Monday, March 22, 2010

Layer 270 . . . Fully Evolved Humans, Charlie Gillett, Music, Barack Obama and Healthcare Reform

Very few people have even heard of Charlie Gillett, for two very good reasons. Firstly, they're not interested in music. Secondly, Gillett was never interested in becoming rich and famous. Or even well known. He died a few days ago, at the shockingly young age of 68. He was a good man, a spiritual man - the kind of "fully evolved human" described in Layer 20.

  • Self-actualizing people are dedicated to some work, task, duty or vocation which they consider to be important.
  • Self-actualizers have ‘psychological freedom’. They do not need or value unwarranted fame, celebrity or notoriety. 
  • They are spontaneous, they are doing what is natural; they are merely expressing themselves.
  • They have a deep feeling of kinship with the whole human race. They are capable of friendship with people regardless of race, creed, class, education or political beliefs. This acceptance of others cuts across political, economic and national boundaries.
  • They have for human beings in general a deep feeling of identification, sympathy and affection . . . they have a genuine desire to help the human race.

by Richard Williams

Few people can have opened so many ears to such a variety of music over the last four decades as Charlie Gillett, the author and radio disc jockey, who has died aged 68 after a long illness. Charlie wrote the first serious history of rock'n'roll and went on to become a central figure in drawing together the confluence of international sounds that became known, to the benefit of many artists whose work might otherwise have remained in obscurity, as world music.

The radio was Charlie's medium, and from Honky Tonk, his 1970s Radio London show, to his weekly BBC World Service broadcasts in recent years, he nurtured an audience whose loyalty to him and belief in his integrity were unshakeable. He was never polished in his presentation – "I'm not very good at reading scripts," he once said, "and I wouldn't be very convincing introducing a record that I didn't personally like" – but his listeners knew that if Charlie had chosen to play a piece of music, it would be worth hearing.

Charlie studied for his MA at Columbia University. The history of rock'n'roll became the subject of his thesis, long before popular music became an acceptable topic for academic study. Returning to England in 1966, he taught social studies and film-making, another lifelong enthusiasm.

Attempting to find a niche in journalism, he wrote for New Society, Anarchy and the soul music magazine Shout before securing a column in Record Mirror, in which he could express his enthusiasm for rhythm and blues and early rock'n'roll.

Wisely, he turned down an offer to present BBC2's The Old Grey Whistle Test, realising that he would have little to say to musicians for whose work he cared nothing.

It was in the mid-1970s that he and Gordon Nelki formed a partnership which led them to manage Kilburn and the High Roads (whose lead singer was Ian Dury).


Charlie had been present at the famous meeting in a central London pub in 1987, when a group of like-minded music folk decided they'd create something called "world music" to make sure that the nation's record stores would find a place to stock the latest sounds coming out of Africa and elsewhere.

He [became] the patriarch of that whole scene: not just a wonderful radio host, but a tenaciously enthusiastic figure who knew everyone that mattered and who made a point of bringing them together.

Even when the artist under scrutiny was wholly obscure, Charlie's lucid style and attention to the artist's intentions meant you'd be sure to check them out.

It's no great secret that most rock writers develop a hard crust of cynicism as the years grind by; with Charlie, who'd been at it for longer than most, that absolutely never happened.


What sad,sad news.

Charlie was one of the great radio voices and I too have been listening to him for 30 years or so. Mostly on the World Service when living in the Middle East but previously in his Rock and Roll incarnation on UK radio.

As someone said on the World Service this morning,he will had three amazing traits: an enquiring mind,a great ear and true integrity.

Add to that tremendous warmth and humor.


What words are adequate to describe the extraordinary contribution Charlie Gilett made to the world of music and the joy he brought to his devoted listeners?

His voice and delivery ensured the attention of the listener was held firm. His lovely, re-assuring and mellifluous tones just made me feel that all was well, even though it was obvious that all was not well at all with our world . . . but just for that golden time whilst he was broadcasting . . . everything seemed to be put in order.

The music he introduced to us was SO varied and memorable. He would take one on a journey, not just around the World, but through many emotions, at all levels of heightened perception. A real light show, the sense of colour through the music was vivid, somehow tangible.


Such sad news, such a loss. As a student at Sussex University in 1968, discovering socialist politics and that Rolling Stones tunes were not original but covers of original black tunes from the US (yeah, I know) these two tracks were coming together as I became interested in black history and culture, including blues, r n b and soul music.

Charlie came to Sussex to speak to us about music, playing tunes as he went along. His presentation chimed in exactly with the direction of my own growing passion, and left me with an indelible memory which I will always treasure.

"Sound of the City". Changed my life. Thank you, Charlie.


Shall miss him, his voice and his recommendations. There's very little integrity left these days in the music business, which is probably why one of the most important proponents of new, exciting and undiscovered music from around our Earth didn't make the Grauniad's front page.

Well, you made my front page Charlie; and I and the world are a better place for it.



And talking of making the world a better place, and fully evolved human beings, we come back to a young man of mixed race, who has lived in different countries, who has the potential to be one of the exceptional human beings of all time. He probably already is, but given half a chance and a fair wind he has the potential to achieve amazing things.

Healthcare reform vote: sweet victory for Obama

Winning the vote for healthcare reform in Congress last night showed that Obama was right to keep fighting

by Richard Adams

Some myths got slain last night in Washington DC. For one thing, the Democratic party rediscovered its vertebrae and used it, for a change, to pass healthcare reform. For another, the myth that the US political structure is broken and cannot digest fundamental issues … well, it took a dent.

Minutes after the final passage of the bills through the House of Representatives, President Obama got on with selling the reforms to the American public, going live on television despite the late hour. "This is what change looks like," Obama said, minutes before midnight, tying together his election promises of change with his commitments to reforming healthcare. "We proved that this government of the people and by the people still works for the people."

The key fact from last night's vote is not what the margin was or the procedure used. The fact that it happened at all that was the real miracle. "Tonight at a time when the pundits said it was no longer possible, we rose above the weight of politics," Obama said in his late-night post-vote address.


Not ideal but the US has rejoined the civilized nations. Shame so long absent.


Obama delivered on his promises where Clinton couldnt; 95% of Americans will get coverage. Only time will tell if USA can afford any of this, but seems that its a huge step forwards with regards to equity and cost control. It may not be perfect, but Obama will rightly claim victory. He (& we) can now move on with one huge and controversial job well done, and look forward to closing out the deal on a second term with his credibility stature & authority massively enhanced.


    "Honestly, I have never been for the life of me been able to figure out why so many so called Christians most strongly oppose any measure to help the disadvantaged in the US."

It's not that strange when you remember what brand of Christianity the US was founded on, and which is still practised by many of its citizens. The religion of the founding fathers was a particular strain of Protestantism, or Puritanism, where poverty was seen as a sign of being unfavoured by god and where self-reliance was a great virtue. The idea is that if you're poor, it's your fault for not being among the chosen. Sounds bizarrre, but how else to explain the fact that millions of 'ordinary Americans' with no connection to the insurance or pharmeceutical industries, oppose national health care with a passion?


There is a mythology - the "Horatio Alger" idea - that is deeply woven in the American psyche. Americans believe strongly in the ideal of the autonomous individual. In modern times, corporate interests have learned to exploit that ideal to avoid sensible community obligations like universal health care. The Republican party has been remarkably successful in convincing ordinary working class folks that the government only steals from them and if they could just be left alone, they'd thrive.

It's a ridiculous point of view, of course, but it's very prevalent.

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