As a former journalist I’m used to seeing my name in print, but this was the first time one of my programs made the news in Washington, DC. My lecture was listed second of the best things to do in DC on this particular Monday night. And I have to admit, Paws of Honor was a much better cause than my talk.
MONDAY DOGS The St. Gregory Hotel is celebrating National Dog Day with a “Patio Pawty” where both humans and canines can enjoy food and drinks (four-legged friends will enjoy treats from Doggy Style Bakery). The event is a fundraiser for Paws of Honor , a nonprofit that provides no-cost veterinary care for retired service and military dogs, which the hotel also supports with its pet stay fees. Paws of Honor alums will be on hand for snuggles and belly rubs. Free to attend; $35 for drinks, light appetizers, and doggy treats, 5 PM – 10 PM.
LECTURE Even beyond Woodstock, 1969 was a crucial year for music with the formation of the Allman Brothers, Judas Priest, and ZZ Top as well as the recording of the Beatles’ final album. In a lecture at the S. Dillon Ripley Center presented by Smithsonian Associates, DC-based author Dave Price will explore the year in a before-and-after context, looking at the events of 1959 (“the day the music died” with the death of Buddy Holly ) and the late 1970s with the arrival of Tom Petty , the Clash, and more. Price will pull from the research for his upcoming book What’s That Sound: Song Lists and Stories to Help You Better Understand the Music of the Baby Boom Era. The final lecture in the series takes place on September 23 . $45, 6:45 PM.
Since we had spent 11 hours at the Bethel Hills site yesterday, we decided not to go early today. At noon, we went to lunch at the Two Rivers Grill in Matadoras, Pennsylvania where we staying. There we met my new favorite waitress, Lisa, who had just started work that week. For a few years now, if my wife Judy and I order dessert, we share. I’ve made it a standing joke to ask our servers to bring Judy a smaller fork or spoon so that I can get more of the dessert. Today, Lisa complied. But there was a twist. She brought the smaller fork for me, explaining that Judy, as a female, deserved the larger portion. Our dessert was delicious. It was fresh-baked caramel covered apple pie (neighboring upstate New York is known not only as the original home of Woodstock, but also for its apples) with home-made vanilla ice cream. And I don’t even like apple pie.
On the elevator at the Hampton Inn we met a Buffalo couple, Maria and Gunner, who had just arrived that morning and were going to the Woodstock for the first time. They asked us several questions, and since we all had lawn seats for the Santana performance, we asked them if they wanted to travel to the Bethel site with us. They said that would be great and the four of us were on the road by 3 p.m.
While Gunner and Maria wandered around taking in the atmosphere and the sights that we had been exposed to yesterday, Judy and I decided to focus on a just a couple of exhibits.
First up was the Light Bus, a version of which had actually made the journey to the original 1969 festival. In fact, the bus itself has a storied history. In 1968, Bob Grimm, who was then playing in a rock band named Light, asked his friend Robert Hieronymus to “paint us a magic bus”. Heronimus immediately got to work transforming a 1963 split window VW Kombi bus into a vehicle covered with esoteric symbols to welcome in to what was then being called a new Aquarian Age.
Like Ken Kesey and his fellow pranksters on their famed bus Further, Grimm and his friends made the trip across country in 1969 to Woodstock. Their painted bus was featured in an AP Woodstock photo that appeared in newspaper’s around America. Based on that photo, the bus began appearing in all kinds of publications and became a a talismanic of the peace and love portion of the late ’60s and early ’70s.
In 1972, the bus was used to run errands for the Savitra commune in Baltimore. Within a short time, the now decaying bus became unusable. However, in 2009, as part of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, a limited edition diecast model replica of the Light Bus was a popular best-seller.
In 2018, Hironimus and a team of artists restored a 1962 Kombi VW bus in a secluded barn in Maryland. Now, that restoration was drawing big crowds, most of whom wanted to get the pictures taken with the Light Bus in the background.
Next, I headed to Recovery Unplugged tent to talk Jim, a recovering alcoholic police officer from my home state of New Jersey who I had chatted with briefly yesterday. He was at Woodstock at a representative of the music-based alcohol and drug treatment program Recovery Unplugged offers at its facilities in Lake Worth and Fort Lauderdale in Florida and northern Virginia. A fourth facility is expected to open soon in Nashville.
Jim explained that Recovery Unplugged are pioneers in music-based addiction treatment. “Actually, our C.A.C. is the man who literally wrote the book on music-based addiction,” Jim explained, pointing out Paul Pellinger’s book about the story of Recovery Unplugged Music Is Our Medicine. Several musicians including Steven Tyler and Richie Supa of Aerosmith, Morris Day of the Time, and the rapper Flo-Rida are associated with the program.
While we were talking, a Bethel Woods worker approached and told Jim that he and his fellow workers would have to take down their tent and secure all the Recovery Unplugged items as a severe storm was expected to strike the area in about half-an-hour.
Judy and I decided to seek shelter in the Woodstock Museum until the storm passed. We focused on two of the exhibits, one explaining in depth the background of all the artists who performed at the first Woodstock festival and the other a temporary exhibit We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary Festival and Aspirations for a Peaceful Future.
The special exhibition features a collection of of authentic Woodstock artifacts including Jack Cassidy of Jefferson Airplane’s bass guitar and the tunic he wore, handwritten lyrics for the song “Goin’ Up the Country” by Alan Wilson of Canned Heat, and a speaker cabinet and missing equipment used by Bill Hanley, whose work established the standard for outdoor concert sound.
Other sections included Voices from the Past, which presented first-person commentary about changing American society in the 1960s; Woodstock Remembered, first person accounts from people who attended the historic three-day festival; Woodstock Through the Lens, a collection of photos taken at the festival; and What the World Needs Now, an interactive exhibit tat engaged participants in conversations about what they want from society today and how the experiences from 50 years ago could inform attitudes, decision-making, and actions today.
While we were inside, the threatened severe storm never materialized and we headed to the amphitheater lawn to meet Gunner and Maria and enjoy in tonight’s concert with The Doobie Brothers and Santana, with its leader Carlos Santana whose musical breakthrough came from the song “Soul Sacrifice” which was featured in the award-winning 1970 documentary on Woodstock.
Of course, the original Woodstock was plagued by incessant rain storms that turned the festival fields into veritable seas of mud and mess. In fact, one of the lasting moments from the film featured the crowd shouting the “No Rain, No Rain” chant which provided the segue into Santana’s energetic performance.
Well, as if to prove the musical gods have a sense of both history and irony, after the Doobie Brothers concluded their set (which included their huge hits “Listen to the Music”, “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “Long Train Runnin,” and “China Grove,” as well as my all-time favorite Doobie’s tune “Ukiah,” lighting flashed and thunder rolled. Those of us in the amphitheater (which has a reported capacity of 16,200 but on this Saturday night, was estimated to be far more than 20,000) prepared for bad weather, and, indeed just minutes before Carlos Santana and his current band were scheduled to take the stage, rain began falling.
As they have on this tour all summer, Santana was paying tribute both to Woodstock and the 50th anniversary of his band. With an explosion of noise from the crowd, a precoded version of the rain chant from the Woodstock burst from the speakers and, once on stage, the band broke into three songs that became their standards from their initial Woodstock debut – “Soul Sacrifice,” Jin-go-lo-ba,” and “Evil Ways”. Now, while it is true you can’t go home again, or as the Chinese put it, you can’t put you feet in the same river twice, that Santana there-song opening was about as close as you can get if you had been one of the estimated 400,000 who attended Woodstock in 1969.
When considering the Grateful Dead, you probably don’t think about baseball. But the still popular improvisational San Francisco jam band and the game known as the national pastime have a strong connection.
Original Dead co-guitarist Bob Weir is a baseball fan. In fact, it was reported a few years ago that Weir was considering working on a music project involving famed Negro League pitcher Satchell Paige.
The Dead first came to widespread prominence during the 1967 San Francisco-based Summer of Love and a love affair of sorts was born between Weir and the hometown Giants. In 1993, Weir, along with now-deceased Grateful Dead members, guitarist Jerry Garcia and keyboardist Vince Welnick, sang the National Anthem at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park for the Giants opening day game against the Florida Marlins Weir and former Dead bassist Phil Lesh also sang the anthem for a 2014 National League Championship game in the City by the Bay.
Now calling themselves Dead and Company, the remaining original members of the band – Weir and drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart with newcomers John Mayer, Oteil Burbridge, and Jeff Chimenti continue to perform sold-out concerts across the country. Over their 54 years of performing in various configurations, members of the Dead have built one the most devoted fan bases in all of rock. The tie-died fans, called Deadheads, consider the band a lifestyle, not just their favorite musical act.
Realizing the relation between the Dead and baseball and the band and its fans, executives for several baseball teams have been scheduling special Grateful Dead Night for a home game. The first such promotion was created by the Giants in 2010 to recognize the 15-year anniversary of band leader and counterculture guru Garcia’s death.
“The Grateful Dead are an iconic band that appeals to a wide demographic, so it was not a difficult decision to make,” the chief operating officer of the Milwaukee Brewers Rick Schlesinger told Business Sports Journal.
Now, while I appreciate the eclecticism of the Dead, the laid-back lifestyle of the Deadheads and have attended a few band shows over the years, I am not a fanatical follower. But our 46-year-old son Michael has been attending shows regularly since he entered college in 1991. And he has hopes that our 10-year-old grandson Owen will also someday come to understand the joy expressed at a Dead concert.
So when my wife Judy and I discovered that the Washington Nationals were holding an August Grateful Dead night promotion which included giving away Grateful Dead baseball caps, we saw it as a way to pick up hats for Michael and Owen.
Now Judy and I, being South Jersey natives, are Phillies fans, but since we now live in Crystal City, Virginia, which is only four Metro stops from the Nationals Ballpark in Washington, D.C., we have been attending a few games a year there, especially when the Phillies are in town.
We bought out tickets online. On game night, we headed to the Nats’ ballpark. But as all Deadheads know, when the Grateful Dead are involved you can expect the unexpected.
Arriving at the stadium, we were surprised that the Dead caps weren’t being distributed at the gates as they do for bobble heads, t-shirts, and other promotions. “No big deal, they’ll probably just give them out when we exit,” I told Judy.
We were greeted inside by swirling, dancing bears (one of the group’s many symbols) and a local DC tribute band playing Dead covers on the giant screen. As we began making our way to our seats, we saw a fan sporting a Dead baseball cap. Then a few others. Then a whole lot more. Judy checked in at a promotions kiosk to see what was going on. She was told that only those fans who had purchased special tickets at a special price would be receiving the special hats. They were being distributed at a large blue tent outside the First Base gates.
This wasn’t what we had expected, but since we had only really come to get the two Dead baseball caps, we decided to exit the ballpark and see if we could sweet-talk someone into giving hats to us even though we didn’t have the right tickets.
But despite the fact that we did see about 25 hats still on the table, we had no luck. We learned that actually the promotion had been “capped” at 3,000 fans and the special-ticket holders who didn’t pick up their hats would have them mailed to them.
Of course, as another rock legend, Rolling Stones vocalist Mick Jack has been singing for 51 years, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might get what you need”.
And, at this point, Judy and I decided we needed to get back to our apartment and pack, since we were leaving the next day for the 50thanniversary celebration of Woodstock, at the original Bethel, New York, site of the festival.
On the walk to the Metro, we briefly discussed buying Grateful Dead caps online for Michael and Owen. But, although we love both of them greatly, we decided against it for economic (our son is a professor of economics and Owen has expressed interest in becoming one himself so I’m sure they will understand) reasons. We had spent $20 each on our tickets and $24 each for dinner. In addition, I had treated myself to one of those $6 ballpark Cokes. With tax and Metro fares, that meant our hatless baseball sojourn had cost us more than $100.
Besides, I’m fairly certain the Nationals will have another Grateful Dead promotion next season. And I know that if I decide to go that game, I won’t be leaving without whatever Grateful Dead swag they’re offering. Or maybe, on second thought, I ‘ll just buy Michael and Owen tickets to a Dead show next year. That would probably be cheaper.
Baby, we were Born to Run — to Luton. Yes, Luton. In the United Kingdom. That’s where the improbable, but maybe not so improbable, story of the impact of Bruce Springsteen’s music on a South Asian Muslim teenager named Javed growing up in ’80s England takes place in the new movie musical “Blinded by the Light.”
Javed, played with heart by Viveik Kalra, uses the Boss’ music to get the girl, stand up to his dad, take on the bullies and ultimately as a vessel of self-awareness. It’s based on the memoir of journalist and Springsteen fan Sarfraz Manzoor, titled “Greetings from Bury Park.”
It’s a charmer. A coming of age in the ’80s movie that’s kind of like John Hughes meets Springsteen in Thatcher England.
In his 1984 track “No Surrender,” Bruce Springsteen famously wrote, “We learned more from a three-minute record, baby, than we ever learned in school.” Sarfraz Manzoor knows that feeling.
Growing up as one of four siblings in the grim, post-industrial British town of Luton (30 miles north of London) during the 1980s, Manzoor was caught between the cultural expectations of his overbearing Pakistani-immigrant mother and father — Rasool Bibi and Mohammed Manzoor — and his own desires to escape the everyday racism that was part of his stifling surroundings.
As a 16-year-old, Manzoor faced that lonely battle, and school wasn’t giving him any solutions. However, it was the Boss who gave him the spark that started a fire. And the result, all these years later, is the film “Blinded by the Light,” in theaters Friday.
Bruce Springsteen has not just made his mark on the musical world, but on the cinematic one as well. An Academy Award for Best Original Song, countless appearances on soundtracks, cameo appearances in movies and documentaries about his work; Springsteen lives up to his moniker – The Boss. With “Blinded by the Light” opening this week and celebrating his life/music, what better time is there to look at the man’s contributions to cinema?
Below you will see ten of the best uses of Springsteen and his music in cinema to date. Honorable mentions include “Dead Man Walking” (for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song) “Long Shot,” as well as “Ricki and the Flash.” Special citation goes to “The Indian Runner” from Sean Penn, as it’s based on the Springsteen song “Highway Patrolman.” It also goes without saying that the documentary “Springsteen & I,” as well as the Netflix special “Springsteen on Broadway” deserve a shout out as well.