The Great Women Composers of Opera

A recent edition of the New York Review of Books contains an article by George B. Stauffer called “Where are the Woman Composers?”.

The writer is astonished that for centuries major musical institutions have performed hardly any operas by women.  I can only presume that there actually were operas composed by women, sufficient numerically and qualitatively to provide a potential body of work that could be drawn upon.

That remains an open question.

Broad draws the reader deep into the lives of four British women who encountered misogyny while attempting to forge careers in the male-dominated field of music composition.  New York Review of Books, 2023-10-05

The writer then proceeded to cite a particular British woman,  Ethel Smythe, who dressed like men, smoked cigars, like to golf and horseback ride, and had affairs with numerous men and women including Virginia Woolf.

Aggressive, determined to gain recognition, and unfazed by tradition, she was described by Woolf as an “uncastrated cat.”  New York Review of Books, 2023-10-05

There you go.

There is a woman composer of an opera who is being denied her rightful place in the repertoire of established musical companies.



Buffy’s Identity Problem

It’s one thing to deny what now seems obvious. But to attack the journalists who exposed the truth about your ethnic identity as neo-colonialists and racist and sexist is beyond the pale. And given what Sainte-Marie has said previously about her ancestry, she cannot now claim, with sincerity, that she just “didn’t know”. She actively lied, and made up new lies to misdirect people from the old lies. Now she says, well, “I know who I am”, which is a nice way of refusing to take responsibility.

I have a mental hobby of pretending I’m the PR guy for whoever is embroiled in the latest scandal and have to come up with the best solution. In this case, I think she would have been better served with a line of “I admired indigenous culture so much that I wanted to be part of it, and I went too far, and did lie, and I am very sorry. And yes, it was terribly unfair to those of legitimate indigenous ancestry and if I haven’t already done enough to make up for it, I now wish to try.”

Instead, the stubborn denials and self-pity and claims of victimization leave a bad taste in the mouth.

She also claims to have been black-listed by the U.S. government, presidents Johnson and Nixon, and the FBI.  I can’t find any evidence of this other than her own assertion:

The former FBI director blacklisted Sainte-Marie as her protest songs gained more and more popularity. She didn’t know that it had happened for about 20 years until a deejay “told me that he had letters on White House stationery commending him for having suppressed my music.”  Toronto Star

What deejay?  From who in the White House?  Did she try to obtain the related documents through a Freedom of Information request?

It’s all beginning to sound a little pathetic.  And if it wasn’t pathetic enough, she now tosses out claims that she was sexually abused by her brother and someone else she won’t identify.  The brother is deceased– of course (like Joan Baez’  father)– but his daughter (Sainte-Marie’s niece) revealed letters that strongly suggest that Buffy Sainte-Marie threatened to publicly claim he sexually abused her to deter him from continuing to publicly challenge her claims of being born to an indigenous tribe in Saskatchewan when (as is now overwhelmingly clear) she was actually born to a white Christian family in Massachusetts.   He backed off.

She should want to be remembered instead for these lines:

Now that your big eyes are finally open
Now that you’re wondering, how must they feel?
Meaning them that you chased ‘cross America’s movie screens.

They are very good.  It’s a powerful song.  We can have both.  We can acknowledge her accomplishments and the weaknesses of character and dishonesty and leave it at that.


Joan Baez’s Weird Homage to Slavery

Way back in 1971, Joan Baez released a double album called “Blessed Are”, which, in retrospect, may be one of the weirdest album releases of all time.

Blessed Are... (Joan Baez album - cover art).jpg

Joan Baez, in case you don’t remember or weren’t born yet, was a famous folk singer who became a prominent anti-war, anti-racism protest leader during the 1960’s, and an interpreter of Bob Dylan’s songs.  As a result, unsurprisingly, she pissed off a lot of patriotic war-loving Americans who regarded her, along with Jane Fonda, as treasonous dupes of the radical left.  They may not have liked John Lennon; they may have regarded Dylan with hostile indifference; they may have ignored Pete Seeger; but they hated Baez and Fonda with a toxic rage.

“Blessed Are” appears to be a peace offering of some kind, to southerners, patriots, farmers, and, perhaps, country music fans.    It featured a hit for Baez, “The Night They Drove old Dixie Down”, by Robbie Robertson of The Band (and subject of a bitter dispute between him and The Band’s drummer Levon Helm).

Levon Helm says in his autobiography:

“I remember taking him [Robertson] to the library so he could research the history and geography of the era and make General Robert E. Lee come out with all due respect.”

Helm was so bitterly annoyed by Baez’s version of “The Night They Drove old Dixie Down” that he refused afterwards to sing it in concert.  I wonder if he was more annoyed by her politics than anything else.  What musician gets upset when another artist makes a signature song more popular?

Anyway, to make General Lee come out with “all due respect”– all the respect due to a slave-owning General who led the war effort to preserve the institution of slavery– may strike some as a dubious cause.

Look at the lyrics:

Like my father before me, I’m a working man
I’m like my brother before me, I took a rebel stand
Well, he was just eighteen, proud and brave
When a Yankee laid him in his grave
I swear by the blood below my feet,
You can’t raise a Cain back up with it’s in defeat

Some claim that the song is sympathetic to the Lost Cause ideology and defends slavery.  I think it does neither.  The fact that it was written by a Canadian should clue listeners in: this is an observational song, not propaganda for either side.  In fact, its observational qualities are acute and beautiful and tragic.

The album also has a song by Jagger and Richards, a paean to the “hard-working” average joe who always gets the short end of the stick.  And a tribute to a southern farmer friend with “the slowest drawl I’d ever heard” showing the narrator and friend around his beautiful farm.  There’s an intriguing song about apocalypse: Three Horses.

But let’s move on to “Lincoln Freed Me Today”.  If “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” seems ambiguous, “Lincoln Freed Me Today” is decidedly revisionist.

Been a slave most all my life
So’s my kids and so’s my wife
I been working on the Colonel’s farm
Aint been mistreated, aint done no harm…
The Colonel’s been right good to me
He’s taken care of my family

The Colonel rode his buggy in from town
Hitched his horse and called us all around
Said he couldn’t keep us here no more
I saw a tear as he walked toward the door


I’m sure Baez did not have in mind the idea of rescuing slavery from the dustbin of history, or, giving us the positive side of antebellum culture.  I’m sure she thought, well, it’s a true picture of some slave-owners, and some slaves.  And one must be fair by presenting both sides of the issue.   But the “I saw a tear” is kind of repulsive.  That’s the image we’re supposed to take away from this kindly old slaveholder?

You see how convoluted we become.

The songwriter is variously credited as David Paton, David Patten, and David Paton.  It’s likely David Patton.  There’s very little information out there about him.



Ian and Sylvia do a just peachy version of this song.


Evita, Hamilton Family Theatre, Cambridge, 2023-10-26

With the rise of populism in various countries around the world (Hungary, Poland, India, United States, Italy, etc.) it is worth seeing “Evita” in Cambridge at the Hamilton Family Theatre. It’s a very good production and touches on the nature of populism, the irrational belief people might have that a narcissistic, corrupt, self-serving figure like Evita Peron (and a certain orange-haired American politician) will save the nation, bring social justice and equality, and stick it to those educated, rich, smart-alecky elites that control the media and preside over government bureaucracies.
Regardless of the politics, it’s a fascinating story, and they could have written an entire second opera on what happened to Eva’s body– and Juan Peron– after her death, and, of course, the corpse of the Argentinian economy.
An object lesson in mass media as well: the people thought Eva was saintly because she created a foundation and personally wrote checks to poor people who lined up to see her. The specific stories made great anecdotes, with saturated media coverage, but most of the money probably ended up in the pockets of Juan and Eva Peron.  There is no reason to not account for the income and spending except to hide where the money went.
There is a bit of a drive out there to rehabilitate her image, and argue that Rice’s lyrics for “Evita” are based on a rather biased biography.  It is probably true that she was not as bad as her enemies made her out to be, but there is ample evidence to suggest that her charitable works were never not substantially self-serving even if she did promote unions that bettered the lives of working class individuals in Argentina at the time– and promoted her husband to the presidency and, she hoped, herself to the vice-presidency.
There’s a bit of a feminist angle to the “rehabilitation” of women of historical importance like Josephine, Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, and Evita.  Most of the time, yes, the negatives stories have been exaggerated over time, but the essential details of their lives remain the same.  And in some cases, the “rehabilitation” glosses over historical facts in order to cleanse their reputations.  Marie Antoinette was involved in conspiracies to restore her husband to the throne; Josephine did not inspire Napoleon’s great strategies or legislative accomplishments, Cleopatra reign was oppressive, and Evita was a self-centered narcissist who used her sexuality to achieve her position of privilege under the Peronist regime.

Elvis on the Throne — Right Next to St. Exlax

Elvis was very caring and compassionate for others. His love for God led him to be generous and help so many people. His faith in God played a huge role in who he was. Anytime anyone has the means to help someone in a big or small way should always do it by following his lead because Elvis led by example.

From someone named Rex Judkins on Facebook.

Once again an objective observer is left wondering what exactly Christians stand for when they adopt people like Trump and Elvis as their own. Obviously nothing like what they say they stand for. Humility. Integrity. Honesty. Self-control. Fidelity. Elvis’ selective acts of personal compassion do nothing to mitigate the corruption of his personal life, his self-indulgence, addictions, and weakness of character.

And a short note on the Monkees after a Facebook admirer lavished praise upon them:

Oh, they were obviously talented: they didn’t come from nowhere. But they were assembled, packaged and promoted by media companies in a deliberate and obvious attempt to copy the Beatles which hurt their credibility enormously. The songs were outsourced to Tin Pan Alley and the recordings were made largely with session musicians. When they did strike out on their own, their music did not impress; only Michael Nesmith was able to establish himself as a serious artist with his song-writing. The rest were trapped as teen pop idols with not much of a legacy. Nostalgia is fine but shouldn’t lead to an over-evaluation of modest talents.

Not so Swift

I have had various peripheral encounters with the Taylor Swift phenomenon.   I put her in the category of rap music, Harry Potter books, Star Wars, and other cultural products that become extremely popular but have no real value to me.  There is a point at which the sheer magnitude of their popularity can have a transfixing effect on critics and writers who should know better.  Inevitably, someone will write a epic piece on “Star Wars” or “Harry Potter” that will allege that the seeming banality of these works conceals a plethora of significant and substantial meaning that we all now need to proclaim obeisance to.

No it doesn’t.  “Star Wars” was intended as “B Movie” right from the start, a shallow, trivial pastiche of conventionality and cliché.  Lucas himself would never have dreamed that anyone would regard it as “significant” or deep or meaningful until it took in more than $100 million in ticket sales.  It’s just good fun with space ships and aliens.  “Harry Potter”– have you actually read any of the books?– is actually pretty bad literature.  I mean it is actually poorly written.  The sentences, the paragraphs, the pages and pages of repackaged wizards and golems and sorcerers with very little that is fresh, captivating, or inspiring.  And never poetic or allusive or provocative.  Rap music?  Streams of syllables over a packaged beat.  What the hell did anyone ever think was really interesting about it?  The fact that it emerged from black culture, that it supposedly defies authority and the establishment, that it expresses — what?  The desire to rape or kill, or brag, or bully?

And now there is Taylor Swift.  And here is a great mystery.  There is no doubt that Swift is a rather banal, narcissistic, self-referential, sophomoric songwriter.   If it could be said that she actually does write her own songs (I am very skeptical) her songs are almost completely about herself and how she feels about herself and how she feels about others feeling something about herself.    She’s not a particularly good performer either.  Let’s hear her without auto-tune, by herself, playing her own instrument of her choice.  You won’t.  At least, not for a while, until they decide — if they do– to package her that way.  If there are other people in her songs, they are very important because they play a role in how she feels about herself.

But, to my astonishment– I mean, complete and utter astonishment– the New York Times Daily Podcast just presented an utterly slavish, adoring, idiotic tribute to her, citing her choice as Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year”, and her massive popularity (of course her tour broke records: inflation never goes backwards, so every new big artist is going to break records).

I thought, did I miss something?  Do I have to go back and listen her to best songs again with a fresh approach to see if there is something in them that I did not notice the first time?  Or…

I listened with great interest.  As cars drove by me on my walk, I turned the volume up on the podcast: I didn’t want to miss this explanation.  Why is Taylor Swift so great?   The podcast was hosted by Michael Barbaro who interviewed Taffy Brodesser-Akner.  Both admitted immediately that they were Taylor Swift fans.  They unembarrassedly admitted they were “swifties”.  Seriously?  This is the New York Times!

Okay, so the Times is giving up the idea of objectivity right off the bat.  But let’s hear the reasons– tell my why her songs are so great, and why she is important.

The answer:  well, she wrote a song about how she wanted to go to the mall once and she called up her girlfriends and none of them wanted to go with her so she went by herself, with her mother, and there, at the mall, were all her girlfriends.  They hadn’t included her.  But her mother was very pleasant about it all and they laughed and she had a great time driving home with her mother in a car.

I am not making this up.  This is an “important” Taylor Swift song.  It is meaningful and substantive and unprecedented (Taffy Bordesser-Akner certainly thought so which immediately prompts the question: are you even familiar with the subject of popular music?).   No one, according to Taffy, has ever expressed the feelings of betrayal and lost innocence like Taylor Swift!

Taffy went on to talk about how Kanye West interrupted her at some awards show and then she befriended him and forgave him and then the cad criticized her in a song.  Egad!  Outrageous!  He used to be her friend and then he wasn’t.  She wrote a song about it and that song is incredibly important and meaningful.  To Taffy and millions of air-heads.

The third song they talked about was “All too Well”.  Once again, he was her friend, then he wasn’t.  Apparently it’s about Jake Gyllenhaal.  One version goes on for ten minutes.  Taffy is deeply impressed by lyrics like

And maybe we got lost in translation
Maybe I asked for too much
But maybe this thing was a masterpiece
’til you tore it all up
Running scared, I was there
I remember it all too well

Come on.  Seriously?

What all of these songs have in common is the over-looked possibility that Taylor Swift is annoying.  Perhaps her friends didn’t accept her invitation to go to the mall because they really wanted to hurt her feelings.  Perhaps they just didn’t like her.    But Taffy, listen to yourself!  It’s a fucking song about going to the mall and hanging out with your friends.  It is not deep.  It’s not original.  It’s not fresh.  It’s not profound.  It’s a trivial song about a trivial transaction blip in an adolescent girls’ social life.  But Taffy– in the ultimate expression of confirmation bias– proclaims it courageous precisely because almost no self-respecting female singer-songwriter would ever embarrass herself by writing such triviality.

It’s true.  Because the female singer-songwriters we think of were into much more substantial and original expressions of their art.  And absolutely, they would be embarrassed by “All too Well”.

Here’s more:

And you call me up again just to break me like a promise
So casually cruel in the name of being honest
I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here
‘Cause I remember it all, all, all
Too well

The language is stiff, forced.  “casually cruel” and “in the name of being honest” and “crumpled up piece of paper” are neither striking nor original and certainly not very powerful.   It’s the very definition of sophomoric.

I wonder if Ms. Brodesser-Akner has heard of Joni Mitchell or Ani DiFranco,

It was bad enough that the Times gave overweening preposterous adoration to a trivial, inane pop figure whose success is hugely the result of massive publicity and promotion as much as her own skill at manipulating her public image.  Worse was yet to come:  Taffy was audibly tearful about how she could relate to Swift’s struggles against her music company after it sold her masters to an investor.   She too had been exploited and cheated by people she trusted and loved– paid less then her male colleagues*, not being appreciated for her real talents and skills, being grateful to even have a job, the way Taylor Swift was grateful to her record company for making her famous and rich.  Taffy was astounded at Swift’s stunningly amazing decision to re-record her masters so she could sell them instead of the ones owned by the investors.

What would have been genuinely impressive would be if Swift was smart enough not to sign the deal she signed– willingly, in exchange for fame and riches– in the first place, or if she, like Ani Difranco, a female artist who is light-years more interesting than Taylor Swift, told the record companies to just fuck off while she managed her own recordings and career.



Ransacking the Graves of Dead Beatles

You may have heard that a “new” Beatles single has been produced, featuring the dead Beatles along with the expired ones,  McCartney and Starr.  It’s a song called: “Now and Then”.  You can watch it if you want.  I won’t.

The idea of ransacking the identities of deceased artists is kind of repellent– they can’t consent, of course, and they can’t, in turn, ransack the identities of those who now exploit them because they’re dead.  I don’t know if there is a way to make this illegal when their own families (of the dead artists) are still trying to cash in on long-expired relevance but I wish they could.  I wish that an artist could, in his will, express his solemn wish that no one could use a technology that hasn’t been invented yet to, in the future, create an artificial replica of his body or voice and use it to make money.

I really wish they could.

Next: a duet with Janis Joplin and Elvis Presley? Buddy Holly and Cass Elliot? A guitar duel between Jimi Hendrix and Robert Johnson?  It is coming.  It is absolutely coming.

It does McCartney’s and Starr’s reputations no good.  Reputations are earned by production: give us a new song that is really worth listening to.  That’s something neither of them have done in 40 years.  In desperation, they exploit the memories of Harrison and Lennon.  Sure, the families consent: they want the money.

If Lennon were alive, I’m sure he’d have something acerbic to say about the very idea.  I think is very likely he would find the very idea repugnant.



Worried About the New Dylan Biopic

“It’s such an amazing time in American culture and the story of a young, 19-year-old Bob Dylan coming to New York with like two dollars in his pocket and becoming a worldwide sensation within three years — first being embraced into the family of folk music in New York and then, of course, kind of outrunning them at a certain point as his star rises so beyond belief,” Mangold said. “It’s such an interesting true story and about such an interesting moment in the American scene.”  Indiewire

And becoming “a worldwide sensation”?  Like, a star?  A celebrity?

That’s a pretty disturbing comment to hear from a director preparing to make a movie about the most provocative, original, and compelling singer-songwriter of his era.

It’s a great story because he became rich and famous?  That’s the American dream!  Soon, he is wearing the clothes that stars wear and eating in restaurants frequented by Barbara Walters and Henry Kissinger!

I am not a fan of Timothy Chalamet.  I just can’t find gay actors romancing young women in a movie convincing.  In the back of my mind a little voice keeps telling me “he’s not interested in a girl.”   Worse, Chalamet is one of those actors who, like Leonardo Di Carpio, calibrates his performance to other actors’ performances, to what they think a real actor would do– what has received critical opprobrium and public esteem– rather than to the psychological reality of the character they are playing.

Christian Bale is a great example of an actor who does dig deep into the character and brings out unexpected nuance and subtlety.  His performance in films like “American Psycho” and “Shame” are brilliant.

I wish he had been chosen for this role.

But, my wife says, he doesn’t look like Bob Dylan.

C’est la vie.





Joan Baez’s Vanity

Joan Baez: I am Noise was showing at the Princess Theatre this week so my wife and I went to see it.  Up until about half way through, it was not too annoying.  It was narcissistic and self-serving, of course, and Baez always sings as if the audience has an obligation to express convincing and polite approbation or else, but I found it tolerable until she began to relate how broken down she was for a period in her life.  It’s hard to describe what she meant because the whole thing was amorphous and, I think, purposely vague, but it emerged that her sister Mimi, who also experienced these disorders, claimed that her father had French-kissed her once in the back yard by the clothesline.  Then Joan Baez– also, of course, in therapy– began to recover her own memories of abuse about which she was decidedly vague.

Aside from the obvious controversies, one must immediately acknowledge that she admitted to being desperately addicted to quaaludes at the time.  One must also sadly note that her career was in decline and she was no longer as important or celebrated as she once had been and that can be, for someone admittedly addicted to public adoration, a tough pill to swallow.

Think about it:  she was massively doped up on quaaludes (so badly so that she approved the stupidest album cover photo of her career–in a space suit– during this period for the stupidest album of her career — a desperate attempt to maintain her relevance by embracing rap), depressed about the loss of her prominence on the activism circuit (the Viet Nam War had ended) and possibly even more depressed about her own failures as a mother (she continued to tour leaving Gabriel in the care of others).  The cover of Time Magazine (an awful, ugly graphic) must have seemed so long ago by then.  And David Harris didn’t turn out to be that great of a husband after all.

There was a reference to hypnosis in there but I’ll say no more about that because I can’t recover a memory of the details of context.  But some of the content of the tapes she played in the film reminded me of the suggestive tactics of the “therapists” involved in recovering memories of abuse by the victims of the Satanic Ritual Abuse hoax.

I remained puzzled by several things.  As is often the case, one allegation begets another and, sure enough, the zombie “recovered memories” reared it’s ugly, festering head and Joan claimed that she also had been abused.  Of course, there is no specific date or time or location, and of course her father is deceased and unable to defend himself.  Of course, she had been heavily into quaaludes for eight years– which, I suppose, offers an explanation of just how many layers of shit covered those hidden memories.  Of course.  What astonished me is that no editor or producer thought fit to either excise the questionable allegations or at least do a little more to acknowledge that recovered memories are “controversial”.  Because they are not “controversial” at all.   They are the product of junk psychology and have been thoroughly discredited and debunked.  They were promulgated by books like “Sybil” and “Satan Remembers” which have been convincingly shown to be hoaxes.

But then again, this is a vanity project, not a documentary.  We saw nothing that was not approved of for us by Joan Baez herself.

Add to that the issue of hypnosis, which was also part of her therapy…  look, it’s 2023.  Wake up.

Things come to a crux when Mimi tells of being French kissed by her father, a recollection that leads Joan to pursue her own path of thrice-weekly therapy, including hypnotism, which has her remembering her own inappropriate experiences with her dad — which the film does not go into great detail on. The doc includes letters and voice messages from her father in which he accuses Joan of having fallen prey to false memory syndrome, but Baez tells the filmmakers today that if even 20% of what she remembers is true, that’s damning enough.

Twenty percent of nothing is still nothing.  This is throwing mud onto the wall and believing that some of it must stick.

I will not be polite about this issue under any circumstance.  A good deal of damage has been done by credulous individuals who don’t care about science or evidence or facts and are willing to believe something because they just “feel” it must be true– as Joan Baez suggests in this vanity piece.  She even suggests that her father might have “felt” that it wasn’t true.  And that both feelings are valid.



Little Richard’s Revisionism

Suppose a notorious prostitute gave up her profession, joined a church, went to seminary, became a preacher, established a church, built up it’s membership so that it was able to build a lovely new sanctuary, and then retired.  And suppose that after her retirement, a large group of former customers decided to give her an award for being the best prostitute in the business.

She would refuse, right?  She would prefer that people not even know about her past, but if they did, she would certainly renounce it.  She would publicly return all the money she earned from prostitution to a charity for unwed mothers (or something).

Suppose it was discovered that she financed her new church sanctuary with money she had earned as a prostitute?

Suppose that hundreds of young women read books and articles about her early career and announced that they wanted more than anything to become great prostitutes.

Yes, a very weird story, isn’t it?  It is the story of Little Richard.  Yes it is.

Let me make absolutely career: Little Richard’s rock’n’roll career was not in any manner really prostitution or like prostitution.  I am saying that Little Richard himself, by his own standards as a Christian preacher, came to regard it as such.  Insofar as it goes…

Little Richard was perhaps the greatest genius of the early rock’n’roll era.  If you have never seen a good video of one of his early performances– and I don’t mean just a clip– you must see it.  He is utterly remarkable.  Here’s another.   And another.  He was a whirling dervish of dance and vocals and whoops and hollers and piano, and absolutely mesmerizing.  He excited people so much they sometimes broke into a riot.

Watch Paul McCartney sing for the Beatles in the early years.  You are watching Little Richard.  Watch Mick Jagger, Elvis, David Bowie, Prince, Madonna– all owe an enormous debt to the original, Little Richard.  Even Bob Dylan, someone you would not immediately think of as influenced by Little Richard, listed, in his high school year book, the ambition of joining Little Richard’s band.

And then Little Richard got religion.

Little Richard, who had been brought up in the church, of course, always believed in scripture, in Jesus, in the Ten Commandments and the Holy Spirit, but he didn’t care at first.  He was flamboyant, charismatic, and absolutely homosexual.  He lived the way he wanted.  But in the early 1960’s, he embraced the religion of his upbringing and repudiated rock’n’roll.  He refused to sing any of his hits.  He sang gospel tunes, spirituals.  Sometimes he would spice them up with a performance that suggested if not replicated his early career, but mostly he stood on stage in a suit and sang into a microphone while barely moving his body.

He says he gave up homosexual relationships.  I’m not sure I believe him.  He was still surrounded by gay men at times.  It’s very hard to tell because Little Richard was not known for his honesty or candor when it came to his personal history.

The point is, Little Richard believed that his early career was a sinful expression of a sinful lifestyle– like the prostitute in my fable above.  He begged God to forgive him.  He tried to go straight and reform.


As the documentary, “Little Richard: I am Everything” makes clear, unlike the prostitute of my fable, he wants it both ways.  He demands recognition for the very things he repudiated in his later life.  He demands honors and money for behaviors he now condemns, in his earlier self, and, by implication if not directly, in others.

He complains bitterly about not being paid for his sinful expressions.

I found the last half hour of the documentary a bit offensive because of that.  That, and the the rather clumsy attempt to blame everything that was denied to Little Richard on homophobia, as if the Beatles, and Elvis, and Tom Petty, and Joni Mitchell, and everyone else go their due, except for poor old gay, black Little Richard.  It’s simply not true.  Little Richard did not get compensated fairly for his work because the music industry systematically rips off every young artist whatever their color, religion, or sexual orientation.

Do you think there’s a whole lot of straight male artists out there who were paid fairly and who feel that the industry treated them well?  Or contemporary female country artists?

Leonard Cohen, incidentally, did the smart thing and retained control of his publishing rights… until his agent talked him into selling the entire catalogue to Sony Music and then pilfered the money forcing him to resume touring again.

More on the Music Industry

And on Excessive Demands from Copyright Owners

On How the Music Industry Brilliantly Extended Ripping off the Artist into the Napster Era

On Ani Di Franco’s lovely resistance.

On the unfortunate delusion embraced by Little Richard’s that authentic sexuality is in conflict with his religious faith and Jesus would never love him as the gay man that he is and always will be.