Friday, July 5, 2013

Gimme Jimi

Some 3,000,000 people watched the fireworks over the East River in NYC last night in person. That’s roughly equal to the entire population of Lithuania or of Panama. I wasn’t one of them; I’m not as fond of the crush of crowds and the boredom of traffic jams as I once was. It was a huge and colorful display, though, for those who like that sort of thing. Several smaller displays were in nearby parks and towns, but I passed on them, too. Fireworks have been part of the 4th of July on these shores since the one-year anniversary in 1777, when the Americans used precious gunpowder for celebrations in Philadelphia and Boston; New York was held by the British. Those fireworks didn’t hold a candle to the five-hour display staged by Peter the Great when his son was born, but they were enough to start a tradition. (I suspect my dad just lit a cigarette the day I was born; he didn’t quit smoking until 15 years later.)

I remember seeing professional displays of 4th of July fireworks at least twice as a toddler when my family lived in Whippany, NJ, which means my earliest attendance at such an event was no later than 1958. I liked them well enough, I suppose, but those two times pretty well satisfied my appetite for them. Nowadays I feel about them much the way most dogs do. I prefer the other tradition: barbecue. (Come to think of it, dogs agree with that, too – I’m sensing a pattern.)

Nonetheless, I did watch the NBC special, partly to see the crowd I was pleased didn’t include me and partly for the musical guests. Then the fireworks began, coordinated with musical selections and with lights on the Empire State Building. That brings us to the reason for this post. I have a suggestion about the fireworks music next time. The use of Jimi Hendrix’ ironic version of The Star Spangled Banner at first seemed to be a welcome bit of brashness on the part of the show organizers. But only at first, because the central part of the tune was excised and replaced by traditional music. Dudes and Dudesses, when you do that, you merely call special attention to what you cut out. So either have the courage to play the whole song, or don’t even start. I recommend the whole thing.

Just an opinion.

Woodstock ‘69

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