Mr. Pinochet, you’ve sown a bitter crop

Augusto Pinochet claimed on Tuesday, during an interview on the occasion of his 88th birthday, that he was a democratic leader, a “patriotic angel” with nothing to apologize for.

On Monday, new court testimonies were published giving details of how at least 400 of the thousands of Pinochet opponents who were “disappeared” during his regime (I believe Mr. Pinochet has the dubious distinction of verbing that particularly ominous adjective) were “dumped into the ocean strapped to pieces of railroad track to make them sink.”

Yes, of course, there is nothing to apologize for. In a world where the opposition does not exist and therefore has no rights.

In retrospect, Sting’s “Cueca Solo (They Dance Alone),” written in 1987, seems grossly inadequate in its description of the effects of the Pinochet regime’s atrocities. But it’s also the humane response to the horrors that the regime brokered:

They’re dancing with the missing
They’re dancing with the dead
They dance with the invisible ones
Their anguish is unsaid
They’re dancing with their fathers
They’re dancing with their sons
They’re dancing with their husbands
They dance alone
They dance alone

Nobody’s fault but mine

Last year at about this time I had my rock and roll debut at the EMP’s Liquid Lounge. I’m returning with some of the same musicians this year for additional holiday party musical jam goodness. I get to go a little further afield this year, doing backing vocals on a bunch of rockabilly, Motown, and country/bluegrass tunes. And then some lead vocals, this year on a cover of Led Zeppelin’s version of “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.”

“Nobody’s Fault” is a really old song that I am still coming to terms with. The earliest recording I’m aware of is the Blind Willie Johnson version from 1927, which is a straightforward gospel lyric (“I have a Bible I can read/If I don’t read then my soul be lost/Nobody’s fault but mine) given a growling, urgent delivery with a slashing slide guitar accompaniment. When Page and Plant turned their attention to the song in the mid-seventies, the instrumentals were turned up to 11, and Page wrote new lyrics that describe a battle with&8212;what? Addiction, possibly, or the life of excess he was leading in general. Add to that the controversy in the traditional blues world about Zep’s refusal to credit Johnson for the song (on Presence, it’s credited to Page and Plant, and Plant has said that the song was “public domain because he’s been dead so long”), and there are about a million ways you could go in performing this song.

So there are going to be some challenges, but I think it should be tremendous. I’m working with two fantastic guitarists with George Bullock and Don Chappell, and if I can just get some rehearsal time so I don’t shred my vocal chords going for the high A on every chorus I’ll be all set.