And Still, The Seekers

In the early 1960’s, back when we first learned rock ‘n’ roll was here to stay, my favourite songs were not from the likes of Elvis (the King), Jerry Lee (the Killer), or any of the other superstar singers of the time—Dion, Ricky, Roy, or even Chubby and Fats.

Nor was my preferred music drawn from the best-selling albums of the mega-bands—The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, CCR, or any of the others.

I did enjoy them all, mind you, and many more besides—The Mamas & the Papas, Dylan, The Moody Blues, Aretha, The Platters, Buddy Holly, The Supremes, and Ray Charles (the Genius).

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If you liked early rock ‘n’ roll, and I did, these were all great artists among a plethora of others too numerous to mention.

I, however, favoured folk music.  Not that I was an habitué of coffee-houses, with their pungent substances and aromas, both drinkable and inhalable.  And I certainly was no one’s idea of a flower-child or long-haired hippie.  I had a buzz-cut, for goodness sake!

Truth be told, a square is what I was.  What today one might call a dork, a dweeb, a wally.

So inevitably, I became an unofficial folkie, listening to wonderful artists from as far back as the 1940’s—Seeger, The Weavers, Woody (and later Arlo), The Blue Grass Boys, Baez, The New Christy Minstrels, Buffy, Simon & Garfunkel, Odetta, The Kingston Trio, Lightfoot, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Joni, to name but a few.

So well-known are these performers, even today, that I’m able to list many with only their first or last names.  And there are innumerable others not even on this brief roll.

All of which is but a prelude to my introduction of my all-time favourite folk singers, the incomparable group from Australia—The Seekers.

seekers

Unlike many of their contemporaries, their names are not as well-known individually, but their music certainly was.  The only surviving band from the ‘60s, anywhere in the world, with the original founding members (albeit with an interruption along the way), they compiled an amazing list of firsts in their heyday—

  • first group ever to reach No. 1 on the UK charts with their first three singles,
  • first Australian group to reach No. 1 in the USA,
  • first Australian group to reach No. 1 in the UK,
  • first Australian group to reach No. 1 with a debut song,
  • first concert artists ever to draw more than 200,000 people to a concert,
  • three worldwide No. 1 hits (The Carnival Is Over; I’ll Never Find Another You; Georgy Girl), and
  • quadruple Platinum for their 1994 live-in-concert video, 25 Year Reunion Celebration (which knocked Michael Jackson’s Thriller 10th Anniversary video off the No. 1 spot).

It wasn’t their awards that attracted me to The Seekers, however.  It was the music!  Three instrumentalists—Athol Guy on bass, Keith Potger and Bruce Woodley on banjo, guitar, and keyboard—backed up the lead singer, Judith Durham, augmenting the crystal clearness of her voice with subtle harmonies.

Whether you’re a musician or music-lover, if you want to do your ears a good turn, you have to listen to someone with perfect pitch.  Perfect pitch means hitting the real notes—their core sound—and singers who have it can do that.  Judith Durham had it in spades, and it was her voice that initially attracted fans to the music the group produced.

The Seekers were the final act in the closing ceremonies of the 2000 Paralympic Games in Melbourne, and their performance of one of their signature songs sparked both joy and tears in the athletes assembled in front of them, as attested to in this link—

They had so many hit songs, most in the folk genre, some crossing into the spiritual category, that it’s impossible to list them all here.  Some of my particular favourites are—

  • Allentown Jail,
  • A World Of Our Own,
  • If You Go Away,
  • Morningtown Ride,
  • Silver Threads and Golden Needles,
  • Sinner Man,
  • The Leaving Of Liverpool, and
  • When The Stars Begin To Fall.

The last one in the list, for which I’ve provided a link, is my all-time fave, as fresh in my mind today as when I first heard it more than fifty years ago—

If you want to listen to any of the songs for which I haven’t provided a link, they can be found on YouTube, and they’re well worth the time.

In 2010/2011, the group toured Australia and New Zealand with Andre Rieu and his famed Johann Strauss Orchestra, packing every venue.  This final link, however, is to their 50th anniversary concert at Albert Hall, London in 2014, described at the time as ‘one big hug of a tour’—

I enjoy The Seekers as much today as I did when I sported that long-ago buzz-cut.  I hope you will, too.

 

Avoiding the Truth

How we know when politicians are lying to us, the old story goes, is that their lips are moving.  Cynical as that point of view may be, I find it increasingly difficult to believe what I hear from elected officials, be they municipal, provincial, or federal.

Mind you, it is rarely, if at all, that I actually have a face-to-face conversation with government office-holders.  My contact with them comes through newspapers and periodicals, the broadcast media (mainly television), and the innumerable digital streaming platforms that seem to be rapidly taking over the information age.

I have long been a quasi-political junkie—more queasy now than quasi, alas—‘though I have never aspired to enter the fray directly.  Perhaps, given my background as a student of history, I’ve always enjoyed seeing events unfold in real-time, even if vicariously through reading about or watching the news of the world.  My first visceral, voyeuristic exposure to that happened shortly after the Kennedy assassination, when I watched a Dallas hoodlum shoot the alleged assassin on live TV.  The blunt shock of that resonates still in my memory.

Oswald

So today, many years after that seminal event in broadcast history, I still read about, watch, and listen to the newsmakers of our present era.  But it is in the visual media that they look most real, even if sounding less than authentic.  And over time, I have come to accept everything I see and hear from them with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The main reason, I think, is that they never seem to answer the questions asked of them.  I have seen them in front of their supporters, in media scrums, at formal press briefings, even in parliamentary Question Period, deliberately avoiding a direct reply to a clearly-stated question.

If I were to be charitable, I might concede that, perhaps, they are not lying to us.  Maybe they are merely obfuscating.  Evading.  Deflecting.  Or maybe they really believe what they are telling us.  Or, most ominously, maybe they don’t know the answers.

But if I am to be honest, I think they are lying.  Deliberately.  Through their teeth.

Imagine, if you will, that you are watching a televised (or streamed) interview, conducted by a respected journalist, with me as the subject (and in order for this metaphor to work, you must also imagine that I might be a world-renowned, best-selling author worthy of the journalist’s time).  Listen to the questions the interviewer poses, listen to my answers, and determine for yourself which of my responses, if any, constitute a direct reply, or an honest one.

I’ll give you the score at the end of the interview.

Q.  Thank you for sitting down with me today. Do you consider yourself a worthy successor to the likes of Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Faulkner?

A.  I appreciate the comparison. You’re very gracious in your praise.

Q.  Yes, but what about those other writers?

A.  You know, of course, that they were American, right? And I’m not.

Q.  Okay, so what is it about your writing that so captivates your audience?

A.  Writers write, and readers read. There’s a difference.

Q.  Well, sure. But how is it that you’ve captured readers’ imaginations so thoroughly?  What sets you apart?

A.  Asked and answered. Next question?

Q.  Ummm…okay, what are you working on now? Can we look forward to another blockbuster?

A.  The great thing about our capitalist system in North America is that market forces determine what’s up or what’s down.

Q.  There are rumors abounding that a Nobel Literature Prize might be in your future.  Any thoughts about that?

A.  Alfred Nobel was a great humanitarian, an example to us all.  And I really like Bob Dylan.

Q.  Alright, let’s switch gears for a moment. Have you ever experienced what the pundits call ‘writer’s block’?

A.  You know, the wonderful Italian operatic composer, Gioachino Rossini, never wrote another masterpiece after the age of thirty-seven. Isn’t that interesting?

Q.  Yes, but what does Rossini have to do with your writing process?

A.  One or the other of his operas is always playing in the background when I write.

Only one of these eight answers was straight-up honest, rather than misleading or outright untrue—the final one.  The rest were as if taken from prepared talking-points, to be used regardless of the questions asked.

That, in a nutshell, is what I find so annoying about politicians today.  With few exceptions, and but for rare occasions, they refuse to tell me the truth.

What is the truth about climate change?

What is the truth about the mid-east peace process?

What is the truth about the sub-prime mortgage scandal?

What is the truth about the nuclear arms race?

What is the truth about our planet’s impending freshwater shortage?

I don’t know the answers to these questions, and nor do you, I suspect, because our elected leaders refuse us the information that would help us make informed decisions.

It seems not to matter who they are—a dreamy prime minister, a buffoon president, a thuggish dictator—none comes clean with us.

politico

In the burgeoning development of artificial intelligence, AI, I wonder if there is perhaps a glimmer of hope that we might someday be governed by unemotional, clear-thinking, moralistic leaders—smart machines—unimpeded by the failings of human arrogance.

But no, that would be too ridiculous to contemplate, a substitution of artificial intelligence for the limited or nefarious intelligence we deal with today.

Wouldn’t it?