Monday, January 21, 2008

John Stewart, 1939-2008

Farewell, John.

Even as a clueless kid I knew that there was something different about the man behind the 1979 radio hit "Gold". The presence of Buckingham and Nicks couldn't disguise that the singer's tremulous croak, filled with weary conviction, sprang from a deeper well. John Stewart died Friday.

On this outstanding live album from 1991, Stewart relates that his original lyric to "Daydream Believer" was changed from "now you know how funky I can be" to "now you know how happy I can be" for the Monkees' version. That alteration is an apt summation of his relationship with the popular audience.

This song, also a hit for Rosanne Cash, captures much of what made Stewart distinctive. Inside an epic sweep is a keen eye for intimate detail.

"Blind boys and gamblers/They invented the blues/Will pay up in blood when this marker comes due/To try to get off now is about as insane/As those who wave lanterns at runaway trains."

My notes on two memorial events for the brilliant vocalist Gregory Hickman-Williams are here.

I have newfound respect for Timbaland. For the first fifteen minutes of One Republic's show Saturday night, I was pleased with the Colorado band. The appeal of their varnished reinterpretation of Coldplay and U2 was not lost on me. But the faceless guys lack stagecraft and even a smidgen of soulfulness. They lost me and most of the sold-out room. Timbaland's ability to mine the compelling hit "Apologize" from One Republic's bland sound is a miraculous achievement. Opening act Eric Hutchinson was selling a t-shirt that read "Eric Hutchinson is pretty good." That's about right.

Kansas City Click: Everette DeVan hosts a jam at the Blue Room on Monday night.


bgo said...

Me & John go way back. Back to his Kingston Trio days. But the song "Armstrong" has always been etched in the core of my being. It is not that hard for me to remember July, 1969, as I was a teenager caught up in rapidly changing and turbulent times.

"The rivers are getting dirty
The wind is getting bad
War and hate are killing off
The only earth we have
But the world all stopped to watch it
On that July afternoon
To watch a man named Armstrong
Walk upon the moon
To watch a man named Armstrong
Walk upon the moon
To watch a man named Armstrong
Walk upon the moon"

brucedene said...

Back in my twenties, I could have sworn "Runaway Train" was written just so that I could hear it. Still sounds as wise and allusive as ever.

Happy In Bag said...

Thanks for checking in, guys.

jonderneathica said...

You gents have totally schooled me on a man I knew only for "Gold". Here's an appreciation of John Stewart's career from Allmusic:

Happy In Bag said...

That's a really worthwhile piece, Jon. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Been listening to John Stewart since I was in high school (circa 1969). Absolutely loved everything he recorded up until late 90's. Just an aside - regarding the song 'Armstrong', I only recently realized that the song was not entirely a 'ode' to the moon walk, but an indictment of the callousness here on earth. Somewhat embarrassed to realize that, but I'm glad to see that his songs are still making me think.

Happy In Bag said...

Thanks for the contribution, Anon. Stewart left quite a legacy,

sexy said...