Patti Smith and Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize

This Bob Dylan music video from the USA is called A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall {Live at Town Hall 1963}.

The song has often been interpreted, including by Dylan himself, as about the danger of nuclear war.

On the other hand, Dylan later claimed the song was really about ‘all the lies that people get told on their radios and in their newspapers‘.

From Rolling Stone in the USA, 5 December 2016:

Bob Dylan to Provide Nobel Prize Speech, Patti Smith to Perform

Smith to cover “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at Nobel gala

Bob Dylan, this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature honoree, will not attend the December 10th gala in Stockholm, but his music will still be performed. On Monday, Nobel organizers announced that Rock Hall singer-songwriter Patti Smith, who was previously set to perform her own song, will cover Dylan‘s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the ceremony.

This music video is called Patti Smith Greatest Hits [Full Album] || Patti Smith’s 25 Biggest Songs.

The Nobel Prize committee announced Monday morning that Smith would fill in for Dylan at the Stockholm gala, with Smith also taking part in the Nobel Week Dialogue event the day before on December 9th, where she’ll discuss the “importance of role models.”

While Dylan won’t attend the Nobel ceremony due to “other commitments” that “make it unfortunately impossible,” the Nobel committee tweeted Monday that Dylan has “provided a speech which will be read at the Nobel banquet” on December 10th; organizers tell Rolling Stone that they do not know who will read the “speech of thanks” at the gala as of press time. A rep for the event declined to comment further.

Smith tells Rolling Stone that organizers approached her in September to sing at the ceremony, prior to the announcement of this year’s award recipients. “I had planned to perform one of my own songs with the orchestra,” Smith tells Rolling Stone. “But after Bob Dylan was announced as the winner and he accepted it, It seemed appropriate to set my own song aside and choose one of his. I chose ‘A Hard Rain’ because it is one of his most beautiful songs. It combines his Rimbaudian mastery of language with a deep understanding of the causes of suffering and ultimately human resilience.

“I have been following him since I was a teenager, half a century to be exact,” Smith adds. “His influence has been broad and I owe him a great debt for that. I had not anticipated singing a Bob Dylan song on December 10th, but I am very proud to be doing so and will approach the task with a sense of gratitude for having him as our distant, but present, cultural shepherd.”

After Dylan announced that he could not receive the Nobel honor in person, the Swedish Academy said in a statement that they have “decided not to organize an alternative plan for the Nobel Lecture traditionally held on December 7th. There is a chance that Bob Dylan will be performing in Stockholm next year, possibly in the spring, in which case he will have a perfect opportunity to deliver his lecture.”

Each Nobel laureate is required to deliver a speech “on a subject connected with the work for which the prize has been awarded.” “We are looking forward to Bob Dylan’s Nobel lecture, which he must hold, according to the requirements, within six months [from December 10th],” the Swedish Academy said at the time. It’s unclear whether the Dylan-penned gala speech fulfills that requirement.

Nobel spokeswoman Annika Pontikis said that Dylan’s Nobel diploma and medal will be handed over at a later date that hasn’t been determined yet.

After not initially acknowledging the Nobel distinction, which drew the ire of some Swedish Academy members, Dylan finally said of receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature, “The news about the Nobel Prize left me speechless. I appreciate the honor so much.”

Utopian criticism of capitalism, book review

This music video is called Free Money- Patti Smith Group (live in Stockholm 1976). Lyrics are here.

By Neil Howard:

Utopia for Realists?’ – a review

18 April 2016

‘If we can get enough people to read this, the world will start to become a better place’. High praise indeed. But can the book live up to it?

The first thing you notice about Utopia for Realists is just how seriously it has been endorsed. On the front cover and inside sleeve you’ll find quotes from luminaries including acclaimed social theorist, Zygmunt Bauman and Harvard psychologist, Steven Pinker….

It hinges on four core theses: three utopian policy-ideals and one overarching principle. The latter, simply put, is that ideas can change the world. ‘Never forget’,  Bregman argues, ‘that people are the motors of history and ideas the motors of people’. The task for any progressive, then, is to make the un-thinkable thinkable and to bring the horizon of a better future constantly back into view.

In this, as in much else, Bregman is inspired by the ‘enemy’ as much as he is by his allies. The book’s entire last chapter is devoted to re-telling the story of the rise of Neoliberalism. This is because Bregman knows that however awful and life-denying that philosophy may be, its architects were nevertheless brilliant organisers and ingenious strategists. They realised before anyone else that ‘what matters most in the pursuit of social change is whose ideas are lying around when crisis strikes’. Now, he argues, it’s up to us to be just as well organised and to ensure that our ideas are the ones at hand when the world next comes tumbling down. …

What are his big ideas? The first is Universal Basic Income (UBI) – ‘free money for everyone’. At first it sounds mad. But one of Bregman’s great strengths is to present his ideas and the evidence for them in such a way as to make them sound not only not mad but in fact downright sensible.

He begins with a powerful story. In 2009, a homelessness charity experimented with giving 13 rough sleepers ‘free money’ on the logic that doing so might be cheaper than the aggregate of police expenses, court costs and social services. They gave each man £3000, attached absolutely no conditions, and simply asked, ‘What do you think you need?’ Surely they drank the money away and ended up back under a bridge? Not a chance. After a year and a half, seven had a roof over their heads, two were about to move into an apartment, and all had taken steps toward solvency and personal growth. What’s more, this came at a cost of £300,000 less than the alternative. …

What of Bregman’s second big idea? This is the 15-hour week. He opens his discussion by taking us back to one of the great capitalist thinkers of the last century – John Maynard Keynes. Keynes believed that capitalism’s productivity would lead to a working week of no longer than 15 hours. By 2030, he thought, machines would be so sophisticated and society so well organised that most human time would be dedicated to the good life of loving and learning. So what happened? In simple terms, we traded time for stuff. Bregman says the rise of hyper-consumerism meant that instead of harnessing productivity in order to spend less time more efficiently producing what we need, we chose instead to spend more time more effectively producing stuff we waste. And as a result, we’re now all stuck in ‘bullshit jobs’ that pay for things we neither want nor need. …

What of Bregman’s third utopian goal? This, arguably, is the most profoundly revolutionary: open borders. Bregman observes that the single most important factor determining a person’s health, wealth, life expectancy or education level is not how hard they work or where they’ve studied, but rather where they were born and which passport they have. ‘An average American earns nearly three times as much for the same work as a Bolivian, even when they are of the same skill level, age and sex. With a comparable Nigerian, the difference is a factor of 8.5 – and that’s adjusted for purchasing power in the two countries’. Think about that for a minute: it’s like apartheid on a global scale. It’s like apartheid on a global scale. And as Bregman rightly observes, it’s neither just nor fair.

But beyond righteous moral outrage, Bregman also makes a brilliant case that it is grossly economically inefficient. For all the billions of dollars of ‘development assistance’ that have flowed through (corrupt) national coffers or international NGOs, we are now no more sure than we were 60 years ago that aid actually works. By contrast, almost all economists agree that open borders and free mobility for workers (instead of just for capital) would raise gross worldwide product by between 67% and 172%. Effectively, Bregman observes, ‘this would make the whole world twice as rich’, and it would raise the income of our average Nigerian by no fewer than $22,000 a year. …

Let me confess at this point that I too am a committed utopian. I have written many times about the importance of utopian thinking and even co-edit the utopian strand at Beyond Trafficking and Slavery. I’m therefore very inclined to agree with Bregman’s proposals and am delighted to see them attracting so much attention. But this does not mean that I’m blindly un-critical. And there are a couple of gaps in the book that I’d like to highlight before finishing on its numerous strengths.

First, and perhaps understandably, Bregman is a little light on how exactly we progressives can win. By this, I do not mean to repeat the tired, reactionary mantra that ‘It might sound lovely in principle, but it’s hardly practical, is it?’ Bregman gives plenty of detail on the practicalities and I’m confident that he’s right. Rather, what’s missing is a worked-out theory of who exactly the enemy is and thus of what our struggle should look like. There is, for example, no consideration of who benefits from the status quo, of the class power underpinning the rise of consumerism, or of the subjugating and subordinating effects of having everyone stuck in bullshit jobs. Indeed, it’s almost as if Bregman’s optimism of the will blinds him to the power factions that benefit from our living lesser lives. And that’s a shame, because if we’re going to organise for a better world, we need to know who we’re organising against.

Relatedly, I find myself questioning Bregman’s stance towards capitalism. Like Marx, it’s clear that he’s awed by capital’s productive power and convinced that only capital could have brought us to this contemporary Land of Plenty. But unlike Marx, I’m not sure he agrees on the necessity of transcending capital as part of the struggle for a better future. And this leaves me asking: if we’re not going to subordinate production and distribution to democratic control, will we ever really be able to ensure basic income and less work for all? …

These questions notwithstanding, Utopia for Realists is an excellent contribution to the politically imperative utopian literature. It deserves to be read alongside Kathi Weeks’ The Problem with Work or Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams’ Inventing the Future. It is fabulously well-researched and engagingly well-written. It’s also extremely accessible. One of Bregman’s real qualities is to write about the revolutionary as if it were run-of-the-mill. This matter-of-fact style drives home just how obvious it should be that in our age of plenty no-one should be going hungry, no-one working too hard, and no-one dying at the border. This brings me to my final point: Bregman writes not for the converted but for the sceptical-with-a-heart. His intended audience are not young activists but precisely the everyday middle classes whose votes and pessimism will need to be conquered if ever our societies are to move beyond their current impasse. And for this, perhaps more than anything else, his book deserves to be added to the utopian canon that was inaugurated five centuries ago by Thomas More.

Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists is released in the UK on April 19, 2016.

2012 rock music highlights

This music video from the USA is called Wild Flag – Romance.

By Susan Darlington in Britain:

Friday 28 December 2012

My two live music highlights of the year were united by a belief in the power of art and individuals to change society for the better.

Wild Flag kick-started this positivity at The Cockpit in Leeds. A riot grrrl supergroup comprised of former members of Sleater-Kinney, Helium and The Minders, they combined a love of The Who-style riffage with ragged girl-group harmonies and hints of garage rock.

They created joyous slices of indie rock such as Romance, an ode to the power of music, and Boom, which tapped into the grungy guitar sound of Beautiful Son-era Hole.

Their love of playing music without an agenda made them deliciously refreshing, which was perfectly summed up by their breezy encore of The Ramones’s Do You Wanna Dance?

This music video, recorded in the Netherlands, is called Patti Smith–GLORIA–Amsterdam– 8 june 2011–church De Duif.

It’s arguable that the band [Wild Flag] wouldn’t have existed without the trailblazing work of Patti Smith.

Her show at the O2 Academy in Leeds saw her revise material from her back catalogue, adding new inflections to the vocals and amending lyrics to make them relevant for the current times.

Thus People Have The Power was updated for the Occupy and Pussy Riot generation, while Ain’t It Strange was boosted with a newly emphasised bass line.

Some things, however, stayed refreshingly consistent.

The passion in her voice as she whirled around to Ghost Dance remained spine tingling, and guitarist Lenny Kaye continued to be a reliable presence as he provided a vocal counterpart on Rock’n’Roll Nigger.

The clutch of tracks she aired from latest album Banga proved she hadn’t lost her ability to inspire, with the title track being as uplifting as anything she’s recorded and the Amy Winehouse tribute This Is The Girl being a tender girl-group ballad.

Both shows demonstrated rock and roll at its most vital, with the ability to empower the audience on both a personal and political level.

Singer Patti Smith interviewed

From Democracy NOW! in the USA:

Punk Rock Legend Patti Smith on her Life, Her Art, Her Singing and Speaking Out

We bring you a Democracy Now special with the singer-songwriter, poet, artist, and punk rock legend, Patti Smith, on her life, her art and her singing and speaking out. “I do things that make people upset. My political views or my humanist views have caused me a lot of censorship, but I don’t have a problem with that,” Smith says. “What I would have more of a problem with is, if I had to look back on my life and say, ‘Yeah I compromised here’ and ‘yeah I did this so I could get that’–once you start doing that it’s like a house of cards, it all falls apart.” [Includes rush transcript]

Patti Smith’s Horses: the making of the world’s punk poet laureate: here.

Patti Smith to head Meltdown, with a tribute to Brecht and rock for all ages: here.

Patti Smith video

This is a music video of People Have The Power by The Patti Smith Group 1988. Lyrics are here.

About United States singer Patti Smith, see here.

Patti Smith: “I look at Jeff Koons’s stuff and I’m appalled”: here.

On Dec. 30, Ms. Smith’s 63rd birthday, PBS will broadcast “Patti Smith: Dream of Life,” a documentary filmed over 11 years by the fashion photographer and film neophyte Steven Sebring: here.

New Patti Smith song against Guantanamo torture camp

This music video from the USA is called Patti Smith – Without Chains (CBGB’s Closing Night 2006).

From TalkLeft blog in the USA:

Patti Smith Takes on Guantanamo

By Jeralyn, Section Media

Posted on Sat Apr 14, 2007 at 11:45:04 AM EST

Rocker Patti Smith has a new song about Guantanamo, “Without Chains.”

She says it will be available soon for download on her website.

“I feel responsible as an American citizen,” Smith told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from New York.

“It’s a terrible injustice and I think it will be a stain upon us when history examines this period.”

Smith’s “Without Chains” focuses on Murat Kurnaz, a German-born Turkish citizen who said he was kept under fluorescent lights for 24 hours at a time and complained of being beaten at the U.S. military detention center in southeast Cuba.

Detainees are held there on suspicion of links to al-Qaida or the Taliban, many without the opportunity to face trial.

More like Patti, please.