Today’s Country Aural Delight: Dolly Parton’s “Better Get to Livin'”

Dolly Parton: Better Get to Livin’

Dolly Parton’s recent album could be called Backwoods Dolly, but one particular uplifting single from the album, Better Get to Livin’, shows that the timeless entertainer is more sage philosopher than country kewpie doll. She introduced this joyful anthem during a recent prime-time appearance on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars, and country music programmers would do well to keep it in the limelight. At the heart of the track is Parton’s sweetly distinctive vocal, backed by the angelic voices of acclaimed gospel songbirds Sonya and Becky Isaacs. The well-crafted lyrics find Parton encouraging others to live life to the fullest. Brimming with Parton’s signature wit, wisdom and personality, it’s the musical equivalent of getting a much-needed boost from your favorite companion.

Dolly Parton: Better Get to Livin’

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The New Orleans Musicians’ Village: Providing Hope and Preserving a Culture

The New Orleans Musicians’ Village

The Musicians’ Village in New Orleans is part of the post-Katrina rebuilding effort, which has been designed to both construct a community and preserve a culture.  Conceived by New Orleans natives Harry Connick, Jr. and Branford Marsalis, The Musicians’ Village will provide a home for both the artists who have defined the city’s culture and the sounds that have shaped the musical vernacular of the world.

Harry Connick, Jr.: All These People

The New Orleans Musicians’ Village is Born

The core idea behind Musicians’ Village is the establishment of a community for the city’s several generations of musicians and other families, many of whom had lived in inadequate housing prior to the catastrophe and remain displaced in its aftermath.  A central part of this vision is the establishment of a focal point for teaching, sharing and preserving the rich musical tradition of a city that has been done so much to shape the art of the past century.  The Musicians’ Village is being constructed in the Upper Ninth Ward, where an eight-acre parcel of land was initially selected for the construction of 72 single-family homes built by volunteers, donors, sponsors and low-income families.  As of September 2007, all 72 homes have either been completed or are under construction.

Harry Connick Jr. Describes The Musicians’ Village

In one of the project’s innovative features, Musicians’ Village will also provide elder-friendly duplexes for the senior members of the community, and, as of September 2007, drummer Bob French and guitarist Little Freddie King, have moved into their apartments.  Another important innovation in the Musicians’ Village effort is the inclusion of the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, named in honor of the New Orleans native and legendary jazz pianist, educator and patriarch of the Marsalis clan.  Focusing on the ethnically and culturally diverse musical heritage of the city, the Ellis Marsalis Center will include a 150-seat performance space with state-of-the-art lighting and sound.

The Center will also support the growth of emerging New Orleans talent and music by providing classrooms, technical and administrative support, and producing the accomplishments of its students.  These facilities will be available for residents of Musicians’ Village as well as artists and students citywide.  Because of the Center’s unique physical setting within the Musicians’ Village, it will attract an exceptional group of students and teachers devoted to revitalizing the vibrant music scene in the Crescent City.

On September 13, 2007, the ground breaking ceremony for the Center was marked by a musical celebration featuring Ellis, Harry and Branford in performance with several musician residents of the Village.  The Musicians’ Village has proven to be the leading example of how a meaningful vision and focused efforts can provide immediate relief as well as long-term hope for the survival of a great city and many of its most essential citizens.

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In Honor of Rosa Parks

Rosa Parks: The Foundation of the Civil Rights Movement

This weekend marks the anniversary of the day that Rosa Parks, a black seamstress, defied the law by refusing to give up her seat to a white man aboard a Montgomery, Ala., city bus in 1955. On December 1st, 1955, Parks, a 42-year-old mild-mannered seamstress living in the racially segregated South, boarded a bus in Montgomery, Alabama.  For her act of defiance, Mrs. Parks was arrested, convicted of violating the segregation laws and fined $10, plus $4 in court fees.

Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement

However, her refusal to give up her seat to a white man led to a subsequent year-long boycott of the city’s bus system by Montgomery’s black residents, which was led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., who went on to become a central figure in the fight for equal rights for blacks during the 1960s.  But it was Rosa Parks’ quiet defiance of discrimination that rendered herself an important symbol of the burgeoning civil rights movement, laying the very foundation for the important later work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.

Rosa Parks: A Civil Rights Documentary

Rosa Parks died in Detroit on Monday, October 25th, 2005 at the age of 92.  The late civil rights icon was the first woman to lie in state in the U. S. Capitol Rotunda, a tribute usually reserved for presidents, soldiers and politicians.  Both the United States Senate and the House of Representatives voted to honor Parks with this extraordinary national homage.  “The movement that Rosa Parks helped launch changed not only our country, but the entire world, as her actions gave hope to every individual fighting for civil and human rights. We now can honor her in a way deserving of her contributions and legacy,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat.  According to the Architect of the Capitol, the Capitol Rotunda had been used for this honor only 28 times since 1852.  Other Americans so honored have included Presidents Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson and World War II General Douglas MacArthur.  Shamefully, despite the many posthumous honors and accolades, Rosa Parks died in a state of abject poverty, with none of the major human rights organizations offering to provide even the smallest amount of financial support to meet her meager, basic living needs during the later part of her life.

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