Watch the Hot Guitar Solos of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, “America’s First Gospel Rock Star”

Many of us first encounter Sis­ter Roset­ta Tharpe—now deserved­ly known as the “God­moth­er of Rock and Roll”—in footage from her 1964 appear­ance on a Man­ches­ter rail­way plat­form. She arrives by car­riage, struts out before a dilap­i­dat­ed train sta­tion, plugs in her cus­tom Gib­son SG, and belts out in her pow­er­ful sopra­no, “Didn’t it rain, chil­dren!” for an audi­ence of spell­bound Brits. The tele­vised per­for­mance, part of The Amer­i­can Folk Blues Fes­ti­val that toured the coun­try between 1963 and 1966, made a sig­nif­i­cant impres­sion on blues and rock gui­tarists of the Inva­sion gen­er­a­tion.

Yet Tharpe’s influ­ence extends a gen­er­a­tion fur­ther back, to rock and roll’s acknowl­edged fore­fa­thers. She was 49 when Kei­th Richards and Eric Clap­ton had the chance to see her on TV, and had been tour­ing Europe since 1957, reviv­ing a career she launched in 1938 when she released her first sin­gle, “Rock Me,” and took the stage as a reg­u­lar per­former at the Cot­ton Club.

Born Roset­ta Nubin in Arkansas in 1915, she start­ed per­form­ing in church­es and revivals at 6, and scan­dal­ized many of her gospel fans by singing sec­u­lar music. But her force­ful, soar­ing voice and inno­v­a­tive gui­tar play­ing most­ly drew them back again, along with thou­sands of sec­u­lar admir­ers.

She was a rock and roll pio­neer in every respect: a gospel singer who crossed over onto the pop­u­lar charts, a black queer woman play­ing the fierce lead for mixed audi­ences dur­ing seg­re­ga­tion, fronting tour­ing bands that includ­ed the all-white Jor­danaires, best known for lat­er back­ing Elvis. She was “America’s first gospel rock star,” notes the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame intro­duc­tion above, before there were such things as rock stars. Her 1945 sin­gle “Strange Things Hap­pen­ing Every Day,” with its “hot gui­tar solo,” Will Her­mes writes at Rolling Stone, “was the first gospel sin­gle to cross over on the Bill­board race charts” and is some­times cit­ed as the first rock and roll song.

The fol­low­ing year, she met singer and piano play­er Marie Knight. The two became lovers, record­ed “Up Above My Head,” and toured togeth­er in the late 40s as a team before Tharpe mar­ried her third hus­band at Wash­ing­ton, D.C.’s Grif­fith Sta­di­um in front of 25,000 fans. At the height of her fame, “she influ­enced innu­mer­able… peo­ple who we rec­og­nize as foun­da­tion­al fig­ures in rock and roll,” says biog­ra­ph­er Gayle Wald. John­ny Cash named her as his favorite singer. “Every­one from Jer­ry Lee Lewis to Aretha Franklin” to Lit­tle Richard “cred­it her musi­cian­ship as an impor­tant influ­ence on them,” writes Erin White at Afrop­unk.

But it was her gui­tar skills that most awed musi­cians like Chuck Berry and Elvis. Pres­ley “loved Sis­ter Roset­ta,” the Jor­danaires’ Gor­don Stok­er remem­bers, espe­cial­ly her play­ing. “That’s what real­ly attract­ed Elvis: her pickin’.” Tharpe’s style con­tains with­in it a trea­sury of the ear­ly 20th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can pop­u­lar music that would trans­mute into R&B, rock­a­bil­ly, and rock and roll—from west­ern swing to coun­try to gospel to jazz to the blues. At the top of the post, see a com­pi­la­tion of solos from her tele­vised appear­ances, includ­ing some seri­ous shred­ding in lat­er con­certs in the late six­ties, broad­cast in col­or.

Tharpe con­tin­ued to tour the con­ti­nent until 1970, when she played her last con­cert in Copen­hagen. She died three years lat­er, near­ly obscure in her home coun­try, her lega­cy over­shad­owed by male artists. But we should hear her in Chuck Berry’s first records, and “when you see Elvis Pres­ley singing ear­ly in his career,” says Wald, “imag­ine he is chan­nel­ing Sis­ter Roset­ta Tharpe.” Thanks to revived inter­est in Tharpe herself—from Wald’s 2008 biog­ra­phy to her 2018 induc­tion in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame—the “God­moth­er of Rock and Roll” con­tin­ues inspir­ing new play­ers to pick up the gui­tar, espe­cial­ly those who aren’t used to see­ing gui­tarists who look like them in gui­tar hero his­to­ry.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Rock Pio­neer Sis­ter Roset­ta Tharpe Wow Audi­ences With Her Gospel Gui­tar

Revis­it The Life & Music of Sis­ter Roset­ta Tharpe: ‘The God­moth­er of Rock and Roll’

New Web Project Immor­tal­izes the Over­looked Women Who Helped Cre­ate Rock and Roll in the 1950s

Mud­dy Waters and Friends on the Blues and Gospel Train, 1964

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

Watch Life-Affirming Performances from David Byrne’s New Broadway Musical American Utopia

It’s time, writes Kim Stan­ley Robin­son in his essay “Dystopia Now,” to put aside the dystopias. We know the future (and the present) can look bleak. “It’s old news now,” and “per­haps it’s self-indul­gence to stay stuck in that place any more.” Of course, David Byrne has nev­er been a dystopi­an artist. Even his catchy decon­struc­tions of the banal­i­ty of mod­ern life, in “This Must Be the Place,” for example—or Love Lies Here, his dis­co musi­cal about Imel­da Mar­cos—are filled with empa­thet­ic poignan­cy and an earnest desire to rehu­man­ize con­tem­po­rary cul­ture.

Still his oblique take on things has always seemed too skewed to call utopi­an. Late­ly, how­ev­er, Byrne has become unam­bigu­ous­ly sun­ny in his out­look, and not in any kind of star­ry-eyed Pollyan­nish way. His web project Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful backs up its opti­mistic title with inci­sive long­form inves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism.

His lat­est stage project, the musi­cal Amer­i­can Utopia, which he per­forms with a cast of dancers and musi­cians from around the world, announces its inten­tions on the sleeves of the match­ing mono­chro­mat­ic suits its cast wears.

Bare­foot and hold­ing their instru­ments, Byrne and his back­up singers, musi­cians, and dancers march on the “Road to Nowhere” with smiles hint­ing it might actu­al­ly lead to some­place good, They per­form this song (see them on Jim­my Fal­lon at the top), and a cou­ple dozen more from Talk­ing Heads and Byrne solo albums, espe­cial­ly last year’s Amer­i­can Utopia. In the course of the show, Byrne “lets his moral­ist out­rage explode” yet “bal­ances it with lev­i­ty,” writes Stacey Ander­son at Pitch­fork. “There is a polit­i­cal engine to this per­for­mance… with a clear­ly hum­ming pro­gres­sive core… but Byrne’s goal is to urge kinder con­sid­er­a­tion of how we process the stres­sors of moder­ni­ty.”

The musi­cal doesn’t sim­ply urge, it enacts, and pro­claims, in spo­ken inter­ludes, the sto­ry of an indi­vid­ual who opens up to the wider world. “Here’s a guy who’s basi­cal­ly in his head at the begin­ning,” Byrne told Rolling Stone. “And then by the end of the show he’s a very dif­fer­ent per­son in a very dif­fer­ent place.” The road to utopia, Byrne sug­gests, takes us toward com­mu­ni­ty and out of iso­la­tion. Amer­i­can Utopia’s min­i­mal­ist pro­duc­tion com­mu­ni­cates this idea with plen­ty of pol­ished musicianship—especially from its six drum­mers work­ing as one—but also a rig­or­ous lack of spec­ta­cle. “I think audi­ences appre­ci­ate when nobody’s try­ing to fool them,” says Byrne.

See sev­er­al per­for­mances from Amer­i­can Utopia, the musi­cal, above, from The Tonight Show Star­ring Jim­my Fal­lon, Late Night with Stephen Col­bert, and the Hud­son The­atre, where it’s cur­rent­ly run­ning. The musi­cal debuted in Eng­land last June, caus­ing NME to exclaim it may “just be the best live show of all time.” Its Broad­way run has received sim­i­lar acclaim. Below, see a trail­er for the show arriv­ing just in time, The Fad­er announces in a blurb, to “fight your cyn­i­cism.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

David Byrne Cre­ates a Playlist of Eclec­tic Music for the Hol­i­days: Stream It Free Online

David Byrne Launch­es Rea­sons to Be Cheer­ful, an Online Mag­a­zine Fea­tur­ing Arti­cles by Byrne, Bri­an Eno & More

David Byrne Curates a Playlist of Great Protest Songs Writ­ten Over the Past 60 Years: Stream Them Online

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

The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912): The Truly Weird Origin of Modern Stop-Motion Animation

These days, ever more ambi­tions com­put­er-ani­mat­ed spec­ta­cles seem to arrive in the­aters every few weeks. But how many of them cap­ture our imag­i­na­tions as ful­ly as works of the thor­ough­ly ana­log art of stop-motion ani­ma­tion? The uncan­ny effect (and imme­di­ate­ly vis­i­ble labor-inten­sive­ness) of real, phys­i­cal pup­pets and objects made to move as if by them­selves still cap­ti­vates view­ers young and old: just watch how the Wal­lace and Gromit series, Ter­ry Gilliam’s Mon­ty Python shorts, The Night­mare Before Christ­mas, and even the orig­i­nal King Kong as well as Ray Har­ry­hausen’s mon­sters in Jason and the Arg­onauts and The 7th Voy­age of Sin­bad have held up over the decades.

The film­mak­ers who best under­stand the mag­ic of cin­e­ma still use stop-motion today, as Wes Ander­son has in The Fan­tas­tic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs. They all owe some­thing to a Pol­ish-Russ­ian ani­ma­tor of the ear­ly-to-mid-20th cen­tu­ry by the name of Ladis­las Stare­vich. Long­time Open Cul­ture read­ers may remem­ber the works of Stare­vich pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here, includ­ing the Goethe adap­ta­tion The Tale of the Fox and the much ear­li­er The Cam­era­man’s Revenge, a tale of infi­deli­ty and its con­se­quences told entire­ly with dead bugs for actors. Stare­vich, then the Direc­tor of the Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in Kau­nas, Lithua­nia, pulled off this cin­e­mat­ic feat “by installing wheels and strings in each insect, and occa­sion­al­ly replac­ing their legs with plas­tic or met­al ones,” says Phil Edwards in the Vox Almanac video above.

“How Stop Motion Ani­ma­tion Began” comes as a chap­ter of a minis­eries called Almanac Hol­ly­would­n’t, which tells the sto­ries of “big changes to movies that came from out­side Hol­ly­wood.” It would be hard indeed to find any­thing less Hol­ly­wood than a man installing wheels and strings into insect corpses at a Lithuan­ian muse­um in 1912, but in time The Cam­era­man’s Revenge proved as deeply influ­en­tial as it remains deeply weird. Stare­vich kept on mak­ing films, and sin­gle­hand­ed­ly fur­ther­ing the art of stop-motion ani­ma­tion, until his death in France (where he’d relo­cat­ed after the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion) in 1965.

And though Stare­vich may not be a house­hold name today, Edwards reveals while trac­ing the sub­se­quent his­to­ry of stop-motion ani­ma­tion that cin­e­ma has­n’t entire­ly failed to pay him trib­ute: Ander­son­’s The Fan­tas­tic Mr. Fox is in a sense a direct homage to The Tale of the Fox, and Gilliam has called Stare­vich’s work “absolute­ly breath­tak­ing, sur­re­al, inven­tive and extra­or­di­nary, encom­pass­ing every­thing that Jan Svankma­jer, Waler­ian Borow­czyk and the Quay Broth­ers would do sub­se­quent­ly.” He sug­gests that, before we enter the “mind-bend­ing worlds” of more recent ani­ma­tors, we “remem­ber that it was all done years ago, by some­one most of us have for­got­ten about now” — and with lit­tle more than a few dead bugs at that.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch The Amaz­ing 1912 Ani­ma­tion of Stop-Motion Pio­neer Ladis­las Stare­vich, Star­ring Dead Bugs

The Tale of the Fox: Watch Ladis­las Starevich’s Ani­ma­tion of Goethe’s Great Ger­man Folk­tale (1937)

The Mas­cot, a Pio­neer­ing Stop Ani­ma­tion Film by Wla­dys­law Starewicz

The His­to­ry of Stop-Motion Films: 39 Films, Span­ning 116 Years, Revis­it­ed in a 3‑Minute Video

Ray Harryhausen’s Creepy War of the Worlds Sketch­es and Stop-Motion Test Footage

Spike Jonze’s Stop Motion Film Haunt­ing­ly Ani­mates Paris’ Famed Shake­speare and Com­pa­ny Book­store

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 or on Face­book.

Hannah Arendt Explains Why Democracies Need to Safeguard the Free Press & Truth … to Defend Themselves Against Dictators and Their Lies

Image by Bernd Schwabe, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Two of the most tren­chant and endur­ing crit­ics of author­i­tar­i­an­ism, Han­nah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, were also both Ger­man Jews who emi­grat­ed to the U.S. to escape the Nazis. The Marx­ist Adorno saw fas­cist ten­den­cies every­where in his new coun­try. Decades before Noam Chom­sky coined the con­cept, he argued that all mass media under advanced cap­i­tal­ism served one par­tic­u­lar pur­pose: man­u­fac­tur­ing con­sent.

Arendt land­ed on a dif­fer­ent part of the polit­i­cal spec­trum, draw­ing her phi­los­o­phy from Aris­to­tle and St. Augus­tine. Clas­si­cal demo­c­ra­t­ic ideals and an ethics of moral respon­si­bil­i­ty informed her belief in the cen­tral impor­tance of shared real­i­ty in a func­tion­ing civ­il society—of a press that is free not only to pub­lish what it wish­es, but to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for telling the truth, with­out which democ­ra­cy becomes impos­si­ble.

A press that dis­sem­i­nates half-truths and pro­pa­gan­da, Arendt argued, is not a fea­ture of lib­er­al­ism but a sign of author­i­tar­i­an rule. “Total­i­tar­i­an rulers orga­nize… mass sen­ti­ment,” she told French writer Roger Errera in 1974, “and by orga­niz­ing it artic­u­late it, and by artic­u­lat­ing it make the peo­ple some­how love it. They were told before, thou should not kill; and they didn’t kill. Now they are told, thou shalt kill; and although they think it’s very dif­fi­cult to kill, they do it because it’s now part of the code of behav­ior.”

This break­down of moral norms, Arendt argued, can occur “the moment we no longer have a free press.” The prob­lem, how­ev­er, is more com­pli­cat­ed than mass media that spreads lies. Echo­ing ideas devel­oped in her 1951 study The Ori­gins of Total­i­tar­i­an­ism, Arendt explained that “lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying gov­ern­ment has con­stant­ly to rewrite its own his­to­ry. On the receiv­ing end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great num­ber of lies, depend­ing on how the polit­i­cal wind blows.”

Bom­bard­ed with con­tra­dic­to­ry and often incred­i­ble claims, peo­ple become cyn­i­cal and give up try­ing to under­stand any­thing. “And a peo­ple that no longer can believe any­thing can­not make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capac­i­ty to act but also of its capac­i­ty to think and to judge. And with such a peo­ple you can then do what you please.” The state­ment was any­thing but the­o­ret­i­cal. It’s an empir­i­cal obser­va­tion from much recent 20th cen­tu­ry his­to­ry.

Arendt’s thought devel­oped in rela­tion to total­i­tar­i­an regimes that active­ly cen­sored, con­trolled, and micro­man­aged the press to achieve spe­cif­ic ends. She does not address the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in which we find ourselves—though Adorno cer­tain­ly did: a press con­trolled not direct­ly by the gov­ern­ment but by an increas­ing­ly few, and increas­ing­ly mono­lith­ic and pow­er­ful, num­ber of cor­po­ra­tions, all with vest­ed inter­ests in pol­i­cy direc­tion that pre­serves and expands their influ­ence.

The exam­ples of undue influ­ence mul­ti­ply. One might con­sid­er the recent­ly approved Gan­nett-Gate­house merg­er, which brought togeth­er two of the biggest news pub­lish­ers in the coun­try and may “speed the demise of local news,” as Michael Pos­ner writes at Forbes, there­by fur­ther open­ing the doors for rumor, spec­u­la­tion, and tar­get­ed dis­in­for­ma­tion. But in such a con­di­tion, we are not pow­er­less as indi­vid­u­als, Arendt argued, even if the pre­con­di­tions for a demo­c­ra­t­ic soci­ety are under­mined.

Though the facts may be con­fused or obscured, we retain the capac­i­ty for moral judg­ment, for assess­ing deep­er truths about the char­ac­ter of those in pow­er. “In act­ing and speak­ing,” she wrote in 1975’s The Human Con­di­tion, “men show who they are, reveal active­ly their unique per­son­al iden­ti­ties…. This dis­clo­sure of ‘who’ in con­tradis­tinc­tion to ‘what’ some­body is—his qual­i­ties, gifts, tal­ents, and short­com­ings, which he may dis­play or hide—is implic­it in every­thing some­body says and does.”

Even if demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions let the free press fail, Arendt argued, we each bear a per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty under author­i­tar­i­an rule to judge and to act—or to refuse—in an ethics pred­i­cat­ed on what she called, after Socrates, the “silent dia­logue between me and myself.”

Read Arendt’s full pas­sage on the free press and truth below:

The moment we no longer have a free press, any­thing can hap­pen. What makes it pos­si­ble for a total­i­tar­i­an or any oth­er dic­ta­tor­ship to rule is that peo­ple are not informed; how can you have an opin­ion if you are not informed? If every­body always lies to you, the con­se­quence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes any­thing any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying gov­ern­ment has con­stant­ly to rewrite its own his­to­ry. On the receiv­ing end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great num­ber of lies, depend­ing on how the polit­i­cal wind blows. And a peo­ple that no longer can believe any­thing can­not make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capac­i­ty to act but also of its capac­i­ty to think and to judge. And with such a peo­ple you can then do what you please.

via Michio Kaku­tani

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Han­nah Arendt on “Per­son­al Respon­si­bil­i­ty Under Dic­ta­tor­ship:” Bet­ter to Suf­fer Than Col­lab­o­rate

Han­nah Arendt Explains How Pro­pa­gan­da Uses Lies to Erode All Truth & Moral­i­ty: Insights from The Ori­gins of Total­i­tar­i­an­ism

Enter the Han­nah Arendt Archives & Dis­cov­er Rare Audio Lec­tures, Man­u­scripts, Mar­gin­a­lia, Let­ters, Post­cards & More

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

Prisons Around the U.S. Are Banning and Restricting Access to Books

“We live,” wrote philoso­pher Alain Badiou, “in a con­tra­dic­tion.” Dehu­man­iza­tion must be nor­mal­ized in order to keep the econ­o­my going. “A bru­tal state of affairs… where all exis­tence is eval­u­at­ed in terms of mon­ey alone—is pre­sent­ed to us as ide­al.” Yet the mar­ket that promis­es free­dom just as often strips it away, in pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ships that bring cen­sor­ship and rent-seek­ing into hap­py sym­bio­sis.

In recent years, free mar­ket oppor­tunism has tak­en hold in the most unfree places in the U.S., the country’s pris­ons, which hold more peo­ple pro­por­tion­al­ly than in any oth­er nation in the world: a huge, pre­vi­ous­ly untapped mar­ket for sales of hygiene prod­ucts and vis­its with fam­i­ly. “Like the mil­i­tary,” writes Adam Bluestein at Inc., “the cor­rec­tions sys­tem is a big, well-cap­i­tal­ized cus­tomer.”

One recent com­mer­cial encroach­ment on pris­on­ers’ free­doms arrived this year when the West Vir­ginia Divi­sion of Cor­rec­tions issued inmates tablets, under a con­tract with a com­pa­ny called Glob­al Tel Link, who charge them by the minute to read books online. One might make the argu­ment that forc­ing inmates to pay for basic needs sat­is­fies some ide­al of pun­ish­ment. But to restrict access to books seems to dis­pense with the pre­tense that prison might also be a place of reha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“Any inmates look­ing to read Moby Dick,” reports Rea­son, “may find that it will cost them far more than it would have if they’d sim­ply got­ten a mass mar­ket paper­back.” Katy Ryan of the Appalachi­an Prison Book Project, which donates free books and mate­ri­als to pris­ons, points out how lim­it­ing the scheme is: “If you pause to think or reflect, that will cost you. If you want to reread a book, you will pay the entire cost again.”

West Vir­ginia is not ban­ning print books, pur­chased or donat­ed. It is, how­ev­er, charg­ing inmates for already free mate­r­i­al. The books they pay per minute to read online are all on Project Guten­berg, the open plat­form for thou­sands of free eBooks. That the pro­gram amounts to a kind of eco­nom­ic-based cen­sor­ship may hard­ly be coin­ci­dence. Oth­er states around the coun­try have begun lim­it­ing, or out­right ban­ning, books in pris­ons.

The Wash­ing­ton State Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tions has pro­hib­it­ed all books donat­ed by non­prof­its, pre­sum­ably because they might be used to smug­gle con­tra­band. Prison offi­cials at the Danville Cor­rec­tion­al Cen­ter in Illi­nois made clear what they con­sid­ered con­tra­band—books about black his­to­ry, 200 of which were removed from the prison library—including W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk and Har­ri­et Beech­er Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cab­in—after they were deemed “too racial.”

These are only a few exam­ples of a wide­spread phe­nom­e­non PEN Amer­i­ca details in a new report, “Lit­er­a­ture Locked Up: How Prison Book Restric­tion Poli­cies Con­sti­tute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban.” Para­dox­i­cal­ly, some restric­tions can seem at odds with mar­ket demands—such as lim­its on inmates’ abil­i­ty to order books from online retail­ers. But like many con­tra­dic­tions in the sys­tem, per­haps these also serve a larg­er goal—preventing pris­on­ers from edu­cat­ing them­selves may ensure a steady stream of repeat cus­tomers in the huge­ly prof­itable carcer­al indus­try.

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

Inmates in New York Prison Defeat Harvard’s Debate Team: A Look Inside the Bard Prison Ini­tia­tive

On the Pow­er of Teach­ing Phi­los­o­phy in Pris­ons

Artist is Cre­at­ing a Parthenon Made of 100,000 Banned Books: A Mon­u­ment to Democ­ra­cy & Intel­lec­tu­al Free­dom

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

Doris Kearns Goodwin Teaches U.S. Presidential History & Leadership

FYI: Pres­i­den­tial his­to­ri­an Doris Kearns Goodwin–author of Lead­er­ship: In Tur­bu­lent Times, Team of Rivals: The Polit­i­cal Genius of Abra­ham Lin­coln, and No Ordi­nary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roo­sevelthas just released a new online course on Mas­ter­Class. Here’s the ground that the course cov­ers:

Alto­geth­er, she’s spent more than 50 years study­ing great Amer­i­can pres­i­dents and lead­ers of the past, writ­ing sev­er­al award-win­ning, best­selling biogra­phies, includ­ing No Ordi­nary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roo­sevelt: The Home Front in World War II, which won the Pulitzer Prize for His­to­ry. Now she’s shar­ing her knowl­edge and teach­ing you to lead like a pres­i­dent.

In Doris’s Mas­ter­Class, you can learn to devel­op the char­ac­ter­is­tics and human skills of excep­tion­al Amer­i­can lead­er­ship, from Lin­coln to Oba­ma. Doris brings to life the sto­ries and expe­ri­ences of four pres­i­dents she knows by heart—Lincoln, Ted­dy Roo­sevelt, FDR, and LBJ—and shares a tem­plate of human skills that make great lead­ers: humil­i­ty, empa­thy, resilience, self-aware­ness, self-reflec­tion, the abil­i­ty to cre­ate a team and com­mu­ni­cate through sto­ries, and shar­ing your ambi­tion for the greater good. She also uses exam­ples from oth­er his­tor­i­cal fig­ures, includ­ing Eleanor Roo­sevelt, Win­ston Churchill, and Mar­tin Luther King Jr., to teach effec­tive lead­er­ship qual­i­ties and prac­ti­cal wis­dom for every day. Learn how to make bet­ter deci­sions, man­age a cri­sis, and get a mes­sage across, whether you’re inter­act­ing with the media, com­mu­ni­cat­ing to a team at work, or deliv­er­ing a speech meant to inspire and empow­er thou­sands of peo­ple.

In this class, you’ll learn about:
• Devel­op­ing emo­tion­al intel­li­gence
• Expe­ri­ences and sto­ries of U.S. pres­i­dents
• Build­ing resilience
• Build­ing and lead­ing a team
• Mak­ing bet­ter deci­sions, big or small
• Nav­i­gat­ing a cri­sis
• Deliv­er­ing a mes­sage and con­sid­er­ing an audi­ence
• The pow­er of speech­es
• Replen­ish­ing your ener­gy
• Civic engage­ment

You can sign up for Kearns Good­win’s course here.

As a free unre­lat­ed bonus, you can stream Kearns Good­win’s long inter­view with Tim Fer­ris. There, she takes an engag­ing look at the lead­er­ship skills of four Amer­i­can presidents–Lincoln, FDR, Ted­dy Roo­sevelt and LBJ. It’s well worth a lis­ten…

FYI: If you sign up for a Mas­ter­Class course by click­ing on the affil­i­ate links in this post, Open Cul­ture will receive a small fee that helps sup­port our oper­a­tion.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online His­to­ry Cours­es

How to Take Every Mas­ter­Class Course For Less Than a Cup of Good Cof­fee

The 2,000+ Films Watched by Pres­i­dents Nixon, Carter & Rea­gan in the White House


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Watch 21 Animated Ideas from Big Thinkers: Steven Pinker, Carol Dweck, Philip Zimbardo, David Harvey & More

The Roy­al Soci­ety for the Encour­age­ment of Arts, Man­u­fac­tures and Com­merce, bet­ter known as the Roy­al Soci­ety for the Arts, and best known sim­ply as the RSA, was found­ed in 1754. At the time, nobody could have imag­ined a world in which the peo­ple of every land, no mat­ter how far-flung, could hear the same talks by well-known schol­ars and speak­ers, let alone see them ani­mat­ed as if on a con­fer­ence-room white­board. Yet even back then, in an era before the inven­tion of ani­ma­tion and white­boards, let alone com­put­ers and the inter­net, peo­ple had an appetite for strong, often coun­ter­in­tu­itive or even con­trar­i­an ideas to diag­nose and poten­tial­ly even solve social prob­lems — an appetite for which the RSA Ani­mate series of videos was made.

We can’t under­stand what goes right and what goes wrong in our soci­eties with­out under­stand­ing how we think. To that end the RSA has com­mis­sioned ani­mat­ed videos based on talks by psy­chi­a­trist Iain McGilchrist on our “divid­ed brain,” for­mer polit­i­cal strate­gist (and cur­rent RSA Chief Exec­u­tive) Matthew Tay­lor on how our left and right brains shape our pol­i­tics, psy­chol­o­gist Steven Pinker on lan­guage as a win­dow into human nature, philoso­pher-soci­ol­o­gist Rena­ta Sale­cl on the para­dox­i­cal down­side of choice, psy­chol­o­gist Philip Zim­bar­do on our per­cep­tion of time, “social and eth­i­cal prophet” Jere­my Rifkin on empa­thy, philoso­pher Roman Krz­nar­ic on “out­ro­spec­tion,” jour­nal­ist Bar­bara Ehren­re­ich on “the dark­er side of pos­i­tive think­ing,” and behav­ioral-eco­nom­ics researcher Dan Ariely on dri­ve and dis­hon­esty.

Eco­nom­ics is anoth­er field that has pro­vid­ed the RSA with a sur­feit of ani­mat­able mate­r­i­al — even of the kind “econ­o­mists don’t want you to see,” as the RSA pro­motes econ­o­mist Ha-joon Chang’s talk on “why every sin­gle per­son can and SHOULD get their head around basic eco­nom­ics” and “how eas­i­ly eco­nom­ic myths and assump­tions become gospel.”

Freako­nom­ics co-authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dub­n­er make an appear­ance to break down altru­ism, and “eco­nom­ic geo­g­ra­ph­er” David Har­vey attempts to envi­sion a sys­tem beyond cap­i­tal­ism. And on the parts of the intel­lec­tu­al map where eco­nom­ics over­laps pol­i­tics, the RSA brings us fig­ures like Slavoj Žižek, who “inves­ti­gates the sur­pris­ing eth­i­cal impli­ca­tions of char­i­ta­ble giv­ing.”

As, in essence, an edu­ca­tion­al enter­prise, RSA Ani­mate videos also look into new ways to think about edu­ca­tion itself. Edu­ca­tion­al­ist Car­ol Dweck exam­ines the issues of “why kids say they’re bored at school, or why they stop try­ing when the work gets hard­er” by look­ing at what kind of praise helps young stu­dents, and what kind harms them.

Edu­ca­tion and cre­ativ­i­ty expert Sir Ken Robin­son explains the need to change our very par­a­digms of edu­ca­tion. And accord­ing to the RSA’s speak­ers, those aren’t the only par­a­digms we should change: Microsoft Chief Envi­sion­ing Offi­cer Dave Coplin argues that we should re-imag­ine work, and tech­nol­o­gy crit­ic Evge­ny Moro­zov argues that we should rethink the “cyber-utopi­anism” that has exposed harm­ful side-effects of our dig­i­tal world.


But it is in this world that the RSA pro­motes “21st-cen­tu­ry enlight­en­ment,” a con­cept fur­ther explored in anoth­er talk by Matthew Tay­lor — and one of which you can get a few dos­es, ten min­utes at a time, on the full RSA Ani­mate Youtube playlist. Watch the com­plete playlist of 21 videos, from start to fin­ish, below.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Decline of Civilization’s Right Brain: Ani­mat­ed

Dan Ariely’s Ani­mat­ed Talk Reveals How and Why We’re All Dis­hon­est

The Pow­er of “Out­ro­spec­tion” — A Way of Life, A Force for Social Change — Explained with Ani­ma­tion

The His­to­ry of Music Told in Sev­en Rapid­ly Illus­trat­ed Min­utes

48 Ani­mat­ed Videos Explain the His­to­ry of Ideas: From Aris­to­tle to Sartre

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 or on Face­book.

London Calling: A New Museum Exhibition Celebrates The Clash’s Iconic Album

In 1983, Rolling Stone pro­claimed it the year of the “sec­ond British Inva­sion,” a “gold­en age” of music from the likes of Duran Duran, Span­dau Bal­let, Cul­ture Club, the Human League, Depeche Mode, and oth­er radio-friend­ly synth pop hit­mak­ers. The label stuck. Thir­ty years lat­er, CBS News com­mem­o­rat­ed the year “a slew of [New Wave] acts came over to the states with their synthesizer-driven/R&B‑inspired music.”

Amidst this fren­zy of praise, no one men­tions the Clash, who played their final show in 1983. The year pre­vi­ous they hit num­ber 8 on the Bill­board Hot 100 with “Rock the Cas­bah.” Com­bat Rock arguably proved that punk was still rel­e­vant in the ear­ly 1980s, though a punk trans­fig­ured into dance­floor-friend­ly funk, dub, and spo­ken word exper­i­men­ta­tion. Just as arguably, the Clash should be prop­er­ly seen as lead­ers of the true sec­ond British Invasion—an inva­sion of British punk and post-punk bands in the late 70s.

Four charm­ing lads who’d grown up play­ing in the clubs, they spoke a work­ing-class idiom, wrote in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent voic­es, took a con­sis­tent­ly anti-war stance, and took punk where it had not gone before with stu­dio and world music exper­i­ments. One needn’t com­pare their 1979 dou­ble album Lon­don Call­ing to Sgt. Pepper’s—though it does top sev­er­al crit­ics best-of-all-time lists—to see its sim­i­lar influ­ence on con­tem­po­rary music.

Its title track even hit num­ber 30 on the Bill­board Dis­co Top 100 chart in 1980, a move that helped open the door for sev­er­al dozen punk-inspired British New Wave bands to come. Lon­don Call­ing wasn’t uni­ver­sal­ly beloved. The com­mer­cial aims and more pol­ished deliv­ery divid­ed punk fans, and some crit­ics panned the album. None of that has mat­tered at all to the mil­lions of devot­ed fans world­wide. Its icon­ic cov­er has become just as rec­og­niz­able as the orig­i­nal that inspired it.

Now, and until April 2020, tru­ly devot­ed fans can expe­ri­ence that album as no one has before by see­ing in per­son, the actu­al Fend­er Pre­ci­sion bass that Paul Simenon smashed in the cov­er photo—only one of the many his­toric arti­facts on dis­play at the Muse­um of Lon­don in a free exhi­bi­tion cel­e­brat­ing the album’s 40th anniver­sary. Vis­i­tors can also see “Mick Jones’s 1950s Gib­son ES-295,” writes Ellen Goto­skey at Men­tal Floss, “Joe Strummer’s white 1950s Fend­er Esquire,” and a pair of Top­per Head­on’s drum­sticks.

Also on dis­play are “sketch­es from artist Ray Lowry that depict scenes from the Lon­don Call­ing tour,” as well as an ear­ly sketch by Lowry of the album cov­er, and “pho­tos tak­en by Pen­nie Smith (who snapped the Lon­don Call­ing cov­er image).” View­ers can see Strummer’s type­writer, his note­book from the rehearsal and record­ing of the record, and Simenon’s weath­ered late-70s leather jack­et.

The exhi­bi­tion may be free, but tick­ets to Lon­don are pricey. Still, fans can play along at home with the Lon­don Call­ing Scrap­book, a 120-page hard­back book full of archival mate­r­i­al and includ­ed in Sony’s anniver­sary re-release of the album. But no lover of the Clash is with­out their own copy of Lon­don Call­ing. Put it on in cel­e­bra­tion and judge whether, as the Muse­um of Lon­don writes, its “music and lyrics remain as rel­e­vant today as they were on release.”

via Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear The Clash’s Vanil­la Tapes, Demos of Near­ly Every Song From Lon­don Call­ing

“Stay Free: The Sto­ry of the Clash” Nar­rat­ed by Pub­lic Enemy’s Chuck D: A New 8‑Episode Pod­cast

The Clash Play Their Final Show (San Bernardi­no, 1983)

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

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