For many across the United States, this has already been a long, cold, lonely (for some) winter, as described by the Beatles in “Here Comes the Sun.” The unpredictable, but hopefully transitional month of March awaits us on Monday, the flip side of this weekend. This will be the last time the month of March begins on a Monday until the year 2021.
March tantalizes us with diminishing darkness, artificially enhanced by the arrival of daylight savings time on March 14th, and gradually, but erratically warming temperatures. It has oftentimes been a blustery month, typically punctuated by sure signs of an early spring, budding trees and blooming flowers, all too often followed by an occasional unwelcome blizzard, temporarily burying these hopes beneath a heavy blanket of snow.
History reassures us that our weather will indeed change during the month of March. This can be illustrated by reviewing March weather at our current population center of the United States, which is located 2.8 miles east of Edgar Springs, Missouri, as determined by the 2000 census. One might ask if the recent ascendance of nearby Branson as a tourist destination was a coincidence? This location will likely change following the completion of the 2010 census, but during the 20th century, this point migrated 324 miles to the west and 101 miles to the south. Significantly, 79 of the 101 miles of southward movement occurred during the second half of the 1900s.
According to this website, the predicted high and low at Edgar Springs for March 1st, will be 39 and 28 degrees. Historical temperatures are first displayed for March 8th (54 and 31 degrees), and for March 31st, the average high/low temps have been 63 and 38 degrees, respectively. Particularly if typical weather patterns return, March does promise to be a month of significant change.
Two weeks after the beginning of the month, some will celebrate the Ides of March, the name given to March 15th in the Roman calendar. The term “ides” refers to the 15th day of the months of March, May, July and October. During ancient times, the Ides of March was a festive day dedicated to the god Mars and military parades were usually held. Of the four ides of the year, March is by far the best known, thanks to the Bard, in his play “Julius Caesar”, which graphically portrays a sudden, violent usurpation of political power through nefarious means.
As we are reminded by the Farmer’s Almanac, the weather in March is considered to be predictive. The best known saying seems to be:
“If March comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.”
These less well-known sayings are also listed on their website:
“A dry March and a wet May? Fill barns and bays with corn and hay.”
“As it rains in March so it rains in June.”
“March winds and April showers? Bring forth May flowers.”
This is an admittedly extensive lead-in, however, the question arises as to whether the month of March will not just be one of great change with respect to the weather, but in our political landscape as well. Surely, given our current climate in Washington, D.C., and many of our state capitols, the beginning of the month will quite likely come in “like a lion.” But, will it “go out like a lamb”? Extending this metaphor, will we witness increasing illumination, heralding increased transparency and accountability, shedding new light upon the workings of our large corporations, government, and those particularly malignant areas where the two have merged?
Warming of tempers will surely occur, at least for some, and quite possibly, for many. If the Democrats, in desperation, actually attempt to enact meaningful reform that might benefit the rank and file, the hearts of those who have so patiently waited for the change they worked so hard to bring about in 2008, will be appreciably warmed, although not to the extent of the Fox News junkies, whose blood will then be boiling with rage.
Should the Democrats choose to continue pursuing their lemming-like corporatist path, many of the former faithful will be overcome with white-hot rage, accompanied by a crushing sense of disillusionment. Progressive activists will surely become an endangered species, as legions of those who slightly over a year ago became politically active for the first time in their lives, permanently close the door to any future political involvement, ensuring a lengthy return of Republican domination, as Democrats, freshly voted out of office, collect their reward from the large corporations, whose selfish interests they so slavishly protected. Under such a scenario, our future will be such that the Bush/Cheney years seem like a Sunday school picnic by comparison, as this country descends ever further into Third World status.
All of the preceding sets the stage for this week’s featured song, which is a much covered blues standard. The song was originally written by T-Bone Walker and first recorded in 1947, pioneering the use of the electric guitar as a blues instrument. His version rose to #5 on the R&B charts in 1948. The great B. B. King said that this song inspired him to begin playing the electric guitar.
A similarly named song, recorded five years earlier in 1942 has led to some confusion. Bobby Bland’s cover version was mistakenly given the same name as the earlier song, leading to a misappropriation of resulting royalties.
A critically acclaimed film by the same name as this week’s feature song, which marked the debut of writer/director Michael Figgi in 1988, starred Sean Bean, Tommy Lee Jones, Melanie Griffith and Sting. The film vividly portrays seedy underworld politics, which would quite likely resonate in the present day. If you click on this link now, you will learn the identity of this week’s feature song, so if you’d like to prolong the suspense for just a little longer, you may wish to return to this link a little later. B. B. King’s performance of this week’s song can be heard during the opening credits. Happily, and a little sadly, this writer’s queue on Netflix continues to morph out of control.
For those aspiring musicians who might wish to perform their own cover version of this week’s feature song, the relevant Wikipedia article includes some helpful information that will soon follow. Although the song was originally written in the key of A flat major, it is usually performed in the key of G major (for which most keyboard players will be thankful), and follows the structure of an altered 12-bar blues, using the following chord progression.
G9 | C9 | G9/A flat 9 | G9 |
C9 | C9 | G9 / A minor7 | B minor7 / B flat minor7 |
A minor7 | C minor7 | G9 / C9 | G9 / D augmented
Without further ado, this week’s feature song, which many of you have probably already guessed, is that wonderful blues standard, “Stormy Monday.” We may wish to keep the lyrics of this song in mind as we bear witness to the ongoing theatre that will surely play out in our national and state capitols across the country. May we all hope that these lyrics will not accurately describe the reality of that which lies ahead. This writer will venture out onto a limb and predict that three days from now, we will directly witness a “Stormy Monday.”
Unlike many previous feature songs in this series, even though the T-Bone Walker version did rise to #5 on the R&B charts in 1948, most reading this diary probably do not associate warm memories of that time in conjunction with hearing the song. Perhaps this week we will note a more even distribution in terms of voting for the best version (or versions). This writer will most assuredly have a difficult time making this choice (or choices), since he is currently very impressed with all but one version (which is one of the covers).
The first version, of course, is by the original writer/performer, the great T-Bone Walker. If anyone knows when this performance took place, please let us know. Again, Walker first recorded “Stormy Monday” in 1947.
Bobby Bland, mentioned earlier in this diary, first recorded this song in 1962. The date of the performance is unknown…
? and the Mysterians were best known for their 1966 hit “96 Tears”, which represented their sole appearance on the Billboard Top 40 charts. The song rose to #1 and is ranked at #210 on the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The song was originally entitled “69 Tears”, but the title and lyrics were considered too risqué for radio airplay. Accordingly, the numbers were reversed, assuring that this song would become, for better or worse, a part of our pop culture, as it existed in 1966. Here is ? and the Mysterians’ cover version of “Stormy Monday”, also from 1966, which bears much of their signature style…
Here is a version by the incredible Buddy Guy from 1968…
The Allman Brothers also performed a great cover version of this song, which represented a departure from their usual fare, featuring a slower tempo and softer feel. Their considerable talents can be even better appreciated in their live performance at the Fillmore East in 1971…
Isaac Hayes showcases his prodigious talents at this 1972 Save the Children concert. This clip is derived from a long out of circulation video called “The Brothers and Sisters Live in Concert.”
Albert King & Stevie Ray Vaughn, as seen in this rendition from 1983…
Jethro Tull lends their signature styling to “Stormy Monday”, as performed in 1988…
Here is a great version by Lou Rawls, performing with the Les McCann trio, featuring Stanley Turrentine in 1989…
B. B. King and Albert Collins perform in this must see version from 1993…
The late, great Eva Cassidy performs Live at Blues Alley on January 3, 1996. Tragically, melanoma would claim her life later that year, on November 2, 1996, after only 33 years of earthly existence. Here is a version for the ages…
Eric Clapton, who needs no further introduction, from 2006…
Thank you to all for stopping by to visit. Your suggestions and comments are always welcome. Please have a safe and wonderful week!