September 28, 2010

"I'm not a big opera buff in terms of going to opera, but there are days where Maria Callas is exactly what I need," says Barack Obama.

He was answering Jann Wenner's question: "What music have you been listening to lately? What have you discovered, what speaks to you these days?" I wonder what Callas arias are fulfilling his needs these days. He also says his iPod is "heavily weighted toward the music of [his] childhood: "a lot of Stevie Wonder, a lot of Bob Dylan, a lot of Rolling Stones, a lot of R&B, a lot of Miles Davis and John Coltrane." And a "lot of classical music." He makes a bow to rap music — his personal aid Reggie Love has helped him with that. And "Malia and Sasha are now getting old enough to where they start hipping me to things."

Wenner pushes him about Dylan, who recently performed at the White House. He says:
Here's what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you'd expect he would be. He wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that. He came in and played "The Times They Are A-Changin'." A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I'm sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That's how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don't want him to be all cheesin' and grinnin' with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.
He segues on his own to the subject of Paul McCartney:
Having Paul McCartney here was also incredible. He's just a very gracious guy. When he was up there singing "Michelle" to Michelle, I was thinking to myself, "Imagine when Michelle was growing up, this little girl on the South Side of Chicago, from a working-class family." The notion that someday one of the Beatles would be singing his song to her in the White House — you couldn't imagine something like that.
Wenner asks if he cried, and he starts his response...
Whenever I think about my wife, she can choke me up. My wife and my kids, they'll get to me.
His aides make him stop the interview at that point. No crying in politics! Then he comes back a "moment later" and makes a speech to Wenner — "with intensity and passion, repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger" — about how people need to shake off their malaise lethargy.

50 comments:

Big Mike said...

I think he must have the Scottish national anthem on there. If he listens to "Flower of Scotland" it would explain his policy towards Britain.

The Drill SGT said...

his personal aid

that's Aide, as in

Aide-de-camp

rhhardin said...

The fat woman sings.

traditionalguy said...

So Dylan impressed him because Dylan was not fooled by the power of the appearance of power. Dylan will never change.

NotYourTypicalNewYorker said...

"He makes a bow to rap music..."

I can't believe he did that...again!

Kevin said...

"with intensity and passion, repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger"

I Did Not Have Sexual Relations With That Woman...

...oops, sorry- different President speaking "with intensity and passion, repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger"...

pm317 said...

Dylan is just not that into him and Obama (the charlatan) thinks it is cool to talk about that in front of a drooling foot licking reporter.

Rich B said...

Yes, I would be worried about that woman choking me, too.

Bill said...

Dylan on Obama:"I’d read his book and it intrigued me."

Quayle said...

Obama is the Maria Callas of American Politics.

Enormous talent.

Pushed too far too fast.

Praised, used, and abused, and willing to be so.

Burned out well before her time because the lure of immediate intemperate praise was more important than the longevity of her voice.

Brian said...

Grr.

"Having Paul McCartney here was also incredible. He's just a very gracious guy."

This is what "very gracious" looks like to President Obama:

"Later, after the TV cameras had left, [McCartney] expressed appreciation for the Library of Congress and added a zinger: 'After the last eight years, it's great to have a president who knows what a library is.'"

Right, then.

Greg Hlatky said...

Obama's aim: Maria Callas
Obama's performance: Florence Foster Jenkins

exhelodrvr1 said...

Greg
"Obama's aim: Maria Callas
Obama's performance: Florence Foster Jenkins"

More like Rosanne Barr.

Palladian said...

Obama, Maria Callas? I don't think so. More like Susan Alexander.

E Buzz said...

Bob is a Republican. Listen to the lyrics...he doesn't have time for flim flammers like Barry.

The Drill SGT said...

one more:

his personal aid Reggie Love

David said...

" . . . there are days when Maria Callas is exactly what I need."

When Jackie Kennedy Onassis heard those words, she was not happy.

madawaskan said...

Quayle

Obama is the Maria Callas of American Politics.

And, Soros is his Onassis-wait is that really working?

madawaskan said...

Maybe the better question is what does Obama do while he is listening to Callas?

A.W. said...

I think this is a misquote:

> Whenever I think about my wife, she can choke me up.

I heard what he actually said was "my wife can put me into a choke hold until i cry."

(rimshot)

The Crack Emcee said...

He also said he was into the rappers Nas and Lil' Wayne:

A racist and an idiot.

I'd say that sums him up, pretty well, right there.

Triangle Man said...

Dylan is the master of staying in character. Colbert took a cue from him when he gave his testimony.

Maguro said...

Isn't this why white liberals love Obama so much? Culturally he's a white baby boomer who happens to have black skin, the best of both worlds. He's vaguely exotic, yet comfortably familiar.

AJ Lynch said...

Obama even lacks the balls to admit there are music genres he does not like. He likes them all!

Gabriel Hanna said...

Obama's favorite music reminds me a bit of Friends.

What does Rachel claim is her favorite movie? Dangerous Liasons. But her actual favorite movie is Weekend at Bernies.

Richard Dolan said...

Obama is too young ever to have heard her sing, and her performances were famously big on drama but often short on musicality. The later recordings especially can be quite screechy. So why her and what is he listening to?

Even for a diva, she was self-absorbed; but otherwise she's about as far from No Drama Obama as you could get. Perhaps he's attracted to her most famous roles - mostly Italian heroines (Norma, Lucia, Elvira, Violetta) but with the occasional Brunnhilde thrown in. Few of them are still standing when the final curtain comes down. Perhaps he's wallowing in all that lovely doom that pervades so many of Callas' roles, to say nothing of her persona. It's a way to turn feeling sorry for yourself into high art (educated people who hate opera nevertheless feel a need to concede that it's about as high as high art gets without assistance from pharmaceuticals).

ironrailsironweights said...

Perhaps he's attracted to her most famous roles - mostly Italian heroines (Norma, Lucia, Elvira, Violetta) but with the occasional Brunnhilde thrown in. Few of them are still standing when the final curtain comes down.

Isn't that sorta the whole point with opera, pretty much everyone ends up dead?

Peter

Christy said...

How sad that he gives such an innocuous interview and still I don't believe half of what he says.

Irene said...

Callas = shrill.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Irene

Absolutely

Compare

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTuNUZEFBJk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fZRssq7UlM

Irene said...

DBQ, exactly.

I am no opera expert, but my Mother is. Since she lives with us, I've listened to a lot of opera.

When I was a kid, my parents had season tickets to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Back then, my Mom never spoke highly of Callas's voice.

OTOH, when I saw Leontyne Price sing Madame Butterfly, I wept.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

OTOH, when I saw Leontyne Price sing Madame Butterfly, I wept.


I'm not that well versed in opera either, but I know what I like and what hurts my ears. I still get chills whenever I hear her sing Madame Butterfly. Wonderful.

edutcher said...

Why do I get the feeling his knowledge of opera is similar to Kerry telling RS he really dug Wyclef Jean?

"He makes a bow to rap music" (it ain't music). I doubt he's ever heard it, but I'll just bet he loves "Times They Are A-changin'". Mommy's fave, fer sher.

jamboree said...

Mmm. I'm not buying this. He's working Wenner a bit here.

Reading his Dylan description, I was thinking "Oh oh, what about McCartney? He's just the uncool schmoozy type he's comparing Dylan favorably to here. He'll have to say something nice about the other 60s icon just so he's not insulted."

And he did.

Having said all that, Obama's a little young for either one of them. I seriously seriously doubt he got into Dylan until college IF EVER. Michelle would have been, what, 2-years-old or something when the Beatles' Michelle came out? I doubt she cared. She would have been the age to be more excited about seeing the Jackson 5 on Wonderama when she was 6. He older brothers may have been the age to be into Parliament or Funkadelic, etc.

Irene said...

Leontyne Price palette cleanser.

GMay said...

This is about as believable as the time he went on about his love of Uighur poets or his reading list for one of his first vacations last year. A bunch of pretentious bullshit.

John said...

They are "hipping him to things"?

I must really be out of the loop. I don't think I have heard that since the 70's. Maybe even the 60s

John Henry

Deb said...

God, finally, a reporter asks Obama the tough questions.

wv: rediseep.

The Drill SGT said...

GMay said...
A bunch of pretentious bullshit.


yeah, given that Callas stopped singing about the time he was born and was dead before he got into High school.

Course the President has a box at the Kennedy Center, but the only time he has used it is for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Even when they did the annual Kennedy Center Honors event, Obama did it at the WH.

a real Opera fan.

vza said...

Dylan rules!

AJ Lynch said...

Educther:
It was Howierd Dean who said Wyclef was his favorite.

kk said...

I don't believe for one moment that Obama listens to Callas or any other opera, for that matter. I think she's first name of an opera singer who came to mind while he was attempting to appear cultured.

Christopher said...

I despise Obama's politics but I loved his take on Dylan, and beautifully put.

Oh, and +1 to Maguro above.

wv=bacordst. One who bacords.

rhhardin said...

L'Orfeo is the only decent opera out there.

Palladian said...

I hate 19th century opera, and Mozart's operas are completely intolerable. I don't like most opera singers, because they're usually just interested in belching out grotesquely over-emotional, over-extended, overwrought bel canto drivel. No discipline, no control, no restraint.

Handel wrote a few great ones, though. Almost nothing good happened to music after about 1750.

Sheepman said...

I liked Obama's take on Dylan. That's how I want Dylan to be.

Of course there's another possible explanation. It could be that he's very shy when not performing and is uncomfortable being in the limelight when offstage. That would explain why he didn't want to pose for a photo or hangout with the Pres when he finished his song.

jamboree said...

I think he got Callas straight off of Steve Jobs'/Apple's "Think Different" campaign - it's like the Cliff Notes for Boomer Demographic cultural butt-kissing.

He forgot to mention the Einstein and Dalai Lama lectures he listens to in the bath whilst looking at his Picasso toilet seat cover.

JAL said...

He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that.

Another one of those just plain odd Obama self disclosures.

"...usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle ..."

Yikes.

Kirk Parker said...

Palladian,

Sure, I can see him really getting into Callas singing the Habanera:

"L'amour est enfant de Bohème..."

Doesn't that just fit?

This, however:

"Almost nothing good happened to music after about 1750."

Dude--you and Professor Shickele, eh? Sorry, Beethoven wins hands down. But it's ok--after all, he did compose the best Mozart symphony ever written.

Richard Dolan said...

Palladian is constantly railing about Mozart. I remember him doing it at the Brooklyn meet-up. Partly it's just a pose, but partly it's not. Just incomprehensible either way. I fear for the young lad's grasp of life's essentials.

Other than just listening to post-1750 music, I have no idea what the cure might be. Perhaps he didn't spend enough time in Sprague Hall when he had the chance.