Latinos in San Francisco

What can the history of Latin@s in San Francisco teach us about the current crisis in the Mission? What can it teach us about the future of the city? The nation?

coverCome find out this Saturday, September 20th @ 2:00PM, at the Mission Branch Library, as I speak about the long history of Latin American-descent populations in San Francisco. Drawing from my book, Latinos at the Golden Gate, I hope to share my thoughts on the ways an understanding of this rich history is a necessary part of any inclusive future.

The event is the kick-off event of the ¡Viva! Celebracion of Hispanic Heritage Month, sponsored by the San Francisco Public Library. Musical group Los Leones will also be performing. And Modern Times bookstore will be there selling copies of the book!

I hope you can join me this Saturday! I feel honored to have been invited and am really looking forward to another opportunity to share my work with the community that is the focus of so much of it.

For more information on the event, visit the library’s website.

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Monday Blues (9.15.14)

Huddie William Ledbetter (January 1888 or 1889-December 1949), better known as Lead Belly, was born and raised in Louisiana. He played the guitar at a young age, and attempted to make a living by playing it during his adult years, years spent mostly in Texas.

His career as a musician was regularly interrupted. Lead Belly was in and out of Southern jails, prisons, and labor camps for much of his adult life. He was convicted of attempted homicide in 1930 and sentenced to the infamous Angola Prison Farm in Loyisiana.

That’s where he was in 1933 when pioneering musicologist, archivist, and folklorist John Lomax, accompanied by his son Alan, visited “the Farm” to record African American musicians for posterity.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Here he is performing “House of the Rising Sun.”

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Friday Five: The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are the greatest rock band in the history of music. That’s it. Why? Here’s just five little reasons why…

Note: A lot of these clips won’t play on mobile devices. Sorry.

5. “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” (1965)
It was their first #1 in the US and a standard at nearly every concert they’ve played since then. They’ve made it something of a show starter, at times.

4. “Paint It, Black” (1966)
From their album Aftermath, this song never fails to amaze.

3. “Sympathy For The Devil” (1968)
A song about the devil, part of their album Beggar’s Banquet (one of their best).

2. “Sister Morphine” (1971)
Written by Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, and Marianne Faithful, it was released by Faithfull a couple of years before it was part of the Stones’ legendary album Sticky Fingers (my favorite, if we’re picking).

1. “Gimme Shelter” (1969)
In 1969 the Beatles were breaking up. The spent part of their spring and summer recording their final album, Abbey Road. At about the same time, The Rolling Stones are in the studio making Let It Bleed. What a year for masterpieces. “Gimme Shelter” is the first track from that album.

Any list of songs by the Rolling Stones is selective. There’s no way to pick 5 songs, even 10, that represent the breadth of their work or that accurately portray their influence in popular music. So go listen to more!

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window, Los Angeles, CA. ©TFSS, 2014.

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Monday Blues (9.8.14)

Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (2009) is a “classic” in the Summers Sandoval household. It was the first movie my first two kids ever saw in a movie theater, and became part of our “regular rotation” in the spring of 2010 when the DVD came out.

You might be surprised to learn that relentlessly repetitive viewing has its perks. When the movie in question has some talent behind it (and this one does) you start to discover little bits here and there that would otherwise be missed. Some are clever, some funny, some dramatic and complex. In a movie paying homage to New Orleans jazz culture, some are downright educational.

Sidney Bechet

I had never heard of Mr. Sidney Bechet (New Orleans, 1897-1959) until his name popped up in a lyric to the song “When I’m Human,” featured in the above movie. When I learned more about him, that ignorance became startling. Bechet is one of the fathers of New Orleans jazz. A contemporary of Louis Armstrong, Bechet was a virtuoso jazz saxophonist, known for his amazingly expressive solos. He also seemed to have lived quite a personal and professional life. A taste of his bio can be found at the website of The Sidney Bechet Society.

It’s sad that a Disney cartoon brought this music to my and my kids’ ears, but I’m glad something did. Here’s Bechet playing “Old Stack O’Lee Blues,” a recording from 1946.

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Friday Five: Marvin Gaye

When I started doing “Friday Fives” it was to write about music (I can always write when I have to write about music) and to share music I love with a younger generation who might not yet be familiar with it. It about time, then, that we talk about Marvin Gaye.

Marvin Gaye is in my holy pantheon of musical gods. As I wrote on the 25th anniversary of his shooting and death:

He was about as good as you get, and you could feel it. Smokey Robinson said it well when he suggested “the driving force behind Marvin Gaye’s immense talent was his pain.” Marvin felt it all, and he made you feel it to. From the pop-based, post-doo-wop stuff of his early career; to the stellar duets and soul inspired solos in the mid and late sixties; to his socially-conscious turn in the late sixties and seventies; and to his dirty, make you feel all kinds of hot in his later years, Marvin had the gift that is the heart of soul music. It was pain. It was joy. It was relief. It was hope.

That diversity and greatness make any list of 5 songs hard to stand in for the man. That said, between songs like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Sexual Healing,” “What’s Going On,” and “Let’s Get It On,” the most-well known and often-played of Marvin’s hits do a pretty good job.

With an eye toward the songs younger fans might not know, here’s my 5 picks:

5. “Your Precious Love” (1967)
Some of Gaye’s most enduring recordings are duets with Tammi Terrell of songs written by the team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, as is this 1967 gem.

4. “Trouble Man” (1972)
In the early 70s, fresh off the monumental success of What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye was about as big as it gets in R&B. He had fame, money, and full control. As a follow-up, he wrote the score and soundtrack to a “blacksploitation” film Trouble Man. Gaye sings and plays drums in this, the title track.

3. “Pride and Joy” (1963)
This early hit is a gospel song masquerading as a pop song. Martha and the Vandellas sing back up.

2. “Distant Lover” (1973)
From his bedroom album, Let’s Get It On, this live performance in Oakland 1974 is a beautiful example of the man’s work with a crowd.

1. “Got To Give It Up (Part 1)” (1977)
Despite being in regular rotation on my oldies stations, and reaching the top of the present-day charts courtesy of the outright theft of Robin Thicke, this song doesn’t get played nearly enough.

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