Thursday, October 27, 2016

Politics: Ry Cooder

purchase [ Paradise and Lunch  ]

Politics is very muchly on my mind these days. Mind you, I'm not talking about the US elections (I am assuming that is a forgone conclusion). My focus has been on the materials I have used for my work/lessons for many years:

As part of my DigitalCitizenship computer lessons, I direct my students to the WayBack Machine - part of the Internet Archive ( Aside from the millions of legally free video and music files they host (woohoo! Grateful Dead!!), the WayBack Machine offers a look back to the early days of the Internet - you can call up the Facebook site in its earliest incarnations. The point I try to make to my students is that there is always, somewhere, a copy of that SnapChat photo.

But on to politics... As you might well imagine, a mirror on the past might upset some of the powers that be: we humans may forget that so-and-so said such-and such 30 years ago. The WayBack Machine can prove it one way or another.

And so, to my great  disappointment, this year, as I head into the "Your Internet Footprint" unit, I discover that the local <powers that be> have blocked access to - I dont know why, but I can surmise that there is information there that might not be ... er ... in our favor.
Music-wise, aside from his "chops", perhaps the thing I most bow down to is Ry Cooder's academics - the way he researches his music. From the very first album, his selections have shown a respect and understanding for the historical perspective: rock music is rooted in its antecedants (IE: cotton field music, which in turn has its roots ....)

As noted above, more often than not, perspective allows one to take a backward look with more information than we previously had. We once thought one way, but now see another: Jim Crow, LBGT, ...

Ry Cooder frequently zeroed in on songs about the poor: dustbowl farmers and such. Often his first albums included songs from previous stars like Woody Guthrie or relative unknowns like Blind Wilie McTell. Much later, he worked to give due credit to the Cuban Buena Vista Social Club. But behind each oevre, there is an academic approach: learn, teach and share. Subtle politics, but political in nature all the same.

Cooder's  repertoire is extensive, but we'll go for a few.
Way back when, Johnny Cash came out with Get Rhythm - a song filled with references to working conditions for African Americans. A few years ago, Cooder upgraded the song

first Cash, then Cooder

Way back when, Woody Guthrie sang about the plight of the dustbowl farmer, Ry Cooder upgraded that one too.

Politics? Not directly, but there are commentaries in the lyrics about the man who votes and why he votes the way he does. Politics all the  same ...