Cedar Cultural Center
I collect phonograph records. A fellow collector told me he was having trouble with the outcome of Tuesday’s election. I wrote this to him on Sunday, November 13. The concert was two days before on Veteran’s Day.
Sam, I understand and feel the same as you. The future looks bleak but there is an out. You know it well. It’s music.
I discovered this on Friday night attending a concert in Minneapolis by a good friend of mine, folksinger/activist Larry Long. Born in Des Moines but a long-term Minneapolis resident, Larry is a disciple of Woody Guthrie and Studs Terkel. A very accomplished musician and song writer, Larry has discovered a new way to teach children how to play music. Called Elders’ Wisdom Children’s Song, Larry had kids, often students in a school, pick elders from their community who they admired. Those elders were brought in to tell the children their stories. With Larry’s help the kids wrote songs using the stories for lyrics. In the end the children, again with Larry’s help, performed those songs at a show. The students discovered they can create music plus they learned about their town’s history and its residents. Brilliant. After years of performing Elders’ Wisdom Children’s Song, instead Larry is now teaching other educators his technique.
Larry has done everything right, with a great family, successful career and good health. His actions have created profound changes in thousands of people’s lives. Larry has deservingly earned the respect and love of his peers. He also can be a pain in the ass. As a friend of mine has said, “You have to get to know Larry to not like him.” He was so persistent that through the force of his oversized personality, he got the KGB to release Kris Kristofferson and him from a Moscow jail back in the bad old days of the Soviet Union. I’m sure Kris wasn’t a joy to be around, either. After arresting Larry and Kris for trying to put on a concert in Moscow, the KGB quickly discovered they didn’t want to deal with these two jerks so they let them go. Russian activists were astounded by their quick release. It takes a lot to be a bigger dick than the KGB but that’s my friend, Larry. At his show Larry name dropped stories around meaningful times hanging out with Pete Seeger, Cher and Paul Wellstone. He also told a story and sang a song about a life-changing experience he had with a troubled 13 year old Native American boy named Michael. That’s also Larry.
Here’s a song from Larry’s new CD produced by his cousin, Melvin James, who’s on the video. A rock record, it’s a departure for Larry. The song is an old one of his called “Living In A Rich Man’s World.”
I had shut down since Tuesday night, ignoring the world and burying myself in projects like getting the storm windows up and solving my health insurance issues for 2017. I couldn’t deal with the loss. We are all really dealing with the stages of grief. I’m still working through denial. On Friday night the core of Minneapolis’ and the area’s activist community showed up for Larry’s show. It was a big one for him, a release party for the new record and to celebrate his 65th birthday. People came out. In strong force were doers and shakers in the American Indian rights movement, a special cause of Larry’s. From the stage Larry kept commenting on how he needed this night. Yes, Larry, we all did. We all needed to know things will be OK. We are here for each other. Music will connect us and help get us get through.
During the concert I kept getting messages and texts from another good friend of mine, Drew. He’s one of the few guys I know who comes over just to listen to records. Drew was having his own epiphany that night listening to music in his apartment in Holmen, Wisconsin. He found comfort, strength and solace in his records. Here’s a text from Drew from yesterday when we were talking about our mutual experiences on Friday night:
“If the Cubs can win the World Series, anything is possible. Where you had the live experience and I had the transformative moment of music in my small world, the meaning was the same. Music provides the mortar. Things are different but they’re also the same. We’ve got a great country. We’ll survive.”
It was Drew who came up with the quote of the evening, one from Rick Danko, the late bass player for The Band. I had to share it with Larry after his show.
“My shows won’t change the world but they might help a neighborhood.”
Larry was big league for his neighborhood on Friday night. We all needed a shot of energy, inspiration, commitment, love and joy, and his music gave that to us.
Dive back into your records, Sam. There is truth in them. The lies and hate that are out there can be overcome through music. It can be our salvation.