Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Rock N Roll Used to Fund RFK Jr.'s Anti-Vaccine Vanity Campaign; Clapton Continues To Disappoint, Now Stephen Stills Joins Him; Meanwhile, Dylan & Farm Aid Still Heroes...

This story brings nothing but disappointment. Rocker Eric Clapton recently did a private concert at an L.A. mansion which raised $2 million for RFK Jr.'s anti-vaccine vanity campaign for President (of the United States).

Clapton's long been suspect, since his 1976 drunken racist rant on stage during a concert where he voiced support for anti-immigrant sentiment in general and the fascist anti-immigrant politician Enoch Powell in particular. This despite Clapton's reputation being built over the bones of dozens of dead Black bluesmen.

Then in 2020, Clapton and fellow kook Van Morrison hooked up for a couple of anti-vaccine songs in the middle of the COVID epidemic. Posing as rock rebels standing up for their rights and thinking for themselves, they actually caused social harm by encouraging vaccine hesitancy and resistance to masks, social distancing, lock downs, and mandatory COVID measures of any kind.

Then suddenly it was announced that Eric Clapton would do a private concert as a fundraiser for anti-vaccine fanatic RFK Jr. 

Ultimately we found out that they raised $2 million - one million for RFK Jr.'s campaign and another for the PAC that backs him.

We were saddened to hear that Stephen Stills joined him for the RFK Jr. fundraiser. He apparently performed with Clapton at the event, then also played at Clapton's Crossroads benefit on September 23. He could have joined his old pal Neil Young the same night at The Farm Aid benefit with Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, Dave Matthews, and a surprise set by Bob Dylan.

Someone suggested that Stills did not support RFK Jr and only came because Clapton asked him to support him musically. I wrote to Stills on Twitter and asked: "Does Stephen Stills' appearance at a recent RFK Jr fundraiser with Eric Clapton in L.A. constitute an endorsement of RFK Jr and the anti-vaccine movement by Stephen?

There was no reply except that I was immediately blocked by Stills on Twitter. So I suppose the answer is "Yes", Stills DOES support Clapton, RFK Jr., and the anti-vaccine movement.

I guess we can take a moment to reflect that while some rockers are willing to sell out to racism and harmful anti-science/anti-vaccine nonsense, others are trying to do the right thing and standing up for (and raising money for) good causes that help, rather than harm, the people.

Farm Aid was born in 1985. Dylan was performing at Live Aid in July 1985 for famine relief for Ethiopia. He made an off-hand comment about how it would be nice if someone would raise "a few million" for smaller American family farmers, who were endanger of losing their farms. That September Farm Aid was launched and has taken place annually since then. Dylan played the first Farm Aid with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, who Dylan had been touring with.

Dylan hadn't played another Farm Aid until this year. His performance - three classic songs - was unannounced. They simply walked on stage and started playing, people slowly realizing the guy in the middle playing guitar (Dylan mostly plays keyboards in concert these days) was Bob Dylan and he was accompanied by three Heartbreakers! Next to Dylan was master guitarist Mike Campbell, recently seen playing with Fleetwood Mac, as well as keyboard wizard Benmont Tench and drummer Steve Ferrone. They played "Maggie's Farm", "Positively Fourth Street", and "Ballad Of A Thin Man".

The crowd was left inspired and uplifted. Money and awareness was raised for a good cause.

Compare and contrast this with Clapton raising money for the anti-science/anti-vaccine cause which makes people feel more afraid, angry, and divided and leaves some of the most vulnerable sitting ducks for deadly disease.

If you've never heard Clapton's racist rant, you should check it out. It really reveals where he's coming from:

Clapton's 1976 racist rant: "Do we have any foreigners in the audience tonight? If so, please put up your hands. So where are you? Well, wherever you are, I think you should all just leave. Not just leave the hall, leave our country. I don’t want you here, in the room or in my country... Listen to me, man! I think we should send them all back...Stop Britain from becoming a black colony. Get the foreigners out. Get the w*gs out. Get the c**ns out. Keep Britain white!"

Why do people find RFK Jr so objectionable?

Well, he claims to be a Democrat, and comes, obviously, from a family synonymous with the storied history of Camelot, but his politics seem closer to Republican or perhaps Libertarian. Some might say Green. 

He rose to fame as an environmental lawyer but then morphed into an anti-vaccine conspiracy theorist who really rose to prominence (and record fund-raising levels) during the COVID crisis, during which he became one of the loudest anti-vaccine voices and perhaps the leading producer of COVID dis- and mis- information.

More recently, Kennedy seems dead set on embracing every single conspiracy theory out there, including those that are racist, antisemitic, homophobic, and transphobic.

RFK Jr. Isn’t So Sure About 9/11: ‘Strange Things Happened’

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. considers himself a “skeptic” willing to question authority and interrogate official narratives. Others might identify the political scion as an enthusiastic peddler of conspiracy theories about everything from Covid-19 to his uncle’s assassination.

Those keeping score at home can now add 9/11 to the list of official narratives the Democratic candidate for president has raised questions about. In a new interview on the podcast “In The Room with Peter Bergen,” produced by Fresh Produce Media for Audible, Kennedy told Bergen he didn’t know whether or not he believes the official government explanation about 9/11, including whether al-Qaeda was responsible for the attack, asserting “strange things happened.”

Here’s the exchange, which takes place halfway through the pair’s wide-ranging conversation.

Peter Bergen: The official explanation of 9/11 — do you buy?
Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Which is what?
Bergen: Al-Qaeda attacked us on 9/11.
Kennedy: I don’t know what happened on 9/11. I mean, I understand what the official explanation is. I understand that there is dissent. I have not looked into it. I haven’t examined it. I’m not a good person to talk to about it.
Bergen: Well, I mean, so there’s doubt in your mind that al-Qaeda was responsible?
Kennedy: Well, I know, I don’t know, you know. I know there’s strange things that happened that don’t seem—
Bergen: What are the strange things?
Kennedy: Well, one of the buildings came down that wasn’t hit by a plane. So, you know, was it Building 7 or Building 10?
Bergen: That collapsed because two of the world’s biggest buildings collapsed on top of it.
Kennedy: No, they didn’t collapse on top of it. My offices were down there. My offices were closed—
Bergen: So one of the buildings, next to the Trade Center—
Kennedy: There’s pictures of it collapsing. There’s nothing collapsing on top of it. I mean,  listen, I don’t want to argue any theories about this because all I’ve heard is questions. I have no explanation. I have no knowledge of it. But what you’re repeating now, I know not to be true.

The collapse of World Trade Center Building 7 has long been the subject of conspiracy theories, with some suggesting falsely that it was pre-rigged with explosives.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology — which led the exhaustive technical investigation into the 9/11 attacks — Building 7 collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001, after debris from World Trade Center Tower 1 ignited a fire that burned for nearly seven hours. How could those fires cause a building to collapse? Per the agency: “The heat from the uncontrolled fires caused steel floor beams and girders to thermally expand, leading to a chain of events that caused a key structural column to fail. The failure of this structural column then initiated a fire-induced progressive collapse of the entire building.” FEMA reached the same conclusion in its own report.

The official explanation around 9/11 is the latest in a string of narratives RFK has questioned. He’s been pushing misinformation about vaccines for years, advancing a theory in 2005 that that “government health agencies colluded with Big Pharma to hide the risks of thimerosal,” a preservative used in vaccines, which he asserted was linked to autism. (The Lancet study on which Kennedy’s argument relied was later retracted, as was the story Kennedy wrote, which was co-published by Rolling Stone and Salon.com.)

Since announcing his bid to challenge Joe Biden for the 2024 Democratic nomination earlier this year, Kennedy has casually claimed that Covid-19 was “ethnically targeted” to spare Jewish and Chinese individuals. Before that, he declared 5G technology is meant for “harvesting human data,” and suggested that those who refuse vaccines in the future could “starve to death” after authorities “turn off the chip” where all of their money is stored. He’s also saidthat he personally has enough evidence to “prove” his uncle, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated by the CIA.

Reflecting on Kennedy’s comments about 9/11 on his podcast, Bergen — one of the foremost authorities on al-Qaeda — noted that “I do my own research” is a fine attitude for a private citizen to have, but the approach suddenly becomes a lot less tenable when that person is president of the United States.

“Wanting to go to the source and dig into the details is a great sign of a curious mind,” Bergen said. “But the White House would be paralyzed if the president was always personally digging into all the underlying data to make his or her own assessments. As president you’ll have a thousand choices both large and small where you’re just gonna have to accept some expert opinions … Whether it’s the likely pace of unemployment or the likely course of a pandemic. We elect a president not because we expect one person to know absolutely everything. We expect them to know who to trust and how to make sound judgments.”

Under that criteria, Kennedy isn’t the only 2024 hopeful who would be disqualified. Republican candidate Vivek Ramaswamy expressed doubt about what happened on 9/11 in an interview with The Atlantic earlier this summer. “I think it is legitimate to say, How many police, how many federal agents were on the planes that hit the Twin Towers?” he said. “Like, I think we want — maybe the answer is zero, probably is zero for all I know, right? I have no reason to think it was anything other than zero. But if we’re doing a comprehensive assessment of what happened on 9/11, we have a 9/11 commission, absolutely that should be an answer the public knows the answer to.”

“I want the truth about 9/11,” Ramaswamy added.

Ramaswamy has suggested RFK — who has been raking in financial support from right-wing donors — would make a good running mate. He’s not alone in his praise: Trump has also spoken highly of Kennedy — calling him a “common sense guy” and “very smart person,” while Ron DeSantis has suggested he could appoint Kennedy to lead the Food and Drug Administration or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Plenty of celebrities have lined up behind Kennedy, as well. Eric Clapton hosted a star-studded fundraiser for him last week that brought in $2.2 million.

It’s not clear the support from Republicans in high places is making a difference for Kennedy. Recent primary polling shows President Biden leading him by over 50 points in the Democratic primary.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Bob Dylan Makes A Surprise Appearance at Farm Aid; Plays Three Songs with Tom Petty's Heartbreakers


Bob Dylan, playing with members of the late Tom Petty's band The Heartbreakers: guitarist Mike Campbell (who recently toured with Fleetwood Mac as Lindsey Buckingham's replacement), keyboardist Benmont Tench, and drummer Steve Ferrone.

"Maggie's Farm", "Positively Fourth Street", "Ballad Of A Thin Man"

Farm Aid, Noblesville, Indiana,
September 23, 2023.

Dylan played the first Farm Aid, September 22, 1985 with Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers and hadn't been back since. Many credit Dylan with inspiring Farm Aid with an off-hand comment about helping American farmers at Live Aid in Philadelphia, July 13, 1985.

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Mack McCormick and the Folk Revival: Trying to Save The World


Some recent events inspires a fresh look at the folk revival The long-awaited release of some of Mack McCormick's field recordings in a handsome boxset Playing For The Man At The Door, Mack's classic book on Robert Johnson, "new" live releases from the 1970s by Sunset Records of Mississippi Fred McDowell and Reverend Gary Davis, and the recent death of McCormick's friend and colleague Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz.

All this had us reflecting on the Folk Revival, which began circa 1950 with Pete Seeger & The Weavers taking Lead Belly's "Goodnight Irene" to the top of the charts, leading to the Kingston Trio, Peter Mary & Mary, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan in the 1960s, continuing in the 1970s in the singer/songwriter genre. Today such roots music is known as Americana.

Besides folk, the folk revival included blues gospel, ragtime, and more. Embodied by the Newport Folk Festival in the mid-1960s, it included both African-American and European-American artists and others, mostly of the country rural variety.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the revival was the "rediscoveries" of older African-American country blues artists who had recorded in the 1930s and then largely vanished until the 1960s when they were suddenly "rediscovered" and putting out albums, touring, playing festivals and TV shows for audiences of mostly young European-Americans. Some of the notable "rediscoveries" were Son House, Skip James, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Elizabeth Cotten, Sleepy John Estes, Bukka White, Mance Lipscomb, and Lightnin' Hopkins.

Chris Strachwitz and Mack McCormick traveled together in Texas to track down (and ultimately record) Lightnin' Hopkins and Mance Lipscomb.


A recent trip through Texas and Louisiana, including memorials to Blind Willie Johnson and Mance Lipscomb.

Rock n roll is expected to stand for something.

That is largely due to the influence of blues & folk music which always stood for something. 1960s, civil rights movement, anti-war movement.