Acenando adeus a Chris Cornell, ícone da Geração Grunge – In Memoriam [1964 – 2017]

Uma das vozes mais extraordinárias do rock global nas últimas décadas calou-se para sempre, aos 52 anos, deixando como legado algumas canções imorredouras e um rastro indelével na história do Grunge.

Chris Cornell (1964 – 2017), que encantou e comoveu cantando no Soundgarden, no Audioslave, no Temple Of The Dog e em sua carreira solo, agora adentra o panteão de mortos ilustres da revolução sônica noventista, nascida e explodida deste Seattle, onde já estavam Kurt Cobain (Nirvana), Layne Stanley (Alice in Chains), Mia Zapata (The Gits), Andy Wood (Mother Love Bone), Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots), dentre tantos outros mortos precoces do hypado cenário musical da terra natal de Jimi Hendrix.


“Words you say never seem
To live up to the ones
Inside your head

The lives we make
Never seem to ever get us anywhere
But dead

The day I tried to live
I wallowed in the blood and mud with
All the other pigs…”
The Day I Tried To Live

Ao enforcar-se em um banheiro de hotel, Chris Cornell põe um ponto final em sua existência em carne-e-osso de modo a lançar uma luz de crepúsculo sobre toda a sua obra anterior, como que sublinhando que seus lamentos musicados e seus berros de angústia impregnados não eram mera dramaturgia e jogo-de-cena. Eram a expressão genuína de um coração dilacerado pelos fardos que tinha em suas mãos e pela lida louca de tentar viver nesta estrepitosa estrada – “cheia de som e fúria e que não significa nada”? (Macbeth) – que ele batizou de Superunkown.


Chris matou-se e nos deixou chafurdando numa lama de porquês, meditando sobre vários “talvez”. Talvez, sem nenhuma intencionalidade consciente, Chris Cornell tenha partido do mundo deixando-nos uma série de emblemas.

Acenou adeus ao mundo enforcando-se na metrópolis que é uma encarnação da distopia Yankee, a outrora próspera capital-mundial-do-automóvel Detroit, hoje uma autêntica Devastolândia. Uma terra histórica para a música estadunidense (Motown, MC5, Stooges, White Stripes…), hoje reduzida a escombros do que foi outrora, prova viva da insanidade do american way of capitalism.

Ali Cornell rompeu com as grades desta jaula enferrujada que para ele tinha se tornado a vida.


Ele quis, talvez, com este ato derradeiro e fatal, demitir-se da Era Trump, que afinal não permite esperanças róseas de futuro erguendo-se no peito de ninguém (o que se ergue é o pavor da hecatombe nuclear e da estupidez da guerra devastadora on repeat). Quis afastar-se de vez do “pesadelo climatizado” de que falava Henry Miller, para enfim dar entrada naquele Trágico Olimpo onde habitam figuras que o mesmerizavam – como Kurt Cobain, Ian Curtis, Jeff Buckley, Mia Zapata † R.I.P etc.

Demitiu-se da vida, talvez, sonhando que valia a pena acabar de uma vez por toda com todo o sofrimento – também com toda felicidade – e ganhar de brinde, ainda que jamais sorvível por sua consciência, enfim uma consagração ao panteão dos deuses da música, dos mestres da voz? Não: talvez ele não estivesse pensando em fama póstuma, talvez estivesse simplesmente cansado de tudo, solitário mesmo ao cantar diante de multidões, sentindo-se como uma minoria de um, uma fading light, “The Disappearing One”.

Tudo o que ele mais temia veio à vida, tudo o que havia buscado construir como ninho mostrou-se no fundo como um túmulo disfarçado. À questão que, em O Mito de Sísifo, Albert Camus julga ser a mais fundamental das fundamentais, Cornell respondeu em ato, como antes havia feito Cobain: à pergunta “a vida vale a pena ser vivida?”, ele respondeu: “não mais”. Talvez ele apenas tenha caído em dias sombrios, mas sem ter tido mais a paciência ou a persistência para atravessá-los.


Talvez Chris Cornell sentisse que estava ficando pra trás, que o Audioslave já tinha sido sepultado e que seus ex-companheiros de banda já seguiam jornada, sem ele, sem precisar dele, sem ligar pra ele, profetas da raiva na nova empreitada de thrash metal hip hopper dos Prophets of Rage.

Chris, talvez, não sentisse mais em si queimando a chama vivaz da rebeldia, só o demônio malfazejo da depressão. A depressão, aliás, contra a qual ele parece ter lutado por toda a vida, e que enfim venceu a batalha, fatal demônio do meio-dia, sugador de vidas criativas em profusão, como mostram os casos de figuras como Sylvia Plath e Virginia Woolf, dentre tantas outras (Cf. ALVAREZ, O Deus Selvagem)


Talvez o Soundgarden fosse pra Chris já um jardim arrasado, um mamute lendário cuja força titânica já havia ficado no passado, envelhecido T-Rex perdendo seu vigor e que já não seria capaz de fazer jus, em seu futuro, aos clássicos Sabbáthicos do grunge que foram discaços como Badmotorfinger ou Superunkown. Não deve ser fácil conviver com uma relativa obscuridade, com uma sensação de decadência, quando em tempos idos já tivemos um grau de reconhecimento tão maior do que o atual.

Talvez aquele que lastimou-se ruidosamente por sentir-se “Outshined” estava sentindo-se obscurecido por um eclipse íntimo duradouro, uma noite que não passava, um “Black Hole Sun” que ele foi descobrindo tratar-se de um buraco negro devorador de toda luz.


Ah, Chris, que sedução estranha e irresistível veio exercer seu fascínio de Tânatos sobre ti, neste Maio de 2017, quando contavas 52 anos de idade, para que tenhas decidido encerrar sua estadia entre os vivos? Você foi com fé ou foi totalmente ateu? Foi com a esperança de que, lá do outro lado, beberia um vinho com Jeff Buckley e vocês cantariam em dueto as lindíssimas melancolias musicadas de “Grace”?

Talvez, quem sabe, Chris tenha pensado em Andy Wood, morto por overdose antes de tornar-se o rock-star que todo mundo esperava que se tornasse. Talvez Chris tenha se lembrado de que, sobre o cadáver do Mother Love Bone, ergueram-se monumentos da música estadunidense: o álbum de estréia do Temple Of The Dog e as sementes do Pearl Jam.

Terá morrido com o reconfortante consolo de que algo musicalmente esplendoroso seria erguido em sua homenagem, depois de sua partida? Que nova “Hunger Strike”, cantada em dueto com Eddie Vedder, virá para celebrar a vida e a morte de Cornell?



Chris, você deixa-nos lotados de perguntas e perplexidades. O fim da tua vida faz emanar algo semelhante à tua arte: a sensação de que, como diz Albert Camus, “a angústia é o habitat perpétuo do homem lúcido”. Teus wails eram o lamento de um homem cujo fardo eram enxergar bem demais as agruras do mundo. Tua alma atormentada era grungy como a garganta abissalmente profunda de Mark Lanegan. Alguns de teus berros são tão viscerais quanto Cobain dando uma de blueseiro e rasgando um Leadbelly ao fim do Acústico MTV.

Chris Cornell: em ti eu encontrava, comovido, um artista capaz de catarse e de expressão emocional impressionantes, conjugadas com um domínio técnico de seu métier de cantor que o tornam, sem dúvida, um dos gênios-da-voz no rock contemporâneo.O grunge, afinal de contas, tinha um pé fincado na lama do blues e outro pé saltando no lodo do punk; Chris Cornell, que também tinha algo de headbanger e foi muito celebrado por metaleiros como uma espécie de Dio de Seattle, tinha uma tamanha capacidade de musicar seus tormentos íntimos de modo hiperbólico e teatral, que pode até considerado uma das figuras prefiguradoras do emocore (tal como se manifesta no At The Drive-In ou no Linkin Park, por exemplo).

Assisti Chris Cornell em ação sobre o palco duas vezes, ambas muito impressionantes: um show de sua carreira solo em São Paulo e um show recente do Soundgarden no Festival d’Été de Québec. Aquela voz era de fato merecedora de ressoar por um vasto espaço, ecoando pela arena, pois carregava uma imensidão de sentimentos e de nuances, nos seus melhores momentos evocando O Grito de Munch. Se aquela pintura cantasse, talvez soasse como Chris Cornell no auge de suas catarses?

Sua vida e sua obra não serão esquecidos – com o perdão deste clichê de necrológios que é aqui mais uma vez tão válido. Seu organismo esfacelou-se, seu gogó calou-se para sempre, mas sua música fica entre nós, legado imorrível que não cessará de nos emocionar e nos empolgar. Que essa morte seja uma semente, que a plantemos em nossos campos e que dela sigam crescendo as Screaming Trees de nossa sublime e dilacerada grungidade.

Em “Wave Goodbye”, do seu disco-solo de estréia Euphoria Morning, o homenageado era o talentosíssimo Jeff Buckley, que afogou-se aos 30 anos tendo lançado apenas um álbum, “Grace”, uma das obras-primas da música global no fim do século XX. Agora é nossa vez de cantar, com a voz embargada, um “Wave Goodbye” para Chris Cornell, recém-embarcado numa estrada da qual nenhum viajante jamais retornou: a Superunkown que vai ao Hades e é uma via de mão única. Para aquele que criou e extroverteu tanta música cheia de alma, it’s just the end of the world.

E se alguém ainda nutre dúvidas de que perdemos um baita dum Poeta Grunge, antena de seu tempo e geração, relembro uma canção obscura de “Euphoria Morning” (1999), chamada “O Travesseiro Dos Teus Ossos” (“Pillow of Your Bones”). Ela ganha hoje uma nova camada de densidade enquanto a carne que recobria os ossos do cantor do Soundgarden e do Audioslave vai se desintegrando no seio da Phýsis e ele prepara-se para a sina sem dores de esqueleto.

Aí, nesta canção impressionante, Chris Cornell – que neste álbum já havia evocado nada menos que um fim do mundo, testemunhado e compartilhado por um eu-lírico “Radioheadiano” – segue explorando uma escrita hiperbólica, que deve ter lá suas similaridades com as tempestades psíquicas de poetas como um Rimbaud, um Lautréamont, um Poe… Cornell destila um lirismo sombrio através de sua pictórica poiésis, escancara paradoxos verbalmente cheios de wit (“the rising of my low”), e prova que é um letrista ainda muito sub-estimado e sub-apreciado.

Eis um compositor merecedor de mais estudo até mesmo por nós filósofos, que muitas vezes ficamos discutindo o conceito de catarse em Aristóteles, não avançando além dele, o que nos deixa desagradavelmente antiquados, pois poderíamos muito bem discutir catarse – e Estética – também, por exemplo, através da Geração Grunge e das obras de Cobain, Vedder, Cornell, Stanley, Lanegan (por uma sala de aula com mais Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains e Screaming Trees!). Ladies and germs, listen to an awesome grungy poet:

PILLOW OF YOUR BONES

The embers of the saint inside of you
Are growing as I’m bathing in your glow
I’m swallowing the poison of your flower
And hanging on the rising of my low
Colorful and falling from your mouth
Like a painted fever in recoil
Like a lie without the pain

On a pillow of your bones
I will lay across the stones
Of your shore until the tide comes crawling back

A waning hand on silver granite ways
Will mend my broken limbs and bend my haze
I’m sleeping in the silence of your voice
I’m cradling the peril of my only choice
Colorful and falling from your mouth
Like a painted fever in recoil
Like a lie without the pain

On a pillow of your bones
I will lay across the stone
Of your shore until the tide comes crawling back
Throw my pillow on the fire
Make my bed under the eye
Of your moon until the tide comes crawling back

Even though the truth can burn inside or fall behind
I will wander through your open mind
And you will find no lie can hide
Until the tide comes crawling…

COMPARTILHAR NO FACEBOOK

– Uma homenagem a Chris Cornell (1964 – 2017), in memoriam.
Por Eduardo Carli de Moraes para A Casa de Vidro.

BOB MARLEY: Guerreiro Rasta

Daniel Pereira

Um dos muitos méritos desta graphic novel dos argentinos Diego Agrimbau (roteiro) e Dante Ginevra (desenhos) está em sua capacidade de revelar a enorme dimensão social, espiritual e artística de Bob Marley. Nascido em 1945, numa Jamaica que lutava para se libertar do domínio colonial inglês, Bob Marley viveu apenas 36 anos, mas tornou-se uma figura de notoriedade e relevância mundial, a ponto de produzir milhões de seguidores. Isto não se deve somente ao seu talento como cantor, compositor e músico, mas à força e à resiliência de sua mensagem à humanidade.

Estátua no Estádio Nacional de Kingston

Reggae’s most transcendent and iconic figure, Bob Marley was the first Jamaican artist to achieve international superstardom, in the process introducing the music of his native island nation to the far-flung corners of the globe. Marley’s music gave voice to the day-to-day struggles of the Jamaican experience, vividly capturing not only the plight of the country’s impoverished and oppressed but also the devout spirituality that remains their source of strength. His songs of faith, devotion, and revolution created a legacy that continues to live on not only through the music of his extended family but also through generations of artists the world over touched by his genius. – Jason Ankeny

Guerreiro Rasta não começa ao som de ska ou reggae, mas em chave mais trágica, evocando a África, onde as caravelas invasoras do imperialismo europeu vieram sequestrar milhões de seres humanos para o destino horrendo de escravizados. Filhos da diáspora, os afrodescendentes da Jamaica lutavam por independência e autonomia enquanto Bob Marley crescia: é no período entre 1958 e 1962 que a onda descolonizadora do Caribe ganha força e triunfa contra o império inglês, não só na Jamaica, mas também em Trinidad e Tobago.

Na capital da Jamaica, Kingston, os autores evocam de modo impressionante a presença da África, seja através do mega evento cívico que foi  a visita do imperador da Etiópia, Hailê Selassiê, em abril de 1966, seja no próprio cotidiano dos cultuadores de Jah, os rastafáris da sagrada ganja, tão perseguidos pela elite branca e que com tanta frequência tinham seus dreadlocks cortados e tomavam cruéis baculejos policiais.

Bob Marley até tentou migrar para os EUA – onde trabalhou em Delaware como operário da indústria automobilística em uma fábrica da Chrysler – mas retomou o caminho de Trenchtown: em uma das imagens mais memoráveis de Dante Ginevra, o avião de Marley decola nos Estados Unidos, ascendendo rumo a um céu onde paira, cheio de garbo e poder, desenhado pelas nuvens em interação com os raios de sol, um gigantesco Leão de Judá

mi0003146038

 Bob Marley permitiu que a criatividade de um país periférico conquistasse o globo e tornou-se um dos luminares não só da música reggae ou da religião rastafári, mas um ídolo popular em todas as latitudes onde há luta contra a opressão e em prol da paz e do amor. Filho de uma afro-jamaicana com um branco inglês, Bob Marley foi um mulato afroamericano de profundo enraizamento na cultura africana e no sonho de um retorno à África mãe, seja na Etiópia ou na Libéria (este é um ethos ou uma constelação afetiva que assemelha Bob Marley a Nina Simone).

Apesar de estar longe de ser uma figura teórica ou acadêmica, Marley tinha postura política convicta e aliou-se ao movimento do pan-africanismo propugnado por Marcus Garvey, evidente em uma canção como “Africa Unite”. Em sua meteórica carreira musical foi um porta-voz libertário cujo teor ideológico e raio de influência sobre as massas pode ser equiparado ao de figuras como Patrice Lumumba, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Fela Kuti etc.

Bob Marley & the Wailers
“Concrete Jungle”
The Old Grey Whistle Test, 1973

Suas letras repletas de crítica social transcenderiam o gueto e iriam muito além das fronteiras do reggae: iriam inspirar artistas do folk, do rock, do punk, da MPB, da world music etc. Não é possível imaginar nem o The Clash, nem Gilberto Gil, nem Manu Chao, sem a seminal influência de Bob Marley. O poder de sua arte é tamanho pois conjuga o anúncio e a denúncia, para lembrar Paulo Freire: Marley fala sobre one love em vibe similar à de John Lennon imaginando a brotherhood of men, mas também denuncia a “selva de concreto” (assista a “Concrete Jungle” assista) e os mais de “400 Years” de opressão imperialista sobre aqueles que foram roubados de sua terra nos “merchant ships” evocados por “Redemption Song”:

“Velhos piratas, sim, eles me roubaram.
Me venderam para os navios mercantes, 
Minutos depois me atiraram
Num buraco sem fundo…”

Guerreiro Rasta é uma leitura rápida mas que deixa rastros na memória; uma biografia em formato graphic novel de 60 e poucas páginas, mas que ensina uma imensidão neste curto intervalo de tempo e espaço. Ganham expressão nestas páginas toda a violência política nas ruas de Kingston e todo o esforço pacifista-diplomático de Marley; toda a trajetória dos Wailers, tendo como coadjuvantes importantes Peter Tosh e Lee Perry, de estrelas musicais locais a popstars idolatrados por Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Joe Strummer; toda a epopéia da diáspora, todos os horrores impostos pelo imperialismo racista e supremacista, em contraste com a sabedoria naturalista, cannábica, rasta-pacifista, desse liberador de mentes e encantatório musicista que foi Bob Marley.

marley-poster1

No cinema, sua vida e obra já ganharam belos retratos em filmes como Rebel Music ou na biopic documental de Kevin MacDonald. Porém a linguagem dos quadrinhos, aqui utilizada com maestria pelos hermanos argentinos, fornece uma impressionante oportunidade de imersão no microcosmo Marleyano. Na página 53, por exemplo, evocam-se em 5 míseros quadrinhos e um punhado de frases pungentes o dia em que a Jamaica enterrou Bob Marley. É uma página que não se esquece mais.

Era um “funeral de chefe de estado, com uma cerimônia que misturava as tradições rastafári e católica ortodoxa etíope. O caixão seguiu  um longo trajeto até sua terra natal, Nine Mile. Toda a Jamaica chorou a partida de seu filho pródigo. Em seu túmulo, foram colocados quatro objetos que representavam o que sempre foi importante para ele… o futebol, a música, a fé rastafári e a maconha. Nessa noite, toda a ilha cantou e dançou celebrando sua vida. Foi a melhor festa funerária que um rasta poderia esperar.”

COMPRAR “GUERREIRO RASTA” NA LIVRARIA A CASA DE VIDRO @ ESTANTE VIRTUAL


SIGA VIAGEM:

OUÇA…

burninBURNIN’ (1973)

* * * * *

bob_marley_the_wailers-survival

“SURVIVAL” (1979)

“Containing what is considered Marley’s most defiant and politically charged statement to date, Survival concerns itself with the expressed solidarity of not only Africa, but of humanity at large. The album was controversial right down to the jacket, which contains a crude schematic of the stowage compartment of a typical transatlantic slave ship. Survival is intended as a wake-up call for everyman to resist and fight oppression in all of its insidious forms. From Tyrone Downie’s opening synthesizer strains on “So Much Trouble in the World” to the keyboard accents emerging throughout “Zimbabwe,” the sounds of Survival are notably modern. The overwhelming influence of contemporary African music is also cited with the incorporation of brass, á la Fela Kuti and his horn-driven Africa ’70. While “Top Rankin’,” “Ride Natty Ride,” and “Wake Up and Live” are the most obvious to benefit from this influence, there are other and often more subtle inspirations scattered throughout. Survival could rightly be considered a concept album. Marley had rarely been so pointed and persistent in his content. The days of the musical parable are more or less replaced by direct and confrontational lyrics. From the subversive “Zimbabwe” — which affirms the calls for the revolution and ultimate liberation of the South African country — to the somewhat more introspective and optimistic “Africa Unite,” the message of this album is clearly a call to arms for those wanting to abolish the subjugation and tyranny of not only Africans, but all humankind. Likewise, Survival reinforces the image of Marley as a folk hero to those suffering from oppression.” – Lindsay Planer, AllMusic [http://www.allmusic.com/album/survival-mw0000194795]

* * * * *

ASSISTA:

100 DISCOS BACANAS DA MÚSICA BRASILEIRA NO SÉCULO 21 – Ouça todos na íntegra: Criolo, Pitty, Emicida, Planet Hemp, Nação Zumbi, Lenine, Tom Zé, Elza Soares, Boogarins etc.

Subam o volume, abram os tímpanos e façam recurso aos expansores de consciência prediletos! Eis aqui um banquete musical farto e diverso que serve como um passeio turístico pela produção musicográfica no Brasil de 2000 pra cá. Os mais de 100 álbuns completos aqui reunidos pretendem ofertar portais de entrada para alguns dos mais significativos e expressivos álbuns gravados desde que o atual século raiou e a lista inteira pode ser acessada também em nossa playlist no Youtube (shortlink: http://bit.ly/1Z9c2Ef). A imagem que ilustra o post (acima) é uma obra do estúdio de ilustração goiano Bicicleta Sem Freio.

Voilà alguns dos artistas que vale a pena acompanhar no cenário musical brazuca contemporâneo: Criolo; Emicida; Pitty; Planet Hemp; Elza Soares; Los Hermanos; Siba; Lenine; Juçara Marçal e Metá Metá; Céu; Curumin; Apanhador Só; Karina Buhr; Móveis Coloniais de Acaju; Vivendo do Ócio; Cidadão Instigado; Tom Zé;  etc.

OBS: Algumas ausências importantes deste listão devem-se simplesmente à indisponibilidade atual do álbum no Youtube: é o caso, por exemplo, de obras excelentes – que esperamos poder adicionar à lista em breve – como: ModeHuman do Far From AlaskaCorpura, do Aláfia; A Dança da Canção Incerta, da Pó de Ser; a estréia do Carne Docedo Hellbenders, do Overfuzz; além dos discos de Mariana Aydar, Ceumar, Luiz Tatit etc.

(P.S. – Vocês podem sugerir álbuns ausentes desta playlist pelos comentários ou via msg de Facebook! Compartilhe no FB e no Tumblr.)

criolo

CRIOLO – “Convoque Seu Buda”


CRIOLO – “Nó Na Orelha”


PAULO CÉSAR PINHEIRO, “Capoeira de Besouro”


SABOTAGE – “Rap É Compromisso”


EMICIDA – “O Glorioso Retorno…”


CÍCERO – “Canções de Apartamento”


NAÇÃO ZUMBI – “Fome de Tudo”


PLANET HEMP – “A Invasão do Sagaz Homem Fumaça”


B NEGÃO – “Sintoniza Lá”


ELZA SOARES – “A Mulher Do Fim Do Mundo”


CÉU – “Vagarosa”


RODRIGO AMARANTE – “Cavalo”


TULIPA RUIZ – “Efêmera”


JUÇARA MARÇAL – “Encarnado”


JUÇARA MARÇAL E KIKO DINUCCI – “Padê”


RACIONAIS MCS – “Nada Como Um Dia”


CÉU – “Catch a Fire” (Live)


LITTLE JOY


B NEGÃO – “Enxugando Gelo”


RUSSO PASSAPUSSO – “Paraíso da Miragem”


PITTY – “Anacrônico”


PITTY – “Sete Vidas”


PITTY, “Admirável Chip Novo”


NÔMADE ORQUESTRA


KAMAU – “Non Ducor Duco”


CURUMIN – “Japan Pop Show”


BOOGARINS – “Manual”


BOOGARINS – “Plantas Que Curam”


KARINA BUHR – “Eu Menti Pra Você”


B NEGÃO – “Transmutação”


O TERNO (2014)


MÓVEIS COLONIAIS DE ACAJU (2005)


AVA ROCHA – Ava Patrya Yndia Yracema (2015)


MACUMBIA – Carne Latina


TÁSSIA REIS


ACADEMIA DA BERLINDA (2007)


MACACO BONG – “Artista Igual Pedreiro”


ANELIS ASSUMPÇÃO E OS AMIGOS IMAGINÁRIOS


DINGO BELLS – “Maravilhas da Vida Moderna”


VIVENDO DO ÓCIO – “O Pensamento É Um Ímã”


BAIANA SYSTEM – “Duas Cidades”


CIDADÃO INSTIGADO – “Fortaleza”


CIDADÃO INSTIGADO E O MÉTODO TUFO DE EXPERIÊNCIAS


TOM ZÉ – “Vira Lata na Via Láctea”


ELO DA CORRENTE – “Cruz”


ÑANDE REKO ARANDU – Memória Viva Guarani  (2000)


ESTRILINSKI E OS PAULERA – “Leminskanções”


NOÇÃO DE NADA – “Sem Gelo” (2006)


MOMBOJÓ – “Nada de Novo” (2004)


FINO COLETIVO (2007)


PITTY – “Ciaroescuro”


MATEUS ALELUIA – “Cinco Sentidos” (2010)


LOS HERMANOS – “Ventura” (2003)


ABAYOMY AFROBEAT ORCHESTRA – “Abra Sua Cabeça”


SIBA – “Avante”


SIBA E A FULORESTA – “Toda vez que eu dou um passo o mundo sai do lugar” (2007)


MUNDO LIVRE S/A – O outro mundo de Manuela Rosário (2004)


NÁ OZZETTI E ZÉ MIGUEL WISNIK – Ná e Zé (2015)


CAETANO VELOSO – Cê (2006)


HURTMOLD – Mestro


INSTITUTO – Coleção Nacional


CORDEL DO FOGO ENCANTADO


RODRIGO CAMPOS – “Conversas com Toshiro”


DUDA BRACK – “É”


CURUMIN – “Achados e Perdidos” (2005)


LUISA E OS ALQUIMISTAS – “Cobra Coral”  (2016)


A TROÇA HARMÔNICA (2015)


MAHMED – Sobre a Vida em Comunidade


LETUCE – Estilhaça


FILARMÔNICA DE PASÁRGADA – “O Hábito da Força” (2013)


LENINE – “Chão” (2011)


LENINE – “Labiata” (2008)


MUÑOZ – “Nebula” (2014)


JARDS MACALÉ – “Amor, Ordem e Progresso”


OTTO – “Certa Manhã Acordei de Sonhos Intranquilos” (2009)


TOM ZÉ – “Jogos de Armar”


SARA NÃO TEM NOME – “Ômega III”


FORGOTTEN BOYS – “Stand by the DANCE”


GUSTAVITO – “Só o Amor Constrói”


BLUBELL – “Eu sou do Tempo…”


THALMA E GADELHA – “Mira”


NOÇÃO DE NADA – “Trajes e Comportamentos”


MUNDO LIVRE S/A vs NAÇÃO ZUMBI


ZULUMBI (2014)


IAN RAMIL – Derivacilização (2014)


CAMARONES ORQUESTRA GUITARRÍSTICA – Rytmus Alucynantis


CAMARONES ORQUESTRA GUITARRÍSTICA – Espionagem…


ABAYOMY (2012)


LOS HERMANOS – “Bloco do Eu Sozinho”


VOLVER – “Acima da Chuva”


ORQUESTRA IMPERIAL – “Carnaval Só Ano Que Vem”


SUPERCORDAS – “Terceira Terra” (2015)


CÉREBRO ELETRÔNICO – “Pareço Moderno”


PATA DE ELEFANTE – “Um Olho no Fósforo…”


GUIZADO – “Calavera”


SIBA E A FULORESTA – “Fuloresta do Samba”


LURDEZ DA LUZ – Ep


RED BOOTS – “Touch the Void”


SUBA – SP Confessions


DIEGO E O SINDICATO – “Parte de Nós”


DIEGO MASCATE


APANHADOR SÓ


APANHADOR SÓ – “Antes Que Tu Conte Outra”


BIXIGA 70 III (2015)


BIXIGA 70 (2013)


HELLBENDERS – “Peyote”


BERIMBROWN (2000)


RENATA ROSA, “Zunido da Mata” (2012)


RENATA ROSA, “Encantações” (2015)


SERENA ASSUMPÇÃO, “Ascensão” (2016)


METÁ METÁ – “MM3” (2016)


METÁ METÁ (2011)


JULIANO GAUCHE – “Nas Estâncias de Dzyan” (2016)


JULIANO GAUCHE (2013)


THE BAGGIOS – Brutown (2016)


Abayomy Afrobeat Orquestra

Abayomy Afrobeat Orquestra

NINA SIMONE: REBELDE COM CAUSA

NINA SIMONE: REBELDE COM CAUSA

Eduardo Carli de Moraes @ A Casa de Vidro.com

What-Happened-Miss-Simone-posterO artista genuíno é ao mesmo tempo um espelho de sua época e uma fonte perene de beleza e inspiração para a posteridade. Tal definição me ocorre diante desse fenômeno da natureza que foi Nina Simone (1933-2003), a quem é devotado o documentário What Happened, Miss Simone? (uma produção Netflix, direção de Liz Garbus, 2015).

Eu, que já tinha Nina em alta estima como uma das cantoras mais magistrais da história de sua nação, no patamar duma Ella Fitzgerald, duma Billie Holiday, duma Sarah Vaughan, duma Bessie Smith, só tive minha admiração aumentada ao conhecer mais o ser humano extraordinário que ela foi. Tamanha honestidade e profundidade expressiva, tamanha capacidade de comunicar afetos dos mais diversos, tamanha sensibilidade à flor da pele, tamanha musicalidade genuína e transbordante, é uma jóia rara!

Logo no início do filme, ela revela sua fórmula da liberdade: “freedom”, opina Nina, significa “no fear” (ausência de medo). Levei pra vida este novo emblema, que carregarei lado a lado, no lado esquerdo do peito, junto com o verso da Janis em “Me and Bobby McGee” – “freedom’s just another word for nothing-left-to-lose” – e com as inesquecíveis palavras da Cecília Meirelles – “liberdade é um sonho que o coração humano alimenta, não há quem explique e não há quem não entenda.” Nina Simone, rebelde com causa, voz visceralmente comovente, ensina-nos um bocado, na práxis, sobre os espíritos livres e sobre as batalhas que combatem contra as gaiolas.

Eunice Waymon nasceu numa família pobre, de 8 filhos, na Carolina do Norte. Começou a tocar piano aos 3 anos de idade e desde cedo sonhou em entrar para a história como a primeira pianista clássica negra dos EUA. Estudando de 6 a 8 horas diárias, logo aprimorou-se em suas interpretações de Bach, Debussy, Chopin, Brahms, entre outros compositores. Porém, sentia na pele, desde então, o racismo da sociedade norte-americana na época da lei Jim Crow: para ter aulas de piano, por exemplo, precisava se dirigir ao “setor branco” da cidade, sinal inequívoco da segregação racial vigente.

Criança

A pequena Eunice Waymon

A carreira de “rebelde com causa” de Nina Simone teve seu início precoce aos 12 anos de idade, quando ela apresentou seu recital de estréia em uma igreja. O Sul norte-americano dos anos 1940 não era fácil: o racismo cotidianizado era tão difundido que os pais da pequena Eunice foram proibidos de sentar na primeira fileira para assistir a filha tocar, já que eram negros e aqueles assentos estavam reservados para brancos. Conta a lenda que Eunice recusou-se a começar o concerto antes que seus pais pudessem se sentar na frente.

Sua mãe, pastora metodista, costumava levar a pequena Eunice aos cultos, onde a intensidade da música gospel impressionou indelevelmente a pequena (é bem sabido que algumas das vozes mais sublimes e poderosas da música dos EUA, como Mahalia Jackson e Aretha Franklin, possuíam raízes firmemente plantadas no solo do gospel). Com o desenrolar de sua carreira pianística, Eunice Waymon estuda na escola Julliard em NYC. Posteriormente, é recusada como aluna de conservatórios mais conservadores (leia-se: mais racistas), como o prestigioso Curtis Institute da Philadelphia.

Para ganhar a vida, começa a tocar em bares e cabarés de Atlantic City, ocasião em que decide mudar seu nome de Eunice Waymon para Nina Simone (unindo o diminutivo carinhoso de Eunice, Nina, com uma homenagem à atriz Simone Signoret). A decisão de adotar o nome artístico veio menos de interesses comerciais e mais de seu desejo de que a mãe não soubesse que ela andava tocando “música do diabo” para platéias noctívagas em pubs de reputação duvidosa… 

Nina7

Sua carreira deslancha quando ela, além de tocar piano clássico de modo magistral, começa a soltar seu gogó-de-ouro em canções de jazz, blues, folk, soul. Logo ganharia o apelido “High Priestess of Soul” e se consolidaria como uma “diva”, mas com a originalidade de estar conectada à tradição afro dos griots. Nina apresenta-se em importantes festivais internacionais, com destaque para o Newport Jazz Festival em 1960 e para o Festival de Montreux, na Suíça, em 1976. Concretiza também seu sonho de tocar no Carnegie Hall, em 1963. Já sua produção discográfica, que abrange cinco décadas, é impressionante em quantidade e qualidade, levando-nos a pensar em Nina Simone como uma fonte exuberante e inesgotável de música sincera, intensa, sempre heartfelt (obs: ao fim deste post, baixe gratuitamente muitos álbuns dela na íntegra!).

Nem tudo são flores na vida pessoal de Nina, porém. Casa-se com Andrew Stroud, um policial do setor anti-narcóticos de NYC que, depois do casório, torna-se também seu empresário. Andy, como revelado pelo filme, era mandão e capaz de muitas brutalidades com a esposa, forçando-a a uma maratona de trabalho extenuante e violentando-a na vida doméstica. O casamento é problemático ao extremo: Andy pressiona a esposa para que trabalhe até o limite, viajando o mundo em turnês, a ponto dela sentir-se como um cavalo-de-corrida (race horse) que é forçado até às beiras do colapso. Pior: são frequentes os episódios de violência doméstica em que Nina é espancada pelo marido. Nina narra no documentário até mesmo a cena de um estupro perpetrado por um truculento Andy.

O casal tem uma filha, Lisa, entrevistada pelo filme, que revela os graus de violência doméstica em que viveram (e a própria Nina não é poupada de acusações, por parte da filha, já que Lisa revela ter sido vítima de espancamentos perpetrados pela mãe…). A vida privada da diva, sua agenda sempre lotada, sua farmacopéia de pílulas, vão gerando um quadro psíquico de depressão, fadiga, insônia, bi-polaridade, mood swings… O que culmina no divórcio e no auto-exílio de Nina, que deixou os EUA para tentar viver uns tempos na África, na França, na Holanda.

Além de canalizar todos estes afetos de sua vida inter-subjetiva em suas canções – de modo a influenciar a emergência posterior de artistas como Joni Mitchell, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, Regina Spektor… – Nina Simone também era mestra em transformar em música alguns dos episódios sócio-políticos que vivenciou – o que coloca-a na companhia de figuras como Woody Guthrie e Bob Dylan.

 Birmingham4-little-girls1

Na cidade de Birmingham, no Alabama, em 1963, uma igreja batista da comunidade afroamericana é bombardeada pela Klu Klux Klan, com o saldo sinistro de quatro garotinhas mortas. Este crime racista que choca a nação – e que será documentado por um dos grandes cineastas norte-americanos, Spike Lee, em Four Little Girls – gera imensa revolta em Nina Simone, que escreve a canção de protesto “Mississipi Goddam”. Na canção, que logo torna-se uma espécie de hino dos movimentos pelos direitos civis e das lutas anti-racistas, Nina não se acanha de usar toda a força do palavrão (“God damn!”) para transmitir sua indignação diante do descalabro do ato terrorista.

martin_luther_king_jr_s_economic_dream_still_unfulfilled_42_years_later-850x960A politização e radicalização de Nina se exacerbam nos anos seguintes e ela entrega-se de corpo e alma ao Movimento Pelos Direitos Civis dos anos 1960. Em 1965, na histórica marcha liderada por Martin Luther King entre Selma e Montgomery (cuja crônica cinematográfica foi realizada recentemente pelo filme Selma, de Ava DuVernay), Nina Simone esteve lá, cantando para os manifestantes. Porém, como revelado pelo documentário, Nina Simone não era 100% fiel aos preceitos de Luther King e chegou a dizer, sem papas na língua, ao pacifista e gandhiano Doutor King: “I’m not non-violent!” 

Apesar de sua discordância em relação ao pacifismo absoluto de Martin Luther King, Nina Simone admirava-o profundamente como líder político e soube louvá-lo com uma de suas mais belas canções quando King foi assassinado. “The King Of Love Is Dead”, uma composição de Gene Taylor, estava destinada não só a arrancar cachoeiras de lágrimas dos milhões que se puseram de luto diante do cadáver de Martin Luther King, como também se transformaria num espectro a assombrar o país, com seus questionamentos contundentes sobre o que seria do amanhã depois que o amor foi mais uma vez morto a balas.

Once upon this planet earth,
Lived a man of humble birth,
Preaching love and freedom for his fellow man,

He was dreaming of a day,
Peace would come to earth to stay,
And he spread this message all across the land.

Turn the other cheek he’d plead,
Love thy neighbor was his creed,
Pain humiliation death, he did not dread

With his Bible at his side,
From his foes he did not hide,
It’s hard to think that this great man is dead. (Oh yes)

Will the murders never cease,
Are thy men or are they beasts?
What do they ever hope, ever hope to gain?

Will my country fall, stand or fall?
Is it too late for us all?
And did Martin Luther King just die in vain?

Cos he’d seen the mountain top,
And he knew he could not stop,
Always living with the threat of death ahead.

Folks you’d better stop and think
Cos we’re heading for the brink.
What will happen now that he is dead?

He was for equality,
For all people you and me,
Full of love and good will, hate was not his way.

He was not a violent man.
Tell me folks if you can,
Just why, why was he shot down the other day?

Well see he’d seen, the mountain top.
And he knew he could not stop,
Always living with the threat of death ahead.

Folks you’d better stop and think…and feel again,
For we’re heading for the brink.
What’s gonna happen now that the king of love is dead?

Nina9Influenciada pelo discurso e pelo exemplo de Malcolm X, Angela Davis, Stokely Carmichael, Medgar Evers, do partido dos Panteras Negras (Black Panthers), Nina chega à conclusão de que não há numa solução pacífica para a guerra racial nos EUA. A libertação social dos negros passa a ser vista por muitas vertentes de ativismo radical como conquistável apenas pela guerrilha armada. Tal radicalismo pode ser percebido também em figuras como Frantz Fanon ou no grande músico nigeriano Fela Kuti. Neste contexto explosivo, Nina Simone, apesar de nunca ter abraçado uma metralhadora, põe sua música a serviço desta causa libertária. Tanto que, em sua lendária apresentação no Harlem Cultural Festival, em 1969, em plena guerra do Vietnã, conclama o povo à Revolução:

A politização de Nina Simone, sua adesão à doutrina Malcolm-X-iana do “all means necessary”, é fruto de tempos conturbados em que acirram-se os conflitos raciais no país que a própria Nina apelidou de “United Snakes of America” (Cobras Unidas da América). Nesse contexto, Nina Simone recupera e reinterpreta uma canção que ficou clássica na voz de Billie Holiday, “Strange Fruit”, um hino anti-racista que trabalha com imagens poéticas sinistras e impactantes: os tais “frutos estranhos”, pendendo das árvores, são cadáveres de negros enforcados por brancos. “Black bodies swingin’ in the summer breeze…”


Strange Fruit(Tradução via Vagalume)

Outra peça clássica de seu cancioneiro político é “Backlash Blues”, escrita em parceria com Langston Hughes (1902-1967). Neste petardo rebelde, Nina vocifera contra um certo “Senhor Backlash”, que ela interpela em tom acusativo e rebelde: você aumenta meus impostos, congela meus salários, manda meus filhos para morrer no Vietnã; me dá moradia de segunda classe, escolas de segunda classe, trata todos os negros como se fossem tolos de segunda classe. Aliás, o tal do “backlash” significa um tapa com a parte posterior da mão, oposta à palma, simbolizando a atitude supremacista do branquelo espancador.

BACKLASH BLUES

Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash
Just who do think I am?
You raise my taxes, freeze my wages
And send my son to Vietnam

You give me second class houses
And second class schools
Do you think that all colored folks
Are just second class fools?
Mr. Backlash, I’m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues

When I try to find a job
To earn a little cash
All you got to offer
Is your mean old white backlash

But the world is big
Big and bright and round
And it’s full of folks like me
Who are black, yellow, beige and brown

Mr. Backlash, I’m gonna leave you
With the backlash blues

Langston Hughes

É provável que a carreira de Nina Simone pudesse ter sido comercialmente mais bem-sucedida caso ela tivesse sido menos radical em suas posições políticas. O Mercado, entidade bastante cruel, boicotou Nina Simone assim que notou seu ativismo radical anti-racista e pró-direitos civis. De todo modo, o documentário congrega vários depoimentos de Nina em que esta diz que foi compelida a assumir tais atitudes pelos eventos históricos que testemunhou. André Barcinski, em seu texto Quando A Música Importava, explora o tema:

Nina passou a cantar somente músicas de cunho político. Seus discos pararam de vender e os shows rarearam. Os assassinatos de John Kennedy (1963), Malcolm X (1965), Bobby Kennedy (1968), Martin Luther King (1968) e Fred Hampton (1969) deram a Nina a certeza de que uma guerra racial estava em curso no país, e ela passou a defender a violência contra o “domínio branco”. Uma das cenas do filme mostra a cantora perguntando à plateia em um show: “Vocês estão prontos para incendiar prédios?”. Se hoje a radicalização política de Nina Simone pode soar paranoica e agressiva, é preciso analisar o contexto da época e o passado da cantora para tentar entender suas motivações. Numa época em que amigos e políticos que ela admirava eram mortos, jovens negros eram mandados para o Vietnã em números proporcionalmente muito maiores que jovens brancos, e grupos armados como os Panteras Negras prometiam incendiar o país, todo o ressentimento de uma infância passada em um lugar segregado, onde os pais não podiam sequer entrar nos teatros onde Nina tocava piano, fez explodir nela uma fúria incontrolável. Por quase dez anos, Nina Simone sabotou a própria carreira. Defendeu o poder negro “por todos os meios necessários”, aproximou-se de grupos radicais e criticou artistas negros que, segundo ela, faziam concessões ao mercado.

Slavery

Lorraine_Hansberry

Lorraine Hansberry (1930-1965)

Prenunciando o espírito que daria o tom de várias vertentes do movimento Hip Hop – se Gil Scott-Heron é o “vovô do rap”, Nina Simone pode ser considerada como sua madrinha nutriz! – a arte de Nina também inclui um forte elemento de valorização identitária, de auto-afirmação da negritude, algo exemplificado bem pela canção “Young, Gifted and Black”. Esta música foi escrita em memória de uma das melhores amigas de Nina Simone, a escritora Lorraine Hasberry, autora de Raisin’ in the Sun, falecida aos 34 anos de idade. Mais uma vez, a canção tornou-se um hino para todos aqueles que eram “jovens, talentosos e negros”, conclamando à uma atitude de auto-estima e cabeça-erguida que lembra um pouco James Brown e seu hit “Say It Loud: I’m Black and I’m Proud”.

Por essas e outras, Nina Simone é uma daquelas celebridades musicais que não se apaga como as estrelas comerciais mais vulgares, que navegam a crista do hype para serem esquecidas no próximo verão. Nina Simone construiu uma obra cujo legado sobrevive e sobreviverá pela qualidade estética, pela expressividade afetiva, pelo caráter de espelho de toda uma época. Não tenho dúvidas de que esta rebelde com causa foi uma das figuras mais geniais que já pudemos testemunhar em ação diante de um piano e de um microfone.

O lançamento recente do documentário What Happened, Miss Simone? e do disco tributo Nina Revisited (com versões primorosas cantadas por Lauryn Hill e outras figuras contemporâneas) só reativa a chama desta inextinguível fogueira humana. Nina não só viveu e cantou, dando-nos tudo o que tinha, como é cada vez mais inadequado conjugá-la no passado: ela ainda vive e ainda canta, pássaro negro exuberante e sublime que, para citar um poema de Maya Angelou, canta tão belamente pois está em rebelião aberta contra as gaiolas e celebra sempre a liberdade.

A liberdade vivenciada, a liberdade ausente, a ambiguidade da liberdade cuja ausência sofremos e cuja presença deliciosamente desfrutamos, tudo isso anima o canto de Nina a ponto de torná-la uma das vozes mais libertárias que conheço – ainda que não ruja como Zack de la Rocha e não faça as macacagens hardcore de Jello Biafra. Em “I Wish I Knew How It Feels To Be Free”, Nina Simone talvez tenha nos presenteado com a mais sintética expressão de sua vontade de liberdade:

“I wish I knew how
It would feel to be free
I wish I could break
All the chains holding me
I wish I could say
All the things that I should to say
Say ‘em loud say ‘em clear
For the whole round world to hear.”

A versão do Cold Blood, grupo psicodélico de San Francisco, 1960s, com uma vocalista meio Janis Joplin:

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Nina66

Caged Bird

By Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom

Eduardo Carli de Moraes
Goiânia, Outubro de 2015

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LEIA TAMBÉM: ANDRÉ BARCINSKIJORNAL GGN – OBVIOUS – NINA SIMONE.COMDAZED – BIOGRAPHY.COM

* * * *

ALGUNS VÍDEOS RECOMENDADOS

* * * *

DOWNLOADS DE ÁLBUNS COMPLETOS:folder

DOWNLOAD DO CD COMPLETO:
NINA SIMONE
Antologia das Canções de Protesto
Acesse via Google Drive

Playlist files:

  1. Nina Simone – By Any Means Necessary (Interview) (1:13)
  2. Nina Simone – Revolution (4:40)
  3. Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddamn (Interview) (1:54)
  4. Nina Simone – Mississippi Goddamn (4:31)
  5. Nina Simone – Old Jim Crow (Interview) (1:07)
  6. Nina Simone – Old Jim Crow (2:19)
  7. Nina Simone – Backlash Blues (Interview) (2:45)
  8. Nina Simone – Backlash Blues (3:07)
  9. Nina Simone – Four Women (Interview) (2:14)
  10. Nina Simone – Four Women (4:09)
  11. Nina Simone – Nobody (Interview) (1:26)
  12. Nina Simone – Nobody (5:08)
  13. Nina Simone – I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free (4:53)
  14. Nina Simone – Strange Fruit (Interview) (0:59)
  15. Nina Simone – Strange Fruit (3:28)
  16. Nina Simone – Definition of an Artist (3:04)
  17. Nina Simone – Why? The King of Love is Dead (9:20)
  18. Nina Simone – To Be Young Gifted and Black (Interview) (1:01)
  19. Nina Simone – To Be Young Gifted and Black (3:40)

BAIXAÊ
Shortlink para compartilhar: http://bit.ly/1NW0ald

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BAIXE TAMBÉM:




“It’s better to burn out than to fade away” – 20 Anos Sem Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

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It seems to me quite ironic and ambiguous that a band named Nirvana was actually the living and struggling embodiment of what Buddhists call Samsara. As if he was bound to the wheel of craving and suffering, Kurt Cobain screamed his guts out just like I imagine Prometheus (so beautifully depicted in Rubens’ painting) screamed day after day as the eagle devoured his liver. Nirvana is perhaps the most tragic rock and roll band there was, seen from the perspective of Cobain’s death, but it ‘s also one of the most exciting pages of rock history in the 1990s. It inspired us, with its punkish courage, to take mainstream culture by assault. Off with commercial shitty kitsch! He wanted art to be undiluted expression of raw and true emotion, communicated through the means of songs bursting with juvenile energy, suicidal tendencies, drug experiences, Beatlemania, and an up-bringing in what he called “a punk rock world”.

 He violently departed from us, 20 years ago, in April 1994, by blowing his brains out with a shotgun on his 1-million-dollar mansion, chez lui on Trigger-Happy America. When he chose suicide as a way-out-of-the-Samsarian-mess, his daughter Frances was 20 months old and couldn’t possibly understand anything about the struggles of a heroin addict with his condition as an international pop-superstar. Singing as if he was a tree rooted in dark angry soil, his voice seemed to arise from an abyss of suffering, especially located in an intense point of pain inside his belly. That invisible wound made tremendously audible by his music rang so true and filled with authenticity, in an era of poseurs and fakers and hair-metal yuppie cowshit. Lester Bangs once wrote that “expression of passion was why music was invented in the first place”, and Cobain also seemed to believe in this – and he wasn’t ashamed to put his “dark” emotional side, from depression and paranoia to sociophobia and alienation, to craft the punk-rock hymns that turned him unwillingly into The Spokesman Of A Generation. Extraordinarily capable of expressing his feelings, Cobain’s heart poured out of himself like lava from a volcano, letting us peek through a sonic keyhole into the labyrinths of an anguished life seeking release and craving for pain to end.

Cobain’s musicianship was spectacularly exciting and innovative – even though he borrowed a lot from a similar heavy, distorted and fast guitar-sound, similar to the one invented and mastered in previous decades by Johnny Ramones and Mick Joneses – he created out of that something that was distinguishable his own. Cherishing intensity rather than complexity, and emotional catharsis more than rational self-controlness, Nirvana’s music carried within it some much power that the whole thing mushroomed into one of those rares episode in music history when a band becomes History, defines an Era, before burning-out instead of fading-away. I call them “The Exploding Stars”. I would argue, If you permit me to trip a little bit on some stoned hypotheses, that Cobain’s voice spoke to millions, and his music stirred up such an intense commotion, because of the authentic and desperate artistical expression that he was able to create out of his Samsarian suffering. In 1991, the kitsch of American pop culture – from Michael Jackson to Guns’N’Roses – was suddenly kicked in the butt by the 1990s equivalent to MC5’s Kick Out The Jams to the 1960s and Nevermind The Bollocks, Here’ The Sex Pistols to the 1970s.  

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And here we are, 20 years after he took a shortcut into that land which no voyager ever comes back from (like Shakespeare’s Hamlet said), discussing his legacy and trying to understand his life and his death. Violent deaths occur every day and all the time, of course, and why should the death of a rock star be made so much fuzz about? The thing is: American Culture is deeply influenced by the realm of Pop, which is a money-making-machine mainly, of course, but sometimes explodes out of control and becomes a cultural force that manages to transcend the markets. It becomes something to be dealt with by Art History, by Sociology, by Philosophy, by Anthropology, by Existential Psychology etc. Or do you perhaps think that the more than 60 people who committed copycat suicides after Cobain’s demise in 1994 related to Cobain only as consumers do with manufacturers of products? Could we possibly say that the more than 5.000 people who went to his funeral, and joined in a candlelight vigil, were merely mourning because they had lost one of their hired entertainers? What about more than 50 million records sold (how many billions of downloads, I wonder?): did all these listeners heard Cobain just as a manufactured commodity? No! Cobain had an authenticity arising from the trueness of feeling underlying his music, and this set him apart from everything that was going on in “Mainstream American Culture” in that era.

Nirvana kicked the door to the ground for Underground America to step into the spotlight in 1991, “The Year that Punk Broke” (when Sonic Youth signed to a major; when Pearl Jam and Soundgarden skyrocketed to the top of charts; when Seattle’s scene became “The Big Thing” in a process juicily conveyed by Hype! , the documentary). Violent and untimely deaths happened all around Cobain while he experienced and interacted with people from the music scenes of Aberdeen, Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle. Prior to Cobain’s suicide, there had been other tragedies in Seattle Rock City: for example, Mia Zapata‘s cold-blooded murder in July 1993, when the singer-songwriter of The Gits (one of the awesomest “grunge” bands that never made it to the Mass Media…) was raped and killed after leaving a bar in Seattle. Or the fatal-OD that took to an early grave Andrew Wood, singer in Mother Love Bone (whose remaining members went on to build Temple of The Dog and then Pearl Jam).

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TWO GRUNGY TRAGEDIES BEFORE COBAIN:  MIA ZAPATA’s murder (watch below the full The Gits doc) and ANDREW WOOD’s fatal OD (listen below to the tribute album by Temple Of The Dog, wich contains the grungy-hymn in which Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell share vocal duties, “Hunger Strike”).

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Suicide is common currency in rock’n’roll mythology. The Who had screamed in the 1960s, for a whole generation to hear: “I hope I die before I get old”. Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My” stated that “it’s better to burn out than to fade away” – a phrase later to become one of the most quoted from Cobain’ suicide letter. The Dead-at-27 Club had already a plentiful of members – Hendrix, Morrison, Janis… – when Nirvana’s lead singer joined them on this fraternity of bones. His originality was in his means-of-death: he was the first of them to have commited suicide. But did he really choose to leave life in order to become myth? Or such ambitions were not the case for someone craving to escape a labyrinth of angst, rage, stomach-aches, annoying fame, never-ending tours and chronical dissatisfaction? To get back to my point in the beggining of this trip: isn’t suicide, in Cobain’s case, an succesfull attempt simply to blow to smithereens the whole damned Samsara? After all, this man was an extremist not only in art but also in life, and it’s quite possible he entertained extreme notions about what Nirvana was all about.

 Nirvana’s music was not Zen at all – it was the sound of fury delivered in packages of Beatlesque melody and punkish attitude. When, 20 years ago today, he chose utter self-destruction, this was hardly a surprising ending for someone who had talked openly about suicide for years and years, and who had previously attempted it some times before, and who almost named the follow-up to Nevermind with the phrase I Hate Mysef And I Want To Die… Not surprising, but still mysterious and fascinating and hard to fully understand. Some writers and interpreters see Cobain’s suicide as something despicable, and criticize him for being a sell-out who couldn’t enjoy his success, or a kid who couldn’t stand his “tummy-ache” and chose some dumb radical medicine. In his article “An Icon of Alienation”, Jonathan Freedland writes, for example, about Cobain’s Last Days (also portrayed in cinema by Gus Van Sant):

“Generation X-ers are meant to be the slacker generation, yet here was the slacker-in-chief living the yuppie dream: married, padding around a $1.1 million luxury mansion with a garden for his baby daughter to play in, and Microsoft and Boeing executives for neighbours. It proved to be no refuge for Kurt Cobain, the boy who had come from blue-collar nowhere and made himself an international star and millionaire. Holed up inside the house overlooking the perfume-scented lake, he pumped his veins full of heroin, wrote his rambling suicide note, and did so much damage to his head that police could only identify his body through fingerprints. Dental records were no use, because nothing was left of his mouth.” – JONATHAN FREEDLAND, An Icon Of Alienation.

Some say some sort of suicide gene or tragic curse ran in the Cobain family: three of Kurt’s uncles had killed themselves. But the picture, of course, is much more complex than the “family tree” explanations wants to admit. It’s well known that Kurt Cobain was deeply pained both by stomach-aches and by childhood traumas (he was, every journalist repeated to exhaustion, the “son of a broken home”). His heroin-addiction, which he justified as a means of self-medication, it seems to relate also to some frantic need to numb his existential discomfort and disgust, to reach periodically some “artificial paradises” similar to the ones experienced by Baudelaire, De Quincey, Burroughs, Ken Kesey and tons of other artists and mystics. But no explanation of his bloody choice of escape from life can be convincing without a discussion about Celebrity, Fame, Success. As Will Hermes wrote in Rolling Stone magazine: “The singer-songwriter, who wrestled with medical problems and the drugs he took to keep them at bay,  was also deeply conflicted about his fame, craving and rejecting it.”

That’s what makes Nirvana so interesting: a punk band kicking out the jams in Sub Pop records turns into the highest-selling band in the world and becomes rich on the payroll of a major record company – Geffen. I would like to attempt to reflect briefly upon some of the reasons that explain Cobain’s suicide, but without venturing to give a comprehensive biography of the man or his band – a job already done brilliantly by Charles Cross’s Louder Than Heaven, by the Nirvana bio written by Everett True, or by the documentary About a Son by A. J. Schnack.

Let’s head back to 1991, when Nevermind exploded into the mainstream pop arena and became a cultural phenomenon of huge proportions. This landmark album wasn’t only a big commercial hit, destined to sell more than 30 million copies worldwide. It wasn’t only one of the greatest rock’n’roll albums ever made, with songs so powerful that Simon Williams describes them as “savage indictments of the rock ethos, eye-bulging, larynx-blistering screamalongs”. It wasn’t only a passing fancy of youngsters who would completely forget about the band when the next wave of pop novelties came along. Nevermind was an era-defining masterpiece of epic proportions, the most important album of the whole grunge era, the record that stands out in the 1990s as something unique and unsurpassed. It kicked out the jams with its raw power and heartfelt catharsis, and finally punk rock aesthetics and ethics became common currency and were delivered to the astonished masses. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, a song named jokingly after a deodorant, and in which Cobain said he was merely ripping off The Pixies, took MTV by storm in 1991 and buried for awhile the Disco-Yuppie-Crap and the Hair-Metal-Bullshit. It kick-started the Grunge Era and opened the gates wide open for the Seattle scene to become immensely influential through Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, The Screaming Trees, and many others. For the first time ever in the U.S., it seemed like Punk Rock was gonna win its battle and inject rebelliousness and dissent into the veins of American suffering from a hangover after the Reagan-years in Shopping Centerish Yuppie America.

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 “Nirvana have also been seen in sociological terms: as defining a new generation, the twentysomething ‘slackers’ who have retreated from life; as telling unattractive home truths about a country losing its empire and hit by recession; as representing the final, delayed impact of British punk on America. They have also shocked people by trashing male gender codes: kissing each other on the national network show Saturday Night Live, appearing in dresses in the video for their single ‘In Bloom’, doing pro-gay benefits. We may be more used to this in Britain, but America is a country with much more machismo in its popular culture. A sensational appearance on last year’s globally broadcast MTV Awards, where they smashed their equipment and mocked rock competitors Guns N’Roses, sealed their status as America’s bad boys…” JON SAVAGE, Sounds Dirty – The Truth About Nirvana

 Nirvana wasn’t political like The Clash, but yet they certainly did a political statement with their career. Kurt Cobain shoots himself in the head and his brains get splattered all over the American Dream – that thing that, George Carlin said, “you have to be asleep to believe in”. Nirvana was much more about a provocation, à la William Burroughs (Cobain’s favorite writer), on the despised Square Society of White America. It’s punkish agression against Yuppie bullshit. It states that music shouldn’t be seen only as product or merchandise, and that it can convey emotions that can “infect” large portions of society with its groove, its stamina, its mind-expansion and energy-raising powers.

Kurt Cobain could be described by psychopathologists as clinically depressed or bi-polar – it’s known he had familiarity with Ritalins and Lithiums and other creations of the Pharmacological Industries in Capitalist America. But Nirvana’s music is not only a downer – on the contrary, Nevermind cointained so much power that it seemed like it was capable of awakening a whole generation out of its lethargy and inaction. But Cobain couldn’t and wouldn’t be the “leader of a generation”, the preacher telling in the microfone for the converted masses which way to follow. He wouldn’t become a parody of himself (“I hope I die before I turn into Pete Townsend”, he said), he wouldn’t be a happy millionaire smiling for the papparazzis, he simply wouldn’t conform to letting Nirvana become a sell-out act of merely market-wise relevance. With his death, he turned Nirvana into a symbol for decades to come, a band never to be forgotten.

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 “The sleeve of Nevermind shows a baby swimming underwater towards a dollar bill on a fish hook. The intended meaning is clear: the loss of innocence, the Faustian contract that usually comes with money. Take it, but if you do, you’re hooked for life. It’s a parable of Nirvana’s current dilemma: they’ve taken the bait, but the contradictions of their success are threatening to tear them apart. How can the members of Nirvana retain their integrity, which is very important to them, in a situation which demands constant compromise? How can they sing from the point of view of an outsider now that they’re in a privileged position? How can they suffer relentless worldwide media exposure and still retain, in Grohl’s words, ‘the spontaneity and the energy of something fresh and new’ that has marked their career?” – JON SAVAGE

“Teenage angst paid off well, now I’m bored all old”: that was the statement that began In Utero’s sonic ride. In it, Cobain wants to take us with him on his downward spiral, never afraid to let the songs show his inner confusion and Samsarian suffering. He didn’t believe in a loving God acting as a Daddy up above on the clouds, looking out for their pet-children, but rather was seduced by Buddhist notions, for example that of Karma. Nirvana’s music seems like some sort of ritual of Karmic cleansing, in which Cobain attempts, through a visceral outpouring of emotions, especially the ones that are burdensome, to attain some release.

But he didn’t arrive at no Enlightnenment – not even plain and simple piece of mind. In Rome, March 1994, he attempts suicide with more than 50 pills of Roipnol. He couldn’t stand the never-ending tours, the stupid interviews, the persecution by papparazis, the fans acting like Neanderthals, the need to repeat for the thousandth time “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – even in those nights when we didn’t felt like doing it. He simply wasn’t able to “enjoy” the ride of popstardom inside the Commercial Machinery of Profit Seeking Corporate America. When Rolling Stone did a cover issue with Nirvana, Kurt Cobain wore a t-shirt that read: ‘CORPORATE MAGAZINES STILL SUCK’. Even tough he hated Corporate America, he was immersed in it, and it had the means for him to take his message to larger audiences instead of limiting himself to the narrow world of punk-rock and indie concerts where you only preach to the converted. Nirvana never did corporate rock, but instead they did dangerous music that the industry soon discovered that resounded with millions of people worldwide. To call them “sell-outs” is narrow-mindedness. They tried instead to deeply transform Mainstream culture by taking it by storm. This is one of the most influential bands in the history of rock because it inspired us to reclaim the airwaves out of the hands of those fuckers Terence McKenna talks about in “Reclaim Your Mind”:

He never felt at ease or at home under the spotlight of mass media, gossip magazines, commercial TV shows. Always a punkish outsider and underdog that never quite fitted into the mainstream’s machinery of popstardom, he identified himself with feminists, oddballs, weirdos and other non-conformist and eccentric individuals and urban tribes. He despised pop icons like M. Jackson or Axl Rose, and loved The Pixies, The Raincoats, Young Marble Giants, all sorts of lo-fi and low-budget underground “indie” stuff. Even tough proto-grungers such as Husker Du’s Bob Mould, Black Flag’s Henry Rollins or The Replacements’ Paul Weterberg done something similar to Cobain both musically and lyrically, neither exploded internationally like Nirvana to wide-spread impact on thousands of lives.

I remember him as punk rock kid from a fucked-up town filled with macho-men rednecks, and who expressed his rage against mainstream American culture with extraordinary talent. I remember him as an aesthetic extremist who loved William Burroughs stoned literature, and who entertained himself in his Aberdeen years with peculiar fun such as watching Faces of Death after eating hallucinogenic mushrooms. I remember him also as a sometimes sensitive and tender guy who had pet-turtles in his bathtub and hated in his guts all sorts of homophobia, misoginy and Neanderthal stupidity. I remember him as a music geek that loved underground music and did everything in his power to invite his audience to listen to his favorite “indie” artists (like Pixies, Breeders, Meat Puppets, Vaselines, Daniel Johnston, Beat Happening, Flipper, Bikini Kill, Half Japanese, Billy Childish, Butthole Surfers…).

David Stubbs, in his article “I Hate Myself And I Want to Die”, writes:

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“Rock’n’roll mythology is fed and defined by its occasional deaths. Usually, these are due to some excess or other – driving too fast, getting too high, taking too much, going too far, the romantic pushing back of life’s envelope, testing the limits, wanting too much, wanting it now, forfeiting tomorrow in the bargain. Rock’n’roll mythology dictates that its heroes die because they wanted to live too much. Kurt Cobain, however, didn’t want to live. He wanted to die.”

It can be said that he’s the most perfect embodiment in rock music of  Nihilism, that cultural phenomenon which Nietzsche predicted, in the 19th century, that would become wide-spread. Cobain radically acted upon his nihilism, towards his self-destruction, what sets him apart from other famous nihilists, like Emil Cioran or Arthur Schopenhauer, who died of old age and so-called “natural causes”.

The man died, but his deeds are still with us, haunting us like Prometheu’s scream as he’s being eaten by an eagle, inspiring us like a Punk Monument to raw power in an age of slumber, provoking us like a tragic character which awakens us to a life that ain’t no picnic. There’s reason to mourn and get the paralysing blues when we considerer Cobain’s suicide, but there’s also reason to cherish and celebrate a life that has left a legacy that millions of us feel that have enriched our lives. Cobain struggled in Samsara and that makes him a member of a brotherhood called Humanity. Nirvana always sounded to me like the music of a brother, expressing what we, his brothers in suffering, also experienced but were unable to express so powerfully and unforgettably as he did.

[By Awestruck Wanderer]

“I’m worse at what I do best…” – 20 years without Kurt Cobain (1967-1994), PART II – Quotes from his interviews; “About a Son” (full doc); Nirvana’s Discography (stream or download)…

MTV Unplugged: Nirvana

“I’m a spokesman for myself. It just so happens that there’s a bunch of people that are concerned with what I have to say. I find that frightening at times because I’m just as confused as most people. I don’t have the answers for anything. I don’t want to be a fucking spokesperson.”

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“I definitely have a problem with the average macho man – the strong-oxen, working-class type – because they have always been a threat to me. I’ve had to deal with them most of my life – being taunted and beaten up by them in school, just having to be around them and be expected to be that kind of person when you grow up. I definitely feel closer to the feminine side of the human being than I do the male – or the American idea of what a male is supposed to be. Just watch a beer commercial and you’ll see what I mean.”

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“If you’re a sexist, racist, homophobe, or basically an asshole, don’t buy this CD. I don’t care if you like me, I hate you. “

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“I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had voted me Most Likely To Kill Everyone At A High School Dance.”

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“I don’t want to sound egotistical, but I know our music is better than a majority of the commercial shit that’s been crammed down people’s throats for a long time.”

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“All the albums I ever liked delivered a great song one after another: Aerosmith’s ‘Rocks’, The Sex Pistols’ ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’, Led Zeppelin’s ‘II’, AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’. (…) I really liked R.E.M., and I was into all kinds of old ’60s stuff. (…) With ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ I was trying to write the ultimate po song. I was basically trying to rip off the Pixies. I have to admit it.. When I head the Pixies for the first time, I connected with that band so heavily I should have been in that band – or at least in a Pixies cover band. We used their sense of dynamics, being soft and quiet and then loud and hard…”

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“Birds scream at the top of their lungs in horrified hellish rage every morning at daybreak to warn us all of the truth, but sadly we don’t speak bird.”

– Kurt Cobain
(1967 – 1994)

You might also like:

About a Son

“Kurt Cobain: About a Son” (A Film By A. J. Schnack)

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NIRVANA’s DISCOGRAPHY:

 [DOWNLOAD FULL DISCOGRAPHY]

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LIVE AT READING – 1992

Unhappy Endings of the Sixties: The Doors by Greil Marcus

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“In 1968 dread was the currency. It was what kept you up all night, and not just the night Bobby Kennedy was shot… Dread was why every day could feel like a trap. (…) The feeling that the country was coming apart – that, for what looked and felt like a casually genocidal war in Vietnam, the country had commited crimes so great they could not be paid, that the country deserved to live out its time in its own ruins – was so visceral that the presidential election felt like a sideshow. In this setting, the Doors were a presence. They were a band people felt they had to see – not to learn, to find out, to hear the message, to get the truth, but to be in the presence of a group of people who appeared to accept the present moment at face value. In their whole demeanor – unsmiling, no rock’n’roll sneer but a performance of mistrust and doubt – they didn’t promise happy endings. Their best songs said happy endings weren’t interesting, and they weren’t deserved.” (GREIL MARCUS, The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to 5 Mean Years, pgs. 95-96)

greil marcusThe least I can say in praise of the writings of Mr Greil Marcus is this: they expanded my horizons on music, they made me understand music’s presence inside culture, its historical significance, or, to sum things up, the context in which music arises and acts. I wouldn’t call Greil Marcus only a music critic, the one who judges aesthetically upon the merits or vices of certain musical productions. Greil Marcus is also some sort of bold trans-disciplinary intellectual maverick, who knows no fixed boundaries or forbidden signs keeping him from moving all around between different “fields” – like History, Sociology, Psychology, Literature. I’d call him an historian of culture, someone who writes about our present as a culture from an historical perspective, and also a gifted “painter of cultural landscapes”. He’s certainly among the most well-informed and intelligent music critics I’ve read, and he’s certainly – together with guys such as Lester Bangs, Simon Reynolds and Nick Kent – one of the greatest thinkers of pop music and its underground currents. With his prose, Greil Marcus seems to paint portraits of our Western civilization much more than merely commenting on artists – such as Bob Dylan or Van Morrisson – we has written so much about. To paint the big picture, he doesn’t shy away from discussing movies – like Wild in The Streets or Pump Up The Volume – or to quote Thomas Pynchon’s novels in order to set the mood for his musings on  Jim Morrison.

My appreciation of The Doors has been greatly improved, and my horizons about them have been radically expanded, after I’ve read Greil Marcus impressive book about them. It’s incredibly tought-provoking. Suddenly The Doors were not only a rock and roll band (and a damn good one!), but also a symptom of an historical epoch. A symbol of the dark side of the Sixties. A “dystopic” band, outstranged in an era of Utopia was also an important part of the cultural landscape.  The Doors were like a psycho who stabs in the heart the flowery dreams of the peace-and-lovin’, tree-hugging, pot-smoking acid-heads known as “Hippies”. The Doors were more like dark flowers bursting out of a swampy, bleak age: that of the napalm bombing and other techniques of genocide used against Vietnam (and later Cambodia); of Charles Manson’s cult killing frenzy that sent the whole Los Angeles drowning in dread; and, as “The Other Side Of Woodstock”, the deaths of Altamont

After reading this book by Marcus, I began wondering: perhaps the task of the music critic isn’t merely passing judgement – either cherishing or condemning the artists he’s writing about – but instead attempting to share with his readers the big picture, the cultural context in which some musical phenomenon emerges. That’s what Marcus accomplishes when he paints the whole Zeitgeist that surrounded The Doors: we are reminded of some of the tragedies of those times in Los Angeles (like the bloodshed caused by Charles Mansonites), which appear as the dark side of the Flower Power utopia. The Door are “riders on the storm”, like “dogs without a bone”, and there are killers on the roads (and also inside the White House and the Pentagon…).

In Marcus’ pages, we journey through some of Jim Morrison’s most extreme behavioural excesses. Like that fateful night in Miami when he was arrested for his use of obscene language and offensive nudity (some say he only pretended to jerk off… not a big deal, and certainly not a thing that should get anyone in jail!). He’s certainly not the first rock’n’roller, nor will the last, to be caged like a wild beast by authorities who felt their sacred institutions had been mocked and debunked by these subversive artists that needed to be spanked into silence.

Marcus also makes the reader imagine Jim Morrison in the process of drinking himself to death, while he struggles to write the soundtrack for the agony of a drunken swan who has consumed too much booze and too much Rimbaud. We are taken in a roller-coaster ride on the wings of The Doors’ poetry and music, where one can sense a celebration of Dyonisian eroticism mixed with an obssession with Death and Psychosis. We are invited to understand the band as an occurrence in the history of culture that continues on a path treaded not only in rock’n’roll, but within a broader cultural landscape that includes poets, playwriters and mystics:

“The Doors saw themselves as much in the tradition of fine art – a tradition within the tradition, the stream of art maudit that carried Blake, Poe, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Nietzsche, Jarry, Buñuel, Artaud, and Céline to their doorsteps – as in the tradition of rock’n’roll. For them rock’n’roll itself was already a tradition, full of heroes and martyrs…” – GREIL MARCUS, A lifetime of listening to five mean years – The Doors (New York: Public Affairs, 2011, Pg. 132)

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The Doors were surely innovators in the sixties, both musically and lyrically, and Greil Marcus points out some of the elements that made Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzakek and John Densmore an outstanding cultural phenomenon. When “Light My Fire” exploded, skyrocketing to the top of the charts, and the band’s debut album was released to wide-spread impact on the U.S. rock scene, most people knew that this guys weren’t deemed to become a one hit wonder to be forgotten in the next summer. They sounded more subversive (“Break on Through” antecipates The Sex Pistols) and less optimistic than most “hippie bands” that celebrated Peace & Love. Even tough The Doors also celebrated consciouness expansion psychedelics (starting with the name of the band, a tribute  to Aldous Huxley’s The Doors of Perception), there was also a quite bleak and scary mood in some of the groups’ songs, like the nightmarish explorations of the darkest corners of the human mind in “The End” (a song about, among other things, a psycho who acts out Freud’s Oedipus Complex, kills his father, and… you know what!). In the following words, Marcus describes a moment in the The Doors’ path where darkness was closing in and the band was falling apart:

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 “When The Doors recorded ‘Roadhouse Blues’ in November 1969, Morrison’s arrest in Miami the previous March, the three months of concerts cancelled everywhere in the country that followed, the felony trial looming in the next year, the likelihood of prison, and after that the end of the band, were only the most obvious demons. The specter of the Manson slaughter hung over every Hollywood icon, hanger-on, or rock’n’roll musician as if it were L.A.’s Vietnam. Everyone – people who had been in Manson’s orbit, like Neil Young, or anyone who knew someone who knew someone who had, which was everyone – believed there was a hit list, held by those Mansonites waiting patiently, on the outside, for the word of the messiah. There were reasons to believe that the Manson bands were just a first brigade – a lumpen avant-garde, you could say – for a web of cults biding their time for years, since the late 1940s, some said, when the British sex-magick maven Aleister Crowley, John Parsons, the founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and L. Ron Hubbard practiced Satanist rituals in Pasadena, determined to summon the whore of Babylon and conceive a living Antichrist.” (MARCUS, 2011, pg. 156-57)

We all know that The Doors’ career has no happy ending: the music is over when Jim Morrison, 27 years old, is found dead in a bathtub in Paris. To understand what went wrong, Greil Marcus explores the lyrics and poems of The Doors’ lead-singer, revealing there what may be called an epic battle, within a human heart, between Eros and Thanatos. It’s always hard, when dealing with Jim Morrison’s poetry, to separate the life-affirming from the self-destructive tendencies. When he invites the listener to a shared experience of “setting the night on fire”, he might be simply talking about of heated and sweaty sex encounter, some rock and rolling in the carnal sense of the expression, but the same song, as you may remember, evokes the images of a “funeral pyre” and of “wallowing in the mire”. The desire for the flame of life to burn with more intensity, with a brighter fire, seems to always have an anguish, arising from consciousness of mortality, underlying it, setting a “mood” for it. As tough the Doors music wanted to hint at the fact that, similarly to the stars that we witness burning in the dark of space, life’s light shines in a backdrop of mortality and finiteness.

 “Before you slip into unconsciousness I’d like to have a another kiss. Another flashing chance at bliss Another kiss, another kiss…”

As Greil Marcus points out, these verses from “The Crystal Ship” can be interpreted simply as a celebration of love’s blisses and thrills, but it also can mean something way darker – like a suicide pact. “To slip into unconsciousness” can mean simply falling asleep, but it also can be read as death approaching, the desire for a farewell-kiss. Even tough the lyrical content can be felt by the listener as a beautiful statement about the delights of lovers, it also can be read as a sympton of painful and  insatiable desire, of Eros’ unquenchable thirst. Greil Marcus’ interpretations got me thinking about this paradox that can be perceived in many of The Doors’ songs: the celebration of Eros as a life-force side-by-side with the painful striving that seems never to lead to full satisfaction (a theme also explicitly adressed by well-known songs by The Rolling Stones and The Replacements, among many others). The “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” motto, the feeling of being always singing the “Unsatisfied Man Blues”, may well be one of most powerful and reocurring themes of popular music, an enduring element that unites the musical productions of several different epochs.

Greil Marcus book provides an interesting journey for everyone willing to explore the mysteries of Jim Morrison and The Doors, but its merits transcends this: he wrote almost a treatise about the Sixties whole cultural landscape. In his attempt to understand Youth Culture in the 60s, he refrains from a simple-minded and naive praise-singing for the so-called “Woodstock Era”. He invites us to recognize gratefully its merits, but also to question those years with critical eyes. In Greil Marcus’ understanding, rock’n’roll is obviously a powerful cultural force because its greatest artists are considered by the masses as heroes and role-models, whose behaviour thousands (or even millions) of people cherish, admire and attempt to reproduce. Figures like Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon or Janis Joplin act as well-known cultural icons whose lifestyle and creativity inspire large portions of mortals to transcend their own limitations. They act like magnets summoning us to be more like them: creative, autonomous, rebellious, innovative, awe-inspiring, beautifully expressive and emotionally engaging. But – as Greil Marcus argues – one of the dangers we face in this process is this: the apathy and inaction of the masses, who are satisfied with a role of passive spectators and consumers. Marcus points out, for example:

“The Sixties are most generously described as a time when people took part – when they stepped out of themselves and acted in public, as people who didn’t know what would happen next, but were sure that acts of true risk and fear would produce something different from what they had been raised to take for granted. You can find that spirit in the early years of the Civil Rights movement, where some people paid for their wish to act with their lives, and you can find it in certain songs. But the Sixties were also a time when people who could have acted, and even those who did, or believed they did, formed themselves into an audience that most of all wanted to watch. ‘The Whole World Is Watching’ was a stupid irony: people went into the streets, they shouted, gave speeches, surrounded buildings, blocked the police, and then rushed home to watch themselves on the evening news, to be an audience for their own actions…” (p. 56)

For some decades we have been conditioned by the Entertainment Industry, the whole Show Business pervasive environment, that we, “the masses”, shouldn’t think of ourselves as nothing but passive consumers, buying products that enrich stars that are already millionaires. Unfortunately, that’s the way things usually happen: when an artist of outstanding talent and powerful skills of expression arises – like Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison – they tend to get destroyed by the “economical-commercial” environment where they see themselves thrown into. They tend to die at 27 (or at little bit earlier or later), tragically quiting from their pop-star positions. It happened to Janis, Jimi, Jim – and then to Cobain, an then to Amy, and so on and so on… I’m tempted to say, especulating mentally about it, that to die at 27 is not only a re-ocurring event for pop stars, but it says something important about pop-stardom itself. The cultural sickness that, it seems to me, Greil Marcus’s book is aiming to denounce, is the process of idolatry that goes on between we, “the masses”, and those we very sintomatically call “our idols”. 

Once again, The Doors is an excellent example: Jim Morrison died young, but then became a myth, an idol, a sex symbol. His physical body began decomposing in a Paris bathtub when the young musician and poet was 27, but even today – much more than 27 years have gone by after his death… – he’s still an object of some collective adoration (it might be shrinking, but it survives). He left life to enter History, one might say, but I’d rather say he’s voice still echoes among us – and his demise scares us, still, because we can’t fully understand it. Nor can we fully understand the process that lead another 27-year-old international popstar to blow his brains out with a shotgun in 1994. Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain, it appears to me, got crushed by the machinery of popstardom. When you become a popstar (I suppose, never having been one!), you might get the spotlights, the paparazzis, the magazine covers, the fancy cars to drive to the sold-out concerts, but what comes along, as its downside, is often underestimated. You get sick and tired of hearing stupid and futile gossip about you in the newspapers “social columns”. You get sick and tired of being asked to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Light My Fire” for the thousandth time… And most people of the aptly titled “Audience” don’t care to be nothing but audience – nothing but passive receivers of a message, a flock of sheep beneath the idolized figure of the musical messiah, who rains down his dictates from the pulpit of the stage.

Instead of autonomy, idolatry breeds passivity. Instead of the independence and willingfulness stated in the Punk ethics of “do it yourself!”, idolatry and popstardom tend to condition us to passively consume messages provided by people we pay so they can express themselves, while we remain without expression – and thus without real significance. Or, to sum things up, as Greil Marcus puts its: many people payed for tickets and went to see The Doors live because they wanted to watch someone being freer and more expressive than themselves. But after the concert ended, and they returned to their day-to-day life, they continued in a passive position, that of consumers of art made by others, they didn’t become artists themselves,  lighting up their own fires inspired by that fire the artist had tried to spread around him like an incendiary!…

This whole business of idolatry and popstardom is obviously breeding disasters – and of the re-ocurring kind. When we transform a flesh-and-blood human being into an idol, and expect him or her to act for us, to express ourselves in our place, and most of all to tell us what to do and how to live, we’re rennouncing autonomy and responsability, making ourselves puppets that place their fates in the hands of the idol. He become an audience that can only receive, or mimic, but that doesn’t get truly transformed in agents.

Thrown into this bizarre hall of deforming mirrors called the Commercial Media, artists hailed to popstardom have this strange reocurring tendency to freak out and die young. I wouldn’t claim to understand all the complex reasons why this happens, but an episode of Jim Morrison’s life appears to me to contain one of the answers to our riddle: in one of those moments on stage when he gets possessed by rage, Jim Morrison begins to attack his audience verbally, with a viperish and misanthropic discourse, showing how he despises those beneath him. He drunkely shouts to his audience (to us all, really): “Why do you let people push you around? How long do you think it’s gonna last? How long will you let it go on? How long will you let ‘em push you around? Well, maybe you like it, maybe you like it been pushed around! And love getting your face getting stuck in the shit! You love it, don’t ya? YOU’RE ALL A BUNCH OF SLAVES!”

Maybe he meant that people were doing less than they could, that they weren’t acting out as much as they should, for example to stop the Vietnam War or the Latin American military dictartorships (like the one who started out in Brazil, 1964, sponsored by the U.S.). Maybe he meant that people were too shy and well-behaved to really revolt against authoritarian elements in society – like the whole Police and Prison complex, or the Army, or presidents and politicians who were also war criminals and mass murderes. Maybe he meant that we, a “bunch of slaves”, hadn’t yet proclaimed our own independence: there we were, the masses of idolatry, powerless and disconnected, watching someone acting out and struggling to create freedom and beauty – and yet we ourselves weren’t acting collectively so powerfully and widely as we could towards the collective building of freedom and beauty. Most of the people who constituted the masses were watchers and not agents, consumers and not creators, followers and not leaders. And lots of people were certainly apolitical, individualistic, disengaged, and mostly indifferent to the destinies of the dispossed, the murdered, the peryphery of the so-called First World. Many of us have bought the obscene slogan and ideologies summed up by “better dead than red” or “kill a gook for god”.

At the unhappy ending of the Sixties – when nobody knew yet how many thousands of dead bodies had resulted from Vietnam, nor anyone knew how many Charlies Mansons the future held in store, nor how many Black Panther Party activists would be murdered… – a band opened a door through which the decade could see itself as an utopia unfulfilled, a failed attempt at freedom and justice, a nightmare stinking of napalm and Agent Orange. Sometime before dying at 27 in a Paris bathtub, Jim Morrison’s screamed on the speakers for his audience (for all of us, really): “You’re all a bunch of slaves!” The provocation still echoes and lingers on.

Article by Eduardo C. Moraes,
Originally published in Awestruck Wanderer.
Also reblogged by The Jim Morrison Project.

Doors 2

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THE DOORS – FULL DISCOGRAPHY:

Doors 3

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Doors 5

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WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE [FULL DOCUMENTARY]

Narrated by Johnny Depp

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