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Well, my friends, I’ve curated a few of my favorite things for you to enjoy this weekend. As always, I welcome your comments.
Art of Protest by Various Artists
Jazz has been the soundtrack to African American life in many different ways. It has been a source of entertainment, an expression of personal drama, and a narrative of life for Black people in America. It’s also been a vocal sound of protest. When most people think of protest songs, they picture folky white performers like Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Phil Ochs. But protest has also been a rich part of jazz. Art of Protest is a compilation of various contemporary jazz, neo-gospel, and hip hop artists’ musical commentary on social issues. It’s musically and spiritually exhilarating while articulating the thoughts and feelings of many in the Black community. Go here for a sampler of the songs and bios of the artists.
Of particular interest is Senabella Gill’s interpretation of Billie Holiday’s 1939 classic “Strange Fruit.” The lyrics were based on a poem written by a white Jewish schoolteacher after seeing Lawrence Beitler’s photograph of the 1930 lynching of Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. It was named “song of the century” by Time magazine in 1999.
Listen to Senabella Gill’s “Strange Fruit” here.
For comparison, here’s Billie Holiday singing “Strange Fruit.”
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No Time to Die
For me, it wouldn’t matter whether it’s good or bad. It’s Daniel Craig as James Bond. ‘Nuff said. I loved Casino Royale and Skyfall. I even enjoyed the head-scratchingly incomprehensible Spectre. But No Time to Die has Bond back in top form, even though he is retired from MI6. Particularly exciting is the introduction of Black actress Lashana Lynch as the new 007 and the reprisal of Bond’s Goldfinger superspy car, the 1963 Aston Martin DB5.
Goliath (Amazon Prime)
Goliath just started its fourth and final season last week. Each season down-on-his-luck lawyer Billy McBride (Billy Bob Thornton) takes on a Goliath of an adversary who have the resources and lack or morality to crush him. Yet, thanks to his brilliance and courage, he defeats them. But not without tremendous personal costs. This season he’s moved from LA to San Francisco to face Big Phrarma and the opioid crisis. Nothing is what it seems and no one can be trusted. Thornton’s shaggy, self-loathing character makes each case an opportunity for redemption for him. And riviting entertainment for us.
Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead
Whitehead has already made his reputation as a literary giant with two Pulitzers for The Underground Railroad and The Nickel Boys. In the crime novel Harlem Shuffle, he embraces the Harlem of the early 1960s along with echoes of the noirish Black writers of the time like Chester Himes. The brisk rhythm sometimes reminds me of Elmore Leonard. But other times his prose is as sharp as a knife hidden in a boot: “Narrow and indifferently cobblestoned, the road was a botch from the start. On the best days it was bumper-to-bumper, a bitter argument of honks and curses, and on rainy days the potholes were treacherous lagoons, one grim slosh.” This novel manages to be both a literary exploration of characters and their lives while also being a thrilling crime story.
Get book here.
READ (COMIC BOOK)
We Have Demons by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo
Scott Snyder has been a favorite writer of mine since Iron Man: Noir. His work is distinguished by compelling characters, witty dialogue, and inventive plots. I was hesitant with We Have Demons because of the familiarity of demon-hunting-while-facing-end-of-humanity stories. But I’m pleased to say this is as original and entertaining as I could hope for. It’s smart, suspenseful, and clever. Pure pleasure from start to finish. (Also, he has a fascinating Substack presence with illuminating insights into comic book writing.)
Get book here.
Read Scott Snyder’s thoughts about this new series on his Substack site here.