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VALID | #TWIBnation http://allvalid.com A TWiB! Publication Mon, 22 Jun 2015 17:18:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.33 A History of Childhood Trauma Matters … When the Killer Is White http://allvalid.com/dve/a-history-of-childhood-trauma-matters-when-the-killer-is-white/ http://allvalid.com/dve/a-history-of-childhood-trauma-matters-when-the-killer-is-white/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=104342 Over the weekend, hip-hot artist Jasiri X posted this image on his twitter feed. It’s taken from the front page of the New York Daily News’ website. Note the screaming headline and the sympathetic caption: “Accused killer Dylann Roof had one chance at a stable family life — and his abusive dad ruined it for him.”

The image and the accompanying article bring to mind a discussion I had on Twitter last week, a discussion which the TWiB! Prime crew touched upon in Episode 706, “White People Please Be Peaceful,” about the differences in the media’s treatment of criminals based on their race. It’s worth expanding on that discussion here.

When I started my legal career at a firm called Jenner & Block in Chicago, the firm handled a few death penalty appeals, and I was fortunate enough to be able to help out with legal research on some of those cases. That was in the mid-to-late 1980s, long before former Illinois Gov. George Ryan imposed a moratorium on the death penalty here, and longer still before the Illinois General Assembly abolished the death penalty altogether. Yet, because of certain personnel changes on the Illinois Supreme Court, there was a chance – albeit a slim one – that the judiciary would strike down the death penalty under our state constitution, as it had come close to doing in the early 1980s.

In any event, in those appeals, one of the issues we explored was the mental health of the men (and at that time, there were only men) on Illinois’ death row. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most, if not all, of them had suffered significant trauma in their past. They had been through physical, mental, and emotional abuse, and in some cases, sexual abuse, as children. They had been exposed to extreme violence at a very young age, witnessing horrible crimes committed against friends and family members, including rape and murder. Many of the men on death row had been victims of or had witnessed extreme domestic violence, and many of them had been had been introduced to drugs and alcohol – often by family members or family friends – as teenagers or preteens.

Naturally, that sort of trauma impacts a person’s mental health. It’s safe to say few of us could have endured these things as children and come out unscathed. And please note, in these appeals we were not arguing that childhood trauma and its effects on the mental health of death row inmates somehow excused the crimes for which they had been convicted; only that it should have been considered by the judges or juries who decided to impose the death penalty in their cases. That is, in the sentencing phase of a capital case, the judge or jury ordinarily is required to consider a series of aggravating and mitigating factors to determine whether the death penalty is appropriate, and we were arguing that this sort of childhood trauma and its mental effects should have been considered as factors in mitigation. That’s it.

Ultimately, however, those arguments fell on deaf ears. Nobody – not the state, not the judges handling those appeals, and certainly not the media – cared one whit about what these men had been through (as children, mind you); and certainly nobody thought it should have excused their actions, or should even have been considered as a factor mitigating against the imposition of death sentences. Needless to say, none of those men had his story of childhood abuse and trauma splayed across the front pages of daily newspapers, or talked about by newscasters with furrowed brows.

But so here’s the point. The vast majority of the men on Illinois’ death row in the 1980s were Black and Latino, because the death penalty has always been imposed disproportionately on people of color. And that, of course, explains why the childhood trauma they suffered was never so much as a blip on anybody’s radar screen.

Poor Dylann Roof, though. He’s white, so his childhood trauma matters. He can’t just be a racist terrorist who killed innocent people. There has to be something more to his story. Why is that, I wonder?

No, actually, I don’t. I’m pretty sure I know why.

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The Burden Of Day-To-Day Black Life In America http://allvalid.com/ejw/the-burden-of-day-to-day-black-life-in-america/ http://allvalid.com/ejw/the-burden-of-day-to-day-black-life-in-america/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=104296 Being Black in America is a constant challenge. The news has shown over and over again that you can’t walk down the street or be in your own home or even go to a pool without fear of harassment and questioning your legitimacy to even be in or near spaces. Mental, emotional and physical violence is often an outcome of these situations. Whether it’s direct harassment or reading/watching violence against your community, the tolls of being in America is high. The following is a set of tweets written by TWiB!’s Elon James White breaking down Black existence.

Imagine you’re just living your life as you. But you’re constantly reminded that uncontrollable aspects of “you” are deemed criminal.

— Elon James White (@elonjames) June 7, 2015

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The Burden Of Day-To-Day Black Life In America http://allvalid.com/ejw/the-burden-of-day-to-day-black-life-in-america/ http://allvalid.com/ejw/the-burden-of-day-to-day-black-life-in-america/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=104296 Being Black in America is a constant challenge. The news has shown over and over again that you can’t walk down the street or be in your own home or even go to a pool without fear of harassment and questioning your legitimacy to even be in or near spaces. Mental, emotional and physical violence is often an outcome of these situations. Whether it’s direct harassment or reading/watching violence against your community, the tolls of being in America is high. The following is a set of tweets written by TWiB!’s Elon James White breaking down Black existence.

Imagine you’re just living your life as you. But you’re constantly reminded that uncontrollable aspects of “you” are deemed criminal.

— Elon James White (@elonjames) June 7, 2015

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There’s Something I Should Have Told You http://allvalid.com/dve/theres-something-i-should-have-told-you/ http://allvalid.com/dve/theres-something-i-should-have-told-you/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=104229 I don’t really know how to write this. I don’t even know where to begin. There’s a thing I’ve kept to myself – well, mostly to myself – for a very long time, and I’ve always thought it was nobody’s business. Well, mostly nobody’s business.

But I keep wondering if it’s really that simple. What if it’s nobody’s business as a general rule, but in certain circumstances, by keeping something to yourself you’re being dishonest. Not because anybody really has the right to know, in the abstract, but because you’ve chosen to stake out certain positions and to make certain assertions that touch on the very thing you want to conceal, and by staking out those positions and making those assertions without revealing that thing, you’ve created a sort of conflict of interest – like a journalist who reports on an issue without revealing that he or she might benefit from the way that issue is resolved.

So, you can either keep silent about issues that matter to you, or you can continue to talk and write about them, to take sides, to advocate your position – openly, freely, the way people ought to be able to talk and write, to take sides, and to advocate – but to do so fairly and honestly, you have to reveal the thing you’ve always wanted to conceal.

That seems kind of unfair. And yet, somehow, it also seems like the right thing to do.

See, here’s the thing. I’m gay.

When I say those words or I see them in writing, in my head I hear that classically comedic sound effect of a turntable’s stylus being dragged across a old-fashioned LP record: Screeeeech.

But there it is. I’m gay.

It’s taken me most of my fifty-three years to figure it out, as strange as that sounds. And I didn’t figure it out all at once. The human mind is an amazing thing: If you’re really afraid of the truth, you can bury it so deep inside you that it can take decades to unearth it. To mix metaphors here, I’ve spent nearly all my life running so far away from the truth that I managed to convince myself of the opposite. I dated women, married – twice – and fathered three children, all while doing everything humanly possible to deny the truth. Not to deny it so much as to unsee it. To suppress it so deeply that it essentially ceased to exist for most of my life.

That’s some powerful self-loathing right there.

It’s difficult to explain, and I’m not one to go into the kind of specifics necessary to explain it – not yet, anyway – but the truth sort of came to me, little by little, over the past 20 years or so. And here’s the thing I have to point out, if only to assuage any feelings of guilt over not having come to accept the truth sooner. I never intentionally deceived the only person who really has the unqualified right to know: my wife. As I came to understand who I really am, she was always the first to know. And I don’t mean, the first to know after me. In fact, without going into specifics nobody’s entitled to, I divulged each new realization to her essentially as it came to me.

Until I finally realized – quite literally as the words were coming out of my mouth – I’m gay. It was as if I didn’t really understand it myself until I was actually sitting on the couch, saying those words to her.

Since we had that conversation a few months back, I’ve vacillated. Not over whether or not I am, in fact, gay, but whether to come out publicly like this. I could easily keep it to myself. I’m married, I have kids, and I’ve “passed” for a straight person my whole life. My wife, the only person who has to know, knows and accepts it. So, I could go on pretending to be straight – pretending merely to be a gay ally, with all that implies, good, bad and indifferent – and nobody would know otherwise.

But I would know. And every time I chose to write or tweet about the rights of LGBTQ people – my people – I would know that I’m hiding something. I’m hiding something from anybody who reads what I write, and that’s problematic in its own right, because whether readers agree or disagree with my position, it’s only fair that they know I personally benefit from the position I’m advocating. But more importantly, I’m hiding something from my fellow LGBTQ people. I’m denying them something, I think, they’re entitled to: Not just support, or allegiance, but solidarity.

I’m with you because I’m one of you.

In fact, it’s pretty cowardly to hide behind a veneer of straightness while pretending to be an oh-so-special straight liberal ally. That’s the height of hypocrisy, to take credit for being a “good” liberal without having to pay the price of being openly gay.

Because, as we know, there is a price for being openly gay, even in 2015. While Madonna may think that gay folks have it comparatively easy these days, we’ve seen countless examples of anti-LGBTQ legislation, court actions, and ballot initiatives over the past few months, even as gay rights have made certain impressive advances. From the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court openly defying a federal court order striking down that state’s ban on same-sex marriage – a move endorsed by the father of a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, by the way – to a California ballot initiative to “legalize” the murder of gay people, those who oppose equality and dignity for the LGBTQ community are desperately fighting the progress we’ve made, sometimes ruthlessly. While we’d like to think the uptick in anti-gay hostility represents the last gasp of a dying movement, in fact gay people are having their civil rights trammeled on a daily basis. Right here, right now.

For me, the last straw – and the thing that compelled me to write this – was the passage of Indiana’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that, as initially written, effectively immunized private parties from legal liability for acts of discrimination based on the actor’s religious beliefs, “whether or not [that action is compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” Although the law did not specifically mention gay rights, it was clear that if a private party refused to do business with members of the LGBTQ community, the injured parties would have no meaningful recourse – meaning that religious bigots could discriminate against LGBTQ people with impunity.

Of course, I could go on as I have in the past, expressing my righteous indignation at the bigotry of my neighboring state while maintaining the façade of straightness to avoid having to face that sort of bigotry myself. Or, I could say to the LGBTQ community, No, I’m not an “ally”; I’m one of you. Whatever the consequences, I’m one of you, I’m proud to be one of you, and I’ll gladly stand beside you.

So, that’s what I choose to do.

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Oh, My Brother http://allvalid.com/dve/oh-my-brother/ http://allvalid.com/dve/oh-my-brother/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=103943 Brother John

You never forget the sound of the telephone ringing
At 6:30 in the morning.
You never forget the sound of your father’s voice.
You never forget the little lie he told because the awful truth
Was too much to bear in the morning’s bitter light.
You never forget the sound of your own voice
Wailing at the foot of the bed.

My brother John died of suicide twenty-four years ago today. If you need help, please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the American Foundation for the Prevention of Suicide.

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Oscar Nominations’ Lack of Diversity Spurs Social Media Hashtag #OscarsSoWhite http://allvalid.com/shanepaulneil/oscar-nominations-lack-of-diversity-spurs-social-media-hashtag-oscarssowhite/ http://allvalid.com/shanepaulneil/oscar-nominations-lack-of-diversity-spurs-social-media-hashtag-oscarssowhite/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=103426  

Selma

The lack of diversity in the 2015 Oscar nominations sparked an outcry in the Twitterverse on Thursday. Twitter users loudly shared their thoughts using the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The hashtag is largely made up of comical takes on the Movie Academy’s notorious lack of diversity in membership as well as its history of not acknowledging the work of people of color.

According to Media Diversified, an organization that highlights the lack of representation of people of color in the media, the lack of diversity in the Academy Awards is no surprise, with 94 percent of its members being white, 77 percent male, and only 14 percent under the age of fifty. In the eighty-seven years of the Oscars, there has been a grand total of thirty-one black award winners across all categories. This includes only four black wins in the best actor category, one for best actress, and one for best picture. Some had hoped that the appointing of African American Cheryl Boone Isaacs as president in 2013 might be the spark to ignite some diversity. Based on this year’s slate of nominees that spark has yet to ignite a fire.

 

 

 

 

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Whites Riot: That’s Not What Joe Strummer Had in Mind http://allvalid.com/dve/whites-riot-thats-not-what-joe-strummer-had-in-mind/ http://allvalid.com/dve/whites-riot-thats-not-what-joe-strummer-had-in-mind/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=103401 So, they’re at it again. In the aftermath of Ohio State’s (unexpected) victory over Oregon in the first-ever College Football Playoff Championship Game – is that what it’s called? There have been so many iterations of the college football championship it’s hard to know what’s what – students at OSU’s campus in Columbus, Ohio, were up to the kind of post-sports-championship hijinks we’ve come to expect. NBC News reports that a crowd of roughly 8,000 people “poured out of bars to celebrate” the win, converging on the football stadium, tearing down the goal posts, and lighting at least a dozen “trash bin and couch fires” (couch fires? Is that a thing?) before police dispersed the crowd with tear gas and pepper spray. Buzzfeed claims that “30 to 40 fires were started in trash cans and dumpsters,” which seems a little less end-timesy than couch fires, but, still …

From the pictures and videos that accompany the NBC News and Buzzfeed stories, the crowd appears to have been predominantly white … which explains why they’re described in the media as “celebrating” rather than “rioting”. But every time this happens – that is to say, every time sports fans, predominantly of the white variety, go on rampages after wining (or losing) various championships – many of us with a few gray hairs on our heads are reminded of the Clash’s seminal punk anthem, “White Riot,” which was released as a 7-inch single (that would be on vinyl, kids) in March 1977, and was later included on both the UK and the US versions of the band’s debut album, The Clash.

Now, I’m not going to lie. It’s a great song. Musically speaking, it’s more or less the Punk Singularity. It’s fast and loud and angry, with a great hook. And if you listen to it often enough, you start to realize that it’s actually got a goddamn good melody. It’s just about the perfect punk song. Musically speaking.

Lyrically speaking, though, “White Riot” might seem, at first blush … well … a little problematic. I mean, just take a look at the first verse:

Black men got a lot of problems
But they don’t mind throwing a brick
White people go to school
Where they teach you how to be thick

And then, of course, there’s the chorus:

White riot, I want a riot
White riot, a riot of my own!
White riot, I want a riot
White riot, a riot of my own!

Hold on, though. Not so fast. Once you know the background of “White Riot,” the song takes on a very different meaning.

As I’ve mentioned before, the inspiration for “White Riot” came when Joe Strummer, the band’s rhythm guitarist, singer, and primary lyricist, and Paul Simonon, its bassist and occasional singer, found themselves in the Notting Hill neighborhood in London’s West End in August 1976, just as rioting broke out between the primarily Jamaican residents of the neighborhood and the police, “after a long summer of simmering tensions fuelled by overtly racist policing.” As Simonon described in a recent interview on Spotify (“I Wanna Riot”), he and Strummer actually participated in the riots – until it occurred to them that, in Simonon’s words, “actually, really, it’s not our fight.”

No doubt, Strummer and Simonon sympathized with the cause. In fact, to underscore that sympathy, the Clash’s 1977 debut album also featured a cover version of Junior Murvin’s reggae classic, “Police and Thieves,” the song that was, according to The Guardian, “the soundtrack to the Notting Hill carnival in the summer it was released, 1976.” But Strummer, Simonon and the Clash hadn’t personally experienced and couldn’t really know precisely what Notting Hill’s primarily Black residents were dealing with (and, as the BBC noted, had had to deal with since the at least the late 1950s.).

At the same time, Strummer and Simonon respected what Notting Hill’s residents were doing: They’d had enough abuse, and so they were taking matters into their own hands. To participate directly in the Notting Hill unrest was, for white punk musicians unaffected by Britain’s racism, largely a hollow gesture, but it nonetheless made Strummer wish his own peers – other young, disaffected white kids like him – would likewise take direct action to fight abuse and oppression. And so he wrote:

All of the power in the hands
Of people rich enough to buy it
While we walk the street
Too chicken to even try it

And:

Are you taking over
Or are you taking orders
Are you going backwards
Or are you going forwards

Nearly forty years later, on this side of the Pond, African-Americans still struggle with racist police practices, some overt, some covert. And nearly forty years later, African-Americans have taken to the streets – all be it peacefully – and yet are still labeled rioters, thugs, and looters (even when those same protesters actually protect local businesses from looting).

As for white Americans? Well, yeah, forty years later they actually do riot on occasion. Over sports championships. Over the firing of a coach accused of covering up child sex abuse. Over – yes – pumpkin festivals.

Somewhere, the late, great Joe Strummer weeps.

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Kanye West, Paul McCartney, and the Whitewashing of Rock ’n Roll History http://allvalid.com/dve/kanye-west-paul-mccartney-and-the-whitewashing-of-rock-n-roll-history/ http://allvalid.com/dve/kanye-west-paul-mccartney-and-the-whitewashing-of-rock-n-roll-history/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 16:26:28 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=103326 In November 1981, when the Rolling Stones were touring in support of their enormously successful Tattoo You album (best known for “Start Me Up” and “Waiting on a Friend”), bassist Bill Wyman talked to Rolling Stone magazine about the band’s desire to play small clubs in the midst of its worldwide stadium-rock orgy:

“When we started, we really thought we could do a bunch of clubs,” said Wyman. “Our idea was to just go into a town, go to a club and watch the blues band that was onstage – Muddy Waters or Junior Wells or Buddy Guy or whoever – and then get onstage for twenty minutes. But when we got to Chicago, they told us, ‘You can’t go to the Checkerboard tonight and do that – there are three TV stations there, two radio stations and about a thousand kids.’”

It was fitting that Wyman and the Stones would want to pay homage to Chicago blues greats like Muddy Waters, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. Those were the artists who, some twenty years earlier, first inspired Mick and Keith and Bill and Charlie to pick up their instruments, turn the amplifiers up to ten, and scare the living hell out of parents and record company executives across the United Kingdom.

As a 19 year old college kid who grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, reading that Rolling Stone piece in the fall of 1981 made me smile. See, if you were lucky enough to come of age in Chicago in the 1960s and ’70s like I did, you probably knew Muddy Waters and Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. There’s a good chance you also knew Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon and Howlin’ Wolf, and the whole Pantheon of Chicago blues artists without whom, as Muddy Waters once noted, there likely would never have been that thing called rock ’n roll. That’s one of the advantages of Chicago’s notorious provincialism: We promote our own like nobody else.

But how many 1970s kids who grew up outside the Chicago area had even heard of, let alone knew the music of, those great blues stalwarts who essentially invented rock music? I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that other than Muddy Waters – whose signal was boosted to a considerable degree by the Stones and other blues-obsessed Englishmen like Eric Clapton, John Mayall, and the original (and now barely known) incarnation of Fleetwood Mac – the rest of those musical giants were essentially unknown to rock music fans outside the Windy City.

I mention this because, over the past few days, old folks have been harrumphing at fans of Kanye West, some of whom, if their tweets are to be believed, are not too familiar with a rock ’n roll legend of my era – Sir Paul McCartney – who collaborated on Kanye’s new song, “Only One”. At E! Online, Brett Malec gasped:

We can only hope some of the “Who Is Paul McCartney?” tweets are jokes. If they aren’t, it’s safe to say we are all doomed.

And the predictably humorless conservative outlet, The Daily Caller, intoned:

We now live in a world where people don’t know who a 21 Grammy award-winning artist is, but can probably tell you Kim Kardashian’s birth date, middle name and social security number.

Apparently, not being familiar with a white artist who reached his apex nearly fifty years ago is some sort of unforgiveable sin. Got it. But it strikes me that if you’re the product of the 1960’s or ’70s and you can’t so much as name a single tune by the likes of, say, Robert Johnson or Willie Dixon, you’ve got no right to grouse about Kanye’s fans today.

Of course, the easy response is to say that artists like Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon are nowhere near as famous as Paul McCartney … but that’s really the whole point. White artists like Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin are deeply indebted to the Black artists who started it all, and yet they – Paul McCartney, Elvis Presley, et al. – are far better known than the people who inspired them. At least the Stones are honest enough to admit that they owe everything to Chicago blues artists – they actually took their name from Muddy Waters’ first single, which was recorded in Chicago at Chess Records in 1948. Led Zeppelin, on the other hand, seemingly had few qualms about infringing on the copyrights of blues artists (and others), and yet the Zeppelin crew are, like the Beatles and Stones, infinitely more famous than the artists they – ahem – rather loosely borrowed from.

And therein lies the real tragedy. We spit nickels at young people who don’t know white rock legends like Paul McCartney, but shrug over the relative anonymity of the artists who started it all – artists whose influence was, in a sense, far greater than the Beatles’ and the Stones’, because without them, there would be no Beatles and Stones.

Look, I’m all for knowing the history of rock ’n roll. I’d go so far as to say that you can’t be culturally literate in the twenty-first century without knowing at least some of it. But as Muddy Waters sang on his 1977 LP, Hard Again, “The blues had a baby and they named it rock ’n roll.” Truer words were never spoken – or sung, as it were – and not knowing that particular history lesson is a much greater sin than not knowing who Paul McCartney is. Unless, of course, you think the history of rock ’n roll only comes in shades of white.

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Video/Audio Editor Needed http://allvalid.com/uncategorized/videoaudio-editor-needed/ http://allvalid.com/uncategorized/videoaudio-editor-needed/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 1970 00:00:00 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=103278 twib_ad

TWiB! Media, an independent media company, is looking for a part-time video/audio editor. This is an on-site position in the Berkeley, California, area.

We’re looking for an editor who is highly familiar with and/or experienced in the following:

  • Proficient in Premier Pro, Photoshop, and Audition
  • Can work in PC or Mac environment
  • Experience with Blackmagic Design ATEM Television Studio a plus, but not necessary

This is a part-time position with afternoon/early evening hours.

If you feel you are qualified for this position, please submit your resume and samples of your work via email to ejw.biz [at] twib.me.

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Garland Jeffreys’ “The Rest of My Life Tour” Returns to Chicago http://allvalid.com/dve/garland-jeffreys-the-rest-of-my-life-tour-returns-to-chicago/ http://allvalid.com/dve/garland-jeffreys-the-rest-of-my-life-tour-returns-to-chicago/#comments Tue, 18 Nov 2014 15:52:05 +0000 http://twib.me/syndication/?p=103234 Pausing between songs at his intimate, mostly acoustic November 6 show at SPACE in Evanston, Illinois, New York singer/songwriter Garland Jeffreys quipped, “So, we’re on this little tour … I call it ‘The Rest of My Life Tour’ ….”

At 72 and still bringing down the house, you can’t begrudge him the hint of road-weariness implicit in that observation. Since the release of his phenomenal come-back album, The King of In Between, in 2011, Garland Jeffreys has seemingly been on tour nonstop, pausing a bit to record his crowd-funded follow-up, Truth Serum, in 2013, before heading back out on the road. My wife and I have seen him in Chicago three times since 2012, twice with a full band. But this latest tour takes a stripped-down, conversational approach, featuring Jeffreys on acoustic guitar and vocals, accompanied only by Justin Jordan on electric guitar.

In Evanston, Jeffreys opened his twelve-song set with “Coney Island Winter,” the first track off The King of In Between. Despite some momentary problems with the sound, his sparse live take reminded the audience why we flocked back to him in 2011 when that song was released. After an extended sabbatical, “Coney Island Winter” was everything you could ask for in Garland Jeffreys’ song: A guitar riff that cuts like a knife; a sneering lead vocal that says, “Politicians kiss my ass/Your promises, they break like glass”; and indelible images of his beloved New York City, a living character that stalks the background – and often the foreground – of Jeffreys’ forty-plus-year oeuvre.

His unabashed love for his hometown, and his unflinching honesty about it, were among the things that first attracted me to Jeffreys’ music in the early 1980s. His lyrics suggest that he feels about New York much the same way I feel about Chicago: Like it’s a member of the family, deeply loved, deeply flawed, but irretrievably woven into the fabric of who you are. It’s not surprising that Chicago gives Jeffreys such a warm welcome, or that he feels a fondness for the Second City. We get it. To illustrate the point, Jeffreys said between songs that he wished he could relocate Chicago so that it would be next door to New York. It’d make both better, he suggested, and he’s not altogether wrong.

Anyway, during his recent stop here he strolled through his catalog with a sort of wistful joy, pausing as he tuned his guitar or flipped through pages in his notebook to comment on the state of the music industry (you really should buy his music, people!); to expound on the derivation of his work; and to wax philosophical about his family, his career, and his life in music, including his fifty-year friendship with Lou Reed, who died a little over a year ago. The set list leaned heavily on Jeffreys’ 1977 release, Ghost Writer, including “35 Millimeter Dreams,” “I May Not Be Your Kind,” “Spanish Town,” “New York Skyline,” and the album’s title track. From The King of In Between, he played, appropriately, the blues-tinged anthem, “Till John Lee Hooker Calls Me,” in addition to that album’s opening track.

And from Truth Serum, his latest, he played the album’s first single, “Any Rain,” and “It’s What I Am,” a song that has become his signature. The son of an African-American father and a Puerto Rican mother, Jeffreys sings, “Too white to be black, too black to be white. I’m one of them.” But he also sings:

I say to all my friends I’ll always be a part of you No matter where I go No matter what I do … It’s what I am

And so, it seems, it is.

Fittingly, before closing the set with his debut single, “Wild In the Streets,” which was initially released in 1973 and later included on Ghost Writer, Jeffreys covered Lou Reed’s “I’m Waiting for the Man.” Recorded by Reed’s band, the Velvet Underground, in 1967, “I’m Waiting for the Man” is one of those songs that altered the course of rock music, turning its focus from changing the world to documenting the lives of the people in it. Jeffreys has long been part of this introspective movement – a movement that ultimately spawned punk rock and more – but he’s often overlooked as one of its pioneers.

Maybe two-thirds of the way through his set, Jeffreys also paid tribute to Bob Marley – whom he met, coincidentally, in Chicago in the 1970s – with a soulful rendition of one of Marley’s most recognizable songs, “No Woman, No Cry.” That song contains one of the great lyrics of all time, and one that so perfectly fits the experience of seeing Garland Jeffreys in concert: “In this great future, you can’t forget your past …” Garland Jeffreys is part of the past, present, and future of rock music. I’m eager to see what the “Rest of His Life” tour brings next.

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