Tuesday, January 8, 2013

From South Africa to Southwest Memphis = Graceland


     January 8, 2013 may not ring a particularly loud bell with you; however, it's today, and it's the 78th anniversary of the birth of  The King of Rock-n-Roll. Yes, Elvis Presley would be 78 years old today!
Can you even envision it? Throngs are gathered to light candles, eat birthday cake (legend has it that Elvis loved birthday cake, and he preferred them to be home-made birthday cakes), and buy Sharpie(r) pens to write upon the walls surrounding Graceland. They do it every year--twice a year! They will repeat the same scenario on August 16, 2013, except with flowers, rather than birthday cake. And Elvis Aron Presley will have been gone 36 years by then.

     Over this past weekend, I had the chance to watch Paul Simon's "Graceland: Under African Skies" on public television. It's the 25th anniversary of that incredible creation. It was a moving, life-changing event just to watch it on television. Paul Simon and black South Africans took their lives in their very hands to create the music and the resulting videos. Just imagine Ladysmith Black Mombaso, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, and others, working hand-in-hand with Paul Simon to tell the story of apartheid and what a little freedom can do. Trust me when I say that it's a long, long way from the 1960's and the music of Simon & Garfunkel.

     I didn't know Paul Simon's version of "Graceland," and I sadly confess that I hardly know the Graceland that is maybe 45 minutes from me. The two Gracelands are no doubt linked together by music and their extreme ways of life. I need to see the "Graceland" DVD and hear the music on CD again, so I have ordered it as a set. Not cheap, no. But worth it to have such a moving experience again. I really can't believe what I saw and heard, so I expect to enjoy it all over again, maybe even more this time.

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     I was wide-awake after seeing "Graceland: Under African Skies" (who could sleep after that?), so I hung around the TV to see what Sunday morning's "Song of the Mountains" from the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, VA, had to offer at 4:00 AM. Tim White's wonderful production featured our own West Tennessean, Jimmy Fortune, of the world-renowned Statler Brothers. Jimmy Fortune can often be seen in Jackson, TN, at their Thursday evening jam at the Railroad Museum of the Old Country Store, and his performance on "Song of the Mountains" was mighty fine!

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     Rest in Peace: Music Highway Crossroads at Exit 80A, just off I-40 in Jackson, TN. The famous little hang-out for bluegrass, blues, old-time, and rock-a-billy musicians, suddenly closed during the last few days of December 2012. Head music-maker, Steve Patterson, just had a way of drawing folks together for pickin' and a cold Coke in a glass bottle! The great and the near-great had appeared at Music Highway Crossroads over time. We're sad to see it go! If the photo appears out-of-focus, so are we! Sniff!

"Turn out the lights--the party's over!"

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