When John Waters Appeared on The Simpsons and Changed America’s LGBTQ Views (1997)

On the week where Alaba­ma Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion banned an episode of the kids’ car­toon Arthur for show­ing a gay wed­ding (just after ban­ning abor­tion the week before), let’s go back to a time when the entire coun­try need­ed a lit­tle bit of an edu­ca­tion on homo­sex­u­al­i­ty and used The Simp­sons and a guest appear­ance by direc­tor John Waters to make the point.

“Homer’s Pho­bia” pre­miered on Feb­ru­ary 16, 1997 in the show’s eighth sea­son. Writ­ten by Ron Hauge, the episode casts Waters as John, the own­er of Springfield’s antique and mem­o­ra­bil­ia store “Cockamamie’s”, who befriends the fam­i­ly. Bart and Lisa love the retro and campy objects on sale, Marge loves John’s com­pli­ments, but Homer freaks out when he real­izes (and it takes some time) that John is gay. Pan­ick­ing that Bart might become gay from John’s influ­ence, he forces Bart to take a tour of the man­li­est thing he can think of, a steel mill, only to find that it dou­bles as a gay dis­co after work (“We work hard and we play hard,” says the fore­man).

Homer dou­bles down, believ­ing that hunt­ing and killing a deer will make Bart a man. John saves the day of course, Homer learns a lit­tle les­son on accep­tance, and only at the end does Bart under­stand what the whole pan­ic has been about.

As com­e­dy with a mes­sage, the episode still holds up. Homer’s clue­less­ness (when Marge says “He prefers the com­pa­ny of men,” Homer responds, “Who does­n’t?”) and his homo­pho­bia (refer­ring to the word “queer” he says “I resent you peo­ple using that word. That’s our word for mak­ing fun of you! We need it!”) is both dopey and point­ed, but nev­er vicious. Also delight­ful is John’s vis­it to the Simp­sons’ home, where he has a vin­tage collector’s swoon over the kitsch of the entire inte­ri­or dec­o­ra­tion, which as view­ers we’ve nev­er real­ly con­sid­ered. There’s plen­ty of visu­al gags, like a pink flamin­go in John’s shop and the amaz­ing Sha-Boom-Ka-Boom goo­gie-archi­tec­ture cafe.

Accord­ing to Matt Baume’s recent video essay, this episode did more for aware­ness and expos­ing intol­er­ance than any live action show at the time. John Waters, despite his filthy fil­mog­ra­phy, is fun, col­lect­ed, and cool. He is nei­ther a punch­line nor a trag­ic fig­ure. At this time in Amer­i­ca, homo­sex­u­al­i­ty was still a crime in many states. A head cen­sor at Fox object­ed to near­ly every line in the show (although not always from the right–there was also con­cern that gay peo­ple might be offend­ed). Time solved the prob­lem, how­ev­er. By the time it came back from the ani­ma­tors that one cen­sor had lost his job.

A few months lat­er Ellen Degeneres came out on Oprah and the cul­ture start­ed to shift even a lit­tle more. But as this week proved, this episode’s insights still ring true today.

For Waters, it’s been a weird lega­cy, with kids and fam­i­lies rec­og­niz­ing him from the episode and not from his more infa­mous work. He now has out a new book, Mr. Know-It-All: The Tar­nished Wis­dom of a Filth Elder.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Rise and Fall of The Simp­sons: An In-Depth Video Essay Explores What Made the Show Great, and When It All Came to an End

John Waters Talks About His Books and Role Mod­els in a Whim­si­cal Ani­mat­ed Video

John Waters’ RISD Grad­u­a­tion Speech: Real Wealth is Nev­er Hav­ing to Spend Time with A‑Holes

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Banksy Strikes Again in Venice

Jux­tapoz writes: “Nev­er invit­ed to be the part of Venice Bien­nale, Banksy once again invit­ed him­self to show­case his work. Using a typ­i­cal pop-up stand that usu­al­ly sells tacky paint­ings and sou­venirs, he assem­bled a selec­tion of 9 works that col­lec­tive­ly built an image of a mas­sive cruise ship block­ing the city.”

In recent years, the flood of mas­sive cruise ships into Venice has cre­at­ed ten­sions between Vene­tians and tourism com­pa­nies. It’s pret­ty clear on what side the street artist comes down.

Get more at Jux­tapoz.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Venice Works: 124 Islands, 183 Canals & 438 Bridges

Venice in Beau­ti­ful Col­or Images 125 Years Ago: The Rial­to Bridge, St. Mark’s Basil­i­ca, Doge’s Palace & More

The Venice Time Machine: 1,000 Years of Venice’s His­to­ry Gets Dig­i­tal­ly Pre­served with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence and Big Data

Pink Floyd Plays in Venice on a Mas­sive Float­ing Stage in 1989; Forces the May­or & City Coun­cil to Resign

Watch City Out of Time, A Short Trib­ute to Venice, Nar­rat­ed by William Shat­ner in 1959

Huge Hands Rise Out of Venice’s Waters to Sup­port the City Threat­ened by Cli­mate Change: A Poignant New Sculp­ture

Fleetwood Mac Unveils Their New Singer Stevie Nicks, and The World Takes Notice: Watch Bewitching Performances of “Rhiannon” (1975–1976)

Fleet­wood Mac lost one lead singer and gui­tarist after anoth­er in the 70s, first to a men­tal health cri­sis, then a reli­gious cult, then dra­mat­ic fir­ings and rela­tion­al break­downs. They were in a bit of a sham­bles when new prospect Lind­say Buck­ing­ham arrived, bring­ing with him even more dra­ma, as well as an unknown singer, Ste­vie Nicks. One year lat­er, their breakup coin­cid­ed with the dis­so­lu­tion of John and Chris­tine McVie’s mar­riage, and drum­mer and name­sake Mick Fleet­wood’s divorce, dur­ing the record­ing of the mas­sive-sell­ing Rumors album in 1976.

Some­how, the band kept on, mak­ing greater leaps for­ward with Tusk, sur­viv­ing into the 90s intact and mount­ing sev­er­al reunion tours after­ward. How? Many a book and doc­u­men­tary have tack­led the sub­ject. But maybe the main rea­son is plain.

Despite endur­ing cir­cum­stances that would tear most bands apart, despite the cyn­i­cal lures and traps of wealth and fame, Fleet­wood Mac’s pro­fes­sion­al longevi­ty came from the fact that they were musi­cians who loved play­ing togeth­er, who knew how good they were at what they did, and knew they were bet­ter when they did it togeth­er.

Not only did the new five-piece put aside huge per­son­al con­flicts and an already leg­endary his­to­ry to make some of the great­est pop music ever writ­ten, both col­lab­o­rat­ing and let­ting indi­vid­ual song­writ­ers take the lead, but they had the smarts to rec­og­nize the enor­mous tal­ent they had in Nicks, who first joined the band at Buckingham’s insis­tence then quick­ly became its star front­woman. Her mag­net­ism was unde­ni­able, her song­writ­ing bewitch­ing, her stage pres­ence trans­for­ma­tive.

Fans see­ing Nicks onstage with the band after the release of 1975’s Fleet­wood Mac have “no idea who Ste­vie Nicks is,” writes Rob Sheffield at Rolling Stone. They have “heard ‘Rhi­an­non’ on the radio,” have maybe bought the record, but “they’ve nev­er seen her rock.” Then they did—explaining the ori­gins of “Rhi­an­non” on The Old Grey Whis­tle Test (top) before launch­ing into the “song about a Welsh witch,” and going full-on new-age diva with super-feath­ered hair on The Mid­night Spe­cial (above).

“She’s the new girl in a long-run­ning band,” writes Sheffield, “but she’s here to blow all that his­to­ry away. She keeps push­ing the song hard­er, faster, as if she’s impa­tient to prove the new Mac is a real sav­age-like rock mon­ster, now that she’s ful­ly arrived.” Buck­ing­ham was the right gui­tarist at the right time in the band’s evo­lu­tion, step­ping into sev­er­al huge pairs of shoes to help them recre­ate their sound. But Ste­vie Nicks pro­vid­ed the voice and elec­tri­fy­ing­ly weird ener­gy they need­ed to become their best new selves.

Big, dra­mat­ic TV appear­ances were one thing, but the band’s tran­si­tion from British blues rock­ers to pop radio super­stars wasn’t a total eclipse of their past. While they may have been pro­mot­ed as a Ste­vie Nicks-cen­tric enti­ty, Chris­tine McVie still played a major singer/songwriter role, as did Buck­ing­ham. In one of their first live con­certs with the two new mem­bers, at the Capi­tol The­atre in New Jer­sey, above, McVie opens the set with “Get Like You Used to Be” and “Spare Me a Lit­tle of Your Love.”

Buck­ing­ham shows off his impec­ca­ble blues and coun­try chops, and Nicks sits in on back­ing vocals, then takes the lead three songs in on “Rhi­an­non.” Oth­er new songs in the short setlist include “World Turn­ing,” sung by McVie and Buck­ing­ham, and the Buck­ing­ham-led “Blue Let­ter” and “I’m So Afraid.” (They reach as far back in the back cat­a­log as Peter Green’s “Green Man­al­ishi.”) It’s clear at this point that the band doesn’t quite know what to do with Ste­vie Nicks. But once they debuted on tele­vi­sion, she knew exact­ly how to sell her­self to audi­ences.

FYI: If you hap­pen to be an Audi­ble mem­ber, you can down­load Rob Sheffield­’s audio­book, The Wild Heart of Ste­vie Nicks, as a free addi­tion­al book this month. (It’s part of their Audi­ble Orig­i­nals pro­gram.) If you’re not an Audi­ble mem­ber, you can always sign up for a free 30-day tri­al here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ste­vie Nicks “Shows Us How to Kick Ass in High-Heeled Boots” in a 1983 Women’s Self Defense Man­u­al

How Fleet­wood Mac Makes A Song: A Video Essay Explor­ing the “Son­ic Paint­ings” on the Clas­sic Album, Rumours

Watch Clas­sic Per­for­mances by Peter Green, Founder of Fleet­wood Mac & the Only British Blues Gui­tarist Who Gave B.B. King “the Cold Sweats”

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The Strikingly Beautiful Maps & Charts That Fired the Imagination of Students in the 1880s

We all remem­ber the world maps that hung on the walls of our class­rooms, the ones at which we spent count­less hours star­ing when we could­n’t focus on the les­son at hand. Did we look at them and imag­ine flee­ing school for one of the far-off lands they pic­tured — or indeed find­ing a way to escape plan­et Earth itself? Such time-pass­ing fan­tasies unite school­child­ren of all eras, though some eras have pro­vid­ed their school­child­ren rich­er mate­r­i­al to fire up their imag­i­na­tions than oth­ers.

Take, for instance, the rich, vivid maps of Yag­gy’s Geo­graph­i­cal Study, which depict not just the world but the cos­mos, and which were first pro­duced for class­rooms in 1887. The epony­mous Levi Wal­ter Yag­gy, says Boston Rare Maps, “seems to have viewed him­self as an inno­va­tor and entre­pre­neur tap­ping into a trans­for­ma­tion­al moment in Amer­i­can edu­ca­tion.”

An adver­tise­ment for Yag­gy’s Chica­go-based West­ern Pub­lish­ing House lays out the com­pa­ny’s mis­sion: “Instead of offer­ing the pub­lic old things ‘made over,’ it has come to the help of teach­ers and schools with a series of appli­ances which in design, mech­a­nism and man­ner of illus­tra­tion, are new, ele­gant and prac­ti­cal.

It also points to “the enthu­si­asm which has been aroused in edu­ca­tion­al cir­cles by this new depar­ture” as “proof of the fact that teach­ers are tired of stereo­typed and worn-out means of school-room illus­tra­tion.”

One can well imag­ine the enthu­si­asm aroused among school­child­ren of the late 19th cen­tu­ry when the teacher brought out Yag­gy’s Geo­graph­i­cal Study, a ply­wood box filled with col­or­ful, large-for­mat maps mea­sur­ing rough­ly two by three feet that revealed a wealth of knowl­edge about the Earth and out­er space.

The David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion has dig­i­tized and made avail­able to down­load every­thing that came inside, includ­ing the cross-sec­tion of the geo­log­i­cal stra­ta of “pre-Adamite Earth”; the illus­tra­tion of the civ­i­liza­tions of five cli­mat­ic zones “Show­ing in a Graph­ic Man­ner the Cli­mates, Peo­ples, Indus­tries & Pro­duc­tions of The Earth”; the 3D relief map of the Unit­ed States built into the back of the box; and the jew­el in the crown of Yag­gy’s Geo­graph­i­cal Study, the star chart.

The star chart, as Nation­al Geo­graph­ic’s Greg Miller describes it, “has five pan­els held in place by tiny met­al latch­es. Each pan­el can be opened to reveal a more detailed dia­gram. One shows the phas­es of the moon, for exam­ple, while anoth­er includes a slid­er to illus­trate how the posi­tion of the sun changes rel­a­tive to Earth with the sea­sons,” the whole thing “designed to high­light cer­tain fea­tures when a bright light is placed behind it.”

Despite dis­play­ing here and there what we now regard as sci­en­tif­ic inac­cu­ra­cies (Miller points to how the ellip­ti­cal orbit of plan­ets are shown as cir­cles) and unfash­ion­able social atti­tudes, Yag­gy’s Geo­graph­i­cal Study also embod­ies the spir­it of its time in a way that still fires up the imag­i­na­tion. The gold­en age of explo­ration had already entered its final chap­ter and space trav­el remained the stuff of sci­ence fic­tion (a genre that had only recent­ly tak­en the form in which we know it today), but with maps like these on the wall, no day­dream­ing stu­dent of the 1880s could doubt that real­i­ty still offered much to dis­cov­er.

via Flash­bak

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load 67,000 His­toric Maps (in High Res­o­lu­tion) from the Won­der­ful David Rum­sey Map Col­lec­tion

A Plan­e­tary Per­spec­tive: Tril­lions of Pic­tures of the Earth Avail­able Through Google Earth Engine

3D Map of Uni­verse Cap­tures 43,000 Galax­ies

A Mas­sive, Knit­ted Tapes­try of the Galaxy: Soft­ware Engi­neer Hacks a Knit­ting Machine & Cre­ates a Star Map Fea­tur­ing 88 Con­stel­la­tions

How Leonar­do da Vin­ci Drew an Accu­rate Satel­lite Map of an Ital­ian City (1502)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

The Lives of John Coltrane & Billie Holiday Are Now Told in Two Graphic Novels

How do you tell the sto­ries of larg­er-than-life cul­tur­al figures—of peo­ple whose his­to­ries inter­sect with piv­otal moments in Amer­i­can his­to­ry, whose careers set new stan­dards for excellence—without over­sim­pli­fy­ing and risk­ing car­i­ca­ture? With com­ic art, of course. Graph­ic nov­els have long proven them­selves wor­thy vehi­cles for biog­ra­phy. Some­thing about the bold strokes of the illus­tra­tions, the dia­logue in word bub­ble form, and the pan­el style of sto­ry­telling makes for a par­tic­u­lar­ly vivid encounter with his­to­ry.

Artist Pao­lo Parisi has cap­i­tal­ized on this kismet of form and con­tent in three bio­graph­i­cal graph­ic nov­els now, one of which—the sto­ry of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s rise to fame and for­tune—we high­light­ed just a cou­ple days ago.

Parisi’s ear­li­er efforts took on no less icon­ic fig­ures than John Coltrane and Bil­lie Hol­i­day in Coltrane and Blues for Lady Day: The Sto­ry of Bil­lie Hol­i­day. The Ital­ian artist has demon­strat­ed a pas­sion for Amer­i­can music, espe­cial­ly jazz, in his career as an illus­tra­tor. As a writer, he also dis­plays a tal­ent for restraint, large­ly let­ting the images tell the sto­ry.

As in Basquiat, these images are both drawn from famous pho­tographs and from imag­i­na­tive recon­struc­tions of what it might have been like, sit­ting in on record­ing ses­sions, in the clubs, and in the heat­ed con­ver­sa­tions. Parisi may inevitably view his sub­jects through an out­sider’s lens—he may roman­ti­cize them at times and may elide impor­tant, but hard to visu­al­ize, details, as is the nature of the form.

But he excels at mak­ing these two musi­cal giants approach­able, telling their sto­ries in broad strokes so that those who haven’t read the dense, heav­i­ly-foot­not­ed tomes about them can devel­op appre­ci­a­tion and empa­thy for their art and too-short lives. It is a sad irony that those who burn bright and die young leave behind the most com­pelling mate­r­i­al for those who tell their sto­ries.

Parisi seems drawn to such trag­ic fig­ures, or per­haps the form itself requires high-con­trast highs and lows. “How could a graph­ic treat­ment pro­vide any­thing oth­er than the sketchi­est of details?” asks Coltrane review­er William Rycroft Tring. “Per­haps by choos­ing the right sub­ject.” In Coltrane and Hol­i­day, Parisi has two sub­jects whose lives were inher­ent­ly dra­mat­ic, full of major tri­umphs and tragedies.

Above all is the music. Graph­ic nov­els may not be sub­sti­tutes for a “prop­er biog­ra­phy,” as Tring writes, but they are excel­lent sup­ple­ments for get­ting to know the artists as you lis­ten to Lady Sings the Blues or A Love Supreme, whether for the first time or the mil­lionth.

You can pick up copies of Coltrane and Blues for Lady Day: The Sto­ry of Bil­lie Hol­i­day online.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sto­ry of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Rise in the 1980s Art World Gets Told in a New Graph­ic Nov­el

An Ani­mat­ed John Coltrane Explains His True Rea­son for Being: “I Want to Be a Force for Real Good”

How “America’s First Drug Czar” Waged War Against Bil­lie Hol­i­day and Oth­er Jazz Leg­ends

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The Bauhaus Bookshelf: Download Original Bauhaus Books, Journals, Manifestos & Ads That Still Inspire Designers Worldwide

The Bauhaus, Bar­ry Bergdoll writes in the New York Times of the Ger­man design school found­ed a cen­tu­ry ago last month, “last­ed just 14 years before the Nazis shut it down. And yet in that time it proved a mag­net for much that was new and exper­i­men­tal in art, design and archi­tec­ture — and for decades after, its lega­cy played an out­size role in chang­ing the phys­i­cal appear­ance of the dai­ly world, in every­thing from book design to house­hold light­ing to light­weight fur­ni­ture.” Cel­e­bra­tions of the Bauhaus’ cen­te­nary have tak­en many forms, includ­ing the doc­u­men­tary series Bauhaus World, the reimag­in­ing of mod­ern cor­po­rate logos in the clas­sic Bauhaus style, and now the free online resource Bauhaus Book­shelf.

Bauhaus Book­shelf cre­ator Andrea Riegel calls the site “my mod­est con­tri­bu­tion to #bauhaus100 and beyond: (almost) all Bauhaus books and jour­nals in a vir­tu­al book­case — with the pos­si­bil­i­ty to down­load and take a clos­er look at the media and orig­i­nal sources, sup­ple­ment­ed by short excerpts and con­tri­bu­tions by Bauhaus peo­ple and con­tem­po­rary wit­ness­es or oth­er con­tent in con­text.”

In oth­er worlds, you’ll find there not just the orig­i­nal Bauhaus man­i­festo, but sec­tions on the series of “Bauhaus books” pub­lished by Wal­ter Gropius and Lás­zló Moholy-Nagy; Bauhaus-asso­ci­at­ed cre­ators and teach­ers like Paul Klee; Bauhaus adver­tis­ing; the women of the Bauhaus (a sub­ject pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture); and mate­ri­als from the 1938 exhi­bi­tion at New York’s Muse­um of Mod­ern Art that intro­duced the Bauhaus to the world.

And 100 years after its found­ing, the world is still think­ing about the Bauhaus, which, in Bergdol­l’s words, “pro­duced one of the most pow­er­ful expres­sions of a view that design was every­thing. It served, in a way, as the embassy of mod­ernist design. But its suc­cess has often led to a reduc­tion­ism in our under­stand­ing of the rich nexus of artis­tic move­ments that criss­crossed at the school itself, as well as the diverse devel­op­ments it helped inspire.” For a bet­ter under­stand­ing of the Bauhaus, per­haps we must go back to the Bauhaus itself, not just in the sense of look­ing at the art, craft, design, and build­ings its teach­ers and stu­dents pro­duced, but the doc­u­ments it issued on its mis­sion and ideals. Whether in its Eng­lish or Ger­man ver­sions, Riegel’s Bauhaus Book­shelf serves as an intel­lec­tu­al­ly and aes­thet­i­cal­ly stim­u­lat­ing place to find them.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load Orig­i­nal Bauhaus Books & Jour­nals for Free: A Dig­i­tal Cel­e­bra­tion of the Found­ing of the Bauhaus School 100 Years Ago

32,000+ Bauhaus Art Objects Made Avail­able Online by Har­vard Muse­um Web­site

How the Rad­i­cal Build­ings of the Bauhaus Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Archi­tec­ture: A Short Intro­duc­tion

Watch Bauhaus World, a Free Doc­u­men­tary That Cel­e­brates the 100th Anniver­sary of Germany’s Leg­endary Art, Archi­tec­ture & Design School

Mod­ern Cor­po­rate Logos Reimag­ined in a Clas­sic Bauhaus Style: Cel­e­brate the 100th Anniver­sary of the Bauhaus Move­ment Today

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

James Taylor Gives Guitar Lessons, Teaching You How to Play Classic Songs Like “Fire and Rain,” “Country Road” & “Carolina in My Mind”

The Amer­i­can folk revival of the 1950s and 60s paid div­i­dends in the 1970s, a decade we usu­al­ly asso­ciate with prog rock, dis­co, funk, and punk. These were the years of some of Cros­by, Stills & Nash and Neil Young’s best acoustic folk, and the finest work of Joni Mitchell and James Tay­lor, both of whom had such unique takes on folk gui­tar that they rede­fined the instru­ment for gen­er­a­tions. Mitchell drew from her teenage appre­ci­a­tion for jazz gui­tar, which she taught her­self to play while still in high school. Tay­lor picked up his unusu­al voic­ings and arrange­ments from a num­ber of Amer­i­can sources.

His influ­ences, he told Adam Gop­nik on The New York­er Radio Hour, came from his ear­ly study of the cel­lo (he played “bad­ly, reluc­tant­ly,” he says); ear­ly expo­sure to Broad­way show tunes and “light clas­sics”, thanks to par­ents who shut­tled him by train from North Car­oli­na to New York City, and his admi­ra­tion for Elvis, the Bea­t­les, and Ray Charles.

Through a mix of child­hood train­ing, ado­les­cent obses­sions, and a mature fin­ger­style honed by hours and hours of patient prac­tice, Tay­lor came to dom­i­nate the charts with songs like 1970’s “Fire and Rain” and “Coun­try Road,” bring­ing his acoustic folk and coun­try sen­si­bil­i­ties to soft rock sta­tions every­where.

Taylor’s song­writ­ing, for all its lyri­cal dra­ma and melan­choly, begins with the gui­tar. Through pure tech­nique, he makes the instru­ment sing, pulling his melodies from chord pat­terns and pick­ing styles. As befits such a thought­ful play­er, he is also a teacher of the instru­ment, offer­ing a free series of lessons for play­ing his most beloved songs. Here you can see his “Fire and Rain” les­son fur­ther up, “Coun­try Road” above, and at the top, a brief intro to the series from Tay­lor him­self.

Note that these lessons are for inter­me­di­ate play­ers, at least, and assume pri­or famil­iar­i­ty with the chord changes in the songs. The videos were orig­i­nal­ly avail­able on Taylor’s web­site, and required a sign-in, he says, some­what apolo­get­i­cal­ly. Since 2011, they are all—8 lessons total—available on his offi­cial YouTube chan­nel. See les­son num­ber 6, “Car­oli­na in My Mind,” just below, and watch all the rest for free here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

James Tay­lor and Joni Mitchell, Live and Togeth­er (1970)

James Tay­lor Per­forms Live in 1970, Thanks to a Lit­tle Help from His Friends, The Bea­t­les

For Joni Mitchell’s 70th Birth­day, Watch Clas­sic Per­for­mances of “Both Sides Now” & “The Cir­cle Game” (1968)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

The Story of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Rise in the 1980s Art World Gets Told in a New Graphic Novel

Jean-Michel Basquiat was keen­ly sen­si­tive to the way the art mar­ket thought about him. He was com­pared to “a preach­er pos­sessed by the spir­it,” his art, wrote crit­ics, indica­tive of his “inner child.” This talk, writes Art­net’s Bruce Gop­nik, “could eas­i­ly veer into ideas of the Noble Sav­age.” The artist thought so; he was dis­gust­ed by his por­tray­al as “a wild man run­ning around,” he said. He want­ed no part of the prim­i­tivist image forced upon him. Yet “to this day, he’s almost always billed as being more in touch with his emo­tions and the pas­sions of urban life than with the order­ly rea­son­ing of post-Enlight­en­ment cul­ture.”

This itself is a false dichotomy—between expres­sion­ist and con­cep­tu­al art, “urban” pas­sions and reason—but if any­one gets caught in-between, it’s Basquiat. Gop­nick leans, maybe too heav­i­ly, on the con­cep­tu­al side of things, push­ing com­par­isons between Jen­ny Holz­er and Hans Haacke, down­play­ing Basquiat’s roots as a street artist and his con­nec­tions to hip hop and new wave. Basquiat had his ear to the street—also an arti­fact of post-Enlight­en­ment culture—and was hard­ly com­fort­able with the order­ly rea­son­ing of the mas­sive­ly prof­itable art mar­ket.

What­ev­er any­one wants to call his work, it makes no sense to sep­a­rate it from its con­text: Basquiat’s Brook­lyn home and Low­er East Side stomp­ing grounds, the down­town scene in which he came of age, his com­pli­cat­ed rela­tion­ships with Kei­th Har­ing, Andy Warhol, and Julian Schn­abel, three of many fig­ures who, along with Basquiat, cre­at­ed the huge 1980s art mar­ket and art gallery cul­ture. A new graph­ic nov­el by Ital­ian illus­tra­tor Pao­lo Parisi promis­es a new take on the now-well-worn biog­ra­phy of Basquiat. It’s a sto­ry writ­ten and drawn by a fel­low con­cep­tu­al artist, albeit one whose work more fits the image.

With eye-pop­ping pri­ma­ry and sec­ondary tones—the com­ic book col­ors favored by Basquiat and his contemporaries—Parisi takes some license, imag­in­ing con­ver­sa­tions that may or may not have occurred. “Basquiat comes off as a bit more naïve and far less con­flict­ed than we now know him to be,” writes Eileen Kin­sel­la at Art­net. The chap­ter excerpt­ed there, “New Art/New Mon­ey,” (see a few pages above and below), has mul­ti­ple per­spec­tives. In a recon­struct­ed din­ner scene between art deal­ers Mary Boone and Lar­ry Gagosian, Basquiat doesn’t even appear.

But the nar­ra­tive also draws direct­ly from Basquiat’s own words. One page is a fac­sim­i­le of a hand­writ­ten note the artist made in April 1984. “I have mon­ey every­where, every­where. I’m paid exor­bi­tant sums for a sin­gle piece,” he writes, not to boast but to mar­vel at the incred­i­ble amount of infla­tion he sees all around him:

A pic­ture I sold to Deb­bie Har­ry for $200 only a cou­ple of years ago is now worth $20,000. That’s the art mar­ket today. Work­ing with gallery own­ers is exhaust­ing.

                                                They always want

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Lat­er Parisi adapts the artist’s thoughts in a crit­i­cal mono­logue: The gal­lerists “have this way of doing things I’ve nev­er seen before. They focus a lot on the artist’s image, buy in bulk, decide who to pro­mote and how. They often buy and sell among them­selves, between gal­leries. They nev­er respect agree­ments. I don’t think I’ll be able to trust them.” Basquiat’s frus­tra­tion at “some­thing rot­ten in this scene” made him con­sid­er giv­ing up paint­ing for good. He didn’t get the chance, though Parisi has him tell a girl­friend “Picas­so died at nine­ty… I’m cer­tain­ly not going before then.”

Parisi, who has also writ­ten and illus­trat­ed graph­ic biogra­phies of Bil­lie Hol­i­day and John Coltrane, has an ear for Amer­i­can speech pat­terns and class and race dynam­ics, draw­ing out with more or less sub­tle­ty the asso­ci­a­tions between the art world’s fas­ci­na­tion with “prim­i­tivist” art and the con­tin­u­ing res­o­nances of slav­ery and colo­nial­ism in its hyper-cap­i­tal­ist econ­o­my. Was Basquiat a child­like char­ac­ter who only slow­ly real­ized the greedy machi­na­tions of the deal­ers?

In the 2010 doc­u­men­tary The Radi­ant Child, his for­mer graf­fi­ti part­ner Al Diaz explains his moti­va­tions from the very begin­ning. “We want­ed to do some kind of con­cep­tu­al art project.” Basquiat aimed direct­ly at the art world, writ­ing mes­sages on walls like “4 THE SO-CALLED AVANT-GARDE.” Once in its com­pa­ny, how­ev­er, he found, like many oth­er fierce­ly inde­pen­dent artists who make it big, it wasn’t worth the mon­ey. Read the ful­ly excerpt­ed chap­ter at Art­net and pur­chase Parisi’s graph­ic nov­el Basquiat online.

via Art­net

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Sto­ry of How David Jones Became David Bowie Gets Told in a New Graph­ic Nov­el

Take a Close Look at Basquiat’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Art in a New 500-Page, 14-Pound, Large For­mat Book by TASCHEN

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the Chaot­ic Bril­liance of Jean-Michel Basquiat: From Home­less Graf­fi­ti Artist to Inter­na­tion­al­ly Renowned Painter

Sal­vador Dalí & the Marx Broth­ers’ 1930s Film Script Gets Released as a Graph­ic Nov­el

How Art Spiegel­man Designs Com­ic Books: A Break­down of His Mas­ter­piece, Maus

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