Susan's Musings

This section of my web site is for unstructured self-expression. Sort of a blog. Your comments are appreciated. In any case, I get to vent. Essays, monographs, poems, book reviews, and comments.

Please visit my separate economics blog.

Prior years: 2107 2106 2105 2104 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001
The Everly Brothers, Don and Phil
Two brothers born in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky and Chicago, Illinois to a coal-mining-turned-singing family who grew up learning to sing close harmony and play steel-stringed acoustic guitar. Throughout their lives they contended they were hillbillies and that Kentucky was their emotional home. In 1956, at ages 21 and 19, they signed a recording contract as a duo with Cadence Records in Nashville, Tennessee. In early 1957 they released a recording "Bye Bye Love" that quickly became a million-seller and reached No. 2 on the U.S. pop charts, No. 1 on the country, and No. 5 on the R&B charts. It was the first in a long series of internationally popular hits.

The brothers set many records that have yet to be surpassed; their music occupied the top of the charts for decades. Their musical style combined rhythm-and-blues and country, and forged an early and enduring strain of rock and roll. "Everything we call country rock comes from the Everlys." [Bill Flanagan] Their voices were beautiful and their harmonies remain unmatched. Neil Young inducted them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986, with an introduction in which he described his efforts to reproduce the brothers' harmonies — with no success.

They never claimed to be singer songwriters, and while most of their recorded material was written by others, they wrote a considerable repertoire.

Phil Everly, the younger brother, died in January 2014. Don continues singing, at a slower pace. The Brothers are recognized as having significantly influenced music groups, especially English groups like the Beatles (whom Dick Clark once dismissed as being "Everly Brothers imitators"), and the endless groups that attempted vocal harmonies, perhaps foremost being Simon & Garfunkel.

In 2013 Robert Plant (of Led Zeppelin) and Alison Krauss (a solo bluegrass-country singer) released a cover of the Everly's "Gone Gone Gone" Here is an Everly recording from 1964.

Perfect Harmony, a UK radio program about the Everly Brothers from March 23, 2014 (after Phil's death), is a wonderful compilation of their music!

I think the Everlys exhibited two significant skills:
First, at a young age they had developed their own musical voice. It was composed of the sounds they made with their guitars, their individual voices, and their harmonies. It was also composed of phrasing and tempo. They could make a song their own by transforming it with their musical voice. (A good example of this is "Claudette", a song written by Ray Orbison. Once I heard the Everly's version, I found Orbison's recording to be lackluster and boring. The Everly's version is vibrant.)
Second, they had a refined sense of timing and progression. Near the beginning of their career, they had a highly successful sequence of songs that was followed by a dirth of suitable material for the next song. Instead of taking what was offered and making the best of it, they stood back and wrote their own song. Their recording of that song, "Cathy's Clown", went to the top of the charts, with no complaints about how long music lovers had to wait for it.

Why did I write about the Everly Brothers? And why now? Late yesterday afternoon I ate breakfast in a local café that caters to retired people with simple, affordable food and oldies music — music from the 50s and 60s. I listened to Buddy Holly sing "Rave On" with pleasure, glad to remember his name and the lyrics. And then a faint memory assailed me, the Everly Brothers. I came home and typed their name into Google and spent the rest of the evening reading and listening and falling in love with their music all over again. I hadn't known anything of their lives and work since about 1970, if not 1963. I wrote this ode to remind me. If this is your introduction to the Everlys, I am glad to have been of service. (1-10-2018)

Oprah for President?
She gave a stirring speech at the Golden Globes. Now the news folk are suggesting she might be a candidate for president. Why? Because she is an authentic billionaire and a TV star.

Have we learned nothing?

We cannot articulate how an ideal president behaves. What political goals they advocate and pursue.

We are easily conned. We do not demand political experience, nor evidence of sincerity in a candidate's stated goals and values.

We like, perhaps a bit desperately, a knight on a white horse to ride in, take over, and make America right again — all without our having to do anything, even vote.

More of this attitude is going to destroy our personal lives and our democracy. And yet we seem addicted to it. (1-9-2018)

Beware food additives
A new study finds: A sugar additive called Trehalose, commonly added to a wide range of food products, could have allowed certain strains of Clostridium difficile to become far more virulent than they were before. That bacterium is infamous for causing severe diarrhea and death. It is one of the most prevalent hospital-acquired infections. (1-4-2018)
Rising sea levels
It's no theory that sea levels are rising, at least in some places — it's fact. And we are constantly told this is a phenomenon of "global warming," that ugly stepchild of industrial pollution. What catches my attention is that when archeologists discover the underwater ruins of ancient Greek or Roman buildings, buildings that must have been built on dry land, rising sea level is never mentioned. (1-4-2018)
Legalizing pot
California makes the headlines on New Year's Day because this is the day that pot became legal. Well, sort of. The limitations are endless. In reality, legalized pot is a jobs program for folks who want to get in on the ground floor of a new industry. At best it might keep us from ingesting herbicides in our smoke, remember paraquat? (1-1-2018)

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Revision: 1-1-2018.