Monday, March 08, 2010

Music Monday ~ Ry Cooder

Another Sun Pisces musician featured today: Ry Cooder. He's more "a musician's musician" than one widely known or remembered by the general public. I know him only from the Academy Award nominated film Buena Vista Social Club, which didn't really focus on Cooder, but on a group of Cuban musicians. Ry Cooder, though, is held in high regard by those in the musical know:

Cooder is a virtuoso on virtually every string instrument, from Mexican tiple to Middle Eastern saz to Hawaiian "slack key" guitar, but is mostly known for his country-blues-style mandolin, electric and acoustic guitar, and slide guitar..... one of the masters, an icon among session heroes. His solo explorations of the roots of rock and world music are extraordinary, resurrecting both known and obscure songs from country blues and Dust Bowl folk music, and mixing tropical calypso with Civil War camp songs, gospel, R&B, Tex Mex, and early rock 'n' roll classics. He even explored the roots of jazz, vaudeville, ragtime, and urban bop. Some of his finest recordings are movie scores for films including The Border and Paris, Texas. Today he is once again in the charts with the critically acclaimed album of Cuban music he produced, Buena Vista Social Club. Link.

An interview reported in the UK's The Observer newspaper reveals more of the real Ry Cooder than I found elsewhere. A couple of extracts:

Cooder doesn't like to dwell on the past, can be cranky, cantankerous even; on the walls, there is nothing to suggest that this is one of the most influential figures in the history of contemporary popular song. No old photographs posing with Captain Beefheart or the Rolling Stones (Cooder played on Let it Bleed, but fell into a dispute with Keith Richards, who confessed he took him 'for all that he knew', over ownership of the 'Honky Tonk Woman' riff); no gold discs commemorating his string of classic Seventies solo albums such as Chicken Skin Music; no framed guitar from the soundtrack sessions for the Wim Wenders movie Paris, Texas, the most feted of several film scores he wrote in the Eighties; nothing to mark his ground-breaking collaborations with Malian bluesman Ali Farka Toure or Hindustani musician VM Bhatt in the 1990s, never mind his work with Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club, whom he helped rediscover and produce. Put it to Cooder that he's nothing if not versatile and he says genially: 'Well, I'm sort of an osmotic fellow.' .......................................

.................It is no surprise that someone who thinks music took a wrong turn with the advent of the Beatles - just as his own story started - should place such value on a lifetime's knowledge. He talks fondly about the Buena Vista gang, describing his time with them as 'like going to school'. Cooder broke the Trading with the Enemy Act to record in Cuba and was prosecuted and fined $25,000. Only through an act of clemency invoked by President Clinton on his last day in office was he allowed back into the country with a one-year licence to carry out more recordings.

'Yeah, Clinton did good,' he says. 'But he also ushered in the era of Nafta, the North American Free Trade Area, which made Juarez, Mexico, the murder capital of the world, with women raped for their pay cheques. That was another nail in the coffin of workers' lives.'

Never mind the 'RepubliKlans' - the Democrats today are 'a bunch of cowards, chickenshit,' he says.

The antithesis of most rock stars, Cooder has always shunned the limelight and after the release of his Get Rhythm album in 1987, it had seemed he would never make a record under his own name again. 'That's the thing that surprises me about these two new albums,' says Nick Gold. 'Not that he made them, but that he's singing on them, exposing himself in that way.'

Born on 15 March 1947 in Los Angeles at 2.05 AM (Astrotheme).

It's not Sun, with Mercury conjunct Mars in Pisces that stood out for me when I first looked at Cooder's natal chart, it was Capricorn Moon in 12th house, which reflects his apparent dislike of celebrity and its trappings. 12th house has connection to Pisces, of course - last sign, last house in the chain. There's been a lot of twaddle written about 12th house, extrapolated from a) its position on the backside of the horizon, and b) its connection to Pisces/Neptune and all the delusional foggy dreaminess they represent. The explanation of 12th house that rings most true to me is that when emphasised by the presence of natal planets, the person will have, and need to keep, a very private side to their nature - working alone, being alone, is no problem to them. Perhaps, had Ry Cooder been born at a different time of day, his name would have been much better known by the public in general, perhaps then he'd have wanted it that way - as it was, he didn't!

A Grand Trine in Air linking Venus in Aquarius, Uranus in Gemini and Neptune in Libra provides a harmonious circuit of the mentally-oriented signs, representing quick wit, social concern, and artistic talent.

Another, looser Grand Trine links Sun, Jupiter and Saturn. I like the trine from Sun (self) to Jupiter for Ry Cooder. Jupiter represents expansion and travel, foreign countries....he seems forever drawn to explore the music of other cultures and nations, doesn't he? This might seem to be in conflict with his withdrawn 12th house Moon, but while physically travelling, Cooder does seems to retain an inner (Moon) sense of personal privacy.

Cooder's Pisces-Capricorn blend is a rather good one for a musician, it allows his creativity full-rein while keeping his feet firmly on the ground.

Paris, Texas.

Going back to Okinawa


Wisewebwoman said...

I don't know what it is about this man, T, but he literally makes my flesh crawl. I wonder what THAT'S all about, h'm?

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ I've no idea, WWW....I haven't seen enough of him to form a proper impression, other than that his work is highly regarded.

Maybe you were listening to something of his at a bad time in your life.

anyjazz said...

I think I became aware of Ry Cooder first for his sound track work on “Paris, Texas” and “Crossroads.” I admired his courage when he defied the US state department’s wishes and went to Cuba anyway to round up the participants in “Buena Vista Social Club”.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~~ Yep! Anybody who defied the state department's paranoia deserved a gold star. ;-)