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Saturday, May 30, 2015

30 Day Song Challenge 2015

Once again this June, I'll be blogging the 30 Day Song Challenge, which I've done for the last few years. Since I began in 2011, the official list of Challenge prompts has changed several times, so this year I've tried to mashup the best parts of previous iterations into a new "2015" version of the list (below). As I have previously, I'll be Facebooking and Tweeting (@DrLeighMJohnson and @RMWMTMBM) my picks for each day, and I'd like to invite readers to join in on your own blogs, FB pages or Twitter accounts. The 30 Day Song Challenge is a fun and easy thing to do. You don't need to be a music expert to play along, just a music lover.  I guarantee that you'll be surprised how quickly participating in the Challenge attunes your ears and your soul to the music around you, not to mention how much it teaches you about yourself.

I'll begin this coming Monday, on June 1.  Below is the list of prompts I'll be using throughout the month.  Please do let me know if you'll be playing along!

30 Day Song Challenge (2015)
DAY 01:  your favorite song   (Here's my pick)
DAY 02:  your least favorite song   (Here's my pick)
DAY 03:  a song that makes you happy   (Here's my pick)
DAY 04:  a song that makes you sad   (Here's my pick)
DAY 05:  a song that reminds you of someone   (Here's my pick)
DAY 06:  a song that reminds you of home   (Here's my pick)
DAY 07:  a song you never tire of hearing   (Here's my pick)
DAY 08:  a song you know all the words to   (Here's my pick)
DAY 09:  a song that makes you want to dance   (Here's my pick)
DAY 10:  a song that helps you fall asleep   (Here's my pick)
DAY 11:  a song from your favorite band/artist   (Here's my pick)
DAY 12:  a song from a band/artist you hate   (Here's my pick)
DAY 13:  a song that is a guilty pleasure   (Here's my pick)
DAY 14:  a song no one would expect you to love   (Here's my pick)
DAY 15:  a song that could be the theme song to your life   (Here's my pick)
DAY 16:  a song you used to love but now hate   (Here's my pick)
DAY 17:  a song you hear often on the radio   (Here's my pick)
DAY 18:  a song that every bar band should know  (Here's my pick)
DAY 19:  a song that bar bands should stop playing   (Here's my pick)
DAY 20:  a song to listen to when you're angry   (Here's my pick)
DAY 21:  a song that is best heard live   (Here's my pick)
DAY 22:  a song you wish you had written   (Here's my pick)
DAY 23:  a song you want played at your wedding   (Here's my pick)
DAY 24:  your favorite song this time last year   (Here's my pick)
DAY 25:  a song with utterly mysterious lyrics   (Here's my pick)
DAY 26:  a song that is an "earworm"   (Here's my pick)
DAY 27:  a song you wish you could play/sing   (Here's my pick)
DAY 28:  a song from your childhood   (Here's my pick)
DAY 29:  a song you want played at your funeral   (Here's my pick)
DAY 30:  a song you discovered this month (during the Challenge)   (Here's my pick)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dear Memphis: You've Got To Love Them While They Live

Yesterday, Memphis turned out in force at W.C. Handy Park and on Beale Street to bid its final farewell in a home-going celebration for one of our city's musical legends, B.B. King, who passed away last week.  It was a dark and cloudy morning, which felt strangely appropriate, as Nature herself seemed unable to hold back tears for the Beale Street Blues Boy whose fans and friends gathered to watch his final ride down the historic street that gave him his name and made his fortune.  In the end, the sadness we all felt was ultimately drowned out by a moving display of love and tenderness, pride and joy. which drew from a popular, musical and cultural well so deep that its resources seem inexhaustible.  I was there and cannot describe it any other way than to say that it was Memphis.  Thousands braved the elements to pay their respects, fellowshipped with one another and stood together as living testaments to the continuing vitality of this, our Memphis, Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock 'n Roll.

Without a doubt, the thrill lives on.  Just see for yourself:



BUT what may have been overlooked by many Memphians who were there to say goodbye to a musical legend was, unfortunately, the countless living legends, who were also there among them.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Thrill Lives On

This has been a tough year for Memphis music.  We've lost a lot of greats, some better known than others, each an irreplaceable spiritual brick in the impregnable wall of sound that guards and protects and defines this city.  The fact that so many have been called home recently serves as a bittersweet reminder that time continues to march on, the birth of rock n' roll and the heydey of blues and soul grows smaller and further away in our historical rear-view mirror, our legends and heros grow old and sick, and we have precious few days left with them.

Last night we lost one of our dearest and best, the King of the Blues, Riley B. King, best known to the world by his stage name B.B. (for "Blues Boy") King. The first time I saw B.B. King play live was the first time that I was able to articulate to myself the difference between Chicago blues and Delta blues, and also to confirm my undying love and devotion for the latter.  Chicago blues is made for guitar aficionados; it has that electric, frenetic (I often describe it as "oodle-y oodle-y") sound that comes from squeezing a legion of notes into the tight space of a musical bar.  Delta blues, on the other hand, makes one single note do the work of legions.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Our Dirty War

The disappearance of citizens displays a perversely cruel and absolute sovereignty.
--Ruti Teitel, Transitional Justice (2002)

I should begin by noting that I started writing what follows last week, after the publication of the New York Times story on the "1.5 Million Missing Black Men in America" but before the popular uprising in Baltimore that began Monday as a consequence of Freddie Gray's death in police custody.  In response to the latter, Baltimorean Rudolph Jackson was reported as saying of Freddie Gray "I'm not saying that [he] was an angel; whatever he did is now in the past.  But the police have made up their minds about who we are.  They figure every black man with his pants hanging down as a suspect, and they stop [us] without probable cause."  A lot has been written in the last few days regarding how long and how carefully we should think on the "suspicions" that Jackson describes, as well as the deadly consequences of those suspicions.

For the record, "what happened to Freddie Gray," as far as we know now, was that his spine was severed while in police custody. For whatever it's worth, and this only has a grossly curious worth, experts say that, quite simply, you can't break your spine like Freddie Gray is reported to have done.  We also know that Freddie Gray died as a result.  Every official and/or "leaked" published report of this incident has described Freddie Gray's injury in the passive voice.  Freddie Gray's spinal chord was severed.  Freddie Gray died as a result.

The Baltimore police department has opted to hand the findings of their investigation into Freddie Gray's death over to a prosecutor, instead of releasing those findings to the public, as they initially promised to do.  Every last one of us already know better and know more than what has been reported to us about that incident, though,  Freddie Gray's is not the story of a black man who "somehow died" in police custody. His is the all-too-familiar story of a black man who was made to disappear in the course of the United States' ongoing Antiblack Dirty War.