Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hats Off to Harper

I know this probably isn't what you're thinking of right now, and to be honest, neither am I. But I refuse to let this world, or the mordantly homocidal assholes with which it seems to be filled, stop me from sharing and giving and honoring the people whom I believe to be the very best our species and culture have to offer, even if it is amidst the horrifying, unconscionable anti-LGBT terrorism this morning in Orlando, Florida.
Today is the 75th birthday of one of my all-time favorite songwriters. He has been around 50 years. You might not recognize him, but his influence and sociopolitical stance in his songwriting makes him one of the most influential of the last half century.
He hasn't had an easy time. Just two years ago, he was accused of bedding an underage groupie in the early 1970s and writing a song about it, and the authorities' knives came out. He was acquitted and the charges were dropped. His subject matter in his songs has often made him a target of such people, whom I cannot imagine are big fans of what his tunes say.
You might not know one single song of his, but if you've ever listened to the Pink Floyd classic Have a Cigar -- surely one of the most vicious indictments of the music industry ever put to wax -- then you know a little bit about who he is and how respected he is amongst his peers, themselves some of the most revered musicians of our epoch.
Led Zeppelin wrote a song that mentioned him by name... it's the title of this post. Some of the very finest and most brilliant songs of the last 50 years -- his 1970 LP, Flat Baroque and Berzerk, is in my top ten ever -- have been written and sung by Roy Harper. He doesn't fuck around. People who are white guys and can write jawdropping songs -- ones that only get more true as time goes by -- called I Hate the White Man usually don't.
The only other analogous artist of his age I can think of that operates in somewhat of a similar sphere is Leftist songwriter and erstwhile Soft Machinist Robert Wyatt. Both are veteran warriors who have never hesitated to speak truth to power through the power of song. 
Both are somehow still standing after battling the changing winds of public opinion and taste. Both have never, ever deviated from their inner compasses and expressing the most volatile and challenging subject matter through their work. As we've seen this year, when they finally leave us, our world will be left with holes that can never been filled. They are to be treasured then, and of course celebrated while they are still around. That's why I do this shit. It isn't easy on days like this, but that's why.
If you don't know Roy, I want you to pull down what I will share today and learn who he is and what he's about. Then I want you to go to his website and buy all his albums immediately. If you do know him and have his records, you'll already be scrolling to the links.
I don't really know what to say today; obviously as a gay man I am barely able to focus on this and I apologize for not being more articulate in my Royal praise for this most exquisite player and writer. Let's just get to what I plan to share because ultimately, life isn't about death, slaughter and mindless killing but living, loving and most honorably, sharing. That's what Roy Harper has been trying to tell us for 50 years. I can add little but to agree completely.
Roy Harper
"Plastic Fantastic"
NRK-TV Studios
Oslo, Norway
Autumn 1969

01 One For All
02 The Garden of Gethsemane
03 Hell's Angels
04 How Does It Feel
05 Forever

Total time 31:28

Roy Harper - vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica

FLV file of a 2016 NRK-TV webstream rebroadcast

Burgerzentrum Neue Vahr
Bremen, Germany

01 Girl From The North Country
02 Another Day
03 I Hate the White Man
04 South Africa
05 The Game
06 Forget Me Not
07 One Man Rock and Roll Band
08 When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease

Total time: 57:00

Roy Harper - guitar and vocals

digital FM master of an analog 2012 Nordwestradio rebroadcast, with most of Track 08 substituted from a different master analog FM capture

both shows zipped together
This is all I can say right now, as I am speechless and a little numb, so please just take today to celebrate Roy Harper -- born this day in 1941 -- and if you don't know who he is, to find out. He has equals, but no songwriter of the last 50 years can surpass him.--J.
I thought you had passed
but you caught me at last