July 4th, But No Ray Charles

Cover of Ray Charles' A Message from the PeopleThe Video Below shows a few moments of the crowds at Naperville, Illinois’, Ribfest on July 4, 2014, and some of the fireworks which followed.  I did the video so that at the end I could put a few seconds of a song that was not played.  For the first time in years—maybe decades—Ray Charles’ iconic version of “America the Beautiful” wasn’t played on the radio stream synched with the fireworks.  The song usually accompanied slower, more reflective seconds of the show sandwiched between the general bombast, but this year it was all uptempo—Van Halen’s “Jump,” etc, lyrics like “Do a little dance, make a little love, get down tonight,” etc.  Not entirely inappropriate, but we wished for something a little deeper, a nod to America beyond, say, Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”  A new radio station streamed the accompanying music this year.  ”It’s probably a Clear Channel station out of New York,” a friend and music insider I was with said after shaking his head at the exclusion of the Ray Charles classic.  ”They don’t know tradition.  They do anything silly thing they want,” he lamented.

There are several patriotic songs I can do without, but Charles’ version of “America” isn’t one of them.  Whenever the song is played now, nine times out of ten it’s this version.  It ended Charles’ significant 1972 album A Message from the People.  He begins his version not with the song’s first verse, but its second: “Oh, Beautiful, for heroes proved / In liberating strife, / Who more than self their country loved, / And mercy more than life.”  For several reasons—including the album’s cover pictured above—we know that those heroes he wanted to honor foremost were the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement.

This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act, so we missed Ray Charles’ “America” at least twice as much this time.

Soon I’ll post something about that anniversary, along with a video lecture on Ray Charles, as well as reviews of his albums The Genius Hits the Road and A Message from the People.  For now, enjoy the show, and the few seconds of “America” at the end.

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Nelson Algren’s City on the Make

Nelson Algren's Chicago: City on the Make

The Video Below presents a performance by David Starkey and me of a passage from “Nobody Knows Where O’Connor Went,” the last chapter of Nelson Algren’s great prose poem Chicago: City on the Make.

Shortly after Loyola Press/Wild Onion published our book Smokestacks and Skyscrapers: An Anthology of Chicago Writing, we found ourselves making our way to Chicago early, early one Sunday morning to appear on Rick Kogan’s WGN Radio show The Sunday Papers.  We spent well over an hour talking about the book, what was in it, and how we put it together.

And also, as was our custom when we went out to talk about Smokestacks and Skyscrapers, we performed some of the pieces.  I plan to post the entire show Here in the future.  For now enjoy this excerpt.

 After watching the video, read more about NELSON ALGREN.

Go to a list of Chicago Writers written about on this site.

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New Headquarters for Emmanuel House and World Relief

Emmanuel House headquarters 73 S. LaSalle, Aurora IL

The video below shows the rehab and grand opening of 73 S. LaSalle St., the new headquarters for Emmanuel House and World Relief.   World Relief settles refugees in the U.S. and Emmanuel House works to break cycles of working class poverty through home ownership, education, and equitable business and community development.  The new headquarters is a landmark step enabling these two organizations to do even more.

Links to websites for both organizations, plus more, appear below.

Emmanuel House headquartersEmmanuel House bought the property in 2012.  Rehab began in late 2013, and upon completion in May 2014, World Relief moved in to share the space, bringing the relationship between the two organizations to a new level and completing a remarkable circle the two groups began following a decade ago.  The following link will take you to a post and short video telling more about the Emmanuel House-World Relief partnership, naming more of the many people who have contributed to Emmanuel House, and serving as a portal to a collection of amazing stories of survival and persistence.  In addition, the article HERE details how Emmanuel House’s purchase and rehab of  73 S. LaSalle is also leading the way to revitalizing an entire historic part of downtown Aurora.

After you watch the video please explore these links for more:

Thank you to everyone who has donated, volunteered, promoted and prayed for Emmanuel House, World Relief, and the people they’re privileged to serve.

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