June 24, 2015

“Don’t Bogart that joint, my friend…”


[Reposted by popular demand…]

On June 24, 1968, ABC Records released the self-titled first album by The Fraternity of Man, a California-based rock band whose members included former Mothers of Invention guitarist Elliot Ingber and a young, 17-year-old singer and songwriter named Larry Wagner.

The album wasn’t a big hit. But it included a humorous, country-flavored song that coined a new slang term.

The song’s lyrics were written by Wagner, who was nicknamed “Stash” by the band. The music was written by Ingber.

They titled the song “Don’t Bogart Me.”

Today, it’s more commonly (though mistakenly) referred to as “Don’t Bogart That Joint.”

That phrase, from the song’s chorus, became a slang term meaning “don’t keep holding onto that marijuana joint — pass it on and let other people have some.” 

Initially, awareness of the song and the Bogart term was primarily limited to “Hippies” (a name coined by San Francisco journalist Michael Fallon in 1965).

That changed in 1969, thanks to actor Dennis Hopper, one of the pot-smoking hipsters who knew the song.

Early that year, Hopper was engrossed in editing the new film he’d created with his friend and co-star Peter Fonda — the seminal counterculture classic Easy Rider.

As he edited the movie, Hopper chose some of songs he’d recently been listening to for the soundtrack.

One of them was the Fraternity of Man’s “Don’t Bogart Me.”

When Easy Rider premiered in the US on July 14, 1969, the song and it’s drug-related slang term were launched into worldwide fame.

Soon, millions of people who had never heard the 1968 Fraternity of Man album were familiar with the phrase “Don’t Bogart that joint.”

The use of “Bogart” as a verb eventually became an idiom used in association with things other than just a marijuana joint.

Indeed, today, you get thousands of, er, hits if you Google “don’t Bogart” -joint (using the minus sign to find uses that do not include the word “joint”).

There are various theories about why Humphrey Bogart’s last name came to be used as a verb that was originally tied to smoking something.

The one that makes the most sense to me is that, in many of his classic films, Bogart often has a lit cigarette hanging from his lips but is not actively smoking it. He’s just letting it burn and turn to ashes.

Bogie may or may not have liked the way his name was used in the song. But somehow, in my mind, I can imagine him and Dennis Hopper in the afterlife gleefully singing “Don’t Bogart Me” together.

And, thinking about that makes me want to sing along. If you want to join us, click the video link at right. Here are the lyrics…

Don’t Bogart that joint my friend
Pass it over to me
Don’t Bogart that joint my friend
Pass it over to me

Roll another one
Just like the other one
You’ve been hanging on to it
And I sure would like a hit

Ro-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-ll another one
Just like the other one
That one’s just about burnt to the end
So, come on and be a real friend.

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Related listening, viewing and reading…

April 22, 2015

“We have met the enemy and he is us.”


The animal characters Walt Kelly created for his classic newspaper comic strip Pogo were known for their seemingly simplistic, but slyly perceptive comments about the state of the world and politics.

None is more remembered than Pogo the ‘possum’s quote in the poster Kelly designed to help promote environmental awareness and publicize the first annual observance of Earth Day, held on April 22, 1970:

       “WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US.”

In the poster, under the quote, Pogo is seen holding a litter pick-up stick and a burlap bag.

He appears to be getting ready to start cleaning up the garbage humans have strewn over Okefenokee Swamp, the part of the planet where he lives.

Kelly used the line again in the Pogo strip published on the second Earth Day in 1971.

The words poignantly highlight a key concept of environmental stewardship: we all share part of the responsibility for the trashing of planet Earth, so we should all do our share to help clean it up.

Pogo’s quip was a pun based on the famous quotation “We have met the enemy and they are ours” — one of two famous quotes made by American Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry on September 10, 1813, after defeating a British naval squadron on Lake Erie during the War of 1812. (Perry’s other famous quote that day was “Don’t give up the ship.” )

Kelly had used a version of the quote in the foreword to his 1953 book The Pogo Papers, but it was not as pithy or memorable as the line he coined for Earth Day.

Today, the environmental issues we face today are clearly daunting.

However, since the first Earth Day in 1970 many environmental battles have been won and there has been notable progress in addressing problems that seemed quite daunting in the past.

Back then, for example, it was perfectly legal to dump untreated sewage and industrial waste into local waterways or turn irreplaceable natural areas like Okefenokee Swamp into toxic waste dumps.

Indeed, the types and levels of pollutants and environmental damage allowed in 1970 now seem shocking in retrospect.

Current environmental laws are much stronger. And, with some notable exceptions (like worldwide carbon dioxide emissions), most types of water and air pollution have been significantly reduced during the past four decades.

That is due in part to the grassroots environmental movement which was symbolically launched and celebrated by the first Earth Day.

Walt Kelly died in 1973, just three years after his Earth Day poster was published.

The quote used as the poster’s headline is still famous today — and the concept embodied in the poster still holds true.

We can’t just blame the big bad corporations for the environmental problems we face. Most of the time, they are just giving us what we “demand” as consumers at a cost we are willing to pay, and abiding by laws created by politicians we elect.

We all need to our own small part, as consumers and voters. If we do, we can collectively have a significant impact on addressing the environmental problems that threaten our local communities, our country and “Spaceship Earth.”

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Further reading and viewing…

April 15, 2015

“Now he belongs to the ages” – or maybe to the angels…


Three famous quotations are linked to the assassination and death of President Abraham Lincoln.

Many history and quotation books say that after John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln on April 14, 1865 at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. he shouted “Sic semper tyrannis!”

That Latin phrase — which means “Thus always to tyrants!” — was and still is the official state motto of Virginia, one of the Confederate states during the Civil War.

According to many accounts, Booth also shouted “The South is avenged!” after he shot Lincoln.

Many history and quotation books also say that when Lincoln died the next morning, on April 15, 1865, his friend and Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton said to the small gathering of people at Lincoln’s bedside: “Now he belongs to the ages.”

However, it’s not actually clear whether these traditionally-cited quotes by Booth and Stanton are accurate. There are different “earwitness” accounts of what they said.

In his painstakingly-researched book We Saw Lincoln Shot, author Timothy Good determined that most witnesses recalled hearing Booth shout “Sic semper tyrannis!” But others — including Booth himself — claimed that he only yelled “Sic semper!” Some didn’t recall hearing Booth shout anything in Latin.

What Booth shouted in English is also muddied by varying recollections. Some witnesses said he shouted “The South is avenged!” Others thought they heard him say “Revenge for the South!” or “The South shall be free!” Two said Booth yelled “I have done it!”


Similarly, there are differing accounts of the words Edwin Stanton spoke when Lincoln died.

The traditional version of Edwin M. Stanton’s quote —  “Now he belongs to the ages.” — were the words remembered by Lincoln’s secretary, John Hay, who was near Lincoln’s deathbed on April 15, 1865.

That quote was included in a book Hay wrote about Lincoln with John G. Nicolay in 1890 and popularized by Ida M. Tarbell’s widely-read biography of Lincoln, published in 1900. 

Dr. Charles Sabin Taft, one of Lincoln’s attending physicians, wrote his own account of the President’s death for Century Magazine in 1883. According to Taft, Stanton said “He now belongs to the Ages.”

The Hay and Taft versions vary only in the order of Stanton’s words.

However, as explained in a fascinating article by Adam Gopnik in the May 28, 2007 issue of The New Yorker, there’s another account that uses the word “angels” instead of “ages,” giving the quote a significantly different meaning.

On the night Lincoln was shot, he was taken to a room in Peterson’s boarding house (sometimes spelled Petersen’s). That evening, Edwin Stanton had witnesses to the shooting brought there to report what they had seen.

A Civil War veteran named James Tanner, who lived nearby and could write shorthand, was brought in to record what the witnesses said.

Tanner was also present on the morning of April 15, 1865, when Lincoln died. He didn’t write down Stanton’s words that morning. But he did later. And, according to Tanner, what Stanton said was: “Now he belongs to the angels.”

This has created a debate among historians. Most believe the traditional “ages” version is probably correct. But some, such as James L. Swanson, author of Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, side with “the angels.” 

In his New Yorker article, Adam Gopnik concluded:
“The past is so often unknowable not because it is befogged now but because it was befogged then, too, back when it was still the present. If we had been there listening, we still might not have been able to determine exactly what Stanton said. All we know for sure is that everyone was weeping, and the room was full.”
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Further reading about the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln…

April 02, 2015

April 2, 1865 – “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”


On September 22, 1969, The Band released the great self-titled album that includes what became one of their most famous songs, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

Like many of The Band’s songs, it was primarily written by lead guitarist Robbie Robertson., with creative contributions from the other Band members: Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel.

The haunting lyrics tell a tale about the end of the American Civil War, as recalled by a common Confederate soldier and farmer.

It opens with the plaintive voice of Helm, singing the now well-known words of the first verse.

Other Band members added harmonies on the chorus, which begins with the line that gave the name its title.

       “Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train,
       ‘Til Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again. 
       In the winter of ‘65, we were hungry, just barely alive. 
       By May the 10th, Richmond had fell,
it’s a time I remember oh so well. 
       The night they drove Old Dixie down...”

On The Band’s website, there’s an interesting in-depth article about the song’s lyrics, compiled by teacher, author and music historian Peter Viney.

As it notes, Richmond had indeed already fallen by “May the 10th.” But that’s not the date when Richmond fell.

Richmond, Virginia — the capital of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War — actually fell to Union troops on the night of April 2, 1865.

That night was, in many ways, the death knell for the Confederacy and the metaphorical “night they drove Old Dixie down.”

The fall of Richmond came after a long siege that started in 1864. During those months, Union Army troops led by Gen. George Stoneman repeatedly tore up the Danville tracks and other railroad lines into the city to keep supplies from reaching Confederate soldiers and civilians.

Meanwhile, as ordered by Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the top Union commander, Gen. Phil Sheridan laid waste to the farmland surrounding Richmond. 

In The Penguin Book of The American Civil War, historian Bruce Catton wrote:

“A Federal army trying to take Richmond could never be entirely secure until the Confederates were deprived of all use of the (fertile and productive) Shenandoah Valley, and it was up to Sheridan to deprive them of it. Grant’s instructions were grimly specific. He wanted the rich farmlands so thoroughly despoiled that the place could no longer support a Confederate army; he told Sheridan to devastate the whole area so thoroughly that a crow flying across the Valley would have to carry its own rations. This Sheridan set out to do…Few campaigns in the war aroused more bitterness than this one.”

By late March of 1865, Confederate troops and citizens in Richmond were literally starving. It was clear the city would soon fall.

So, on April 2, 1865, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, his Cabinet, and most of the remaining Confederate troops and civilians abandoned Richmond and fled south.

At the time, people called it “Evacuation Sunday.”

Robbie Robertson gave it the more poignant name, “the night they drove Old Dixie down.” 

That day, Confederate soldiers were ordered to set fire to the armories and warehouses they left behind.

The fires spread, setting Richmond ablaze and devastating large areas of the city.

The “Fall of Richmond” led to a rapidly unfolding downward spiral for the South.

By April 9, Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Courthouse.

On May 5, the Confederate Government was dissolved. The Civil War was officially over.

However, two final war-related events did occur on the May 10th date noted in The Band’s song.

On May 10, 1865, Union troops captured Jefferson Davis in Georgia. By then, most Confederate troops had laid down their arms and accepted the amnesty terms offered by President Abraham Lincoln.

But there were a few die-hards, like the notorious “Bushwhacker” William Quantrill, who kept up a guerrilla-style fight.

On May 10, 1865, Quantrill was ambushed by Union troops in Kentucky and fatally wounded. He lingered for almost a month before he finally died on June 6. 

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Related reading…

March 28, 2015

“England’s green and pleasant land”


If you’re not British, you may only be vaguely aware of the song “Jerusalem.” But the tune and lyrics are very familiar to the people of England.

It is England’s unofficial national anthem, like “God Bless America” is in the United States.

Some Brits have urged that “Jerusalem” be made the official national anthem of England.

The song was first performed on March 28, 1916, during World War I, at a patriotic “Fight for Right” concert at Queen’s Hall in London.

Its melody was composed that year by Sir Hubert Parry, one of England’s most famous composers.

The lyrics are more than a century older than the music.

They come from the preface English poet and artist William Blake wrote for his epic poem Milton, which was first published in late 1810 or early 1811.

The first two paragraphs of Blake’s preface are an obtuse rant that criticizes, among other things, the “Hirelings in the Camp, the Court, & the University: who would if they could for ever depress Mental & prolong Corporeal War.”

The second part of the preface, written in verse, are the words used as the lyrics for the song “Jerusalem”:

“And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England’s pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold;
Bring me my arrows of desire;
Bring me my spear; O clouds, unfold!

Bring me my chariot of fire!

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England’s green and pleasant land.”

The first and last lines of the song are widely known and often quoted, as is the phrase “dark satanic mills” — a poetic expression of Blake’s opinion about the smoke-belching, labor-abusing factories of the Industrial Revolution.

The song also helped popularize the phrase “chariot of fire”, which Blake took from the King James Version of the Bible.

The idea of using Blake’s verses from the preface to Milton as song lyrics was suggested to Parry by English Poet Laureate Robert Seymour Bridges.

Bridges envisioned the song as a moving piece of musical propaganda, part of the patriotic, pro-war “Fight for Right” movement designed to help revive public support for Britain’s involvement in World War I. 

Hubert Parry had a somewhat different vision for how his song would be remembered.

His wife, Elizabeth, was involved in the women’s suffrage movement and he strongly supported giving women the right to vote.

With Hubert’s blessing, the song was adopted as an inspirational anthem by British women’s suffrage groups, who won their fight for women’s voting rights in 1918.

On March 13, 1918, Parry staged a highly visible performance of his song at London's Albert Hall to celebrate the culmination of the “Votes for Women” campaign.

Later, “Jerusalem” became a general, patriotic British anthem.

And, although it is not technically a Christian hymn, it is often sung as one at many churches in England.

For decades, “Jerusalem” has also been sung by audiences at the end of the “Last Night of the Proms,” the final concert in the series of annual “Henry Wood Promenade Concerts” presented by the BBC.

The song is also frequently sung at cricket and rugby games, like the “Star-Spangled Banner” is sung at American baseball games.

In recent years it has become popular with environmentalists for the lyrics invoking the ideal of a “green and pleasant land.”

It’s also said to have been a favorite of an earlier brand of nature lovers in the so-called “Naturist Movement” (i.e., nudists), due to a legend that a visitor to William Blake’s home once found him and his wife sunning themselves nude in their garden.

Hundreds of recordings of “Jerusalem” have been made over the decades. Many have been posted on YouTube.

My personal favorite is the version by Billy Bragg, on his 1990 album, The Internationale.

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Related reading and listening…

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