Tuesday, June 9, 2015

music gave pleasure, wisdom, and shelter

"The South is the only place we play where everybody can clap on the off-beat."
> Robbie Robertson

------------------- [excerpts, Mystery Train, by Greil Marcus - 1975, Penguin] --------------------- The Band -- four Canadian rockers held together by an Arkansas drummer -- staked their claim to an American story from the beginning.

... "This is it," my editor Marvin Garson said in the spring of 1969, as he sent me off to cover the Band's national debut in San Francisco.  "This is when we find out if there are still open spaces out there."

... Their music gave us a sure sense that the country was richer than we had guessed; that it had possibilities we were only beginning to perceive.

In the unique blend of instruments and good rhythms, in the shared and yet completely individual vocals, in the half-lost phrases and buried lyrics, there was an ambiguity that opened up the world with real force.

The songs captured the yearning for home and the fact of displacement that ruled our lives; we thought that the Band's music was the most natural parallel to our hopes, ambitions, and doubts, and we were right to think so. 

Flowing through their music were spirits of acceptance and desire, rebellion and awe, raw excitement...open humor, a magic feel for history....


[excerpt 2] ------------- It was, as Southern chambers of commerce have never tired of saying, A Land of Contrasts. ...

The North, powered by the Protestant ethic, had set men free by making them strangers; the poor man's South that Elvis knew took strength from community.

The community was based on a marginal economy that demanded cooperation, loyalty, and obedience for the achievement of anything resembling a good life; it was organized by religion, morals, and music. 

Music helped hold the community together, and carried the traditions and shared values that dramatized a sense of place.  Music gave pleasure, wisdom, and shelter.

"It's the only place in the country I've ever been where you can actually drive down the highway at night, and if you listen, you hear music," Robbie Robertson once said.

"I don't know if it's coming from the people or if it's coming from the air.  It lives, and it's rooted there."