On Canada Day 2022 these are times that try us (esp in USA) .. but there’s solace looking at summer on Blueberry Hill

Jul 1st, 2022 | By | Category: In Brief

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO, FRIDAY 1 JULY 2022. On the one hand, Canada Day 2022 could be declared a happy event since the country has largely joined the growing part of the global village that is pretending the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.

This year there is a Canada Day Picnic more or less in the neighbourhood where I live. It’s a long walk, and driving means you have to find an almost impossible parking space. It’s best to take the streetcar.

(Years ago we’ve taken the streetcar all the way downtown for free hot dogs at Queen’s Park — well five-cent hot dogs anyway. But there’s nothing free at Doug Ford’s Queen’s Park now.)

On the other hand, in the world I live in it’s not easy to be happy about the public realm this year — in Canada as well as next door in the USA. With such international headlines as “Johnson and Trudeau Mock Putin’s ‘Tough’ Persona at G7 Meeting,” you might think the domestic Justin Trudeau critics who call Canada’s PM “whimpy” would be at least somewhat pleased. But growing bodies of evidence make clear they are not.

(Though a June 16 Mainstreet poll shows both New Democrats and Liberals ahead of their 2021 election results!)

And then there’s the sad truth made clear in Felix Richter’s June 27, 2022 statista article, “How Representative Is the G7 of the World It’s Trying to Lead?” In a nutshell the current G7 that has just been meeting in Germany’s old Catholic state of Bavaria (the United States, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Canada, and Italy) has 43.4% of the world’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product or annual economic production), but only 9.8% of the world’s population.

(And a June 28 global Gallup poll reports “World Unhappier, More Stressed Out Than Ever.”)

“Good morning, America, how are you?”

The latest unhappy event in the troubling and increasingly aggressive radical right-wing assault on a changing USA is the Supreme Court decision ending the 50-year Roe v Wade nation-wide “right” to safe, medically professional abortions, for women who do not want and no doubt should not carry on with an unexpected pregnancy.

G7 leaders at Summit in Elmau, Germany, Sunday, June 26, 2022.

I agree that abortion is a moral question. But I believe it is the kind of moral question best left to the judgment of individuals. The argument that life begins when a new human being leaves the womb, and is “born” in the traditional language, makes sense to me. So does the argument that life begins at the moment of conception. But in the end I judge the first moral argument the stronger one. (Your age is measured by your birthday, not the never altogether certain moment when you were conceived!) And I think it is a great and in a democracy altogether unethical and even illegal deprivation of my right to individual freedom (see section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) for you to use the state’s monopoly of legitimate force to compel me to live my life according to your moral judgements.

Meanwhile, the remarkable Rachel Maddow has used some of the right-wing conservatives’ own rabid rhetoric in attacking the now conservative-dominated Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v Wade : “American women face new era of very big, invasive government.” And Martin Armstrong’s June 27 statista article on “The Legal Status of Abortion Worldwide” suggests some broader international perspective on the issue.

Meanwhile again, I like Ron Brownstein’s June 24 piece in The Atlantic : “America Is Growing Apart, Possibly for Good … The great ‘convergence’ of the mid-20th century may have been an anomaly.” Brownstein introduces “the provocative conclusion of Michael Podhorzer, a longtime political strategist for labor unions and the chair of the Analyst Institute, a collaborative of progressive groups that studies elections.” As Brownstein explains : “To Podhorzer, the growing divisions between red and blue states represent a reversion to the lines of separation through much of the nation’s history. The differences among states in the Donald Trump era, he writes, are ‘very similar, both geographically and culturally, to the divides between the Union and the Confederacy. And those dividing lines were largely set at the nation’s founding, when slave states and free states forged an uneasy alliance to become ‘one nation.’”

Canadian content

Justin Trudeau with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at G7 Summit in Germany, June 2022.

Meanwhile yet again, back in “the true north, strong and free,” the Canadian Health Coalition held a webinar on June 27, 2022, to “mark 60 years of Medicare in Canada … born … on July 1, 1962, in Saskatchewan. Within 10 years, free public health care had spread across Canada. However, the dream of a universal, public and comprehensive health care system in Canada has never been fully realized. On June 27, hear why that is and what needs to be done to make health care, including pharmacare, dental care and long-term care, accessible and comprehensive.”

At the same time, various media reports are explaining how “Canada’s response to COVID-19 better than many comparable countries, study finds … The research suggests that the cumulative per capita rate of COVID-19 cases in Canada was 82,700 per million, while all countries — except Japan — were above 100,000 per million. Canada’s COVID-19 death rate was 919 per million, again second lowest behind Japan. All other countries had more than 1,000 per million.”

At the same time again, even in Canada there are miles to go before we rest. According to Timmins Today : “Officially celebrating Canada Day ‘inappropriate’, says chief … Moose Cree First Nation has once again declared July 1 as a Day of Mourning.” And the Globe and Mail is editorializing on “How francophones outside Quebec became the minority English Canada forgot about.”

On at least one bright side on June 23, 2022 CTV News posted an article on “Quebec’s Fete nationale: Pride, celebrations and talk of the state of sovereignty.” This reports that : “Polls show a majority of Quebecers would vote against sovereignty if given a chance.”

According to analyst Philippe Fournier : “We see that between 60 and 65 per cent of Quebecers would vote no, including a majority of francophones which is critical.” Fournier also stressed that “ the younger generation is less likely to sign on … It is a massive change. In 1980, the majority of young voters were far more sovereigntist than the rest of the population.”

Solace on Blueberry Hill

In another universe altogether while recently traversing the world wide web I bumped into some sheet music for a tune that haunted my late 1950s-early 1960s teenage rites of passage. The tune is “Blueberry Hill” and the classic performance for me (and many others) is still the 1956 recording by Fats Domino.

It is a great virtue of 21st century life online, however, that you can often learn a lot about a subject in a short space of time — to a degree altogether unprecedented in old-school library research. And music is especially well-served by YouTube!

My own fascinated digital research began with the classic 1956 Fats Domino rendition of Blueberry Hill. But right away the text accompanying the YouTube version I listened to told of the song’s greater depths : “Blueberry Hill is a popular song published in 1940. The music was written by Vincent Rose, the lyrics by Al Lewis and Larry Stock. It was recorded six times in 1940 … Gene Krupa’s version was issued on the Okeh label (#5672) on June 3 … Other 1940 recordings were by: Glenn Miller on Bluebird (10768) …”

Further study on songfacts.com noted that Blueberry Hill was originally written for “the 1940 Western The Singing Hill … where it was heard for the first time performed by Gene Autry … Many artists recorded this before Domino, mostly orchestras … Louis Armstrong did the song with Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra in 1949 … Other artists to cover the song include Elvis Presley (on his 1957 album Loving You), The Beach Boys, Andy Williams … Bruce Cockburn … Fats Domino, who knew the song through Louis Armstrong’s 1949 version … insisted on recording … [in 1956] over the vehement objections of producer-arranger Dave Bartholomew, who felt the song been done too many times already. Domino came up with the definitive version though, featuring his famous piano triplets and sly Cajun accent.”

On YouTube I also bumped into Louis Armstrong reprising his 1949 recording of Blueberry Hill on tour with his All Stars in Berlin in 1965 (with some especially effective trombone accompaniment from Tyree Glenn). And then I found Fats Domino himself reprising his 1956 hit 30 years later in a 1986 appearance on the Austin City Limits TV show from Texas.

In introducing his 1986 version of Blueberry Hill to the Austin City Limits audience, Fats Domino dedicated his performance to “the great Elvis Presley.” And one good source on what this means is Phil Arnold’s ElvisBlog, “Fats Domino and Elvis,” Posted on October 26, 2017. Elvis was known for such protests as “I’m not the King of Rock n Roll. Fats Domino is the King of Rock n Roll,” and for spelling out that Fats was “one of my influences from way back.” Elvis’s 1957 cover of Blueberry Hill — from “the soundtrack of the 1957 movie ‘Loving You’” — is just a very close and respectful copy of Fats Domino’s 1956 classic recording.

Father and daughter celebrating Canada Day, July 1, 2019.

Phil Arnold makes clear as well that in his own way (and despite his final struggles and ultimate too-early death) Elvis Presley was a class act :

“Elvis was famous for clowning around on stage, especially during his introductions of the band members. On February 23, 1970, he introduced his guitar player James Burton as Chuck Berry, piano player Glenn D. Harding as Steve Allen, and his band conductor Joe Cuercio as Leonard Bernstein. Then, Elvis said, ‘I used to be known as Fats Domino… until I lost weight.’”

All this of course has almost nothing to do with Canada Day. (Though Fats Domino was “Born in New Orleans to a French Creole family”, and is part of the same l’Amérique française as Canada.) But it lifts my spirits to where they should be on such a patriotic occasion. To all and any who might be interested, Happy Canada Day 2022.

(And I especially like Phil Arnold’s account of seeing Fats Domino’s band in person, as the final entertainment for “a huge convention in one of the big New Orleans hotels in the late 80s” …

I play the saxophone a little myself. And I really warmed to : “The band had four, yes four, sax players . Their contribution to the music was much greater in concert than on the records. They really wailed.”)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


2 comments
Leave a comment »

  1. Thanks for this. A helpful mix of facts that are useful (abortion rates), and personal reflections leading to my internal dialog becoming more nuanced. The shift from politics to music makes for an engaging time.

  2. Randall…great informative article as usual.
    I happen to hear on the occasion of a Bill Maher show that former republican senator, Rick Santorum, is so conservative that he believes that life begins at erection!!

Leave Comment