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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

CAMPAIGN AND PROTEST SONGS

Songs used by politicians to support their campaigns have been around for a long time.

In the Depression ravaged early 1930’s, Franklin Roosevelt used a previously written song which easily conveyed his campaign hopes, “Happy Days are here Again”.  Who wouldn’t fall for these lyrics when the country was down and out?

Happy days are here again
The skies above are clear again
Let us sing a song of cheer again
Happy days are here again.

One of the most effective tunes was used by Harry Truman when he ran for president in the late 1940’s.  Appropriately, it was “I’m Just Wild about Harry” which was written in 1921 for a Broadway show hence, it didn’t have the stigma of being trumped up just for Truman’s campaign.  Harry was behind in the polls against Dewey for much of the campaign but won anyway so maybe the song really did make people wild about Harry.

Then there is pop music which helps liberal candidates more than conservatives because it aims at the younger crowds who are more vulnerable and always dissatisfied with the status quo.  While the conservatives may rely primarily on patriotic themes the liberals will usually tie into a popular group or person bent on change with their definition of change including taking from the rich to give to the poor.  To them that is an easy solution regardless of whether many of the poor are deserving to take from those who have earned their way.

Bob Dylan, c. 1965
I was first eligible to vote in 1962 when most of the protest folk songs were beginning their popularity.  There was no FM radio to speak of then so the AM airwaves were packed with complaints about our government, war, etc. by acts like Peter Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, and to a lesser extent The Kingston Trio and Pete Seeger.

I’m sure they meant well but I don’t remember ever hearing of them giving the profits from their million selling discs to the needy.   Does anyone really think that Joan Baez and Peter Paul and Mary would have made it big without the anti war liberal rants?  Many of the youth of that era fell right into their hands while the rest of us rocked to the “Peppermint Twist” and “Runaround Sue” as we voted Republican. 

We were mostly military guys in an era of the mandatory draft while the “anti” gang was college kids mostly straight out of high school who thought they could solve the world’s problems after taking a course in politics from some liberal college professor who never served a day.  

It’s carried on to today as groups like Crosby, Stills, and Nash are bald and aging but still are fighting the establishment.  Starting in the late 1970’s the punk rock movement joined the crowd espousing left wing and anti-establishment philosophies.  Most of these bands look like their members are twelve years old and just want to be “in” on something.  By the time they are thirty and driving a Honda they will probably wonder what the hell they were thinking all those years ago.

A member of The New Christy Minstrels (Barry McGuire) had a big anti war hit in September of 1965. I especially remember it because that’s the month I got out of the USAF and met my future wife.
Interesting note on Bob Dylan: In 1965 he changed to an electric guitar which infuriated most of his fans. Did he change because by then the protest era was fading and he felt he needed to move on or were his fans being unrealistic in their expectations of him? I think it was the former. The coffee house mentality was waning and fans wanted to hear more stuff on the cutting edge. Plus, the British Invasion was arriving and Bob had to eat like everyone else. To make matters worse disco was just around the corner. Sometimes a guy has to swallow his pride. Anyone remember "Lay Lady Lay"?








Tuesday, April 09, 2013

ALFRED HITCHCOCK, AUGUST 13, 1899 - APRIL 29,1980

I doubt if there is anyone reading this who has not heard of Alfred Hitchcock.  Later this month on April 29, 2013 it will be thirty-three years since the master of movie and television suspense died at age 80.

Hitchcock was born in London, England in 1899 and by 1920 had developed an interest in the film business through his skill as an accomplished artist.  During the 1920s he met his future wife and collaborator Alma Reville.  They were married in 1927 and became the parents of daughter Pat who was born in July of 1928.

The year 1927 was a big one for Hitchcock as he not only got married but he directed his first film, The Lodger. 

In the UK throughout the 1930’s until 1939, Hitch churned out many films with the best ones, in my opinion, being the original The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934) with Peter Lorre, The 39 Steps (1935), and a personal favorite, The Lady Vanishes (1938).  After Jamaica Inn in 1939, he moved to America where he would gain his biggest fame.

His first film after arriving in the U. S. was Rebecca which won the Oscar for best picture of 1940.  He went on to do such favorites over the years as Strangers on a Train (1951), Rear Window, (1954), Vertigo (1958), Psycho (1960), and The Birds (1963).   His 67 directorial credits also include his half hour TV show which ran from 1955-1961, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  That Sunday night show produced many memorable programs.  He also did The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1962.

The above gives you a quick resume of Alfred Hitchcock’s life and major accomplishments in the UK and America but what kind of a guy was he and why were most of his works successful?

As a follower of vintage film productions, I was rarely bored with a Hitchcock film.  That’s not to say I liked them all.  I never could get into Torn Curtain (1966) even though I was drawn to see it because of the Hitchcock touch and that it starred Paul Newman and Julie Andrews.  Another clunker to me was probably one of his most successful films, The Birds (1963).

The fun things about Hitchcock’s films were his ability to create suspense and a feeling of anxiety that kept the viewers on the edge of their seats through various twists and turns.  He liked icy female characters, preferably blondes, to inhabit his films (Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Priscilla Lane, Janet Leigh, etc.).  He also liked the excitement of someone being on the run like Cary Grant in North by Northwest (1959), Robert Cummings in Saboteur (1942), or Robert Donat in The 39 Steps (1935), etc.

He also always had a plot device that made the whole thing work referred to as the “Macguffin.”  Combined with the music scores of Bernard Herrmann for many of the films, it made for an enjoyable couple hours.

Hitchcock also liked to tease his audiences with his cameo appearances.  Here is all of them.  Some I remember, some I don't.  I think the best is the one with his picture in the newspaper in Lifeboat (1944) advertising a weight reduction product.  Watch carefully for it.


I wish we had more Alfred Hitchcocks in Hollywood today.

(For more on Hitchcock, Psycho, and Phoenix, click here.  For a complete list of his movies, click here.)