Bob Dylan’s songs are part of American consciousness, with sources and symbols drawing from old-time country and folk, blues and ballads, ancient and modern poetry, the beauties and absurdities of life, love and loss. His contributions to the big river of songs have grown and been recognized worldwide. The young man from Hibbing, Minnesota, is now an elder… a Nobel Laureate; but his listeners didn’t need that or any such weathervane to prize Bob Dylan. It was, and is, always in his words and voice, music and memory where fans and friends found inspiration. Bob’s songs ask questions and seek action. They remain timely in this dark season with a New Year ahead. We hear Dylan’s early, classic, rare and more recent recordings along with comments from Joan Baez and filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker (“Don’t Look Back”). Also Dylan’s music as played by the Byrds and the Band, Stevie Wonder and Nina Simone, Doug Sahm and Sandy Denny. We hope you enjoy listening to this program as much as we did making it.
For this special holiday edition of American Routes, we get into the spirit of the season with live performances by Irma Thomas, the Soul Queen of New Orleans, and gospel greats the Blind Boys of Alabama at Preservation Hall in the French Quarter. Blind Boys’ founding member Jimmy Carter tells of his long life on the road through the Jim Crow South and around the world, and Irma Thomas describes her gospel roots and soul music’s role in protest and healing. Plus, we keep the holiday festivities going with a joyous jukebox of blues and jazz, Cajun and country, solstice and seasonal tunes.
During the Cold War, the U.S. State Department started sending jazz musicians overseas with the tactical aim of using their hot licks to thaw relations with Eastern Bloc countries. Jazz great Dave Brubeck recalls how Louis Armstrong, a.k.a. “Ambassador Satch,” won international hearts and minds with his trumpet. Band member Arvell Shaw saw Armstrong literally disarm Russian guards in East Berlin. Meanwhile, fear of nuclear war with the Soviets infiltrated American popular consciousness resulting in gospel, bluegrass and pop odes to and protests against atomic weapons. In the Sixties, the airwaves were dominated by rock’n‘roll, which pirate radio stations and the Armed Forces Network piped across the Iron Curtain. AFN soldier/deejay Rik De Lisle tells about spinning tunes that helped destabilize the Berlin Wall, and Hungarian diplomat/rock guitarist Andras Simonyi and Russian musician Stas Namin talk about life in the Soviet sphere and the cultural revolution sparked by the Beatles, Traffic and Jimi Hendrix.
This week on American Routes, we’re celebrating the life and music of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. Schooled in the sounds of his family and New Orleans’ Treme neighborhood, Shorty has been a musician since the age of four. His natural prowess as a trombonist and trumpeter has carried Shorty from his roots in traditional jazz and popular tunes to funk and distinctively new New Orleans music as heard on the recent CD Parking Lot Symphony. We’ll hear a classic concert, where he joins Kermit Ruffins upriver in St. Paul, MN… and then return to New Orleans where Troy takes the stage with his students from the Trombone Shorty Academy, as Andrews mentors the city’s next generation of musicians.