As long as I’m posting old Makem and Clancy clips… here’s a funny one from the Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem about the whole Catholic-Protestant conflict. The joke the precedes that the song (told by the late great Tommy Makem, in fine form as usual) might be the best part, but the song (The Old Orange Flute) is pretty funny too.
WARNING: This is a long post, but darn it, I want it all above the jump. If you’d like to skip over the family stuff, and go straight to where I make fun of the Associated Press, click here.
Readers who didn’t catch my Tuesday post about Tommy Makem may be wondering why I’m making such a fuss over his death, especially with so much else happening in the news. Indeed, a friend texted me this evening, “I’m embarrassed to ask, but I don’t know who he is!”
Well, the AP obituary gives the basic gist of the answer to that question, as does the NPR audio story. But the bottom line is this: there’s a good reason they call him the “Godfather of Irish Music.” Tommy Makem was a great Irish folk singer, but more than that, he was an extraordinary musician and storyteller who played a huge part in popularizing Irish folk music here in America — real Irish folk music, not the sort of maudlin stuff that Bing Crosby sang. I’m talking songs of rebellion, booze and love: songs like “Roddy McCorley,” “The Irish Rover,” and “The Leaving of Liverpool,” to name a tiny handful of the many, many awesome songs that he and the Clancy Brothers performed over the years.
Makem, along with his former bandmates the Clancys, lent pop-culture credibility to Ireland’s traditional songs, injecting them with a unique style and weaving them into the folk-music revolution of the 1960s. (To give you an idea, the boys were close with Bob Dylan, among others. Indeed, the very last joint performance by Makem and the Clancys occurred in 1992, when they sang together at the televised 30th Anniversary Concert for Dylan.) Makem also enhanced those traditions with his own wonderful compositions, such as the tender “Red Is the Rose” and the poignant, militant “Four Green Fields” (about which I’ll have much more to say below).
The Boston Globe’s Kevin Cullen puts Makem’s success in a broader cultural context, writing that his “music inspired a phenomenon sociologists call ‘third generation return,’ in which the grandchildren of immigrants discover and embrace their roots. Tommy Makem sang to the Irish diaspora, some 70 million of them, songs that gave some context to the colonization and subjugation of Ireland that explained why you were listening to the song in Boston, Bristol or Brisbane.”
Well, that doesn’t quite apply to me, nor to the Loy family’s original Makem fanatic, my dad. We’re considerably more than three generations removed from our Irish roots: my paternal grandmother, Helen McNamara Loy, was 100% Irish, but she was already several generations (we’re not sure exactly how many) removed from the McNamaras who immigrated. My dad is 50% Irish, and I’m just 25%. Still, I don’t think there’s any doubt that consciousness of our Irish heritage made each of us, in turn, more likely to enjoy and embrace Makem’s music.
Anyway, a bit of history is in order here. Papa & Nana Loy liked the Bing Crosby-type Irish music, not the rowdier fare sung by the lads in white sweaters on Ed Sullivan in 1961 (when my dad was 13), so Makem and the Clancys never made their way into the Loy household when my dad was growing up. Thus, although he was a teenager throughout much of their glory years, my dad wasn’t actually exposed to their music until he arrived at Georgetown in the fall of 1966. His interest was piqued by a roommate’s vinyl record of the band, and before long, a lifelong pastime was born.
My dad attended his first Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem concert in November 1967 at Lisner Auditorium on the George Washington campus. After the concert, he went to a nearby Irish pub with his then-girlfriend. Liam Clancy was at the pub, too, with two lovely ladies — both of whom he left at his table to walk over and flirt with my dad’s girlfriend. Heh. (Liam was always something of a ladies’ man, what with his mountain of women and all.)
In 1969, Makem left the Clancy Brothers to pursue a solo career but in 1975, he reunited with Liam — and so it was that my parents’ first date, on April 24, 1976, was a Makem & Clancy concert at The Bushnell in Hartford. So, in the Marty McFly/Enchantment Under the Sea sense, it’s entirely possible that if it weren’t for Tommy Makem, I wouldn’t be here.
My parents got married in May 1977, and I was born in October 1981. By that point, they had built up an impressive collection of Clancy Brothers and Makem & Clancy records, and I grew up listening to those records. While other kids were singing about mulberry bushes, twinkling stars, and row, row, rowing boats, I was learning sea chanteys like “Haul Away Joe,” rebel anthems like “The Rising of the Moon,” and drinking songs like “The Moonshiner.” By age three, I could recite most of “Will You Go Lassie Go” verbatim, and not long after, I was intoning whole verses of “Four Green Fields” and — most infamously — “Drink Up The Cider,” the one about knocking the milkmaids over and rolling them in the clover. ;) In other words, I grew up listening to this stuff, singing it, and loving it. Irish music, as sung by Makem and the Clancys, became part of my identity from a very early age… so much so that, as I said on Tuesday, the songs “comprise a substantial portion of my lifeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s soundtrack.”
I’m not certain whether I ever attended a Tommy Makem concert as a kid. My mom thinks we all went to a Makem & somebody concert in Shelton, Connecticut at some point, probably in the very late ’80s or very early ’90s, but I’m not certain about that. I remember going to an Irish music concert in Massachusetts during roughly that same time frame, but I believe that was the Clancy Brothers in some combination, without Makem. I know my parents saw Makem in Newington in 1994, when I was 12, but it so happened I was out of town that week, visiting Wisconsin with my uncle and aunt and cousins. I also know I saw Liam Clancy with my parents at Mystic in 2001, but that was looong after his 1988 breakup with Makem.
Regardless, I feel very lucky that I was able to see Makem twice in the last two years of his life, both times at Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. The first time was on September 30, 2005; regular readers might remember me blogging about the unique sequence of events that began with a prayer for serenity at the Grotto (this was shortly after Sarah LeFoll’s death) and ended with me remembering, at almost literally the last minute, that Makem was on campus that night, snatching a ticket just as the doors were closing, and having an absolutely fantastic time. The only downside was that, because I forgot about the concert until just before showtime, I wasn’t able to drag Becky along. But almost a year later, on September 15, 2006, I did just that when Makem returned to campus, and Becky — who is not easily impressed — declared Makem “an utterly enchanting performer.” I’m so glad I was able to share him with her before he died.
I want to harken back, though, to the 2005 concert for a moment. Whereas Makem’s opening act in ‘06 was the middling local Irish band Kennedy’s Kitchen (Becky thinks they’re awful; I think they’re OK, but not great), his opening act in ‘05 was the Makem & Spain Brothers — his own sons Shane, Conor and Rory, plus Mickey and Liam Spain — and they were very good. Moreover, Tommy himself was excellent in 2005. Not that he wasn’t good in 2006 too, but by then he’d been diagnosed with lung cancer, and you could tell he’d lost just a little of the spring in his step and the robustness in his voice. In 2005, though, the Bard of Armagh was still just about 100% on top of his game, particularly in the concert-ending encore performance that I’ll remember as long as I live, of Makem’s own “Four Green Fields.” Before I describe it, those who don’t know the song should probably listen to it:
Here are the song’s lyrics. As you can tell, it’s a potent anthem for the Irish republican cause. Well… I presume you can tell that. If you can, that puts you a step ahead of Associated Press writer David Tirrell-Wysocki, who, in a hilariously clueless spasm of ignorant literalism, said Makem “brought audiences to tears with ‘Four Green Fields,’ about a woman whose sons died trying to prevent strangers from taking her fields.” That’s kind of like saying that George Orwell enthralled readers with his children’s story about talking pigs. “Four Green Fields” isn’t about a woman and her fields, it’s about Ireland (personified as an “old woman”) and its four provinces (represented by “green fields”), one of which remains occupied (”taken”) by the British (the “strangers”) despite the best efforts of the Irish people (her “sons”). How anyone could be allowed to write the official AP obituary of Tommy Makem without understanding that basic bit of fairly straightforward symbolism in his most famous song, I have no idea.
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, the ‘05 concert at Notre Dame and its grand finale, Makem’s rousing performance of “Four Green Fields.” Now then, before I continue, I should probably pause to say that just because I love the song doesn’t necessarily mean I endorse everything it arguably espouses (although it doesn’t explicitly endorse violence, it can certainly be interpreted that way). I love the song not because of its political message, but because it’s a beautiful, poignant, powerful song, and because when Makem was on the microphone, it was always beautifully, poignantly, and powerfully sung — never moreso than on that September night in 2005, when the then-72-year-old Bard of Armagh belted out every note with so much flair and vigor that you’d have thought he was still 28 and fresh off his white-sweatered debut on Ed Sullivan. In my mind’s ear, I can almost still hear his wonderfully warbling baritone, decrying the “plundering and pillage” and mourning the starvation of the Irish people “by mountain, valley and sea.” To borrow a turn of phrase: his voice shook the very heavens. (In the process, it apparently shook down the thunder from the sky, considering he was at Notre Dame on the eve of the Purdue game, and his appearance had been advertised by flyers asking, “Can this man help us beat Purdue?” Answer: yes!)
But the grand finale’s grand finale came in the third and final verse when — as Tommy took a breath after singing “I have four green fields / One of them’s in bondage / In stranger’s hands / Who tried to take it from me” — his sons, the Makem Brothers, emerged from the shadows (they and the Spain Brothers had been quietly doing background vocals and instrumentals throughout the song) and sang the next line along with him: “But my sons have sons / As brave as were their fathers!” Then the sons stepped back into the shadows, and the father finished the song: “My fourth green field / Will bloom once again, said she!” It was an exquisitely powerful musical moment, one that words can’t do justice, nor could a video or audio recording, if I had it (which I don’t). I daresay it’s right up there with Great Big Sea’s a capella rendition of “Old Brown’s Daughter” as the most memorable single musical performances I’ve ever seen. And, especially now that Makem’s gone, I know I’ll cherish that memory forever.
Anyway… I think that’s just about all I have to say about Makem (finally, right?). But before I sign off, here’s a bit more of what the Globe’s Kevin Cullen had to say:
Like all great troubadours, Tommy Makem isn’t dead. His body is lifeless, having finally succumbed to the lung cancer that ate away at him the last few years.
But Tommy Makem was an Irish soul singer, and souls don’t die. His music is preserved, on the old vinyl LPs he made with his pals, the Clancy brothers, more recently on CDs, more intimately in memory, in the hard drive of any brain that heard his basso profundo voice.
To hear Tommy Makem sing “Four Green Fields” was to hear Enrico Caruso sing “Vesti la giubba,” or James Brown sing “I Feel Good.” He was for Irish traditional music a great ambassador, and a consummate performer.
But anyone who met Tommy Makem - and I met him several times - will tell you that he had that Clintonesque ability of making you feel like you were the only one in the room with him, that whatever you had to say was more important than what he had to sing.
Anyway… how to end this post? Not with another “Rest in Peace” or “Thanks for the memories”… I mean those things, but I’ve already said them. I’ve also done the whole irreverent tribute thing. So I guess perhaps the best conclusion is to post one final Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem video clip. And it’s a good one: Rocky Road to Dublin, back when the boys were all together. Enjoy:
Here is the official Makem.com thread on the Bard’s passing. More here. I can’t even access The Mudcat, presumably because they’re overwhelmed with traffic from Makem mourners. [UPDATE: Here’s the Mudcat thread about Makem.] There are lots of tributes over on LiamClancy.com, too, including this post by Liam himself:
Good friends - I just got the word from the family that Tommy passed away at about 6.45PM in Dover NH. As you all probably know he has been ill for quite a while. His suffering at last is over.
He was a friend and partner-in-song for over fifty years. We shared a great hunk of our lives together. We were a hell of a team. Tommy was a man of high integrity, honesty, and, at the end, courage. Our paths diverged at times but our friendship never waned. He was my brother every bit as much as my blood brothers.
His death has left a void that cannot be filled. A great entertainer has left us.
All our thoughts and prayers go out now to his family - Katey, Shane, Conor, Rory, Molly and all those close to him.
But perhaps the most fitting tribute comes from a Makem.com poster, Kevin Tunstill, who quoted “The Parting Glass” in its entirety. Here’s an audio recording of that lovely, and appropriate, song:
While I’m sure Makem would appreciate that send-off, I also think he’d probably enjoy something a bit more upbeat. After all, the Irish are renowned for their rowdy wakes, based on the notion that we should celebrate the life of the deceased rather than merely mourning his death — and in Makem’s case, there’s certainly a long and wonderful life to celebrate. Moreover, while Makem’s death is a sad blow to those of us left here on Earth with a sudden musical void in our hearts, I don’t doubt that he’s looking down from Heaven and getting a kick out of all the commotion that’s being made, and will continue to be made in the coming days, over his passing. To that end, and in honor of this great man, I offer the following rough transcription of Makem’s own thoughts from beyond the grave:
Heck, he’s probably singing that, or some other similarly irreverent song about death (”Finnegan’s Wake,” perhaps?) with Tom and Paddy right now. I’m sure God and the angels are enjoying the show. I bet even King Billy is tapping his feet.
I’ll have more to say about Makem’s passing in the coming hours and days. For now, all I can say is, Rest in Peace, Tommy Makem. Thanks for all the wonderful music and memories. You’ll be sorely missed.
Here are my photos of the iPhone’s debut at the Knoxville Apple Store in West Town Mall.
My thoughts on the wee gadget? Overall, I agree with Dane: “It’s really rather addictively fun to play with. The touch screen thing is fantastic, beyond any other touch sensitive device IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever used. Flicking around stuff is fun, and really fast and feels very natural.”
That opinion seemed to be shared by most everyone at the store; the atmosphere was really electric at the table where people were playing with the iPhones. One person after another expressed a mixture of delight, glee, stunned amazement, etc. at how awesome the little gizmo is. I must have heard some variation on the sentiment, “I really wish I could afford one of these,” a half-dozen times. (Clearly, I wasn’t the only person who showed up just to play with the iPhones even though I had no intention of buying one.)
Alas, the biggest sticking point for me all along — well, aside from the price, the fact that I’m under contract with Sprint (though I guess it’s possible to sell your contact), and the inability to use it as a modem — remains a sticking point: as good as the touch-sensitive keyboard is, and as quickly as you get better at using it after even a few minutes, I still don’t think it would ever become possible to type as fast as I can on a regular cell-phone keypad in T9w mode. Moreover, without tactile feedback, it almost certainly wouldn’t ever become possible to type without looking, which I do all the time on my current phone. If you’re accustomed to sending short text messages and writing brief e-mails from your phone while not doing anything else that you need to look at, this is not a big problem. If you’re accustomed to composing and publishing a dozen 256-character blog posts on your phone during the course of a football game you’re attending, it’s a somewhat more serious concern. :)
That said, the phone is so cool that it might very well, at some point, be worth the small sacrifice of dealing with the limitations imposed by the non-tactile virtual keyboard.
However, I don’t think I’ll ever get an iPhone unless and until it can be used as a modem. The slowness of typing with the virtual keyboard — this short post took a good 10 minutes to type (though I’m sure I’d get somewhat faster with time) — only reinforces the importance of being able to still use my laptop for blogging, e-mail, etc., while I’m on the go and it’s convenient to do so. No way does the iPhone’s own web access, while excellent for a phone, totally replace that. In other words, at least for a power user, the iPhone does not “remove the need to carry around your whole computer” in all circumstances. In some circumstances, yes, but not all. Phone-as-modem must be added at some point, or the iPhone will not be a viable option for me. And I’m not alone. A very quick search found tons of bloggers complaining about the same issue. See, for example, this post: “Because the iPhone currently canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be used as a USB modem, it is useless for me. Sure, the video and audio features are cool. Sure, the user interface makes me drool with envy. But all that canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t hold a candle to letting me work when IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m out in the boonies. Staying connected means more than just accessing the Internet from my phone. I need a phone that can get my laptop online as well.” This is not a trivial issue, and no rationalization regarding the “target audience” can mask the fact that a non-negligible segment of potential users will be unable to seriously consider buying an iPhone until this feature is added. Its absence is, simply put, a total deal-breaker for many people. Are you listening, Apple?
I had a few other pet peeves as I played with the phone, which I’ll talk about after the jump. (Don’t get me wrong — I really like the thing, and most of these gripes are admittedly nitpicky. But you already know the good stuff, as it’s been widely publicized, so I’m trying to add something new to the discussion by mentioning these pet peeves.)
First, though, here’s a rather lengthy video of me playing with an iPhone. To be honest, I’m not sure if it will be of much interest, but for those who want to get a feel for what it’s like… well, I’d suggest you just go to an Apple Store and see for yourself :), but if you don’t want to do that, you can watch my video. Around 9 minutes and 15 seconds in, you can see me log into the WordPress interface (I excluded the part where I enter my password, obviously) and type up a post, so any potential WP-using iPhone bloggers can get a sense of what it would be like to blog via iPhone. Enjoy!
NOTE: My typing speed in this video is a bit slower than my typing speed when using the iPhone normally. I was slowed down by the unnatural angle at which I had to stand and hold the thing in order to keep it on camera.
Speaking of video clips, in the post below, you can view my footage of the Apple Store opening the doors at 6:00 PM.
Anyway, like I said, after the jump, my pet peeves. :)
Dear readers, it’s time for me to come clean. For almost two months now, I’ve been hacking away at my keyboard on a daily basis, typing blog post after blog post about random, miscellaneous topics — events in my life, stories in the news, etc. — without telling y’all about the one thing that’s really been on the top of my personal “breaking news” list, the one bit of information that I’ve wanted to shout from the rooftops from the moment I learned it, the one fact that’s been totally dominating my consciousness since April 30 at approximately 12:30 PM. Namely:
BECKY AND I ARE EXPECTING A BABY!!!
We’re at about 13 weeks. That means we’re almost into the second trimester. Yesterday, we went to see an OB/GYN for Becky’s first major check-up, and we now have an official due date: December 31. That’s right — New Year’s Eve. Heh. Woohoo!
Among other things, at yesterday’s appointment, we got to hear our baby’s heartbeat for the first time. That was, needless to say, very cool. In fact, “very cool” doesn’t even come close to describing it. Naturally, I whipped out my digital camera in the doctor’s office and used it to make an audio clip:
That heartbeat, that’s our baby! I mean, I helped make that! And it’s inside Becky right now! How amazing is that?
(By the way, if you’re wondering — since everyone seems to ask this — yes, we do plan to learn the sex of the baby in advance. But it’s too early right now. We’ve got an ultrasound scheduled for August 13, so hopefully we’ll find out then.)
Much more after the jump.
What is it with us and car accidents on the 40 between Nashville and Knoxville? We're stuck in traffic again… though at least this time, it's (slowly) moving.
UPDATE: Only about a 15-minute delay this time, as opposed to the hour and 40 minutes last time.
UPDATE 2: Here’s a video of the scene:
I haven’t blogged about this previously because the past week has been so hectic… but Robbie had quite a day on Sunday, my graduation day. On our last full day in South Bend, we almost lost our dog!
The above picture was taken at 8:12 AM, as my parents, Becky and I were preparing to leave for the 9:30 “hooding” ceremony at the Basilica. Because of limited seating, we only had three tickets, so Becky’s parents were planning to stay at the apartment and keep packing up the Penske, then meet us for lunch at around 11:30. So, about 15 or 20 minutes after the picture was taken, we left for campus, while Ted, Ginny and the animals stayed behind.
Less than an hour later, as I was walking toward the law school to line up for the procession (my parents and Becky were en route to the Basilica), I noticed that I had voicemail on my cell phone, so I checked it. This is what I heard:
The message had been left at 9:07 AM by a gentleman named Mark, who got my cell phone number from Robbie’s tag. He had found Robbie roaming free on Vernerlee Lane, which is about a half-mile from our apartment as the
crow flies greyhound runs.
More details after the jump.
That’s how many seconds were left on the clock in Game 2 of the Sabres-Senators series when Danny Briere tied the game, preventing — at least for the moment — the Sabres from falling behind 2-0 in the series as it heads to Ottawa.
Amazingly, this is the second time in the last four games that Buffalo has scored a game-tying goal with single-digit seconds left on the clock. In Game 5 of the Rangers series, Chris Drury tied the game with 7.7 to go, and the Sabres proceeded to win in overtime. Hopefully this one ends the same way.
UPDATE: Here is Rick Jeanneret’s call of the game-tying goal, and also of the final seconds ticking away, sending the game to OT:
[Clip fixed. The wrong one posted before. -ed.]
UPDATE 2: F**k!!
Ottawa scores the game-winner five minutes into the second overtime, and the Senators head home with a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead. Suddenly Sabres fans go from thinking about a Stanley Cup to thinking about whether they can avoid a sweep. Will there be another game at HSBC Arena this season?
Oh no, Buff-a-lo!
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P.S. As you might guess, I made this post, and the one below, some time ago. I had them set to post automatically at noon, but I finished a little early, so I moved up the timestamp (and reset the countdown clock above).
P.P.P.S. Evidence grades are out. They’re on InsideND. I got a B! w00t! I’m very happy about that, considering.
Defying a threatened crackdown, two dozen Zahm Hall residents streaked twice through LaFortune Student Center just after midnight Monday, delighting a large crowd of onlookers (both male and female) as they successfully completed another edition of the semiannual “Bun Run.”
I attended the event thinking there might be a clash between naked Domers and campus police, which would have been quite a newsworthy spectacle. Nothing of the sort happened, but it was still an entertaining exhibition, complete with a naked dude on a skateboard.
The first time they came through, at 12:06 AM, a total of 24 streakers made the run up the stairs from the basement, through the first-floor lounge and lobby, past the Huddle and out the door. They then apparently re-entered the building on the lower level, and 22 of them repeated their naked run past the enthusiastic crowd two minutes later. I’m not sure what happened to the other two streakers, though there were reports of NDSP officers “outside every entrance,” so it’s possible 2 of the original 24 were apprehended on their way back into the building. I don’t know, though. There was no visible police presence inside LaFortune itself, at least not on the first floor where the Bun Run(s) took place.
Lisa took video of both runs, which can be seen (with the streakers’ faces obscured) after the jump. Warning: nudity!!!