Dolemite is dead. So is Trust Your Ears.
The past week has brought a few big losses: comedian Rudy Ray Moore, who played pimpin’ superhero Dolemite on film, has died. And so has Levi Stubbs, the gruff-voiced singer of Motown group the Four Tops. And Edie Adams, the sultry singer-actress who did ads for Muriel Cigars when JFK was president.
And now a minor one.
Yes, it’s time to break out the mourning weeds for this column, which began in early 2005 with much promise and ended with less fanfare: a bitter old man, fulminating against liquored-up white funk bands and a music industry that’s been dead so long it doesn’t even smell bad anymore, tilting like Don Quixote at hipster retro-rock guitarists who imitate Pete Townshend’s iconic arm movements.
The grim truth is that if you’re old enough to remember watching the Beatles’ American debut on The Ed Sullivan Show in real time, you’re probably a bit too old to be writing about contemporary music. I remember that Sunday night in 1964. So, like too many rock writers of a certain age, pretty much everything I write about is heard through the prism of “All You Need Is Love.”
Which may be why so much music these days consists of a snake eating its tail. One might think with all the innovations in music-making, with all the influences and global source music available, and with the utter democratization of recording in recent years, that the dominant forms of music would be something wild and new. Instead, we’re still getting an endless recycling of the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s—a familiar blend of musical comfort food and pabulum.
What may happen in future time, if we don’t devolve into subhumans beating on old refrigerator boxes with sticks, could be the discovery of all the great, unheard music that people have been making over the past couple of decades, along with new critical assessments of those recordings and the scenes that spawned them, placing them in the context of what already is known. It’ll be like the Nuggets compilations, which made a bunch of obscure regional 45-rpm singles accessible to the masses, times a hundred. Some of those undiscovered musical gems will come from Sacramento.
Should be nice work for a new generation of critics, who will have a blast sorting through years of sonic detritus and obscurity. It’s enough to make a guy wish he was 15 again, getting in on the ground floor.
As for me? I’m unemployed and, as far as Sacramento goes, seemingly unemployable. I may have to leave town to find work so I can survive. Which is sad, because I love this place. But in the interim, or more permanently if I can land a day job, I’ll be writing a new arts-related column in a different section of this paper. Look for it next week.
And for those of you musicians I’ve slighted or pissed off, I have tried to give you an honest opinion. But the bottom line is that if you’re getting up onstage and making music, in some ways you’re already a winner. Even when they’re throwing tomatoes at you.
Speaking of tomatoes, they’ll be well out of season by Wednesday, November 19. But if you want to come heckle me, I’ll be trading songs onstage with Rich Varone at Luna’s Café & Juice Bar. We start around 8 p.m. It’ll cost you $3, not including the vegetables. And my MySpace page is www.myspace.com/jacksongriffithmusic, in case you figured that those who can’t carry a tune use poison words instead to eviscerate those who can. You may be right.
See you in the next episode. Put your weight on it.