Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Think of Haiti

I had just heard an old friend on WWOZ play the Charles Mingus tune "Haitian Fight Song." Then I watched the news showing more of the destruction, the problems with the recovery (New Orleanians understand that issue), and the utter human suffering--it makes me wanna holler. I read that the IMF ("International Mother F---ers" Fela called them in a concert I saw him perform in New Orleans) gave Haiti a shady loan to "help," but due to watchdog outcry niced up the terms. Although things seem impossible there, we can make a difference.

So sit back and listen to Charles Mingus and his "Haitian Fight Song." Then go out and donate to the cause. It is the least you can do.

Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK and Economic Justice

Musical artists from the soul-filled, Tamla hit maker, Stevie Wonder to the Irish rebels, now world politicians, U2, have written songs dedicated to Martin Luther King, Jr. On this Martin Luther King Day, let us not only celebrate the man, but also what he was working towards. And let us not have a myopic vision of his cause. Yes, he strove for equal rights for all. But the latter part of his ministry was also dedicated to labor rights. Let us remember, he was assassinated while he was in Memphis, doing what? He was there supporting striking black, sanitation workers! Also, he had recently started his Poor People’s Campaign, with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was focused on economic issues.

So as we remember MLK, in these times of Wall Street scandals, record bank profits, and a health care crisis, let us remember that his message included issues such as these and he would have sided with the poor and disadvantaged.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Vic Chesnutt and the Real Costs of Poor Health Care

The holidays are supposed to be times of joy, but this past Christmas brought sorrow to the world of music. On Christmas day, Vic Chesnutt, the singer-songwriter from Athens, GA, died from purposeful overdose of muscle relaxers.

Vic had been confined to a wheelchair since he was 18, when he broke his neck in an auto accident. It was from this vantage point that Vic songs emanated. Often funny in a dark Faulknarian way, Vic was probably one of the finest songwriters living, at least until Christmas day. In concert Vic seemed frail and shy, yet he was able to hold an audience as though they were moths and he was the light.

This fall he released the album, At the Cut, which the LA Times called “death-obsessed.” When interviewed by that paper, Vic discussed his mounting health care bills, which exceeded $70,000! A statement he made then was prophetic: "I was making payments, but I can't anymore and I really have no idea what I'm going to do. It seems absurd they can charge this much. When I think about all this, it gets me so furious. I could die tomorrow because of other operations I need that I can't afford. I could die any day now, but I don't want to pay them another nickel."

However, what’s frightening was how truly conflicted, as many of us are, Vic was. IN an Huffington Post Interview, he stated, “I can sing a love song to death because, it's no secret, I've suicided several times. I suck at it, it didn't work. But it's a song about a man who discovers he wants to live. It's like a breakup song with death.

Yet, Vic watched the health care debate with great scrutiny. “I've had intimate relations with the health industry for many, many years. I've been in hospitals around the world too, so I've seen the way it works in other countries. Some of the healthcare debate that's going on now is some of the most ludicrous discussions I've ever seen. It's hilarious! Obama's incompetent and the right are morons.

In the end we lost a sensitive songwriter fighting the antiquated behemoth health care system. The behemoth won.

p.s. Vic. Will you sign my iiiiiipod pllllleeeeeaaaasse?