POPULIST PICKS/Rob Patterson
3 Girls Make Music
BOOK: Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simonand the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller It might strike some that making three female singer-songwriters who enjoyed mass success starting in the early 1970s exemplars of a generation and the first wave of feminism is a stretch indeed. Especially since all three have intimate connections with men that include not just romance but their creative and career endeavors. Yet the fact that all three of them came of age alongside feminism and dealt with their female situations and spirits at the very crux between tradition and change helps this entertainment and culturally based triple biography fulfill some of its overreaching goals. For all the differences in the three womens backgroundsSimon the New York suburbs reared daughter of privilege, Mitchell the Canadian small-town girl and King the Brooklyn working-class teen who wrote hit songs in the 1960sa fair amount of commonalities emerge as time goes on in their lives. They might not have been revolutionaries, emerging less as girl power advocates than sensitive young women with emotive songs, but all three were evolutionary in bringing female musical artists to the forefront as creators in their own right and in how their lives progressed.
CD: New Songs of Freedom by Chip Taylor Taylor may be best known for writing such hits as Wild Thing and Angel of the Morning, but in the 1970s he was a respected paragon of the country rock movement, and he returned to music in the early 1990s after a hiatus during the 80s, when he was a very successful professional gambler, to become an astoundingly prolific artist making the best music of his lifetime. New Songs of Freedom gathers political and topical tracks from a number of his projects both past and future into the best kind of activist folk music. Whether its the lovely spirit behind such numbers as Dance With a Hole in Your Shoe and Sunshines A Waterfall or the tale of the Lao soldiers of Vientiane who fought for the US during the Vietnam War on Former American Soldier or such cultural overviews as Black and Blue America and Dance With Jesus, Taylor tackles his subjects with a gracious eloquence and some of the most winning contemporary folk music made today.
DVD: The Ritchie Boys This fascinating documentary traces the involvement of Jewish German refugees in the American military during World War II and uncovers their little-known critical role in the European theater. Named for Camp Ritchie, the Maryland facility where they were trained, these political exiles helped the US military better understand their opponents and were effective in developing misinformation and propaganda campaigns to lessen enemy resistance. Though the term hero is these days a far overused term, the selfless dedication and efforts of these men to aid the country they fled to against their homeland certainly qualifies, and attests to the power of seemingly ordinary souls to make a difference during a fight against the genuine evil of Nazism in a film that is informative, touching and inspirational.
From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2008
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