RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Monday, April 27

SONG OF THE DAY: Living for the City

I miss LPs. You know full-blown conceptual LPs but that were limited by the amount of space to press grooves into 12 inches of wax, but could be packaged in sleeves that sometimes opened up gatefold style, or others didn’t but might have a designed sleeve on the inside holding the album. Concepts still happen all the time, but the notion of weaving concepts into tapestry of concept for larger development of a theme is to a large extent lost. I mean, whatever, that’s how this shit works. The way you physically make the art (which in this case is digitally) changes the limitations of it. When we started having CDs, they could add bonus tracks because you could squeeze more minutes into a CD burn than an LP press.
My folks had a healthy record collection when I was young, which I guess is to be expected from young parents who smoked a lot of weed. Some albums intrigued me a lot, because of the overall weight they seemed to hold, in terms of the music as well as the packaging. Outlaw country and old school singer songwriter types were probably the bread and butter of my dad’s records he played, either drunk or hungover on weekend days. But Innervisions got constant play, especially the side with “Living for the City”. My dad famously liked to say the only time he went to New York City was riding a bus back to Virginia from having done a stint in juvie in Ohio when him and a friend stole a Cadillac to meet some girls in Michigan. He was eating in the bus stop café, and some crazy guy banged on the glass at him, trying to get him to come outside and fuck his entire life up forever. My dad detested the city, likely because it was scary. When my folks dropped me off at my dorm when I moved to Richmond to go to college, he was upset he was leaving his oldest kid and only son in the fucking city. In later years, the few times I could convince him to give me a ride to whatever shitty apartment I lived in, he never took the bypass or interstate, always straight up 360 until it turned to Hull Street, and once we got past Chesterfield almost to where Richmond city proper, he’d pull his pistol out of the glove compartment and sit it on the seat next to him, forever convinced shit was about to jump off at any point. Now to his credit, my dad was probably involved in some sketchy shit in Richmond area environs from time to time back in the day, and usually sketchy realms have the ever-present threat of attack come with that. But it tripped me out he’d just be casually riding up Hull Street to Grace, pistol at his side.
When I was a teenager, and we got one of those turntable/cassette recorder combo deals, I showed him how to plug a set of headphones into the mic slot and use it to record yourself talking, and he’d make these mixtapes all the time of him playing records and acting like he was a DJ. This was after my folks had split up and me and him lived in a trailer down the road from the house I grew up in where my mom still lived. Not much more country than that life back then, front door open whenever it was even halfway warm, for anybody passing by to stop and share a shot of Beam or bowl of homegrown. He’d make those mixtapes, and have them set up in the dual cassette recorder, playing back to back, so he wouldn’t have to change the music for ninety minutes, letting one side of each tape go, then just flip them both. And he’d always have “Living for the City” in the mix. Pretty sure I heard on more than one mixtape he made the three song combo of “Longhaired Country Boy” by Charlie Daniels Band followed by “Living for the City” and then “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat, & Tears. You could probably sum up my dad’s philosophy on the whole fucking world in that three song combo.
I think about what he’d be like if he hadn’t died young, and was still here during this fucked up political time. It’d be so depressing to have to argue with his stubborn ass if he ended up a Trump person, which is hard to figure. He hated cops pretty badly, definitely taught me my deep distrust of the system, so he’d never be good with those blue lives matters types. But who the fuck knows man? People getting brainwashed left and right, thinking obedience to corrupt figurehead is some sort of rebellious act.
The fucked up thing is the story of “Living for the City” isn’t really any different. Michelle Alexander made a whole book about it, essentially, The New Jim Crow. It’s fucked up when you have these artistic statements about important shit, and then forty years later, ain’t shit changed. Art can point out all the problems in the world but as long as we have corrupt assholes in charge, nothing changes. Fuckers.

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