IBJOpinion

MARCUS: Uptight music for uncertain times

Morton Marcus
April 23, 2011
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Morton Marcus

I was impressed. Tefla and the Teflons were smooth singers and slick musicians, but I felt something missing. They lacked substance, soul and context.

After the set, Tefla came over to my table. A young woman tall enough to play in the WNBA, with long red hair, she sang lead and sported a clarinet.

“You’re the female Benny Goodman,” I joked.

“Benny never sang,” Tefla replied sternly. She downed a lemon-lime drink made on site from real lemons and limes.

“Your music is,” I suggested, “adjusting for the time period and intervening cultural changes, somewhat like his.”

“Not in the least,” Tefla denied, with fire in her voice and eyes.

“I disagree,” I disagreed. “Goodman’s music was decidedly upbeat in a down era—the Depression and World War II. He played music for dancing, swing for swaying, sentiment for sighing.”

“The Teflons’ songbook is totally different,” she protested.

“Yes,” I said, “and no. You sing a different form of escapism, but it is escapist, nonetheless. It is music for lonesome people, disappointed lovers and uncertain dreamers. It is the angst of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, when people feel betrayal in the air and crushed aspirations underfoot.”

“You’re a gloomy one,” Tefla declared.

“Oh, no,” I said. “It’s the simple truth. Goodman, Shaw, Miller and the Dorseys did not play the authentic, gritty songs of their times like ‘Brother Can You Spare a Dime?’ Nor did they play the happy music acknowledging the hard times yet looking ahead to a better future.”

“For example?” she asked.

“The signature song of the ’30s: ‘Happy days are here again; The skies above are clear again; Let us sing a song of cheer again; Happy days are here again.’” I sang and received glares from the other tables. “Wouldn’t it be delightful to hear something like that for our times?”

“Ours is the music for our worrisome age,” Tefla insisted. “Our songs are for the dispirited millions—not the disporting millionaires—employed or unemployed, working or retired, in or out of school. In the ’30s, there was hope that business or unions or government or nature would pull us out of the Depression. You could have a Woody Guthrie praise the hydro-electric power of the Grand Coulee Dam and wax patriotic because, ‘This land is your land, this land is my land.’

“In World War II,” she continued, “everyone had to be upbeat. Sorrow was everywhere in the casualty reports, but we all knew ‘We’ll meet again’ when there were ‘Bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover.’ That’s not today.

“Now, we have no grand initiatives except to cut spending and cut taxes. No vision guides us, no hope directs us to a proud post-war America. Few of our fellow citizens understand the many problems stemming from unending wars.

“We’ve emerged from a decade of fear and excess optimism and turned inward. Unyielding ideology combines with extremist language to poison the air. Members of the new majority reject their fellow citizens and build their self-respect on suppressing the aspirations of others who experience significant adversity.”

“Those are tough words,” I said.

“That’s why we sing the blues. They resonate with the tough people living tough lives who listen to our songs,” Tefla said on her way back to the bandstand.•

__________

Marcus taught economics for more than 30 years at Indiana University and is the former director of IU’s Business Research Center. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at mmarcus@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Hello Dear Are you tired of Seeking Loans and Mortgages,have you Been Turned down constantly By your banks and Other Financial Institutions or Micro Finance scheme. This is let you know with 100% guarantee that we Offer loans ranging from $1,000 Minimum to $1,000,000.00 Maximum at 3% interest rate per Month. We give out LOANS for developing business. a competitive edge/business expansion. email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com We offer the following kinds of loans and many more; * Personal Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Business Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Consolidation Loan * Combination Loan * Home Improvement * Xmas Loans for contact to seek for loan email this email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com Thanks

  2. My name is Mr Henry Josh and i live in the USA California and life is worth living right now for me and my family and all this is because of one man sent by GOD to help me and my family, i once had a life filled with sorrow because my first SON needed a kidney transplant and all our savings were going towards his medications and this normally leaves us with no money to pay our bills or even put enough food on our table and our rent was due and no funds to pay these bills and life felt so unfair to me and every night my wife will cry herself to sleep every night until one day, i was browsing through yahoo answers and i saw a striking advert of a man that gives out personal loans and that the offer is opened to all and i have heard so many things about internet scams but at this point of my life, i was very desperate and ready to take any risk and at the end of the day, i applied for this loan and from one step to another, i got my loan within 12 hours through bank transfer and you know, it was all like a dream and i called Mr Daniel Jones A Man who is the GOD sent lender i found and said, i have received my loan and he smiled stating that to GOD be the glory and i was so shocked as i have never ever seen anyone with such a GOD fearing and kind heart and today, i am the happiest man on earth because by GOD’S grace, my SON kidney transplant was successful and today he is healthy, i and my family are living very comfortable and happy and if you are in my former situation or in serious and legitimate need of a loan, you can reach this GOD sent lender via fidelityloanfirm@outlook.com

  3. Greetings to everyone reading this comment!!! I am Greg William by name. I am out here to recommend the effort of Mark Oscar,I was in need of a consolidation loan amount of 50,000 and as soon as I got in contact with Mark Oscar Loan Firm on Wednesday last week and on Friday last week as well I receive an alert from my bank(Royal Bank of Scotland Group) that the fund was transferred,I want everybody on this site to contact Mark Oscar now via email on how to get a loan because I got my loan from them and I am very happy,so contact them now. Oscarloanfinance@hotmail.com Thanks!!!!!!

  4. Elected officials, like Mourdock, get vested in 8 years. It takes 10 years for all other public employees, most of whom make a lot less money. So much for the promise to finish out his term.

  5. Great state treasurer and a good man!! Just curious if the folks who didn't quite understand his quote would like to tell my daughter-in-law that God didn't intend her! Mourdock's comment was correct but twisted and the article didn't mention that his opponent and the press let the impression stand that Mourdock meant that the rape was intended. Stupid people!!

ADVERTISEMENT