The First Farm Aid

On September 22, 1985, the first “Farm Aid” was held in Champaign, Illinois. Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp organized the benefit concert for struggling American farmers. Performers at that concert included a broad range of performers, including Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Hoyt Axton, Don Henley, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Billy Joel, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Loretta Lynn, Joni Mitchell, Charley Pride, Sammy Hagar, George Jones, and Lou Reed.

Reportedly, the idea for Farm Aid began when Bob Dylan played at Live Aid earlier in the year in July and suggested some of the money from that concert should go to American farmers. While some — including Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof — were upset that Dylan exploited the stage of a worldwide televised concert in support of African famine relief to focus on Americans, other artists used the comment as inspiration for the Farm Aid concert. And Farm Aid benefit concerts continue to this day.

That September 22 in 1985, the performers did not know that the work would continue for decades. But they joyously sang and played to try to give something back. Below is one of the performances that day in Illinois, featuring Willie Nelson, Arlo Guthrie, and Dottie West singing “City of New Orleans.”

What is your favorite Farm Aid performance? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    “It Ain’t You” From Ray Benson and Willie Nelson (Song of the Day)

    Bismeaux Records earlier this year released a second solo album from Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel. The new album, A Little Piece, features the song “It Ain’t You” with Willie Nelson.

    TwangNation explains that Benson and Nelson have been friends for more than forty years, going back to when Nelson advised Benson to move to Austin in 1973. Benson explains that he could not believe that nobody had yet covered the song written by Waylon Jennings and Gary Nicholson. He asked Nelson to record it with him because, “The song is about growing old and yet feeling and acting young…it felt so appropriate for us to do.”

    The video of the beautiful song captures images of Nelson and Benson through the years. Check it out.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Brandon Flowers and Others Cover “New” Johnny Cash Songs

    French video series La Blogothèque has released a video of three performers covering tracks off of the upcoming Johnny Cash release, Out Among The Stars. As we previously reported, the new album puts together tracks that Cash recorded in 1981 and 1984, including one song that David Allan Coe had a hit with in 1985. This new video features Brandon Flowers (of the Killers), Father John Misty, and Local Natives each covering one song from the CD, performing isolated in the desert.

    First, Flowers performs “I Came to Believe.” Father John Misty plays “Baby Ride Easy,” which is a duet by Cash and June Carter Cash on the album. Finally, Local Natives gives their take on the title song from the album, “Out Among the Stars.” Check it out.

    If you want to hear a little more from the actual Johnny Cash album, here is another track that appears on the album. Johnny Cash joins Waylon Jennings singing the Hank Snow song, “I’m Movin’ On.”

    Out Among the Stars hits stores Tuesday, April 1. For those excited about the new album from Johnny Cash, there are more unreleased Cash recordings in the vaults.

    Will you get the new Johnny Cash album? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Salt and Nails

    A recent article in the New Yorker recounted how during World War I, U.S. Army doctors doing medical inspections discovered a high incidence of goitre. Because of a lump on their necks from a swelling of a thyroid gland, a number of men could not button the top button of their uniforms. Eventually, doctors also noticed that the recruits were more likely to have the problem if they lived far from the ocean. (Malcolm Gladwell, “Man and Superman,” New Yorker 16 (9 Sept. 2013).)

    Eventually, they determined that an iodine deficiency caused the goitre, as well as deficiencies in intelligence. Those who lived nearer the ocean were getting more iodine in their diet while those elsewhere were not getting enough of it because oceans maintain iodine levels better than soil. Because iodine is not present in a lot of food, the government convinced the Morton Salt Company to start adding iodine to its salt in 1924. And IQ’s rose and incidences of goitre dropped. Iodine supplements have similarly increased IQ’s around the world.

    One of the best songs with “salt” in its title is “Rock Salt and Nails,” written by Utah Phillips. Although YouTube does not have a video of Phillips singing his song, in this video, Tony Norris plays part of the song and tells how Phillips came to write it.

    A number of artists have covered the song, including Joan Baez, Flatt & Scruggs, and Waylon Jennings. The song is not really about iodized salt, and the reference to salt in the title does not appear in the song until the final shocking line. In the song, the singer reveals his sorrow because a lover has betrayed him. The song reflects both his anger and his sadness. Regarding the latter, he cannot help thinking back on happier times: “Now I lie on my bed and I see your sweet face / The past I remember time cannot erase.” But at the end of the song, he exclaims that if ladies were squirrels, he would “fill up his shotgun with rock salt and nails.”

    Steve Young
    recorded what many consider a landmark outlaw country album in 1969 that used Phillips’s song for the title track. The album featured guest musicians like Gram Parsons.

    My favorite version, though, is the one by Buddy and Julie Miller from their 2001 album Buddy & Julie Miller. I am a fan of anything by Buddy and Julie, and here Buddy’s powerful voice captures the anger and sadness in the song perfectly.

    So today’s lesson is eat a little salt for your thyroid and to get smarter. But try to get through your day without loading some salt and nails in your shotgun.

    What is your favorite version of “Rock Salt and Nails”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Tompall Glaser RIP

    Country outlaw Tompall Glaser passed away this week. Glaser had a distinguished career, performing with his brothers and running a publishing company. But most of us know him for his work on the first “outlaw” country album, appropriately named Wanted! The Outlaws. The 1976 album — which also featured Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter — was a landmark album that went platinum.

    One of the songs Glaser performed on the album, along with “Put Another Log on the Fire,” was “T for Texas.” Here he is performing the song in the 1980s.

    Glaser also co-wrote the great song, “Streets of Baltimore,” for Bobby Bare. The song contains a lot of alt-country street cred because of the wonderful version by Gram Parsons. More recently, the song has been covered by The Little Willies. Here is a 2006 Virginia performance of the song by Ryan Adams.

    T for thanks for the great music, Mr. Glaser. Rest in peace.

    What is your favorite Tompall Glaser song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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