Made in America

I have always been fascinated by the messages and stories that can be conveyed through songs. Many musicians have used their talent and considerable influence to create messages regarding politics, social justice, even regional pride. Musicians hold a unique position within the folds of society and are therefore able to inspire their listeners all over the country (and sometimes around the world) to think about what is happening in the world around them.

Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young’s album 4 Way Street, for example, is littered with references to political events that were occurring in the late 1960s. Chicago calls attention to the trial of the ‘Chicago 8’ – eight men who were arrested for inciting a riot outside of the Democratic National Convention in 1968, during a protest against the Vietnam war. One of the men, Bobby Seale, was bound and gagged during his trial – referenced in the first line of the song  -“So your brother’s bound and gagged and they’ve chained him to a chair.” Indeed, in the live recording of this song, they say “This is a song for Mayor Daley” – the mayor of Chicago at the time of these riots. Ohio draws attention to the fact that national guardsmen killed four students at Kent State University in Ohio during a protest over the announcement by President Nixon that US troops were invading Cambodia.

Michael Jackson famously used his Superbowl performance in 1993 to promote racial equality and world peace – even getting the entire crowd involved. U2 used their moment in the big game to pay homage those lost in the 9/11 terror attacks. Beyonce used her appearance in the 2016 Superbowl to promote her song Formation, which many see as anti-police, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement.

But with music, even entire genres can be indicative of what message is sent or even the ideology behind an entire group of people. With our country so divided on so many major issues at the moment, it is insightful to hear the take of musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding break down the two songs titled “Made in America” released in 2011. Their analysis shows several different ways in which country and hip hop differ on the traditional American values. This episode is well worth the listen!

Audio here –

A Narrative in Four Parts

Would you give a kidney for a family member? A close friend? An acquaintance? What about a complete stranger?

Over 100,000 people in the United States are currently awaiting a kidney donation. One person is added to the list every 14 minutes. Most of the kidneys donated come from deceased donors. But in 2014, 5,538 came from live donors. Out of those, only 725 of these are unrelated donors. That’s only thirteen percent. That’s what makes the story of Elizabeth and Mary so uncommon. They don’t know each other, they don’t even live in the same state.

Lea Thau of Strangers explores the world of altruistic organ donation, following the story of Elizabeth and Mary. This includes the pressure that Elizabeth faced, both from people who were confused at her decision to go through a major operation and the fact that Mary wasn’t exactly the typical recipient. And Elizabeth was the target of a social media frenzy after their story came out. Why? Partially because altruists make us uncomfortable. Seeing someone do something selfless for a stranger puts our own generosity into peril. Yes, you might volunteer one Saturday every month at your local community garden, but that’s nothing compared to giving an organ.

This four part saga intricately examines the journey of Elizabeth and Mary, the complications faced along the way, and the aftermath.

Part One . Part Two . Part Three . Part Four .

Saturday Night Fever

Cue the Bee Gees.

Before the White Sox moved into their new Guaranteed Rate Field (arguably the most boring field name of all the Major League fields), they were located at Comisky Park, which operated from 1910-1990. Comisky Park hosted three All Star games and four World Series, including the infamous Black Sox Scandal of 1919. There were also non-baseball events held at Comisky Field as well, including many concerts, soccer games, and even some NFL games, back when the home town team was the Chicago Cardinals.

But did you know that back in 1979, Comisky Park was host to ‘Disco Demolition Night?’ Yes, you read that right. A local radio DJ was hosting an event to attempt to sway the public’s perception towards disco music. And this would go down as one of the most memorable nights in Comisky Park history.

Thursday July 12, 1979. The White Sox were scheduled for a double header against the Detroit Tigers. Steve Dahl, a local radio personality, was leading the charge against disco.  Fans, if they brought a disco record to the game, got in at a discounted rate, just 98 cents. Between the two games of the night, Dahl led a chant of ‘Disco sucks!’ to a crowd of nearly 70,000 fans. A large box of disco (and other genre) records was dragged into the field and blown up. A riot ensued.

The team at Grimlet’s Undone look into what led up to this night, as well as the ramifications for disco music as a genre that followed. Listen to this episode here.