Category Archives: Peace Love Art and Activism

Melanie Safka Woodstock

Melanie Safka Woodstock

It was around 11 PM, Friday’s concert continued and the organizers decided to fill in the with an unscheduled performer.

There is a saying that luck is when preparation meets opportunity and if so, Melanie was lucky on August 15, 1969.

Melanie Safka Woodstock

She had signed a recording contract with Buddah Records, recorded an album, and released it in November 1968. Then,  according to an article for Bethel Woods by  Wade Lawrence and Scott Parker, Buddah co-founder Artie Ripp [who] was a friend of Woodstock organizer Artie Kornfeld decided to take a risk and send Melanie to the festival on the chance that she could perform.

Melanie Safka Woodstock 

Poetic License

She did and her performance carries with it a bit of Woodstock trivia. After the concert in response to what she’d experienced there, Melanie wrote her most successful song, Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)” because, as the story goes, the Hog Farm had just handed out candles to the crowd and had them light the candles.

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

Earlier, just before Tim Hardin’s set began, MC John Morris quickly told a story about a Tiny Tim concert during which the audience lighted matches and Morris asked if the Woodstock crowd could do the same. They did and the illumination impressed both Morris and the crowd.

Before Melanie began, Morris asked for a repeat:

“It’s getting later and maybe they’re wet, but let’s try the match bit again. That really did it. I’d like to see that again. One. Two. Three. Light ’em up! Ahhh..come on. Let’s go. Oh, that’s better. Woooh! Hey, that’s great.

Click to listen.

The 22-year-old was on stage less than a half-hour, but left a long impression.

Her setlist:

  • Close to It All
  • Momma Momma
  • Beautiful People
  • Animal Crackers
  • Mr. Tambourine Man
  • Tuning My Guitar
  • Birthday of the Sun
Melanie Safka Woodstock 

Close To It All

Close To It All was one of the ten songs from her Born To Be album. She wrote all the songs, except her cover of Bob Dylan’s Mr Tambourine Man. 

Melanie accompanies herself with an acoustic guitar and not other backing musicians.

While walking through life I would never fall
If I could be close to it all and all
If I could be close to it all

If I had my dream it would not fall down
If I could live high on the ground
The sound of high is a good one to many around
When they wanna be close to it all

And I wanna be close to it all and all
I wanna be close to it all

The village sugar takers
Madison Avenue pink dream makers
They try to escape from it all
But instead they build walls, that’s all
But they wanna be close to it all

If I had my dream, I would fill a hall
And tell all the people tear down the wall
That keeps them from being a part of it all
‘Cause they gotta get close to it all

The village sugar takers
Madison Avenue pink dream makers
They try to escape from it all
But instead they build walls, that’s all
But they wanna be close to it all

There’s just one more thing that I wanna say
Everyone has got their own special way
That keeps them from getting too close to the day
Accept and be part of it all and all
Everyone tear down your own little wall
That keeps you from being a part of it all
‘Cause you gotta be one with the one and all
And everyone tear down your own little wall
That keeps you from being a part of it all
‘Cause you gotta be one with the one and all
You gotta be close to it all

Melanie Safka Woodstock 

Momma Momma

Momma Momma was also on her first album.

Momma Momma, I fear you reared me wrong
Momma Momma, I fear you reared me wrong
‘Cause I pick up my head, can’t tell where I belong

Momma Momma, something’s hurting me bad
Momma Momma, something’s hurting me bad
I have a yearning for something that I never had

Oh, sometimes I feel my life has come and then it’s gone
Sometimes I feel my life has come and gone
I live in this world but I’m only looking on

I can’t understand, it’s too far over my head
I can’t understand, it’s too far over my head
I’m living the life but I’m really dying instead, yeah

Momma Momma, I fear you reared me wrong
Momma Momma, I fear you reared me wrong
‘Cause I lift up my head and I can’t tell where I belong
Momma Momma Momma Momma, something’s terribly wrong

Melanie Safka Woodstock 

Beautiful People

Melanie Safka Woodstock

Beautiful People did not appear on her first album, but will appear on her second which Buddah would release in October. She had recorded the album in Wessex Studios, Londan.

You live in the same world as I do
But somehow I never noticed
You before today
I’m ashamed to say

Beautiful people
We share the same back door
And it isn’t right
We never met before
But then
We may never meet again
If I weren’t afraid you’d laugh at me
I would run and take all your hands
And I’d gather everyone together for a day
And when we gather’d
I’ll pass buttons out that say
Beautiful people
Then you’d never have to be alone
‘Cause there’ll always be someone
With the same button on as you
Include him in everything you do

Beautiful people
You ride the same subway
As I do ev’ry morning
That’s got to tell you something
We’ve got so much in common
I go the same direction that you do
So if you take care of me
Maybe I’ll take care of you

Beautiful people
You look like friends of mine
And it’s about time
That someone said it here and now
I make a vow that some time, somehow
I’ll have a meeting
Invite ev’ryone you know
I’ll pass out buttons to
The ones who come to show
Beautiful people
Never have to be alone
‘Cause there’ll always be someone
With the same button on as you
Include him in ev’rything you do
He may be sitting right next to you
He may be beautiful people too
And if you take care of him
Maybe I’ll take care of you
And if you take care of him
Maybe I’ll take care of you…
People

Melanie Safka Woodstock 

Animal Crackers

Animal Crackers was on her first album.  Interestingly, the song refers to Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant song as he will follow Melanie.

Oh, eat your animal crackers
‘Cause my mother told me so long ago
“If you eat your animal crackers
The children in Europe won’t starve anymore”
Ha ha ha…
Oh, once I went on a diet
A carbohydrate diet ain’t nice
‘Cause you can’t eat animal crackers
So, I’m gonna stay a fatty for all of my life
Ha ha ha…
But some people think that fatties are nice, yeah
I love eating ice-cream
Chocolate, vanilla and butter pecan
But I best love animal crackers
‘Cause I love helping my fellow man
Yeah, I really do

Did you ever hear of Alice’s restaurant?
I eat at Alice’s restaurant year after year
She makes an animal cracker pizza, ha
And she gives animal crackers out free with the beer
Oh, let’s give Alice a great big cheer
She knows the age of the animal cracker is here
Ah, animal crackers are in this year
Ha ha ha…
Oh, lalala…

There’s a bit of technical advice for her after the song.

Melanie Safka Woodstock 

Mr Tambourine Man

As mentioned above, Mr Tambourine Man appeared on her first album and was the only composition she didn’t write. The crowd applauds upon hearing the first notes.

Melanie Safka Woodstock 

Tuning My Guitar

Tuning My Guitar will appear on her second album.

I’m thinking what I’m doing
I’m thinking what I’ve done
I’m thinking ’bout my mother
Who never thought I’d come
Quite this far from nowhere
To hear myself be sung
But I still haven’t forgotten
I used to do it just for fun

When all the ones around me
Would wonder if they saw
Or heard me singing somewhere
Tuning my guitar

Knock once, I got ten minutes
And every night’s the same
Sometimes I wish I wasn’t in it
When I hear them call my name
Same people all around me
And I wonder who they are
I know they’re not my family
And they’re not my friends by far

They’re all the ones around me
I wonder who they are
They hide behind my curtain
And they hope I’ll be a star

An’ they say, “Get out and sell them”
But selling’s not my aim
I’m gonna sing the life I’m living
And try to ease the pain

Of all the ones around me
No matter who you are
Tonight you’re gonna hold the curtain
I’m tuning my guitar

And all the ones around me
I wonder who you are
You hide behind my curtain
And they hope I’ll be a star
But all the ones around me
Who don’t know who you are
You hide and you look uncertain
But you hope I’ll be a star

And all the ones, all around me
I don’t care who you are
Tonight you’re gonna hold the curtain
I’m tuning my guitar

All the ones, all the ones
All the ones around me
And I don’t care who you are
Tonight you’re gonna hold the curtain
I’m tuning my guitar

Oh all the ones
Who do you think that you are
Tonight you’re gonna hold the curtain
I’m tuning my guitar

Melanie Safka Woodstock 

Birthday of the Sun

The crowd calls for an encore and Birthday of the Sun was it. She did not record the song for an album until her 1971 album, The Good Book. That album was her last official one for Buddah as she left and formed her own company.

Oh, I’m the one
I found the birthday of the sun
But all things change
And now I think it’s the birthday of the rain
If I never said goodbye
To all that I’ve known
I would never be alone
But still I will not cry
I’m not finished yet, boy
So wipe the smile from your eyes
Because if I were to hang my head
I’d miss all the rainbows
And I’d drown in raindrops instead
But you gotta know,
I’m the one
I found the birthday of the sun
And all things change
And now I’m sure it’s the birthday of the rain
If I never said goodbye
To all that I’ve known
I would never be alone
But still I’m gonna win
I’m not finished yet, world
So wipe the smirk from your chin
Because if I were to hang my head
I’d miss all the rainbows
And I’d drown in raindrops instead
But you gotta know, that I’m the one
I found the birthday of the sun
And all things change
And now I’m sure it’s the birthday of the rain
And all things change
Happy Birthday to the rain.

 

After her set, John Morris says, Let’s say goodnight to a very beautiful lady.  Thank her very much. Good night Melanie.

Melanie Safka Woodstock 

 

Trump Aftermath Suits 

Trump Aftermath Suits

As the US Senate’s second impeachment trial of former President Donald J Trump  moved toward its foregone acquittal,  the State of Georgia announced that it had begun an investigation into Trump regarding his alleged attempt to change the vote total there and reverse the election results.

The State of New York already had an tax inquiry into Trump.

Here is a chronology of those suits following the acquittal.

Trump Tired and Tried Again

January 2, 2021: the Guardian reported that in an hour-long phone call President Trump pressed Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” enough votes to overturn Joe Biden’s victory there in the election the president refuses to concede.

The Washington Post obtained a tape of the conversation, which Trump acknowledged on Twitter (Twitter later permanently suspended his account).

Trump Aftermath Suits 

Fani T. Willis

Trump Aftermath Suits 
Fulton County, Georgia

February 11, 2021: Fani T. Willis, the recently elected Democratic prosecutor in Fulton County, Georgia, sent a letter to numerous Georgia stage government officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, requesting that they preserve documents related to “an investigation into attempts to influence” the state’s 2020 presidential election.

The criminal investigation revolved around the former President’s attempts to overturn Georgia’s election results, including a phone call he made to Raffensperger in which Trump pressured him to “find” enough votes to help him reverse his loss.

Trump Aftermath Suits 

Lindsey Graham included

The criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s post-election conduct expanded to include Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham.

According to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Graham asked Raffensperger in November whether the secretary of state had the power to throw out all mail-in ballots in certain Georgia counties, a move that would potentially have tipped the state, and its 16 electoral votes, to Trump in the November election. [VOX article]

Trump Aftermath Suits

New York City Inquiry

February 19, 2021: the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office subpoenaed a New York City property tax agency as part of a criminal investigation into Donald Trumps company, suggesting prosecutors were examining the former president’s efforts to reduce his commercial real-estate taxes for possible evidence of fraud.

The subpoena issued to the New York City Tax Commission was the latest indication that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. was looking at the values Trump assigned to some commercial properties in tax filings and loan documents.

Along with information already subpoenaed from creditors, the tax agency documents would help investigators determine whether Trump’s business inflated the value of his properties to secure favorable terms on loans while deflating those values to lower tax bills for those same properties.

New York City Tax Commission President Frances Henn confirmed the subpoena in response to an inquiry from Reuters. [HuffPost article]

Trump Aftermath Suits

Lawyer reprimand

February 19, 2021:  U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg in Washington formally referred Erick Kaardal, a Minnesota lawyer, for potential discipline over a lawsuit filed in December seeking to overturn President Joe Biden’s wins in at least five battleground states.

Boasberg said the suit was so flimsy and legally flawed that it could merit Kaardal facing some sort of punishment from the court.

The relief requested in this lawsuit is staggering: to invalidate the election and prevent the electoral votes from being counted. When any counsel seeks to target processes at the heart of our democracy, the Committee may well conclude that they are required to act with far more diligence and good faith than existed here,” wrote Boasberg [Politico article]

Supreme Court/Trump Taxes/New York

February 22, 2021:  the Supreme Court cleared the way for a Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to obtain Donald Trump’s tax returns, dealing a massive loss to Trump who has fiercely fought to shield his financial papers from prosecutors.

The ruling is a bitter loss for Trump, even if the tax records are shielded from public disclosure, after he consistently argued that the subpoena issued by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was overbroad and issued in bad faith.

It means that the grand jury investigation into alleged hush money payments and other issues would no longer be hampered by Trump’s fight to keep the documents secret. [CNN story]

Cobb County, Georgia

February 22, 2021: Cobb County asked Donald Trump and Georgia GOP chair David Shafer to pay $10,875 in fees and DeKalb County asked for $6,105, for a lawsuit challenging the state’s election results that the Trump campaign ultimately withdrew in January.

“Given the number of failed lawsuits filed by the former President and his campaign, Petitioners apparently believed that they could file their baseless and legally deficient actions with impunity, with no regard for the costs extracted from the taxpayers’ coffers or the consequences to the democratic foundations of our country,” attorneys for Cobb County official Janine Eveler wrote in the court filing, saying they were asking for fees “in an effort to provide a modicum of accountability for the actions of Petitioners and to send a signal that similarly deficient contests filed in the future will face similar consequences.”[Forbes article]

Trump Aftermath Suits

 

Ravi Shankar Woodstock

Ravi Shankar Woodstock

It was about 10 PM on Friday 15 August.  Drizzling heavily.

Why was there an Indian musician, albeit a famous Indian musician,  at a rock and folk festival? Why had Sri Swami Satchinandanda prayed over the jammed field after Richie Havens’s opening performance?

Ravi Shankar Woodstock

Indian Clew

In 1966 on Revolver’s very first cut, George Harrison had  introduced those Beatle fans to the Indian sitar on Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown). On the 24 August 1967, less than a year later and nearly exactly two years earlier to Ravi Shankar at Woodstock, the Beatles had met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi for the first time.

Harrison’s use of the sitar and the Beatles initial casual meeting led the introduction of 1,000s of young Beatle fans to Indian music and transcendentalism.

Harrison’s interest in both led him to the study of the sitar under the most famous Indian sitar player. When asked why the Beatles weren’t at Woodstock, part of the answer is that they were certainly there in spirit.

Ravi Shankar Woodstock

Ravi et al

At 49, Shankar was one of the oldest performers. Sri Swami Satchidananda was 54, though not a performer as such. You don’t have to look far for the oldest performer, though. Table player Ustad Alla Rakha was 50.

The players:

Ravi Shankar, sitar; Maya Kulkarni, tamboura, and Ustad Alla Rakha,  tabla

The set:

  1. Raga Puriya-Dhanashri/Gat in Sawarital
  2. Tabla Solo In Jhaptal
  3. Raga Manj Kmahaj

As you could hear, Ravi Shankar was serious not just about playing his music, but about the listeners. He had asked photographers to stop.

According to a Huffington Post article,  he “called it a “terrifying experience”, where the stoned audience reminded him of “the water buffaloes you see in India, submerged in the mud”. He was so upset that he did not perform in the US for the next one year and a half.”

Ravi Shankar Woodstock

Raga Puriya-Dhanashri/Gat in Sawarital

Shankar’s set is obviously not rock and roll nor folk. I suppose we can categorize it as world music, but to do so suggests we Westerner’s don’t know enough music to distinguish it more specifically than that extremely broad category that must include music that sounds nothing like Shanar’s Hindustani classical music.

Hindustani music is a whole other approach to rhythm. The tanarang.com site explains Raga Puriya-Dhanashri:

Raag Description: This Raag occupies very important place among evening melodies. It produces compassion and is emotional in character. It is very close to Raag Purvi, which employs both Madhyams.

In Raag Puriya Dhanashri, Pancham is a very prominent note which is also the center point of all the Raag expansion. However, often Pancham is skipped in Aaroh and sometimes in Avroh like: ,N r G M P ; P d P ; P d M P ; M G ; M d N S’ ; N r’ N d P ; M d M G r ; G M r G r S. Shadj is also generally skipped in both Aaroh and Avroh, like: ,N r G M P ; M d N S’ ; N r’ G’ ; G’ r’ S’ ; N r’ N d P ; d P M P ; M G M r G ; r S. Aalaps and Taans generally start from Nishad.

In this Raag P M G M r G are the Raag Vachak notes. Following are the illustrative combinations of Raag Puriya Dhanashri:

,N r G ; G M G ; M P d P d M P ; M G M r G ; G r M G r S ; ,N r S ,N r G ; G M M G r G r G M P ; M g M r ; r G ; r G M P d P d M P ; P d P M G ; M r G ; ,N r M G r G ; r S ; ,d ,N r G ; M d N S’ ; S’ N r’ S’ ; r’ N d P ; P d P M d P ; d P M G M r G r S ; P d P M G M d N S’ ; N r’ S’ ; d N r’ G’ G’ r’ S’ ; N r’ N d ; P d P M ; G M r G ; r G M P d P M ; G M r G r S 

Ravi Shankar Woodstock

Teacher

Following the opening piece, Shankar turns his concert into a class. He introduces the instruments, explains how they are played, and what they are made from. I assume he’d told Maya Kulkarni  and Ustad Alla Rakha beforehand that he was going to do this as they each demonstrate his points as he speaks.

He also explains that their playing is mostly improvised and how their head movement, for example, are ways of communicating while playing.

Ravi Shankar Woodstock

Tabla Solo In Jhaptal

Before Ustad Alla Rakha begins  Tabla Solo In Jhaptal Shanker continues to explain the music and how Rakha’s playing reflects speech and sounds.

The next day, Santana’s Afro-Caribbean collective percussion will wow the crowd, but on this evening one man did it all by himself.

Ravi Shankar Woodstock

Raga Manj Kmahaj

Again the teacher, Ravi Shankar explains the next song. “Now you will hear an evening raga Manj Kmahaj.  This will be played in the style known as thumris which is a semi-classical style…very romantic and lyrical in nature and one has much more freedom this time playing different ragas or folk tunes.”

Wikipedia states: It utilises the shuddha (pure) form of Ni on the ascent, and the komala (flat) form of Ni on the descent, creating a key asymmetry in compositional and improvisational performance. This raga has been explored more in the lighter forms of Hindustani Classical Music such as Thumri, Tappa etc. Yet a few compositions in Dhrupad and Khayal are found as well.

So there!

Ravi Shankar Woodstock

MC John Morris

It was around 11 PM when Shankar finished and there are still three more acts to follow. It was raining. MC John Morris had exclaimed to the still applauding crowd “The great Ravi Shankar. Let’s say a special thank you to a gentleman who played through the rain, who just kept playing.

And In an attempt at gallows humor, MC John Morris says, “I guess nobody’s thirsty anymore.” If there were any crickets nearby, that was what we would have heard.

But he changes tack and says, “I guess tonight we’ve been talking about a couple of people, the one thing I haven’t thanked is the nicest  finest audience aside from being the largest audience I’ve ever looked at in my life. Thank you very much. You’re a fine bunch of people.”

Applause this time!

Ravi Shankar Woodstock