Almost every year, Father’s Day falls on the first Sunday of the College World Series. It’s a perfect setting, really, with fathers and children scattered under the sun throughout the stadium, watching America’s pastime. Although I hate to miss the day with my dad, it’s a bonus to be here with Luke, him bounding out of bed at 6:30 this morning to give me a T-shirt with a U.S. flag on it. “It’s a Grand Old Flag for a Grand […]
My favorite forms of gospel music fall into two distinct camps: traditional African-American spiritual, usually of Southern origin and accompanied by hand-claps and shout-outs (the Swan Silvertones, Mahalia Jackson, the Fairfield Four, Aretha Franklin’s “Amazing Grace” album); and country-based hymns, usually seeking redemption from another lost Saturday night (Gram Parsons’ “In My Hour of Darkness,” Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light,” Johnny Cash’s “Why Me Lord”). In his reading of this 1908 hymn, somehow Gregg Allman manages to draw equally […]
Among a certain group of friends in Tulsa, I became known as the St. Patrick’s Day Grinch. There was a drunk at every corner bar, it seemed, sporting an accent and claiming Irish blood from “me grandmudder.” It just seemed a bit much. And so my friends had some fun. One year I received a St. Patrick’s Day card in the mail from a casual acquaintance. Then a few more. And then dozens: “Russ: Although we’ve only met once, this […]
On this Presidents’ Day we honor James Garfield, the 20th president of our United States. Raised on a farm in Ohio, he later served as a brigadier general for the Union Army in the Civil War. He was elected president at age 49, was shot four month later, and was in intensive care for eleven weeks before dying, less than 200 days in office. Johnny Cash gives a full account of the event, managing to fit “Charlie Guiteau” and “Miss […]
Nina Simone was in rehearsals for a series of shows at Westbury Music Fair in Long Island when she heard about the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This song was written the next day by her bass player, Gene Taylor. Two days later, recorded here, Simone and her band performed the song publicly for the first time. Simone’s brother, who was onstage playing organ, years later told NPR, “We learned the song that day. We didn’t have two […]
Luke turns 5 and starts kindergarten. Lauren’s painting career appears poised to take off. Adventures await in Marfa, Texas; a train ride through the Rockies; most likely Santa Fe; and always, Omaha. New year’s resolutions to eat better and draw more. But more than anything, here’s to health and happiness. Welcome to 2017.
Most of the world is ready to bid the year adieu, and by most barometers, it wasn’t the best of times. As we head into the new year, our president-elect is thumbing his nose at his “many enemies,” praising the leader who was likely behind Russia’s interference with the U.S. elections and still, three weeks from taking office, seems wholly unequipped and disinterested in leading a civilized country. This song is for 2016. Let’s hope it’s not for decency and […]
A few days ago I heard this song at a restaurant and thought about George Michael, wondered what he’s doing these days. Even though he didn’t come out until later, Michael personified gay culture in the 1980s. I thought about my friend Brian — also gay but not entirely out — singing this song with swagger and panache. And today, word arrived that George Michael has joined Dean Martin, Vic Chestnut and James Brown as musical artists who passed on […]