Sad News from the World of Music

Joni Mitchell, Adrienne Rich, "Louie Louie," and Mumia

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Today brings nothing but sad news from the music world. Legendary songwriter Joni Mitchell has been in the hospital since March. Now TMZ is reporting that she is in a non-responsive coma. Her website denies this and claims she is doing well and heading for a full recovery.

“Louie Louie” singer Jack Ely has died. “Louie Louie” is a song so simple and righteous that for decades it was the go-to track for young rock bands who could barley play their instruments. The FBI famously investigated the song for obscenity concluding  the slurred version The Kingsmen released in 1963 was lyrically incoherent. Eventually Iggy Pop with the Stooges recorded a version that was unquestionably obscene.

A Federal Judge has struck down a Pennsylvania law created in the wake of a speech played at Goddard College by convicted murderer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Under certain conditions the law, “Revictimization Relief Act,” allowed convicted offenders to be sued for speech that created “mental anguish.” According to Philly.com the judge wrote in his decision: “The result is a law that is manifestly unconstitutional.”

To mark three years since her death, The Critical Flame recently posted a wonderful special issue dedicated to the poet Adrienne Rich. The highlights include an essay assessing her poetry by the always-thoughtful Charles Altieri as well as a previously unpublished interview with the poet conducted by Magdalena Edwards. Asked about the perennial topic of the role of politics in poetry, Rich offers here: “I define ‘politics’ in this sense as the on-going collective struggle for liberation and for the power to create—not only works of art, but also just and nonviolent social institutions. There is no way I can see that the poet can stand outside all that. How to make a poetry adequate to the crisis we’re now in, is another question.”

Richard Abowitz is the editor of The Smart Set. Get in touch at rabowitz@drexel.edu.
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