Monday, December 10, 2007

Exactly How Lame is Tom Brokaw?

I was a child of the 50s, so I was a student of cool jazz. I was with a friend yesterday, and we were at a restaurant and he looked up and said, "Hey, they're playing Miles Davis and John Coltrane." And I thought "We're the last generation that still recognizes that." -- Tom Brokaw in Entertainment Weekly

Yeah, man, all the 50s hipsters were into Miles and 'Trane.

Davis' "Birth of the Cool" dates from 1949-50; "Kind of Blue" is from 1959. "In a Silent Way," and "Bitches Brew" which ushered in "fusion" jazz, are from 1969 and 1970. He was still performing and recording up until his death in 1991.

Coltrane's "My Favorite Things," by far his most popular work, is from 1961; his magnum opus, "A Love Supreme" is from 1964-65. He died in 1967.

So Brokaw casually appropriates ten years of Davis' work, (and by implication, dismisses the next thirty years of it). As for what he does with Coltrane, I have no idea. Was the restaurant playing just from the period that Coltrane was with Davis, or did Brokaw decide that music from the early to mid-60s was part of the 1950s?

Ah, who cares? The 50s generation was listening to Buddy Holly, Elvis, and Bobby Darin (I'm being kind here; I had older cousins who were big into Bobby Vinton and Frankie Avalon). Cool jazz was for elitist snobs, which is why I went for it with some precocity. But jeez, I'd never claim that I represent some sort of last connoisseurship, apr├Ęs moi le deluge, you know? Brokaw's on television; didn't he watch Ken Burns' Jazz?

Come to think of it, probably not. Otherwise, Brokaw's documentary on The History Channel, would not have spent two hours bringing the same sort of precision of insight that Brokaw has on music, to the history of the year I started college. Truth to tell, I'd be much more interested in what he had to say about the group between the "Greatest Generation" and the Boomers. Not because I think it would be accurate, mind you, but it might give us some clues as to how Brokaw managed to become as lame as he is.


remarkable said...

Go easy on Brokaw....if you've ever noticed his hands during any recent appearances....he's apparently a victim of rheumatoid arthritis...which makes one especially lame....even crippled. Besides, it's hair-splitting here....he genuinely likes I used to frequent the same local jazz haunts as he way back in the 70's in LA.

James Killus said...

I don't think anyone reading my little rant would think that I was making fun of some physical infirmity of Brokaw's, and I wouldn't call arthritis in the hands "lameness" in any event.

As for his "genuine" love of jazz, I don't doubt it a bit. What pissed me off was the casual assertion that only the members of his own generation loved Miles Davis and John Coltrane enough to recognize them when they heard them. That is both arrogant and untrue.

What I'm objecting to about Brokaw is his poor journalism. I was even more ticked off at another piece in his 1968 documentary about the Chicago riots.

Brokaw is rich and famous and in no danger whatsoever from me. So I think I'm allowed to complain when I think he's screwed up.