Sunday, October 07, 2012

Dan Bern, My Favorite Songwriter/Singer, Packs Out North Friday Night

As I've said in previous posts this week, I first experienced Dan Bern performing in 1997 at Loussac library.  He blew me away. 

He carries on the tradition of Gutherie and Dylan's songs that commented on the state of the world.  Long narratives in a singing style that . . . well the first time I heard him, he came out and sang, then stopped, and said something like, "Some people say I sound like Dylan . . . but  you don't do you?" with a big grin on his face.

What struck me then was how his songs started with  unexpected premises and then wandered through a stream of conscious jumping from topic to topic, all the while telling the story.  Not unlike some of my blog posts.   "If Marilyn Monroe had married Henry Miller" for example.  These are sophisticated musical musings that are funny, thought provoking and musically seductive.  Sure, everyone knows who Marilyn Monroe is, but you also have to know who Henry Miller was and that Marilyn Monroe was married for a while to Arthur Miller (and who he was).

The Wasteland, one of my favorites from early on, wraps up the dilemmas of an age in evocative words and music that starkly express the darker side of American dream.  It starts:


Sound Clip
I saw the best of my generation playing pinball
Make-up on, all caked up 
Looking like some kind of china doll
With all of Adolf Hitler's moves down cold
As they stood up in front 
Of a rock and roll band
And always moving upward and ever upward
To this gentle golden promised land
With the smartest of them all 
Moonlighting as a word processor
And the strongest of them all 
Checking IDs outside a saloon
And the prettiest of all 
Taking off her clothes
In front of men 
Whose eyes look like they were in some little hick town 
Near Omaha 
Watching the police chief 
Run his car off the side of a bridge
He just tells the story and let's the audience work out what it means.

He also has a lot of baseball songs - including one about Pete Rose, the Hall of Fame, and betting, and another one I heard the first time Friday on Armando Gallarraga's perfect game stolen by umpire Jim Joyce's bad call on what should have been the last out.  Another on the golden voice of Vin Scully. 

 These photos were taken at Friday night's concert.  The purple shirt was before the break. 

Patrick McCormick stood in for his Dad Mike, the founder of Whistling Song productions which has been bringing up folkish musicians to Anchorage for a long time.  Mike's knowledge of music and hospitality has been the main reason we've had so many good musicians playing here.  Many, like Dan, have stayed at the McCormick's house when they were here.  Dan's talked about it being a wonderful change from most tour stops, being able to stay with a family.  And he's watched Patric grow up over the years he's been coming to Anchorage.   Patrick told a story about Dan coming to one of his basketball games when he was in the third grade. 

Having spent a good part of the week at the songwriting workshop and two concerts, I've got lots more to write and not enough time.  Rather than write one long, long post that won't get up til Wednesday or Thursday, let me stop here and I'll add more later.

1 comment:

  1. A poet who happens to sing.
    A bard watching and recording the "lives of quiet desperation."

    At least in that song.
    It makes me cry.
    So much waste.


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