Quiet Desperation

Music won’t stay silent, for better or worse

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What’s science got to do with it?

What’s science but a secondhand emotion?

Music, eventually, finds its way into almost everything, including a pandemic. The same is true for all of the arts.

Visual artists, filmmakers, writers, and others have been reacting to COVID-19 ever since it began to hit America and, in many ways, limit Americans.

Musicians have responded to dire conditions, authority, wars, prejudice, and innumerable hardships forever.

Some of us may have been initiated by Woody Guthrie’s politically charged anthems. He also wrote “This Land is Your Land.”

The decade of the 1960s was a ripe period for musicians, many of whom were tagged as “protest singers,” especially Bob Dylan, but also Peter, Paul, and Mary, Phil Ochs, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Nina Simone, even Marvin Gaye.

A British band at the time, Them, was uninvolved, and recorded hits such as “Gloria,” “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” and “Here Comes the Night.”

The lead singer, who was born in 1945, went solo and still performs.

I was half-surprised to read about a song he’s written and recorded titled “No More Lockdown,” and anti-lockdown tune.

“No more celebrities / No more celebrities telling us / Telling us what we’re supposed to feel / No more lockdown.”

He takes a bigger swing at “experts.”

“No more Imperial College Scientists making up crooked facts.”

It’s not smooth and pretty, is it?

Neither was Dylan’s “Masters of War,” a song I have outgrown; not one I’m likely to listen to on a Sunday in 2020.

As an artist, I have always avoided current events, choosing instead to find solace in painting and drawing rather than a forum.

The news right now is a bombardment.

Listening to music is one of the ways I (try to) overcome the frustrations and anxieties. I don’t invite “protest” music into that as I did during, for example, the Vietnam War.

Music and movies are my antidote. After a day saturated with “Breaking News” I want comedy, romantic comedy, drama, but I don’t want violence, revenge, meanness or cruelty. There’s plenty of that in the paper.

After he left Them, Van Morrison recorded “Brown Eyed Girl,” which you can hear at least once a week on the radio.

“Skipping and a jumping / In the misty morning fog with you” is a long old way away from “No more celebrities.”

Often it’s the other way around. Artists protest when we’re young, then soften (or resign) as we get older.

Of course, many go down fighting whatever it is.

Pete Seeger was still being Pete Seeger until the day he died (2014 at the age of 94).

I probably won’t add “No More Lockdown” to my playlists. However, I understand Morrison’s desire to produce such a song.

I’ll let you in on a secret: These columns give me an opportunity to achieve the very same thing, albeit without the edge or the angle.

Morrison is adhering to the unwritten “Artist’s Responsibility.” Choosing to will cost him some of his audience.

A best friend and I have been exchanging daily messages, each swathed in humor, wordplay, and nonsense.

Another friend and I dwell on the pandemic and politicians.

Which do you think I look forward to the most?

One day, Mark and I exchanged, explained, and debated our favorite humorists. It was hotly contested, meaningless, without importance or merit.

And wonderful.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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