John Barrette: Ramblin’ Jack has a lot to do with it, folks

Music soothes the savage beast, or awakens him. Her, too.

Generally, however, we’re talking good side/bad side here and, for now, the male of the species. Call it silver-tongued devil stuff.

“Without music, life would be a mistake,” wrote a man generally consigned to history as a bad guy. Friedrich Nietzsche — despite enormous contributions to writing, thinking and a perverse kind of spirituality — was a 19th century German philosopher who had syphilis, went crazy later in life, and after his death was inaccurately branded an anti-Semite and “credited” with being one of Hitler’s inspirations.

Nietzsche was an iconoclast, which literally means icon-smasher, or statue-smasher. During his more lucid moments he churned out thought-provoking and aphoristic writing that, taken as a whole, was a jumble of inconsistency.

Whatever you may think of him, however, his assertion about life’s music captures individual existence precisely as the lightning rod it is for all the rest of existence. Think synchronicity and let it go at that. For those who can’t quite let it go at that, understand we’re talking here about what psychologist Carl Gustavus Jung identified as an “acausal connecting principle.”

So what’s all this jibberish about? It’s by way of telling readers that Ramblin’ Jack Elliott will be in Virginia City on Friday night at Piper’s Opera House for a performance to raise funds for the Community Chest up in those parts. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m., at $50 per head, and Carson City’s C.W. Bayer opens for the ramblin’ songman.

Elliott, an octogenarian, was born in 1931 as Elliot Charles Adnopoz in Brooklyn, N.Y. He grew up destined to become a cowpoke folk singer rather than the physician his parents had hoped for and tried to groom.

Later he became an admirer and student of Woody Guthrie, the folk singer of all ramblin’ rascals. Elliott’s discography is laden with records from the Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan and related folk-rock-blues-bluegrass musicology.

Your scrivener first heard of him on Kris Kristofferson’s rendition of “The Pilgrim” when he intoned in a gravelly voice: “Ramblin’ Jack Elliott had a lot to do with it.”

In fact, Kristofferson listed several ramblers as helping inspire “The Pilgrim,” among them Chris Gantry, Dennis Hopper, Johnny Cash, Billy Swan, Bobby Neuwirth, Jerry Jeff Walker, Paul Siebel and Ramblin’ Jack. Poets or lyrics lovers all, including performance artist Hopper, they and others show why culture is a commercial success even when it doesn’t seem so. Even when it doesn’t pay, the good stuff pays off in spades.

The savage beast, like a tuning fork, always knows.


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