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MARIO RITTER: Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
I'm Mario Ritter.
This week we answer a question about the great Fillmore music halls and the man behind them.
We also play some recordings from shows there.
But first, we visit a museum in Georgia to explore the works of the wild Spanish painter Salvador Dali.
MARIO RITTER: The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia is well known for its collection of nineteenth and twentieth century art. It is also known for its very modern building. American architect Richard Meier designed the museum’s main building. Italian architect Renzo Piano later designed an addition to it. The museum’s current exhibit is about the Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali. Barbara Klein has more.
BARBARA KLEIN: The High Museum’s current exhibit is called “Salvador Dali: The Late Work.” Many of the paintings have not been shown in the United States for over fifty years. This is the first major exhibit to pay attention to Dali’s art after nineteen forty.
The exhibit aims to change the belief that his later art was not as strong as his earlier works.
Salvador Dali is widely recognized as one of the most famous and also disputed artists of the twentieth century. He was born in nineteen-oh-four in Figueres, Spain. In the nineteen thirties he became one of the most well known members of the Surrealist art movement.
The Surrealists rejected reason in favor of the mind’s subconscious. Many works were very strange and inspired by dreams.
The Surrealists later expelled Dali from their group. But this did not stop him from continuing to call attention to his art and his wild personality. His work is playful, strange, intelligent and extraordinarily skillful.
As visitors enter the High Museum’s exhibit, they get to know the artist through a series of pictures taken by photographer Philippe Halsman. One series of playful black and white photos of Dali are all about the different forms of his famous mustache.
Many paintings in the exhibit combine Dali’s interest in religion and science. It was unusual for a modern artist to paint a subject as traditional as religion.
“The Madonna of Port Lligat” from nineteen fifty is his version of a painting of Mary and Jesus. He painted his wife Gala as Mary. She and her surroundings seem to be breaking apart like molecules.
“Christ of St. John of the Cross” shows Jesus on the cross. But he is seen from a striking angle, as though Dali were looking down on him from above his head. Experts say this is one of the most popular religious paintings of the twentieth century.
Dali called his belief in science and religion “nuclear mysticism.”
The exhibit also tells about Dali’s interest in drawing, clothing, theater and movies. And the exhibit shows how he created an image of himself that was larger than life.
Bill Graham and the Fillmores
MARIO RITTER: Our listener question today comes from Japan. Neal Osawa wants to know about the concert promoter Bill Graham and his Fillmore music halls.
Bill Graham was born Wolfgang Grajonca in nineteen thirty-one in Berlin, Germany. He fled by foot to France to escape the Nazis in nineteen thirty-nine. A few years later, he moved to the United States.
Bill Graham was one of the most famous concert promoters and band managers of his time. He held his first event in nineteen sixty-five at the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, California.
It was a benefit performance for a political comedy group called the San Francisco Mime Troup. Bill Graham served as the group’s business manager.
San Francisco had long been known as one of the most popular entertainment cities in the United States.
Graham had rented the Fillmore Auditorium from an African American man named Charles Sullivan. Sullivan was one of the major promoters of black music at the time. He had made the Fillmore Auditorium popular worldwide by bringing famous African American performers like Billie Holiday, James Brown and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Bill Graham’s benefit concert was so successful that he asked to use the Fillmore for other concerts. They were also successful.
Charles Sullivan was murdered in nineteen sixty-six. Bill Graham took over the job of getting performers for the hall. He brought in some of the biggest names in rock history. They included the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Howling Wolf and Otis Redding. The concerts were advertised as “Bill Graham Presents.” They used creatively designed posters for advertisements. The concerts were also popular for the extreme light shows that lit up the stage as the bands performed.
In nineteen sixty-eight, Bill Graham moved his operations to a dance hall called the Carousel Ballroom. He renamed it the Fillmore West.
That same year he opened another concert hall in New York City called the Fillmore East. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, Miles Davis and the Who were among the many famous musicians who performed there.
Bill Graham was an extremely talented business man and band manager. He was one of the first promoters to include rock, jazz, blues and folk on the same show. He died in a helicopter crash in nineteen ninety-one as he was leaving a concert. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame the following year.
Bill Graham and The Music
MARIO RITTER: That is blues great Muddy Waters performing at the first Fillmore. Katherine Cole plays more of the music Bill Graham helped make great.
KATHERINE COLE: The rock band Jefferson Airplane was popular in San Francisco in nineteen sixty-five. Bill Graham presented the band in the first of what he would call dance concerts at the Fillmore that year.
The following Bill Graham became the band’s manager. In nineteen sixty-seven, Jefferson Airplane’s song “Somebody to Love” became a big hit.
The Californian band the Byrds was among the groups Bill Graham presented at the new space he called Fillmore West. Here is a recording from a nineteen sixty-nine show. The Byrds perform “So You Want to be a Rock and Roll Star.”
In nineteen seventy-one Aretha Franklin was already a huge success as the “Queen of Soul.” But former producer Jerry Wexler wanted her to perform for the rock and roll audiences at Fillmore West. Later, she said it was one of the greatest moments of her career. The concerts were recorded on an album. Here is Aretha Franklin performing “Love the One You’re With,” from “Aretha Live at Fillmore West.”
Finally, we leave you with music from the Fillmore East in New York City. It was recorded May thirtieth, nineteen seventy-one. Less than a month later, Bill Graham closed the Fillmore East forever.
Here is New York native Laura Nyro with “Spanish Harlem.”
MARIO RITTER: I’m Mario Ritter. Our program was written by Dana Demange, June Simms and Caty Weaver, who also was our producer.
Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA’s radio magazine in Special English.