Commentary by Bill Buchanan
If you are a music fan, this is an exciting time in Ojai. We are about to receive a bounty of music unparalleled in most cities, and unheard of in towns our size.
This weekend marks the opening of the reconstructed Libbey Bowl, with the “First Blast” gala and concert Saturday at 8 p.m., followed by the “Day of Music” on Sunday. The “Day of Music” will feature groups on three stages continuously throughout the day. The gathering starts at 11:30 a.m., with an opening ceremony at noon, then music until 8:30 p.m. The “Day of Music” is free to the public. The following Thursday, June 9, ushers in the 65th annual Ojai Music Festival featuring performances from world-class musicians. Many music lovers gladly travel great distances to hear what we are about to have served to us in our own back yard. It is the equivalent of world-class chefs traveling all the way to Ojai just to serve you breakfast in bed.
I have loved music for a long time. Growing up I adored groups like the Beetles, Rolling Stones, The Who and The Doors. Like so many of my generation, I dreamed I was destined for a career in music. It turned out that I had no talent and didn’t like to practice. Otherwise, a legend would have surely have been born.
But my lack of musical ability did not suppress my love of music. There are so many wonderful things about music. Perhaps no other artistic genre offers so many diverse forms from which to choose. I cut my teeth on pop, and Motown, then fell completely into rock ‘n’ roll. I later grew to love other types of music. I discovered blues, and became a Buddy Guy fan. I listened to Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and came to love jazz. I found the incredible music of Billie Holiday, which combined the best of jazz and blues like no one else. I also came to appreciate the tremendous influence that classical, blues and jazz had exerted on the rock ‘n’ roll that I loved.
I have my favorites, but I enjoy listening to most anything. However, there are exceptions. For me, these are rap, bluegrass, Dixieland jazz, Frank Sinatra and (gasp) Elvis Presley.
It’s not that I dislike rap music. I hate it. While there are some songs that feature clever lyrics and rhymes, for the most part, I find rap misogynistic, vulgar and derivative. Several years ago on a trip to England, Ava and I rented a car and drove through the countryside. It was gorgeous, but driving was a nightmare. The car was a standard shift, which meant I shifted left-handed as I sat on the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road. My personal vision of hell is to be forced to drive through England in that same car listening to rap music for eternity.
I grew up on bluegrass music, and developed a strong distaste for it at an early age. It just sounds primitive and coarse to me. Ava reminds me constantly that bluegrass is a descendent of Celtic music, which I love. I know they are related. I find Celtic lilting and haunting. When I hear it, I think of lush rolling hills, green mountains overlooking a swirling sea and lovely red-headed women. When I hear bluegrass, I think of slack jaws, faded overalls and a failure to marry outside one’s own family.
Ava and I lived in Louisiana for five years and I even learned to like and appreciate Zydeco, an acquired taste to say the least. But I have never been able to stomach Dixieland jazz. My theory is that there was only one Dixieland jazz song ever written. It has a few variations, but it ends up sounding all the same to me.
Sometimes I think I am the only person on Earth who doesn’t love Frank Sinatra. I have heard the argument over and over and over from those who believe he is the greatest ever. But I just don’t get it. There is no soul in his music to me—- it sounds over-rehearsed, over-orchestrated without a hint of spontaneity. It all sounds phony and forced.
In the South, it is considered a sacrilege to disparage Elvis Presley. To his credit, he had a few truly great songs —- “Kentucky Rain,” “Suspicious Minds” (although Dwight Yoakum’s version is superior in my opinion) and “In the Ghetto.” Everything else he sings is either too “Vegas” or too redneck for me. If Elvis came back from the dead and played a free concert across the street, I wouldn’t look out the window.
But another great thing about music is one man’s audio jewel is another’s earache. We are in for a great two weeks of music. There will be something for everyone. Come out and enjoy it.