Sunday, April 5, 2020

Revisiting Elie Siegmeister's `Folk Music: The Long View' Essay: An Excerpt

Included in The Joan Baez Songbook, that Ryerson Music Publishers published in 1964, is an essay by Sing Out Sweet Land musical composer Elie Siegmeister, titled "Folk Music: The Long View," in which he wrote the following about the historical origins of the 1960s era of U.S. folk music history:

"...What accounts for this astonishing growth of a new music in the short space of a single generation--or, more accurately, of the rebirth of a centuries-old music just when it was about to die out?

"The answer is not simple, but among other things, in the 1930's and `40's, there were the New Deal and the anti-fascist war--movements that awakened the human instincts of all of us. In a period when millions were deprived, disinherited, and then destroyed, there was a need for an affirmation of things basically human. It was a time when intellectual people felt drawn to a commonality with others whose lives and rights were threatened with extinction...

"The discovery of folk music by a generation of young musicians and composers was more than another fad--it opened up a new meaning for American music as a whole. For now those of us who were just starting out could feel part of a rich tradition; we could feel like new branches on an old tree--and this strengthened us...

"When, therefore, I first met Aunt Molly Jackson, the time was ripe; I was enchanted by her at once. It was after one of those concerts organized by a few indigent musicians calling ourselves The Young Composers Group, at the New School, New York, early in 1933...After the concert, our relatives, who comprised the majority of the audience, came back to congratulate us; but among them was this strange, raggedy woman with a hawk-like face: she came right up to me and said `You think you are writing American music--did you ever hear any real American music?' After trading a few insults, we each became fascinated by the ideas of the other. Result: Aunt Molly asked me if I would care to write down some of the few hundred songs she had `composed,' and I said I would.

"I did...

"Among the strongest folk musicians then beginning to be heard around in village cafes, anti-Nazi and pro-Spanish loyalist meetings were Josh White, Woody Guthrie, The Almanac Singers,...and of course, Leadbelly. After a certain amount of exposure, it was inevitable that a bit of audience appeal crept into the performances of some, but Leadbelly was solid as a rock. He neither could nor would be moved to do anything other than sing his repertory exactly as he always had sung it: deadpan, with a gravelly voice that was beautiful, and a guitar rhythm that shook the walls.

"Gradually the folk music movement spread out...In the post-World War II period there arose the deep need for a human affirmation in a time of anxiety. Without a clear ideal of life, the young people of our time have turned to the universal expression that is folk music.

"The elemental themes represented by the songs in this collection, ranging from old Child Ballads, newer Anglo-American ballads, mountain love songs, country and western tunes, hymns and Spirituals and topical songs of today bring the singer and listener closer to the sources of American music: the spontaneous creation of many generations of the plain people of our country.

"The eagerness of vast numbers of folk music enthusiasts to sing and play these songs is evidence of a reaction against the passivity induced by ready-made entertainment. The very roughness of folk performance speaks as a bulwark against the slickness of pre-fabricated commercial art..."

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

How `Rolling Stone' Magazine Rolled The Money In Prior To 1990

Although former Rolling Stone writer Hunter Thompson claimed that Rolling Stone magazine "began its slide into conservatism and mediocrity in 1977," by 1989 its then-parent company, Straight Arrow Publishers Inc. "was worth perhaps $250 million [equal to over $533 million in 2020]--over thirty thousand times its value twenty-two years before," according to the 1990-published book, Rolling Stone Magazine: The Uncensored History by Robert Draper.

According to the same book, Rolling Stone magazine's founder and then-owner, Jann Wenner, was personally worth over $100 million in 1990 [equal to over $203 million in 2020] and had used his youth market profits from "Rolling Stone Incorporated" to maintain "an ostentatious lifestyle of private jets, country villas and choice social connections to match."

According to Draper's Rolling Stone Magazine book of 1990, at that time Wenner spent about four months out of the year at his three-story country manor in East Hampton, Long Island and employed servants there. Wenner also then owned a five story Manhattan townhouse and a Mercedes limousine which was driven by his chauffeur. In 1985, Wenner also had spent $2.5 million [equal to over $6.1 million in 2020] of his surplus wealth to purchase and own US Magazine, for awhile.

Although much of the music that Rolling Stone magazine has covered and profited from since the late '60s is rooted in African-American rhythm and blues, ironically, its pre-1990 "reluctance to cover Black music" was "infamous" and "not coincidentally, Rolling Stone" had "never employed a single Black writer," prior to 1990, according to Draper's 1990 Rolling Stone Magazine book. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

`Rolling Stone' and `Spin' Magazines' Historic Sexism Revisited

As late as the 1990s, hip capitalist rock music industry establishment publications like Rolling Stone and Spin magazines apparently still operated in an institutionally sexist way, in relation to women music journalists. As music journalist Lucy O'Brien wrote in her 1996-published She-Bop: The Definitive History Of Women In Rock, Pop and Soul book:

"Being a female music journalist has its particular obstacles, too...Like many female journalists, I found that `serious' long articles inevitably went to the male writers, while too often we were kept to writing reviews, short pieces or doing interviews with women artists. Women are not considered heavy-weight enough to comment on the top male acts of the day--be it Public Enemy or Iggy Pop. Women rarely get staff positions with power to commission other writers. In 1994, for instance, the senior editorial team of Rolling Stone consisted of 10 men and two women, while among their contributing editors (including Kurt Loder, Greil Marcus and Robert Palmer) there were three women and 27 men. Spin did marginally better with six female and 27 male writers on the masthead, plus one woman among six top editors..."

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Hip Capitalist Establishment's `Rolling Stone' Magazine Revisited: Conclusion

By 1970 the hip capitalist establishment Rolling Stone magazine of Wenner was also being criticized by U.S. women's liberation and radical feminist movement activists and women rock music critics like Ellen Willis for its sexism. As Joe Hagan's 2017 Sticky Fingers book recalled:

"Ellen Willis, a pioneering feminist and the first rock critic at The New Yorker, wrote to Ralph Gleason in 1970 saying she refused to write for Rolling Stone because it was `viciously anti-women.' `RS habitually refers to women as chicks and treats us as chicks; i.e. interchangeable cute fucking machines,' she wrote, adding...that Jann Wenner's bias against revolutionary politics fed the oppression of females: `To me, when a bunch of snotty upper-middle white males start telling me that politics isn't where its at, that is simply an attempt to defend their privileges'..."

And according to the same Sticky Fingers book:

"Around the offices of Rolling Stone, Wenner was known for his jovial sexual harassment. He didn't discriminate between men and women...`He was hitting on every girl and every guy,' said Lynn Hirschberg. `He once grabbed me around the hips and said, `Ten more pounds and you'll be perfect.' This was in front of everybody at a meeting and I wanted to die. It was like this schoolboy crap.'..."

As a long-time member of the Hip Capitalist Establishment since the late 1960s, Rolling Stone magazine's owner and publisher between 1967 and late 2017, Wenner, apparently accumulated over $700 million in personal worth according to the Celebrity Net Worth website, during the 5 decades between 1970 and its sale to Penske Media Inc. in late 2017. And in 2020, the Hip Capitalist Establishment's Rolling Stone magazine website still apparently doesn't encourage most U.S. music fans who still bother to read Rolling Stone magazine to get more into non-commercially-motivated, anti-establishment protest folk music very much during the 21st-century.

For as Rolling Stone magazine's long-time hip capitalist former owner and publisher Jann Wenner said as long ago as 1977:

"I think Rolling Stone is establishment. I think that rock culture...has become establishment in this country, and is the leading cultural establishment in this country right now." (end of article)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Hip Capitalist Establishment's `Rolling Stone' Magazine Revisited: Part 3

As early as the late 1960s, Hip Capitalist Publisher Wenner was already apparently collaborating with record company executives of corporate media conglomerates like CBS, that wished to make a lot of money by exploiting the youth market of rock music fans. As Joe Hagan's 2017 Sticky Fingers book recalled:

"...Rolling Stone's relationship to the `Columbia Rock Machine' had grown increasingly tight, starting with its first advertisement in issue No. 8. Clive Davis, having ascended to president of CBS Records...viewed Wenner as an ally in building a new industry out of rock and roll, and he gave Rolling Stone its first steady advertising contract to keep the newspaper afloat...Davis put Rolling Stone into record stores through Columbia's distribution system, which...accounted for 15 percent of the newspaper's single-copy sales [in the late 1960s]...In addition, Jann Wenner was using Columbia's office in New York as a virtual bureau of Rolling Stone. In a letter to Bob Altshuler, the publicist for Columbia, Wenner thanked him for the `favors, the lunchs (sic), the tickets, and the use of your secretaries and office...'...Wenner...set up camp at Columbia to lay out a promotional ad for...a full-page in The New York Times..." 

So, not surprisingly, when Abbie Hoffman and other Youth International Party/Yippie activists in the late 1960s U.S. antiwar Movement called upon U.S. music fans to protest against the Vietnam War, the System and the U.S. Establishment at the 1968 Democratic National Convention and participate in "Festival of Life" antiwar music concerts in Chicago, hip capitalist publisher Wenner urged Rolling Stone readers to stay away from both the antiwar movement street protests and the planned "Festival of Life" concerts and rallies in Chicago's parks.

In exchange for apparently acting as a marketing and public relations/propaganda tool of the U.S. Establishment's corporate media conglomerates' record company subsidiaries, by 1970 Rolling Stone magazine apparently began receiving additional funds from some of the same record companies whose special corporate interests it promoted. As Joe Hagan noted in his Sticky Fingers book:

"[In 1970] Ralph Gleason...recognized that Wenner was in real [financial] trouble. It was Gleason, Wenner said, who pointed him to the record labels; perhaps they could be convinced to help bail Wenner out of his financial woes. Wenner first approached Jac Holzman of Elektra and explained his situation. `I'd say,...' recounted Wenner,`...I need an advance of money, give me some money, I need money in the bank.'

"...Holzman became a strong financial booster of Rolling Stone, and Wenner put his artists, the Doors and the MC5 on the cover. Along with Clive Davis of CBS, who gave Rolling Stone more than 30,000 [equal to over $202,000 in 2020] in advance advertising and some free business consultation, Holzman agreed to help Wenner by explaining his situation to Steve Ross...who was rolling up the independent record labels under his corporate umbrella...(later renamed Warner Communications). Holzman was about to sell Elektra to Ross for $10 million [equal to over $68.1 million in 2020]...Ross owned Independent News, the magazine distributor...Independent agreed to cut Wenner a check for $100,000 [equal to over $661,000 in 2020]..."

In addition, according to the same book, "Wenner recounted in 1976" that "`then Clive and Jac each advanced me something like $25,000 [equal to over $170,000 in 2020] or $35,000 [equal to over $238,000 in 2020];'" and "Wenner said Gil Friesen of A & M weighed in with another $30,000 [equal to over $202,000 in 2020]. And "by the end of 1970, Wenner had...the financial backing of the American record industry...and...a new investor on the hook, Max Palevsky, chairman of the Xerox Corporation, a multimillionaire prepared to dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into Rolling Stone in 1971..." So, not surprisingly, "a story line gelled in the underground press: Jann Wenner was the man who sold out the revolution for dirty record money;" and "The Yipster Times ran a story called `The Day Rolling Stone Sold Out To Xerox'" in the mid-1970s "claiming Xerox paid off Wenner's debts in exchange for opposing antiwar demonstrations." (end of part 3) 

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Hip Capitalist Establishment's `Rolling Stone' Magazine Revisited: Part 2

Before becoming a hip capitalist music magazine publisher/owner between the late 1960s and 2018, Jann Wenner--after having worked in 1964 as a campus stringer at the University of California-Berkeley for the then-RCA-owned NBC News establishment radio-tv corporate media news subsidiary--had, ironically, worked for the 1960s antiwar left-wing magazine, Ramparts, that first exposed in 1967 the CIA's covert funding of the National Student Association [NSA] during the 1950s and early 1960s. As Joe Hagan recalled in his 2017 Sticky Fingers book:

"Wenner's fortunes began when Ramparts, a monthly founded by left-wing Catholics...decided to launch a biweekly broadsheet in the fall of 1966 called The Sunday Ramparts...[Ralph] Gleason, a member of Ramparts' editorial board, recommended Wenner as an editor and `rock and roll specialist,' and San Francisco to help put out the first issue in October 1966..."

During that same year of 1966, according to the same book, Wenner also "was classified as 1-A by the Selective Service System making him available for the Vietnam draft;" but according to Sticky Fingers author Hagan, "to help Wenner avoid the war," a "Dr. Martin Hoffman on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley" then "diagnosed him with a `serious personality disorder'" and Dr. Hoffman's "letter to the army draft board...achieved its purpose."

According to the Sticky Fingers book, "in creating Rolling Stone, Wenner borrowed heavily from...The Sunday Ramparts, where Wenner worked until it ceased publication in June 1967." The same 2017 book also observed, however, that, during the Spring of 1967, "Wenner was approached by Chet Helms, who told Wenner he was germinating a hippie music magazine for distribution in record stores" and "Helms came to believe Wenner had slunk away with his idea..." Sticky Fingers author Hagan also noted that Crawdaddy!, not Rolling Stone magazine, was actually "the first American rock-and-roll magazine;" and that Paul Williams, not Wenner, actually "invented in 1966" the first rock-and-roll magazine, which "was named for the club where the Rolling Stones" band "first played."

Much of the initial $2,500 [equal to over $19,500 in 2020] capital that Multi-Millionaire hip capitalist Wenner (whose 21st-century personal wealth was estimated to be $700 million by the Celebrity Net Worth website in recent years) required to launch his Rolling Stone magazine in California in October 1967 apparently came from a Manhattan dentist named Dr. Schindelheim--the father of Wenner's then womanfriend and later wife/ex-wife, Jane Schindelheim. The parents of Jane Schindelheim provided Wenner with $2,000 [equal to over $15,600 in 2020]. As the Sticky Fingers book noted:

"They wrote the check, plus a little extra, and gave Rolling Stone the financial push it needed. The money Dr. Schindelheim earned...also gave...daughter an ownership stake in Rolling Stone...which, in early October 1967, Wenner incorporated...under a name he liked quite a lot: Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc."

According to Sticky Fingers author Joe Hagan, much of the Rolling Stone magazine "thing" that was first published by Wenner on Oct. 18, 1967 had apparently "been begged, borrowed, recycled and stolen. Chet Helm [who died in 2005]...; Ralph Gleason's title...; the newsprint and layout of The Sunday Ramparts...; several stories from the Melody Maker [music magazine of the UK], rewritten by Susan Lydon..." (end of part 2.)  

Friday, March 6, 2020

Hip Capitalist Establishment's `Rolling Stone' Magazine Revisited: Part 1

"I think Rolling Stone is establishment. I think that rock culture...has become establishment in this country, and is the leading cultural establishment in this country right now."

--Rolling Stone Magazine Inc. Owner Jann Wenner in 1977

"...Jann Wenner's oldest and dearest friends--people who worked for him in the 1960s and after--could not help but notice the likeness between Trump and the Jann Wenner they knew. The crude egotism, the neediness, the total devotion to celebrity and power. Wenner and Trump were the same age and had met a couple of times at charity events in Manhattan..."

--page 503 of former Rolling Stone magazine and former Wall Street Journal reporter Joe Hagan's 2017 book, Sticky Fingers

Hip Capitalist Establishment's Rolling Stone Magazine Revisited: Part 1

In 2020 many music fans in the United States are now anti-capitalist, socialist or libertarian anarchist in their politics. Yet between the late 1960s and 2018, a magazine that published many articles about the music that many music fans in the United States listen to each month, Rolling Stone magazine, was mostly owned by a multi-millionaire white hip capitalist member of the U.S. Establishment named Jann Wenner, prior to it being sold to Penske Media Inc. in late 2017.

Not surprisingly, before Wenner became a hip capitalist music magazine publisher in the late 1960s and early 1970s and a member of the U.S. white corporate male hip capitalist media establishment by the end of the 1970s, he apparently was not much of a teenage rebel against the U.S. Establishment in his political beliefs or in the way he lived his life. As Joe Hagan observed in his 2017 book Sticky Fingers:

"Wenner...was...a Kennedy-worshiping preppy whose thwarted ambition to attend Harvard had diverted him to Berkeley...An inveterate social climber...Wenner crashed debutante balls and went on ski weekends to private resorts with rich friends...who knew Kennedys and Hearsts...As a teenager, he attended a boarding school in Los Angeles that housed the offspring of Hollywood royalty, including Liza Minnelli..."

In addition, during the 1950s, the Rolling Stone magazine owner's mother, Sim Wenner, "was involved in the California Democratic Council" and "befriended Democrat Alan Cranston, who later became a senator from California;" and, along with Jann Wenner's father, Baby Formula Inc. owner Ed Wenner, "socialized with...the Roth family, who owned the Matson shipping company," according to the same book. (end of part 1)