♫ Downtown ♫

Being in something of a black mood after the latest mass shooting, I considered playing Elvis’ In the Ghetto tonight, but then I though perhaps something really upbeat would be a more fitting way to start the weekend.

This one will take you back a ways … for some of you, it will go back to a time before you were even born, but you’ve likely heard the song anyway.  Petula Clark was a British actor, singer and composer who was popular in the UK long before the U.S. discovered her talent.  According to SongFacts …

This was Petula Clark’s first hit in the US, which was slow to discover her talents. In the UK, she was a star as a singer and as a television performer, where she was a regular on the BBC. In the early ’60s, she also caught on in France when she started recording her songs in French. Oddly, she didn’t get an American record deal until late in 1964 when a Warner Bros. executive named Joe Smith, who was vacationing in England, heard the song and signed her to a deal.

When “Downtown” was released in the US, it shot to #1, making Petula the first female singer from the UK to hit #1 in the US during the rock era (after 1955). Remarkably, she didn’t even promote the song before it hit the top spot, as she was touring French-speaking countries at the time.

“The Ed Sullivan Show had been calling every day while I was on tour in Canada, saying, ‘You’ve got to get here,'” Petula told Songfacts. “I couldn’t get there. Eventually I got there, and the record was #1.”

A British songwriter and producer named Tony Hatch wrote this. During the ’60s, he wrote most of Clark’s material, including her follow-up hit, “I Know a Place” (which also deals with city life). Hatch was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2013.

The word “downtown” had a different meaning in America than it did in the UK. In America, “downtown” is the heart of the city where the action happens. The word wasn’t used much in Britain at the time, but it generally meant the less affluent part of the town’s central area. The song’s writer, Tony Hatch, used the word in its American meaning, as he was inspired by a walk down Broadway during his first visit to New York. These days, the American “heart of the city” use of the phrase is common in the UK.

Petula Clark came to record this song at a time when she had carved a successful career in French, Italian and German-speaking territories. She recalled to The Guardian that Tony Hatch suggested she should be recording again in English. “My head wasn’t in it at the time,” she admitted, “I was totally into French, Italian, German, whatever. I said: ‘Well, you know, if I could find the right song’ and he said he had an unfinished song he wanted to play me, and he played ‘Downtown’ on the piano. I said: ‘Woah, I like that.’ So I asked him to write a lyric up to the standard of the tune, and two weeks later we did it.”

This won a Grammy in 1965 for Best Rock & Roll Recording, making Clark the first British singer to win a Grammy. In 2003, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Clark recorded a new version of this song for her 2013 album Lost in You, which was released when she was 80 years old.

80 years old???  Heck, I’m a decade younger and I can’t, as my late ex-husband used to say, carry a tune in a bucket!  My hat is off to this lady!

I don’t have room nor time to cover all the trivia associated with this song, but if you’re interested, check out the Wikipedia entry, for there is much fascinating info about both the song and the artist.

Downtown
Petula Clark

When you’re alone and life is making you lonely
You can always go – downtown.
When you’ve got worries all the noise and the hurry
Seems to help I know downtown.

Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure downtown
Everything’s waiting for you.

Don’t hang around and let your problems surround you
There are movie shows downtown.
Maybe you know some little places to go to
Where they never close downtown.

Just listen to the rhythm of a gentle bossa nova
You’ll be dancing with ’em too before the night is over
Happy again.

The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares
So go – downtown
Where all the lights are bright downtown
Waiting for you tonight downtown
You’re gonna be alright now
Downtown
Downtown
Downtown

And you may find somebody kind to help and understand you
Someone who is just like you and needs a gentle hand to
Guide them along.

So maybe I’ll see you there
We can forget all our troubles, forget all our cares
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
Don’t wait a minute more downtown
Everything is waiting for you
Downtown
Downtown
Downtown
Downtown
Downtown
Downtown
Downtown…

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: Hatch Anthony Peter
Downtown lyrics © Emi Blackwood Music Inc., Welbeck Music Ltd., Smack Hits, Sony/atv Story Music Publishing, Warner/chappell Music Ltd

♫ Crazy ♫

I was going to play one for Ellen tonight, but I remembered (with a little nudge of a reminder) that I had promised Larry last week that I would play this by Patsy Cline!  I tend to forget things, like where my car keys are when they are in my hand, and to put clothes into the washer before I run it, so it was no surprise that I forgot to play this for Larry.  Sorry, my friend! I will get to Ellen’s song tomorrow, if somebody will remind me.

Patsy-Cline

I had no idea, until 3 minutes ago, that this song, released in 1961, was written by none other than Willie Nelson!  At the time, Willie was a struggling country singer and got a big break when Cline recorded this and made it a hit. It has become one of Nelson’s most enduring songs. He covered the song for his own debut album, …And Then I Wrote, in 1962.  Willie later revealed that the original title of the song was to be Stupid.

I also did not know that just two months before she recorded Crazy, Ms. Cline was in a serious auto accident and was thrown through the windscreen (remember, they didn’t even have seatbelts back then), and at the first session, she couldn’t hit the high notes because of a broken rib, so the studio musicians recorded their parts without her. Two weeks later, she did her vocals while standing on crutches.

Tragically, Patsy would die in a plane crash just two years after the release of this song, at the young age of only 30.

There is so much fascinating trivia about Patsy Cline that I cannot possibly include it all here, but here are a few tidbits …

  • She was the first female country singer to headline in Vegas
  • She became the first solo female artist to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973
  • In 1997, Cline’s recording of “Crazy” was named the number one jukebox hit of all time
  • Her given name was Virginia Patterson Hensley and as a child she was known as Ginny
  • In 1993, the U.S. Postal Service created special-issue postage stamps to honor Patsy Cline, along with other country superstars such as Hank Williams, the Carter Family and Bob Wills.
  • When Patsy was 13, she was hospitalized with a throat infection and rheumatic fever. She later said, “The fever affected my throat and when I recovered I had this booming voice like Kate Smith.”

Wikipedia has an impressive amount of detail about Patsy’s life, death, and the mark she left on the music industry … check it out if you’re interested.  And another article I came across, 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Patsy Cline, also had some really interesting facts and trivia.

Thanks Larry … I had fun doing the legwork on this one!

Crazy
Patsy Cline

Crazy, I’m crazy for feeling so lonely
I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue
I knew you’d love me as long as you wanted
And then someday you’d leave me for somebody new

Worry, why do I let myself worry?
Wondering what in the world did I do?
Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying

And I’m crazy for loving you
Crazy for thinking that my love could hold you
I’m crazy for trying and crazy for crying
And I’m crazy for loving you.

Songwriters: Willie Nelson
Crazy lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Two Blows Against Freedom of Press/Speech Today

We are all familiar with this image

connection-timed-out-2Technically, what it means is that a server is taking too long to reply to a data request made from another device, typically your computer, cell phone or tablet. The reasons can vary from the wrong IP address being typed in to a hardware problem to a problem with WiFi services.  Typically, if the IP address is valid, it is a temporary problem easily solved by clicking the refresh button or resetting a router.  But today, Turkish people throughout the country are seeing this message and it is not going to be a simple fix.  For today, the Turkish government, i.e. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has blocked Wikipedia from Turkish internet users.

“After technical analysis and legal consideration … an administrative measure has been taken for this website,” the BTK telecoms authority said in a statement on its website. It cited a law that allows it to block access to individual web pages or entire sites for the ‘protection of public order, national security or the wellbeing of the public’.  We are talking about Wikipedia, folks, not a subversive website, not a porn site … an educational, informational site.  Such is the state of freedom of speech and freedom of press in Turkey today.

Meanwhile, across the pond here in our own backyard, there is this:

epa-website.png

“EPA wipes its climate change site day before march on Washington. Visitors to the website on Saturday found it was ‘undergoing changes’ to reflect the agency’s ‘new direction’, as thousands protest climate inaction.”

The US Environmental Protection Agency’s main climate change website is “undergoing changes” to better reflect “the agency’s new direction” under Donald Trump. The announcement, made late Friday evening, left empty what was previously the “official government site” providing “comprehensive information on the issue of climate change and global warming”.

“As EPA renews its commitment to human health and clean air, land and water, our website needs to reflect the views of the leadership of the agency.  We want to eliminate confusion, by removing outdated language first and making room to discuss how we’re protecting the environment and human health by partnering with states and working within the law.” – JP Freire, an associate administrator for public affairs

Previously, the website housed data on greenhouse gas emissions from large polluters and reports on the effects of climate change and its impact on human health.

While I could go on for thousands of words about my outrage over the EPA and it’s anything-but-protecting-the-environment approach, this post it about freedom of speech and press, so I shall save the EPA commentary for another post.

Yesterday, in the wake of the European Press Prize awards, Peter Preston of The Guardian, wrote a very short piece:

“A final word on the European Press Prize as, awards delivered, a new season begins. The winners were all terrific. Congratulations to your Serbian investigators, young Romanian reporters, digital wizards from Bellingcat. Congratulations to three sensational writers from Stern and Spiegel. (Gosh! the Germans still invest mightily in good journalism). And more than a tip of the cap to Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times (and Guardian and Observer) for his scintillating takes on Brexit.

But one thing that sets these awards apart for me is a sense of danger – for Yavuz Baydar and his Turkish colleagues as democracy closes down, of a Warsaw government running amok and of Hungary’s Orbán defying the whole European idea. The dangers the Serbian winners raised as many marched in Belgrade, fighting for press freedoms lost.

Who can be complacent about Europe, its struggles, its future? When journalists meet, they hear a knocking at the gates.”

Even in the UK, freedom of the press is not what it once was.  There are new laws permitting generalized surveillance, as well as a proposal for a new espionage act that could criminalize journalists and whistleblowers as spies.  Both the UK and the U.S. dropped two points in the past year on the Reporters Without Borders (RWB) World Press Freedom Index in the past year. Even so, I do not see Prime Minister Theresa May approaching dictatorship, as I do in the cases of Erdoğan and Trump.

Earlier this month, Turkey held a vote on a referendum that consolidated significantly more power under Erdoğan.  At the time, Donald Trump called President Erdoğan to offer congratulations. Today, Trump himself is talking about consolidating his own power. In an interview with Fox News that aired Friday night, Trump dismissed the “archaic” rules of the House and Senate — using that word four times — and suggested they needed to be streamlined “for the good of the country.”  A few excerpts:

“We don’t have a lot of closers in politics, and I understand why: It’s a very rough system. It’s an archaic system.”

“You look at the rules of the Senate, even the rules of the House — but the rules of the Senate and some of the things you have to go through — it’s really a bad thing for the country, in my opinion. They’re archaic rules. And maybe at some point we’re going to have to take those rules on, because, for the good of the nation, things are going to have to be different.”

“You can’t go through a process like this. It’s not fair. It forces you to make bad decisions. I mean, you’re really forced into doing things that you would normally not do except for these archaic rules.”

“I think, you know, the filibuster concept is not a good concept to start off with.”

Trump is frustrated with the pace of legislation after 100 days, and his answer is that he wants to change the rules … the very rules that were designed to safeguard against any one individual in government amassing too much power and shifting the foundation of a democracy into one of an autocracy. And it all starts with stifling the voices of the press and of the people.  Today, Trump effectively stifled the voice of what is arguably one of the most important agencies in the federal government, the EPA.  Today Erdoğan stifled the voice of knowledge in his country.  What is the future for these two nations under these authoritarian leaders?  Think about it.

GoFundMe … at your own risk

I am a pragmatist, but I am either cursed or blessed, sometimes both, with a too-tender heart.  I have helped many over the years, both financially and in other ways, and will continue to do so as I am able.  I cry when I read of injustices and to this day cannot speak of 9/11 without tears.  I believe that when people need help, they should be able to ask for it without being ridiculed or shamed.  All that said, I am stunned by the number of people using a relatively new (since 2010) internet service called GoFundMe to solicit cash donations from people, presumably friends and family.

Wikipedia defines GoFundMe as “a crowdfunding platform that allows people to raise money for events ranging from life events such as celebrations and graduations to challenging circumstances like accidents and illnesses.”  GoFundMe allows users to create their own website to describe what they are raising money for. During this process, members can describe their fundraising cause, the amount they hope to raise, and upload photos or video. Once the website is created, GoFundMe allows users to share their project with people through integrated social network links (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and email. People can then donate to a user’s cause through the website using only a debit card or credit card and track the progress of their funding. Those who donate can also leave comments on the website in support of the project. GoFundMe generates revenue by automatically deducting a 5% fee from each donation users receive. If the user receives no donations, then no charge is made. In 2015 GoFundMe announced that the site would no longer support legal defense funds on their platform. The news came after the site suspended funding for the defense of Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a bakery that was fined for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.  Well, at least there are some values here.

Yesterday, a family friend was soliciting funds through GoFundMe for a friend who is undergoing a serious illness.  A worthy cause, most assuredly, however there are other, more reliable means for obtaining assistance with medical bills.  Then today, a casual acquaintance notified me that his daughter is soliciting funds (requesting $6,000) to get her vehicle repaired.  This is really just a simplified version of begging.  Simplified, that is, for the solicitor … he or she does not have to be bothered to call a friend or relative, explain the situation, and ask to borrow money.  Which brings me to my next point …

Donations through GoFundMe are just that … donations.  I have no problem with a friend saying, “my car is broken and I cannot afford to get it fixed right now. Can you lend me $500 to help me get it fixed?”  In most cases, if I can spare $500 at that time, and if I know this person will do their best to repay me in a timely fashion, I will gladly lend him the $500.  And I will expect to be repaid based on whatever terms we agree upon.  But with GoFundMe, there is no commitment to repay, no intent.  It is a handout, plain and simple.  Since I donate regularly to a local Food Bank, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and a local ‘no-kill’ shelter, I am not inclined to donate to individuals who are asking for a handout for a prom dress, car repair, or a trip abroad (yes, I have one friend who solicits funds for a ‘missionary’ trip to Europe every year!).  I even saw one request for money to throw a birthday party – for herself!

What bothers me most, I think, is that the people asking for these funds are not the truly downtrodden, the people who are almost completely without hope, who are trying to raise children with no job, but these are people not much different that myself, who may struggle from time-to-time, but could find a way to solve their own financial difficulties if they tried.  But since there is GoFundMe, they apparently think it is simpler and less stressful to just ask for money through the internet, then there is no face-to-face commitment, no obligation to repay in any way.  In doing some research, I found that many of the GoFundMe projects are requesting donations of over $100,000, and some as high as $800,000.  There are, indeed, many worthy causes, but this still just feels wrong to me.  Furthermore, there is really no way to know if that cause that sounds so worthy is really legitimate.  I would be willing to bet that there are some that are simply people hoping to get money to buy a luxury car or take a cruise to the Bahamas.

As with anything else, let the buyer beware.  One other thing … neither GoFundMe nor any of the projects or people using it are registered charities, so your donation is not tax-deductible. As for me, I think I shall continue to ignore these requests.