Hurt so good: The hundredth anniversary of the birth of a blues great


Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of one of America’s foremost blues musicians. . . that you probably never heard of. He was born Robert Lee McCollum in Helena, Arkansas on November 30, 1909, but blues aficionados know him as Robert Nighthawk.

“In many ways,” writes an anonymous author at the site Sunday Blues,” Nighthawk was the archetype of the classic bluesman spending his entire adult life rambling all over the South [where he was popular] with frequent trips to the North playing a never ending string of one nighters punctuated by sporadic recording dates. … Nighthawk influenced a generation of artists including Elmore James, Muddy Waters, B.B. King and particularly Earl Hooker.” Continue reading

A Thanksgiving football tale

by Terry Hargrove

Yesterday, Nancy asked if I’d look at the car because it was making a funny noise when she accelerated.

“Sure, I’ll put The Finger on it,” I said.

“Enough with the stupid finger,” she replied. “I don’t want you to put your finger on anything, I want you to look at the car.”

“All right,” I answered. “But I can look at the car from here. It looks fine. Are you sure you don’t want me to go out there and put The Finger on it?”

She mumbled something and wandered away. I looked at the car. It needed a wash. Continue reading

Christmas Music (2)–Best Benjamin Britten A Ceremony of Carols

There are lots of versions of this, but my favorite remains the one I bought in 1964 (which I still have, amazingly enough) by the Robert Shaw Chorale–in this case, just the women’s chorale. One of the first classical recordings I ever bought, in fact. It’s the loveliest version of one of the loveliest pieces of 20th century music that I know of. The only problem (if one can call it that) is that the other pieces on the album, also by Britten, aren’t Christmas music at all. One is the Te Deum, Britten loud and brassy, and the other is Rejoice in the Lamb, which is Britten’s setting to music a bunch of the poetry of Christopher Smart, who spent the last 20 years or so of his 18th century life in the madhouse, writing wonderful poetry. These days we’d just give him some lithium and he’d work for an ad agency. It’s a shame that this edition is only obtainable on vinyl—hey, RCA, let’s get this version back out in circulation! The newer Robert Shaw edition, to be found on Angels on High, also includes a female choir, and it’s lovely too—but the earlier one has a certain austerity that I think captures Britten’s intent wonderfully. Continue reading