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Music History Keeps Astounding Me

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I've just watched two music documentaries which revealed things I never knew.


1. "JOSE FELICIANO - Behind This Guitar"

Just after breaking big with "Light My Fire", he was invited in 1968 to sing the National Anthem (Star-Spangled Banner) at the start of the U.S. Baseball World Series.  He was the first to NOT sing it straight/traditional, instead putting a personal spin on the song, giving it a slower tempo and latino feel, almost like a folk anthem.  He was booed by the crowd and a controversy raged which did lasting damage to his career and led him to leave the USA for a while. However, all singers have since put their personal stamp on it the anthem.
His first wife suddenly changed her first name from Hilda to Janna and signed many documents as "J.Feliciano" without his knowledge! Wow.


2. "Nothing Compares" (a bio about Sinéad O'Connor)

She had an extremely troubled and harshly Catholic childhood with an abusive mother (e.g. locking her out of the house in the garden for a week when she was eight). In her mid teens he was sent to a place for troubled girls ... run by nuns of course! ... which was adjacent to a Magdalene Laundry which still housed many older women who had been through hell there when young.  (If interested, listen to Joni Mitchell's "The Magdalene Laundries" ... it'll rip your heart out.)

Not surprisingly, Sinéad was an angry young woman seeking justice (albeit but with an angelic face/voice). Shortly after "Nothing Compares 2 U" made it big, she read that the then current Pope Benedict (Raztinger) had actively suppressed news of proven child sexual offences by the clergy and she decided on a brave act.  Aged 26, on the SNL live show, she sang Bob Marley's “War” a capella and, after delivering the song’s final message, raised a photograph of Pope John Paul II (the same photo her mother always had above her bed) to the camera and, staring straight down the barrel of the live camera, tore it up. “Fight the real enemy,” O’Connor urged and walked offstage.  

Her career died that night.

She became a muslim in 2018 and sings/performs to small crowds.




A great podcast that I follow is "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs".  It is less about each Title song and much more about the amazing web of swirling circumstances, music and personalities that led to that song. Chock full of well-researched information and it's only up to Ep 152!





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On 10/18/2022 at 11:39 AM, MikeRobinson said:

In each case, simply a confrontation between "music" and "politics."  In each case, music survives.


A spot-on comment but, from what I've heard, "simply" doesn't apply. I thought there were astounding coincidences and confluences between people, ideas, tech, creativity, times, places, etc. that led up to and surrounded each of the featured songs.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It's difficult to be political in a song and make it successful. Bob Dylan's best-selling album is still Blood on the Tracks, almost all love songs. Rap is a different matter and hosts issues and anger better. Fight the power.


It's often better to be political in an accessible tune, for example Elvis Costello's Oliver's Army, The Jam's Town Called Malice or Steven Van Zandt's Sun City. Even rap benefits from a good tune - my favourite rap album is Ice Cube's Lethal Injection, with George Clinton's funkadelic production.


Pop music has helped change the political landscape, though obviously can't do it alone. I think it helps reflect a generation's mood, leading to changes of political minds. Sinead could've been more effective if she'd put her anger into a tune more like Nothing Compares. After all, Prince got political with Sign o' the Times and was hailed for it.


And on that note, less open to misinterpretation:



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