The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

Adventures in the Vast Wasteland #39


On the December 18, 1970 taping of The Dick Cavett Show, Lester Maddox joins Jim Brown, host Dick Cavett and Truman Capote to talk things over and a Randy Newman song is born.

7 comments :

walterbiggins said...

And it's probably the greatest of all Randy Newman songs--complex, funny, and caustic.

Tom Sutpen said...

One thing I could never figure out about that song:

Who was the "smartass New York Jew" on that panel?

I mean, it wasn't Cavett; it wasn't Capote; and it sure as hell wasn't Jim Brown.

Greg F. said...

I always took that to mean that, to the narrator, any white man from the north ridiculing Lester is a smart-ass New York Jew, much like the epithet "pinko, commie, jew bastard" in which the accuracy of the description is of no concern. A dumbass redneck isn't going to bother to check on Cavett's genealogy.

mister muleboy said...

Actually, it's not Dick Cavett, it's Richard Alva Cavett. And they weren't talking things over, they were arguing.

And it's not skee ball, it's. . . .

estiv said...

I had always heard that it was David Susskind, not Cavett. Don't know how much of a smartass Susskind was, but he was definitely, like Randy Newman, Jewish.

Greg F. said...

For the curious, here's the interview with Randy Newman done in 1998 with Offbeat in Louisiana:

"I wrote “Rednecks,” after seeing [Lester] Maddox on the [Dick] Cavett show, and seeing him be treated rudely. He wasn’t even given a chance to prove what an idiot he was. It was like, they sat Jim Brown next to him, and the crowd was razzin’ him; he didn’t get a chance to talk. He didn’t get a chance to do anything, and they had just elected him Governor, in a state of six million or whatever, and if I were a Georgian, I would have been offended, irrespective of the fact that he was a bigot and a fool."

The mention of Jim Brown indicates that this is, indeed, the exact episode and interview Newman was watching and that his song's narrator would simply see Cavett as a "smartass New York Jew," regardless of whether he was or not.

DickGreenleaf said...

I remember that when Maddox demanded an apology after a few terse moments Cavett said that he apologizes to anyone he called a bigot, who isn't.