Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Blues at the White House

The other night I was watching Blues Concert at the White House, another great PBS Special (thank you, PBS - TV worth watching, as they say)! Great old, and new, artists playing classic blues while the President and his guests looked on, tapping feet, head nodding, clapping to the different beats. Among the luminaries singing and playing were Keb Mo, Derek Trucks, Susan Tadeshi, Mick Jagger  (who commanded the room, by the way), B B King and Buddy Guy.

The Blues, of course, has its roots way back to the slave days, with the hollering songs of those poor folk, working away in the fields, back-breaking work in the sun. Our first presidents, though they professed equality and individual rights, still had their slaves working their farms for them for quite awhile. Many years passed before that would change.

Blues songs speak of the misery, the suffering, but in acknowledging it, there is joy! Sounds odd, but in the acknowledgment, one's spirits are lifted. There is a commonality. After all, we all suffer, whether it's by the hand of another, "He done me wrong", or "She had the nerve to put me out!"; or it may be self-induced, "I put her in the ground with my 44", or "Hellhound on my Trail".

Now, you may ask why am I going on about all this. Well, while I was watching the show, which took place in the East Room of the White House (the room for entertaining and those big State dinners), two paintings caught my attention. One of George Washington, and one of Martha Washington. Though they are paintings, and the images depicted in color and skin tones, I have to say, the images still look like frozen statues. One would never imagine that these people ever talked, let alone danced, joked, flirted, sang out, smiled or laughed out loud! BUT, they did!

Martha, of course, was more reserve, as were most women of the day, but George was quite a party-giver and goer. He loved to dance, and he played a mean fiddle! Just look at the painting above by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris shows a much more lively George. I like it!

We must not forget that these people actually lived and breathed, enjoyed parties, agonized over what to wear to a particular gathering, hoped for a good time. Some of the formal portraiture style does not allow our imagination to run and imagine their acutal existence. That's why I love some of the historical movie dramas, period pictures that tell their stories. Catch one soon: Jefferson in Paris, Barry Lyndon, the docu-drama John Adams, Liberty! (the mini-series), The Crossing. You won't be disappointed.

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