Monthly Archives February 2024

Brilliant Songs #45: Josh Ritter’s “The Temptation of Adam”

I knew virtually nothing about Josh Ritter when I walked into the wonderfully named “Haw River Ballroom” earlier this month in the just-as-wonderfullly named city of Saxapahaw (2021 population: 1,671). I’d bought the tickets on a lark, because the blurb sounded interesting and I had a vague memory that Ritter is one of those artists with an intense following who had stayed under my radar over the decades for all the usual reasons (time, proximity, basic inattention) but who probably merited a listen.

It required maybe three or four guitar pickings and a few words out of his mouth on concert night for Mary and I to turn to each other with an unspoken, pursued-lip, “Whoa!”

And then it was off to the proverbial races for a two-hour concert set that ranks as one of a handful of “Best Concert Ever” nominees in my personal honor roll...

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To Imagine One World: Netflix’s “The Greatest Night in Pop”

A sense of poignancy runs all through the recent Netflix documentary, “The Greatest Night in Pop,” and its branches spread out in multiple directions.

One branch brings the simple passage of time into sharp relief. As we gaze upon a gallery of superstar musicians in their creative prime who assembled on one fabled night in Los Angeles nearly 40 years ago to sing one song—“We Are the World”— on behalf of African famine relief, we know that a good number of them are no longer bound to earth. (Michael Jackson, Harry Belafonte, Ray Charles, Al Jarreau, Tina Turner, Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings, two of the Pointer Sisters).

Another branch shows those still living who consented to interviews these years later. We see at least some of them as barely recognizable ghost images of their physical selves in 1985. (As are we, if we were around then.) (As I was…)

Not that they aren’t still vibrant, engaging and fu...

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So Who’s REALLY Suffering From Trump Derangement Syndrome?

In many ways, I blame Ronald Reagan. Oh, not wholly—there are too many actors and too many roiling forces percolating through every modern society to lay anything at the feet of one person. But for all his professed “morning in America” optimism, President Reagan did profound damage to the America he loved by setting its people in opposition to their own government and its entire professional class.

What came to be known as “Reaganism” sowed such mistrust of his own country’s most basic institution that “government bureaucrats” became a cliche and synonym for out-of-touch, unfeeling automatons dedicated only to self-preservation and making life harder for their people.

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help,'” Reagan quipped in a 1986 news conference, making a mockery of the very government he had been elected to lead.

A kind of nativis...

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