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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Caruso, Two Tin Cans, A String, And You

Think of a progression of musical bigshots. Spare me the Biebers and Gagas and Eagles. I’m talking transformative, iconic persons. Perhaps I’m not qualified to offer an opinion on current musical affairs, or they’re so atomized the there’s no overarching person lately. I’ll start back a bit.

There were the Beatles. Before that was Elvis. Before that was Sinatra. Before that was Gershwin. Before that was opera, and the tubby Neapolitan. I think his musical shadow might have been bigger than all that followed.

You have to read about him to get the whole gist of him. Recording the voice was invented around him; it was all very low-fi, and time-constrained, you have to interpolate just how powerful and sweet his voice must have been. I feel like a poor street urchin with my ear pressed up to an opera house door when I listen to recordings of him. A world full of street urchins did, and the rattling of jewelry inside the houses never drowned him out.

Vesuvius erupted near Caruso’s  hometown of Naples, and reporters went to San Francisco to ask Caruso about it. Then San Francisco rattled apart and burned to the ground, and the world asked: Is Caruso OK?

5 Responses

  1. Thanks for the lovely bit of musical history.

    Slightly off topic – Your comment "Spare me the Biebers and Gagas and Eagles. I'm talking transformative, iconic persons." brought to mind the notion that to hear the inner beauty that sometimes lurks hidden in the more mainstream Pop-dreck, you have to take it away from the pop-stars tarnishing it to make themselves famous and put it into the hands of a craftsman who will give the raw material the musical husbandry it needs to shine. Richard Thompson demonstrates this wonderfully here: – it's from his very entertaining restrospective tour "A 1000 years of Pop Music".

  2. Darn. I just expended @ 2 hours watching No Direction Home, and he ain't even iconic, now.

    Perhaps Scorsese will do one on Caruso next. I mean, after all…

  3. Mr. Cappers – I had the privilege of seeing RT's 1000 years of popular song live in Sacramento a few years ago. It was a spectacular show and really put a shine on music one wouldn't give a second listen to. Was it Caruso?, no but it was exceptional music non the less. Thank you Mr. Sippican for this lovely piece of musical history for our ears.

  4. A transformative performer is one who leaps so far across a divide that no other contemporary artist can follow him. Paganini was the first; other artists followed him around Europe hoping to understand the new world put before them. Then Liszt, Kreisler, and Caruso. Sinatra, Elvis, and the Beatles were great, but they could be imitated, and hundreds do.

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