Newsletter Archive

Give 'Em Hope

I just saw the movie "Milk," which struck my heart and mind in the satisfying way that a great blues song does.  Like a good blues, the story takes place at the crossroads of suffering and transcendence.  The protagonist, like many a great  bluesman, is a sympathetic but morally ambiguous figure.  He fights despair and oppression, sometimes cutting a few corners, and never loses sight of hope.  Harvey Milk's message, repeated throughout the film, is "You gotta give 'em hope."

Townes Van Zandt once said (perhaps apocryphally), "There's only two kinds of music:  the blues, and zippity-do-dah."   Townes wasn't wrong, but I would only add that the blues, even the darkest of 'em, always includes hope.  As I write this in the glow of the inaugural festivities in Washington, I'm buoyed by a feeling of hope and possibility amidst the hardships ahead.  I think 2009 will be a good year for singing (and listening to) the blues, the music of both hardship and hope.

Watch a trailer for "Milk":

More on the film, with links to articles on the historical Harvey Milk:

Listen to Townes Van Zandt:

More on Townes Van Zandt:

Ears and Eyes:  What I'm Listening to and Reading:
    David Wilcox, "Airstream."  
         Buy the CD:
    Ravi Shankar, "Four Ragas."
    Ann Patchett, "Bel Canto."    Buy the book:
    Andie Tucher, "Froth and Scum:  Truth, Beauty, Goodness, and the Ax Murder in America's First Mass Medium."  
             Buy the book: