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Roxy Music: Still mind-blowing, still overlooked

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There’s a fleeting glimpse of something delectable at the start of Roxy Music’s first album, and yet just out of reach.

“I tried but I could not find a way,” Bryan Ferry sings as he gazes longingly at what-might-have-been disappearing in his rear-view mirror. The chorus, such as it is, is a recurring chant: “CPL593H” — a car registration number, intoned with deadpan cool by guitarist Phil Manzanera and tape manipulator Brian Eno.

The song hurtles ahead, Ferry rattling on — “I could talk, talk, talk myself to death” — at the futility of it all, while Eno’s synthesizer splatters mud on his windshield. A series of brief tongue-in-cheek solos quotes the Beatles, “Peter Gunn” and Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” while Paul Thompson’s drums and Graham Simpson’s bass turn the arrangement into an exuberant rush. It is a song of longing and frustration dolled up in blue eye shadow and tiger-skin vests. The title couldn’t be more droll: “Re-Make/Re-Model.” It’s a love song, but to what exactly? The car? The girl? The illusion of the girl? The idea of the girl driving off in a machine that may be even more desirable than she is?

Here was a postmodern love song dished out with attitude and verve by a band that seemed to come out of nowhere. Indeed, Roxy Music had played only a handful of gigs before this unlikely collection of former art-school students (Ferry, Eno, Simpson), a classically trained woodwind player (Andy Mackay), a roadie-turned-guitarist (Manzanera) and a veteran rock drummer (Thompson) began recording its first album in London in March 1972.

When they were done, the U.K. sextet created one of the signature debuts in rock history, at once postmodern, strange, sensual and thrilling. In 1972 it mapped out a new frontier, even as bands like the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin dominated the rock landscape. Now, 45 years later and newly reissued as a four-disc box set with demos, outtakes, live performances and videos, it still sounds remarkably fresh. Its mix of art-rock ambition and glam flamboyance left its mark on artists across generations: Grace Jones, Morrissey, Duran Duran, the Pixies, Chic, Eurythmics, Pulp, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and countless others.

“Roxy Music 45th Anniversary Edition” (Virgin) documents the start of a brief but brilliant 10-year career that produced a half-dozen good to great albums. Roxy Music even managed to generate one genuine best-seller, “Avalon” in 1982, with a silkier sound than its predecessors. Yet the band will once again be on the outside looking in when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame holds its annual induction ceremony in April. It would seem to be an inexplicable oversight given that the Cars, a band that liberally borrowed from Roxy’s stylistic innovations, will be among this year’s inductees. But the Cars had more hits, whereas Roxy Music’s legacy continues to be viewed with skepticism if not disdain by the guardians of rock purity. Ferry and his bandmates were cast as dilettantes rather than dues-paying musicians, who conflated songs with showmanship, art with artifice. Which was exactly the point.

Even the debut album’s cover image made waves. Rather than representing the band as virile rock gods, it featured what looked like a cheesecake pin-up from a glamor magazine. Yet the model, Kari-Ann Muller, is less a pouting ingenue than a knowing predator, teeth bared, who is laying a trap, a gold record peeking out from behind her wrap. Some even speculated (wrongly) that she was a drag queen, which only added to the allure: What exactly was going on here?

Though Roxy drew on various hallowed rock touchstones — blues, rockabilly, doo-wop — they also reached far outside its traditional margins. “Re-Make/Re-Model” wasn’t just the first song on the first Roxy album, it was a manifesto, a musical blueprint of what was to come — subverting the love song (fetishizing a machine’s license plate) and pop-song structure itself (where’s the chorus?), while winking at their musical influences (classical to rock to you-name-it). Then there was the idea of juxtaposing noise and melody, of trying to pull a musical arrangement out of the chaotic soup that was Eno’s synthesizer and tape treatments, Manzanera’s scorched-earth guitar, Mackay’s array of treated woodwinds.

Visually, the band was a show in itself. A DVD included in the box set captures a range of performances in which the band’s outlandish gear (glitter, animal-print designs, gloves, leather, stack-heel shoes) is every bit as pushy as its music.

Ferry was the pushiest of them of all. He casually dropped high- and pop-art references into his lyrics, and crooned with an exaggerated vibrato that made him sound like a decadent lounge singer, unlike most of his British peers who slavishly imitated American blues and soul vocalists. When he did channel the torn-and-frayed emoting of the R&B greats, he made it indelibly his own. As “If There is Something” shifts from country twang into desperate pleading more akin to Otis Redding, Ferry mines wicked humor: “I would put roses round our door, sit in the garden, growing potatoes by the score.”

Roxy Music tried to couple rock’s serious ambitions (the band members were big fans of arty predecessors such as the Velvet Underground and King Crimson, for whom Ferry once auditioned) with pop’s fizziness. Ferry, by nature shy and self-effacing, reinvented himself as a fop with issues. He saw infinite possibility in the music, and while the Beatles and David Bowie got there before him in terms of layering rock with irony, ambiguity, theatricality and alter-egos, he brought a formidable intellect and subversive sensibility that stamped Roxy Music as innovators. For all his movie-star handsomeness and outwardly stylish presentation, Ferry also projected a creepiness that would never allow him to become the corporate pop idol he sometimes resembled.

Like Ferry, Eno wasn’t a musician so much as an artist who painted with sound, and found the perfect tools in reel-to-reel tape recorders and the VCS3 synthesizer. His manipulations continually explode the arrangements. On “Ladytron,” Eno’s sci-fi transmissions merge with Mackay’s melancholy oboe as though bringing down an alien invasion, and in the live performances documented on the BBC Sessions, his synth swings like a wrecking ball through “Chance Meeting” and “The Bob (Medley).”

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'Black Panther' proves why Afrofuturism matters – Engadget

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Even if you haven’t heard the term Afrofuturism before, you’ve certainly seen examples of it. It was coined by culture critic Mark Dery in a 1993 essay, Black to the Future (available in the anthology Flame Wars: The Discourse of Cyberculture). It charts the rise of science-fiction-oriented art from black artists, starting with Sun Ra’s fusion of space imagery (evoking ancient Egyptian mythology) and innovative jazz. Octavia Butler’s novels, like Patternmaster, actively questioned race and gender roles in society.

More recently, Afrofuturism has been reflected in songs and videos from the likes of Missy Elliot, Janelle Monae (who’s entire aesthetic is practically a sci-fi orgy) and FKA Twigs. You can think of the label as a way for black artists to claim their corner of the science-fiction and fantasy genres — which are still predominantly driven by white artists and characters.

“The notion of Afrofuturism gives rise to a troubling antinomy: Can a community whose past has been deliberately rubbed out, and whose energies have subsequently been consumed by the search for legible traces of its history, imagine possible futures?” Dery writes. “Furthermore, isn’t the unreal estate of the future already owned by the technocrats, futurologists, streamliners and set designers—white to the man—who have engineered our collective fantasies?”

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With new song cycle, Lawrence Brownlee explores a black man's life in America

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Lawrence Brownlee is celebrated for his portrayals of the princely heroes and love-smitten lords of bel canto. His career is flourishing in major concert halls and opera houses throughout the world, including at the Lyric Opera, where his sensational vocal prowess is currently on display in the taxing role of Arturo in Bellini’s “I Puritani.”

Now he is taking on music of a much more personal and timely nature: a new song cycle about what it means from his perspective to be a black man living in present-day America.

On Thursday night at Chicago’s DuSable Museum of African American History, Brownlee will present the local premiere of “Cycles of My Being,” a 45-minute song cycle created in collaboration with composer Tyshawn Sorey and poet Terrance Hayes, about the struggles and joys he and other African-American men experience in a culture where racism remains a festering wound on the body politic.

The Lyric Unlimited-sponsored event, presented as part of Black History Month, will take place only two nights after the world premiere, under auspices of Opera Philadelphia, which co-commissioned the work with Carnegie Hall and where Brownlee is artistic adviser. That will be a somewhat fuller version of the six-movement song cycle, with piano, clarinet, violin and cello accompaniment.

Brownlee’s performances of the cycle in Chicago and in New York, in April, will be accompanied by piano alone, with Myra Huang taking the keyboard part. They also plan to tour it to major venues across the country. For the tenor’s recital at Carnegie Hall he is pairing “Cycles of My Being” with a more familiar song cycle, Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” (“Poet’s Love”).

Race relations in the U.S. is a subject the 46-year-old singer has addressed in various ways over the past several years: witness his performing spirituals with jazz pianist Jason Moran in a church in Harlem in 2016 to demonstrate solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I want to use my art in a positive way, as a platform to talk about things I’m passionate about,” Brownlee said last week between “Puritani” performances at Lyric. “This song cycle was an opportunity for us, as African-American men, to shape something together, to be in control of the discourse, to say things that are important to us, and to say them honestly.”

Although “Cycles of My Being” references recent instances of black men in sometimes violent confrontation with police, the cycle steers clear of taking a political stance, Brownlee said.

“We talk about hate, we talk about religion, we talk about consciousness. We talk about waking up every morning with something to be thankful for. We talk a lot about hope and what hope means to us. Our goal is not to shake our fists at anyone,” the singer said.

“One of the questions we ask in the cycle is, America, do you love the air in me, as I love the air in you?”

Neither Brownlee nor Sorey nor Hayes was familiar with each other’s work before they began their collaboration early last year, finishing the cycle in December and making minor revisions last month.

Knowing of the singer’s interest in creating a recital piece addressing African-American male identity in the 21st century, Brownlee’s publicist, Andrew Ousley, suggested Sorey, best known as a jazz percussionist and a 2017 recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” fellowship.

Brownlee listened to some songs Sorey had written about the barrier-breaking entertainer Josephine Baker, and a couple of other pieces of his on YouTube. He knew then that he had found his composer. For their librettist, they sought out Hayes, a young African-American poet and a 2014 MacArthur Fellow whose poetry deals with issues of racial identity and masculinity.

Assembling the song cycle was, in the singer’s words, “somewhat of a workshop” for all three collaborators. Brownlee told Hayes some of the subject areas he would like the texts to address. He also pointed out to Sorey certain characteristics of his voice and which parts of the vocal compass feel most comfortable to him.

It soon became clear to Brownlee and Hayes that they were providing the composer with more written material than could be included in the finished text. “There’s a large amount of my own writing in this,” the tenor explained. “A couple of things I urged him to include because they are important to me.”

Recent, widely reported incidents involving the deaths of African-American men, and the Black Lives Matter movement that arose as a result, find expression in parts of Sorey’s jazz-tinged score. The composer suggested as much in a recent interview. “Some stuff is really pretty; there’s a lot of patterns,” he said. Then, during the third movement, “it definitely takes a turn.” That’s where the piano part explodes in violent chords, and the vocal line skitters between dynamic extremes.

Although “Cycles of My Being” is a piece of classical music created by three black men, Brownlee said he hopes it will help bring together audience members of different races, ages and cultures, with mutual respect and understanding, in these divided times.

By repudiating the largely negative stereotype of African-American men that clouds the national conversation about race and social justice, the song cycle Brownlee helped bring into the world speaks to humanity’s better angels, he said.

“l hope that it will bring some type of clarity and empathy, a different way to view other people. This music is meant to do good. If we tell our story in a way that is not confrontational, someone who does not experience what we as people of color experience on a day-to-day basis might be able to say after they hear this piece, ‘OK, that was some tough information. But I understand.’ ”

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee will present “Cycles of My Being,” a song cycle by Tyshawn Sorey and Terrance Hayes, with pianist Myra Huang, under auspices of Lyric Unlimited, at 7 p.m. Thursday at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place; $15, $10 for museum members; 312-827-5600, www.lyricopera.org/cycles

Pregardien sings Schubert at U. of C.

An admired tenor of an older generation, with a very different cultural perspective to bring to the art of song singing, made his Chicago debut over the weekend at the University of Chicago.

German tenor Christoph Pregardien may be better known as a baroque interpreter than as a lieder singer, but in fact he is an experienced and justly celebrated artist in the German song repertory. The all-Schubert program he and the veteran pianist Julius Drake presented Sunday afternoon in Mandel Hall showed the singer fully living up to his reputation as a master Schubertian.

Pregardien devoted the first half of the program to nine songs on poems by the little-known Ernst Schulze, the second half to eight lieder based on texts of various poets, including Friedrich Ruckert.

In all of the songs he proved himself to be a musical storyteller of rare perception, and rarer sensitivity. His ability to penetrate to the expressive essence of even the most banal romantic poetry, with a voice of no great size, but a softly pleasing timbre, vibrato, was remarkable. What a pleasure it was to hear German verse articulated so clearly and idiomatically through Schubert’s settings.

Drake’s splendid way with the all-important piano parts made him no mere accompanist, but a fully engaged partner in musico-poetic illumination.

The audience heard songs of nature, songs of love in its infinite variety, interesting rarities along with well-known lieder like “Im Fruhling” and “Du bist die Ruh.” Pregardien brought an almost preternatural serenity to the latter song, capping it off with a flawless shift to head voice and a perfectly sustained diminuendo on the high note. The recital was full of subtleties such as that, magic moments when singer and song were indivisible.

John von Rhein is a Tribune critic.


Twitter @jvonrhein

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Lawrence Brownlee is a ‘normal guy’ who sings Rossini like no other »

Audience for Lyric’s recital by Brownlee, Owens feels spirit, and then some »

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MTA Conductors Spill Secrets of the NYC Subway System – NBC New York

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Some 5.6 million people rely on the subway each day to get around New York City. But what do you really know about something you spend so much time riding? We sat down with a group of MTA workers to ask them about the MTA’s dirtiest secrets.

As we sit on the train every day — sometimes delayed by train traffic ahead, sometimes by signal problems — one gets to thinking.

Are we really delayed by train traffic or are the conductors protecting our sensitivities? Is ‘sick customer’ a euphemism for ‘dead customer’? Am I safer if I sit in the middle of the train, or near the doors where I can make a quick escape? If I touch this pole, what are the chances I’m going to get a nasty rash? Did I just see someone living in the subway tunnel? And what exactly is that couple doing over there?

We asked all the hard questions. Read below for more.

MTA Conductors Spill Some Top Secrets of NYC Subway SystemMTA Conductors Spill Some Top Secrets of NYC Subway System

1. When the conductor says “train traffic ahead,” is there really a train ahead of us?

Richard Richards, operator: Honestly as an operator I have to tell them something…In an attempt to keep the customers calm, you tell them we have traffic ahead, we have delays ahead, but in honesty we don’t always know ’cause they are not telling us, radio communications can be choppy.

Joe Costales, conductor: The system is antiquated, the relay for the radio systems are not kept up, they are not repaired, they are not constantly checked, so there are black-out areas.

Crystal Young, conductor: We may talk to them over the radio and they can hear us but we can’t hear what they are saying…sometimes when we are on a train it’s not that we don’t want to let the customers know what’s going on, we don’t have the communications to let them know what’s going on.

2. Do you ever see people living underground between stations?

Richards: They had hot plates they had TVs, they literally lived back there.

Costales: You see them coming out, a lot of times people who get hit by trains, are the ones living in the subway.

Brandon Patterson, conductor: Sometimes when we go to set up tracks we go down there and they get mad because they think we are invading their home space.

 MTA Conductors Spill 10 Secrets of the NYC Subway System MTA Conductors Spill 10 Secrets of the NYC Subway System

3. When the conductor says there is a sick passenger ahead, does that sometimes mean a dead customer? 

Richards: We’re not doctors so sometimes it can be, They could be unresponsive, we have to call for medical assistance to check them out.

4. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen people do on the subway?

Richards: I’ve seen people actually having sex on the train.

Costales: Masturbating, having sex.

Richards: And they’ve got a bed set up, they tap into the third rail and they are watching TV.

Young: One time someone brought a goat on the train. They bought it at a live mart.

5. What’s the deal with the E train?

Tramell Thompson, conductor: The E train has been dubbed ‘The Homeless Express’, it’s one of those lines that doesn’t go outside. So from terminal to terminal it’s underground. It’s pretty warm. You have new, nicer trains over there, it’s clean over there. And you know the homeless, you go on there at midnight, you’ll see five or six homeless people in each car. But the homeless isn’t really the issue with us, it’s mainly the drunks.

6. Where’s the safest place to sit or stand on a train? 

Richards: In the middle of the car. You don’t want to sit in the corners [because that’s where people throw up and urinate]. Also by the doors, you’ll be on your phone and as soon as the doors get ready to close, they snatch it and they’re off.

Conductors: A safe place to ride on a subway train would be in the middle of the train in the conductor’s car or in the very first car where the train operator’s going to be. That way at least you’re closest to a crew member to help if they have to.

7. Do you think the MTA places on-time-performance above all else?

Young: At the end of the line they have a sign that shows on-time job performance, where they literally track to see how many people were injured while in performance of their duty so that’s what they are concerned about. It’s easier for a passenger to make a complaint versus us making a complaint because they just want to keep that train moving.

Patterson: The MTA’s logo is ‘Every second counts,’ so every second counts to them.

Young: Some superintendents, if someone has to take a comfort they want you to write a [note]. So you have to, as an adult, write down on a piece of paper that you had to use the bathroom. God forbid if you use the bathroom too often, then they will try to write you up.

8. What does it normally mean when the police says there’s a police investigation? 

Tramell Thompson, train conductor: Anything, EDPs (emotionally disturbed person), anything. Could be a disturbance on the train, fights.

Eric Loegel, train operator: Unattended package, suspicious package…”customer injury” as they say. A customer injury is generally someone who has been struck by a train. And we internally refer to that as a 12-9.

9. When you ride the subway, do you ever sit?

Patterson: No, I try not to. I tell [my kids] not to touch anything, I carry hand sanitizer.

Richards: I don’t touch the poles or I sit in the middle…I’m a big guy, I brace myself.

Costales: We transport millions of people, it’s hard to keep it that clean.

10. What are your biggest safety concerns when operating the train?

Patterson: Standing behind the yellow line, the [public] leans over looking for the train, they could slip, and that’s what causes 12-9s and delays.

Richards: I’ve seen people fall on the tracks ’cause they hear the announcement and they think the train is on their track and they start straight walking because they are online…we get conditioned, oh the train is here, they start walking and they fall..the train is not there.

Top Tri-State News PhotosTop Tri-State News Photos

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In Englewood, cherished Abe Lincoln statue is broken, vanishes then resurfaces

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A pale gray curl of snow spun in the air where the statue once stood. It had been a modest memorial, occupying a narrow median of grass, between the rusting padlocked ruins of a Chicago gas station and the corner of 69th Street and Wolcott Avenue. It wasn’t much, just an unremarkable concrete bust of Abraham Lincoln, maybe 4 feet tall, a head and shoulders that looked out across a stretch of the West Englewood neighborhood, its brick bungalows, long-derelict businesses, snowdrifts that avalanched through broken windows. The bust too had seen better days — a glance would remind you those days were decades ago.

The statue had watched this corner for 91 years. In that time it was chipped, covered in trash, tagged with graffiti, used as a launching pad for fireworks, painted black, then painted white, painted red, given a green mohawk, painted white again, painted black again. It was also washed and cleaned by its neighbors, used for Boy and Girl Scout ceremonies, and during wars, it’s where West Englewood mourned its fallen soldiers.

“Everything that neighborhood has seen in the past century is reflected off that bust,” said Camilo Vergara, a New York-based photographer and MacArthur genius known for shooting the same neighborhoods over many decades. He’s been photographing the Lincoln statue annually since 1997, “because it brings together so many issues that you just don’t consider standing in front of other Chicago Lincolns. It was white, then black, cared for, then marked by gangs — it was never going into a museum, and who cares?”

It was loved.

Never mind that no one is entirely certain who made it, or where exactly it came from.

Never mind that its nose has been missing for so long that some people in the neighborhood didn’t recognize the statue’s deformed face as Honest Abe. It was community wallpaper, the kind of local landmark you see so often you stop seeing. Jerome Wallace, a customer at the Transcending Kutz barbershop a block away, said: “I’m 43, and I’ve known that statue since I was born. Everyone here knows that statue. When I was a kid, when the school bus passed the Lincoln, I knew I was almost home.”

“It was like West Englewood’s Egyptian statue,” said barber Will Cook. “No nose!”

And then last summer, just before Labor Day, it vanished.

“We have no idea where it went,” Wallace said, “and it was the only statue we had.”

Outside the barbershop last week, a woman walked fast down 69th Street to a waiting bus. She nodded at the spot where the statue stood and called over her shoulder: “No idea what happened, who took it, when it’s coming back, if it’s ever coming back. This is Englewood — don’t hold your breath.” When Vergara arrived last summer to shoot it, he found only a flattened patch of dirt. He sent the image to Tim Samuelson, Chicago’s official cultural historian. Samuelson has done more than anyone to trace the statue’s history.

Samuelson knew what had happened. A lot of people knew what had happened — the news of the statue’s removal briefly became a cause celeb within political left and right media.

Here’s what happened: The bust of Lincoln was removed last August by the Chicago Department of Transportation, at the request of Ald. Ray Lopez of the 15th Ward. Though the statue is located in the 17th Ward, Lopez said he stepped in “only after it became obvious that nobody but myself was concerned about the health of this statue.” (The 17th Ward alderman, David Moore, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

Lopez contacted the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, which contacted CDOT for removal. He said he became concerned after the statue was vandalized twice last August: A resident called to say the statue was painted black; soon after, it was set on fire. (Lopez said the vandals used tar and roofing paper.) “It was around the time of the Charlottesville (Va. white nationalist) marches. A lot of hate-filled things were said, and I’ll be the first to admit this statue had seen a lot of wear and tear — of youthful indiscretions — but two acts to happen about that same time? It just felt like something else happening.”

He offered no evidence of who might have vandalized the statue, and though no one has since been arrested for the vandalism, or claimed responsibility, Lopez noted that nearby Marquette Park had been a stronghold for Illinois Nazis. He wasn’t comfortable leaving the statue on 69th, vulnerable to more attacks. He told the Chicago Sun-Times in August that President Donald Trump’s (widely condemned) response to the violence in Charlottesville had emboldened white supremacists; Lopez sent a letter to Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Mark Kelly, concerned that, as left-leaning groups called for the removal of Confederate statues, right-leaning groups could seek revenge on monuments to the Great Emancipator. Soon after, the bust at the corner of 69th and Wolcott was removed, without ceremony or a timeline for when or if it might be returned.

“It’s frustrating,” said Samuelson, the historian with the cultural affairs department, “because the department I work for handles public art in Chicago, so every once in a while they get calls from Englewood residents complaining about the statue: ‘How could the city of Chicago allow that statue to sit all busted up like that?’ The truth is, it’s not ours — the statue was placed there privately, and became a meaningful thing. When I saw Camilo’s picture of 69th Street without its Lincoln, just a patch of dirt, it was startling — it looked like a fresh grave.”

Of course, the United States doesn’t lack memorials to its 16th president. There are highways and cities and schools and tunnels and cars companies named after Lincoln. Samuel Wheeler, Illinois’ state historian, said: “Lincoln is the quintessential American — born in a log cabin with a dirt floor, and despite only one formal year of education he dies one of the most powerful men in the world. It’s such a familiar name we tend to forget that a life inspired those memorials, across the globe.” Indeed, “Lincoln is one of the few figures in Western Civilization, other than Jesus Christ, whose entire life story can be found in our statues and monuments,” said Dave Wiegers, an amateur photographer from Gurnee whose “near obsession” is documenting Lincoln statues.

Ask him to tell you about Lincoln statues in Illinois and be prepared to listen: There’s the very formal Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ statue in Lincoln Park; the hunkier 9-foot-tall young Abe in Senn Park; Abe with an axe in Garfield Park; and Abe with kids and a dog in Berwyn; the Abe just erected inside the courtyard of the Palmer House; the seven Abes marking the locations of the Lincoln-Douglas debates …

“But that (West Englewood) statue,” he said, “that’s one I get asked about the most.”

Unlike most statues to U.S. presidents, generals, activists, favorite sons, favorite daughters, it was not erected by a municipality, or a formal organization. It was placed there by a Swedish immigrant, and through endurance and default, became folk art.

A small hand-stamped brass plate at its base tells us it found a home on Aug. 31, 1926, and the man who placed it was a 39-year old mechanic named Philip Bloomquist.

Actually, his full name was Philip Gustaf Bloomquist, according to Cheryl Koranda, his granddaughter and last known relative, a middle-school art teacher in Urbana. He was born in 1887 and moved here from Sweden when he was about 13; he came with only his mother and sister, settling first in Indiana then in Chicago. “He came here without much money and lived a middle-class life,” Koranda said. He bought a bungalow in West Englewood in 1915, at a time when the neighborhood was predominantly European, full of immigrants from Germany, Ireland, Italy, many of whom worked in factories. The neighborhood’s busy train depot had been a first stop for newcomers.

Koranda said that her grandfather was tall and handsome, and lived on the 6600 block of South Hermitage Avenue for many years with his wife, Blanche, and two daughters, Edna and Ruth (Koranda’s mother). He was a devoted White Sox fan and worked many jobs around the South Side to eke out a living. For a short time, he operated the Lincoln Gas Station at 69th and Wolcott, “though the story in our family was that he was screwed out of his money.”

It was named the Lincoln Gas Station because, until 1939, Wolcott was Lincoln Avenue.

Before the station could change hands, Bloomquist placed a bust of Lincoln out front. “Like a lot of immigrants, he wanted to be American,” his granddaughter said. “He refused to honor old Swedish customs. He liked his herring — but he also liked Lincoln.”

The statue classed up the corner.

Though likely it was placed there partly to advertise the gas station, Samuelson said. He added the bust is probably an inexpensive adaptation of the Saint-Gaudens in Lincoln Park, a stock sculpture purchased at one of the several statuary businesses in Chicago then. That said, Samuelson is also not entirely certain of the statue’s origins.

“Came from a scrap yard!” said John McGrath, an 84-year-old retired AT&T salesman in Oak Lawn, who grew up at 70th and Wolcott. He said his own father, a railroad foreman, “was a handy guy who visited salvage yards all the time, and the story in my family is that my father and another guy — don’t know who — found that sculpture in a dump, and what I think happened was they somehow got it to the station and built a base for it.”

He said the statue was salvaged from a junkyard of scrap parts of the White City. That said, he himself is not sure if the story referred to the White City of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition or the long-gone White City Amusement Park at 63rd Street. Indeed, Samuelson said the nearby park suffered a major fire in 1925 — the year before the statue was erected — and its design had suggested the “classical majesty” of the 1893 Exposition in amusement park form, with much cheaper materials. So it’s very possible the Lincoln bust was a decorative element of a decaying amusement part. “Or the junkyard story is a bit of innocent family folklore that came to be regarded as fact.”

The truth is distant now.

McGrath said that, without a doubt, “the neighborhood had so many functions there when I was a kid.” After a brother was killed in World War II, the family held a ceremony at the statue. Bloomquist had long left the gas station, but his statue remained, literally a community pillar. Koranda and her mother and father lived with Bloomquist until she was 13. “At which point, in the late 1960s, during the riots, that time of white flight, my parents were very scared of living in the city, so we moved to Homewood. But my grandfather refused to leave the neighborhood. He really loved it, and my mother was heartbroken.”

Bloomquist died at 83 in 1970, of heart failure.

West Englewood is 77 percent black now, and is a frequently cited example of what seemingly intractable urban neglect and racism can do to a once a vibrant, middle-class community. More than 40 percent of its children alone live in poverty. And there’s nothing at the corner of 69th and Wolcott now. Just some old garages in a bleak abandoned lot. “The truth is, when I heard about the vandalism to the statue last summer, I wondered if someone, symbolically, took Lincoln out of his misery,” Vergara said. “I wondered if someone looked around at how badly an American neighborhood full of black people can be treated, and they decided to destroy Lincoln to save him.”

So, where is the statue now?

There were theories and rumors on 69th Street.

Not long after the bust was removed, notices were pasted to telephone poles about the commercial rezoning of the street — some in the neighborhood say removing their weird, battered Lincoln was a first small step to gentrification. Others said the statue was destroyed: Antonio De Luna, who owns the muffler shop across the street with his brother Pablo, said they watched a crane lift the brittle bust “then (accidentally) break — like, into two pieces.” The stories didn’t stop at 69th Street: After Lopez posted on Facebook about the statue being vandalized, the Lincoln bust briefly became a political football, with even right-wing Breitbart News Network claiming “The destruction of the 90-year-old statue lends credence to President Donald Trump’s contention that left-wing activists will never be happy with merely destroying Confederate statues.”

A week before Lincoln’s Birthday, the Tribune asked Ald. Lopez about the state of the Lincoln. He said he hadn’t witnessed it being removed but believed it was in the possession of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. A department spokesperson said the department had not seen the bust. Ald. Lopez then asked commissioners for the department, the Department of Transportation and the Chicago Public Library about the status of the statue. He received an email from cultural affairs Commissioner Kelly: The bust was in storage, it had not received “additional damage,” and despite “a backlog of conservation projects,” this aesthetically prosaic, crumbling statue would go at the top of the department’s conservation list.

Soon after, we were led to the bust itself.

We found it in a muddy CDOT maintenance yard, in South Lawndale. It sat just inside a metal shed, surrounded by stacks of rock salt and metal fencing. When it was removed from West Englewood, the pedestal snapped away from the bust, so Lincoln sat on the floor, across from the thick, blocky base. And CDOT masons had stripped 90 years of paint. It’s the drab tan-brown of concrete now, with only a hint of char around the eyes.

The statue will never return to 69th and Wolcott.

Its eventual home is the West Englewood Library.

Should you care to remember Philip Bloomquist’s legacy the way it was, before its eyes were blackened and body scarred, visit 69th and Wolcott on Google Maps. An old street-view image is still there, the bust cracked and ghostly. “This doesn’t need to be a loss,” said Vergara. “Maybe what comes out of everything is a new memorial. Let the neighborhood replace its Lincoln, with something that lends an identity, and gives that corner a new meaning. Then the story continues, and Lincoln was never lost at all.”


Twitter @borrelli

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The 11 cities most likely to run out of drinking water – like Cape Town – BBC News

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Dripping tap

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A quarter of the world’s major cities face a situation of water stress

Cape Town is in the unenviable situation of being the first major city in the modern era to face the threat of running out of drinking water.

However, the plight of the drought-hit South African city is just one extreme example of a problem that experts have long been warning about – water scarcity.

Despite covering about 70% of the Earth’s surface, water, especially drinking water, is not as plentiful as one might think. Only 3% of it is fresh.

Over one billion people lack access to water and another 2.7 billion find it scarce for at least one month of the year. A 2014 survey of the world’s 500 largest cities estimates that one in four are in a situation of “water stress”

According to UN-endorsed projections, global demand for fresh water will exceed supply by 40% in 2030, thanks to a combination of climate change, human action and population growth.

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It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that Cape Town is just the tip of the iceberg. Here are the other 11 cities most likely to run out of water.

1. São Paulo

Brazil’s financial capital and one of the 10 most populated cities in the world went through a similar ordeal to Cape Town in 2015, when the main reservoir fell below 4% capacity.

At the height of the crisis, the city of over 21.7 million inhabitants had less than 20 days of water supply and police had to escort water trucks to stop looting.

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At the height of the drought, Sao Paulo’s reservoirs became a desolate landscape

It is thought a drought that affected south-eastern Brazil between 2014 and 2017 was to blame, but a UN mission to São Paulo was critical of the state authorities “lack of proper planning and investments”.

The water crisis was deemed “finished” in 2016, but in January 2017 the main reserves were 15% below expected for the period – putting the city’s future water supply once again in doubt.

2. Bangalore

Local officials in the southern Indian city have been bamboozled by the growth of new property developments following Bangalore’s rise as a technological hub and are struggling to manage the city’s water and sewage systems.

To make matters worse, the city’s antiquated plumbing needs an urgent upheaval; a report by the national government found that the city loses over half of its drinking water to waste.

Like China, India struggles with water pollution and Bangalore is no different: an in-depth inventory of the city’s lakes found that 85% had water that could only be used for irrigation and industrial cooling.

Not a single lake had suitable water for drinking or bathing.

Will Cape Town be the first city to run out of water?

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Pollution in Bangalore’s lakes is rife

3. Beijing

The World Bank classifies water scarcity as when people in a determined location receive less than 1,000 cubic metres of fresh water per person a year.

In 2014, each of the more than 20 million inhabitants of Beijing had only 145 cubic metres.

China is home to almost 20% of the world’s population but has only 7% of the world’s fresh water.

A Columbia University study estimates that the country’s reserves declined 13% between 2000 and 2009.

And there’s also a pollution problem. Official figures from 2015 showed that 40% of Beijing’s surface water was polluted to the point of not being useful even for agriculture or industrial use.

The Chinese authorities have tried to address the problem by creating massive water diversion projects. They have also introduced educational programmes, as well as price hikes for heavy business users.

4. Cairo

Once crucial to the establishment of one of the world’s greatest civilisations, the River Nile is struggling in modern times.

It is the source of 97% of Egypt’s water but also the destination of increasing amounts of untreated agricultural, and residential waste.

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The Nile provides 97% of Egypt’s water supply

World Health Organization figures show that Egypt ranks high among lower middle-income countries in terms of the number of deaths related to water pollution.

The UN estimates critical shortages in the country by 2025.

5. Jakarta

Like many coastal cities, the Indonesian capital faces the threat of rising sea levels.

But in Jakarta the problem has been made worse by direct human action. Because less than half of the city’s 10 million residents have access to piped water, illegal digging of wells is rife. This practice is draining the underground aquifers, almost literally deflating them.

As a consequence, about 40% of Jakarta now lies below sea level, according to World Bank estimates.

To make things worse, aquifers are not being replenished despite heavy rain because the prevalence of concrete and asphalt means that open fields cannot absorb rainfall.

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Illegal well-drilling is making the Indonesian capital more vulnerable to flooding

6. Moscow

One-quarter of the world’s fresh water reserves are in Russia, but the country is plagued by pollution problems caused by the industrial legacy of the Soviet era.

That is specifically worrying for Moscow, where the water supply is 70% dependent on surface water.

Official regulatory bodies admit that 35% to 60% of total drinking water reserves in Russia do not meet sanitary standards

7. Istanbul

According to official Turkish government figures, the country is technically in a situation of a water stress, since the per capita supply fell below 1,700 cubic metres in 2016.

Local experts have warned that the situation could worsen to water scarcity by 2030.

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A 10-month long drought dried up this lake near Istanbul

In recent years, heavily populated areas like Istanbul (14 million inhabitants) have begun to experience shortages in the drier months.

The city’s reservoir levels declined to less than 30 percent of capacity at the beginning of 2014.

8. Mexico City

Water shortages are nothing new for many of the 21 million inhabitants of the Mexican capital.

One in five get just a few hours from their taps a week and another 20% have running water for just part of the day.

The city imports as much as 40% of its water from distant sources but has no large-scale operation for recycling wastewater. Water losses because of problems in the pipe network are also estimated at 40%.

9. London

Of all the cities in the world, London is not the first that springs to mind when one thinks of water shortages.

The reality is very different. With an average annual rainfall of about 600mm (less than the Paris average and only about half that of New York), London draws 80% of its water from rivers (the Thames and Lea).

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London has a water waste rate of 25%

According to the Greater London Authority, the city is pushing close to capacity and is likely to have supply problems by 2025 and “serious shortages” by 2040.

It looks likely that hosepipe bans could become more common in the future.

10. Tokyo

The Japanese capital enjoys precipitation levels similar to that of Seattle on the US west coast, which has a reputation for rain. Rainfall, however, is concentrated during just four months of the year.

That water needs to be collected, as a drier-than-expected rainy season could lead to a drought. At least 750 private and public buildings in Tokyo have rainwater collection and utilisation systems.

Home to more than 30 million people, Tokyo has a water system that depends 70% on surface water (rivers, lakes, and melted snow).

Recent investment in the pipeline infrastructure aims also to reduce waste by leakage to only 3% in the near future.

11. Miami

The US state of Florida is among the five US states most hit by rain every year. However, there is a crisis brewing in its most famous city, Miami.

An early 20th Century project to drain nearby swamps had an unforeseen result; water from the Atlantic Ocean contaminated the Biscayne Aquifer, the city’s main source of fresh water.

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Contamination by seawater threatens Miami’s water supplies

Although the problem was detected in the 1930s, seawater still leaks in, especially because the American city has experienced faster rates of sea level rise, with water breaching underground defence barriers installed in recent decades.

Neighbouring cities are already struggling. Hallandale Beach, which is just a few miles north of Miami, had to close six of its eight wells due to saltwater intrusion.

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John Oliver returns to 'Last Week Tonight,' talks Trump, Alec Baldwin and why he's in awe of Jimmy Kimmel

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Last season included reports on gerrymandering and dialysis, for instance, but was book-ended with big-picture looks at Trump’s influence on American democracy. “Lots of times the main story we talk about is pretty irrelevant to the week,” Oliver said, “but pretty relevant, we would argue, to the concept of being alive.”

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The History of Military Parades in the US – Smithsonian

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President Trump has spoken of his desire for a grand military parade since the early days of his presidency. During a January 18 meeting, he directed top generals to organize such a parade on the scale of France’s Bastille Day celebrations, reports Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker for The Washington Post. This Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Charlie Summers confirmed the U.S. Department of Defense is in the process of reviewing potential dates for a parade.

What would such a display look like? Military parades outside of holidays such as Veterans Day, the Fourth of July or Memorial Day aren’t typical in this country in recent decades, but there is a history of them.

Most recently, in 1991 more than 8,000 troops marched down Washington D.C.’s Constitution Avenue in a victory parade celebrating the end of the Persian Gulf War. Stealth fighter planes passed overhead while tanks and Patriot missiles rolled by a crowd of 200,000, according to William J. Eaton and Beth Hawkins of the Los Angeles Times. The attendance was below the 1 million-plus spectators predicted to turn out to view the $12 million event. But by that evening’s fireworks display, the turnout swelled to 800,000.

The reporters quoted some mixed feelings over the parade. “I think the celebration and things going on are a little too extreme,” Jeff Benton, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm commented. “The parade is sort of a campaign boost for Bush and the Republicans.” But a veteran of the Vietnam War had a different perspective: “When we came back from Vietnam, people wouldn’t talk to you, like you had AIDS or something,” Paul Barton told Eaton and Hawkins. “I made myself a promise 20 years ago that, if there ever was another shooting war–even if I was the only one on the side of the road–there would be a parade.”

The parade was the largest military celebration since the end of World War II. Such displays typically follow a military victory, Dan Lamothe points out for The Washington Post. Without victory, or even a clear cut end to engagement, there haven’t been national parades commemorating the wars in Korea or Vietnam, or parades to honor veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. (As Indiana University-Indianapolis history professor Raymond Haberski, Jr. notes in his book God and War, even when the U.S. readied to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the American Revolution in 1976, President Gerald Ford did not march in a military parade. “The horror of Vietnam still hung in the air,” he writes, “deflating any comparisons with the war for American independence.”)

That being said, the Cold War era wasn’t without military displays.

The inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961 included a parade featuring dozens of missiles as well as soldiers and sailors aboard Navy boats towed along Pennsylvania Avenue, writes Nicole Chavez for CNN.

President Dwight Eisenhower’s 1953 inaugural parade included 22,000 military service members. The marchers were joined by a cannon capable of firing a nuclear warhead. It was “the most elaborate inaugural pageant every held,” according to the Eisenhower Presidential Library & Museum.

When World War II still raged, more than 30,000 men and women marched down Fifth Avenue in New York City for Army Day Parade in 1942, an occurrence The New York Times heralded as the “first big military display” of the war. Victory parades also celebrated the war’s end, including a display led by the 82nd Airborne Division under General James M. Gavin down the Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Jumping back to the early days of the American presidency, it was once somewhat common for a president to review a military parade on the Fourth of July. According to a timeline established by American University librarian James Heintze, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Martin Van Buren and James Polk all reviewed military parades on America’s independence day. The tradition ended with Polk, though. His sucessor, Zachary Taylor, did not attend one. Instead his agenda for the day included making an appearance at a ceremony at the Washington Monument and infamously eating a “bowl of cherries and milk,” which may have led to him falling ill and dying just days later. 

Perhaps one of the most impressive military parades in U.S. history was the Grand Review of the Armies held on May 23 and 24, 1865. President Andrew Johnson declared that Civil War hostilities over on May 10 and called for a formal review of the troops, according to the nonpartisan Civil War Trust. “The event, huge in scale and pageantry, generated a near-carnival atmosphere that did much to diminish the pall that had settled on the city following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln,” an article about Lincoln’s funeral and the Grand Review explains. On the first day, Major General George Meade’s Army of the Potomac’s infantry marched 12 abreast and the calvary stretched seven miles. The second day’s procession, led by Major General William Sherman, ended with a trail of civilian refugees that had followed the army up from the Carolinas. 

Trump’s desire to revive the tradition of military parade has spurred concern among historians over the tone such an event may convey.

“If the message is: ‘I want to express how much I honor our military,’ that’s a wonderful thing,” Michael Beschloss, presidential historian, told Michael D. Shear of The New York Times in September, when President Trump previously spoke about his desire for a Fourth of July parade of military strength. And according to a statement by press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House is billing the proposed parade as a “celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.” However, Bescholls also cautions that military parades can serve other purposes. “If the idea is to mimic other countries’ military might, I don’t think that’s a great idea,” he said.

In 2009, Time reporter Ishaan Tharoor’s observed a parade marking 60 years of communist rule in China and wrote: “some of the strict measures applied to troops marching in Beijing on Oct. 1 — like the precisely prescribed distance between an infantryman’s nose and that of his colleagues on either side — can be traced to the diktats of Prussian tacticians,” He then pointed out that military rallies and parades are common in totalitarian states and quoted George Orwell’s essay penned during the Blitz of 1941: “Why is the goose-step not used in England? There are, heaven knows, plenty of army officers who would be only too glad to introduce some such thing. It is not used because the people in the street would laugh. Beyond a certain point, military display is only possible in countries where the common people dare not laugh at the army.”

Such unease is also part of American history. In a letter to the editor in 1866, “A Veteran Observer” told The New York Times“…I have no admiration for the military profession, no desire that war should continue, and nothing but contempt for what are justly thought the mere pomp and glitter of military parade. But alas! for our poor human nature, wars must come, and military pomp will attend them.”

Sourcing H/T to Jared Keller via Twitter and a discussion from AskHistorians on Reddit.

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Why David Bowie the unknowable endures

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Though David Bowie died more than two years ago, his media franchise churns on, as vibrant as ever.

Since his death, a half-dozen books have been published, from Dylan Jones’ oral history, “David Bowie: A Life” to “Starman: A Coloring Book.” Two major installments in an ongoing series of box sets have been released that offer a comprehensive, archive-plumbing overview of specific, artistically rich eras: “Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976)” and “A New Career in a New Town (1977-1982)” (both on Parlophone). And HBO is airing a recent documentary directed by Francis Whately, “The Last Five Years,” which looks at the singer’s final burst of creativity, in which he produced two studio albums, “The Next Day” (2013) and “Blackstar” (2016), and a play, “Lazarus.”

There’s also a tribute tour, “Celebrating David Bowie,” in which some of the singer’s longest-running sidemen and collaborators — including keyboardist Mike Garson, guitarist Earl Slick and bassist Carmine Rojas — join forces to play a career-spanning set of Bowie songs (it arrives Feb. 23 at the Vic Theatre).

Bowie’s effect is still being felt in the post-modern pop world he helped pre-figure, even if the generations that emerged since his heyday may have only a tenuous grasp of just how revolutionary his shifting personas, gender fluidity, and genre-blurring multimedia mixes of music, art, theater and video actually were.

Much of the recent media explosion has been at least in part inspired by how Bowie died — shrouded in mystery, just as much of his life and career were. In many ways, he was as unknowable in death as he was in life, and his final public act — the release of his final studio album, “Blackstar,” on his 69th birthday and only two days before his death on Jan. 10, 2016 — only added to the mystique.

As he was completing work on “Blackstar” and “Lazarus,” which debuted in New York in late 2015, he was weakened by cancer. But he kept both the work and his health issues a secret outside of a tight circle of friends and collaborators. And so the dense, haunted, jazz-inflected “Blackstar” arrived as not just a late-career album by a still-vital artist, but a carefully conceived and moving farewell. It’s likely not a coincidence that its title also happens to be the name of an obscure song Elvis Presley recorded in 1960. Presley, with whom Bowie shares a birthday, asks his “Black Star” to grant him a longer life, but knows his time is running out: “Every man has a black star / A black star over his shoulder / And when a man sees his black star / He knows his time, his time has come.”

According to Garson, one of Bowie’s most trusted accomplices since the ’70s, Bowie had a notion of how his life would end decades earlier.

“I haven’t shared this with anyone, but touring on a bus with him in the mid-’90s, David said to me, ‘I saw a psychic at the end of the ’70s and he told me I’d die around age 69, 70,’ ” Garson says. “He believed the guy. He designed his own life around that communication. He said it to me as casually as we’re talking on the phone right now. It was a personal thing, but he believed it. So as he was approaching his 69th birthday, David literally wrote an album like a Verdi requiem. ‘Blackstar’ came together in the months before he died, but he knew the overview many years earlier.”

Bowie’s final rush of creativity came after a lengthy hiatus. He cut short the longest tour of his career in 2004 after a concert in Germany, which he left in an ambulance. He was treated at a Hamburg hospital for a heart attack. The band was abruptly told to go home. The tour was over. Slick was on stage with Bowie that night and didn’t hear from him for eight years, as secret sessions for “The Next Day” were underway in New York.

“He looked fine. He was himself, like, oh, here we are, as if we were picking up where we left off,” Slick says. “I do remember once or twice, there were moments when you thought he was stepping back into it. I finished my solo on ‘(You Will) Set the World on Fire’ and he says, ‘Christ, that would be great live.’ I said, ‘Really?’ And then he said, ‘Don’t even think about it.’ I knew that day the chances of him going out like we used to were over. He just didn’t want to do it anymore. I think he had this whole ‘Lazarus’ thing in his head. Since I’d known him in the ’70s, he’d always talked about doing some kind of Broadway production and now it’s like he knew it was time. When we were doing things, as we were finishing, he was already thinking about what’s next — not that he told anybody.”

Though Slick was a significant contributor to “The Next Day,” Bowie quietly parted ways with him after that. The revolving door of sidemen “was how David worked,” Slick says. “It’s like all along you were working with an artist who was very diverse, very spur of the moment, very experimental, and he would put together a band that would do best by whatever music he was making at the time. It wasn’t disrespectful or malicious. It was just his operating system, which is not the operating system of most people.”

Garson was Bowie’s most frequent collaborator, in large part because of the keyboardist’s ability to play in many different styles. When Bowie found a musician he liked, he gave them wide latitude, as most famously illustrated by Garson’s maniacal keyboard solo on the title track of the 1973 “Aladdin Sane” album.

“I didn’t want to ruin his financial career,” Garson says with a laugh. “But he knew how to frame that avant-garde solo with solid bass, drums and guitar, and that discipline allowed me that freedom. He never micromanaged, he gave you an overall vision. He was the ultimate casting director. Every player he hired, he knew what he wanted from them and that’s why he didn’t interfere. Of all the people I worked with, he gave me the most space to be creative.”

“Casting director” — it’s a great choice of words, in that it explains not only how Bowie orchestrated his albums, but most aspects of his career. Bowie’s ability to create a pop context for the esoteric, to find mainstream acceptance for musical subcultures and unlikely juxtapositions, was enhanced by his ability to create roles, including plenty of his own. The Bowie who flitted across projects and personas was a creation too, and contributed to his essential elusiveness both as an artist and a human being who couldn’t be pinned down. Even Garson once went nearly two decades between Bowie projects without hearing from the singer. “In the ’70s, he told me he wanted to work with me for 20 years, and then he calls me 18 years later,” Garson says. “When I finally heard from him, I said, ‘Was that a grammatical error?’ ”

Along the way, Bowie became a star who bridged the worlds of music, art, theater and fashion. He became a hero to the LGBTQ community, outsiders and misfits, even as he sold out arenas. In “The Last Five Years” documentary, producer Tony Visconti asserts that fame was just a vehicle for Bowie, a means of giving him the resources to do whatever he wanted to do artistically. But that line of thinking was contradicted by Bowie himself in an interview with the Tribune after he scrapped his band Tin Machine in the mid-’90s.

“My vanity won’t let me work to houses with 20 or 30 people,” he said. “I did try it with Tin Machine. A small room packed with people is a cool thing, but it’s not economical. I was paying for that band to work, and I was gradually going through all my bread, and it became time to stop. I had to build my audience back up again.”

Contradictions abounded throughout his career. For an artist so obsessed with the future, “The Next Day” struck many as a work steeped in memories of the past. “I never expect him to look back,” Visconti says in the documentary. “This is a new thing for him.”

Leave it to Bowie to make a glance backward feel new. He didn’t give interviews in his final years, as if to leave the true motives behind “The Next Day” intentionally vague. It underlines the notion that searching for some consistency that would tie together Bowie’s career is a fool’s game. When asked in the documentary how he’d like to be remembered, he answers with a quip: “I’d love people to believe that I really had great haircuts.” Elsewhere, he acknowledges that “I’m not an original, I’m a synthesizer.” Bowie detractors seize upon a career built on appropriations as somehow less authentic or artistically meaningful. But Bowie created plenty of new meanings by blurring lines of genre, gender and generation as though they didn’t matter, and the world is proving him prescient.

“Chopin took from Bach, Ravel took from Lizst. No one is an original,” Garson says. “But if you do it properly you end up with your own voice. Yeah, he’d steal, but every rock artist that I’ve ever worked with — Billy Corgan, Trent Reznor, Gwen Stefan — they all stole from him. So did Madonna, Lorde and Lady Gaga. They saw originality there and they became themselves. That’s how art works. If you create something with no connection to anything, you’d be appreciated by three people.”

With “Blackstar,” Bowie used saxophonist Danny McCaslin’s jazz combo as a backing band. Though it broke ground for Bowie yet again in terms of how he presented his music to the public, it was hardly the first time he had collaborated with jazz musicians. Garson was a jazz-scene mainstay in New York when he first auditioned for Bowie in the ’70s, and trumpeter Lester Bowie of the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Count Basie alum Chico O’ Farrill played prominent roles on the 1993 Bowie album “Black Tie, White Noise.”

Visconti comments in “The Last Five Years” that in the studio he and Bowie would often discuss “how can we make one person sound like many.” On the mesmerizing 10-minute “Blackstar” title track, a multitude of Bowie voices swirl through the song. They accompany an arresting series of images in the video, including Bowie blinded by a button-eyed mask and twitching as though possessed by some unseen force. The disturbing scene cuts to an image of a bejeweled skeleton inside an astronaut suit, at rest on some dark planet, a reference to Bowie’s first major character — Major Tom, the doomed narrator in “Space Oddity,” the singer’s breakthrough song. Major Tom has finally come home, but the music in the video — and in Bowie’s farewell — continues in an infinite, restless fade.

Greg Kot is a Tribune critic.


Twitter @gregkot

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Purdue legend Gene Keady coming to Michigan State to pay respects to Jud Heathcote – Lansing State Journal

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Iconic MSU basketball coach Jud Heathcote has died at age 90. Read some of his memorable quotes.
Laura Trabka/Lansing State Journal

LANSING — Gene Keady is not looking forward to the 20-degree temperatures in East Lansing.

Purdue’s winningest coach said he will deal with it though. He isn’t going to miss Saturday’s matchup between his former school and No. 4 Michigan State. And it has little to do with the game itself.

Keady is coming to honor one of his good friends, the late Jud Heathcote. It’s also alumni weekend. And believe it or not, Keady is looking forward to spending time with the players he once did battle with during so many heated Purdue-MSU contests.

And there is one more reason.

“Tom invited me,” Keady chuckled, referring to MSU coach Tom Izzo. “That’s good enough for me. I wouldn’t go there unless he invited me.”

Keady won 512 games in his 25 years as the head man in West Lafayette. In January 2016, Izzo passed him on the Big Ten’s all-time win list to move to second behind only Bobby Knight (661).

Friday afternoon, Izzo, who has now won 567 games, is picking up his former rival and friend from the airport.

“It will be nice seeing everyone I know,” Keady said Wednesday afternoon from his home in Myrtle Beach. “I’m looking forward to seeing Izzo and Jud’s ex-players. Steve Smith played for us in the Olympics. I liked them all.

“Plus, it’s a big game.”

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COUCH: If Michigan State doesn’t get its mojo back against Purdue, it might never happen

Keady was a part of plenty of those during his tenure in West Lafayette.

One still gets him worked up — a 72-70 loss at Breslin Center in 1990.

“Oh, you mean the one when the referees cheated us,” he joked. “(MSU) fouled the hell out of Tony Jones that day, and Jud even said they did that on purpose. I have to say they cheated. It makes me feel better.”

On that foggy February afternoon, a sold-out crowd waived white pompoms. When the final buzzer sounded, the MSU student section rushed the floor. The Spartans were Big Ten champions. Purdue finished second.

Keady said weather caused the Boilermakers to land in Detroit, and they had to bus to East Lansing. They got in very late. His players were exhausted. He called it a bad break and said those things happen.

MORE: Ebling: One more win for the ol’ man Jud Heathcote

MORE: From a fan, a student and a friend: Thanks, Coach Heathcote

He also offered up a comment most coaches would never admit.

“If I got beat by anyone in the Big Ten, I didn’t feel too bad if it was Jud,” Keady said. “No matter who you get beat by, you feel bad. But I was never as uptight if it was to him.”

That’s a small glimpse into the respect he had for Heathcote.

Heathcote died on Aug. 28 in Spokane, Washington. He was 90. Heathcote faced off against Keady’s Boilermaker teams for 15 straight seasons, going 11-18 overall. Only twice did Heathcote’s Spartans sweep the season series.

Keady didn’t share specific stories about his longtime friend. He said Heathcote was always the storyteller anyway. He said he was fun to be around and always had a new joke to share. He also praised Heathcote for his integrity and deep love of the game.

“He was good for the game,” Keady said. “He was one of my best friends in coaching.”

Keady, who is maybe best known for his infamous jet-black combover hairstyle, compiled an impressive resume at Purdue, reaching the NCAA tournament 18 times and being named Big Ten Coach of the Year seven times.

He retired from Purdue in 2005 with six conference titles and the same number of National Coach of the Year awards to go along with a pair of Elite Eight appearances (1994, 2000).

But Purdue never made it to the Final Four during his tenure.

And, when you live in the shadow of Knight two hours down the road in Bloomington, that doesn’t make it any more tolerable.

It’s still a sore subject for Keady.

“Yeah, I think it bothers anyone who is competitive,” Keady said, adding that he did coach in a Final Four in 1978 as an assistant under Eddie Sutton at Arkansas. “It’s a high goal and something I always wanted to do. I always blamed me. I blame myself. I didn’t coach good enough. I don’t know, it’s just one of those things that happens. I had a lot of success in 55 years of coaching though. We won a lot of games.”

MORE: Michigan State to honor Jud Heathcote with uniform patch, tribute game vs. Purdue

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To make matters worse, then Izzo came along, Keady joked.

Keady said he isn’t shocked about the heights Heathcote’s self-appointed successor has taken the Spartan basketball program. He met Izzo when he was a young assistant under Heathcote. He said they all used to run around together at Final Fours. They were “close staffs,” Keady said.

He said his longtime assistant Bruce Weber is to him what Izzo was to Heathcote. A winner.

Izzo and Keady faced off 18 times over a decade. MSU holds the 11-7 lead in those meetings. One of the more memorable ones was late in 1997. Izzo was coming off back-to-back subpar campaigns in his first two seasons at the helm in East Lansing. He was 33-28 overall with a .500-mark in league play. Izzo was starting to feel the heat and his team was opening up Big Ten play at Mackey Arena.

Not an ideal situation.

Although Keady said he doesn’t remember much about that specific game, the name Mateen Cleaves still brings back headaches.

MSU defeated the three-time Big Ten champions convincingly, 74-57. Purdue was ranked No. 5 in the nation at the time and a prohibitive favorite to win their fourth straight title. It didn’t happen thanks to a foursome nicknamed “The Flintstones.”

Izzo and the Spartans finished the season 22-8 and shared the conference title with Illinois.

They made it to the Sweet 16 that year. Two years later, the Spartans won it all.

“They were pretty good,” Keady said of Morris Peterson, Charlie Bell, Antonio Smith and Cleaves.

And Izzo, well, he is OK, too, Keady joked.

“I thought he’d be great, and he is great,” he said. “He’s been to the Final Four, what, seven times? Oh my God. He deserves it. He has integrity and works hard.”

After Izzo passed him in the record books, Keady called to say congratulations — and drop a little humor in the process.

“I said, ‘Why didn’t you recruit like that for Jud?’ He didn’t think that was funny,” Keady laughed.

Now, more than two years into his retirement — he says he has retired four times and is leaving the door open to a fifth at 81 years old — Keady says he is enjoying the simple life on the beach and still watching a ton of basketball. Twelve of his former assistants are head coaches around the country. He travels to watch their teams and always keeps an eye on his beloved Boilermakers.

And make no mistake, this meeting between the two top-5 schools is a must-watch. Even if you have to deal with freezing temperatures, Keady said.

He called this rivalry a special one. And a new chapter will be written inside Breslin Center Saturday afternoon.

“First of all, it’s always pretty important,” he said of the MSU-Purdue matchup. “It was typically a chance to move up in the standings and the competitiveness helped your confidence and national rankings. The fans were great, too. They were loud. It’s hard to win there.”

Contact Cody Tucker at (517) 377-1070 or cjtucker@lsj.com and follow him on Twitter @CodyTucker_LSJ.


WHO: No. 4 Michigan State (23-3, 11-2) vs. No. 3 Purdue (23-2, 12-0)

WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 10 at 4 p.m.

WHERE: Breslin Center, East Lansing

TV/ Radio:ESPN/ Spartan Sports Network

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