10 June 2008

Condi: Behind the Music

The things that catch a person's eye.

Not long ago I was on the phone, idly perusing the webdoggle while my father informed me about the weather in South Dakota, when this surreal snippet derailed my rapt filial attention:

Condoleezza Rice meets rock band Kiss

The link led to an Associated Press report on the chance meeting of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and the members of "legendary glam rock quartet" KISS. Seems they were all staying in the same hotel in Stockholm and when Gene Simmons and his cohort found out, they invited the secretary to stop by and say hello.

Sadly, no reporters were present at the actual meeting (which sounds like the setting for either a Don DeLillo novel or a Bullseye Rooster post) but the AP's Matthew Lee, dutifully passes on the official gloss: Rice said it was "fun" to meet the undead novelty act and noted that Kiss "seemed well informed about current events." State Department spokespersons told Lee that the band signed autographs and handed out backstage passes to Rice's staff. The story doesn't indicate whether the Secretary herself accepted a backstage pass.

And then, as so often happens, the interesting details are consigned to the bottom of the piece:
Rice, a classically trained pianist, said she has eclectic musical tastes ranging from Beethoven to Bruce Springsteen [nice alliteration, Mr. Lee]. Hard stadium rockers like Kiss are included in the mix and Rice said her favorite tune of theirs is "Rock and Roll All Nite."

But, she conceded she had never seen the group in concert.

In fact, although she frequently attends classical music performances, Rice claims to have been to only four rock concerts in her life [hopefully the AP has a summer intern verifying this "claim"]. The first was in the early 1960s when she went as a 10-year-old to see Paul Revere and the Raiders in her home state of Alabama.

After her family moved to Colorado, Rice went at the age of 16 went on her first date with an Air Force cadet to see Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. She later saw Earth, Wind and Fire in Denver and her last rock and roll show was a U2 concert in Washington, she said.
Suddenly the painfully stiff, prickly-defensive, seemingly constipated public figure we've become familiar with over the last 7 years makes a lot more sense, at least to me. I look at the face in the State Department photo above and I can picture a young Condi, alone in her room, dorky-dancing with her headphones on, hoping no one catches her.

None of this will make listening to her woman-on-the-verge-of-a-hissy-fit style of speaking any easier to take. It also doesn't absolve her of complicity in prodding us into and stubbornly defending an unnecessary war. But barring a vice-presidential nod, the end is at hand. Rice has given every indication of wanting out of the spotlight once an ignoble dusk settles on the Bush era.

I've never subscribed to the whole "music will set you free" school of thought. But I have to wonder what might have happened if Ms Rice had gotten out to a few more rock and roll shows as a youngster. Given the line up above, you could argue she hasn't been to a "rock and roll show" yet. Big ups to Smokey and EWF, but I'm just saying...

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