Everybody Solo!

My favorite moment in American music last year comes at the end of "Pay Me My Money Down" off of Bruce Springsteen’s Seeger record.  The whole track is fun, listening to folks who play live well.  And Springsteen is shouting out directions throughout the piece, which is a hoot.

 You can’t help but wiggle your bottom when you hear it.

And yet, at the end, after he’s wished he were a rich man’s son, after he’s wished he were Mr. Gates, after every last dollar has been worked out of him, he’s still singing like he’s the luckiest man in the world and the band is playing like joy is a god that can be involked by raucous-enough music.  And, right at the end of the song, he yells, "Everybody solo!" and the whole band goes wild.

Really, is there any better argument for this grand experiment called America?  That contradictory statement?

Everybody solo?

I don’t know what folks who don’t passionately and unreasonably love our art mean when they say that they love this country.  I was thinking about that when we were watching the Pelosi documentary.  What does it mean to claim you love America if you wall yourself off in your megachurch or try to ban books or censor music?

What exactly it is that you love?

I, myself, love those moments we make that split you open and stuff you full of hope, like a Thanksgiving turkey.

"Everybody solo" does that to me.

If I could make art that split you open and stuffed you full of hope, I would be a happy woman.

Just saying. 

14 thoughts on “Everybody Solo!

  1. B, don’t think I’m using you aka your blog, but I feel welcome, some having to do with getting you opened on Pelosi my having to do with wanting to smack her with a particularly Greyhound bus, but I’m looking for anyone who might have memories of a wayback nashboro memories of west end restaurant Flaming Steer, thank you, dear, and sorry for that cheap, gratuitous rhyme all the thyme and rosemary

  2. It tickles me how it’s sometimes difficult to tell the difference between a steak place and a gay bar. Flaming Steer would be an awesome name for both.

  3. Great post and what a cool song. My poor coworkers had to hear me walk around singing it for weeks on end when that album first came out. And now they’re gonna start hearing me sing it again. ;)Everybody solo, indeed!

  4. Right when the CD came out I happened to catch the end of Letterman one night and Bruce was on, and they sang this song. There seemed to be about 50 musicians onstage, and they seemed to be having the best time performing it, as did I listening to it. It was indeed joyful, and I’ve thought about it many times since, for exactly the reasons you mentioned. I wish I could see it again.

  5. I don’t know what folks who don’t passionately and unreasonably love our art mean when they say that they love this country.

    Oh, B, I dunno. Can I love this country if I don’t love jazz? Are you an elitist traitor if you don’t enjoy the sound of a steel guitar or a dobro? Is it un-American not to respond to the blues? There are things that condition musical (or any other kind of) taste in particular directions, and they aren’t necessarily socio-political in nature.I speak as somone who has tried and tried to get into jazz, and can’t. But I can listen to Bulgarian folk music all day long. Does that make me Balkan instead of American?

  6. NM, I don’t know. Do you get up in front of your megachurch every week and denounce jazz as being evil and exhorting your parishoner not to listen to it?Because, if so, I have to admit, I cannot wait for that scandal to break. "Brothers and sisters, you may have heard some shocking things on the TV this week and I want you to hear the truth from me. It’s true; I am not the man I led you to believe I was. I’m not a man. Hell, I’m not even Christian."

  7. Much to the consternation of faithful readers, I’m not a big fan of "The Boss." Never got it; and most surely never will.That being said, I still look at Springsteen as a pretty stand-up guy.Promoting his latest album, "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions," Bruce ends his concert as he typically does, by appealing to fans to support their local food bank.Volunteers are present before and after concerts to collect funds in support of its programs and mission. In other efforts, Springsteen provides concert tickets to area hunger relief organizations and has provided tickets to auction off.In the years since the 1987 benefit concert for his friend, singer/songwriter and social activist Harry Chapin, The Boss has quietly raised millions of dollars to fight hunger in America, supporting World Hunger Year and dozens of other hunger relief organizations in the nation.Back in 1987 at Carnegie Hall, Springsteen joined the Chapin family, Pete Seeger, Pat Benatar, The Hooters, Judy Collins and other performers and friends to celebrate the late Chapin’s birthday and life. As he performed "Remember When the Music," Springsteen reflected on his friend’s relentless energy, his positive spirit, and his pragmatic approach to affecting social change."Harry knew that it was going to take a lot more than just love to survive — it was going to take a strong sense of purpose, of duty, and a good clear eye on the dirty ways of the world," Springsteen said.As he closed the song, he called on the audience to "do something" to keep Harry’s dream alive.Turn on the television any day or night and watch the latest celebrity squabble, appeal for a hot couple’s baby picture or another musician entering detox, and you’ll be hard pressed to find the humanity. In a self-obsessed sector of society, it’s refreshing to see someone like Springsteen continually step up and let his voice be heard, knowing it will reach hundreds of thousands each year.

  8. So what you mean is not that you can’t love America without passionately and unreasonably loving its art, but that you can’t love America while trying to teach others to reject its art. I can get behind that idea, but they’re not the same thing. Not to mention the confusing cases: what about people like Henry Ford, who passionately and unreasonably loved one variety of American music and tried to use it to stifle other varieties? Or what about Arturo Toscanini, who passionately and unreservedly loved America, but rejected and discounted not only American traditions of music, but even American efforts in his own mostly European musical tradition? It’s a screwy world.OTOH, I promise here and now that any time I preach at a megachurch I will begin my sermon by bravely admitting to non-maleness and non-Christianity. They won’t have to find out on the TV. "Brethren and sustern," I will say, "I know that in your eyes I lack all attributes of authority; I have no X chromosome; I have no cross. But listen to an outsider like me, for the Lord’s sake: throw out those jazz records and buy Bulgarian! Buy Bulgarian! Buy Bulgarian! Buy Bulgarian!* Your hearts will forever be lifted. Let us pray."*Sorry, I was watching Dennis Kucinich do his shtick, and it rubbed off on me.

  9. Hey, B, I’ve been reading faithfully, but not commenting for months now.One of the great things about America and American music is that it contains multitudes, including, of course, the contradictory right not to respond to it. When I heard Springsteen’s last album, I was overwhelmed with the spirit of American defiance, of community, of pleasure and work and even more pleasure. (And, even with a mysterious sound ailment that kept half the band off mic, the live versions of these songs on a PBS special were even better.)Nm, it’s impossible for me to understand not getting jazz, even when I remember that there was once a time I didn’t get it myself. But, I love jazz, Springsteen, and Bulgarian music. Remember Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares? For many years, that album was sold with a quote from me right there on the cover – ". . . the most beautiful music on the planet." The ". . ." stood for "Quite possibly," but I wasn’t going to argue with them.

  10. When I was a kid, there were a bunch of things I didn’t ‘get’ that everyone assured me that I would get once I was older. Olives, and beer, and jazz, and cauliflower, and tomatoes, and Mahler, and a bunch of other things. Mostly they were right; these were things suited to adult tastes, not to childhood (well, the tomatoes were just a funny hate of mine as a kid, but the other things), and as I became an adult I came to enjoy them. But not jazz, and not olives. I feel a deficiency in not being able to enjoy them, but so it goes.

  11. I can’t do olives myself, but to miss the pleasure of Coltrane and McCoy Tyner doing ‘My favorite things’ or Miles on ‘So What’…no no no…shouldn’t be done!

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