Journal Entries: “A Well Respected Man” and “Original Faubus Fables”

Posted: March 4, 2012 in Editorials

Kwyet Kinks, the EP that includes "A Well Respected Man."

The version of "Original Faubus Fables" that includes vocals was first released on this record.

In my Rock and Roll History class which focuses on jazz, the blues, some country and some other sub-genres, I have been writing weekly journal entries regarding my thoughts on one of the many songs to which I have been assigned to listen.  Here are the first two.  There will be more of these coming.

 

“A Well Respected Man” – The Kinks

The Kinks’ music was relatively simple, dominated by basic power chords and, in the case of “A Well Respected Man,” straightforward open chords.  Simple music was new to popular-music fans, and the British Invasion, a movement in which the Kinks were heavily involved, introduced a new type of popular music.  This music combined rock and roll, the blues and folk all into one genre.  Previous genres of popular music, predominantly jazz and Chicago blues, were extremely complex, including many improvised sections and large ensembles of musicians.  Even early rock and roll artists like Elvis were often accompanied by large backing bands.  1960s garage rock, somewhat more than 1950s rock and roll, showed that simplicity can often provide equal if not higher quality than complexity.

Furthermore, the lyrics of “A Well Respected Man” act as a critique on common society.  It begins discussing the advantages of being punctual and neat and clean, discussing the “perfect” behavior and lifestyle.   The song then turns around to point out the reality of life with lines such as “his mother goes to meetings, while his father pulls the maid.” The song proceeds to praise these “informalities,” which are part of everyday life, just as it had previously praised societal properness, having punctuality and a clean disposition. The Kinks, swimming against the current of their time, not only in their music but also in their lyrics, point out the flaws of a supposedly respectable society.

 

“Original Faubus Fables” – Charles Mingus

Probably the most political jazz song ever, bassist and composer Charles Mingus’ “Original Faubus Fables” directly attacks governor Orval E. Faubus of Arkansas who was responsible for the alleged 1957 Little Rock Crisis.  Mingus, who, alongside drummer Dannie Richmond, sings lead vocals, commences the rather long number with a facetious remark, calling Faubus  “the first or second or third American hero.”  The song’s pace remains constant, comparing Faubus as well as the U.S. government to the Nazis, begging “no more swastikas…no more Ku Klux Klan!”  Unlike other political songwriters, Mingus does not slyly hint at his point; he declares it clearly:

“Name me someone who’s ridiculous, Dannie.  Governer Faubus!…he’s a fool!  Boo!  Nazi Fascist supreme…name me a handful that’s ridiculous…Faubus, Rockefeller, Eisenhower.”

Mingus and Richmond not only set the mood with their lyrics but also with their vocals.  They chant and scream their statements with such hatred and anger that the listener can only begin to imagine what they must be feeling.

Additionally, the instrumentation behind “Original Faubus Fables” remains with the traditional jazz “jam” direction, allowing every musician at least one solo or opportunity to improvise.  However, the song begins with a tightly orchestrated, dark, ominous groove, out of which a growling, rip-roaring saxophone bursts every now and then.  At high points in the instrumental sections, one can even hear Mingus scatting along to the music, simply unable to control his emotions, a point that embodies all of Jazz.  Jazz music is about expressing yourself in ways that one could not do outside of a studio or a performing arts center and Mingus allows himself to let go and embrace his emotions to the point of emitting presumably improvised noises and sounds simply because of his closeness to the music’s mood and purpose.  Few songs have displayed anything close to the sheer power of “Original Faubus Fables.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s