Country Joe McDonald
B.B. King Blues Club, June 4, 2002:
I take the train into Manhattan. I catch New Jersey transit, then PATH to Penn Station. I walk the remaining 10 blocks to the club. I get there early and there are only four people in front of me. I verify I am on the guest list again, thanks to Ariel Publicity. When the doors open I go down to a table at center stage, directly in front. I sit by myself for a while enjoying a tremendous, leisurely dinner. The food at B.B. King’s Club has never disappointed. Laura serves me tonight, my gracious hostess. The service is as always, exceptional.
Shortly before show time, I am joined by Jay Schenck. Jay is an Industrial Extension Engineer from Penn State University. How ironic, I have been joined at both the last two shows by people from Penn State University. At the Tower of Power show, I was joined by students, this time I am joined by faculty. We have a thoroughly interesting conversation about music, culture and of course technology.
David Bennett Cohen, original Country Joe & The Fish band member, opens on solo boogie piano. He displays excellent boogie-woogie piano style, which is slick and well executed.
Country Joe begins his set, accompanied by David, on two acoustic guitars. The song “Entertainment Is My Business” is lively, animated and strong. We immediately have a sing along. Joe sings: “Are You Ready?” and the audience responds: “Yeah” then again “Yeah, Yeah.”
Song three, “Janis,” is a ballad. Joe recalls that this is the 35th anniversary of the Summer of Love. The song is a thoughtful, moving, and topical ballad written specifically for Janis Joplin. Joe plays acoustic guitar and harmonica, with David Cohen on piano. The fourth tune was written for Lyndon Baines Johnson or LBJ. The song is called “Superbird.” This is a Country Joe & The Fish classic. It sounds very different on acoustic guitar versus the full electric band. The song is tremendous and the different presentation does not take away from the cynical message and humor of the content. The next song is another Fish classic, “Death Sound Blues.” This song used to be very mysterious and scary to listen to and takes on a new aura done on the acoustic guitar. The song is substantial and clear like never before.
number has David Cohen back on the piano and is another Fish anthem, “Not So
Sweet Martha Lorraine.” This was possibly the biggest Fish tune from yesteryear
and brings me right back to The Fillmore East days. Country Joe still makes this
song stand out and his delivery is tremendous.
You can visit my personal journals from The Fillmore East at:
Joe mentions that he is a military veteran, serving in the Navy’s Air Force. He remains active in veteran affairs, and was a significant financial contributor to The Veterans Against The War organization.
Joe plays a new song, “Submarine.” He plays acoustic guitar and harmonica. This is a clever and interesting tune about submarines and the Navy. He laments, “There’s a right way, a wrong way, and there’s the Navy way.” Joe’s next tune is a tribute to September 11, 2001. The tribute is a combination of 3 songs: “Mourning Blues,” “Remembrance,” and “Carry On.” This music is very touching and sincere. The audience is hushed by this musical passage.
Joe’s ninth musical entry is a tribute to Clara Barton. The song, “Thank The Nurse,” speaks about the Red Cross and nurses. This is an extremely spirited tribute song to a great woman. Joe informs us that men treated her disrespectfully because she made equal wages to them. Joe reads a very touching poem, “Birch Canoe,” which was written by a nurse. My wife Kathleen, a registered nurse, missed a very special tribute to the nursing profession. She would have been extremely touched.
Country Joe plays the all time top Fish song, “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag.” He introduces and then has us all yell the F-U-C-K cheer and explains how incredibly inflammatory it was back in the 60’s and how it lost him the Ed Sullivan Show gig. This tune was incredibly upbeat and inspiring. We all joined in on the chorus and everyone feels uplifted by the music. We all sing, “Yipee, we’re all gonna die!”
Country Joe McDonald puts on a tremendous show and really brought us back to then as it connects to now. This was an excellent performance by Country Joe.
Jay, who joined me at this front table, reaches over and gets a Country Joe set list, and gives it to me! WOW… You can click below to see the set list. Joe skipped around quite a bit and even left some songs out completely. Thank you Jay Schenck !!!!
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