Monday, June 27, 2016

Police watchdog Mary Powers dies

Posted By on 06.27.16 at 07:35 PM

Mary Powers, left, with members of Alliance to End Repression and Citizens Alert in 1977 - SUN-TIMES PRINT COLLECTION
  • Mary Powers, left, with members of Alliance to End Repression and Citizens Alert in 1977
Years before there was the Invisible Institute suing Chicago's police department in hopes of cleaning it up, there was Citizens Alert, doing the same thing. And by years, I mean decades. In 1970, three years after it was founded to monitor the police, Citizens Alert filed a suit charging the city with racial discrimination in the hiring of recruits. 

Citizens Alert became such a thorn in the city's side that the police department infiltrated it. Mary Powers, the soft-spoken North Shore woman who ran the organization, recalled figuring out that the CPD's Red Squad had planted agents in CA's midst. "For a long time we had no idea these people were spying on us," she told the Reader's Bob McClory for a 1992 profile. "Maybe we should have. They were the best volunteers we had. They'd come out at any time of day or night and do any kind of work, from sweeping floors to leading a demonstration."

But when David Cushing, a police recruit who'd said he was a truck driver, graduated from the police academy, Powers and other CA leaders attended his graduation. "We got all dressed up in hats, veils, and gloves," she told McClory, "and after the ceremony we rushed up to Cushing and offered our congratulations. He just stood there and looked stunned."

Cushing didn't come around again. 

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Friday, May 6, 2016

Great improvising trombonist Johannes Bauer has died

Posted By on 05.06.16 at 02:00 PM

Johannes Bauer - GEORG KRAUSE
  • Georg Krause
  • Johannes Bauer

Remarkable German trombonist Johannes Bauer died today at 61. (No other details have yet been made public.) The younger brother of fellow trombonist Conny Bauer, he was a longtime fixture in European improvised music, an imaginative and talented player who privileged an ensemble-oriented approach over individual grandstanding. In fact, in his vast discography, which stretches back to 1979, I can't find a single recording where name sits alone on an album's cover—he always worked as sideman or a participant in collective endeavors. His list of regular collaborators included reedist Peter Brötzmann, bassist Barry Guy, and saxophonist Manfred Schulze, and he worked regularly in many durable ensembles, including Doppelmoppel (with his brother), Slawterhaus, and Globe Unity Orchestra.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A Prince tribute mural has appeared over Logan Square

Posted By on 04.26.16 at 02:53 PM

J4F Krew's Prince tribute mural - SUNSHINE TUCKER
  • Sunshine Tucker
  • J4F Krew's Prince tribute mural

The wave of Prince memorials that erupted after the Purple One died last Thursday is abating but hardly stopping. (If you haven't read our tributes from J.R. Nelson, Jon Kirby, and Jake Austen, I highly recommend doing so promptly.) One that's caught my eye is a mural of mid-80s Prince that's popped up in Logan Square—he's playing guitar, wings unfolding from his back, and he's flanked by the words "Purple" and "Rain." The decades-old J4F Krew is behind the mural, which adorns a long wall atop X-it European Clothing—the same wall that held the Frankie Knuckles tribute mural that was buffed over last summer. It's just west of Milwaukee on Fullerton, across the street from the Phife Dawg tribute mural that artist Stef Skills made late last month.

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Friday, April 22, 2016

Prince could go anywhere he wanted—and he took us with him

Posted By on 04.22.16 at 11:28 AM

  • BPI Digital Photo
  • Prince

In April 1993, when I was in college and still living in suburban Crystal Lake, my friend Mike and I were leaving an early show at Metro when we noticed another long line outside the venue—black folks and white folks, young and old, trailing down and around the block. We probed people in line for details. Prince was playing a midnight show, and it had just been announced on the radio. That much was certain. Past that point, the juicy rumors took over. We heard he was performing a rock opera based on Homer's Odyssey. We heard Malcolm-Jamal Warner from The Cosby Show had been spotted outside and was going to perform too. We heard Prince would play an acoustic solo set, and then we heard the Revolution was reuniting to perform all of Purple Rain. Because it was Prince, none of it seemed outside the realm of possibility.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Country giant Merle Haggard dead at 79

Posted By on 04.06.16 at 02:44 PM

Merle Haggard - TRAVIS HUGGETT
  • Merle Haggard

I had really begun to think that Merle Haggard would never die. He outlasted all the great country stars (with the exception of his pal Willie Nelson), experimenting and adapting but never giving us anything less than his own ornery, poetic essence all the while. But alas, the Bakersfield legend passed away today, on his 79th birthday (according to his manager, he'd been suffering from double pneumonia). Hundreds of obituaries and remembrances will surely pop up in the next few days, and I don't know how much I can add that others won't say more articulately, but his death definitely closes the door on a long-gone era—a time when country regularly expressed the soul of working-class existence and its everyday travails with the sort of poignant universality and vibrant detail that was the Hag's stock-in-trade. Many current Nashville stars are one-dimensional tools embracing whatever deep-pocketed patron will advance their careers—whether it's the NRA or Manwich—but Merle was a dyed-in-the-wool contrarian and thinker. In modern terms, he'd have to be called a liberal.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Great Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria dead at 81

Posted By on 04.05.16 at 12:00 PM

Getatchew Mekuria - MATÍAS CORRAL
  • Matías Corral
  • Getatchew Mekuria

According to guitarist Terrie Hessels of venerable Dutch art-punk band the Ex, Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekuria died yesterday at age 81, following several years of poor health. Mekuria began playing professionally in 1949, and though he was most active before the 80s, he enjoyed a heartening late-career renaissance—he collaborated with the Ex, making two fantastic albums that complemented his muscular, vibrato-rich tone with wiry, chattering guitars, and with Boston jazz group Either/Orchestra.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Logan Square graffiti artists pay tribute to the late Phife Dawg

Posted By on 03.30.16 at 12:00 PM

Logan Square's new Phife Dawg tribute mural - LEOR GALIL
  • Leor Galil
  • Logan Square's new Phife Dawg tribute mural

Malik Taylor, aka Phife Dawg, the "funky five footer" whose limber, animated rhymes helped make New York hip-hop outfit A Tribe Called Quest one of the genre's fundamental groups, died last Tuesday at age 45. By now this isn't news, and not just because Taylor's memorial was yesterday—he had such an immeasurable influence over hip-hop and pop that his death was immediately felt. And his work remains immediate too: the collagelike vitality of Tribe's Afrocentric stomp makes it timeless.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A fond farewell to Logan Square DIY venue Wally's World

Posted By on 03.29.16 at 07:00 AM

The crowd on the second-to-last day of Walter's Wake Week - CHRIS RIHA
  • Chris Riha
  • The crowd on the second-to-last day of Walter's Wake Week

It's 5 AM on Easter morning, and Wally's World is dead. After three years and more than a hundred DIY shows, the rock 'n' roll speakeasy is calling it quits. In a few months, the building that's been home to Wally's World—at 2841 W. Belden, under the Blue Line tracks in Logan Square—will be demolished, as its new owner attempts to have the property rezoned for residential use. The shadow of gentrification hangs over all. Wally's will not rise again.

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Monday, February 29, 2016

Second City CEO Andrew Alexander remembers co-owner Len Stuart

Posted By on 02.29.16 at 07:00 AM

Andrew Alexander and Len Stuart - COURTESY SECOND CITY
  • courtesy Second City
  • Andrew Alexander and Len Stuart

Last Monday Second City co-owner Len Stuart died in hospice care surrounded by his family and friends, among them Second City CEO and executive producer Andrew Alexander. Stuart was 73. 

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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Why liberals should dearly miss Antonin Scalia, the Bond villain of Supreme Court justices

Posted By on 02.18.16 at 02:56 PM

Scalia was a titan, a paragon of nefarious masterminding. Plus he seemed like he was having fun. He will be missed.
  • Scalia was a titan, a paragon of nefarious masterminding. Plus he seemed like he was having fun. He will be missed.

Antonin Scalia has fallen. Many liberals are cheering. I am not.

Scalia's nearly three-decade tenure as a Supreme Court justice was a disaster for social progress in this country. And though in recent days conservatives have been passing around homey portraits of him as a collegial benchmate and doting grandpa, I will shed no tear. 

Still, I'll miss him. And that's because we needed him—God help us, we on the left needed Antonin Scalia. 

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