Greg Brown, King of Pop, Cornershop, Apr 05 | Paul Wolfowitz, Greg Brown, King of Pop, and Cornershop


In honor of our administration’s highly ideological, idea-illogical, catch-as-catch-can, rationalize-as-you-go foreign policy and the second anniversary of Bush War II, I dedicate this music column to the president’s pick to run the World Bank, arch-neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz, second-in-command at the Defense Department.

A leading advocate for invading Iraq, “Wolfie” (as the presidentcalls him) predicted the “liberation” of Iraq would be greetedwith flowers and open arms (not IEDs and Kalashnikovs), that the operationwould go quickly and be paid for with Iraqi oil revenues (not cost over a billiondollars a week as the war enters its third year). In an interview after theinvasion, the chicken-hawkish Bush loyalist revealed that focusing on weaponsof mass destruction was the easiest way to mobilize public sentiment for theU.S. aggression.

Remember the Jimmy Stewart movie Harvey, the one about the invisiblerabbit? After several thousand of our own weapons inspectors spent a futileyear and a half combing Iraq for any trace of WMDs at a cost of over abillion dollars, the administration blames bad intelligence for not findingwhat wasn’t there.

Doesn’t the fact that Mr. Bush chased UN weapons inspectors outof Iraq because they couldn’t find what wasn’t there fastenough to stave off the imaginary threat from non-existent WMDs make youthink God either has a keen sense of irony or a twisted sense of humor?
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.
Okay, enough about politics—let’s talk about religion. Justkidding…

Greg Brown at the Englert

I was going to do a piece about Greg Brown for his upcoming concert atthe Englert Theatre in Iowa City, but I couldn’t get a hold of himor his people in time for an interview. One of Iowa’s favorite sons,Brown will be laying down his lethal brand of deep-throated heart ’o’ goldfolkslinger magic on Friday, April 22, at 8 pm. He seems to be touringless these days, so make some hay while the sun shines with an acclaimedsinger-songwriter whose songs have been performed by Willie Nelson, CarlosSantana, Michael Johnson, Shawn Colvin, and Mary Chapin Carpenter. DaveZollo will be opening.

The refurbished Englert is doing some very cool shows. (Leon Redbonewill have just performed by the time you’re reading this.) I lovethe way the place looks, inside and out. A tribute to community will,passion, and artistic vision, the Englert Theatre has been named to theNational Register of Historic Places. Check out upcoming events at

You know, Iowa has some aces up the sleeves of some pretty cool hands-onart stuff—anything CSPS in Cedar Rapids, the move to get a progressivemusic scene by the Greater Des Moines Music Coalition (DMMC) endorsedby the governor, Iowa City’s summer jazz and ped mall outdoor concerts,and Fairfield’s very successful 1st Fridays (of each month) ArtWalk series, a group trying to establish a downtown art district, anda new Civic Center underway—just to name a few.

Moonwalk Singing in the Dead of Night

Since I couldn’t do the piece I wanted on Greg Brown, I decidedto offer some unsolicited thoughts on Michael Jackson. The butt of zillionsof late night jokes, Jackson seems to make a lot of people really uncomfortableor angry. I find the country’s collective fixation on his businessbeyond the pale. For the record, I think children are sacred. But so isa man’s innocence—until proven otherwise.

I still remember the first time I heard Jackson sing. I couldn’tbelieve my earballs, even through cheap car-radio speakers. Every soulfulblues inflection, effortless swoop and holler, dip and falsetto flip allsung with such feel, pinpoint precision, and absolute self-assurance.The fact it was all emanating from a little black kid from Gary, Indiana,was incomprehensible.

At age 4, the Jackson 5 began. Lead singer at age 6. Signed to Motownat 10. First number one record at 12. Where do you go from there? Well,he just kept going and going till he became Elvis Presley, Fred Astaire,James Brown, and Diana Ross all rolled into one. When he did his “BillieJean” moonwalk thing at the 25 Year Motown Anniversary Special in1983, it was as monumental as the actual moonwalk. Call me a sentimentalfool but I still wish the king of pop would have had a daughter with theking of rock ’n’ roll’s daughter, ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley.

I have an uncorroborated theory on the secret of Jackson’s appeal:his connection to the female psyche. His fluid, free-flowing, effusivegroove nature hits the mainline with women. More Peter Pan than PeterGun, he is the polar opposite of the rigid alpha male power-freak Martianarchetype. His music releases a primal, volcanic force that is revelatory,soul-stirring. I believe dawgs get on the bus because chicks dig him—notin the Brad Pitt sense, but chicks grok his essence, style, wicked moves,and talent.

He was scheduled to do a television show in support of a new releasejust as this latest episode broke out. I hope we don’t have to readany “King of Pop Goes the Weasel” headlines. In any case,he remains one of the performers I’d most love to see in concert.Far as I’m concerned, when it comes to this latest rap, Michael,I hope you “Beat It.”

From Ragas to Richas: Singh, Singh a Song

Sometimes a CD falls into your hands and won’t stop playing itself.Thanks, George Foster, for laying Cornershop and their CD called Handcreamfor a Generation on me. Title cracks me up. As one reviewer put it: “Fromtraditional Indian sounds, through soul, punk, rock, reggae, dub and funk,with numerous pop culture references thrown in, Cornershop is a band unafraidto mix styles and influences in any way they please.”

Move over Mahatma, let Tjinder take over.

The London-based group is fronted by founder Tjinder Singh, the British-bornson of Punjabi immigrants who does vocals/guitars/keyboards/turntables.Formed in 1992, the band signed with David Byrne’s LuaKa BoP labelin ’95. Handcream (2002) is a funk-unctuous, dance-infectious disco-confectionof eclectic party tunes seasoned with an Indo-Indie slant. Sitar-guitarparts woven into 70s- and 80s-style little gems like “People Power(in the Disco Hour)”, the Stonesy “Lessons Learned from RockyI to Rocky III”, and the more rocking “Spectral Mornings,” a14-minute slam jam track with Oasis guitar player Noel Gallagher.

Singh’s voice reminds me of Dave Edmunds of Rockpile. His influencesinclude the Flaming Lips. In the early days, he burned Morrisey’spicture on stage to protest his skinhead imagery experimentation. Butmy favorite thing about Singh is he loves the Peter Sellers movie TheParty. Anybody who loves birdie num-num is all right in my book.

If I were president, I’d put Cornershop in charge of the WorldBank.