The Poetry of Democracy: Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson, and Aretha Franklin

The first time I interviewed Warren Haynes, he said, “We now live an era when someone can press a button on a computer to make a bad singer sound average, and someone can press a button on a computer to make an average singer sound good. But no one will ever be able to push a button to make someone sound like Otis Redding or Aretha Franklin.”

Aretha Franklin’s artistic might and magic defied all human limitation.

Thinking about her death, I revisited one of the most powerful moments of recent memory – When she and Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. collaborated to eulogize Rosa Parks.

I wrote an essay on their soul stirring tribute to one of America’s greatest heroes.

 

Jackson Franklin

 

Recent Essays: Yellowstone, Howard Zinn, and Trump-Russia Criminality

In a recent column for Salon, I have reviewed the excellent new series starring Kevin Costner, Yellowstone, arguing that it uses America’s ongoing ecological destruction, along with the plight and predicament of Native Americans, to present an intriguing, but dark look at the emptiness of American culture.

For the American Conservative, I defended the late historian, Howard Zinn, against an attack from an American Conservative writer. Zinn was a true believer in the populist necessity to exert control over the reckless, and often cruel, application of power. His work is important and valuable.

My most recent column for Salon is an interview with Greg Olear, a novelist and journalist whose new book, Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia, is the most arresting and alarming explanation of the Trump-Russia connection I have found.

New Essay on American Patriotism and Despair

America is a religion to Americans. Great American artists present a necessary, intelligent, and truthful alternative to the dogmatic lie of naming the country a “shining city on the hill.”

In my latest essay for Salon, I explore the beautifully heretical tradition of the American arts, paying particular attention to Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper, Bruce Springsteen, Raymond Chandler, and Joan Didion.

Read it here.

Andrew Wyeth Independence Day

New Interview with John Mellencamp

I recently had a fascinating and fun conversation with artistic legend, John Mellencamp. We discussed his new painting exhibition, the arts in America, and living according to the demands and joys of creativity. Read my essay, based on the interview, at Salon.

Salon published my first interview with Mellencamp last summer. In that conversation, we focused on his music.

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Recent Talk on Bars in America

Fifty of us gathered at the Chicago St. Pub in Joliet, Illinois to have a criminally fun time when I gave a talk on the history and importance of bars in American culture. In my talk, I covered a wide variety of intellectual territory – from the foundation of the United States to the contemporary affliction of loneliness in American life. Brent James and John Condron provided musical accompaniment in key moments. Naturally, libations flowed liberally.

David Masciotra

David Masciotra

David Masciotra

Barack Obama: Invisible Man

My new book, Barack Obama: Invisible Man, is now available!

The Chicago Reader recently summarized the book as following: The cultural critic’s new book Barack Obama: Invisible Man is, in a broader sense, about how America banged its collective head against Trump Tower after last year’s election, no longer able to believe in the kind of change Obama had brought to the Oval Office. He touches on issues not often raised, such as race, privilege, and Obama’s demeanor. Masciotra has previously written about John Mellencamp and Bruce Springsteen, but needless to say this is his most controversial topic.  

Barack Obama_Invisible Man_David Masciotra_Cover