Marrying Music to Art

As promised, first-time contributor came Kate came up with an outstanding piece which I highly recommend to everyone…

Jimmy

Hopper Paintings as Songs

 

Edward Hopper- an American icon. Known best for pieces like Automat and Nighthawks, Hopper did not simply create doodles, he curated detailed, specific depictions of American life- sometimes lonely and melancholy, but always beautiful. I’ve been studying his pieces these past few weeks, and I’ve noticed that for some, certain songs would come to my mind, all on their own. After much consideration, I have cultivated a list of 10 Hopper paintings and 10 coordinating songs that I associate with them; however, I want you to consider what you think, and perhaps make a mental playlist of your own.

 

The goal here is not to come across as a fake-woke art connoisseur or to flex my music taste; it’s to offer imagery for these songs, or, alternatively, offer a new story to the paintings. I suggest you play these songs while reading or analyzing the pieces themselves to enhance the experience.

 

  1. Automat- The Sad Cafe (The Eagles)

Say hello to the painting/song combo that inspired this entire adventure into the rest of Hopper’s gamut; Automat and “The Sad Cafe”. While we know the woman is at an automat thanks to the title, it’s easy to imagine her in a cafe, as I would like you to do in order to fully understand how “The Sad Cafe” applies. Both pieces of art discuss themes of loneliness, like many other combinations you’ll soon read about. The lyrics that I feel best fit Automat is, “We thought we could change this world/ With words like “love” and “freedom”/ We were part of the lonely crowd/ inside the Sad Cafe”. The song references loss of wide-eyed innocence, which isn’t hard to imagine the lady in the painting could be thinking about, considering her solemn expression.

  1. Cape Cod Morning- Light of A Clear Blue Morning (Dolly Parton)

“Light of A Clear Blue Morning” is a paean celebrating hope of the promise of a new day- a mood that is reflected in Hopper’s Cape Cod Morning. As you can see, lots of light is provided in the painting. The symbolism of light and dark is something Hopper often toys with, so it is helpful to consider this when analyzing his works. To put it simply, light=hope, happiness, life. Dark=loneliness, depression, longing. The light in this painting is shining directly on the woman’s face, so it might be correct to assume that this image is meant to give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, like “Light of A Clear Blue Morning” does. For example, look at this lyric; “It’s been a long dark night/ And I’ve been a waitin’ for the morning/ It’s been a long hard fight/ But I see a brand new day a dawning”. It’s a human universal to seek out hope and make it through the day, which may be why Hopper painted this in the first place, and it is definitely why I decided to pair the two works together.

  1. Room in New York- We All Fall in Love Sometimes (Elton John)

I’m not entirely sure why, but upon looking at this painting, I instantly imagined it to be a rainy day. This led me to my choice of song, “We All Fall in Love Sometimes” by Elton John, as its first lyric is, “Wise men say/ It looks like rain today”. Not to mention, both pieces share moody, somber tones. When I really looked at the piece, something caught my attention. Hopper knew that people would assume that a man and woman sharing a home together are married. So, what’s the point of painting a married couple when they are not even recognizing each other’s existence? To answer my own question, it seems he did this to demonstrate the fault in many relationships- estrangement. Elton John writes about a similar topic in “We All Fall in Love Sometimes” with the lyric, “We wrote it and I played it/ Something happened it’s so strange this feeling/ Naive notions that were childish/ Simple tunes that tried to hide it”. What’s more, the fact that the woman in Room in New York is playing a piano- John’s preferred instrument- makes the match of painting and song all the more perfect.

  1. Nighthawks- Heroes (David Bowie)

This song choice is one of the most unique because I chose it solely because of how iconic Nighthawks is. While though those depicted in the painting seem painfully average, their faces became American heroes- everyone knows Nighthawks. The extreme fame of a painting as seemingly simple as this with equally as basic looking characters let everyday Americans believe that even they could be heroes. This point is reflected in the lyrics, “We can be heroes just for one day/ We can be us just for one day”. This is the piece that launched Hopper into superfame, it made him a hero– exactly what Bowie sings about.

  1. Summer Evening- Jack and Diane (John Mellencamp)

“Jack and Diane” is a song that details the dramatic highs and lows of teenage life, and I like to think that Summer Evening has the same effect- it uses Hopper’s common motifs of dark/light and the theme of daily life, from the lens of teenagers. I always got summer vibes from “Jack and Diane”, so it felt most appropriate to pair it with Summer Evening. To be honest, picking just a few lines of lyric was very difficult because Hopper gives us a lot to work with and it is very to easy visualize these two characters as Jack and Diane themselves. With that said, I’ve concluded that the most potent lyric is, “Jack he sits back, collects his thoughts for a moment/ Scratches his head, and does his best James Dean/ Well, now then, there, Diane, we ought to run off to the city/ Diane says: ‘Baby, you ain’t missing nothing’”. Out of the entire song, this is the one part that I can actually imagine happening right in the painting, therefore, I’d say it is the most important lyric of the song in reference of Summer Evening.

  1. New York Restaurant- Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (Billy Joel)

Joel is a lyrical pundit- he paints a clear picture with his music, which was why I was so drawn to “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” and the story it told- and how it was so easy to pair with New York Restaurant. Again, Hopper gives us a lot to work with, as most of the people in the painting don’t have visible faces, and those who do are fairly expressionless. This isn’t to say they are miserable, and if we look at the lyrics from “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”, I think it would be valid to say that they could be perfectly content with life in that moment; “A bottle of white, a bottle of red/ Perhaps a bottle of rose instead/ We’ll get a table near the street/ In our old familiar place/ You and I, face to face”. The song continues to detail the history of Brenda and Eddie, their relationship, their fallout, and now, the reconnection. Two former young lovers meeting again, for old times sake, and nothing more. Art doesn’t always have to have some deep, metaphorical meaning- it can simply be enjoyed.

I think it is also important to note that Billy Joel himself is from New York City and often writes about the city. This is a very interesting instance of life imitating art, which is the entire point of this essay; to see how to vastly different mediums comment on extremely cognate topics in their own ways.

  1. Gas- Drive (Bobby McFerrin)

I’ll admit it- this essay is, on some level, just a tendentious attempt to get everyone- anyone– on the Bobby McFerrin train, as I believe he is grossly underrated in our current musical society. Though I could write a whole nother paper on McFerrin himself, this is not the time to preach. I digress.

A maladroit viewer of Gas may just suggest this is a man getting gas- however, if you’d like to give the painting a deeper connotation, you could suggest that the man is running away from something or somewhere. Why do I make this assumption? Hopper would take months or even years to deliberate exactly what he wanted to paint and how he wanted to do it- therefore, I’d say it is essential to study the symbolism in his pieces. For example, what may a gas station symbolize? Certainly not stationary living. This is why I associate “Drive” with Gas– specifically the lyric, “Gonna get in the car/ Drive away/ Drive so far/ No one’s gonna find me”. McFerrin sings about another theme Hopper often paints about- longing. Longing for love, change, or in this instance, escape. We could also talk about how this painting is purely symbolic, as it doesn’t even feature a car, perhaps to suggest that the man in the painting wants to escape, but doesn’t have the resources to do so? As always, it’s up to you to interpret what you think of art, which is why I love this piece so much.

  1. Early Sunday Morning- My Hometown (Bruce Springsteen)

When you think of the word hometown, do you think of the words “small”, “quiet”, or “boring”? I know I do. And while by no means do I think Early Sunday Morning itself fits those descriptors, the subject (an aged, seemingly vacant set of street-side stores) certainly does. This is the one painting I chose to feature that does not have any characters, so it was hard to find a song where the main subject is not a person, yet I prevailed with one of my favorites. I feel like I’ve seen this scene in so many places in and around my hometown that I simply had to write about “My Hometown” by Bruce Springsteen. A lyric that sticks out to me is, “Now Main Street’s whitewashed windows and vacant stores/ Seems like there ain’t nobody wants to come down here no more”. This is an (almost) completely accurate descriptor of what Hopper paints, so I was very pleased to again see life imitating art!

  1. Office in a Small City- The Day Before You Came (ABBA)

I’ll admit it- I’m an ABBA aficionado (you can blame Mamma Mia for that!) For that reason, I knew this playlist would not be complete without the hauntingly brilliant “The Day Before You Came”. It tells the tale of an average day of working person, that I predict to be in their 30s, telling us about how boring and simple their life was before their soulmate entered it. Now looking at Office in a Small City, we see a comparable story- an everyman with a likely basic job and a plain, maybe even bored, expression on his face. The part of “The Day Before You Came” that is most interesting in regards to Office in a Small City is, “I must have kept on dragging through the business of the day/ Without really knowing anything, I hid a part of me away/ At five I must have left, there’s no exception to the rule”. A dull, meaningless, 9-5 life…remind you of anyone? Maybe the man in the painting? Maybe someone you know? Maybe you?

  1. Girl at a Sewing Machine- Solitaire (Marina and the Diamonds)

Like most of Hopper’s characters, the woman fulfills a lonesome persona- however, I chose to see her as someone who is content with her loneliness- she’s keeping busy and appears healthy, who’s to say she doesn’t enjoy her independence? Thanks to Marina Diamandis’ vivid lyrics, it was not hard to imagine the “Solitaire” could’ve been written by Girl at the sewing machine. Let’s take a look: “I see buildings and bars from the window/ And I listen to the wind blow/ I see people and cars covered in gold/ And I’m happy to be on my own”. What’s unique about this song is that it’s the freshest on our little playlist here. I mention this because Hopper likely didn’t intend to serve us a happy, fulfilled, independent single woman, but by using other pieces of art (that were cultivated in a very different social climate) to build a story with, that’s what we got.

As you can tell, the stories told in Hopper’s paintings are exclusive to modern America; that’s what makes them so iconic. Far more famous painters from across the globe like Picasso and Dali could never paint the way Hopper could due to their lack of the American experience . What makes him so great is his ability to portray the everyman, aka the middle class, aka the 99%, aka most of America. He taught us the magic of seeing ourselves as art.

You may say these paintings or songs are outdated and irrelevant- that’s your prerogative. Speaking as a deconstructionist, the beauty of art is that you can give it any meaning you so desire, and I encourage you to do so.

Kate

 

They Called Him Flipper

I saw a story this morning about a wounded dolphin that was rescued and nursed back to health under high scrutiny by his/her handlers.  This is what humanity likes about itself insomuch as one dolphin can be saved while 5,000 are caught and die in fishing nets each year seeing as they’re suddenly denied the privilege of surfacing for air. What’s the term for that again? I think it’s called “collateral damage” where the dolphins are considered expendable for the sake of our seafood dining.

But I digress. The wounded dolphin was immediately dubbed “Flipper”. I for one think this reflects poorly on our species in as much as we can’t improve on the badly overused, stereotypical moniker already employed by the old TV show and the Miami Dolphins mascot.  I wonder what the actual wild, free-roaming porpoises think about this every time one is caught. (BTW-Are dolphins the same thing as porpoises?) Imagine this conversation:

Amy the Friendly Dolphin (halting her frolicking for a moment): “Omigod, This is a disaster! Gus just caught by the humans! What’re we gonna do?”

Stan the Dolphin: “Damn straight it’s a disaster. He owes me fifty bucks.  Well, I guess he’s ‘Flipper’ from now on.”

I’m writing this while semi-watching the Golden Globe awards wherein it seems that suddenly famous people who built their careers based on taking chances are so averse to doing so now. Just a thought, but Bill Murray, Dave Chapelle and Daniel Tosh r still out there folks. Whoa! Hold the proverbial phone here but not only one yet two award recipients (the second being Christian Bale) just got bleeped (was the first Ben Stiller?) in an unexpected development.  I was mostly expecting preachy, self-serving speeches (one so far) about various issues that I coulda made fun of but won’t cuz I’m admittedly starting to change my tune so as to fall in with our brainwashed Hollywood elite. (Being seen not applauding during a celebrity’s self-righteous, indignant speech can really bring trouble to the uncooperative actor.) Not falling for that trap, my friends!

Turning to another point, I’m getting a little sick of my local news channel suddenly interrupting your “regular programming” with “breaking news” that ultimately winds up being a big pile of nuthin’. I don’t mind waiting ’til five o’clock to hear this stuff, man.

If you haven’t already noticed this is a placeholder column until (proud to say our third writer) Kate’s music column is up and ready to go. On this site, anything goes. (Anybody a cartoonist? I’d love to have one man, even if other people think u stink.)

Stay tuned.

Jimmy

 

 

Heat Wave

Given the ridiculously fiery temperatures here in Philly lately, I thought I’d cool us all off with a little humor ala Rodney Dangerfield and Henny Youngman…

It’s so hot I demanded to have my tonsils re-inserted just for the ice cream.

It’s so hot that the local wildlife formed a committee demanding access to my air conditioning. (To their credit, they made a strong, well thought-out concession by begrudgingly yet willingly use the toilet while simultaneously promising not to pee in my barbecue grill for the next 3 months. In return, I receive a year’s supply of acorns but I hadda agree to flush the aforementioned toilet insomuch as the little varmints can’t reach the flapper. Man did I get the better end of that deal!)

Speaking of wildlife, the owl outside my window went from saying “who” to saying “what the f#&k?”.

A local chef told me that the lobsters are now voluntarily jumping into the pot.

It’s so hot that even South America is making fun of us. (Hey, at least we’ve never had to resort to eating our shoelaces, man.) Actually and having said it, I think I’ll book a flight to Africa just to cool off for a week.

It’s so hot that I suddenly got the hallucination that Donald Trump is president.

Now should the power suddenly cut out, here’s a few vital steps that will need to be taken…

  1. Open the windows as to let as much fresh air as possible in.
  2. Fill your bathtub with fresh water before you lose that option too.
  3. Go looting.  There’s a reason why we’re the greatest country in the world and we didn’t earn that distinction by sitting around being pansy-asses. (Anybody up for two hundred rolls of paper towels?)

As if things weren’t bad enough, I think that I finally figured the connection from David Bowie back down to Iggy Pop and the Stooges thru The Velvet Underground.  They don’t sing.  These bands vocalize their lyrics thru the spoken word or at least a sing-song version of it.   To prove my point I’ll ask you to listen to Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing”, Velvet Underground’s “Pale Blue Eyes” and Bowie’s “The Jean Genie” which I, being a benevolent host, have conveniently supplied below…

 

I think the cool thing is that only took me 50 years to catch up with this concept.

Jimmy

Here We Go Again

In writing 15+ pieces, I’ve learned alot about myself…

  1. Based on the hit statistics for this blog, I’ve gotta be the most boring, least entertaining writer in history.  Chuck’s better and more consice but even he’s having trouble to help this site find an audience.
  2. That I can now statistically prove my status as a borderline dunce has only inspired me to up my game so as to gain the immortal rank of “dazzling idiot”.  A goal that I can assure you I take seriously. So here’s some more buffoonery for those of you that somehow managed to keep reading to this point…

Anthony Bourdain died this past week. The man was a hero to me in his irreverance for common social standards and in regards to his approach to the food and travel world. His ability and desire to introduce, invite, explain and ultimately unite the viewers/readers into his adventures made him different. There’s just nobody like him and what Chuck might call someone who “pushes it forward”. In my mind, there are three great modern writers, Mike Royko, Hunter Thompson and Dave Barry.  I added Tony to my list some time ago and regret not saying so before.

As low as my standards might be, I usually stay away from poop comedy but I couldn’t help noticing the talking box in my morning commercials that explains how you can achieve colonoscopy-like results by simply sitting down on the toilet and mailing  your “sample” to ’em.  Having gone thru a colonoscopy this sounds like an award-winning idea to me with some important qualifications:

  1. If I understand the process correctly, you poop as usual and then have to somehow fish out your poop sample (tweezers?, gardening shovel?), bag it, tag it and then send it out thru the mail to the intended destination.
  2. Whoever’s on the receiving end of the sample-mailing has my undying respect.  How would like to hear this while your munching on your morning bagel when someone yells out, “Hey Ralph! I have 40 boxes of s#*t for ya today!” and know they’re being literal? I assume the recipients have to don biohazard suits while thinking “what happened to my career and biology degree?” but yet accept more of a paycheck than the average bear might get.  (Well deserved in my opinion.)
  3. I can’t dispense medical advice insomuch as I’m not a physician but colon cancer is serious. I CAN encourage all readers to consult their doctor about this topic.

We all have common fears like mine whether it be rattlesnakes, ticks, standing in waist-deep water on a beach in Cape Cod where Great White sharks are known to inhabit while somebody on the beach might realize they have to suddenly go into red-alert mode like the girl in “Jaws” if they spot an unusually large dorsal fin (or any other dorsal fin for that matter) cutting thru the surface, Nazi air raids, the moon suddenly and inexplicably ramming into planet earth, etc…

I DO NOT like telling people what to do on this blog but I’ll say this. Live like Anthony Bourdain.

Fearlessly.

Jimmy

 

Doctor, Doctor, Tell Me the News

I recently received a jury summons whereby I gotta report to the local county to serve as a juror.  Luckily I also gotta document from my neurologist stating that I’m “unfit” for such duty and therefore must be exempted for such a task. The note from my doctor was put in such nice, polite terms that I started feeling like some kinda wuss.

I’dda much preferred a more intense, raplike version of the note whereby sayin’ “MY PATIENT AIN’T DOIN’ NO S#&T LIKE DAT!!! HE BE A SUFFERIN’ MOTHERF@%&ER AND DON’T NEED TO BE F*%^IN’ AROUND WIT NO MOTHERF&**ERS LIKE YOU!! THE NEXT TIME YOU FIGURE ON SENDIN’ SOME JURY SUMMONS TO MY PATIENT JUST WRITE IT, EAT IT AND THEN SHOOT IT OUTTA YO ASS!!

Moving right along, Chuck stopped over for a visit on Sunday so’s we’d indulge in a buncha food that’s bad for ya, watch the golf tournament and root for our favorite players.  A few beers later, it occurred to us that we’d wanna keep an eye on player Jon Rahm and cheer for him to snap a club in half (which he almost did), cast the now divided club into the gallery and subsequently be brought up on assault and battery charges.  Didn’t happen, but hey, the season is still young.

I dunno why but we’re regularly gettin’ hits from China.  If their spyin’ on us to gain more knowledge of the American intellect then they’re wasting their time.  Otherwise, I say “Welcome!”, it’s beyond cool to have friends from the other side of the world.

Short post today but keep readin’ and thanks for doin’ it.  Ya never know what we’ll say next.

Jimmy

Catchin’ Up (Or Down)

I damn near got myself into a traffic collision today because I was driving at the blazing speed of 8mph (It’d be interesting to get pulled over for this one with the cop asking “Do u have ANY idea of how fast you were going? Me: I dunno, seven?”) which caused me to spin out on my downhill right turn comin’ off a stop sign.  You may be asking yourself, “Jimmy why r u boring us with a story about an accident that never happened?”  I’ll tell you why.  I hadda semi-trailer boss/teacher who instructed me at one point to assume that everyone else on the road is an idiot and therefore can’t be trusted. Normally solid advice but in this case the person driving the oncoming vehicle was going slowly enough as well and also had the wherewithal to swerve around me. I wish I knew who that was cuz I wanna buy ’em a steak dinner.

Chuck’s column about Daoud Shaw was so well written and poignant that I recommend every visitor read it. We call it “One in a Million”

Moving right along, I actually watched the Oscar awards in hopes that someone would say something bat s@%t crazy. Didn’t work out that way but it was amusing that some very low-level celebrity tried to steal Frances McDormand’s “Best Actress” award for 2017.  The guy got busted for it and is now up on felony theft charges.  This reminds me of a story from a few years ago where Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel had his Super Bowl rings stolen from his home. Why would anybody do this considering they’re now involved in a felony grand larceny?  Yes, I’ve heard of international thieves who steal valuable diamonds, ancient treasures and artistic masterpieces before but who can they show them to? Who can they sell them to? What satisfaction can be gotten that’s worth the risk of a 12 year prison term?

I was confronted recently with clamshell packaging almost resulting in a wound you’d normally associate with a mountain climber’s fall or suicide attempter (NO DAMMIT! I was just trying to open a package!!) Why can’t they make these things easier to deal with?

Luckily, all the news isn’t negative insomuch as I just learned about a new phenomonon called “Drunken Shopping” (Thank you God) which apparently involves people getting blasted, buying a bunch of stuff they don’t want or isn’t the right size or color when they eventually sober up and then humbly bring the object back the next day demanding a refund as tho it was the store’s fault. If anyone’s looking for a candidate for a new Olympic sport I believe we’ve just hit gold here.

Imagine the announcers play-calling: “Ilsa from Poland has exhibited exquisite form here with her irrational demands for a refund putting the Polish team solidly in the lead!!”

“Juanita from Guatemala has just gone down in aisle ten!!! She looked like she had control of her shopping cart but we’ll hafta go to Paula down on the field for her take on this stunning development!!!”

(Paula) It doesn’t look good here, Jim. Stumbling in a sideways fashion is bad enough but a full-on falldown will take her and her team out of medal contention.”

“Here comes Team USA!!! The sweater choices and sizes have been solid and sensible so far but OH NO!!! Megan just puked on one of the garments costing them valuable style points!!”

I swear to God that I could do this all day.

Thanks for reading and do be sure to hit Mamemagazine.com for great content about music, comedy and current events.

Oh yes.

Jimmy

 

 

One In A Million

Daoud Shaw. An Appreciation. I first had the pleasure of meeting Daoud back in the spring of 2000. I was in a Philly area band called Third Level and we decided that we wanted to record our first (and only) album entitled, “Altered Horizons”. Our guitarist had a friend who had recorded at this little studio out in Andorra on the edge of Philly. So after a couple of introductory phone calls and e-mails, we set up our first recording session. Prior to recording, I did a little research on the owner/producer of this little studio called Radioactive Productions. The guy’s name was Daoud Shaw. I didn’t know the name, but the resume leaped off the page. He played with Van Morrison, he was the original drummer in the SNL band, he toured with Etta James (and by extension, the Rolling Stones), he was in the Jerry Garcia Band and on and on and on it went. I can fully admit this now. I was unbelievably, off the charts intimidated at the prospect of recording with this guy and a little worried that he might be an egotistical jerk. Then I met him. I have never been more wrong about anything in my entire life. Daoud was as genuine and as kind and as sweet a person as I have ever known.  We all immediately felt right at home. Literally. We were in his home. He was always so welcoming. That studio was so comfortable and Daoud was the main reason why.

Over the next 6 years, we recorded a number of projects with Daoud. My favorite times in the studio were the times in between takes. When we would all just talk. Daoud would offer (almost always correctly) advice on how to make the song better or different or more appealing. We would be sitting there like little kids asking him about all of the famous people he had met and worked with. There was never and I mean NEVER, a hint of “Look at me and who I know” about Daoud. He was so incredibly humble and so incredibly sweet. Instead of hearing wild stories about Mick and Keith, we would hear fantastic little stories about him going out cymbal shopping with Charlie Watts. Or about the days up in Woodstock, NY when he was recording the “His Band And The Street Choir” album with Van Morrison. Or about when he recorded a ton of TV commercial jingles out in LA.  I learned SO much about the recording process from Daoud. Playing music is an art. Recording music is a science. And Daoud was a mad scientist in that little studio. He helped us create things we never thought possible. I remember one late Friday night where we had laid down an acoustic track that just featured vocals and acoustic guitar. We all agreed that something else was needed. That something was Daoud. He (again, 100% correctly) suggested some light percussion. Well, when you’re in the presence of one of the world’s greatest percussionists, it would be foolish not to at least ask him to play. He didn’t want to. Not out of ego or anything like that. “This is your project”, he kept gently telling us. It might have been the late hour, or maybe he was just tired of us all whining at him, but he finally agreed. He played the shakers and the triangle and, best of all, he let me run the board. I was in heaven. I got to watch the master at work (he played brilliantly) and I got to be the apprentice to the mad scientist. It’s a cherished memory that will stay with me forever.

I think the thing I loved most about knowing Daoud laid beyond the studio. He was, at his core and in his soul, a wonderful, peaceful, funny, beautiful person. During breaks, we would hang outside of his house and just talk. And laugh. Lots of laughter. We wouldn’t talk about music. Just about life. He was so fascinating to listen to. I think I enjoyed those times outside more than when we were inside recording. Daoud was a uniquely special person. I fought back tears this morning when I learned of his passing. But for as long as I’m allowed to stay on this earth, I will be eternally happy that our paths crossed and that I got to know Daoud as well as I did and that I got to consider him a friend.

Rest in Peace, my friend. And Make A Joyful Noise.

Chuck