Monday, November 10, 2008

The Church Bell Chimed Till It Rang Twenty-Nine Times

It was thirty-three years ago today that the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald went down in the big lake they call Gitchegumee. You can see some cool pictures of the fabled freighter here. Edmund Fitzgerald, by the way, was at the time the president of Northwestern Mutual Life. Why they named a cargo ship after him, I could not tell you.

In the 1992 edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, Mark Coleman wrote: "By picking an event from the year before rather than a history book, [Lightfoot] reasserted folk music's original, communicative function." But that sort of instant history hadn't fallen so out of fashion by then, had it? Neil Young wrote "Ohio" immediately after the Kent State shootings, and Crosby, Stills, Nash etc. recorded it exactly eleven days after the incident. Joni Mitchell first performed "Woodstock" at the Big Sur Music Festival a month after Woodstock. Carl Douglas wrote and recorded "Kung Fu Fighting" even as people were still actually kung fu fighting.

I'm sure there are other examples of folk-rock acting as the white CNN and talking about current events. Not everything has to be "Tom Dooley."

6 comments:

MJN said...

Gordon Lightfoot hit a grand slam with "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." Just try to name the SECOND-most famous Great Lakes shipwreck.

I like James McMurtry's "We Can't Make It Here" as a recent example of a song about current events.

Mark Lerner said...

The white CNN?

T. Nawrocki said...

Chuck D famously said that rap was the black CNN. Maybe folk-rock was the white C-SPAN.

Mark Lerner said...

I think I may have once known that Chuck D factlet. He may be onto something, but does rap have holograms?

Marshall said...

I'm not sure I appreciate that crack about "Tom Dooley."

T. Nawrocki said...

Who's got anything against "Tom Dooley"? I stand behind no one in my admiration for the works of the Kingston Trio.