From a youthful hook-up with the Rolling Stones to crafting his bleakly brilliant final album, three extracts from an exhaustive new biography offer the most nuanced portrait to date of the 70s singer-songwriter
For a singer-songwriter who only made three albums, Nick Drake continues to cast a long shadow. A mixture of extreme shyness and difficulties with mental health meant that his beautiful, meditative and deeply melancholic take on mystical English folk slipped through the commercial cracks during his lifetime. There is no known footage of him performing live and very few interviews exist. Drake died from an overdose of antidepressants in 1974, aged just 26, but since his death, his music has found new audiences as successive generations have discovered an enigmatic but immaculate body of work.
Now a new biography of Drake, by the journalist Richard Morton Jack, offers a definitive version of a life story previously shrouded in mystery and, eventually, clouded by tragedy. Containing unseen photos, previously unreleased correspondence and the insights of the people who knew Drake best, it provides a rounded portrait of an artist whose recorded works continue to beguile and resonate. In these exclusive extracts, we see the light and shade of Drake: his problems are laid bare, but so is his exquisite artistry.
Rumours were swirling around Tangier that the Rolling Stones were in town. [His friend] Julian [Raby] confirmed their presence on the penultimate night: “I was looking out of a tiny window over a narrow alley when I saw the Stones’ party passing, in sheepskins and bell-bottoms, like a medieval apparition.” Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones were there, as well as a court including Anita Pallenberg, Cecil Beaton, Robert Fraser, Christopher Gibbs and Michael Cooper. Urged by his companions, Nick took his guitar when they sallied forth the next evening. “Hoping to make contact with them, we went down to their hotel, the celebrated El Minzah,” he wrote home.
“Having seen them going in, looking quite extraordinary even by their own standards, we marched in and I made a request to play in the bar. After I had been turned down very politely, Bob [Drake’s friend Rick Charkin, so nicknamed because he was thought to resemble Bob Dylan], whose nerves seem to stop at nothing, proceeded to ring up the Stones’ suite and ask if they might be wanting a little musical entertainment! This was unfortunately refused in a similar fashion, and it was decided that my fortune should be made elsewhere. So we made a quick tour of the nightclubs, asking if I could play.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta today sentenced the leader of the right-wing Oath Keepers organization, Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, to 18 years in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release. In November a jury found Rhodes guilty of seditious conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, and tampering with documents and proceedings, for his role in organizing people to go to Washington in January 2021 and try to stop the counting of the electoral votes that would make Joe Biden president.
Rhodes told the court that his only crime was standing against those who are “destroying our country.” He says he believes he is a “political prisoner” and that he hopes Trump will win the presidency in 2024. “You are not a political prisoner, Mr. Rhodes,” Judge Mehta said. “You, sir, present an ongoing threat and a peril to this country and to the republic and to the very fabric of this democracy.”
And yet, former president Trump has said he would not only pardon the January 6 offenders, but would apologize to them for their treatment by the government. Today, Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who yesterday announced he is running for president, said he, too, would consider pardoning them, promising to be “aggressive in issuing pardons.”
Rhodes struck at our elections. Today in the Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency decision, the Supreme Court struck at the government regulations that underpin modern America.
Michael and Chantell Sackett bought land near Priest Lake, Idaho, and backfilled the wetlands on the property to build a home. The EPA found they had violated the Clean Water Act, which prohibits putting pollutants into “the waters of the United States.” Officials told them to restore the site or face penalties of more than $40,000 a day. By a vote of 5–4, the Supreme Court found that “waters” refers only to “‘streams, oceans, rivers, and lakes’ and to adjacent wetlands that are ‘indistinguishable’ from those bodies of water due to a continuous surface connection.”
This decision will remove federal protection from half of the currently protected wetlands in the U.S, an area larger than California. Homeowners, farmers, and developers will have far greater latitude to intrude on wetlands than they did previously, and that intrusion has already wrought damage as wetlands act like a sponge to absorb huge amounts of water during hurricanes. From 1992 to 2010, Houston, for example, lost more than 70% of its wetlands to development, leaving it especially vulnerable to Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 hurricane that in 2017 left 107 people dead and caused $125 billion in damage.
The decision said that the EPA had overreached in its protection of wetlands as part of the Clean Water Act, and that Congress must “enact exceedingly clear language” on any rules that affect private property. This court seems eager to gut federal regulation, suggesting that Congress cannot delegate regulatory rulemaking to the executive branch. As investigative journalist Dave Troy put it, “If [the] EPA can’t enforce its rules, what federal agency can?”
Justice Elena Kagan warned that by destroying the authority of the EPA, both now and in the West Virginia v. EPA decision last June that restricted the agency’s ability to regulate emissions from power plants, the court had appointed itself “as the national decision maker on environmental policy.”
The Clean Water Act passed by an overwhelming bipartisan vote in 1972, during the administration of Republican president Richard M. Nixon. Nixon backed the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 after a massive oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, over ten days in January–February 1969 poured between 80,000 and 100,000 barrels of oil into the Pacific, fouling 35 miles of California beaches and killing seabirds, dolphins, sea lions, and elephant seals, and then, four months later, in June 1969, the chemical contaminants that had been dumped into Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire. In February 1970, Nixon told Congress “[W]e…have too casually and too long abused our natural environment. The time has come when we can wait no longer to repair the damage already done, and to establish new criteria to guide us in the future.”
Nixon called for a 37-point program with 23 legislative proposals and 14 new administrative measures to control water and air pollution, manage solid waste, protect parklands and public recreation, and organize for action. At Nixon’s urging, Congress created the EPA in 1970, and two years later, Congress passed the Clean Water Act, establishing protections for water quality and regulating pollutant discharges into waters of the United States.
House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) tweeted that “[t]oday’s Supreme Court ruling is a win for farmers, businesses, and Americans across the nation by rejecting, yet again, the Biden administration’s costly and burdensome regulatory overreach.” But it sure looks like the story is not about Biden, but rather is about an extremist SCOTUS overturning 50 years of law that gave us clean water because it is determined to slash federal authority to regulate business.
McCarthy is trying to manage his conference while members of the far-right Freedom Caucus strike at our economy. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated today that defaulting on the national debt is not an option. “The President has said that, the Speaker has said that, and we want the American people to understand that as well…. What is up for debate, though, is the budget,” she said. “And that’s what these discussions are about: two very different fiscal visions for our country and our economy.”
Biden’s proposed budget invests in ordinary Americans and over 10 years is projected to reduce the deficit by nearly $3 trillion by “asking the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share and by slashing wasteful spending on special interests.” In contrast, “House Republicans…want to slash programs millions of hardworking Americans count on, while also protecting tax breaks skewed to the wealthy and corporations that will add $3.5 trillion to the debt. That’s where these negotiations began,” she said.
Finally, there is news today about the man that Rhodes is going to prison for, concerning his strike at our national security. Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu, and Perry Stein of the Washington Post reported that on June 2, 2022, the day one of Trump’s lawyers contacted the Justice Department to say that officials were welcome to come to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve the classified documents the department had subpoenaed, two of Trump’s employees moved boxes of papers. The next day, when FBI agents arrived, Trump’s lawyers gave them 38 documents, said they had conducted a “diligent search,” and claimed that all the relevant documents had been turned over. Yet, when FBI agents conducted a search two months later, they found more than 100 additional classified documents.
The timing of the moved boxes suggests that Trump was deliberately hiding certain documents. The Washington Post article also says that more than one witness has told prosecutors that Trump sometimes kept classified documents out in the open and showed them to people.
Trump spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement: “This is nothing more than a targeted, politically motivated witch hunt against President Trump that is concocted to meddle in an election and prevent the American people from returning him to the White House.”
Bill Forsyth’s wonderfully wistful and charming comedy is rereleased after 40 years, and its happy-sad aroma is still as pungent as ever. It has a claim to be the last movie with the authentic spirit of the Ealing comedies; although with a longer perspective we can also see how it’s also indirectly influenced by producer David Puttnam in its high-minded spirit of Anglo-American amity.
The scene is a fictional fishing village in western Scotland, making its modest living from the lobster bound for the fancy restaurants of London and Paris, but which the locals can’t afford to eat. Peter Riegert plays Mac, a junior oil executive from Texas obsessed with work and material values, who has been tasked by his eccentric billionaire boss, Felix Happer, to travel to this village and persuade the entire community to sell up so that Happer can build a refinery there and capitalise on the new gush of North Sea oil. (There is a scene in which Happer appears to get a call from Margaret Thatcher in person.) Happer is played with unique brio and gusto by Burt Lancaster, whose legendary presence in itself confers something magical on the proceedings.
Slowly but surely, hard-hearted capitalist Mac is beguiled by the beauty of the place and the gentleness of the locals, including the local hotelier-slash-accountant Gordon Urquhart, played by Denis Lawson; and poor Mac falls unrequitedly in love with his wife, Stella (Jennifer Black). There is also the refinery’s researcher Danny Oldsen, played by a boyish Peter Capaldi; there is nothing here of the brutal political spin doctor he played on TV’s The Thick of It, but in the part’s wit and whimsy, you might see the ghost of Capaldi’s other great role: Doctor Who.
Danny has himself formed a tendresse for the company’s marine biologist Marina (played with dry wit by Jenny Seagrove), who swims with mermaid grace around the shore. Perhaps all too late, Mac confronts two dilemmas: he is falling in love with a landscape and a community that he is there to destroy, and he realises that his money-grubbing life in the big city is pretty pointless. In any case, the deal might not even go through: a hermit figure called Ben, who owns the beach, might not sell. He is played with terrific presence by Fulton Mackay – a lovely performance, and very different from his fierce prison warder in TV’s Porridge.
In the early 80s, the idea of building an oil refinery didn’t have the frisson of darkness that it might have now, although this movie certainly saw that drilling for oil meant despoiling nature, and also that the oil business had a high-handed attitude to local communities who didn’t speak English. (The script skates over the question of whether Happer would pay the locals as much money for building an observatory as he would for an oil refinery.) But Local Hero snares your heart because it takes on a fantasy element: something to do with Happer’s visionary obsession with the stars. When he arrives in Scotland by helicopter, it’s as if he’s comes down from another planet: America. It’s such a pleasure to see it again.
On Saturday, May 13th, President Joe Biden spoke to the graduating class at Howard University, a historically Black university in Washington, D.C. In his speech about “excellence, leadership, and truth and service,” Biden singled out white supremacy “as the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland.”
Biden called for Americans to reject political extremism and violence, and to protect fundamental rights and freedoms for women to choose and for transgender children to be free. He called for affordable healthcare and housing and the right to raise your family and retire with dignity. He urged the graduates to “stand with leaders of your generation who give voice to the people, demanding action on gun violence,” and to stand “against books being banned and Black history being erased…. To stand up for the best in us.”
While Biden based his remarks on former president Trump’s declaration after the August 2017 Unite the Right Rally that “there are very fine people on both sides,” there were plenty of examples from just this week that he could have used.
Last night, Hunter Walker of Talking Points Memo broke the story that the digital director for right-wing representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) appears to be Wade Searle, a devoted follower of white supremacist leader Nick Fuentes. Fuentes has openly embraced Nazism and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism, and he is one of those to whom the alt-right Groypers look up.
Although Fuentes calls the Groypers “Christian conservatives,” historian of the far right in the U.S. Nicole Hemmer told Walker: “The Groypers are essentially the equivalent of neo-Nazis…. They are attached to violent events like Jan. 6. Nick Fuentes, as sort of the organizer of the Groypers, expresses Holocaust denialism, white supremacy, white nationalism, pretty strong anti-women bigotry, he calls for a kind of return to Twelfth Century Catholicism. They’re an extremist group that is OK with violence.”
Walker has also identified an intern in Gosar’s office as another Fuentes follower.
A February study by the Public Religion Research Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts independent research on religion, culture, and public policy, found that the so-called Christian nationalism at the heart of those like Fuentes is closely linked with a willingness to commit violence to make the U.S. a white Christian nation. The PRRI poll showed that nearly 20% of those who sympathize with Christian nationalism agreed they were “willing to fight” to take the nation back to what they incorrectly believe it always was.
Maria Cramer of the New York Times noted yesterday that while no one actually knows much about Daniel Penny, a white man who was recently charged with choking Jordan Neely, a homeless Black man, to death on a subway in New York, right-wing politicians and supporters have rallied around Penny. They seem to see him as a symbol of a powerful man who took matters into his own hands to restore order—although the events that led to the choking are still unclear—much as they lionized Kyle Rittenhouse after he killed two people and wounded another at a Black Lives Matter rally in 2020. Florida governor Ron DeSantis tweeted: “We must defeat the Soros-Funded DAs, stop the Left’s pro-criminal agenda, and take back the streets for law abiding citizens.”
Historian Thomas Zimmer explained the danger: “All strands of the Right—leading Republicans, the media machine, the reactionary intellectual sphere, the conservative base, the donor class—are openly and aggressively embracing rightwing vigilante violence,” he wrote. “This sends a clear message: It encourages white militants to use whatever force they please to “fight back” against anything and anyone associated with ‘the Left’ by protecting and glorifying those who have engaged in vigilante violence—call it the Kyle Rittenhouse dogma.”
In Washington this weekend, about 150 masked members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front marched toward the U.S. Capitol, chanting, “life, liberty, victory.”
Professor of journalism at New York University Jay Rosen noted on MSNBC on May 11, the day after CNN gave Trump the space to hold what amounted to a political rally, that journalists could better cover this moment in our history by focusing not on the horse race strategy, but on the consequences for the country if Trump wins again. How will American life change? Who will benefit? Who will suffer? He says the question should be “not the odds, but the stakes” as a principle for better campaign coverage.
A lawsuit filed today in New York by Noelle Dunphy, a woman who says Trump ally Rudy Giuliani hired her in January 2019 to manage his media presence, documents the sordid world she observed in her two years working for Giuliani. He promised her a salary of $1 million a year but said he couldn’t pay her until his divorce was final and, ultimately, paid her only small amounts of cash. In her account, he seemed to become obsessed with her, forcing her into sex and trying to dominate her. She is suing Giuliani, his companies, and 10 unidentified individuals over “unlawful abuses of power, wide-ranging sexual assault and harassment, wage theft, and other misconduct” and is asking for $10 million in compensation and damages.
The story of her time with Giuliani, whom she describes as a chronically alcoholic sexual abuser prone to racist and sexist outbursts, is bad enough—and she claims to have recordings—but her other allegations are politically incendiary. She claims to have heard Giuliani say that he was selling presidential pardons for $2 million a pop, splitting the proceeds with Trump, and that Giuliani told her on February 7, 2019, “about a plan that had been prepared for if Trump lost the 2020 election.” Specifically, Giuliani told Ms. Dunphy that Trump’s team would claim that there was ‘voter fraud’ and that Trump had actually won the election…. That same day, Giuliani had Ms. Dunphy sit in on a speakerphone conversation about a potential business opportunity involving a $72 billion dollar gas deal in China.”
Also of note is her claim that, since part of her job was managing emails, Giuliani gave her access to his email account. The system stored at least 23,000 emails on her own personal computer, including “privileged, confidential, and highly sensitive” emails from, to, or concerning Trump, his children Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump; Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; Trump’s lawyers and advisors; media figures including Rupert Murdoch, Sean Hannity, and Tucker Carlson; and so on.
There are a number of stories in the news today that wrap up long-standing issues. John Durham, the special counsel picked by Trump loyalist attorney general William Barr to undermine the FBI investigation into whether Russia interfered in the 2016 election, released a report today finding fault with the categorization of the FBI’s initial investigation into the Russia attempt to swing the 2016 election to Trump.
Representative George Santos (R-NY) has pleaded guilty to charges of theft in Brazil, but insists he is not guilty of the federal charges against him for financial crimes. He says he will not resign from Congress.
As predicted by everyone who correctly attributed the high cost of eggs late last year to the deadly avian flu and price gouging, there are now so many eggs on the market that the wholesale price is $0.94 a dozen, down from $5.46 a dozen six months ago.
The number of migrants at the southern border has dropped 50% since the end of the pandemic restriction known as Title 42 on May 11.
And finally, Representative James Comer (R-KY), chair of the House Oversight Committee, yesterday told Fox News Channel personality Maria Bartiromo that the committee has lost track of a top witness to alleged wrongdoing by the Biden family. “Well, unfortunately, we can’t track down the informant,” Comer said. “We’re hopeful that the informant is still there. The whistleblower knows the informant. The whistleblower is very credible.”