Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Metphistopheles Previous Previous Next Next
Harmonic Convergences - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
Harmonic Convergences

It's funny how events and remembrances come together- even if they're not necessarily your own.

When I wrote about Fathers Day yesterday, I linked to my typically ambivalent reflection on the occasion from a year ago. Last year's drew heavily on the paternal recollections of a fellow Lawn Guylander, one Billy Crystal. I'd just reread his 700 Sundays memoir, and was hoping to find a copy of his recorded one-man show based on it, one that wouldn't require a fancy-schmancy HBO subscription.

Well, derp. I've had one since last fall; I just forgot to watch the thing.  So after we finished Dogma (itself a pretty damning attack on traditional monotheistic patriarchy) and Eleanor headed off to a much-needed early rest, I found it on HBO GO and started watching.

For a half hour or so, it was, as they say (and expectorate) in Yiddish, meh. I remembered a lot about the memoir; I knew about the boring car his dad bought, and about the local mafioso who whacked it, and I recalled the stable of crazy relatives that came in and out of his life and Long Beach home.

But then he shifted into jazz. I also remembered some of this story- but not the most stirring, and sadly still current, part of it.  And it also converged nicely with the issue of JAZZIZ we'd just received.  This is a magazine, with CDs included in the subscription, that we were tipped off to by a fellow East Meadow alum who's in the music business.  The issue that came over the weekend had this as the cover:

Billy Crystal didn't talk (at least not at first) about that Billie Holiday story. He talked about one that was even worse, and one that's still being told.

I knew his family's odd yet important connection to the 40s-to-60s world of jazz; of how they translated a simple love of the music into an independent and respected distributor of the music to the world.  But I didn't remember that family connection to the most significant song in Billie Holiday's repertoire: "Strange Fruit."

This Youtube tells it, Star Wars intro style: how Holiday discovered the song, asked Columbia to record it, and was refused, record executives fearing a bigoted backlash. So she turned to Commodore Records, and to one Milt Gabler, who secured a one-session release from her Columbia contract for his label to record and distribute the song- about the lynching of black people in the American South.

Milt Gabler was Billy Crystal's uncle.

It's been over 50 years since Billy's father died all too young, more still since Billie herself died in her mid-40s in the year of my birth- but that Strange Fruit still keeps growing.  And no matter how many times we mourn, and swear it should never happen again, it does.

I will finish the one-man show in the days to come. I've seen clips; it will get funny again. Yet no matter how important it is to laugh, it's shit like this that reminds us that life isn't always funny.

Leave a comment