Singer-songwriter John Francis just released his new album, The Better Angels (which we recently featured as one of our local picks of the day). We asked John to do a little guest blogging for us and pick some of his favorite musicians—one song from each them and why he chose them. (John’s CD-release party is Friday, December 3rd at Tin Angel.)
Bruce Springsteen – “Streets Of Philadelphia”
“Receive me brother with your fateless kiss, or will we leave each other alone like this on the streets of Philadelphia?” Springsteen is one of my favorite artists and this song embodies why. He’s got that “human touch,” he speaks for us, and for people who have no voice, giving shape and texture and flesh to those often times intangible places inside each of us. In my years living in Philadelphia, I lived some of the lines in this song, as many of us have.
Public Enemy – “Can’t Truss It”
I love Chuck D cause he is a teacher. A historian, a truth-teller. The record ‘Fear of a Black Planet’ came out when I was in the 9th grade. The lessons in his lyrics confirmed my horrifying suspicions about American history and racism. Public Enemy’s story-songs are also a call to awareness and action. Thanks Chuck, it’s not easy to tell the truth, I’m grateful.
Johnny Cash – “Folsom Prison Blues”
This is Johnny Cash performing “Folsom Prison Blues” at San Quentin Prison with his band. This is why I love Johnny Cash and consider myself to be his student: “I wear the black for the poor and beaten down, livin’ on the hopeless hungry side of town. I wear it for the thousands who have died, believin’ that the Lord was on their side”. (From the song ‘Man in Black). He distilled all of his rage against injustice and his empathy for society’s outcasts into a singular symbol: wearing the color black. That’s why everyone from old guard Southern Baptists to tattoo covered punks with green hair can relate to Johnny, prisoners to presidents. He transcends because he is earthed in his own humanity and in all of humanity at large.
Bob Dylan – “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”
Shakespeare, Camus, Whitman, Twain…got nothin’ on this guy. I don’t trust anyone who dislikes Bob Dylan. Listen not just to the words, but the inflection and delivery. “He not busy being born is busy dieing.” What makes Dylan great is how he gets out of the way of the song.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe – “Up Above My Head”
One of my favorite singers / guitar players. She just lifts your spirit, doesn’t she? How about her guitar playing! Can I get an ‘amen’? Feel it?