporaries, but still hold some delight for me.


Lastly, there’s Burt Bacharach. While he was mostly never a British woman singing folk/pop, you’ll recall (if you were paying attention) that it’s always a good time for a little Burt…


Music like this makes me crave cocoa. No small feat, considering I don’t like cocoa. Odd, I know, but true. It’s too much like soup to me, and I don’t like soup. Soup spelled backwards is “puos.” Gross! I don’t eat puos. That’s just disgusting.

Frank Cieciorka 1939 - 2008

Posted by Whitmore, December 2, 2008 03:33pm | Post a Comment

Just over a week ago graphic artist, art director, watercolorist and political activist, Frank Cieciorka died at his home in Alderpoint, Calif. at the age of 69. The cause of death was emphysema. Since the early 1980s he has gained recognition for his watercolors of Humboldt County landscapes, but it’s his 1960’s woodcut rendering of a clenched-fist that will secure him an indelible place in history.
 
Born in Johnson City in upstate New York in1939, Cieciorka moved westward to attend San José State College in 1957 to study art. After graduation in 1964 he became a volunteer in Freedom Summer, the civil rights campaign initiated to help African Americans register to vote in Mississippi, the same campaign and summer that saw the Ku Klux Klan kidnap and murder three Freedom Summer volunteers -- James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner. Cieciorka would become a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which organized the campaign.
 
In 1965 Cieciorka returned to San Francisco and created a woodcut print inspired by his experiences in Mississippi; his image, simply entitled Hand, was initially printed as a poster and flyer for the 1967 Stop the Draft Week. The image quickly struck a chord with the civil rights and anti-war movements of the day; shortly thereafter the Students for a Democratic Society incorporated the image as their logo.
 
In 1966 Cieciorka also created an image of a black panther for the Lowndes County Freedom Organization, which was started by SNCC leader Stokely Carmichael to challenge the segregationist party in Mississippi. When Huey Newton and Bobby Seale formed the Black Panther Party in Oakland, they received permission from the SNCC to use the panther image, artist Emory Douglas re-designed a bolder, more streamlined image for the Black Panther’s publications.
 
Cieciorka would go on to create posters for labor movements, including the United Farm Workers and for many radical and underground magazines including Paul Krassner's The Realist.
 
Frank Cieciorka is survived by his wife, Karen Horn, his stepdaughter, Zena Goldman Hunt and his brother, James Cieciorka.

 

Carnival of Light

Posted by Whitmore, November 21, 2008 06:52pm | Post a Comment

"Carnival of Light," the long-rumored, almost mythical 14-minute experimental Beatles track, may soon see the light of day. Composed and performed only once for an electronic music festival in 1967, Sir Paul McCartney earlier this week confirmed that the recording exists, and the piece once thought to be too experimental for mainstream tastes might actually see a release date sometime in the near future.

In the 1990’s while preparing the Anthology collection, the Beatles plus producer George Martin vetoed its inclusion, deeming the track as being "too adventurous" for release. But McCartney feels the public is ready for the psychedelic/avant-garde inspired tune, which is said to include improvised distorted guitar, church organ, gargling, backwards tape sounds, random cacophony and band members shouting words or phrases like "Barcelona!" and "Are you all right?"

First though, approval from the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison, plus permission from Ringo Starr and George Martin would be required.

I found a video on YouTube that claims to contain actual  "Carnival of Light" music. Of course if this is a real Beatles tracks, it's brilliant! If this is in fact not a recording from he Beatle's, it  just  becomes ... more stuff.

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