I really should learn to let stuff like this go, but…
We didn’t attempt to go to the National Mall for the fireworks. I’ve been before and, frankly, it’s not something I wanted to experience with an infant and a six month old in tow. In order to get a decent spot, it involves getting down there very early, staying all day, and the spending half the night waiting to get out. Tolerable if you’re just responsible for yourself. A bit of a headache if you’ve got little ones to tend to.
We did make an abortive attempt to see some firework closer to home, but a combination of rain and a lack of parking (we’d have had to drive to the next town over, catch a shuttle back to the fireworks, catch the shuttle back when it was over, etc.) sent us back home again, just in time to watch “A Capitol Fourth” on PBS. I felt a bit nostalgic watching it with Parker, because we used to watch it at home when I was growing up. (If we weren’t watching a local fireworks display.)
Around the time the brought out Jerry Lee Lewis, I knew we were fast approaching time for the fireworks. And sure enough, as Lewis launched into his third number — “Great Balls of Fire” — I couldn’t resist giving a brief history lesson. See, that third song was the only one of the three that were originally performed by Lewis, or any other white artist for that matter.
Now, I understand that maybe the original artists weren’t available. (At least one of them passed away long ago.) But I feel the need to remind people that while Lewis did a fine job of performing both songs —and, aside from Little Richard, he was an appropriate choice from the still-living artists from that era — Chuck Berry, the originator of “Roll Over Beethoven,” is still with us, and apparently still touring. (His calendar for July 4th just says “private event.”)
And Big Maybelle, being deceased, couldn’t make it to D.C. to perform “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin On,” which she reportedly recorded before Lewis. I couldn’t find any video of Big Maybelle performing the song, but this video of her performing at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival — apparently a clip from Jazz on a Summer’s Day — ought to give you a pretty good idea of what she could do.
Talk about fireworks? Now that’s fireworks.
I don’t need to rehash here the whole history of race records and white artists having huge hits with songs originally performed by black audiences. But, to borrow a quote from Lena Horne — after telling the story of how she was originally considered for the lead in Showboat, only to have the part go to her good friend Ava Gardner, who told Horne that producers made her spend hours practicing singing with Lena’s recordings — “That was how they did things back then.”
Oh well, America. I’ll just let Ray say the rest.
And, in previous post, Marvin had his say.
Now, that — to me — says it all.
[Picture via afagen@Flickr.]