Tuesday, 29 July 2014

J. M. W. Turner - Britain''s greatest artist ... ever?

Is JMW Turner Britain's greatest artist?
He once divided critics, but Turner's profound influence on later artists is testimony to the immutable power of his creative vision

Jonathan Jones
the guardian.com
Monday 28 July 2014

Joseph Mallord William Turner is Britain's greatest artist.

What? Who says? What about Constable, or Lucian Freud? How do you even measure such a claim?

One measure is the fascination an artist holds, not just for the general public, but for other artists. If an artist of the past is still haunting, provoking and inspiring modern artists, that has to suggest some deep vitality. To this day, Turner haunts art in that way. It is not yet done with the grandiose after-echoes of his smoky light.

Olafur Eliasson is one artist whose experiments with light and atmosphere powerfully echo Turner's paintings. Eliasson's Weather Project in 2003 turned the Tate Modern Turbine Hall into a vast walk-in Turner world, where a blazing sun and heady, twilit space engulfed visitors in romantic illumination.

As if there were any ambiguity about  debt to Turner, he's acknowledging it himself, in an exhibit opening at Tate Britain on 8 September. Eliasson's show is to be held in the museum's Clore Galleries, which are dedicated to Turner's vertiginous paintings. Eliasson has studied seven pictures by Turner and abstracted their colours into circular paintings that resemble the "colour wheel" widely used to analyse colour in Turner's age. Eliasson's colour wheels instantly evoke Turner, with their gold and bronze fiery hues.

Eliasson's homage coincides with Tate Britain's forthcoming exhibition of Turner's late, near-abstract oils and watercolours, in a year when passion for the painter is being rekindled by Mike Leigh's film Mr Turner, which comes out in Britain in the autumn.

Yet the influence of Turner on modern art is no publicity gimmick. It is an enduring affinity. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, pioneering French modernists from Monet to Matisse admired the intense chromatic freedom and atmospheric uncertainties of this British master.
Mark Rothko Untitled 1959
It was partly because of his love for Turner that Mark Rothko gave many of his abstract expressionist Seagram Murals to the Tate. Rothko deeply admired Turner, and his eerie spells of pure colour echo Turner's bloody skies and seas. In fact, there's currently a Turner painting hanging in Tate Modern – not a gallery in which you would expect to see a 19th century landscape picture – next to the Rothko room.

When an artist makes a subject his own, it is impossible to ignore that artist's way of seeing. Turner said something eternal about the way light penetrates the human imagination. He meditated so deeply on the psychology of light – our love affair with the sun – that any artist fascinated by light is bound to echo him. 
Turner's sun pervades James Turrell's installations, which sculpt space with light, just as much as it enflames Eliasson's art. We can no more escape him than we can escape our need for light. Even photographs of deep space taken by the Hubble telescope are given colour by Nasa scientists in ways that echo Turner; somehow, he shapes how we see nebulae and supernovae.

If the sun is God, as Turner is supposed to have said, this incandescent painter was the sun's high priest and art is indebted to him.


Answers on a postcard, preferably one from the Tate.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Booker T. Jones and Bettye Lavette at The Sage, Gateshead

SOUL GREATS ... Booker T. Jones, above, and Bettye Lavette, below, shared the bill at The Sage.
Live review: Booker T. Jones and Bettye Lavette
Terry Kelly
22July 2014

A DOUBLE soul treat was served up as part of the SummerTyne Americana Festival 2014 at The Sage.

Bettye Lavette wears her heartache on her sleeve, in a voice bearing the scars of a musical career which this year reached its half-century.

Pencil-thin, dressed in black and wearing heels, she strutted around the stage as she gave life to songs old and new, all delivered in her trademark torch singer style.

Dylan’s Everything Is Broken was given a soulful makeover early on, before Lavette thanked her English fans for buying her music and sparking a late-career revival.

The popular Let Me Down Easy went down a treat, and her interpretation of Joy, by Lucinda Williams, was a highlight.

After slowing down The Beatles’ Blackbird, Lavette invited a 40-strong local choir on stage for a couple of numbers, which drew a standing ovation from the audience.

Booker T. Jones’ musical pedigree speaks for itself, from his days with the famous Stax studio, a string of hits with Booker T. & the MGs and on to a career as one of the world’s top producers and arrangers.

The 69-year-old soul great cherry-picked his way through his illustrious back catalogue, backed by a superlative, three-piece band, spicing up the numbers with his trademark organ sound.

The hits Green Onions, Soul Limbo and Time Is Tight from his days with the MGs were all present and correct, plus great versions of his co-written classics Born Under A Bad Sign - famously covered by both blues great Albert King and Cream - and the Al Green hit Take Me To The River.

Immaculately dressed - including his familiar trilby - Booker T. looked supremely at ease with his amazing musical legacy, but also exuded great humility in his simple, down-to-earth introductions.

For a man who enjoyed his first hits as a teenager in the early 1960s, Booker T. is clearly still in love with music.


Sunday, 27 July 2014

Uncollected J. D. Salinger Stories Published

Three more J.D. Salinger stories published

Jacob Shamsian
22 July 2014

Three previously uncollected short stories by J.D. Salinger have been published in a new book. J.D. Salinger: Three Early Stories, published by The Devault-Graves Agency, includes “The Young Folks” (published in a 1940 issue of Story magazine), “Go See Eddie” (published in 1940 in the University of Kansas City Review), and “Once a Week Won’t Kill You” (from a 1944 issue of Story).

Tom Graves, one of the publisher’s founders, told Publishers Weekly that this is the first Salinger book with illustrations, which were made by artist Anna Rose Yoken. However, in keeping with the style of Franny and Zooey and Nine Stories, the cover has no illustration, and Salinger’s biography and picture are not included in the book.

Three Early Stories is the first lawfully published Salinger book in more than 50 years, the last being 1953′s Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. An unauthorized collection of Salinger’s early short stories appeared in 1974, and Salinger sued its publisher. “Some stories, my property, have been stolen,” Salinger then told The New York Times. “Someone’s appropriated them. It’s an illicit act. It’s unfair. Suppose you had a coat you liked and somebody went into your closet and stole it. That’s how I feel.” The three stories published by Devault-Graves are different from the three unauthorized stories—”The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” “Paula,” and “Birthday Boy”—which leaked online last year.

According to the recent book Salinger, by David Shields and Shane Salerno, the Salinger estate plans to publish five more of the author’s books by 2020. Those books will reportedly include a collection of stories about the Glass family (featured in Nine Stories and Franny and Zooey), a collection of stories about the Caulfield family, books based on his experiences in WWII, and a manual of the Hindu Vedanta religion, which he followed in his later years.


Indie Publisher Releases First Salinger E-book
Clare Swanson
22 July 2014

Roughly two years ago, Tom Graves and his business partner, Darrin Devault, formed The Devault-Graves Agency in Memphis, Tenn., with the idea of repurposing select, out-of-print backlist titles as e-books. Their publishing credo, according to Graves, is that “no good book deserves to fall into obscurity.” Now they're putting that credo to use with J.D. Salinger.

Since its launch, the company has released about a dozen titles, but last week unveiled its first physical book—J.D. Salinger: Three Early Stories. The collection, available as print-on-demand, and in e-book and audiobook, from the company's imprint Devault-Graves Digital Editions, marks, according to Graves, the first (legally sound) book by Salinger to be published in 50 years, and the first Salinger writing legitimately available as an e-book and audiobook. Ingram is handling printing and physical distribution, Bookbaby digital distribution, and the audiobook is available through Audible (and selling well, Graves noted).

Devault and Graves began to research the rights to the Salinger’s 21 early stories—all written before Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951—after learning of their existence in Salinger, Shane Salerno’s 2013 documentary about the reclusive author. The pair discovered that three stories had never at any time been registered to Salinger. “We knew we had a shot at obtaining the rights," explained Graves, "and the game began.”

After an “exhaustive” search that involved a team of intellectual property attorneys and expensive searches by the Library of Congress, the Devault-Graves Agency was able to legally secure world rights to the three works. Graves admitted he and Devault understood that if they “stepped one inch over the line” the Salinger Trust would “nail” them.

“I can't blame them for protecting everything that is rightfully theirs,” Graves added.

The late author’s trust did indeed have their lawyers investigate the matter as soon as the book went live on Amazon. But, after Devault-Graves’s lawyers presented the information from the rights hunt, all parties considered “the matter settled,” said Graves.

Three Early Stories contains Salinger’s first two published short stories, “The Young Folks,” fromStory magazine in 1940, and “Go See Eddie,” published in the University of Kansas City Review in the same year. The third story, “Once a Week Won’t Kill You,” appeared in a 1944 issue of Storymagazine.
Yoken's illustration for Salinger's short story, "The Young Folks," first published in 1940.

In addition to the other firsts, Three Early Stories is, according to Graves, the first Salinger work to include illustrations (provided by Brooklyn-based artist Anna Rose Yoken). In designing the rest of the book, the publisher sought to put together a package with Salinger's preferences in mind.

“He liked his book jacket covers simple and with little ornamentation,” said Graves. “He did not want his photograph on the book, and did not like biographical information. So, we left all that out, as he would have wished.” While Graves and Devault had Salinger's tastes in mind for their edition, they did not seek to create a knock-off of current Salinger books. Grave said they “purposely did not in any way imitate any of the other iconic Salinger covers,” so as not to “creatively infringe on those concepts.”

Salinger, of course, was famously protective of his copyright during his lifetime. When an unauthorized collection of Salinger’s early short stories was published in 1974, the author told the New York Times, the act was "illicit" and "unfair." Salinger went on: "Suppose you had a coat you liked and somebody went into your closet and stole it. That's how I feel." Graves acknowledges that if Salinger had a say, his early works wouldn’t reach new audiences in republication.

“The old man himself may not have liked what we've done,” said Graves. “But we have done our best to respect his legacy and present a handsome product that would not have embarrassed him...We hope this book winds up in every library with the other Salinger classics.”

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Last night's set lists

At The Habit, York: -

Ron Elderly: -
Need Your Love So Bad
Make You Feel My Love
Dead Flowers

Da Elderly: -
Love Song
I Believe In You

The Elderly Brothers: -
So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)
Let It Be Me
I'll Get You
Things We Said Today
Everybody Knows

A quiet start meant solo spots for the Elderlys, but no sooner had Ron kicked off, than the place filled up with punters. A most enjoyable evening followed, with a wide variety of York's musical talent on show. After the open mic closed there was another unplugged jam, with several acapella offerings from the audience; and several sing alongs, where everyone seemed to join in, notably on You Never Can Tell and We Can Work It Out.

The 2nd of August sees the Elderly Brothers' Saturday night debut at The Habit starting at 9pm. Miss it or miss out!

Dora Bryan RIP

Dora Bryan, a talented character actress who could turn her hand to everything from musicals to Shakespeare, farce to tragedy has died, age 91.

The variety of the roles she played, including parts in plays by Ibsen and Pinter, belied her caricature as a wide-eyed dizzy blonde.

Born Dora May Broadbent in Southport, Lancashire in 1924, she went to a council school and, encouraged by her ambitious mother, made her first stage appearance at the age of 12, in pantomime in Manchester.

During World War 2 she worked in repertory theatre and with the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) - an organisation set up in 1939 to provide entertainment for British armed forces personnel during the war.

She moved to London in 1945 and appeared in a number of West End productions - notably in the Lyric and Globe revues in the 1950s.

She changed her name to Bryan, taking it from the match manufacturers Bryant and May. She lost the closing "t" when a theatre programme misspelled her name.

In 1966, the actress played the title role in Hello, Dolly at Drury Lane, eating a full chicken dinner on stage six nights a week and at two matinees.

In 1968 she played nine parts as the star of They Don't Grow on Trees at the Prince of Wales.

Later, she was in the National Theatre's She Stoops to Conquer (for which she won an award) and a revival of Charlie Girl. And she took the West End by storm in a lavish 2002 musical production of The Full Monty.

But she was not just a stage actress - she made her big screen debut in 1948's The Fallen Idol. About 40 further films followed, including The Blue Lamp, The Great St. Trinian's Train Robbery, The Sandwich Man and Two a Penny.

The peak of her career came as she played the domineering, promiscuous, alcoholic mother, Helen in the 1961 film A Taste of Honey. The role won her a Bafta award for best actress.

James Garner RIP

James Garner had huge success with long-running TV series The Rockford Files and Maverick

James Garner, the US star of hit TV series The Rockford Files and Maverick and films including The Great Escape, has died aged 86.

Garner had suffered ill health since a severe stroke in 2008.

"Mr Garner died of natural causes," the West LA Division of the Los Angeles Police Department told the BBC, adding he died on Saturday and his body has been released to his family.

His publicist confirmed that he died at home.

Garner famously played the laconic private investigator Jim Rockford.

He won an Emmy for the role in 1977 and starred in 122 episodes of the hugely successful show from 1974 to 1980. He returned to it in the 1990s with eight Rockford Files TV movies.
Another role, as the poker-playing Bret Maverick in the Western comedy, was also a hit with TV viewers, running for 60 episodes from 1957 to 1962. It ran again for another 18 episodes from 1981 to 1982.

Richard Natale of Variety said that the role of the laid-back, work-shy Maverick fitted "his wry personality like a glove". However he left the show following a legal dispute over his salary with Warner Bros, which he won.

The TV show was later made into a film in 1992 starring Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, but also starred Garner - this time on the right side of the law, as Marshal Zane Cooper.

In 1963's iconic World War Two film The Great Escape, Garner played flight lieutenant Robert Hendley, an American in the RAF, alongside Steve McQueen, Richard Attenborough and Donald Pleasence.

Garner went on to be nominated for nine Golden Globes for shows including The Rockford Files in 1980 and Maverick in 1982, having won in 1958 for most promising newcomer.

He also won a further two for TV series Decoration Day [1991] and Barbarians at the Gate [1994].

He also starred with Sandra Bullock and Ellen Burstyn in mother-daughter drama Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, in 2002. From 2003 to 2005 he was in 45 episodes of US comedy 8 Simple Rules.

In 2005 the veteran star was given a Screen Actor's Guild lifetime achievement award.

Garner married his wife, the TV actress Lois Clarke, in 1957. They had two daughters, Kimberly from her previous marriage, and their daughter Greta.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Photographs of Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier: mysterious and eccentric nanny who took stunning photographs
Documentary out this week tells remarkable story of Maier and the photographs she shot – and then deliberately kept secret

Mark Brown
The Guardian
Monday 14 July 2014

Vivian Maier was a mysterious and eccentric nanny who spent a lifetime looking after other people's children while harbouring a rather lovely secret: she was an astonishingly accomplished photographer.

The Guardian newspaper on Tuesday publishes rarely seen photographs by a woman now considered one of the finest street photographers of the 20th century.

A documentary film released on Friday will tell the remarkable story of Maier and the photographs she took – and then deliberately kept secret.

Maier is today considered a genius whose photographs stand comparison with names such as Diane Arbus and Robert Frank.

But if it had not been for a chance discovery at a Chicago thrift auction in 2007, the world would still be unaware of her life and talents.

The discovery was made by a young former estate agent called John Maloof who was writing a history book on his Chicago neighbourhood.

He said: "I was wondering how I would find enough old photos to illustrate the book and tried my luck at a local junk and furniture auction house."

Maloof bought a box packed with about 30,000 negatives, which he did not use in the end.

"However, I knew to keep them. I thought: 'I'm resourceful. I'll look at them later when I have more time. Fast forward two years later, that purchase had unearthed some of the finest street photography of the 20th century.
Maloof set about finding out who Maier was, and decided also to make a film documenting his discoveries.

"My obsession drove us to compile a library of interviews and strange stories from across the globe. We found roughly 100 people who had contact with Vivian Maier. In the film we let people speak for themselves.

"I hope that this story comes through honest and pure, and does more than just uncover a mysterious artist but tells a story that changed the history of photography."

Maloof has made the film with Charlie Siskel, who produced Michael Moore's film Bowling for Columbine. The executive producer is Jeff Garlin, who has many credits but will be forever famous as Larry David's agent in eight seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Maier's day job for 40 years was as a nanny working for families in Chicago, often taking her charges out with her when she was taking photographs.

Because she had no permanent home, she kept all her negatives in a Chicago storage facility. She died in 2009, too early to know about the high regard she is held in today.

Siskel acknowledged that "if Vivian Maier had her choice the world would know nothing of her life and photographs. She chose to conceal herself and her art during her lifetime.

"But hiding one's art is, of course, the opposite of destroying it. Maier preserved her work and left its fate to others."

Since the discovery of Maier's talents she has become a phenomenon,with galleries selling her prints for upwards of $2,000 (£1,200).

There have been books, exhibitions and a BBC Imagine documentary which called her "a poet of suburbia" and a "Mary Poppins with a camera".

Siskel said Maier was "a kind of spy" capturing street life and "recording humanity as it appeared, wherever it appeared – in stockyards, slums and suburbia itself".

But she was also an outsider and Siskel believed she "may have secretly longed for the family bonds she witnessed intimately for decades".

He added: "Her work is now part of the history of photography and an undeniable treasure. The discovery of Maier's work not only gave her story an ending, there would be no story without it."


Finding Vivian Maier review – fascinating study of a brilliant undiscovered talent
Documentary uncovering the mysterious life and amazing work of Maier, a nanny whose photographs bear comparison with Cartier-Bresson

Peter Bradshaw
The Guardian
Thursday 17 July 2014 

Seven years ago, a young Chicago historian named John Maloof made an extraordinary discovery. He picked up a box of undeveloped photo negatives at an auction belonging to a mysterious woman named Vivian Maier; later, Maloof tracked down a storage unit rented in her name, filled to the brim with negatives, prints and miscellaneous effects.

For a modest payment, he found himself the owner of a staggering, huge archive of street photography by a brilliant, undiscovered talent, clearly to be compared with Henri Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus. These were thousands of stunning images taken on the streets of New York and Chicago from the 1950s to the present, but never shown to anyone in the photographer's lifetime. This documentary shows Maloof's mission to develop, catalogue and publish this sensational trove, and to find out more about the unknown artist herself. Maier, who died in 2009, had earned a crust as a nanny to the well-heeled, dragging her charges out on long walks while she took candid shots on the streets, and also dabbled in Zapruder-ish cine film. Her humble job allowed her to roam, and perhaps her low status gave her a sharp sense of dispossession and even resentment. Interestingly, the pictures she took in rural France, her mother's birthplace, are calmer and gentler than the fierce images of Chicago. These are, in a sense, symptoms of her own mental turmoil. This is a fascinating study.


Vivian Maier Self-Portrait

East 108th St, New york, 1959.

1953, New York.

Staten Island Ferry, 1955.

New York.

 Vivian Maier

Florida, 1960.

Vivian Maier Self-Portrait.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Wednesday night's set list

At The Habit, York - The Elderly Brothers: -

Everybody Knows
Island Of Dreams
People Get Ready
Bring It On Home To Me
Crying In The Rain
Walk Right Back
Bye Bye Love

It was a busy-ish night at The Habit, boosted by Graduation Day revellers. A hastily put together set, following Phil Elderly's Crazy Horse travels, included soul standards People Get Ready and Bring It On Home To Me. The after-show unplugged session turned into request time from the new graduates in the audience who demanded a Simon & Garfunkel set! Oh what fun we had.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Elaine Stritch RIP

Elaine Stritch, Tart-Tongued Broadway Actress and Singer, Is Dead at 89

By Bruce Weber and Robert Berkvist
17 July 2014

Elaine Stritch, the brassy, tart-tongued Broadway actress and singer who became a living emblem of show business durability and perhaps the leading interpreter of Stephen Sondheim’s wryly acrid musings on aging, died on Thursday at her home in Birmingham, Mich. She was 89.

Her death was confirmed by a friend, Julie Keyes. Before Ms. Stritch moved to Birmingham last year, she lived, famously, for many years at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan.

Ms. Stritch’s career began in the 1940s and included her fair share of appearances in movies, including Woody Allen’s “September” (1987) and “Small Time Crooks” (2000), and on television; well into her 80s, she played a recurring role on the NBC comedy “30 Rock” as the domineering mother of the television executive played by Alec Baldwin. But the stage was her true professional home, where, whether in musicals, nonmusical dramas or solo cabaret shows, she drew audiences to her with her whiskey voice, her seen-it-all manner and the blunt charisma of a star.

Elaine Stritch built her Broadway career playing brash and bawdy characters.

Plainspoken, egalitarian, impatient with fools and foolishness, and admittedly fond of cigarettes, alcohol and late nights — she finally gave up smoking and drinking in her 60s, though she took it up again — Ms. Stritch might be the only actor to work as a bartender after starring on Broadway, and she was completely unabashed about her good-time-girl attitude.

“I’m not a bit opposed to your mentioning in this article that Frieda Fun here has had a reputation in the theater, for the past five or six years, for drinking,” she said to a reporter for The New York Times in 1968. “I drink and I love to drink, and it’s part of my life.”

Most of the time she was equally unabashed onstage, rarely if ever leaving the sensually astringent elements of her personality behind when she performed. A highlight of her early stage career was the 1952 revival of “Pal Joey,” the Rodgers and Hart/John O’Hara musical, in which she played a shrewd, ambitious reporter recalling, in song, an interview with Gypsy Rose Lee; she drew bravas for her rendition of the striptease parody “Zip.”

In a nonsinging role in William Inge’s 1955 drama, “Bus Stop,” she received a Tony nomination as the lonely but tough-talking owner of a Kansas roadside diner where travelers take refuge during a snowstorm. Three years later, in her first starring role on Broadway, “Goldilocks,” a musical comedy by Jean and Walter Kerr and the composer Leroy Anderson that also starred Don Ameche, she played a silent-film star and impressed The Times’s critic Brooks Atkinson with the acid capability of her delivery:

“Miss Stritch can destroy life throughout the country with the twist she gives to the dialogue,” Atkinson wrote. “She takes a wicked stance, purses her mouth thoughtfully and waits long enough to devastate the landscape.”

Noël Coward, one of Ms. Stritch’s devoted fans, built the 1961 musical “Sail Away” around her role as Mimi Paragon, the relentlessly effervescent hostess of a cruise ship. She repaid his trust not only by giving what Howard Taubman of The Times said “must be the performance of her career” (including a delicious rendition of Coward’s hilariously snooty “Why Do the Wrong People Travel?”) but also by successfully ad-libbing, on opening night, when a poodle in the cast betrayed its training onstage. The show was not a hit, but Ms. Stritch came away with her third Tony nomination. Her next Broadway role was in the replacement cast of Edward Albee’s scabrous portrait of a marriage, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” as Martha, the bitter, boozy wife.

One of Ms. Stritch’s most memorable appearances was in the Sondheim musical “Company” (1970), in which, as a cynical society woman, she saluted her peers with the vodka-soaked anthem “The Ladies Who Lunch.” It not only brought her another Tony nomination but became her signature tune — at least until, in her 70s, she became equally known for Sondheim’s paean to showbiz longevity and survival, “I’m Still Here.” It was the centerpiece of her 2001 one-woman show, “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” and she sang it in 2010 at Mr. Sondheim’s 80th-birthday concert at Lincoln Center (Patti LuPone took on “The Ladies Who Lunch”) and at the White House for President Obama.

Essentially a spoken-and-sung theater memoir, “Elaine Stritch at Liberty,” created with the critic John Lahr of The New Yorker, began performances at the Public Theater in Manhattan (when Ms. Stritch was 76) and then moved to Broadway, where it was a smash.

Alone onstage except for a single chair, clad only in tights and a white silk shirt, Ms. Stritch wove together music (including “Zip,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “I’m Still Here” and two additional Sondheim songs: “The Little Things You Do Together,” a mordant salute to marriage from “Company,” and the aging showgirl’s lament, “Broadway Baby,” from “Follies”) and showbiz memories into a nightly tour de force that won a Tony Award for the year’s best special theatrical event.


Johnny Winter RIP

Johnny Winter, blues guitarist, dies aged 70
Johnny Winter, who was a star blues guitarist and a Grammy-winning producer for Muddy Waters, has died aged 70

By Martin Chilton, Culture Editor
Wednesday 17 Jul 2014

Blues musician and producer Johnny Winter has died at the age of 70.

Winter, who played with Jimi Hendrix and Muddy Waters, was a friend of John Lennon, who wrote Rock and Roll People in his honour. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote a song for him in 1973 called Silver Train.

Born John Dawson Winter III on February 23, 1944 in Mississippi, and raised in Beaumont, Texas, Winter began playing the clarinet aged five, and switched to the ukelele and then the guitar a few years later. He was the subject in May 2014 of a documentary film called Johnny Winter: Down & Dirty, which was made by Greg Olliver and had its premiere at the SXSW Festival.

His big break came while opening a show for Mike Bloomfield in 1968. Winter’s display caught the eye of Columbia Records, who signed him to a contract with a £400,000 advance.

Winter, like his brother and musician Edgar (of Edgar Winter Group fame) was an albino and known for his long, blond hair and a cowboy hat. During the late Sixties, he performed frequently with Janis Joplin and the pair became lovers.

As well as being a fine musician, he also helped revive the careers of friends and blues musicians John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters through Grammy-winning collaborations. Winter produced three Waters albums – Hard Again (1977), I’m Ready (1978) and King Bee (1981) as well as 1979′s Muddy “Mississippi” Waters – Live. Asked once what Waters was like as a bandleader? he replied: "Muddy was very strict. If he didn't like something, he would tell the guys."

Winter suffered from terrible addiction problems with heroin in the early Seventies and although he had spells of recovery, much of the Nineties was blighted by a reliance on antidepressants, vodka and methadone.

In 2011, he made an album called Roots – covering classics such as Chuck Berry's Maybelline and Robert Johnson's Dust My Broom and featuring guest musicians such as Warren Haynes and country star Vince Gill – which was a critical success. In all he made more than 20 albums and received seven Grammy nominations. He was named as the 63rd best guitarist ever by Rolling Stone magazine.

Even at 70, Winter was still performing around 200 concerts a year and admitted once that “guitar is the only thing I was ever really great at”. Winter, who died in Zurich, Switzerland, was due to release a new album entitled Step Back on September 2.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Neil Young - Cork 10 July 2014

10 July 2014, Live At The Marquee, Cork Ireland
Love And Only Love
Goin' Home
Days That Used To Be
After The Gold Rush
Love To Burn
Separate Ways
Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Don't Cry No Tears
Blowin'In The Wind
Red Sun
Heart Of Gold
Psychedelic Pill
Rockin' In The Free World
Who's Gonna Stand Up And Save The Earth?
Roll Another Number

Neil Young - vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica
Frank Sampedro - electric guitar, keyboards, vocals
Ralph Molina - drums, vocals
Rick Rosas - bass
Dorene "Sweetie" Carter - vocals
YaDonna West – vocals

What a show, what a venue! The Marquee is a glorified circus tent in a showground near the Cork dockland area, by the River Lee. But they attract some great acts (Bob Dylan played there recently). Queuing from about 2pm was a bit of a bind but seasoned railers know that it’s just part of the experience. We got to hear the sound check which to our amazement included an electric After The Gold Rush. “Oh he won’t play it though” was the consensus. The security folks had a great attitude and were well organised to prevent any queue jumping. So it was about 6:30 when we trooped up in single file to the holding area adjacent to the main tent. Then at about 7pm we were let in and our little group of diehard Rusties took centre spot on the rail.

This version of Crazy Horse was hastily put together after bass guitarist Billy Talbot suffered a mild stroke. The word is that he’s ok and making a speedy recovery. Rick “the bass player” Rosas stepped in at short notice (he was touring with Pegi Young’s band until Neil made the call!). Two backing singers, Dorene "Sweetie" Carter and YaDonna West, completed the line-up to cover for Billy and take some of the vocal ‘weight’ off Frank and Ralph’s shoulders. 

The band warmed up with Love And Only Love from Ragged Glory and followed with Goin’ Home first debuted at Sheffield Arena in 2001 (yes, I was there too). Cracking stuff with Neil playing very fluid guitar on Old Black, his trusty Les Paul. The next two songs were played on the Gretsch White Falcon (GWF). The doubters were silenced by an amazing electric After The Gold Rush; surely one of Neil’s finest re-workings of a song for some time.

Separate Ways, written in the early seventies about his break-up with Carrie Snodgrass, and still unreleased, was moving and emotional. Only Love Can Break Your Heart, also played on the GWF, turned into an audience sing along. There was an intensity about the way Neil delivered these songs which is difficult to describe in words but it felt like they were fresh from the songwriter’s pen. Somehow new.

If that wasn’t enough, the acoustic set was utterly absorbing. Between visits to the teleprompter, Neil seemed to be singing to about 5 or 6 of us on the rail. He stared at us intently and if you’ve ever met that glance you know you’ve seen something mystical. Brought tears to my eyes.

Then it was back to electric music with a rousing Powderfinger, once again I was impressed with Neil’s guitar playing; so melodic and yet on fire. Bizarrely in a mini-coda at the end of Rockin’ In The Free World, he played the melody of God Save The Queen (as in the National Anthem) – a rather eccentric choice for the Irish Republic! 

The main show ended with a new song, debuted in Iceland – the previous gig – Who’s Gonna Stand Up And Save The Earth? The song is driven by a pulsating riff and asks the obvious question, including the lines “Ban fracking now save the waters, And build a life for our sons and daughters”. A rousing finish. The encore Roll Another Number turned into another audience sing along and ended the show on a real high. Amusingly, Rick seemed to have forgotten the song and watched first Frank and then Neil intently to follow what they were playing. Worth the entrance fee alone!

To me this was the most exciting, emotional, breathtaking show from Neil this century (and I’ve seen a few). Everything I wanted and more. A new song, a song I’ve never heard live before (Separate Ways), old songs re-worked, guitar playing like you get from no-one else on the planet and an emotional intensity you could have picked up and hugged!

Nadine Gordimer RIP

Nadine Gordimer dies aged 90
Nobel-prize-winning chronicler of apartheid died peacefully in Johannesburg on Sunday

David Smith in Johannesburg
The Guardian
Tuesday 15 July 2014

South Africa mourned one of its literary giants on Monday, with the death at 90 of Nadine Gordimer, a Nobel laureate praised for remaining politically and intellectually courageous until the end.

Gordimer, arguably the foremost chronicler of racial apartheid and the subsequent vicissitudes of democracy, died peacefully in her sleep at her home in Johannesburg on Sunday, her family said. Her son, Hugo, and daughter, Oriane, were with her at the time.

The daughter of a Jewish watchmaker from Latvia and middle-class woman from Britain, Gordimer started writing in earnest at the age of nine and produced 15 novels as well as several volumes of short stories, non-fiction and other works. She was published in 40 languages around the world. Her literary gaze was unsparing on both white minority rule and the governing African National Congress (ANC).

"She cared most deeply about South Africa, its culture, its people, and its ongoing struggle to realise its new democracy," the family said. Her "proudest days", they said, included winning the Nobel prize and testifying in the 1980s on behalf of a group of anti-apartheid activists who had been accused of treason.

During the liberation struggle she praised Nelson Mandela and accepted the decision of his ANC, of which she was a member, to take up arms against the regime. "Having lived here for 65 years, I am well aware for how long black people refrained from violence," she said. "We white people are responsible for it."

Gordimer worked on biographical sketches of Mandela and his co-accused to send overseas to publicise the Rivonia trial in 1963-64. In his autobiography, Mandela wrote of his time in prison: "I tried to read books about South Africa or by South African writers. I read all the unbanned novels of Nadine Gordimer and learned a great deal about the white liberal sensibility." She was among the first people he met on his release in 1990.

More recently she turned her crusading wrath on the ANC itself over proposed secrecy laws that threaten to curb freedom of expression and put journalists and whistleblowers in jail. Three of Gordimer's books had been banned during apartheid. She also remained socially active and was a regular at Johannesburg's Market Theatre until shortly before her death.

At her 90th birthday dinner in downtown Johannesburg last November, she sat next to George Bizos, part of the legal team at the Rivonia trial. He told her: "You are not only a writer, you are a pretty tough woman who stood up to the apartheid regime."

Another speaker paraphrased the cricketer Don Bradman in saying that now she had reached 90, there was no reason why she should not make 100. The petite author, an atheist, shook her head fiercely and proclaimed: "Enough!" The party was entertained by the jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who said to Gordimer: "It's such a wonderful privilege for us to play for you tonight and when we grow up we hope we'll be just like you."

On Monday Masekela, currently in London, said: "She was a dear friend," but declined to comment further.

Tributes were paid from South Africa and around the world. Victor Dlamini, a writer and photographer, said: "I studied at the University of Natal during apartheid and was always struck by how, in the tradition of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, she was not afraid to tackle the issues of the day. She never had that idea that literature must be pure of the issues of society. She was able to look at the society and write hauntingly beautifully about it but at the same time unsparingly leave you in no doubt who was right and who was wrong."

She remained a critical friend of the ANC after it came to power. Dlamini added: "Unlike a lot of literary figures who gravitate towards power once they win awards, she resolutely avoided the ministers and stuck with her friends. She felt there was no separation between social justice and literary concerns."

Gordimer won the Booker Prize in 1974 for The Conservationist, a novel about a white South African who loses everything, and the Nobel Prize in 1991, when apartheid was in its death throes. But she never lost relevance, Dlamini said. "There was always this sense that once apartheid was dismantled, South Africans would have nothing to write about, but as she showed in No Time Like the Present, history takes a long time to dismantle. The past is in the present." No Time Like the Present, her final book, deals with contemporary South African talking points: its characters suffer brutal crime and complain about the quality of schools.

In October 2006, at the age of 82, Gordimer was attacked, robbed and locked in a cupboard in her upmarket home. She handed over cash and jewellery, but would not part with her wedding ring. Gordimer later said she felt no fear and it was merely her turn to experience violence like many of her compatriots before her.In recent years some black critics scorned her as a "white liberal" whose work was little read by the country's black majority. The ANC government in Gauteng province described her book July's People as "deeply racist, superior and patronising" and banned it from local schools.

Gordimer once said: "We were naive, because we focused on removing the apartheid government and never thought deeply enough about what would follow."

Maureen Isaacson, a literary journalist, said: "She was disappointed with the symptoms of corruption she was seeing. She remained optimistic because she had seen the change and she was hoping things would turn around. She was very positive about the media and felt it should continue doing an excellent job in exposing corruption."

Isaacson had known Gordimer for 30 years and became a close friend over the past 15. She added: "It was rewarding and challenging, She was not indulgent in any way. Her influence on me was focus and discipline. She was always pushing me to greater understanding and clarity. She was just an all round social being; she loved theatre and reading and new talent. She was interested and interesting."

Craig Higginson, a novelist and playwright, said: "She was incredibly generous and supportive to me. She would come to the Market Theatre and stand in a cold corridor at 10 at night to talk to you about your play."

Gordimer was a giant whose influence would be felt for generations, Higginson added. "She was never afraid to say the uncomfortable thing and risk being unpopular for it. She honoured what she believed to be right. She once said she'd made many mistakes in her life but the one thing she was not was afraid. For a small person, she was very powerful."

Gordimer married Reinhold Cassirer, an art dealer who had been a refugee from Nazi Germany, in 1954. He died in 2001 at the age of 93. She had two children, one from a previous marriage.

For Gordimer, art and activism were bound together since birth. "I used the life around me and the life around me was racist," she said in a 1990 interview. "I would have been a writer anywhere, but in my country, writing meant confronting racism."