James Francis “Jim” Thorpe was born around May 28, 1887 near the town of Prague, Oklahoma. Because there was no birth certificate, different sources list different birth dates with one official website listing the May 28, 1887 date while Wikipedia lists the birth date as May 22, 1887. The Bio website lists the birth date as a year later on May 28, 1988. Either way, the Native American would grow up to be regarded as one of the great — if not the greatest — American athlete of all time.
Thorpe’s athletic career included two All-American honors while playing college football (1911 and 1912). He won the pentathlon and the decathlon at the 1912 Summer Olympics. He later played professional baseball and football, even doing a stint on a basketball team. Despite his great talents, he faced great difficulties in his life, including ongoing racism, a controversy about his Olympic medals, alcoholism, and struggles to make a living wage. Even after his death in 1953, his body has not been able to rest in peace, as battles continue about his remains, which were bought by a Pennsylvania town named after the athlete as a tourist attraction. But Thorpe left a lasting legacy, continuing to receive honors after his death, such as the 1963 induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Below is a short video about Thorpe’s career, which also states his birth date as May 28, 1888. Check it out.
Regarding longer feature films, Jim Thorpe had a cameo in Knute Rockne, All American (1940), and Burt Lancaster played Thorpe in Jim Thorpe – All-American (1951).
Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard have teamed up to release the new album Django And Jimmie (2015). The two men, who created country gold with the similarly named 1983 album Pancho & Lefty, feature a range of styles on their new album, incorporating some humor along the way with songs like “It’s All Going to Pot” and “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash.”
Check out this video about the making of “Missing Ol’ Johnny Cash,” a song that also features help from Bobby Bare.
Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s Django and Jimmie hits stores on June 2, and for a short time you can give it a streaming listen on NPR First Listen. The title song from the album celebrates guitarist Django Reinhardt and country music legend Jimmie Rodgers.
I’m a sucker for a good concept album, with albums like Willie Nelson’s Red-Headed Stranger (1975) and Marty Stuart’s The Pilgrim (1999) ranking among my favorite albums of all time. Now, I can add to that list with one of the best albums of 2015, Tom Russell‘s The Rose of Roscrae: A Ballad of the West.
My friend Sid introduced me to Tom Russell’s music many years ago, and while I have been a fan, his new album really blew me away. Spanning 2 CDs, the ambitious project tells the story of the character of Johnny Dutton, tracing his life from his teenage years in Ireland in the 1880s — when he is chased by the father of his love the Rose of Roscrae — through his travels through the American West, where he becomes an outlaw known as “Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce,” and through other parts of the world.
Like Nelson’s Red-Headed Stranger and Stuart’s The Pilgrim, Russell’s Rose of Roscrae features a broken-hearted man through troubled times as he seeks redemption, but the album also gives us the point of view of the central woman too. The title song is a haunting ballad that appears in various forms through the saga.
Russell weaves together an interesting story, including fictional and real-life characters. Although the main character appears to be fictional (even though there was a real-life Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce who inspired a character in a Kevin Costner movie), the story interweaves with real characters, as in the case of Johnny’s redemption through an encounter with Joseph Dutton leading him to a real American Saint, Father Damien.
The story is told with original songs interwoven with other songs you will already know, including contributions from other artists as well as older recordings. Thus, the album features the voices of Joe Ely, Dave Olney, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Gretchen Peters, Eliza Gilkyson, Jimmy LaFave, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Lead Belly, Johnny Cash, and even the actual voice of Walt Whitman. The second CD gives us more of Rose’s view of events through the beautiful voice of Maura O’Connell.
Of course, despite the story and the guests, the album would not work if the music did not rise to the occasion, and it certainly does, covering a broad range of styles — including country, Irish, Mexican, and cowboy songs. As in the case of many other concept albums, certain musical themes are repeated throughout the set, so they need to be strong songs that bear repeated listening. Songs like “The Rose of Roscrae,” “She Talks to God,” and “Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce” carry their weight and hold up well besides classic ballads like “Red River Valley.” Another one of my favorites is “Midnight Wine.”
I first listened to the album on a long car drive, which may be the best way to take in the expanse of the story from beginning to end. I bought it through an Amazon download the day before the trip, but there is a booklet with more about the story that comes with the CD (and unfortunately, unlike other CD’s, there was no digital version of the booklet with the digital purchase).
In a fair and just world, Tom Russell’s The Rose of Roscrae would be played on radio stations, have high sales, and win Grammy and other music awards. For now, those of us lucky enough to discover the album will just have to thank Russell, who, freed from the pop music culture, could aim for something higher. As AllMusic notes, “This is his masterpiece.” Below is a video where Russell discusses the creation of the concept and the making of The Rose of Roscrae.
What do you think of “The Rose of Roscrae”? Leave your two cents in the comments.
The tenth track on The Beatles’ White Album (1968), “Martha My Dear,” was a tribute by Paul McCartney to someone he loved: “That you and me were meant to be for each other / Silly girl.” But it was not about a girlfriend. It was about his Old English sheepdog.
Martha was McCartney’s first pet, and if you are shocked to learn that “Martha My Dear” is about a dog, you are not alone. John Lennon was surprised when he saw how much McCartney loved the dog.
After discovering how much he could love an animal, McCartney went on to have other Old English sheepdogs and to become a famous vegetarian. Martha, however, likely holds a special place as his first and as the inspiration for a song.
And Martha has her own Facebook page that is dedicated to her too.
What is your favorite song about an animal? Leave your two cents in the comments.
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