By Tracy Chapman. From her album titled Tracy Chapman
Friday, Jan 13, 2012
Axis Reader, CanDoJack's comment today in the Reader Comment section below, prompted us to bring Tracy and her brilliant music back for a replay. Her lyrics and music in these three songs are prophetic, even more relevant today than when she first wrote and sang them. - LMB
Editor's Note: Please allow this indulgence to share my first experience hearing Tracy Chapman live. Walking along the street on a Saturday night there she was, sitting in the doorway of a closed shop, playing her acoustic, unplugged ... and singing from the heart. There were many street musicians in Harvard Square in the early 80s. But I was captivated by her and her music as none other.
Tracy once spoke about her time singing in the streets in Cambridge:
“It adds to the quality of urban life to have music in public spaces. And it’s something Boston is known for. It’s part of the city, part of what it’s about. People come up to me all over the country and tell me they remember seeing me in Harvard Square.”
“I think what I like about it is that in a way, making music in a public space — it’s sort of an experience that epitomizes a democratic free society. What are the requirements? There really are none. It’s about having the nerve to put yourself out there and take a chance, to see if you can do it, to see if people would be willing to stop what they’re doing, look up at you, and listen. That’s music.”
Musicians were only part of the scene in Harvard Square then. Jugglers, dancers, street theater, puppet shows, mimes, clowns, soap box speakers, a steel band from Jamaica and acrobats charmed all who were looking for weekend entertainment free of charge. There was always an open guitar case or cardboard box or a hat passed for donations. That rich outdoor ambiance in Harvard Square changed years ago when the City of Cambridge passed ordinances* against artists and their grateful audiences.
Tracy Chapman made 8 albums. These three songs are from her 1988 album titled, Tracy Chapman. If you don't have this one, buy it and hear so much more. Listen to Tracy's enduring music and messages below.
- Les Blough, Editor
* Continued editor's note: Since the period of time when Harvard Square was a place for artists to perform freely and for a colorful audience to walk and listen to their music and other performances the City of Cambridge created laws and now only allows musicians to sing and play in the street if they have permits. Last I heard, the permits cost $40 and artists are limited to perform only from 7 AM to 12 Midnight on Friday and Saturday and from 12 Noon-11 PM on Sundays. With permits they are allowed to perform with maximum amplification at 80db in a 25 feet distance. Yeah - I guess the lawyers get involved. Harvard Square itself has also been transformed from a people's place with bookstores, coffee houses, small jazz, rock & reggae clubs and off-beat movie theaters to a highly commercialized sterile zone with office buildings, chain stores and suits carrying brief cases.
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