God bless America

I keep thinking about the two jackasses who show up at virtually every Yankees’ home game, at least the ones televisedĀ  from The Bronx.

They bring a big American flag with them to every game. And in the seventh inning, when the Stadium’s PA system plays a snippet of Kate Smith’s rendition of Irving Berlin’s superficial and stupid “God Bless America,” the YES Network camera zooms in on these two as they smugly belt out the lyrics, hold up the flag — and occasionally look around to see if everyone else is watching.

Never mind that the song sucks. Never mind that Woody Guthrie heard it, also thought it sucked, and wrote “This Land Is Your Land” — which should be our National Anthem — in response. Perhaps more important are the misguided patriotism and jingoism that have overtaken baseball and other sports.

“God Bless America” was added to the seventh inning stretch after 9/11. OK. But now it’s nearly two decades later.

Perhaps most disturbing: People stand up, hold their caps to their hearts, bow their heads and sing along — none of which is called for or required. And I guarantee you that many of those people think “God Bless America” is the OTHER National Anthem or might even be THE National Anthem.

As for “The Star-Spangled Banner” itself, the tune has been played at baseball games for 80 years — but as a part of the tradition of the American Pastime. It’s not required. And it’s a song that glorifies war. If they play it before each game, fine — but bear in mind that it didn’t even become our National Anthem until the 1930s.

And “God Bless America” does not require holding your cap to your heart. Me, not only do I refuse to doff my cap, but if the two yahoos who bring a big flag to every game ever said anything about it, I’d tell them to kiss my red, white and blue you-know what.
 

 

 

 

 

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“We set out that night for the cold in the North…”

Well, not quite, since it was only mid-November, and right around then winter was bearing down hard onĀ  Niagara Falls, New York, but it was warm enough that — fortified by strong alcohol and a strong sense of destiny — that my friend Phil and I set up camp that night outside the Niagara Falls Convention Center and waited to buy tickets in the morning for a show the next night by Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue.

We were so young. I remember thinking that it was amazing that Dylan was out on the road again, performing again, at the ripe old age of…what, I guess ol’ Bob was about 35 years old!

There was an afternoon show and an evening show on Nov. 15, 1975. We went to the evening show with two girl friends. Here’s the set list from the show we attended: (not including songs by other performers — the featured guest star when we saw Rolling Thunder was Joni Mitchell):

When I Paint My Masterpiece
It Ain't Me, Babe
It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry
The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll
Romance In Durango
Isis
Blowin' In The Wind
I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine
Never Let Me Go
Mama, You Been On My Mind
I Shall Be Released
Love Minus Zero/No Limit
Tangled Up In Blue
Oh, Sister
Hurricane
One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below)
Sara
Just Like A Woman
Knockin' On Heaven's Door
This Land Is Your Land

Friend Phil recalls this: I remember clearly the rendition of “Tangled Up In Blue’, when he changed the lyric “Some are carpenters’ wives” to “Some are truck drivers’ wives”.

Me, I remember that the most impressive and thrilling songs were the songs from the new album “Desire” — “Romance in Durango,” “Oh Sister,” “Hurricane,” “One More Cup of Coffee” and “Sara”; the powerful symbolism of Dylan and his merry band doing a finale of “This Land Is Your Land” in tribute to Woody Guthrie and with a nod toward the upcoming bicentennial (as an idiot wind blew from the Grand Coulee Dam to the Capitol…); and, I believe, a duet with none-other-than Joan Baez on “Mama you’ve Been On My Mind.” I remember being in a bar in Niagara Falls when a girl I knew ran in and excitedly handed me a handbill she’d just been handed by some guy on the street — a handbill for the Rolling Thunder Revue.

I remember that a girl named Lee — blonde and beautiful Lee — came with me to the concert, to which I wore a stupid black fedora, which fedora Lee decided sometime during that evening to wear over her long golden locks, and I never saw that fedora again. As I recall, we had great seats in the middle orchestra, no more than ten rows back from the stage. I have a vivid image of Dylan wearing that clear plastic mask and a hat just like the hat he wears on the cover of “Desire” and he’s standing at the microphone without his guitar doing a sort of hipster pantomine as he sings “Isis.” I remember falling in love, alternately, with Joni Mitchell, Roni Blakely and Scarlet Rivera. I remember that the show opened with a song by Ramblin’ Jack Elliot, who was dressed very much like Dylan and looked very much like Dylan and until he started singing many people in the audience were cheering because they mistakenly thought he WAS Bob Dylan.

Memories of Rolling Thunder from more than thirty years ago….still echoing as I listened last night to the sound of distant thunder and flashes of light in the northwest sky…as my son and I get ready to head North for this weekend’s show in Saratoga Springs featuring Bob Dylan and his band with LEVON HELM and others. I promise to not wear a black fedora and I promise to report back on this coming Sunday’s performance by the man my friend and fellow writer Steve Hart has dubbed “His Bobness.”