Play it again, Sam

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The attack on jazz

Sam Smith – A strange thing is going on about jazz, of which John Halle, director of music theory at Bard College, makes an interesting FB comment:

John Oliver last night: “Congress is like jazz in that most people hate it and anyone who says they don’t is lying.” Someone needs to get to the bottom of all this. My provisional take: jazz is a proxy for Obama buyers’ remorse. All the smart people (often the same people) told us we should wave the pom-poms. But just as Obama turned out to be just another politician so too is jazz just another form of music. Some of it great, some of it appalling, most of it mediocre. Lord knows I wish we got the political backlash instead of the musical one, but that’s the way things roll right now-for reasons which should be discussed and better understood.

My own thinking is that music and culture are so intertwined that music outside of a contemporary culture can sometimes be as alien as fashion that doesn’t reflect the times. And there is a tie with politics, too,  i have, for example, long listed the disco drum machine, along with the Harvard Business School and Yale Law School, as major causes of the collapse of the First American Republic.

There have been times when the popular taste in music has been far more eclectic.When I had a radio jazz show in college back in the 1950s, for example, the tension between the classical, jazz and folk DJs mainly consisted of bad jokes. This is clearly not such a time, due in no small part to the way the monopolistic music industry currently runs the show and controls what we hear.

But it is the duty of any artist is not to be cowed by the tyranny of the present. And about the time that we start to get out of our current cultural disasters we will undoubtedly be aided by new sounds many would not tolerate today. As Louis Armstorng put it once, “If they act too hip, you know they can’t play shit.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Louis Armstrong and the civil rights movement

Sam Smith – Louis Armstrong, given his great popularity among whites, would, from time to time, come under criticism for not doing more for civil rights. Ben Schwartz in the New Yorker sheds some interesting light on this in a new article, including Armstrong’s response for not having taken part in a protest march:

“My life is my music. They would beat me on the mouth if I marched, and without my mouth I wouldn’t be able to blow my horn … They would beat Jesus if he was black and marched.”

In fact, musicians vary markedly in their activism and often express it in their own most familiar language: music. For example, Billie Holiday’s Strange Fruit, a song about lynching, became popular more than a decade before the modern civil rights movement. And we forget that musicians on the road in integrated bands were among those who ran most directly into the walls of segregation. It was, for example, one reason Armstrong didn’t return to New Orleans for years.

And then there are the stories, that get missed, like this one in Schwartz’ article:

One example, of too many, came when Armstrong was arrested by the Memphis Police Department in 1931. His crime? He sat next to his manager’s wife, a white woman, on a bus. Armstrong and his band were thrown in jail as policemen shouted that they needed cotton pickers in the area. Armstrong’s manager got him out in time to play his show the next evening. When he did play, Armstrong dedicated a song to the local constabulary, several of whom were in the room, then cued the band to play “I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead, You Old Rascal You.” The band stiffened, expecting another night in jail, or worse. Instead, he scatted so artfully that, afterward, the cops on duty actually thanked him. Armstrong most likely never quit smiling that night. His subversive joke was not understood by anyone except the African-Americans in his band.

Schwartz also writes:

Armstrong chose his battles carefully. In September, 1957, seven months after the bombing attempt in Knoxville, he grew strident when President Eisenhower did not compel Arkansas to allow nine students to attend Little Rock Central High School. As [Terry] Teachout recounts in “Pops,” here Armstrong had leverage, and spoke out. Armstrong was then an unofficial goodwill ambassador for the State Department. Armstrong stated publicly that Eisenhower was “two-faced” and had “no guts.” He told one reporter, “It’s getting almost so bad a colored man hasn’t got any country.” His comments made network newscasts and front pages, and the A.P. reported that State Department officials had conceded that “Soviet propagandists would undoubtedly seize on Mr. Armstrong’s words.”….

When Eisenhower did force the schools to integrate, Armstrong’s tone was friendlier. “Daddy,” he telegrammed the President, “You have a good heart.”

Unmentioned by Schwartz is an example of Armstrong, like Holiday and other musicians, helping to frame an issue well before political activists. Here are the lyrics to “Black and Blue,” written by Fats Waller in 1929 and later an Armstrong standard:

Cold empty bed, springs hard as lead
Feels like ol’ Ned wished I was dead
What did I do to be so black and blue

Even the mouse ran from my house
They laugh at you and scorn you too
What did I do to be so black and blue

I’m white inside but that don’t help my case
‘Cause I can’t hide what is in my face

How would it end, ain’t got a friend
My only sin is in my skin
What did I do to be so black and blue

How would it end, ain’t got a friend
My only sin is in my skin
What did I do to be so black and blue

It was a song, incidentally, that helped turn me, then a young white high school student in the segregationist 1950s, not only on to jazz, but towards the civil rights movement when it arrived a few years later.

Music can work like that.

Black and Blue

Thelonius Monk

Born Oct 10, 1917

Sam Smith, MultitudesJust as the Harlem Renaissance has been treated mainly as a literary phenomenon, so it was with the beat era.

After all, it is writers and not artists and musicians who get to tell the story afterwards. I never paid much attention to the writers and poets. While a couple of my friends mounted teletype paper rolls behind their typewriters in imitation of the author of “On the Road,” for me it was Miles and Bird and Thelonious who were the epitome of beatness, not Kerouac or Ginsberg. And even Kerouac described his writing as “spontaneous bop prosody.”

Besides, Miles and Thelonius actually came to Boston, the former once playing most of a concert with his back to the audience and the latter once sitting silently at the piano as his partners turned the introduction into a endless bass solo punctuated by a single note on the keyboard.

“Play something,” a man sitting at a front table demanded. Thelonious let the cigarette fall from his mouth to the stage and then kicked it onto the man’s table. Rising slowly, he stepped down from the stage and began to circle the perimeter of the room staring blankly at his audience. He eventually left the nightclub and headed for the airport.

Years later, Time Magazine would report: “In Boston Thelonius Monk once wandered around the airport until the police picked him up and took him to Grafton State Hospital for a week’s observation. He was quickly released without strings, and though the experience persuaded him never to go out on the road alone again, he now tells it as a certification of his sanity. “I can’t be crazy,” he says with conviction. “’cause they had me in one of those places and they let me go.”

Much of the confusion about the state of Monk’s mind is simply the effect of Monkish humor. He has a great reputation in the jazz world as a master of the “put-on,” a mildly cruel art invented by hipsters as a means of toying with squares. Monk is proud of his skill. “When anybody says something that’s a drag,” he says, “I just say something that’s a bigger drag. Ain’t nobody can beat me at it either. I’ve had plenty of practice.”

Upright falldown

Your editor at his upright with clarinetist Don Rouse

Sam Smith – This is not a good year for Steinway. First the company was taken over by a hedge fund. Now David Jenson, my piano tuner tells me that the wood on my 115 year old Steinway upright has dried out and isn’t holding things like screws like it once did.

I asked David how my piano compared in age among the ones he tunes. He said he had one older up in the Rangely Lake area, about a hundred miles from here.

I bought the 1898 Steinway in the early 1970s when uprights were not popular. The guy at Kitt’s Music Store in DC told me that I should just come in and get whatever they had that day. The afternoon I followed his advice the Steinway was the only upright in the shop. And so I bought it. For $300.

For years it was cared for and refinished by James Shadd, a pianist and band leader who had backed up Josephine Baker during WWII among other things. Shadd started his piano hospital in 1941 and one of the delights of having him tune your piano would be that he would tell you some great stories and, when he was through, let loose with a few jazz numbers. Once he told me that his mother had a band that Doris Duke used regularly. Doris Duke gave his mother a white Cadillac, “but, you know, my mama drank that Cadillac right up.”

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James Shadd

When James Shadd passed, his son Warren took over. His firm sells and fixes all sorts of pianos, ad was the first to bridge acoustic pianos with new technology that includes touchscreen monitors, built-in audio, Internet access, DVD/BluRay Drive, MIDI and so forth. Warren, whose mother was a stride piano player and aunt was Shirley Horn, not only is deep into pianos but started playing drums when he was four. .He’s serviced pianos for Herbie Hancock, Tony Bennett, and Aretha Franklin. and performed or recorded on drums with the likes of Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald, Nancy Wilson, and Dizzy Gillespie.

So my upright has had some pretty wonderful attention.

Upright being introduced to Maine

It even survived being moved to Maine with us four years ago thanks in no small part to the fine attention of piano tuner David Jensen.

But now the end is in sight, especially thanks to a bad E in the octave below middle C, It’s hard to explain to non-musicians but losing a favorite instrument is like losing an arm or a leg. It allowed you to do things you never could have done otherwise.

I don’t have any idea what I’ll do now, but while I figure it out, I’ll just work on avoiding that E below middle C, and cling to one of the best relationships I ever had.

Jocko Henderson

Sam Smith

More often than should be the case, I get distracted by Google and start looking into something or someone who just happens to cross my mind. Most recently it was Jocko Henderson. 

By the late fifties, the hounds of change were on radio’s traces. Television was seizing for itself the stories, the vaudeville and the sense of being there that had been the heart of radio. And into the void was moving a new kind of music called rock ‘n’ roll.

To be sure rock ‘n’ roll already existed, but it was known as “rhythm ‘n’ blues” or “R&B.” In the jargon of white broadcasters, it was “race music,” although some white teenagers, myself included, listened almost surreptitiously to stations like Philadelphia’s WDAS, where DJ Jocko Henderson proto-rapped:

Get a little cash from out of your stash,
And make like a flash in the hundred yard dash
Right down to my man John Kohler at 4th & Arch
And tell him Jocko sent you!

Years later Jocko Henderson would be recognized as one of the fathers of rap and hip hop.

The SilhouettesDouglas “Jocko” Henderson, “The Ace from Outer Space”, was a pioneering radio broadcaster whose career spanned five decades.

Born in Baltimore in 1918, Jocko began his broadcasting career in 1952 on radio station WSID. The next year he moved to WHAT in Philadelphia, adopted his enduring nickname, and a few months later went to WDAS, developing a rhyming style of delivery that can be seen as a forerunner of many later rap artists.

“This is your ace… from outer space… not the duplicator… not the imitator… not the impersonator… but the originator!”

Jocko played rhythm and blues music – with no station-imposed playlist – and his Rocket Ship Show was immensely popular. As his fame spread he did shows that aired in Boston, Detroit, Washington DC, St Louis and Miami, and at one time regularly did a daytime show in Philadelphia and an evening one in New York.

Jocko Henderson died aged 82 in July 2000.

Broadcast Pioneers “Hello, Daddy-O and Mommy-O, This is Jocko” was all the rage in Philadelphia and later in New York City. His thing was rhyming words like, “eee-tiddlee-yock, this is the Jock,” or “oo-papa-doo, how do you do.” While not the first to do this, it worked. Word has it that his fan club numbered 50,000 people at one time.

…After running unsuccessfully for the United States Congress in the Second District in 1978, he spent much of his efforts promoting his “Get Ready” program for school districts around the country. Jocko made records of himself teaching our youth everything from math to American history with rap lyrics.

In August of 2001, we received an e-mail from Raymond Witter of Great Britain. He writes in part:

   I’m from England. I’m England’s first rapper, the original English rapper. The first rap that reached England was ‘rapper’s delight’ then ‘christmas rapping’ then ‘rhythm talk’ by Jocko…. All I remember is the bits you quoted plus ‘I’m the middleweight champ at 163, you’ve gotta be bad to hang with me’.

A visitor to our website identified as Professor D, e-mailed:

   I can still here him saying, and me hanging on his every word, “HICKORY DICKORY DOCK; THE MOUSE  RAN UP THE CLOCK BUT AT 12 05 TO HIS RADIO HE DIVED AND SAID.LET’S RETURN TO THE JOCK.”

 Recording of Jock Henderson

Why we need a natural music movement

Sam Smith

As part of a debate over people ripping off music downloads, the Trichordist ran a post by music economics professor David Lowery that made some striking points:

  • Recorded music revenue is down 64% since 1999.
  • Per capita spending on music is 47% lower than it was in 1973.
  • The number of professional musicians has fallen 25% since 2000.
  • Of the 75,000 albums released in 2010 only 2,000 sold more than 5,000 copies. Only 1,000 sold more than 10,000 copies.

As for the musicians, Lowery wrote:

“The average income of a musician that files taxes is something like $35k a year w/o benefits. The vast majority of artists do not make significant money on the road. Until recently, most touring activity was a money losing operation. The idea was the artists would make up the loss through recorded music sales. This has been reversed by the financial logic of file-sharing and streaming. You now tour to support making albums if you are very, very lucky. Otherwise, you pay for making albums out of your own pocket. Only the very top tier of musicians make any money on the road. And only the 1% of the 1% makes significant money on the road.”

The article – like nearly all I have seen on the topic – primarily discusses legal and financial problems and solutions. As a musician who has seen the role of music in our culture change drastically in his lifetime and as an anthropology major, I am grimly fascinated by how few people talk about music any more in its cultural context.

Once you reduce a matter simply to dollars and cents you effectively block out every other aspect of culture including community, religion, recreation, family and politics. And you play into the corporate urge to judge everything in life by its profitability.

This is not to say there is not a financial factor, but music historically has been the only art form not mainly assigned to artists but involving the deep participation of ordinary citizens – not to make money but to make life better.

That has dramatically changed for reasons that are seldom discussed. Among the suspects, for example, are

  • Moving from field and factory to quiet offices.
  • The shift from radio (listening) to TV (viewing). Music is sound, not sight.
  • Theater replacing performance (Miles Davis survived without billowing smoke, flashes of lights and sexy dancers behind him).
  • The decline of locales where participatory music is encouraged or featured.
  • The role of the megacorporations in deciding what and how we hear music.
  • The corporate driven obsession with electronic music
  • The Ipod as a form of musical solitary confinement

Bear in mind that the actual audience for music is still highly varied. Of albums sold in 2011, here are just some of the shares by genre:

  • 27% Rock
  • 14% R&B
  • 11% Country
  • 7% Rap
  • 6% Gospel/Christian
  • 3% Jazz

According to the media and recording industry, one would imagine that rock, R&B and rap cover the territory when, in fact, they make up less than half of album sales. And one third of the music audience isn’t even included in the list above.

Over the past half century, the most hyped popular music has also become strikingly less varied and complex. This is not to say that simple blues or folk songs don’t rightfully have deep appeal, but for the musical environment to end up with dramatically fewer chords, less dynamics, less melody and less general variety means that we have far less to enjoy than we might.

This is not unique to modern America nor to music. Follow any cultural development throughout its history and you may find a growth in both complexity and aesthetic quality that reaches a peak and then starts to deteriorate. The principle applies to music as well as to ancient Rome or Indian pottery.

In one of the great music books – How to Play the Piano Despite Years of Lessons – pianist Fred Marx and journalist Ward Camel conspired to simplify some of the mysteries of music. For example, one way to chart chords is to put them on a circle based on their common distance. And if you chart the use of these chords historically you find something interesting. Write Camel & Knox:

“For quite a long while it was possible for composers to cover the essentials by extending the backward jump from two stops to a quarter circle, then to four and then to five stops. Each longer jump backward over more intervening stops was a landmark development in its day. But today, the long jump of five stops sounds very pleasant and ordinary.”

That book was written in 1976. Today, in fact, many rock and roll numbers are happy with just three stops on the circle.

Coming of age in the 1950s, I perhaps became more aware of this shift in part because it was a time when modern jazz was burying the past, Part of its draw was a greater complexity of rhythm and chords.

My high school heroes – people like Sidney Bechet, Louis Armstrong and Gene Krupa – were passé. I was once lectured sternly by the jazz director of our college radio station for having played a record by Earl Bostic – now considered a pioneer of R&B. A few years later, the station played 168 hours straight of Art Blakey numbers. We were smug partisans of musical complexity – quite unaware that we were almost done for.

Things began to turn the other way. As a drummer I noticed it most sourly with the advent of the disco drum machine in the 1970s. I would argue futilely that human idiosyncrasy was preferable to electronic perfection and boredom.

But even earlier, in the late 1950s, I was on the scene as a newsman as Washington radio station WWDC became a top forty outlet. The concept was so new that the popular morning man was still allowed to ban all rock from his show. But massive change was on its way. A few years later WWDC would introduce a British band called the Beatles to an American audience for the first time, a band whose musician, Paul McCartney, had to wander around Liverpool to find someone to show him how to play a B7 chord. Things were changing and getting much simpler.

Again, this is not an argument against simplicity. I love blues as much as the next guy. It’s just that variety got lost in the shift. It’s just that there are audiences out there being ignored or forgotten. And they’re not illegal downloaders.

The other night I watched a 1987 documentary on Paul Simon’s Graceland and found myself wondering whether Simon could have found anyone interested in his project today.

There are other little noted problems. Take, for example, the issue of electronic music. That the acoustic had defined music until about a half century ago suggests that it may still have some virtues. But it is coming out the short end.

Besides, electronic sounds have downsides that may chase some music listeners away:

It tends to be much louder
It tends not to vary as much in dynamics
It tends to be less melodic
It creates sub-sounds that in another context would not even be considered music

Among those who have noted such problems has been the US military and intelligence services. From a few news clips:

– United States 361st Psychological Operations Company’s Sergeant Mark Hadsell: “These people haven’t heard heavy metal. They can’t take it. If you play it for 24 hours, your brain and body functions start to slide, your train of thought slows down and your will is broken. That’s when we come in and talk to them.”

– “When the United States invaded Panama in December 1989, Noriega took refuge in the Holy See’s embassy on December 24, which was immediately surrounded by U.S. troops. After being continually bombarded by hard rock music . . .Noriega surrendered on January 3, 1990.”

– The Washington Post: “The physical tactics noted by the Red Cross included placing detainees in extremely cold rooms with loud music blaring, and forcing them to kneel for long periods of time, the source familiar with the report said.”

“Several days after Paris Hilton announced that she will release a music album, the Pentagon has decided to buy 50,000 copies of her upcoming album to use against insurgents in the volatile Anbar province in western Iraq.”

And this from the LA Times last May:

“Music exposure can cause noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL; people with this condition often have ‘increased feelings of isolation, depression, loneliness, anger, and fear,’ according to the study.

Yet loud, electronic sounds have become the musical marker of our times and not just as a result of popular choice. You find it as the background to fairs, festivals, and other events where it is simply assumed that this is what music is meant to be about.

Recently I was at a fundraiser attended mainly by those in their thirties and forties. Playing was a trio that was electronic, repetitive and unrelenting in volume. I was struck by how little effect it had on those present.

Then, for just one song in the whole evening, the trio played a classic country tune with a bit of age on it. Suddenly people began turning around, mouthing the words, and smiling. For the first time, the music had had become part of the event rather than just a sonic back drop

Why? In part because it was something most everyone could share. It struck me as a metaphor for what is wrong with music these days: it has been taken away from us.

The secret of music used to be that it was something that, when we heard it, was already a part of us.

One of the most revealing terms for what has happened to music is the word “cover” – playing a song that has already been made popular by some other artist.

What is significant about this phrase is the assumption that it is the artist and not the music that really counts. While this may work well for the business model of the music industry, in fact it makes music increasingly a transitory phenomenon comprised of hits that are here today and gone tomorrow. It reduces your choices to a constantly shifting top 40 or their equivalent.

Besides, the artist can never be us – we can only admire and enjoy them. But music can be ours forever.

The other night I saw the difference live and in person at an outdoor performance by Chris Izaak as part of LL Bean’s 100th birthday celebration in Freeport, Maine. The first hour was classic loud, electronic rock. Competent but unexciting. I got bored enough that I walked into Bean’s, wandered around a bit and then went to the bathroom. Then Izaak switched to songs from his latest album of covers recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis.

The sounds and audience reactions changed abruptly with the music. It was possible to hear the piano and some fine guitar work. There was even a real standing string bass. Volume no longer substituted for quality. For both Izaak – who recalled discs in his father’s slim collection that had inspired him – and for the crowd, the music had come home. It had become ours again. The music may have been covers, but the covers uncovered us and why we love music.

And I’m not talking recent hits. Here are some of the tunes that were played:

– “Ring of Fire” (Johnny Cash 1963)

– “Great Balls of Fire” (Jerry Lee Lewis 1957)

– “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (Elvis Presley 1961)

– “Dixie Fried” (Carl Perkins 1956)

– “Miss Pearl” (Jimmy Wages 1957)

– “Oh, Pretty Woman” (Roy Orbison 1964)

The dismissal of something as a mere “cover” reveals much about what has happened to music. What the recording industry wants is stars and an ever changing Top Something. The music just has to fend for itself.

Could this be one reason that lawyers, RIAA execs, and economists don’t understand why 10 years ago the average American spent almost three times as much on recorded music as they do today?

Travis Morrison was in a band back then called The Dismemberment Plan, and he wrote recently about how his crowd also pirated music:

.“I would psychopathically hound DJs at Q107 or WAVA to play this or that song. I would call the request line until my finger fell off from dialing. Please Please Please play Life In A Northern Town by Dream Academy in the next 20 minutes I have soccer practice at 4!!!! And then I’d sit. With my finger on the record button on my boombox. … Please don’t let the preceding song overlap too much; Please don’t talk over the intro you douchebag DJ; Please no ads for Jerry’s Ford ruining the ending. I always kept a tape ready in my boombox in case of surprises. The day that Q107 played “Ship Of Fools” by World Party–an unusual tune in the context of 80s pop radio, with weird sounds and misanthropic lyrics, my idea of a good time and probably an error that got a DJ fired–I swear to god I knocked over every piece of furniture in my room to hit record. . .

“Public libraries were one of the most important–and strangest–sources of old-school pirated music. You took them home to dub, but of course like anything from the library, getting them back was a titanic mental struggle and often times you’d just end up with it in your collection. . .

“Now, all of this happened well before Napster, which showed up when I was 26.”

And here are a few other things about which Napster bears no responsibility:

– The number of New York state students in 8th grade in 1975-76 taking music classes were 74,000. By 2010-11 it was 24,000. The number taking guitar classes declined from 11,000 to 7,000.

– According to the NEA, the percentage of those between 18 and 24 who attended a jazz concert declined 58% between 1982 and 2008. Attendance at musicals dropped 13%.

– The average age of a jazz concert attendee in 1982 was 29. By 2008 it was 46.

– Those who listened to jazz radio (free) were three times as likely to go to a jazz concert.

What’s really happening

If you turn away from the complaints of the lawyers and the RIAA execs and look at the facts, one thing becomes clear: music is no longer the major part of American life that it once was. To create a market for something, you need some enthusiasm and that enthusiasm can only be minimally and transitorily created by megacorporations shoving something our way for a few months and then replacing it with something else. Count the number of times you hear a person sing in the next week and you’ll see the problem which is that we have a musical economy but not a musical culture. The public has been essentially read out of the concert as major participants.

Worse, what has happened to music has happened to other aspects of our lives and can perhaps be best described as the corporatization of communal culture. In each case matters of non-fiscal but enormous common value have been translated into just another market item controlled by megacorporations. For example:

– America is politically defined by its Declaration of Independence and Constitution but these have become merely marketing icons in a political culture now overwhelmingly controlled by corporations and wealthy individuals. Our freedom and independence have just become another item on the syntactical shelf. What counts is money.

– Physical play has followed a similar path. As budgets for playgrounds and parks come under attack, the definition of good sports is no longer Olympian or back yard but determined by Olympian sponsors and major league owners. As with music, we have turned over much of our cultural property to the money grabbers.

– Corporations have seized control of public education through various cons ranging from No Child Left Behind to charter schools and for profit universities. Among the victims, incidentally, is time for music.

– Corporations have commercialized that most basic connection we have with nature: food – through pesticides, genetic modification, industrial farming and additives that make us less healthy and gain more weight.

– And in a similar fashion corporations have seized the culture of music making it theirs in as many ways possible.

In each case our lives within a community have suffered.

Interestingly, the earliest and most impressive rebellion against all this came with the natural food movement, which began a half century ago. It has been far from fully successful but it offers hints and hope that things can change if we take it from the top.

Just as the natural food movement has done, we need a natural music movement to return the sounds of America to its communities. Just as with the natural food movement, there is plenty of money to be made by those willing to play by the community’s rather than the corporate rules. You can make money either way, what changes is who makes the money and with what.

And one reason there is money to be made is because people once more would put music into their lives, just as many still do in their churches.

A recent USA Today story gives a sense of what has happened with natural foods:

“Used to be this was all very faddish,” said Gregg Proctor, who heads up natural foods for Kroger’s central division, which includes Indiana. “Not anymore. We’re adding new items constantly because if we don’t get it when it comes out, our competition will.”

There seems to be a race to pure foods among the nation’s largest supermarkets as they ramp up their offerings, even launch their own brands of organics and naturals, and then heavily advertise the healthy choice.

It all makes sense, considering sales of this segment of groceries are outpacing traditional grocery sales.

Nationwide, natural and organic food sales grew 8 percent in 2010 versus the less than 1 percent growth in the $630 billion total U.S. food market, according to the Nutrition Business Journal. It grew at about a 5 percent rate each year from 2005 to 2009.

Cincinnati-based Kroger, which in the past four years has seen sales in its natural foods division double, has made it a point to focus on the segment.

Decades after corporate America started to grab both, natural food is booming, but natural music is struggling.

For some time I’ve argued that local democracy is as important as local lettuce, and that Citizens United is the Monsanto like plague of politics.

We need to add local and natural music to the metaphor. We need to establish rules that distinguish between honest business and cynical ripoff. We need to value the organic just like the environmental movement does. And we need natural sounds to accompany our natural meals and in all those other places in our lives where a big corporation should have no right to interfere.