It was 1975 and all seemed right with the world. Nixon was gone and Ford was okay. Vietnam was behind us. Sure, gas prices had sent America into a panic. But there was nothing like a good song blasting out from the car radio.And who better than the three-man band, America, to blast it. It was the perfect radio band with their wonderful harmonies. And perfect for a summer driving down the highway without a care in the world. After all, I was young and starting a new life after my time in the Air Force.
America sang very sing-along-able songs. Short very memorable lyrics and equally memorable melodies. Songs like A Horse With No Name, Sandman and Ventura Highway. They were songs with no deep meaning. Just fun in the sun kind of songs. And as far as I am concerned, Sister Golden Hair was the best.
Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight is Leonard Bernstein’s performance of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”:
America’s produced some great classical composers. Duke Ellington, Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein are among the best known. But it is George Gershwin and his “Rhapsody in Blue” many of us think of when we think of the quintessential American classical music.
Strongly influenced by jazz, it celebrates American urban life, especially the New York City. The lights, the noise, the wonderful chaos. Then it breaks out into a wonderful segment that makes me think of more than the city. It makes me think of the land of America the Beautiful, then it returns to the city and then there is the bitter sweetness of the blues. And running through the whole piece, there is the river that is American life. And the chaos that has been democracy.
I would have loved to have been there that night when it was first played before an audience. The applause must have been loud.
All I know is that when I hear it, I think of the best of my country. And what better person to perform it than Leonard Bernstein.