The Blood is at the Doorstep

This documentary by Eric Ljung may be a look in the rear view mirror but if you have an hour and a half, you’ll find it worth your while. There’s a lot to unpack and, as a former political activist, I’m left with some questions that the filmmakers did not choose to explore though they touched upon a few of them. This is not a criticism but rather a recognition that the politics of community organizing can be complicated and historical. You’re not going to get it all in 90 minutes.

 

The Blood is at the Doorstep is a story about one family’s quest for answers, justice, and reform after Dontre Hamilton is shot 14 times and killed by a Milwaukee Police Officer responding to a non-emergency wellness check.

“Filmed over the course of three years in the direct aftermath of Dontre’s death, this intimate verite documentary follows his family as they channel their grief into community organizing in an attempt to reset the narrative. Offering a painfully realistic glimpse inside a movement born out of tragedy in what the Hollywood Reporter calls ‘a clear-eyed film that finds hope within terrible circumstances, and strength
within heartbreak.'”

Rapture

Okay, I agree that Valentines Day tends to make me rather… cynical? Too negative, in any case. So as a day after offering, may I present to you this musical item whose lyrics have everything except “happily ever after”: agape, sex and death, ecstasy, and the dissolving of boundaries:

Rapture

Divers asleep
Dream of the deep
Closing over their heads
Lost comrades gather
By their beds
“Her voice in the drowned bells
Was tolling
In rapture we died
Waves o’er us rolling”
Pilots beware
The perilous air
Streaming under your wings
She will betray you
As she sings
Her voice in the hot sun
Is calling
In rapture you die
Flying and falling
Lovers who lie
Beneath the night sky
Neither speak nor hear
In the perfect stillness
She is near
Her voice in the heart’s blood
Comes roaring
In rapture they die
Diving and soaring.

— Lyrics by Judy Henske
— Music by Jerry Yester

from the album Farewell Aldebaran.

Farewell Aldebaran is among my favorite psychedelic albums and “Rapture” is my favorite cut off that album. The album was issued in 1969 on Frank Zappa’s “Straight” label. Musically and most especially lyrically, it is a remarkable bit of work, even if a few of the cuts only skim the top of mundane. Some of the cuts feature a Mellotron, an analog means of sampling sounds and playing them with a keyboard.

Judy Henske is originally from Wisconsin (or maybe the old Riverview amusement park in Chicago, if you wish to believe Jack Nitzsche’s liner notes elsewhere). She eventually got into folk music on the west coast, becoming known as “the Queen of the Beatniks”. Jerry Yester’s main claim to fame is as a member of  The New Christy Minstrels and later The Lovin’ Spoonful. At the time Farewell Aldebaran was issued, Henske and Yester were married but separated not long after.

I only have one other album by Henske in my collection, The Death-Defying Judy Henske. It is a live concert recording and it immediately precedes Farewell Aldebaran in her discography (liner notes by Nitzsche). It was a junk store find and seemed to be in near-unplayable condition. Then a few years later I replaced the needle on my turntable and what a remarkable difference! Apparently the new needle played a different, less eroded part of the groove.

Judy Henske is still in the music business. You can get a CD reissue of Farewell Aldebaran at her web site; possibly it’s available for download through iTunes though you’ll need to check that yourself. I’m running Linux / Ubuntu so checking iTunes is a bit hard for me to do.

Yester seems to have come to a sorry end, and I’ll say no more about it.