When These Fingers Can Strum No Longer: A Farewell to Pete Seeger

One machine killed fascists, the other surrounded hate and forced it to surrender. Together, they were unstoppable. They taught the schoolchildren of America “This Land Is Your Land,” and didn’t seem too bothered by the fact that the songbooks omitted the most controversial verses. Pete introduced us to his friends Leadbelly, Jose Marti, and Joe Hill after they died. Not to mention Woody Guthrie, Malvina Reynolds, Tom Paxton, Elizabeth Cotten, Phil Ochs, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, Len Chandler, his sister Peggy Seeger, his brother Mike, Joan Baez, and some guy named Robert Zimmerman while they all were alive.*

“That Seeger’s the youngest man I ever knew,” said Guthrie. Pete abandoned a straitlaced life of privilege to play banjo and sing back up for Woody when he was 20. Had he not done that, there’s no telling what people might write about him today. Pete was a student in the fullest sense, soaking in every bit of music, politics, and culture he could from everyone he met on the road. The person we’re celebrating today would have celebrated each of us if we met him. Of course, Pete met his fair share of political opposition while he was alive. When he faced the House Un-American Activities Committee, he declared, “I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life.”

Though he was a bit slow to criticize Stalin early on, he  wholeheartedly embraced the anarchist motto of “Think globally, act locally,” and shined his corner of the world by marching with early civil rights leaders, protesting the Vietnam War, and helping to clean up the Hudson River. While Seeger never declared himself an anarchist, he certainly was a people’s microphone. He amplified voices in backyards, theaters, barns, and television sets throughout his career. Contrary to popular belief, he never cut the cord at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 and even said that the Byrds’ electric version of “Turn! Turn! Turn!” was his favorite. His practice of getting the crowd to sing along with him brought us back to the ground from which the folk revival, rock and roll, funk, punk, hip hop, soul and so many others sprung up. Those genres are all people’s music, no matter what the record companies might tell you.

Music is a form of communication that predates language, the music has to carry on. Sure, Pete did copyright the songs that he wrote, but he mostly sang heartfelt human anthems. Gospel hymns, blues rags, work songs, peace songs, children’s songs, folk ballads, and just about anything he could think of. People will complain that a certain man who gave a State of the Union speech tonight got a Nobel Peace Prize and Pete never did, but peace isn’t about prizes, leave that to the warmongers and CEOs. The closest we might get to peace, hell, the closest we might get to Pete is to pick a song and sing even the first ten seconds of it. The frail warble of Pete’s last few performances will echo long after the shelf life of any piece of recorded music is over and done with. So will yours and so will mine, even if we don’t live to 94. It will echo long after we care that he supported Henry Wallace in the presidential election of 1948, that he sang a duet with Oscar The Grouch on Sesame Street, that he married a Japanese woman at a time when that was still an unthinkable taboo, or that he was, in fact, a member of the Communist Party. Socially, these things do matter, but if the human race is going to survive as Pete would want it to, we need every shaky, unsure voice to pipe up and sing. We need every bit of courage that gets caught in the chattering of our teeth, we need to lay down our swords and shields, we need to walk that lonesome valley by ourselves, we need to understand that what we do now, you and me, will affect eternity, we need to see that the winds mix the dust of every land, we need singing tomorrows. We need the Pete Seeger, the Woody Guthrie, the Nelson Mandela, the Martin Luther King, the Mahalia Jackson, and, most of all, the us in all of us. Who’s ready to sing?

2009 Dorothy And Lillian Gish Prize Special Outdoor Tribute

Copyright Getty Images

 

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Metal Skin, Plastic Sweat Mission Statement and Submission Guidelines

I’m putting together a zine on physical disability and consensual touch called “Metal Skin, Plastic Sweat,” and will be accepting submissions from today (December 16th, 2013) until April 16th, 2014.  Poetry, essays, short fiction, creative nonfiction, paintings, photographs, lithographs, etchings, and digital art are all fair game for submission. Poetry should be a maximum of 50 lines and essays, short fiction, and creative nonfiction should be a maximum of 2000 words. We’re looking at a 50-60 page pdf and limited print release of this zine by June-July of 2014.

As a publication by people with physical disabilities for people with physical disabilities, we need to create an accommodating space for freelance artists and writers in which the stress of revision and deadlines does not exacerbate the pain and frustration of contributors’ daily lives. Brevity is essential to this zine because resources and attention spans are limited, as is capacity to produce. I’ll take 50 pages of solid work over 100 pages of mediocre work any day of the week. Words and gestures used to accept or deny touch are usually short and to the point. If you wan’t to say, “Don’t touch me there,” but you can only get out “Don’t,” the point remains the same. If a longer piece is compelling enough, I will consider including it, but please do your best to stick to the guidelines.

Email  questions, comments, concerns, and submissions to tylervilekutner@gmail.com

Tyler Vile’s Top 10 Songs Of The Week

For reasons I’d rather not talk about right now, I’m dropping “Kutner” from my name professionally. All articles, poems, stories, videos, interviews, zines, music and other work published from here on out will be credited to Tyler Vile. I adopted that as my punk stage name when I was in the Media Pigs at 14, and since I’ve been writing for Punk Globe for the past six years, it’s stuck. I published under Kutner because I put that name down in writing workshops throughout high school and college without really thinking about it. In a few years, all of that might make a nice piece of creative nonfiction. While I’m letting that simmer, I’d like to share ten songs that have been in heavy rotation in my room for the past week and a little bit about them. If this gets a big response, you just might see more of this kind of post. Anyway, on to the songs!

10. The Stooges-“T.V. Eye”

Thems my initials, don’t wear ’em out. “T.V” in this song doesn’t stand for “Tyler Vile,” or “television,” it stands for “twat vibe.” The word is, Iggy and Ron Asheton used to joke about the way their girlfriends looked at them when they were fucked up back in Ann Arbor. They called that disapproving stare the “twat vibe.” Legs McNeil’s book, Please Kill Me should have more info on that for you.

9. The Adverts-“No Time To Be 21”

If you’re going to call me T.V. for short, don’t confuse me with T.V. Smith. Although, if you did, I’d take it as a compliment. The Adverts frontman delivers a performance oozing with post-teen paranoia anchored by a simple, yet steady riff. 1978 might not have been the time to be 21 for mister Smith and company, but 2013 isn’t exactly the time to be 20 for me, so this song’s got some resonance on it.

8. Bikini Kill-“Rebel Girl”

This is one of Bikini Kill’s best-known songs and for a damn good reason. The guitar work goes from grimy to glam in seconds and Kathleen Hanna’s voice switches effortlessly between bratty, screechy, and sultry. Don’t even get me started on the lyrics. If “I know I wanna take you home/I wanna try on your clothes,” were a thing that I that I could always say in Kathleen’s voice to the hottest femmes, butches, and queer grrrls I know, I have a feeling my life would be a lot more interesting. I don’t always agree with Kathleen Hanna, but for two minutes and forty seconds, she’s the queen of my world.

7. Cappadonna-“Run”

Cappadonna sometimes gets shit from Wu-Tang fans for not being ODB, but the dude’s technically been in the group longer than Method Man. Cap went to prison and Meth took his spot, as Wu-Tang legend goes. He’s been weaving in and out of Wu releases since the beginning of their career and always delivers solid verses. This one’s got a classic sample from an old English-dubbed Kung Fu flick, as Wu would do.  If you fuck with Wu and don’t fuck with Cappadonna, I don’t fuck with you. That is, until you’ve heard this and changed your mind.

6. Sister Rosetta Tharpe-“Down By The Riverside”

“Down By The Riverside” might be one of the greatest songs ever written because of the way it’s structure and message make it so easy to sing whether you’re feeling up or down. Everyone and their mother has done a version of this, so if I do more posts like this, you’re likely to see it pop up again. The way that Sister Rosetta moves is, ironically, the way every cock rock superstar has tried to stride.  It’s no surprise, seeing as we all come from women anyway.

5. Jayne County and the Electric Chairs-“Fuck Off”

My fellow Punk Globe contributor penned this timeless ode to sexuality and defiance. This could be sung by anyone of any gender or sexual identity and still be a roaring declaration of all things carnal. Jools Holland, who hosts a talk show in the UK, tickles the ivories on this one. To anyone who dislikes this, FUCK OFF!

4. CocoRosie-“Beautiful Boyz”

I’ve seen CocoRosie live twice in DC. Once last year at the 9:30 Club and once this year at the 6th & I Historic Synagogue. Both times, they played this song. Their show was the closest thing to a spiritual experience I’ve ever had in a synagogue; I grew up Jewish. Antony Hegarty provides a chilling guest vocal on this track. The verses tell one of the most soul-crushing narratives I’ve ever heard in a song.

3. Little Richard-“Tutti Fruitti”

Recorded and released in 1957, “Tutti Fruitti” is much more than an ice cream flavor. When the glitter-faced Little Richard howled out this raucous sex anthem in the studio, producers were shocked and immediately demanded that he censor himself.  He did tone it down, but Richard Penniman is nobody’s fool. His influence on almost every popular artist from The Beatles to Big Freedia is easily traceable.

2. Junior Murvin-“Roots Train”

Best know for the title track of this album, “Police and Thieves,” Junior Murvin is one of roots reggae’s giants. Sadly, he died on Monday and I’ve been listening to that album on repeat when I’ve had the time. This is the album’s opening track. Junior may be gone, but the roots train will be running for a long time!

1. The Replacements-“Androgynous”

I got this song stuck in my head when I showed it to a friend of mine. It won’t get out of there, that earworm is burrowed in deep. It’s a really well structured song from the dawn of indie pop with a sweet message. The Replacements have reformed and played on the Riot Fest tour, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens next for them.

December Punk Globe

December Punk Globe has arrived! Actually, it arrived on the 30th, but I was in too much pain to sit up at the computer then. Yesterday, I finished up my interview with Dave Dictor of MDC and helped my friend Shelby make a dress out of condoms. So yeah, Punk Globe! I’ve got two articles in there this month and Ginger crowned me Punk of the Month with the legendary Jim Rose as runner up. I feel so special! November was a hellish month for me in terms of stress and chronic pain. Not being able to move when you have things that you want or need to do is a bone-grinding restlessness that gets calendar days caught in your joints. It sucks.

If you’ll take a word of professional writing advice from little old me, say no every once in a while. Deadlines are deadlines and they need to be met. If you physically can’t do the work by the deadline, it’s fine to decline. There’s no sense in submitting things late and stressing editors out. I learned that one the hard way this month. I didn’t get one of my pieces in until really late and that caused headaches for a small handful of people who I care about, so I don’t want to do that again. I’m proud of what I got done, though, so you should check that out! I have a review of the ever-intriguing Genesis Breyer P-Orridge’s photo book and an interview with Better Days author Craig Lewis. Craig is from Boston, MA and does talks about punk rock, mental illness, and recovery all over the country. I’ll be reviewing his book in the coming issue, which I’m psyched for. This month, Ginger has three killer interviews with two badass bassists and a dynamic duo, Louichi Mayorga from Suicidal Tendencies and Rob Ruckus from The Vermin  along with Randy Rampage and Duane Chaos of Rampage. Ms. Ligaya and The Floydian Device talk to Sinmobile, Jim “Defekto” Lucio interviews, Scooter LaForge, Lisa Lunney chats with Candy Brain, Steven Jones interviews British artist Mark Wardel, Timm Carney has a film review about Baltimore County hometown hero, Divine, and The Gypsy Poet has an interview and a review from The Amputees as well as a special editorial for all of our readers. Stop wasting time and start reading! Get to http://www.punkglobe.com

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Is Lady Gaga A Cannabis Addict?

An article by Vanessa Waltz on Ladybud.com titled, ” Dear Lady Gaga: YOU SUCK” berates the pop singer for claiming in an interview with Elvis Duran that she was, “addicted to marijuana,” smoking “15 [to] 20 marijuana cigarettes a day with no tobacco.” While the 1999 study cited in the Ladybud article is useful in differentiating addiction from dependency, it’s counterproductive to assume that she doesn’t understand how “medical cannabis has changed a lot of people’s lives for the better.” Of course it has, but she isn’t arguing that it hasn’t. It’s not like she’s fooled herself into believing that she is the reincarnation of Nancy Reagan and is publicly supporting DEA raids on dispensaries, she just doesn’t use it as much anymore.

We can look at Gaga’s story as a personal anecdote of cannabis misuse. While physical addiction is virtually impossible, understanding misuse could shed some light on the 9% of cannabis users who become psychologically dependent. Gaga was self-medicating for her hip injury and depression, which is completely legitimate. Knowing why you’re medicating is tantamount to knowing how much you need. She says that she “didn’t know where the pain was coming from.” If you know that you’re in pain, but are too numb to feel where it’s coming from, it’s time to put the joint out for a second and see a doctor. After you’ve got X rays, a surgery date, or a script for physical therapy, feel free to spark up again.

Sitting around and smoking your brains out because you don’t feel good is useless. You might feel waves of euphoria every now and again, but you can’t sustain that unless you know what you’re doing. The muscle relaxing properties of cannabis mean nothing to me if I don’t stretch, the appetite stimulating properties are worthless if I ignore them and don’t eat, and the anti-anxiety effects don’t last unless I can talk to my therapist about what’s been triggering me. Cannabis can be an integral part of our health, but those of us who self-medicate with it have a responsibility to respect our own needs when we use it. “Addiction” may have been a poor choice of words, tabloid-bait if you will, but there’s a kernel of truth in what Lady Gaga’s saying. We shouldn’t be so quick to discard it.

Photo credit? Got this off of Ladybud. If this is unauthorized use of your photo, let me know.

Photo credit? Got this off of Ladybud. If this is unauthorized use of your photo, let me know.

November Punk Globe

Okay, I’m a couple days late on this one. I was out partying with friends for Halloween weekend, getting acquainted with my awesome new housemate, and catching up with folks who I hadn’t seen in a while. It’s Sunday morning now and the blog post I wrote about Lou Reed’s passing shares a page of Punk Globe with Bebe Buell, Joe D’allesandro, Roddy Byers, Ginger Coyote, and the designer of our beautiful Lou-themed cover, Marc Floyd’s goodbyes to him. Like I said in my farewell to Lou, I’ve got an interview with the damn-near immortal Kim Fowley about his shows and his memoir, Lord of Garbage. Fascinating book by the way, an absolute must-read for anybody with a disability who has even a passing thought about making a living in entertainment. I’ve also got an interview with Zillah Minx of the fabulous and severely underrated Rubella Ballet. They were the band who bridged the gaps between The Sex Pistols, X Ray Spex, and Crass. We talked fashion, feminism, film, friends, and much more! Zillah is one of the sweetest people I’ve ever interviewed. We had originally intended to have the interview out a couple of months ago, but Zillah had a lot on her plate in terms of business and family. She was always good at letting me know what was up, though, which not many people are. You’d be surprised how many interviews I’ve lost after hours of work and countless emails, so I’m really grateful that this one came back tenfold and became one of my strongest articles. I’ve also got a review of New Jersey’s mighty NIGHT BIRDS. “Born to Die in Suburbia” flat out rips. If I say any more about it, you probably won’t read the review. Ginger Coyote interviews the wonderful Pleasant Gehman, whose name I first heard alongside Kim Fowley’s in the Darby Crash biography, Lexicon Devil. The hilarious and brilliant Margaret Cho reviews Pleasant’s book, Showgirl Confidential. Margaret’s tour, “Mother,” is killing it right now. She’ll be in DC on Saturday the 9th. I would love to see her and maybe interview her at that show. Now THAT would be amazing! Ginger highlights Roddy Byers and Lynval Golding’s Two Tone Twins, Rotten interviews Duncan Reid of The Boys about his solo project, The Gypsy Poet interviews the Texas Blues influenced Swamps from Japan, and Jools Green does a live review of the legendary D.O.A. All in all, I think we’ve got ourselves a pretty nice issue.

november cover

 

Sunday Mourning: A Farewell to Lou Reed

“Lou Reed is derelict and a faggot,” my dad said to me when I offered to share the Lou Reed album I’d just gotten as a birthday gift from a friend with him. I was fourteen, the album was Berlin, and it took a while to grow on me. It didn’t have the poppy hooks of the Bowie and Ronson produced Transformer, the sweet, slow-peeling wonder of The Velvet Underground & Nico, the last-ditch effort to write just under a dozen hits that made Loaded, or the groundbreaking weirdness that gave us White Heat/White Light. Berlin had a sense of melancholy and danger that I think crystallized Lou’s creativity. The sweeping tickle of piano keys on “How Do You Think It Feels,” will always send a chill up my spine. “The Kids,” and “The Bed,” will always make me tear up because of how well they flow into each other. I’d listen to Eater’s cover of “Sweet Jane” to remind myself that fourteen year olds could kick ass, I’d spend hours scouring the internet for a version of “Heroin” I hadn’t heard yet, never once thinking that having someone’s body of work at my fingertips was anything less than my right as a music lover.

Things got really trippy when I met Joe D’Allesandro (Little Joe) and Jayne County online through Punk Globe. I went straight into a world of people whose photographs I’d been clawing at. I knew from the first time I read about Max’s Kansas City, Warhol’s factory, and a dirty, glittering New York that my dad had only driven past in a taxi cab that these were my people. I told myself I’d get to interview Lou Reed one day.

I had one opportunity to meet Lou this past year. Of course, I had no idea he’d be there. Laurie Anderson was having her dress rehearsal with Kronos Quartet in the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center at University of Maryland. My professor and friend, Johnna Schmidt invited me. Laurie and Kronos Quartet’s show was nothing short of sensory immersion, absolutely mind blowing. As the lights went up, a figure in a green jacket with a mop of curly black hair stood up. “Holy shit,” I said to Johnna, “there’s Lou Reed!” Johna went to get the car and I made my way over to him. Thanks to the carpeted steps of the theater and my gimpy little legs, I couldn’t get to him before he walked out. I wanted so badly to shake his hand and pick his brain. But then again, I’ve met my share of rock legends. I’m lucky enough to have a Kim Fowley interview in November’s Punk Globe. I hugged Sylvain Sylvain once after a long conversation, interviewed Cheetah Chrome and Richie Ramone, and am a regular contributor to the same magazine as Jayne County is. Even after all that, I miss the hell out of someone I almost met.

English: Lou Reed in Málaga, Spain, July 21, 2...

English: Lou Reed in Málaga, Spain, July 21, 2008 Español: simple Lou Reed em Málaga, Espanha, 21 de julio de 2008. Français : simple Lou Reed dans Málaga, Spain, 21 juillet 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)