- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2003

Red-headed stranger

“[Willie] Nelson absorbed the breadth of American music by living it. Born in poor Texas cotton country, Nelson and his sister Bobbie, who still plays piano for him, were raised by their grandparents, devout people and gospel-music fans who encouraged their grandchildren to pick up instruments. By the time the boy was 7 he was writing songs. … In 1956 Nelson made his first record; it sold 3,000 copies. Then he wrote and sold a couple of hits, which got him a publishing contract and brought him to Nashville.

“Producers there had little interest in demos of his nasal voice with its eccentric phrasing, and capitalized instead on Nelson’s songwriting. And yet now that those demos have surfaced on various reissues, they actually outline a central portion of Nelson’s work, since most made the Top 20 country charts, though almost always as performed by others. …

“Ray Price was the first star to cover Nelson’s tune; for a while Nelson played bass in Price’s band and wrote hits for Faron Young (‘Hello Walls’), Billy Walker (‘Funny How Time Slips Away’) and Patsy Cline (‘Crazy’).”

Gene Santoro, writing on “Willie Nelson at 70,” in the Nov. 17 issue of the Nation

Europe’s America

“What picture of American society is likely to be imprinted on the consciousness of average Europeans? … The picture repeatedly sketched for them is as follows:

“American society is entirely ruled by money. … America is the ‘jungle’ par excellence of out-of-control, ‘savage’ capitalism, where the rich are always becoming richer and fewer while the poor are becoming poorer and more numerous. Poverty is the dominant social reality in America. Hordes of famished indigents are everywhere, while luxurious chauffeured limousines with darkened windows glide through the urban wilderness. …

“In the U.S. ‘only the most fortunate have the right to medical care and to grow old with dignity,’ as one writer recently put it in [the French daily] Liberation. University courses are reserved only for those who can pay, which partly explains the ‘low level of education’ in the benighted USA. Europeans firmly believe these sorts of caricatures — because they are repeated every day by the elites.”

Jean-Francois Revel, writing on “Europe’s Anti-American Obsession,” in the December issue of the American Enterprise

Youth fetish

“The Millennials — the teens and young twenty-somethings born after 1981 — are coming of age at a time when American culture’s long-standing youth fetish is reaching autoparodic proportions. Adults today may not smoke dope with the neighbor kids like ‘American Beauty’s Lester Burnham or throw raging keggers like the over-30 frat boys of ‘Old School,’ but these pop culture fantasies of regression are symptomatic of an elder generation that often grotesquely identifies with, is fascinated by and seeks to live vicariously through its offspring.

“During the 1990s, federal spending on kids rose faster than spending on seniors or working-age adults for the first time since the 1920s. Yet for all our national obsession with doing things ‘for the children,’ there’s little agreement on the political character of the largest demographic cohort since the baby boom. The Millennials serve as a political Rorschach test, with partisans of the left and the right each seeing their own proclivities as dominant.”

Julian Sanchez, writing on “Misreading Millennials,” in the December issue of Reason

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