I, like most people in my generation, remember exactly where I was 50 years ago today when President John F Kennedy was assassinated. My dad was attending a conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on that day and had taken me out of school to accompany him on the trip. I was in a hotel room with another 10 year old when word of the events of that day was announced on television. The following is exactly what we heard.
I will never forget Walter Cronkite’s visible emotion when making the announcement. To be honest, neither of us was mature enough to have a full appreciation of the events but we understood enough to know that the world, and especially the US, had changed in some fundamental way.
The song that best captures that moment from 50 years ago is one that you have probably never heard. Beat Avenue by Eric Andersen is an amazing 26 minute epic description of his day among the beat generation in San Francisco on that day. The best way that any of us can honor President Kennedy is to listen to this song and reflect on why we, the human race, still have to deal with such events 5o years after this tragedy.
Today’s Long Song Tuesday offering is from a folk music legend, Eric Andersen. Eric’s music career has had more twists and turns than Lombard Street in San Francisco.
His career started in the early 60s music scene in Greenwich Village. He wrote a number of folk classics including my favorite, Violets of Dawn. He joined up with Columbia Records in the early 70s and released Blue River, his masterpiece. With his career on a roll, he recorded a follow-up album for Columbia called Stages and, although it sounds too strange to be true, the master tapes for the album were lost in the Columbia vaults. He left Columbia and released a number of uneven albums in the 70s and 80s but never equaled the success of Blue River until 1988 when he finally regained his artistic footing by recording and releasing Ghost Upon The Road. Ghost Upon the Road was widely acclaimed by critics and produced a song of the same name that is the subject of today’s Long Song offering. This masterpiece is clearly autobiographical and honors acquaintances who did not make through the turbulent times of the early 60s. The spoken word presentation and haunting instrumentation of Ghost Upon the Road make it unlike anything you have ever heard. Take a listen:
Speaking of those twists and turns in his career, the lost master tapes for Stages were finally uncovered in the early 90s and the album was released as Stages: The Lost Album in 1991. The album is out of print today but if you are persistent you should be able to find a used copy on Amazon like I did. Trust me when I say that your efforts will be rewarded when you finally get to listen to the album. Eric is still making music and if you enjoyed Ghost Upon the Road I encourage your to explore some of his 25+ albums. As always, let me know what you think.