Monday, December 17, 2007

Sympathy for the Devil

Steely Dan auteur Donald Fagen gives the late Ike Turner his due in today's Slate.

Most all the musicians of my acquaintance know the legend of Robert Johnson, the great Delta bluesman. At a crossroads at midnight, Robert meets the devil (or Eshu or Papa Legba) and, in exchange for his immortal soul, comes away with supernatural skills as a singer and guitarist. Many versions of this Faustian story put the crossroads at Clarksdale, Miss., where Highway 49 meets Highway 61.

Muddy Waters was raised in Clarksdale. John Lee Hooker and Sam Cooke were born and grew up there. Ike Turner was a Clarksdale boy, too. This was the 1930s in the Deep South. Real bad stuff happened. Nevertheless, by the time he was a teenager, Ike could bang out a boogie on the piano and play the guitar with an authentic Delta twang. But, in truth, talented as he was, there wasn't anything really supernatural about Ike's skills as a musician. His singing was always spirited, but, relative to the wealth of local competition, no big deal. What Ike excelled at was leadership: conceptualization, organization, and execution. It's intriguing to think: If Ike walked down to the crossroads one moonless night, what exactly did he ask for?...

A really brilliant piece -- you can read the rest of it here.

Fuck you Fagen. I hate it when musicians make better rock critics than rock critics.

[h/t Eric C. Boardman]


Plum Pudding said...

come here monsieur Simels, i'll confort you

Anonymous said...

The liners for the reishs of the Steely Dan LPs are great too.

Anonymous said...

Fagan should have been a rock critic instead of a musician.

The article is much more interesting then Steely Dan's music ever was.

TJWood said...

Steve: I'm not ready yet to rate Fagen as a rock journalist over the likes of yourself, but it is an outstanding and very affecting piece of work--whatever one's opinion of Ike Turner is.