A reader has some recommendations and anti-recommendations:
I really enjoy The Atlantic. I read it online and at the public library. Some covers I really enjoy: Dianne Reeves’ version of “River” (Joni Mitchell) and Stefon Harris’ cover of “Summertime” (George Gershwin).
There’s also Jimmy Fallon performing the fun-in-the-sun “Swimming Song.” I wallow in the melancholy of Antony singing “Go Leave” [embedded above] and Krystle Warren’s rendition of “I Don’t Know” (“You ask me what it’s all about/ I say I don’t know/ Should you stay and work it out/ I say I don’t think so”)—either of these versions could be good additions to your cover-song series. “Jacques et Gilles” is a story and a history lesson combined. And there are plenty of other songs in addition to the ones I’ve listed.
I have always liked folk music, so McGarrigle fits right into my preferences. But there’s also a little extra memory fillip regarding the Wainwrights that shows my age: Rufus and Martha are the children of Loudon S. Wainwright III (of “Dead Skunk” notoriety and the creator of “Swimming Song”), who is the son of Loudon Wainwright, Jr., whose work I grew up reading regularly in Life magazine. I absorbed certain lessons about writing from Time, Sports Illustrated, and Life without realizing it, and the writing of Loudon Wainwright, Jr., was work I particularly looked for and enjoyed.
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Reader Barry highlights a band of two young kids and their father that became a YouTube sensation several years ago:
DMK is a Depeche Mode cover band from Bogotá. They have a ton of videos, including a concert in Poland from last year. “Enjoy the Silence” when the kids were still pretty small and really cute.
Likewise with “Everything Counts,” the band’s mega-hit embedded above. More details on DMK (short for trio’s names—Dicken, Milah, Korben) from their Wiki page:
DMK is noted for crudely emulating the sounds of Depeche Mode using an old keyboard and various toys and household items as instruments. … The band was featured in MTV Iggy’s “10 Colombian bands on the rise” article, by JetSet Magazine as the most famous Colombians in YouTube, and their remake of “Everything Counts” has been selected by Electronic Beats magazine as one of the ten best Depeche Mode covers ever.
Here’s a much more produced video with a wonderful dream-like vibe:
“The first video we made was kind of an act of psychomagic,” he said. “We never expected that it would evolve beyond that. I made one video and I invited my kids to join me and sing a song with me. I am not a professional musician. I have never taken a music lesson in my life. Everything I know about music is just for the love of it; it’s empirical. … We never expected [the fame]. It was organic and natural.”
(Submit a song via hello@. Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)
What happens if you take Raw Power and rip it out of the socket? That’s the landmark 1973 album from the Stooges, a fierce burst of electric guitar that prefigured punk and hard rock.
But guitarist James Williamson, who wrote the songs with Iggy Pop, actually composed the guitar parts without amplification. “We were in a little mews house in London and you couldn’t be loud in there anyway, so I used acoustic to write the songs,” Williamson told me this week. “I got so I liked it better because you can really hear the notes really well.” The reason for his preference is even a little punk: “Sometimes the electric doesn’t have the same kind of punch that acoustic does. Acoustic is a little bit percussive, and sometimes the electric has the big sound, but it isn’t always as percussive.” (There are also some acoustic guitars on the David Bowie-produced record, notably on “Gimme Danger.”)
What would those classic songs sound like played unplugged? There’s no need to wonder, because on a new EP, Williamson teamed up with Deniz Tek, the guitarist in Radio Birdman and the Visitors, to record a handful of acoustic versions of songs Williamson wrote with Iggy Pop, including “Penetration.” Here’s the premiere of that track:
Acoustic K.O. (the name is a joke on the live Stooges release Metallic K.O.) also includes “I Need Somebody” from Raw Power as well as “Night Theme” and “No Sense of Crime” from the 1977 Pop/Williamson album Kill City, the former of which gets a full orchestration.
Williamson said the new EP represented the confluence of a couple currents. A Stooges superfan named Hakan Beckman (“He kinda knows what I had for breakfast in 1970,” Williamson chuckled) had long advocated for an acoustic record, and the duo of aging rockers Williamson and Tek decided to to do it after joking about playing lounge gigs together.
On “Penetration,” Williamson laid down an acoustic guitar part as well as some licks on Weissenborn lap slide. The recording process went a lot more smoothly than Raw Power. “At this point in time I think we have a clue as to what to do, and back in the day, that was my first album on Raw Power, so I had no idea what I was doing,” he said. The only hitch came when he sent his tracks to Tek, and the singer discovered they were out of concert pitch, thanks to a miscalibrated electronic tuner. It was an easy fix, though. Plus, the weird tuning was an echo of the way the Stooges did things: Eschewing tuners, they just tuned to each other’s instruments.
Williamson said he hasn’t talked to Pop about the new version. “I doubt if he cares. It’s just another version,” he said. But Williamson likes the way it compares to the 44-year-old original. “I think it stacks up very favorably. The original of course is the original. This one has more of a rhythmic thing going on with it.”
For comparison, here’s the original version:
Do you have a favorite reworking of an electric tune for acoustic instruments? Let us know at email@example.com.
(Track of the Day archive here. Pre-Notes archive here.)
The president is failing, and Americans are paying for his failures.
“I don’t take responsibility at all,” said President Donald Trump in the Rose Garden on March 13. Those words will probably end up as the epitaph of his presidency, the single sentence that sums it all up.
Trump now fancies himself a “wartime president.” How is his war going? By the end of March, the coronavirus had killed more Americans than the 9/11 attacks. By the first weekend in April, the virus had killed more Americans than any single battle of the Civil War. By Easter, it may have killed more Americans than the Korean War. On the present trajectory, it will kill, by late April, more Americans than Vietnam. Having earlier promised that casualties could be held near zero, Trump now claims he will have done a “very good job” if the toll is held below 200,000 dead.
The U.S. may end up with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the industrialized world. This is how it’s going to play out.
Three months ago, no one knew that SARS-CoV-2 existed. Now the virus has spread to almost every country, infecting at least 446,000 people whom we know about, and many more whom we do not. It has crashed economies and broken health-care systems, filled hospitals and emptied public spaces. It has separated people from their workplaces and their friends. It has disrupted modern society on a scale that most living people have never witnessed. Soon, most everyone in the United States will know someone who has been infected. Like World War II or the 9/11 attacks, this pandemic has already imprinted itself upon the nation’s psyche.
A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality. “What if?” became “Now what?”
Critics are letting their disdain for the president blind them to geopolitical realities.
When a new coronavirus emerged in China and began spreading around the world, including in the United States, President Donald Trump’s many critics in the American foreign-policy establishment were quick to identify him as part of the problem. Trump had campaigned on an “America first” foreign policy, which after his victory was enshrined in the official National Security Strategy that his administration published in 2017. At the time, I served in the administration and orchestrated the writing of that document. In the years since, Trump has been criticized for supposedly overturning the post–World War II order and rejecting the role the United States has long played in the world. Amid a global pandemic, he’s being accused—on this site and elsewhere—of alienating allies, undercutting multinational cooperation, and causing America to fight the coronavirus alone.
The coronavirus pandemic and a chapter of history that should have expired long ago
In a large windowlessroom in the bowels of the CIA, there is a sign that reads Every day is September 12th. When I first saw those words, during a tour of the agency’s operations, I felt conflicted. As a New Yorker who witnessed the 9/11 attacks, I once felt that way myself, but by the time I saw the sign, during the second term of the Obama administration, it seemed to ignore all the things that our country had gotten wrong because of that mindset. Now, as COVID-19 has transformed the way that Americans live, and threatens to claim exponentially more lives than any terrorist has, it is time to finally end the chapter of our history that began on September 11, 2001.
I say that as someone whose life was shaped by 9/11. I was a 24-year-old graduate student working on a city-council campaign when I watched the second plane curve into the World Trade Center and then saw the first tower collapse. Everything that I’d done in my life up to that point suddenly seemed trivial. I walked several miles to my apartment, as my fellow New Yorkers came out into the streets to be near one another (as we can’t be today). In the days that followed, my Queens neighborhood was the setting for a number of funerals for firemen. I will never forget the image of one devastated widow sitting in a lawn chair in her front yard, receiving condolences from a line of the toughest—but most broken—men I had ever seen.
Defenders of the president seem to have settled on the excuse that the White House botched its pandemic preparations because it was too distracted by the drama on Capitol Hill.
“The White House was focused on addressing the threat to its survival,” argued the columnist Henry Olson in The Washington Post, “not on preparing for a threat from China that might not even materialize.”
Senator Tom Cotton has also adopted the theory, telling Politico, “It’s unfortunate that during the early days of a global pandemic, the Senate was paralyzed by a partisan impeachment trial.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been pushing this theory too, telling the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt that the Senate impeachment trial “diverted the attention of the government” from the virus, “because everything every day was all about impeachment.”
Widespread social-distancing measures have produced some jarring effects across land, air, and sea.
From inside her living room in London, Paula Koelemeijer can feel the world around her growing quieter.
Koelemeijer, a seismologist, has a miniature seismometer sitting on a concrete slab at the base of her first-floor fireplace. The apparatus, though smaller than a box of tissues, can sense all kinds of movement, from the rattle of trains on the tracks near Koelemeijer’s home to the waves of earthquakes rolling in from afar. Since the United Kingdom announced stricter social-distancing rules last month, telling residents not to leave their home except for essential reasons, the seismometer has registered a sharp decrease in the vibrations produced by human activity.
With fewer trains, buses, and people pounding the pavement, the usual hum of public life has vanished, and so has its dependable rhythms: Before the spread of COVID-19 shut down the city, Koelemeijer could plot the seismometer’s data and see the train schedule reflected in the spikes, down to the minute. Now, with fewer trains running, the spikes seem to come at random.
What is actually known about hydroxychloroquine, the medication that Trump is fixated on recommending for COVID-19
Two weeks ago, French doctors published a provocative observation in a microbiology journal. In the absence of a known treatment for COVID-19, the doctors had taken to experimentation with a potent drug known as hydroxychloroquine. For decades, the drug has been used to treat malaria—which is caused by a parasite, not a virus. In six patients with COVID-19, the doctors combined hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin (known to many as “Z-Pak,” an antibiotic that kills bacteria, not viruses) and reported that after six days of this regimen, all six people tested negative for the virus.
The report caught the eye of the celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who has since appeared on Fox News to talk about hydroxychloroquine 21 times. As Oz put it to Sean Hannity, “This French doctor, [Didier] Raoult, a very famous infectious-disease specialist, had done some interesting work at a pilot study showing that he could get rid of the virus in six days in 100 percent of the patients he treated.” Raoult has made news in recent years as a pan-disciplinary provocateur; he has questioned climate change and Darwinian evolution. On January 21, at the height of the coronavirus outbreak in China, Raoult said in a YouTube video, “The fact that people have died of coronavirus in China, you know, I don’t feel very concerned.” Last week, Oz, who has been advising the president on the coronavirus, described Raoult to Hannity as “very impressive.” Oz told Hannity that he had informed the White House as much.
Contact tracing is working in South Korea and Singapore. But it raises privacy issues.
It’s a cool fall evening in September 2020. With a bottle of wine in hand, you slide into the front seat of your car to drive to a dinner party with close friends. It’s been eight months since you’ve seen most of them, at least outside of a computer screen.
As you’re pulling out of the neighborhood, you feel your phone buzz. It’s an alert from the new agency overseeing the coronavirus outbreak. On the lock screen, you can read the words “BE ADVISED.” Your heart sinks as you unlock the phone to read the rest of the message:
We have determined that in the past few days, you may have interacted with somebody who has recently tested positive for COVID-19. There is no need to panic. But for the sake of your family, friends, and neighbors, we are relying on your support. As soon as you can, please …
The president is inescapable right now. That’s by design.
When she finishes her 12-hour shift in the intensive-care unit at Riverside Community Hospital, Katherine Montanino stuffs her clothes into a dirty-linen bag and swaps out her soiled shoes for a fresh pair. Arriving home, she takes a shower before she hugs her family. Then she might flip on the television to see what President Donald Trump is saying about the virus she’s straining to avoid.
The 44-year-old nurse from Riverside, California, voted for Trump and might do it again. Yet with her colleagues rationing masks and the number of COVID-19 cases growing, Trump’s digressions into partisan politics leave her cold. “It’s one of the things I wish he would just stop,” she told me. “I understand he’s trying to build for the presidential campaign coming up. But it’s not the time right now. It’s not about him. Honestly, it’s about life and death.”
The pandemic seems to be hitting people of color the hardest.
I dread every time my partner leaves our home. I dread every time Sadiqa marches to the front lines of the war against COVID-19—the emergency department. I dread every time she comes home and removes her personal protective equipment.
Sadiqa is worried like a soldier in a total war, seeing so many medical providers going down, seeing so many patients going down. I am worried about her health—and my own, as someone surviving metastatic cancer. I am worried about all medical providers, all Americans who have compromised immune systems, all Americans who are infected, all Americans who are healthy and want to remain that way.
As a student of health disparities, I am especially worried about the well-being of people of color. And people of color appear to be especially worried about their own well-being. Black people, at 46 percent, and Latinos, at 39 percent, are about twice as likely as white people, at 21 percent, to view the coronavirus as a major threat to their health.