Out in the street a crowd is gatherin’

Empty items from a cluttered mind:

Today’s show is live and local, in the air everywhere over CMU’s very independent free-form WRCT-FM (88.3) and online at McKeesport’s www.tubecityonline.com/radio. I’ll be taking your requests from 12 to 3 p.m. at 412-385-7450.

Speaking of McKeesport, from where I do the show most weekends, someone asked me Friday morning “Why are you so committed to the Mon Valley?”

I said, “You’re right, I probably should be committed.”

On the other hand, I worked from the studio on Friday, and this was the view from my window, which wasn’t too shabby:

The creator of the fivethirtyeight.com website, political prognosticator Nate Silver, has been laid off by ABC News.

According to our models, there’s a 50-50 chance he didn’t see that coming.

Paul Stanley of KISS and Dee Snider of Twisted Sister think transgender kids need to learn to conform. (They have since walked back their comments, saying they’re not transphobic and that they were misunderstood.)

Irony is really dead if these two guys are criticizing people who don’t conform with gender roles:

In the wake of protests against alt-right speakers, universities say they’re “denouncing would-be censors on the left and the right,” according to an article I read this week.

“Knowledge doesn’t advance unless we are able to engage all ideas, even those some don’t want explored,” says the president of Cornell University.

Well, then, she should have no problem hosting NAMBLA and the KKK. They certainly have “ideas” that “some don’t want explored.” Somehow I’m guessing she would draw the line there.

Far-right extremists in Florida, Texas and elsewhere are voting to ban books, fire teachers, defund universities and libraries, and discriminate against the LGBTQ communities. In defense of their own high-minded principles, liberals appear willing to let them — and not only that, to give those extremists platforms from which to advocate for their radical, anti-democratic positions.

The philosopher Karl Popper wrote about the tolerance paradox:

“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.”

A lot of liberals seem to be willing to tolerate intolerance in defense of their own principled stands, but at the expense of common sense. To borrow another phrase, by all means, let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains fall out.

I’m not an Ed Sheeran fan, but I had a hard time seeing any similarity between “Thinking Out Loud” and Marvin Gaye‘s “Let’s Get it On,” beyond the fact that they were both written in similar keys, and about the same length. So I’m glad he prevailed in the copyright lawsuit that was filed against him.

Writing in The Washington Post, singer-songwriter Elizabeth Nelson had a pretty good overview of the issues at stake:

The notion of copyrighting any chord progression, let alone one as common as the one used in “Let’s Get It On,” makes no more sense than copyrighting the numbers six and 13 or the conjunctions “and” or “but” … the litigants no more “own” that progression than they have a legal claim on the wind or the rain.

On Mastodon, Alert Listener Chris asked, “Isn’t the ‘Blurred Lines’ copyright case the one that really kicked this mess into high gear? I believe it’s a reason Olivia Rodriguez kept adding co-authors to her songs to avoid litigation. If true, the Marvin Gaye estate is doing its damnest to destroy music. What a waste.”

Maybe, but I remember doing a mash-up one Saturday on my show between Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and the song it was accused of infringing, Marvin Gaye‘s “Got to Give it Up.” As I cross-faded from one to the other, there were some really strong similarities. You could essentially sing one song to the other’s melody. With the Sheeran case, the similarities were much harder to find.

Unfortunately, lawsuits like this are likely to flourish. For one thing, as Nelson points out, streaming services have caused the sale of physical music to slow to a crawl, leaving artists, publishers and labels scrambling to find new sources of revenue. If lawsuits over suspected plagiarism provide a possible stream of income, expect more of them.

More to the point, copyright law in general seems to be pretty screwed up right now, starting with the extension of copyrights long past the deaths of the people who created their original works, and the assignment of copyrights to big megalith corporations that don’t create anything … except lawsuits.

Speaking of music lawsuits, one of my favorite podcasts, “Omnibus” with Ken Jennings and John Roderick, recently did an episode on the war between John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival and Saul Zaentz, the owner of Fantasy Records. As Ken and John recounted, on his 1985 album “Centerfield,” Fogerty wrote two songs about Zaentz, “Zanz Kant Danz” and “Mr. Greed.”

Zaentz sued for defamation of character over the first song, which was hastily retitled “Vanz Kant Danz.”

Zaentz also sued over another song from the “Centerfield” album, “The Old Man Down the Road,” saying that the style of the song was so derivative of Fogerty’s 1960s songs for Creedence that Fogerty was essentially plagiarizing his own work — the copyrights to which were held by Zaentz.

I remember a period in the 1980s when Fogerty refused to perform any of the songs that he’d written while in CCR, claiming Zaentz had stolen them from him, and I’d assumed that Zaentz was just another dishonest, conniving record company executive who screwed the artists on his label.

Roderick and Jennings argue that wasn’t necessarily so. They note that during CCR’s glory years, when the band had 14 consecutive Top 10 singles and five best-selling albums, Fogerty refused to hire a business manager, and as a result signed several terrible contracts on the group’s behalf. (The bassist, Stu Cook, who had studied business in college, later said that because of Fogerty’s inexperience and refusal to ask for assistance, Creedence Clearwater Revival had negotiated the worst recording deals of any major artist.)

It was Fogerty’s decision, say Jennings and Roderick, to sign over the rights to CCR’s music to Fantasy Records, and they argue Zaentz was possibly unfairly vilified by Fogerty.

Anyway, go check it out on the Omnibus website. It’s Episode 544, “Saul Zaentz.”

But not until you listen to this week’s “Radio 9,” of course.

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