My Kind of Town or A Stranger in A Strange Land

21 Oct
Johnny Guitar directed by Nichola Ray

Johnny Guitar directed by Nichola Ray

I am a stranger here myself – Johnny Guitar

Events of recent days and the recent 162 game MLB season should make clear why an expatriated Chicagoan might feel pangs of nostalgia for the the city of big shoulders*, the Friendly Confines, Leon Depres, Wolfy’s hot dogs, Nelson Algren,Mike Royko and Studs Terkel, da Bears and Ditka, Small Fabulous Jews,Karl Shapiro and Joseph Epstein, Dick Gregory and Fred Hampton, the Playboy Mansion and the unforgettable Democratic convention of 1968.

Studs Terkel [photo:Robert Birnbaum]

Studs Terkel [photo:Robert Birnbaum]

Actually, for this expatriate, the stirrings of a rare adult onset homesickness go further and deeper. For one thing I have discovered a mesmerizing recording by bassist William Parker, which interprets the songs of the mighty, mighty Chicago musical giant Curtis Mayfield who may at the very least ring familiar as the composer of the Civil Rights anthem, People Get Ready**. In fact if you were paying attention, at the 2004 Democratic Convention, it was Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up playing as Sen.Barack Obama sauntered up to the podium to give the keynote speech***

Actually Parker has two recordings of I Plan to Stay a Believer The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield,the second one being a live version done in Rome. These renditions offer a full palette of music from Ornette Colemanish free jazz moments to quotes of Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and aided and abetted by the trenchant verse of poet Amiri Baraka.

The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield/Live in Rome by William Parker

The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield/Live in Rome by William Parker

Here’s a powerful version of We People Who are Darker Than Blue

Chicago is also the home of writer(forget that carpet bagger Saul Bellow), Joseph Epstein**** whose story collection Small Fabulous Jews is one of my favorite 50th Ward/Golden Ghetto touchstones.

Joseph Epstein [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

Joseph Epstein [photo: Robert Birnbaum]

And who doesn’t know about the Monsters of The Midway—da Bears

BEARS
The Chicago Tribune Book of the Chicago Bears: A Decade-By-Decade History H
by Chicago Tribune Staff

Uh huh, my kind of town…

* http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/2043

*Hospital Karl Shapiro

This is the Oxford of all sicknesses.
Kings have lain here and fabulous small Jews
And actresses whose legs were always news.
In this black room the painter lost his sight,
The cripples dancer here put down her shoes,
And the scholar’s memory broke, like an old clock.

** People Get Ready

*** Move On Up

**** Joseph Epstein

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One Response to “My Kind of Town or A Stranger in A Strange Land”

  1. hdinin October 21, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

    It’s actually kind of pathetic, you spoil a perfectly lovely excerpt from a fine poem with at typical (for you) typo—it’s not about you, it’s about Shapiro (and that’s quite a citation you put in there, you barbarian…). Gevalt.

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