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JEAN SHEPHERD Kid Story–Flies & (154) ARTSY Summertime

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A Date With Flies

I am going to warn you, I have saved this story till late.  And I did this purposely.  I hope we’ve separated the sheep from the goats.  This is one of the truly traumatic experiences of my life, and this is not “remembrance.” When a guy is lying on a couch and the psychiatrist finally unearths this juicy nugget—the guy yells “Yeah!  Yeah, it’s true! Uh, uh,” is this reminiscence?  Is he being nostalgic?  No.

We’re just discussing the true-life-existence that we all go through.  Each one of us in our time—most of us cleverly erase these things as we go.  Some you never quite erase, but you rarely bring to mind.  The really bad things that happened, the bad, unexpected things that have really happened, that are deeply buried down in our own private storehouse of useless garbage, stuff that our lives would have been much better off without.

It happened in a June.  I’ve long since had this theory that the truly bad stuff—the stuff that really impresses you for being bad, are things that occur when all the indications were pointing in the opposite direction.  In other words, when things looked like it was going to be fantastic—and a total fiasco occurred.

Well, it was June.  I was about sixteen.  When you’re about sixteen, particularly when you’re sixteen and up, as a male, you get an almost pathological interest in the opposite sex.  This is not hearsay evidence.   I speak from experience.  The male at sixteen is a walking cake of human yeast.  Fantastic, hot currents flow through the blood like you wouldn’t believe.  I don’t know if this is true of girls.  I can only speak from the male standpoint.  I am not being a male chauvinist, I’m merely being a male realist.  And he retains it to a lesser or greater degree throughout his life.  The constant interest in the other sex.  Don’t make it too simple.  It’s not necessarily as an object of sex, either, it’s a whole, complex thing, the whole mystique of the girl.  Girls—it’s a different ballgame, you know?  And you’re drawn to it, You’re fascinated about it.  You form theories about it.  And it’s occasionally even discussed back of the garage.

Rumors float among the males.  Of one type or another.  And no matter how specific the information or knowledge gained through lectures, through film, it still has nothing to do with the real thing!  You can study warfare all you want, but the first time you get shot at, that’s another ballgame.  Whole new kettle of fish.

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SUMMERTIME REVISITED

One of these mornings
You’re going to rise up singing.
Then you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll fly to the sky.

As I’m enthralled by Billy Stewart’s over-the-top scatting of Gershwin’s “Summertime,” I decided to see how a few others have sung it in a jazzy way. Apparently the song is a major item for singers to interpret. I’ve watched/listened to a number of other renditions on YouTube. There are many, including elegantly traditional vocals by opera singers, who performed  without adding special interpretations, but those below represent ways some artists have altered the standard words and lyrics in ways that especially caught my ear. The jazz musicians all did wonderful interpretations. Janis powerfully expressed her usual emotional intensity.

As much as I’ve enjoyed jazzy takes on songs by all of the above, and interpretations by Frank Sinatra and others, it’s never occurred to me to make side-by-side comparisons. I enjoy them all, but none approached the quirky stratosphere of Billy Stewart. It’s Stewart’s “Summertime” and Ferry’s “Hard Rain” that got me to explore  other musical variations on a theme.

Ella gets shown twice—singing with Lois’ singing and playing trumpet, and her solo singing. Janis Joplin gets shown twice because of the dark, fuzzy images—and because her varied/expressive facial expressions deserve it.


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