Maury Z. Levy

Posts Tagged ‘trentonian’

Jose Can You See

In The Trentonian (1968-1970) on August 31, 2009 at 7:55 pm


In the coffeehouses, they used to lead Jose Feliciano in and he used to sit on a stool and pet his seeing eye dog and put his guitar on his knee and do his stuff. Jose Feliciano has always played a great guitar and he has al­ways molded everything he sang into his own style. The teenyboppers hadn’t heard of him then. It took a song called “Light My Fire” to put Jose Feliciano on the musical map. That, like many of the things he had done be­fore, was just his own stylistic version of a song made famous by someone else. In this case, it was a group from California called The Doors. A lot of people bought that record and made the name of Joe Feliciano fairly well known.

It was well known enough anyway to have somebody ask Jose Feliciano to sing the “Star Spangled Banner” at the start of the fifth game of the World Series in Detroit Monday.

Now anybody who knows the first thing about music will tell you that “The Star Spangled Banner” is bad news. Its tough to sing and it’s tough to remember. You don’t have to tell that to Robert Goulet. He blew the whole thing in front of the entire country at the second Liston-Clay fight in Lewiston, Maine.

Jose Feliciano wasn’t about to make the same mistake. So when he had his big shot in front of a nationwide audience of baseball fanatics, he did his own thing. The result was that the “Star Spangled Banner” came out sounding very much like “Light My Fire.”

It sort of caught everyone by surprise. Here was this big pompous, ceremonial voice say­ing: “And now, ladies and gentleman, we in­vite you to rise and join in the singing of our National Anthem, as played by Charlie Witherspoon and his Patriotic Americans, and sung by Jose Feliciano.”

So they switch out to centerfield and there’s Jose Feliciano sitting on a stool without his dog and he starts strumming his guitar like he’s going to sing “Light My Fire and all the guys in the band just kind of stand there with their horns in their hands and look at each other. And Jose Feliciano goes through this really soulful version of     The Star Spangled Banner.” And when he was finished, some of the people there booed and a lot of the people at home called up their local television station and sportswriters who are too busy searching for Joe DiMaggio to listen to the words of the National Anthem and realize what the song’s all about, said that the whole thing was in “outlandish taste.”

Well, the only thing outlandish about the whole affair is that people can really get up tight when they hear that particular song sung with some feeling. You just can’t get away with it.

The alleged patriots of this country are just too used to sliding the beer can under their seat and standing in a half-slouch and moving their lips as if they knew what they were sing­ing while some maintenance man slips a rec­ord arm on a scratchy old recording, or some fat soprano warbles her patriotic head off. And when it’s over, they all cheer and whistle because it’s out of the way and now they can go about watching their baseball game with­out interruption. These are the people who are outlandish.

After he finished Monday, somebody asked Jose Feliciano why he sang the song the way he did.

“It’s the way I feel,” he said. “I love America. I sang it that way to express my love for my country.”

Jose Feliciano did his own thing and the patriotic Americans who drink all the beer and lay all of the illegal money on whoever pays the better odds got all upset because somebody stuck a raisin in their apple pie.

The Second Coming of the Rev. Billy Graham

In The Trentonian (1968-1970) on August 31, 2009 at 3:11 pm


NEW YORK — “Jesus Christ,” said the guy with the dark green Robert Hall suit and matching Midwestern twang, “I can’t find him anywhere. We’d better go to the Garden.”

He slammed down the mint phone receiver in the plush staff suite and huffed out to the 28th floor express elevator to the velvet lobby of the Penn-Garden Hotel and out into the heat of 7th Ave. where the heavens hung heavy with whimpering clouds.

He darted the group buses on 31st St. and took the plaza steps two at a time to the main entrance of the new Madison Square Garden. He zipped past the women in the white blouses and long black skirts and the gray hair in buns, and the men in the baggy black suits and the white socks and he did not stop to hear what they were saying.

“I hear there are a lot of protesters around the other side,” one of the shorthairs told a cop. “I think we ought to box them off and throw hand grenades at them.”

The guy in the dark green suit kept flashing his staff pass at the security guards all the way up to the first promenade and into the Crusade office where he found his man.

It has been 12 years since Billy Graham, evangelist, had been in New York, the sin capital of the Western World. Time had made things curiouser and curiouser.

“The other night I walked through Times Square,” Graham said later, “and I was stirred and angry at what I saw.”

Graham had to come to the Garden to help clean New York up. On the opening night of the Crusade, about 25,000 believers and seekers showed up to have their souls sweat by a new broom.

Graham, his wavy golden-gray hair sitting on top of an iron face of pancake makeup, was overwhelmed at the welcome.

“It’s one of the largest, if not the largest response we’ve ever had on a first night,” he said.

Overwhelming was the word for the whole thing. There was a 2,000-voice choir, pared down from 3,000 applications. There was someone in every seat in the place and some in places where there weren’t seats.

There were old men and women after their last sal­vation. There were young men and women seeking the right road, seeking a spiritual saviour.

“HE’S HERE,” one of their buttons said.

Indeed, he was.

Cliff Barrows, Crusade music and program director, warmed the crowd up with a fast hymn from the Official Billy Graham Song Book (only 50 cents at an usher near you) and then introduced Graham.

“. . . and now, here is God’s spokesman for these meetings . . .”

Graham walked forward to the thunder of the crowd. He stood before the bullet-proof podium smothered with artificial flowers and green snowball bushes — a true believer amidst the foliage of an artificial Garden of Eden. The organist played on.   Read the rest of this entry »

Abernathy Revival Brings Bread

In The Trentonian (1968-1970) on August 30, 2009 at 5:15 pm

Ralph Abernathy

[Author’s note: After this piece ran on page one of the Trentonian, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King’s dubious successor, called editor Gil Spencer to say he would never return to Trenton until I was fired. Spencer supported me with a long editorial. It wasn’t the first time he had to do that.]

The last time Ralph Abernathy was in Trenton, the bearer of Martin Luther King’s torch said last night, it was a hamlet. Now, he said, it is strong a sprawling metropolis.

It was a long ride in from Philadelphia, and it was very dark and stormy. Ralph Abernathy was very late. Obviously, he had not been spending the time touring Trenton.

The place Ralph Abernathy called a bustling metropolis sent him away with a big $319 and a whole lot of loose change. It came to about a buck a head. And although the passing of the plate didn’t bring in very much money at the War Memorial Building last night, it did prove a point of sorts. Critics of Ralph Abernathy have, for a long time, called him a two-bit country preacher. Not so.

Last night Ralph Abernathy came to the “big city” and pulled in eight bits a head.

He walked into the first big local SCLC meeting to the music •of cheers and shouts. The chorus was singing “Oh, Happy Day.” Local SCLC President Edith Savage was yelling “Abernathy is the leader” over and over again. It was a real revival.

Abernathy is a short man. He doesn’t have the physical presence of Martin Luther King. He doesn’t have — you should pardon the expression — the charisma.

He is no longer the champion of the dungaree jacket — the symbol of the poor people’s march, the cloth of Resurrection City.

He was dressed in a natty green suit and a blue shirt and a nice silk tie. His companions were dressed well too. One of them — the one

who was not wearing the tie — had on a purple suede jacket. Things seemed to be looking up. Somehow, the poor people’s campaign doesn’t seem so poor anymore.

Ralph Abernathy went into what he calls his “Baptist swing.” It is a pounding, driving message that speaks of the Lord, that makes people in the audience shout out “amen,” that makes him sound like a black Billy Graham.

Most of all, it is the device that brings in the bread. It is a device that gets the people in the audience jump ing to their feet and reaching in their hip pockets and pulling out the folding stuff.

The thing that Ralph Abernathy learned in all those years with Martin Luther King was how to wake them and shake them.

“I ask you who are sitting around as part of Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” to get up off you knees and to go out into the streets and to tell Pharohto ‘Let my people go.’

Ralph Abernathy got them off their knees alright. He got them off their knees, .and he stood them on their heads, and he shook them until the change fell out. He started with the tens, and he got down to the fives, and then he settled for the ones.

“It doesn’t look like he’s going to pull in a fortune tonight, “one of the white-jacketed ushers said.

“Well,” said another, “he’s no Martin Luther King.”

“Sure,” said the first man, “but in this town, even King himself might not fill the plate.”

The sprawling metropolis of Trenton that Ralph Abernathy had come to revive had suddenly gone back to being the hamlet it always was.

He finished speaking, and they sang, “We Shall Overcome,” and everybody walked outside. It had stopped raining, and the clouds had lifted, and in the still of the night you could see things a lot clearer. You could see the light.

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