the White House called and said they were putting on an event called South by South Lawn, a day-long festival filled with innovators and creators from the worlds of technology and art, including music, we jumped at the chance to get involved. We chose Common as the performer and the White House library as the space.
I don’t know much about Common. And, I don’t know what his album tracks are like. But for this concert, Boilen explains:
Common put together a special six-piece band of close friends that includes the great Robert Glasper, with his eloquent and delicate touch, on keyboards and Derrick Hodge, whose music spans from hip-hop to folk and has made a big imprint on the world of jazz, on bass. Common also asked his longtime friend and collaborator Bilal to sing on two songs.
I didn’t know his lyrics, but I found his songs to be thought-provoking and smart. Perfect for the White House library. But that is apparently what Common (who used to be known as Common Sense) is all about: “morality and responsibility continue to play significant roles in his songs”
Common plays four songs: three brand new songs, along with one classic, “I Used To Love H.E.R.”
“I Used To Love H.E.R.” is a very clever ode to hip-hop in which he uses a woman as a metaphor for the genre. It’s really well done. “Letter To The Free” is about how slavery has not really been abolished–it has just turned into mass incarceration. “The Day The Women Took Over” is an ode to women and certainly sounds like a song that was written for the woman who was then in the White House and the woman who should have been our next president. “Little Chicago Boy” is a tribute to his father–a man that Common has always respected.
Musically, the group sounds great–a light, jazzy feel with some great flute from his sister and perfect playing from the rest of the band.
The blurb ends
Common told us that he’d been invited to the White House many times before, including by Michelle Obama for a poetry reading back in 2011, but he was thrilled by the prospect of performing his music during Barack Obama’s final months as president.
And with the Great Liar presumably heading to the White House, this may be the last time any musician I’d want to hear will appear there again.
[READ: March 10, 2016] “Three”
This story was told in three parts with a narrative bookend holding it together. I had to reread the “introduction” after reading the whole story to see what an interestingly crafted tale this was.
The intro begins “This is an account of three people who died. Quite recently, one after the other…. They weren’t important, as the wide world defines ‘importance.'”
And then we meet the three people who all lived in this provincial town in the north of Italy. She says they share no real connection either, except “purity of spirit.”
The first person was her mother-in-law Ombretta. She was never intrusive to the narrator and even though the narrator was her son’s second wife, there was never any weirdness about that either. There was a big celebration for her 90th birthday. Soon after, she took ill.
And this is when the narrator realized how much she had fallen in love with Nonna Ombretta. And as part of her summation of Ombretta’s death we learn some interesting details about her.
The second person was Francescon. He was the town’s painter. He did amazing work but he was also an old lecherous man who was not above flirting and even groping the village women. In truth the narrator found him a real pain in the ass, because whirl she tried to work, he was always there to talk and talk and talk.
But his art was so lovely (and costly) that she kept hiring him to do paintings around the house. And she wound up getting attached to him. She was impressed by the fact that he had no personal vanity–his only love was his art. It turned out that many of the women in the villa were affectionate towards him and one even took him on a tour of America.
Then Franscon’s phone calls to the narrator got fewer. And soon after Ombretta died, Francescon became sick. Unrelated of course. So she had a party for him, to celebrate the beautiful art he had made. And although Francescon said he had been given a clean bill of health, they could tell that he was not well.
The third person mentioned is Remo. Remo was something of the villa’s factotum. He had excellent talents and many skills. She met him at a wedding where he was working. When a bat flew in the window the women screamed for him to kill it, but rather, he secretly caught it and delicately released it. She felt like they shared a moment.
Remo served Ombretta and had an almost slavish devotion to her. Children and animals adored him. And women really liked him as well. So even though he was married, he had many many paramours. “Some people, especially priests and cuckolded husbands and jealous women thought of Remo as the devil.” He was constantly involved in a scandal, but no one considered firing him because he was so good.
Eventually all of the passions in his life caught up to him and hi death was unlike the others.
I enjoyed the way the end of the story almost seemed like she didn’t know why she had to tell about these lives. It was just something she had to do.