Where To Find The Answers

One of President John F. Kennedy’s well-remembered axioms, rendered in the immediate aftermath of the disastrous CIA-organized “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba in 1962, was this: “Success has a thousand fathers; failure is an orphan.” Whereupon, as was proper, Kennedy acknowledged that, as commander-in-chief, he had responsibility for the operation and manfully took the blame for its ignominious outcome.
Last Saturday’s Klan-inspired debacle in downtown Memphis carried potential for setting back local race relations and damaging our city’s image in the world, but the outcome – contrary to the JFK rule – has several putative fathers, none of them exactly bashful about their paternity. Let’s begin with us in the media. We hyped this molehill of an event into mountain-sized proportions. So did Mayor Herenton and other officials, perhaps unintentionally. The organized opposition to the Klan rally (and that adjective is a stretch) was loaded up with opportunists, gangbangers, skinheads, and play-acting anarchists. Like the Ku Klux Klan provocateurs themselves, they had no local constituency. And, to say that the police over-reacted is a gross understatement. As the dime-store existentialists used to say, we’re all guilty. And proud of it.
In the aftermath, there is another kind of superfluity – of people offering ex post facto information as to how the affair could have been avoided altogether. The Klan should have been paid no attention, some say. The Klan should have been paid more attention, say others. Confront them head-on, give them space, denounce them, cajole them, organize here, organize there – the prescriptions multiply and contradict each other.
Let us suggest merely that those among us – and there were several – who were telling us long in advance that we should be devoting last weekend to heeding the example and the precepts of the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Nobel laureate of peace, brotherhood, and non-violence, were the ones who had the right idea. It is too late to go back and fix last Saturday. But maybe we can do something about next time.

Carl Perkins

He was often called the Father of Rockabilly, but it would be just as appropriate to call Carl Perkins one of the founding fathers of rock-and-roll. Perkins, who died this week at 65, was a true giant, whose influence on popular music was probably under-appreciated. He is, of course, best remembered for “Blue Suede Shoes.” Recorded for Sam Phillips at Sun Studios, it was one of the first true mega-hits, hitting number one on the country, R&B, and pop charts simultaneously during the 1950s. Perkins received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences for the song.
But there was much more to Carl Perkins’ career. He worked with the Beatles, who cited him as a major influence and recorded five of his songs. He toured with Johnny Cash and wrote his smash hit, “Daddy Sang Bass.” Through the years he recorded and performed with Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, John Fogerty, Bruce Springsteen, and many more. He wrote hit songs for The Judds, George Strait, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, and Ricky Skaggs, just to name a few. And those who were fortunate enough to see his joyful performance at last October’s Blues Ball can testify that he kept the magic alive until the very end. The music world has some large blue suede shoes to fill. Carl Perkins will be missed.

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