Tag Archives: madonna

Christmas in the Cauldron: Kurt Reuber and the The Madonna of Stalingrad

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Kurt Rueber was a theologian, pastor and medical doctor. A friend of Albert Schweitzer he was conscripted to serve as a physician in the Germany Army at the beginning of the war. By November 1942 he was a seasoned military physician serving with the 16th Panzer Division, part of the German 6th Army, which had been fighting in the hell of Stlaingrad. When that division along with most of 6th Army was surrounded by the Soviets, cut of from most supply and without real hope of relief he continued to serve the soldiers committed to his care.

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A Self Portrait 

However that care also included spiritual matters. Rueber was also an artist and pastor and as such he reflected on the desparation of the German soldiers in the Stalingrad pocket. He wrote to his family.

“I wondered for a long while what I should paint, and in the end I decided on a Madonna, or mother and child. I have turned my hole in the frozen mud into a studio. The space is too small for me to be able to see the picture properly, so I climb on to a stool and look down at it from above, to get the perspective right. Everything is repeatedly knocked over, and my pencils vanish into the mud. There is nothing to lean my big picture of the Madonna against, except a sloping, home-made table past which I can just manage to squeeze. There are no proper materials and I have used a Russian map for paper. But I wish I could tell you how absorbed I have been painting my Madonna, and how much it means to me.”

“The picture looks like this: the mother’s head and the child’s lean toward each other, and a large cloak enfolds them both. It is intended to symbolize ‘security’ and ‘mother love.’ I remembered the words of St. John: light, life, and love. What more can I add? I wanted to suggest these three things in the homely and common vision of a mother with her child and the security that they represent.”

The picture was drawn on the back of a captured Soviet map and when he finished it he displayed it in his bunker, which became something of a shrine. Reuber wrote:

“When according to ancient custom I opened the Christmas door, the slatted door of our bunker, and the comrades went in, they stood as if entranced, devout and too moved to speak in front of the picture on the clay wall…The entire celebration took place under the influence of the picture, and they thoughtfully read the words: light, life, love…Whether commander or simple soldier, the Madonna was always an object of outward and inward contemplation.”

As the seige continued men came to the bunker for both medical care and spiritual solace.  On Christmas Eve Reuber found himself treating a number of men wounded by bombs outside the bunker. Another soldier lay dying, just minutes before the soldier had been in the bunker singing the Christmas hymn O Du Froeliche.  Reuber wrote:

“I spent Christmas evening with the other doctors and the sick. The Commanding Officer had presented the letter with his last bottle of Champagne. We raised our mugs and drank to those we love, but before we had had a chance to taste the wine we had to throw ourselves flat on the ground as a stick of bombs fell outside. I seized my doctor’s bag and ran to the scene of the explosions, where there were dead and wounded. My shelter with its lovely Christmas decorations became a dressing station. One of the dying men had been hit in the head and there was nothing more I could do for him. He had been with us at our celebration, and had only that moment left to go on duty, but before he went he had said: ‘I’ll finish the carol with first. O du Frohliche!” A few moments later he was dead. There was plenty of hard and sad work to do in our Christmas shelter. It is late now, but it is Christmas night still. And so much sadness everywhere.”

On January 9th 1943 with all hope of escape or reinforcement gone Reuber gave the picture to the battlaion commander.  The officer was too ill to carry on and was one of the last soldiers to be evacuated from the pocket.

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German POWs walking out of Stalingrad

Reuber was taken prisoner and survived the harrowing winter march to the Yelabuga prison camp. In late 1943 Reuber wrote his  Christmas Letter to a German Wife and Mother – Advent 1943. It was a spiritual reflection but also a reflection on the hope for life after the war, when the Nazi regime would be defeated, and Germany given a new birth.

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Reuber operating on a wounded soldier above and drawing below

Reuber wrote:

“The concatenation of guilt and fate has opened our eyes wide to the guilt. You know, perhaps we will be grateful at the end of our present difficult path yet once again that we will be granted true salvation and liberation of the individual and the nation by apparent disappointment of our “anticipation of Advent”, by all of the suffering of last year’s as well as this year’s Christmas. According to ancient tradition, the Advent season is simultaneously the season of self-reflection. So at the very end, facing ruin, in death’s grip – what a revaluation of values has taken place in us! We thus want to use this period of waiting as inner preparation for a meaningful new existence and enterprise in our family, in our vocation, in the nation. The Christmas light of joy is already shining in the midst of our Advent path of death as a celebration of the birth of a new age in which – as hard as it may also be – we want to prove ourselves worthy of the newly given life.”  (Erich Wiegand in Kurt Reuber, Pastor, Physician, Painter, Evangelischer Medienverb. Kassel 2004. )

Reuber did not live to see that day. He died of Typhus on January 20th 1944, not long after writing this and just a few weeks after painting another portrait of the Madonna, this one entitled The Prisoner’s Madonna. He was not alone, of the approximately 95,000 German POWs taken at Stalingrad only about 6,000 returned home. 

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His paintings survived the war and his family gave The Madonna of Stalingrad  to the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin when its ruins were restored as a symbol of hope and reconcilliation. Copies are also displayed in Coventry Cathedral and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Volgagrad, the former Stalingrad. A copy of The Prisoner’s Madonna is now displayed at the Church of the Resurrection in Kassel. 

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I have a print of the Madonna of Stalingrad in my office. It has become one of the most meaningful pictures I have since I returned from Iraq in 2008. To me they are symbols of God’s presence when God seems entirely absent.

Praying for an end to war.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, History, Loose thoughts and musings, Military, Religion, world war two in europe

Papal Conclave Day One: Secrecy Oath, Black Smoke and 50 Shades of Gray Smoke

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Well today the Cardinals of the Catholic Church entered into their first day of sequester, I mean Conclave which is kind of like sequester but easier to spell. The Cardinals who had completed a number of meetings last week in preparation for the Conclave and today after the completion of the Mass, lunch and a no host bar, entered the Sistine Chapel. Amid the solemn choral sounds of the Vatican Men’s Chorus and Madonna the Cardinals took the double top secret oath of secrecy binding them to absolute secrecy with no real penalties should they break the oath. Their aides and others in the chapel prior to this also took an oath of secrecy which if they break will be excommunicated and get to spend eternity in Hell. Yes, it is a double standard but someone will have to pay if the cloak of secrecy is broken and it will not be Cardinal Roger “Dodger” and Tweeter Mahoney of the “Cardinal Mahoney Love Network.”

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I was watching the procession into the chapel at lunch as I ate my soup. Amid the pomp, splendor and mystery that surround such solemn occasions I was reminded of another solemn ceremony which I saw decades ago for the first time and watch at least a couple of times a year. That ceremony of the young men of Omega Theta Pi of Animal House who also took a solemn pledge, “thank you sir may I have another” is forever etched in my mind. But how can it not be?

After the 115 voting Cardinals swore the oath which among other things they pledged the oath of secrecy:

“In a particular way, we promise and swear to observe with the greatest fidelity and with all persons, clerical or lay, secrecy regarding everything that in any way relates to the election of the Roman Pontiff and regarding what occurs in the place of the election, directly or indirectly related to the results of the voting; we promise and swear not to break this secret in any way, either during or after the election of the new Pontiff, unless explicit authorization is granted by the same Pontiff; and never to lend support or favor to any interference, opposition or any other form of intervention, whereby secular authorities of whatever order and degree or any group of people or individuals might wish to intervene in the election of the Roman Pontiff.”

The only thing missing was the Cardinals getting whacked on the backside like Kevin Bacon as they made the oath. But I digress….

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After several hours the now sequestered Cardinals gave an indication of where the process was at. Dark black smoke began to issue out of the temporary chimney above the Chapel indicating that the Cardinals had not yet elected a new Pope. This was not surprising to me because unlike the Baseball Hall of Fame election, seldom does a man become Pope on the first ballot. But then the Baseball Hall of Fame candidates cannot vote for themselves, and don’t get a vote for anyone, they have to depend on Sports Writers. Let’s see anyone but Cardinal Dolan or Cardinal O’Malley get elected if they had to depend on Sports Writers.

Tomorrow the balloting will continue. Most experts expect that the balloting will continue at least through tomorrow evening or more likely Thursday. Actually since I am sure there must be a betting line in Vegas I hope it drags out until Friday or later. I mean what else do these guys have to do? Many work in Rome and those that don’t are probably getting per diem payments while away from home.  Besides, look at the business that it brings to the money changers and trinket sellers in Vatican Square. It is good for their economy and what is good for the economy is good for the economy.

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Could Cardinal Ouellet become Pope Bob? Eh? 

Now there is a lot of speculation on which of the 115 Cardinals will be elected Pope. Honesty I don’t want an American, European, Asian, African, Romulan or Vulcan. I want a Canadian and I want him to choose the name “Pope Bob” which I think would be very blue collar. First because Canadians are peaceful and ecumenical people who love to beat the crap out of each other during hockey or World Baseball Classic games.

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Second because I cannot wait to hear the benediction “In Nomeni Patri Et Fili Spiritus Sancti eh” at the end of each Papal Mass. That would be worth it. When I listened to the Cardinals doing their best Latin during the secrecy oath I just liked the way that the Canadians did it. It sounded right and it would make great fodder for South Park. I would love to see an audience with Canadian Pope Bob and Eric Cartman and the rest of the South Park kids and maybe even Terrance and Phillip.

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Apart from this and all kidding aside, pray for these men as they meet to elect the next Pope. After all, even for non-Catholics a good Pope can do a lot of great things. Besides the Church is always in need of good, holy and decent leaders who have not lost their souls to the institution or their own desire for power. That is possible and it has happened before.

Maybe tomorrow we will see White Smoke, or maybe just 50 shades of gray smoke, but whatever it is important to all of us who the next Pope is.

So until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Padre Steve’s Look Back at 2012: The Year that Was and Still Can Be if You Have Access to Time Travel

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“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
~T.S. Eliot~

Well my friends it is my time to look back at 2012, the year that should have been the end of the world had the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. However the Mayans couldn’t see that possibility and life goes on. With that in mind I decided to look back at the more that 300 articles that I have written since the the babe wrapped in Champagne soaked clothes and lying in Times Square gutter belched out his first words… “Is this live?” 

If we lived in the Star Trek World things could be different. We could find an alternate universe, find a time portal at the City on the Edge of Forever or if need be whip the Enterprise around the Sun to throw us back in time.

However we don’t have that ability yet and the year of our discontent began in January. It was a year filled with political carnage, war, man made and natural disasters including the BCS Championship, the athletic drama of human competition, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Much of the year was consumed by the American 2012 General Elections and Presidential primaries and campaigns. It was a year where we thought things might be different but sages like me looking back on the wisdom inscribed in my Bloom County Comic Strip Collection knew was not.

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Back to the Future in Iowa: A Bloom County Redux

It was not just politics as usual it was also media as usual something again that I predicted was the case by looking back at history.

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Doing the Sidestep: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and American Politics and Media

But as the campaign season snaked its eerie course through the hills, dales, bayous and valleys of our fair fruited plains the rest of the world experienced joy and pain, triumph and tragedy.

It began in this country as all things do when the University of Alabama, a fully accredited school of higher learning won the BCS College Football Championship game, something that the University of Phoenix will never do.

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Alabama wins the Boring Pseudo-National Championship Game…aka the BCS BS Championship Game

Not to be outdone the Italian Merchant Marine got into the act when Captain Francesco Schettino while joy riding in hie massive 115,000 ton Cruise Ship, the Costa Concordia  managed to hit a rock and sink the ship.

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Sinking the Costa Concordia: A Lesson in Hubris and Cowardice

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In February we saw the renewal of of love affair with television commercials as the Super Bowl XLVI: Commercials, Madonna and a Football Game as Madonna lip synced between the halves as the New York Football Giants defeated the New England non-Tea Party Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, pronounced “Exlivy” in the original Latin.

Politics continued in March with the indecisive “Super Tuesday” Primaries:

Super Tuesday Agony: Indecisive, Inconclusive and a Portent of Things to Come

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But thankfully for all baseball returned in April bringing some sense of normalcy back to a world gone mad. Opening day brought me back to an even keel and the fact that it coincided with Holy Week made it more special to me. Opening Day and Holy Week and being able to attend a home opener was nice. A Home Opener and thoughts on Rick, Ozzie and George

But even in the midst of this there was perfection, in fact perfection done several times in Major League Baseball one of those being when Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants pitched a perfect game on June 13th.

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The Mark of Cain: Matt Cain Pitches 22nd Perfect Game in MLB Historyand Johann Santana did the same for the otherwise hapless New York Mets 8020 Games and Finally….a Miracle for the Mets: Johan Santana Pitches First No-No in Mets Historyand “King Felix” pitched his first perfect game for the Mariners The Perfect King: Felix Hernandez Pitches Third Perfect Game of 2012while Phil Humber of the Tigers threw a perfect game against the Mariners Perfect! Phillip Humber Joins Legends as He Pitches Perfect Game against Mariners

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Baseball produced other surprises this year but probably none bigger than that of the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles, underdog and underfunded teams that surprised everyone with their playoff runs and playoff appearances. September Surprises: O’s and A’s Shake up the American League

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The Major League Baseball playoffs were filled with amazing comeback stories but none more than that of the San Francisco Giants who played on the brink of elimination in both the NLDS ( Giants Sweep Red’s in the River City: On to NLCS ) and NLCS ( Raining on a Parade: Giants Make Giant Comeback to Win National League Pennant ) before sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the World Series. SWEEP! GIANTS WIN SERIES!

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But around the world and away from the rich green baseball diamonds there were other events. In April Kim Jong Un #1 the new dictator for life in North Korea shot a rocket in the air, and where it landed he knew not where Missile Impotence: Kim Jong Un’s Rocket Launch goes Splat even as an American preacher turned fake historian became the star of the Religious Right Faux Fact Factory: The Twisted World of Fake “Historian” and “Hero of the Faith” David Barton  Not to be outdone a Roman Catholic Bishop made his own bad history comparisons Bishop Jenky’s Obama and Hitler, Stalin, Bismarck and Clemenceau Comparison: Bad History, Bad Theology and Bad Politics

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Meanwhile in the background Europe and the European Union faced their own problems. Economic and political crisis engulfed the continent. Europe on the Edge: France and Greece Point to Dangerous Times Ahead

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The Middle East was not to be left behind in the the political tumult. Syria continued its post-Arab Spring plunge into the abyss of full out civil war. Fear and Loathing in Damascus eventually bringing the deployment of NATO Patriot Missiles in Turkey. NATO Patriots to Turkey as Syria Teeters on the AbyssIn the broader Middle East War threatened on almost every front The Gathering Storm: Shades of 1914 as War Threatens in the Middle East and the Arab Spring heated up again Arab Spring Fever: The Revolution Begins Anew in Egypt as Syria Begins to Melt Down

In June the United States saw something akin to what our European cousins were going through when my home town, Stockton California declared Bankruptcy. When City Dreams Become Nightmares: Stockton California to Declare Bankruptcy

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But Britain was able to celebrate as Queen Elizabeth marked her 75th year on the throne in June  The Diamond Jubilee: All Glory is Fleeting and hosting the XXX Olympic Summer Games in London in July and August

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British Humor: Bond, Bean, Poppins and The Queen Kick Off XXX Games , Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” Goodbye London: XXX Olympics End on Musical Note

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After a bitterly contested primary campaign Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost the General Election to President Obama. Obama Wins….Now the Real Work of Healing the Wounds Must Begin However that healing didn’t begin and as of today the nation stands at the brink of political and economic crisis that could harm everyone in this country and sink the world economy. Fiscal Cliff Notes: There are Always Results

Then there was the senseless violence of massed murders, some obviously motivated by some kind of insanity while others simply due to hatred of people different.

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The Hatred of “the Other”: White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis, Politics and the Oak Creek Massacre

Man of Murderous Mystery: James Egan Holmes and the Aurora Dark Knight Massacre

The worst of these was just a couple of weeks ago in Newtown Connecticut A Cry in Newtown: Anguish after a Massacre

The War in Afghanistan dragged on while no politicians really addressed the subject even though the toll in American lives passed the 2000 mark and casualties at the hands of our Afghan allies rose to unthinkable levels. Likewise the crisis in the rise of suicides among active duty and reserve troops as well as Veterans continued unabated.

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The Afghanistan Quagmire and the Escalation of “Green on Blue” Attacks

Why Aren’t Any Politicians Talking About the War and Why don’t Voters Care?

Padre Steve Remembers 9-11 and the Forgotten War

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Natural disasters were not absent from the news this year, the biggest as far as the news went was Hurricane Sandy which struck the week before the US Presidential Election and devastated large parts of New Jersey, New York, the Mid-Atlantic and New England. A Massive and Deadly “Freak” Storm: Sandy Hits the USA while in the forgotten country of Bangladesh a fire at a clothing factory claimed over 100 lives A Juxtaposition of Contradictions: Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the Bangladesh Clothing Factory Fire

There were deaths of noted people this year:

Disgraced former Penn State College Football Coach and legend Joe Paterno died in January barely 2 months after his final game.

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The Death of a Tarnished Legend: Joe Paterno dead at 85

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Singing great Whitney Houston died of what appeared to be an accidental overdose One Moment in Time: Rest in Peace Whitney Houston 1963-2012 

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Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon passed away in August One Giant Loss for Mankind: Neil Armstrong Dead at 82

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1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, war hero and Senator George McGovern died in October A Loss for the Country and the World: A War Hero and Prophet of Peace George McGovern Dead at 90

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Iconic General H Norman Schwarzkopf, victor of the First Gulf War died just this week The Loss of an Icon: General Norman Schwarzkopf dies at 79 

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Of course much more happened over the course of 2012 including the end of the world that didn’t happen The Failed Mayan End of the World Prediction and the Chicago Cubs 

There are other things that I might have or should have written about but looking back over the past year if I was a full time writer. However I don’t think that I did too bad for being just one person who has a day job and who is maintaining two residences in different states. Besides as much as I want I still don’t have access to Warp Drive, transporter beams or time travel.

So I write today hoping for a good end to 2012, a better 2013 and peace on earth.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Super Bowl XLVI: Commercials, Madonna and a Football Game

Well the Super Bowl is over, my predictions were right and amid the commercials and halftime show a football game was played.

I didn’t have a dog in the fight this year so I was able to watch the game and do running commentary on it, the commercials and the half-time show starring Madonna on Twitter. I tweeted more tonight than any single night that I have been on Twitter and it was really fun.  Seeing what other people were saying about the game, commercials and Madonna actually made watching the game a lot more enjoyable than I normally find it.

There were a number of commercials that I liked for various reasons and some that I thought could have been better.  My favorite was the Apocalypse commercial for the Chevy Silverado.  How could you go wrong with Manilow’s Look’s like we Made It playing amid scenes of destruction and Twinkies?

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Likewise I found that the Bud Light commercial involving the rescue dog Weego was really well done. My little dog Molly is a rescue and the commercial was cute.  I love my rescue dog.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoplehNzYoI Budweiser had a great commercial on the end of prohibition but if I had to choose a beer to celebrate the end of that sad period I would do a craft beer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGgosT-v5sw

Honda had a commercial for its Acura NSX starring Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, a space alien and Jay Leno that showed that Seinfeld has not lost his touch.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUFSHzT2xuY It was too bad that he didn’t have a hand in the Jockey underwear commercial featuring David Beckham. That would have been so much better if they had used George Costanza doing the photo shoot with Kramer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NL5wSs-9kI

Honda had a great commercial with Matthew Broderick reprising his Ferris Buehler persona for the Honda CRV.  I love Ferris Buehler and have had a Honda CRV since 2001 so for me it was two memories. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VhkDdayA4iA

A different automaker had an ad which was far too funny and that I didn’t expect. It was the ad for the Fiat 500 Abarth. The commercial was really quite well done as only Italians could do mixing sexuality, Cappuccino and cars. This is not how I viewed Fiat for most of my life. When I was in Germany in the 1980s it was not uncommon to see Fiat 500‘s littering the roadside broken down.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7q1Ry0udQY

From an inspirational point of view the best commercial of the evening was Chrysler’s Halftime in America with Clint Eastwood doing the voice over.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8VpW8P8_kU

The halftime show by Madonna was better than I expected. It was kind of a retro 1980s Techno show, the only thing missing was Hans and Franz to pump you up. Madonna did the lip-sync thing well and didn’t do anything scandalous although guest singer MIA evidently have the middle finger salute during one of her solos. I didn’t see it because I was too busy tweeting pithy comments about the show to notice.

As for the game itself. It was about what I expected. It was close, the teams were competitive and it wasn’t a blow out. I really didn’t care who won so that took the pressure off. I saw the game as close enough that either team could have won and New England blew a chance to practically seal a win with about 4 minutes left in the game when Wes Welker dropped a pass that he would normally catch inside the red zone.

Eli Manning as he has shown all of this year showed that he could win when winning mattered. He, the Giants and their coach Tom Coughlin seem to have the Patriots number in big games.  The Patriots season ended with a Super Bowl loss. Tom Brady could not bring the team back in the final minute after the Patriots appeared to let the Giants score a touchdown in order to get the ball back with time on the clock. The move was a bit of twisted genius by Patriots coach Bill Belichick and if the “hail Mary” pass tossed by Brady in the final seconds had been caught by Rob Gronkowski the Patriots might have come out with a remarkable and miraculous win.

So football season is over and we can now get serious. Baseball season is just ahead and not a minute too soon.  Within minutes of the end of the game I flipped the channel to the MLB Channel.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Padre Steve’s Super Bowl Predictions

“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”  Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra

Yes we are inexorably approaching another Super Bowl Sunday and it will be a a back to the future day with the New England Patriots playing the New York Football Giants.  This year it is Super Bowl XLVI and it is a rematch of Super Bowl of Super Bowl XLII and a rematch of Eli Manning and Tom Brady.  The last time that the teams met the Patriots were undefeated and lost to the underdog Giants. I like the use of the Roman numerals in the Super Bowl. It is manly, just like the movie Gladiator. There is something about the use of the Roman numerals that just make the game seem so much more important.

George Santayana said “those that do not read about the past are doomed to repeat it” and likewise based on my knowledge of the past I can pretty accurately predict three things.

I am going to go on the line here and boldly predict that the halftime show headlined by Madonna will suck. Most halftime are forgettable unless someone shows a bodily part that they are not supposed to and Madonna has said that her clothes will stay on so it will just be us watching another aging star lip sync her music while a hoard of excruciatingly skinny gyrating dancers in weird clothes mimic sex with her.

I also predict that the commercials will be cool and even if the game is bad, which it shouldn’t be the commercials will be a major highlight. I like to wait to the day of the Super Bowl to actually watch the commercials being that Super Bowl Sunday is almost a religious holiday. However like a kid finding his Christmas presents before Christmas I happened to watch Matthew Broderick do his updated Ferris Buehler for the Honda CR-V on the internet.  Even though I have seen it I am still excited about seeing it on the big screen.

As far as the game I can accurately predict that one of the two teams will win and to me it doesn’t really matter because it isn’t baseball. I don’t have a dog in the fight even though I am sure that if she had the chance that my little Papillon-Dachshund mix Molly would get in a fight if she could but I won’t let her.

Speaking of Molly she stole what was left of a bag of tortilla chips that I had left over from my take out order from El Zarape  last night. Molly has nervier done this before but tonight she got bold and right in front of me sticker her head in the bag and dragged it off. I laughed so hard that I didn’t take it from her until I took pictures with my I-Phone.

Anyway with all that said, have a nice night, day or whatever it is when you read this and may your team win because my team isn’t playing. Like I said, it isn’t baseball but I will watch it.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Hank Williams Junior’s Free Speech Violated? Give me a Break… it was Business doing what is best for Business

 

“After reading hundreds of e-mails, I have made MY decision. By pulling my opening Oct 3rd, You (ESPN) stepped on the Toes of The First Amendment Freedom of Speech, so therefore Me, My Song, and All My Rowdy Friends are OUT OF HERE. It’s been a great run.” Hank Williams Jr. announcement Thursday after ESPN announced that he would no longer be featured as the intro to Monday Night Football

Back when I was in college I did something incredibly stupid simply because I thought that I was being funny.  I had a part time job as a Peer Counselor with the Educational Opportunity Program.  The program was to help kids from poor families with not so great educations get a chance at college. Some kids did well and others didn’t.  My wife Judy was a student in the University’s program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students.  The office that ran the deaf program was called Support Services for Deaf Students or simply SSDS.

Judy had a roommate named Kendra and the three of us came up with some pretty sick jokes. In fact I learned sign language more to tell jokes with Kendra more than any other reason. Since Judy was “just hard of hearing” I used some sign with her but mostly to help her understand in difficult situations as for the most part she functioned as a hearing person despite having a 77% hearing loss.   Judy is also an artist and a cartoonist. One day we came up with a fake flyer for a parody of SSDS.  We called it Support Services to Dead Students.  Judy did the drawing and all would have been well had I not gotten the less than brilliant idea to “spam” the flyer out. Now this was way before e-mail and Facebook or any other social media.  So I went to a copy store and made about 50 copies and took them to work. I put them in messenger envelopes and sent them to most school departments through the internal school mail system.  I thought that it was hysterical and I must have let slip to someone that I had pulled this off this prank. Anyway a couple of days later I was called into my boss’s office and was told by him that he knew that I did it. He felt that it was deeply offensive and that I could resign or be fired.  I ended up resigning and my boss was grateful.  To be truthful it had nothing to do with the EOP students we were poking fun at the deaf students. Yes it was still crass and insensitive but I didn’t think that I would lose my job over it. I thought that it was a funny parody. My employer didn’t.

I learned a hard lesson. No matter how funny I thought that my parody was that it didn’t mean that my employer had to keep me on. What I did embarrassed my department and paid the price for it. Was anyone harmed? No. Was it malicious? No.  Could it be interpreted in ways that I didn’t intend it to be? Yes. Did it reflect on my lack of judgment? Yes.  Did my boss have a right to terminate me? Yes.  Did I learn? Most of the time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eF6vCv13bw

Now of course Hank Williams Jr. made a complete ass of himself on Fox and Friends Monday morning.  Not only did he compare President Obama with Hitler but he went into a rant that just made him look like an angry idiot.  He called Obama “the enemy” and in making the Hitler comparison really made light of the Holocaust.  There is little that any American politician on the right or the left can do to be compared with Hitler.  Even his Fox friends who are not known for their love of Obama looked really uncomfortable as Hank ranted on.

Now to get things right I will defend people’s free speech rights and I don’t have to agree with them. If one decides to compare any American President with Adolf Hitler Joe Stalin, Pol Pot or the Ayatollah Khomeini he or she can say it without fear of being prosecuted by the State for doing so and if he is I will defend his right to that speech, even if I think it is hateful.  It may be hateful and ignorant to do what Hank did but there is no law against it and if he was prosecuted for it by the government I would defend his Free Speech rights.

That being said if one is the face of Monday Night Football as Hank was ESPN then there are risks to acting like an idiot. The producer of that show and the NFL had a right to end his relationship with the show.  It is about business, other companies with that advertise on Monday Night Football don’t want to be linked to the “H” word.  If they had not ended the relationship it would have been bad for business.

Let’s face it using the Hitler analogy tends to get people fired and it is not about free speech it is about business.  There are probably hundreds if not thousands of “conservative” commentators, bloggers and journalists who have made the Hitler analogy frequently on the internet and in print. It is protected Free Speech.  In fact when George W. Bush was President left wing bloggers and columnists frequently played the Hitler card against him. .  However none of them were the face of Monday Night Football and generally they work for employers that make money by criticizing Obama and the Democrats or Bush and the Republicans so they keep their jobs.  Remember each business determines what is good for their business.   Monday Night Football decided that Hank was now bad for business.

Hank is now saying that he decided to leave Monday Night Football “with his rowdy friends.” He said that what happened to him was a violation of his free speech rights. Now it seems like most people with the exception of Hank and Sean Hannity think that ESPN was within its rights to end their relationship with Hank.  If I recall one of the key conservative tenants is that employers are the ones that set the conditions for employing people.  The right to hire and fire at will is something that conservatives and Libertarians love.  Firing and shunning celebrities for doing stupid, ignorant or hateful things or even for benign associations is a sport in this country if a business deems the celebrity’s actions bad for business.

Let’s just go back 50-60 years, the McCarthy hearings and the Hollywood “blacklist” which tarred and feathered many actors, directors and others involved in the film industry being associated with the Communists or other unpopular causes at some point in their life, even if they had renounced that association.  Those people were not allowed to work, many for years simply because their loyalty to the country which had nothing to do with their acting abilities was questioned and producers fearing audience backlash simply blacklisted them.  Some of the many people blacklisted included Orson Welles, Burgess Meredith, Eddie Arnold and Edward G. Robinson.

Then there was an actress named Hanoi Jane Fonda, daughter of Hollywood icon Henry Fonda who had the dumb ass idea to go to North Vietnam, make anti-American and anti-war statements and be photographed on an anti-aircraft gun within a mile or so of the Hanoi Hilton POW camp.  She couldn’t get work for several years and when she did start working again, many people, me included boycotted her films and I still won’t watch them.  She was able to say what she wanted but she suffered the consequences and is still one of the most hated Hollywood celebrities in conservative circles.

There are so many other examples where celebrities have been fired or shunned because of their actions. Here are a few:

Gilbert Gottfried: Tsunami jokes got him fired as the voice of the Aflack Duck.

Megan Fox: Canned from Transformers due to Hitler remarks.

Madonna: Fired from her Pepsi sponsorship when the American Family Association boycotted Pepsi after Madonna released her controversial “Like a Prayer” music video.

Michael Phelps: After getting caught smoking dope was dropped by Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Frosted Flakes.


Mel Gibson: He was shunned after making anti-Semitic comments during a DUI arrest. His career has not been the same since.

Whoopi Goldberg: The Sister Act star got canned from her Slim Fast spokesperson job when she made double entendres about President George Bush at a John Kerry fund raiser.  She was also shunned by Kerry after it.

Sharon Stone: Dropped by Christian Dior inChina for suggesting that Chinese earthquakes were caused byChina’s treatment of Tibet.

The Smothers Brothers: Their hit comedy was cancelled by CBS for their controversial statements about racism,Vietnam and politics.

The Dixie Chicks: While touring “Old Europe” the country singers lashed out at President Bush and the Iraq War.  They were not fired but lost a huge number of fans in the process. The fans shunned them. They lost money and have not regained their former popularity.

The list can go on but I think I make my point. If people want to claim that business are free to do as they please and hire and fire people for whatever reason they deem fit on one hand, then they shouldn’t  that their Free Speech rights are being violated.  It is a two way street.  Think about it. If you are a business owner or in management and one of your employees does something that you think reflects badly on your business and may hurt your business would you fire them? You bet your ass you would and it doesn’t matter for what reason politics, religion or even your sense of humor.

What old Hank did was so stupid it defies imagination but he could say it. Fox didn’t cut away as he shot off his mouth, he wasn’t censored.  While his words and tenor were unbelievably stupid they were not illegal.  However I don’t blame ESPN for firing his sorry ass.  Hank is no victim of political correctness he shot his own balls off and I don’t care if he works ever again or he overcomes this and his career recovers.  However, he can say what he wants and believe what he wants and if he was prosecuted by the government for voicing those beliefs I would defend his Free Speech rights.  But that is not the case here.

Now I do have a lot of strong feelings about the often capricious ways that businesses use their liberty to mistreat or silence workers for speaking their political and religious beliefs in the workplace.  However if one wants to say that businesses should be free to do what they want to increase profits and market share without government interference then one has to expect that businesses will do best for business. Profit and not Free Speech is their number one concern.  Many celebrities and ordinary citizens have found this out before Hank; he can just join the club.  Heck, I’m no celebrity but it happened to me too… boo hoo Hank. Boo hoo. I’ll cry in my beer with you.  Wow that rhymed.

Peace

Padre Steve+

3 Comments

Filed under celebrities, football, laws and legislation, Loose thoughts and musings, Political Commentary

More about Why I Miss the Music of the 70’s and 80’s

The Carptenters

A few weeks back I posted an essay that looked back a the music of the 1970s and early 1980s that dealt with some of the historic context of the era as well as a bunch of videos and pictures of some of my favorite groups and their music.  As I mentioned in that essay the time was somewhat tumultuous a lot of social unrest, economic crisis, terrorism, communist expansion, a lost war and political crisis culminating in the resignation of a President.

Padre Steve and the Abbess at Mission San Fernando Fall 1980

The time was also one where people were also attempting to return to some semblance of normalcy in the post Vietnam and Nixon era.  The 1960s were a time of social revolution which impacted almost every area of life and a time where almost everything was reduced to some sort of “message.”  By about 1973 the new younger generation which was entering high school and junior high school were less bent on activism and more on having fun as well as more inward discoveries.  The 1970s were certainly not a return to “traditional values” although there was a recovery of nostalgia for the 1950s with the movies American Graffiti, Grease and the sitcom Happy Days. This desire to feel better was partly in reaction to the turbulence of the 60’s and the reality that things were not good in the 1970s and as a result my generation sought entertainment and diversions for the nearly endless litany of bad news.  Much social change was still underway spurred on by the civil rights movement, the women’s rights movement and reproductive rights, the end of the draft and change in law which allowed 18 year olds to vote.  Like the 1960s there was experimentation with drugs as well sex.

Fashions morphed from bell bottoms and t-shirts and long hair to double knit polyester, silk shirts, leisure suits and tight fitting designer jeans. Tie-dye gave way to earth tones which were followed by bright colors and finally in the early 80s leather and pastels.  Classic styles began to return by the early 80’s “Preppy” was in, Oxford shirts, khakis and natural fibers such as cotton replaced the polyester double knits.

Rocky

Movies too began to change films like Star Wars and Star Trek launched people into undreamed of worlds even as NASA worked on the Space Shuttle.  Gritty films like Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry and Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky featured everymen who battled either crime or took on superior adversaries in the ring.  On television a team of young comics launched a comedy franchise, Saturday Night Live which is still with us today and which spun off a generation of comics who have made their own impact on American entertainment.  The musical returned in movies such as Grease and Xanadu while Disco rode the wave of Saturday Night Fever and country music returned with Urban Cowboy.

Here are some more of my favorites as well as some songs that helped make the 70’s and 80’s what they were.  Enjoy.

Three Dog Night

Three Dog Night, Joy to the World This was a fun song that came out in the early 1970s and when I hear it I can still find me singing along.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2x3af_three-dog-night-joy-to-the-world_people

Credence Clearwater Revival Credence was one of the great groups of the 60s and early 70’s, members such as John Foggarty would go on to successful solo careers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UYnySGM9dQA

The Carpenters Possible the most precise and skilled musical group of the late 60’s and the 70’s the Carpenters were middle America’s sweet hearts.  Karen would die tragically from a heart attack induced in part due to her struggles with depression and subsequent Anorexia Nervosa.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n53E_J9a_Fo&feature=PlayList&p=F02D8CA7FF8AA675&index=12

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dPmbT5XC-q0

Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman” become the anthem of the Women’s Rights movement

Helen Reddy: I am Woman My mom absolutely loved Helen Reddy while my dad hated “I am Woman.” She had quite a few other major hits through the 70’s and I saw her in concert in Stockton CA back in 78 or 79.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmExAiCcaPk

Paul McCartney and Wings: Band on the Run Paul McCartney was the most successful of the Beatles in his solo career.  Wings was an outstanding group centered around McCartney and his beautiful wife Linda.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Qx2jEfBsqY

Elton John: Goodbye Yellow Brick Road Elton John had one of the most successful careers of any solo artist, his flashy clothes and wild glasses coupled with a high energy live performance made him a crowd favorite.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43Ho_6C_fM4

I Guess that’s Why they Call it the Blues

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc4ZRdPGGTI&feature=PlayList&p=7B1E53DD1B27118D&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=39

Ringo Starr: The Non No Song Ringo did not have the same success as either Paul or John Lennon but this song was fun to listen to on the school bus.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-PirP4LiFo

Abba

Abba: I do, I do I do Abba who broke into the international music scene in 1972 remained incredibly popular throughout the 70s and the 80s before disbanding in 1989.   They survived and thrived through every major musical swing of the era.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjgxxeA83FQ&feature=PlayList&p=11B0CC8778FA9A05&index=15

Honey Honey

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeGtaSWzFRA&feature=PlayList&p=11B0CC8778FA9A05&index=4

Dancing Queen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctzIEjjOfd4

Eagles: Already Gone The Eagles have been and always will be one of my favorite groups.  Known for their stellar guitars and five part harmonies they have endured and their music has not been duplicated.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JHk2em4ZNwA&feature=PlayList&p=8A2216020416503A&index=16

Lying Eyes

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYQgPTsiZIU

Dr Hook: Walk Right In One of the lesser known but still successful groups of the 70’s and 80’s this group teamed with poet and children’s writer Shel Silverstein to come up with some of the most unusual, quirky and funny songs of the era.  Having a country rock style they regularly sung about sex, drugs and alcohol they morphed into a less controversial stance in the 1980s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPj5O3AMGDA&feature=PlayList&p=54CD692E585AE055&index=13

Years from Now

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfsPeVVL8zE&feature=PlayList&p=AF906570E242A626&index=18

The Trammps: Disco Inferno Probably the group that had the signature Disco song, the Trammps were from Philadelphia.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_sY2rjxq6M

Bee Gees

Bee Gee’s: Tragedy While the Trammps may have produced the anthem of the era but the Bee Gees were the group that best personified the era with their harmonies and passion.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O1_DdIxfpIU

The Village People

The Village People: YMCA While the Bee Gees may have personified the music of hte era the Village People were iconic with thier signature costumes and appeal to the gay community and their crossover into the mainstream with hits such as Macho Man, YMCA and in the Navy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CS9OO0S5w2k

In the Navy

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InBXu-iY7cw

Donna Summer: She Works Hard for the Money The beautiful Donna Summer would be the queen of Disco and transition to a more pop and R&B sound in the 80s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TKQcWEXSKU

The Cast of Grease

Travolta and Olivia in Grease: You’re the One that I Want The musical Grease starring Olivia Newton John and John Travolta had an appeal that spanned generations and was wildly popular.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TKQcWEXSKU

Olivia Newton John and ELO: Xanadu The musical Xanadu was not a strong performer at the box office and was panned by most critics but birthed a host of top ten hits.  It was notable for is choreography and costumes which place it solidly in the middle of the era.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m1UWSD-FaA

Charlie Daniels Band: The Devil Went Down to Georgia As country music found a new appeal among younger people artists like Charlie Daniels careers took off crossing over to the pop charts from the country charts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m1UWSD-FaA

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson: You Were Always on My Mind Possibly the most prolific of the country artists to cross over into the pop world was Willie Nelson who along with Waylon Jennings produced hit after hit and also had a solid social conscience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CsLL6bIUs6M

A Young Barry Manilow

Barry Manilow: Mandy Barry Manilow was a one man hit machine in the 70’s and 80’s and while rockers, disco fans and others would scoff at his music he had an enduring appeal that spanned generations. I can remember many girls in high school who had their Mailow t-shirts and his songs wee always on the radio.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E5R6dunFOc&feature=related

Weekend in New England

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpkOz-zJiq0&feature=PlayList&p=A0D84ADACA5F5E08&index=0

Boz Skaggs

Boz Skaggs: Lido Shuffle Boz Skaggs had a unique sound and was hard to pin down but again was an artist who was solid throughout the era.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIu0jQ5TaRQ&feature=PlayList&p=8201408B8B6E42C8&index=2

Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder: I Just Called to Say I Love You: R&B singer Stevie Wonder was popular throughout the era and successfully crossed over to the pop charts with I Just Called to Say I Love You from the movie Woman in Red and his duet with Paul McCartney Ebony and Ivory.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PY45DkaP9Ls&feature=PlayList&p=3C966AE64CF668CB&index=10

Rod Stewart” Maggie May Rocker Rod Stewart lived on the wild side in the 70’s and 80’s but by the 90’s and 2000’s had transformed himself into a classic crooner.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9dlG-iq3F8

Commodores: Brick House Lionel Ritchie and the Commodores from Motown we electric in the 70’s and Ritchie would cross over into a even more successful pop career in the late 70s beginning with the theme to the movie Endless Love.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5EmnQp3V48

Kermit the Frog with Blondie’s Debby Harry

Kermit the Frog and Debbie Harry: Rainbow Connection The Muppet Show led by Kermit the Frog featured a wide number of popular music artists who would ham it up often singing duets with Kermit of Miss Piggy. The Muppets had thier own top ten hit The Rainbow Connection from the Muppet Movie.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRvhRhWWE44

Debbie Harry of Blondie

Blondie: Heart of Glass Sexy former Playboy centerfold Debbie Harry and Blondie were a dominant influence on the rock and pop charts in the late 70s and 1980s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lRvhRhWWE44

Sunday Girl

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=obwanhb6kww&feature=PlayList&p=F2ED8F30DB2943CD&index=10

Kim Carnes

Kim Carnes’  Betty Davis Eyes and Debbie Boone’s You Light up My Life would hold the Billboard Pop Single number one record of 9 weeks in the late 1970s. Carnes, a singer songwriter for Kenny Rogers launched a successful solo career of her own with the quirky Betty Davis Eyes while the wholesome Boone, the daughter of pop icon Pat Boone would gain fame with You Light up My Life

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPOIS5taqA8

Debbie Boone

Debbie Boone: You Light up My Life

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nC9sEAqEjxs

Air Supply: Lost in Love One of the bands from down under Air Supply would make its mark on the pop scene with a number of popular love songs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpntNDAYltM

Boston: More than a Feeling The rock group Boston and their driving rhythm and guitar solos would compete with other classic rock groups of the era and help define the “death before disco” movement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IcsVPis1iNs

Supertramp: Breakfast in America One of the more overlooked groups of the era was Supertramp.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jh2TJ2DAy_o

Freddy Mercury and Queen

Queen: We are the Champions Freddy Mercury and Queen easily moved between the rock and pop charts with powerful ballads and rong songs with a quircky edge. Mercury’s vocals and stage presence were amazing.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSTivVclQQ0

Billy Idol: Dancing with Myself Billy Idol a rocker also helped symbolize some of the New Wave movement his ghoulish Dancing with Myself was an early hit on MTV.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VNx78SAq8M

Katrina and the Waves: Walking on Sunshine Another 80s group with lasting appeal was Katrina and the Waves.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPUmE-tne5U

The Bangles: Manic Monday The Girl Group The Bangles had a number of hits in the 80s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAZgLcK5LzI

Madonna: Lucky Star Pop legend Madonna broke into the music scene in this era and really until recently has never left.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThHz9wlBeLU

Kenny Loggins: Danger Zone Kenny Loggins solo career really took off with the movie Top Gun

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1a_ikfUico

Billy Joel: Uptown Girl Billy Joel was another solo artist with hit after hit in the 70s and 80s.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCuMWrfXG4E

AC/DC: You Shook Me All Night Long AC/DC never failed to shock but produced some of the most enduring, if not occasionally controversial hits of the era and still have a large following today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z5FWXSnCEZE&feature=PlayList&p=66074A5666DBAB87&index=2

Berlin: Take My Breath Away Berlin produced a large number of sultry hits but it was Take My Breath Away from Top Gun put them on most people’s radar.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DARX9nzNE3E

Well, they were interesting times and despite everything I still enjoy the music of these groups.  Diverse and unpredictable as to what would find its way onto different charts the artists of the 70’s and 80s and their music is still popular today.

Peace

Padre Steve+

4 Comments

Filed under History, music