• Songwriter Steve Earle also occasionally acts. To prepare for a role as a recovering junkie in the HBO TV series The Wire, he allowed his hair to grow long and he didn’t shave. The preparation worked well. Although he was staying at a swanky hotel in London when The Times’ Stephen Dalton interviewed him in August of 2007, he looked very much like a homeless person. In fact, he said, “The other day I noticed the homeless guys that pick up the tin cans on my street, before the recycling people come, they started protecting their cans as I walked past. They thought I was competition.”
• Jazz musician Branford Marsalis is multi-talented. As an occasional actor, he was once offered the lead role in a television situation comedy! However, his manager, Anne Marie Wilkins, thought that he should turn down the role and concentrate on music, so she asked him, “Branford, what do you want to be?” He replied, “I want to do one thing well.” She asked, “And what thing is that?” Mr. Marsalis replied, “Everything.”
• Jimmy Stewart was a big fan of Duke Ellington and his music, and the two even appeared briefly together in the Otto Preminger movie Anatomy of a Murder. Mr. Stewart even started staying up late to listen to Mr. Ellington play the hotel piano — something that adversely affected his early-morning wake-up call to get ready to act. Mr. Preminger was finally forced to forbid Mr. Stewart to stay up late listening to the music.
• Musical composer Jerome Kern once worked with an actress who had the annoying habit of rolling her r’s. She asked, “You want me to crrrross the stage. How can I get acrrrross?” Mr. Kern replied, “Why don’t you roll on your r’s?”
• The Rascals, who were sometimes known as the Young Rascals, took a stand for civil rights in the 1960s. After the Rascals had played at a concert with some black musicians in a Rhythm and Blues group called the Young-Holt Trio, creators of the instrumental hit “Soulful Strut,” one of the black musicians thanked the Rascals, saying that usually the Young-Holt Trio didn’t “get a chance to play for white people.” This made Felix Cavaliere and the other members of the Rascals think, “Why not really try and contribute to this civil rights situation by having a white and black act wherever we go?” Therefore, they insisted that black groups be hired to perform at their concerts. Such an action is consistent with the message of “People Got to Be Free,” a big Rascals hit in 1968: “Shout it from the mountains on down to the sea / people everywhere just got to be free.”
• Can music be political? Yes. Dmitri Shostakovich used his music to protest the oppressive Soviet society in which he lived and worked. In the dark days of Soviet Communism, everyone had to appear to be cheerful, no matter how they really felt. (Sadness was taken as a criticism of the Communist state.) In his Fifth Symphony, Mr. Shostakovich wrote passages of great sadness, and audience members cried when they heard them. The symphony was so popular that Josef Stalin — murderer that he was — would not attack the composer.
• Even as an 11-year-old girl growing up in the South during the Jim Crow era, African-American singer Nina Simone, née Eunice Waymon, was an activist. She was supposed to play piano at the Town Hall in Tryon, North Carolina, but she noticed that her parents, who were seated in the front row, were being asked to give up their seats to a white couple. She declined to play unless her parents were seated in the front row.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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