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GP 7 September 2005: Not to Worry

Ray DeVoe.  Easily the best writer out of Wall Street is Jesup and Lamont’s Ray DeVoe.  His DeVoe Report not only colorfully talks about all the national and global events that drive our financial markets but it nicely strays into all-time great movies, the need for very gloomy New England tropistic men to find sunlight in the Caribbean during the winter months, the progressive tendency of our government, our economists, and our think tanks to fudge the numbers on everything from inflation to productivity, and a host of other illuminating subjects.   

There are two types of seer in Wall Street.  The feelgoods tell you about the latest BMW that will put fizz in your life or the concept stock you have to own because it is going through the roof.  Then there are the band of careful thinkers who warn us about potholes in the road.  They flash caution lights.  Our friend Mr. DeVoe is part of the stop, look, and listen brigade.  He helps you see what’s awry. 

For August he has taken time out for his summer reading program, about which he reports on August 17, 2005.  This year his twoweek reading course included Michael Crichton’s State of Fear, Twilight in the Desert by Mathew R. Simmons, Freakanomics by the two Stephens (Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner), Robert Schiller’s Irrational Exuberance, Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat, and finally J. Maarten Troost’s Sex Lives of Cannibals.  They are not what the psychiatrists, who go out to the end of Long Island just before Labor Day, would be perusing, but then he hangs out at the Jersey shore. 

His is hardly the light fare we understand Americans want (read about the essence of light and fluffy with Leslie Mooves of CBS in Lynn Hirschberg’s “Giving Them What They Want,” The New York Times Magazine, September 4, 2005, pp30ff).  DeVoe gives us a repast that will leave you morose, rather inert.  Nor, you will notice, is it challenging literature that both ennobles and captures the tragedy of mankind.  It is the flat stuff dreamed up by journalists that largely says we are dying of a 1,000 banalities.  It is the curse of our fourth estate to inflate our sense of futility and to close the book on tomorrow.  This despite the fact that DeVoe is a hail fellow well met, wryly comic, and of diverse interests that escape the workaday world.  In fact, we owe him a bottle of wine. 

Happy, Happy Talk.  Since poverty (just reported to be on the increase; see www.nytimes.com/2005/08/31/national/31census.html?ex=1126324800&en=9d008cc4d69
7f817&ei=5070&emc=eta1), unpredicted Category 5 storms, and war wrack America, we have chosen to take a look at the light and frothy offered by the world of popular song.  We already know that The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are firmly in the saddle, and have had enough doom and gloom. We really don’t need somebody to tell us we have troubles: we just have to learn where to park them. 

Years ago, Bobby McFerrin came out with his “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” which Bush the Elder wanted to turn into his campaign song, much to McFerrin’s distress: 

Here’a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
When you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now. 

There’s a whole subculture of these “don’t worry” songs which admit to the awful things afoot around us, but exhort us, nonetheless, not to worry.  For instance, the three Utah sisters Osborn who make up Shedaisy counsel us “Don’t Worry ‘bout a Thing”

Ever been misunderstood, misused, or misled
Ever knocked on the sky
And had it fall on your head
Well, don’t worry ‘bout it, don’t worry
Ever lost your luggage, your marbles,
Your house
Or found yourself in bed with Uncle Sam or Mickey Mouse
Ever been accused of murder on Music Row
Or caught in morning traffic when you
Really gotta go—Oh no! 

They are reconciled to loss and getting knocked about—ebullient martyrdom (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SHeDAISY).   

Monural Troubadours.  Bob Dylan has included Amos Lee on his 2005 tour, as well he might, since they both have that blank look and atonal ambiance that hints they have had extra injections of novocain for years on end.  Using passion as a drug to escape worry in “Makin’ Love,” Amos drones “We’re gonna shake from the middle of the clock on the wall/Not worrying about a thing at all…” (www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4541649).  Lee has opened for practically everybody under the sun, from the ever-witty Mose Allison to talented jazz musician Norah Jones.  So we will be sampling his cocktail often, which is one part elementary school teacher and two parts Philadelphia bartender (whereupon he drifted into music).  Worrying for him is something you drown out.  

Ever troubled Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys was once soothed by his wife when he wondered whether he could match the Ronettes in song, leading to “Don’t Worry Baby”

But she looks in my eyes
And makes me realize
And she says, “Don’t worry baby”
Don’t worry baby
Don’t worry baby
Everything will turn out alright. 

The wonder of the Beach Boys was that they seemed perpetually lit by sunshine, but were assaulted by demons all the time. 

The darling of the older slightly hip set, Alberta’s  Joni Mitchell, sings “Don’t Worry ‘bout Me” at the wind up of a romance, hoping to be just “friends” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joni_Mitchell).  If the truth be told, we have never worried about her, taking to heart Delbert McClinton’s “I  Used to Worry.”  He reminds us that there are a whole lot of things not worth worrying about, even in a world given over to high anxiety: 

Just to think I used to worry about things like that
I used to worry ‘bout rich and skinny ‘til I would up poor and fat
Some times I kind of wonder where my mind’s been at
Just to think I used to worry about things like that. 

Don Imus, the professionally irascible morning talk-too-much-cable-demihero, is quite taken with the very sensible Delbert, who knows how to put his phony worries on the shelf.  With his surplus anxiety under control, McClinton has been able to create an album called “Feelin Alright” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Imus).   

Van Morrison and Mose Allison.  But if you want to get stylish about not worrying, you should delve into Van Morrison and Mose Allison, both terribly talented musicians and songwriters (www.npr.org/programs/jazzprofiles/archive/allison.html, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Van_Morrison).  They both do each other’s songs.  As we understand it, “I Don’t Worry about a Thing” finds Mose Allison tapping out Morrison lyrics: 

If this life is driving you to drink
Sitting round what’s the use what to think
Well I’ve got some consolation
Give it to you if I might
You know I don’t worry about a thing because
Nothing’s gonna turn out right. 

What to Do with Worries.  Ray DeVoe gives us plenty to worry about.  McFerrin and Mitchell and SheDaisy and Amos Lee think we can block them out one way or another.  McClinton just puts them up on the shelf.  With enough finesse, says Mose and Morrison, you can just live with them and just not let them get to you.  But all the songsters admit, “Smile we must / Amidst our Bounty of Worry.”   

The comedian Stephen Wright says he drives too fast to worry about cholesterol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Wright).  That’s as good a reason not to worry as any.  You are certain to be worrying about the wrong things.

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