5 Great People | 1 Good Question:
Cyrus Musiker is a former editor, news anchor and reporter at KQED Public Radio, and the co-founder and co-host of KQED’s The Do List, covering Bay Area arts. After 34 years in public radio, he and his wife moved to Grass Valley in the Sierra Foothills, where he’s developing his hayseed skills, gardening with native plants, clearing defensible space, and making a happy home for Solomon the burro and Rocco the mustang, a few cats and a dog.
So what’s our One Good Question to ask Cyrus?
After picking thousands and thousands of interesting events for Bay Area listeners to attend, what is one of the most memorable art events you have ever personally attended and why did it affect you?
So many shows have stayed with me over the years, because of how they stripped away the pettiness and pretense of daily life, to find some ideal of truth and beauty to guide us.
Berkeley Repertory Theater’s recent revival (2018) of Angels in America wielded brilliant language in a sweeping epic of American history, paired with an intimate human sized drama full of pain and joy. I treasure tenor Nicholas Phan’s Rex Hotel salon recital from 2017, a San Francisco Performances show in which Phan sang with lyrical precision and talked with witty insight about the songs from his new album Gods and Monsters. And I still get chills thinking about Soprano Julia Bullock singing Leonard Bernstein’s Somewhere, as part of San Francisco Symphony’s semi-staged West Side Story in 2013.
But there’s one performance that stays with me most vividly, an appearance by the Ike and Tina Turner Revue at the Newport Folk Festival in 1968 (at least I think that was the year). They followed a ferociously uninhibited set by the late blues singer Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company, which I thought would be the evening’s highlight. But Tina Turner blew Joplin away. Ike’s tight soul band could build a song to a climax, and then take it still higher. And Tina Turner was the sexy, blazing star at the center, with her Ikettes mirroring her every high-heeled dance step and emotion. She sang Loving You Too Long, and did hilarious obscene things to the microphone, and then they played Aretha Franklin’s Respect, during which Tina talked about her impatience with Ike’s catting around, a regular part of their act. But there was always a tension to how she delivered her sermon, raw edge that previewed their later breakup over Ike’s abusive behavior.
“I’m gonna take a second because I want to talk about respect.” Tina spoke/sang. “I think it’s what most of us want. But you know we don’t always get what we want—especially us women.”
That performance has stayed with me because of the way it previewed Ike and Tina’s breakup, and her rise to stardom. But Tina also demanded we in the audience think about the meaning of each song, and I’m still thinking about it more than 50 years later.