Rock Paper Photo Roundup: Winter 2012 Selection – Madonna, The Boss, Johnny Cash, Global Jukebox, etc.

Spring is my favorite season, always has been. From my windows I see pale green leaves unfurling in lengthening light, and my insides respond in kind, releasing a bit of energy which I am using to bring you somewhat up to date, dear reader.

I’m happy to say I’ve been busy writing a lot. My work for Rock Paper Photo continues. A selection of 2012 posts:

Bruce Springsteen’s keynote speech at the SXSW conference in Austin. The Boss stunned everyone by regaling a packed audience with a fifty-minute, hilarious, moving, profanity-laced personal reminiscence that actually made me cry.  It wasn’t just about him, it was also a history lesson, sermon, and motivational speech, delivered with all Springsteen’s  rough-edged finesse, honed from years of bringing the noise to the lip of the stage. This is the only time I’ve witnessed a performer compress the ebb-and-flow dynamics of rock stagecraft into a hypnotic speaking style. It reminded me of the Pete Townshend quote, “Rock and roll is the spiritual movement of the late 20th century.” (And now, early 21st.)

The Johnny Cash Boyhood Home Project. It’s a minor miracle that Cash’s boyhood home still stands. It’s one of 40 remaining Colony houses provided along with 40 acres, seed, and a mule to impoverished farmers as part of the New Deal. In this post I write about the ongoing effort to turn it into a museum, which includes an annual concert that sounds pretty great. (Next show, October 5, 2012. Click HERE for details.)

Madonna’s new CD MDNA. Madonna is one of my own. She’s six years older than me, which means Like A Virgin came out when I was 19, just before I moved to NYC. My friends – male and female –  and I lusted after her, thirsted for the orange soda she drank in the “Borderline” video, before she became hyper-toned. (“Like getting in a bed with a ten speed,” a wise man once said.) I recall thinking I might see the diminutive siren strutting through the East Village, her erstwhile ‘hood, when I settled there in ’85.

Folks were still gossiping in Alphabet City, telling tales of a “chubby and zitty” Madonna frequenting the Pyramid club in underwear and a trench coat. A couple of guys claimed they’d had sex with her, one on the Danceteria fire escape.

These past three decades or so, I’ve watched her with brotherly admiration, professional fascination, occasional deep embarrassment, and garden variety desire. I’m crazy about her. Once upon a time, the intensity of the critical sniping bugged me in a ridiculously delusional protective way. Yet, at 53, she still turns it all around, all punky alpha female chutzpah, working the negatives into positives, a tricky alchemy mastered by a precious few. (Prince comes to mind. Who else?) I have broken bread with plenty of critics, and the cliche of the jealous parasite scribe, the self-appointed member of the cognoscenti who possesses courage only behind a wall of words, not action, and who has no original work to offer, is only too real. As I posted before about Brian Wilson (last paragraph), as I get older, the value I place on sheer artistic audacity increases, especially in the face of more critics than ever. And where Madonna certainly suffers in some areas (voice, acting ability, wifedom, blah blah blah) she more than makes up for it with audacity. (Not to mention an instinct for ear-wormy pop hooks.) Go, big sister.

The Global Jukebox Of Alan Lomax, Music Visionary.  Some of my favorite music in the world was collected by Alan Lomax, especially the Scottish children singing on the Rounder release Singing In The Streets. (Check out – and download – “The World Must Be Coming To An End” – track 46 – and “Down In The Valley” – track 31). After I wrote this blog post for RPP, announcing the debut of The Global Jukebox , a couple of in-the-know folks pointed out my omission of Lomax’s notoriously prickly, difficult personality. What a shocker. A genius, without whom we wouldn’t have paragons of civility Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones, was hard to get along with. Frankly, I knew about his occasional harshness, but in the scheme of things, to make mention of his  mercurial personality seemed akin to, say, writing “known felons The Rolling Stones,” “ex-addict Johnny Cash,” or “famously grumpy Dylan.”

I do have a fascination for antiheroes and a growing distrust of social graces, but for the RPP post I focused on the long-awaited launch of Lomax’s Global Jukebox, a concept hatched years ago, before technology could make manifest Lomax’s imagination. (Sadly, our [anti] hero did not live to see this event.) I figured that should take up most of the word count, not Lomax’s tyranny. Maybe next time.

Here’s an antique (circa ’98) video of Lomax, his minions, and the prototype for The Global Jukebox.

That’ll do for now. If you’d like to check ut any of my other posts for Rock Paper Photo, feel free to do so by clicking HERE.

Thanks for reading. More soon. Much more to tell. – RBW

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