DATE May 9, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Rapper Emmanuel Jal discusses his background in Sudan
DAVE DAVIES, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, senior writer for the Philadelphia Daily
News sitting in for Terry Gross.
Our guest survived the famine in Sudan, survived traveling on foot back and
forth between Sudan and Ethiopia looking for a safe place, and survived being
a child soldier in Sudan's civil war. Emmanuel Jal was conscripted by the
Sudan People's Liberation Army, or the SPLA, the southern militia fighting the
government of Sudan. When Jal was eight, he was carrying an AK-47, a weapon
that was taller than he was. He was saved from this life by a British aide
worker, the late Emma McCune.
Jal has turned his childhood experiences into his music, and has become an
international rap star based in London. He has a new CD out called
"Warchild." A new documentary about Jal's life, also called "Warchild," is now
on the festival circuit. It will be shown at Cannes later this month. Here's
the title track from Jal's new album, "Warchild."
(Soundbite of "Warchild")
(Soundbite of bombs, guns firing, indistinct voices)
Mr. EMMANUEL JAL: I believe I've survived for a reason
To tell my story, to touch lives
I believe I've survived for a reason
To tell my story, to touch lives
All people struggling down there
Storms only come for a while,
And then after awhile
They'll be gone
My father was working for the government as a policeman. Few years later I'd
heard he join a rebel movement that was formed to fight for freedom. I didn't
understand the politics behind this because I was only a child. After awhile
I saw the tension rising high between the Christian and the Muslim regime. We
lost our possession. My mother, my mother's mother suffered depression, and
because of this I was forced to be a warchild.
Backup Singers: (Singing) I'm a warchild
(Foreign language sung)
DAVIES: Emmanuel Jal from his new album, "Warchild." Terry spoke to him in
TERRY GROSS, host:
Before we talk about music, I'd like to talk with you a little bit about your
story, a really amazing story. So if it's OK with you, let's go back to when
you were four. When the civil war broke out in Sudan, how many years after
the start of the civil war did you actually leave for Ethiopia?
Mr. JAL: OK. What happened, the war broke out, '83 and then my dad was a
policeman and also my mom was working as a nurse and as a teacher at the same
time. And it was insecure, so his friends used to be assassinated at night or
killed if you're suspected to be supporting the SPLA. So what happened was my
dad left and he joined the SPLA. So I was left with my mom, so there was not
enough stuff, food, like and everything. So we joined. That was '85. That's
when we joined my dad. And I was taken from my home, '87, to go to Ethiopia,
GROSS: When you say you were taken from your home, were you given any choice?
I mean, who were the people from the SPLA who came to take the orphans and the
children who no longer had homes?
Mr. JAL: There were no schools in the south. So in the villages, people
just take care of cows, and that's life. There's nothing to do, no schools.
So the SPLA suggested that the children should be taken to school. So in all
the part where the SPLA had control, so children were collected. And also it
was a good thing. People were giving sup their children and they're seeing
they're going to school and at least they'll be in a safer place because it
was promising taking them to schools and they'll be better people.
GROSS: So your mother was OK with this?
Mr. JAL: My mother died '87 there.
GROSS: So she died before you left?
Mr. JAL: She died before I left, yeah. She died, like, few months and then
after few months we're collected.
GROSS: So how far was the walk to Ethiopia?
Mr. JAL: I don't know how many miles it was, but we walked long distance.
It took us like two months to reach there.
GROSS: Were there adults with you to lead you and to protect you?
Mr. JAL: Yeah, there were a few adults, few people with guns, but because
we're many, it was not easy, like, to control all of us. On the way, sometime
at night, the...(unintelligible)...would take advantage and snatch someone and
disappear in the bush. So we face places where we'd lose people on the way.
And it was much safer to travel at night than in the day sometimes because of
the planes that dropped bombs.
GROSS: Who was bombing you?
Mr. JAL: The government of Sudan.
GROSS: The government that the SPLA was opposing.
Mr. JAL: Yeah. Yeah.
GROSS: How big was the group that you were traveling with?
Mr. JAL: To be honest, that time I didn't know numbers.
GROSS: Right. Interesting point.
Mr. JAL: So I didn't know how to count proper, so I just say people. But
now if I see a number, I can approximate.
GROSS: So what would you approximate now looking back?
Mr. JAL: From my group were hundreds.
Mr. JAL: But when we accumulated in the Ethiopia, turned into thousands.
GROSS: After getting to Ethiopia, you were expecting to go to school, and I
guess you did go to school for a while, but then you were recruited into the
SPLA army as a child soldier. You were, what, about eight or something?
Mr. JAL: Yeah. Actually what happened was most of us volunteered to be
trained because it was better than to be forced to, but one reason was...
GROSS: Wait, wait. Was that your choice, was volunteer or be forced to do
Mr. JAL: Yeah, if you're forced, it will be bad. So it's rather you
volunteer, but the main force was the bitterness that many young people had in
their heart because you come from a village where you see your house
abandoned. Some of them lost their parents, and then because you are told a
story, when you ask `who did this?' then you'll be told, `It's the government
of Sudan who did this.' So every young person was willing to fight because
they wanted to revenge and they are told, `This is our land. It's being
snatched from us. So every person has to play a part in the struggle.' So
every kid was down for it.
GROSS: OK. So you were around eight. What were you trained to do in the
Mr. JAL: There we learn how to operate the guns, yeah? Learn how...
GROSS: Which guns?
Mr. JAL: AK-47. Then we learn how to cook for ourselves food. We learn how
to build our own houses. Then we learn how to attack a town and how to make
ambush, how to run; if the war is hot, how to fall back. People died in the
training. Sometime we learn how to eat hot food, hot food in few minutes.
Then we have less time of sleep, maybe three hours of sleep and then sometime
you're waken up unexpectedly. So we're learning how to live life of bigger
people. It was hard, but a few of us managed.
GROSS: Were there certain kind of missions that the SPLA sent the children to
Mr. JAL: Basically they would pick the bigger ones, the ones that were taken
like from 11, 12, if you have a bit of muscle. So they would come and pick
them. And later they tell them, `We're taking them to a different school
which is far from here.' So the school that you're being taken, it gets a
place in the front line. So that's what used to happen sometimes.
GROSS: Was it that they'd say they were taking you to school but you'd up in
the front line?
Mr. JAL: Like, what happened is we're in the schools. So someone would come
and say, `We need the people of this age. If you're not of this age, you'll
not come.' So they'll take from age 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 there. So they say,
`We are taking you to a different school of your age.' So the ones that are
left don't have knowledge of where those people have gone to. So when they've
gone, they've gone to a farther place which is not a school but they'll go and
get dressed in uniform now and fight.
GROSS: What were some of the typical missions that the SPLA sent you to do?
Mr. JAL: It's just attack a town and weaken the defense system of the
government because young people don't know you die at once. So sometime
they're brave, but when they really get scared, they're really scared. It's
hard to convince them to fight.
GROSS: Well, you say most of the children in the SPLA didn't really
understand the meaning of their own death.
Mr. JAL: Yeah.
GROSS: But what about the meaning of other peoples' deaths? I mean, you were
killing other people. What did it mean to you when you were...
Mr. JAL: You see, the training that we're given, it kind of kill feelings,
you know? You don't miss people. Like, I never missed people from my home.
You feel nothing. It's like we don't have feelings. So we just obey commands
and that's all. So it's like we're, like, kind of robots in a way. It's just
like the way people are in the army, you know, and then when someone die
because he still think young, you don't know they've gone for good, but after
some time, that's when you realize this person is gone. `Oh, he's dead,' you
know, and that's when I used to feel, after someone, after awhile. But if
someone died, three days, I don't feel it, but after a while, I'm, `Oh, this
person is gone.' And because there was no--that friendship attachment and all
that, it's hard to find that love, you know, in the army, you know? People
are just hard. Everyone want to show that hardness.
GROSS: You grew up in war, and that's all you knew was war. You never really
knew peace because you were four by the time the civil war broke out. And,
you know, when you're 18 and you're in an official army, you've had a chance
to develop a conscience, a sense of right and wrong. When you're a child, you
haven't had that chance yet. And so here you are...
Mr. JAL: Yeah.
GROSS: ...having to shoot people and being shot at yourself without the
benefit of an adult sense of what's right and what's wrong or, you know, of a
fully formed conscience, you know, an understanding of what's right and what's
Mr. JAL: It was because of what many of us are seeing. We understood, even
me at a lower age--I was five, six--and I was in the cities where the
government were and I would see how the black are treated bad and how they're
treated like slave. If you're a black person, you're meant to be working for
the Arabs, you know? So you work for them. And as a kid, I don't understand,
why are things like this? So most of us come from that background. So they
know, that's why they had that bitterness to fight, and it's hard to find any
ex-child soldier from SPLA to actually say the SPLA is bad because it was the
thing that we're seeing, like, fighting for, freedom, for all of us.
GROSS: Now, I've read about some countries in which there are child soldiers,
in which the children are truly exploited and the children are considered the
most expandable of the troops and they're basically just used--everyone knows
they're going to die, their lives are cheap, no one really cares. Did you
feel like you were treated with more care and respect by the SPLA, the Sudan
People's Liberation Army?
Mr. JAL: Yeah, sort of. The only thing I knew is they never give us drug;
we're given proper food. And if we go to fight, it wasn't often. It was
maybe to weaken the defense system, then their army will come and fight
because they're also thinking twice, and they actually took others to schools,
like, maybe to Cuba and many other place because they're also thinking, `If we
wipe this generation out fully, then we may be out,' but because there was
another pressure, they still had to use us as well.
GROSS: Did you assume that you were going to die young?
Mr. JAL: I used to pray, so. My mom inspired me before she died because I
used to see her pray and she's telling us `there's somebody called God there.
So if you ask him, he'll protect you.' So I used to pray this before war, with
the helicopters coming or gunship coming to throw bombs, I used to believe,
like, God is there and is going to protect me. So I had so much belief. So I
never thought that I'd die.
GROSS: And you're a Christian?
Mr. JAL: Yeah, I'm a Christian. I'm from Muslim background, but we had to
change to be Christians.
GROSS: After traveling on foot from your home in Sudan to Ethiopia where then
you started fighting for the Sudan People's Liberation Army, you eventually
walked back to Sudan as one of hundreds or thousands--you can tell me
which--of boys doing the same thing. Was this journey on foot any easier or
more difficult than the one to Ethiopia?
Mr. JAL: It was more difficult because now you have ammunitions and you have
a gun and, yeah. And sometime you could be ambushed. There are minefields in
some places. It wasn't easy. It was terrible because there was pressure,
guns, fight. You're walking to Sudan and the enemy's chasing you. So when
you're tired or what, if you're about to relax, they still catch up with you.
So you fight, fight, fight. Then you learn to move back with tactics.
GROSS: So you had all the problems of hunger and thirst, plus you're being
attacked all the time.
Mr. JAL: Yeah.
GROSS: Now, I've read that during this period there was so little food that
some of the boys would eat flesh of dead bodies.
Mr. JAL: When the SPLA had its own crisis, so I see no point, I can't fight.
We can't fight each other. So when my knowledge was growing, I'm saying,
`What's the point? There's no common enemy. We're fighting each other.' So I
said, `Let me go home to where my dad is and try to live in the village. At
least I want to go and protect the family back at home there.' But the journey
ended up being terrible. So that's where I was forced, you know, occasion
where like almost to eat a dead body.
GROSS: So when you're almost forced to eat a dead body, what goes through
your mind when you're deciding, `Do I do this or not?'
Mr. JAL: I was thinking, like, `What about if I survive? What am I going to
do when the people there have eaten someone? Does it mean I'm going to be
eating people, because if there's no food then because I've eaten somebody and
survived, so I'll end up snatching children and eating them?' So I saw things
then--I said, `God, if you're there, just give me something to eat because I
don't want to eat someone.' And the prayer, it seemed like it worked. A bird
came and then I ate that bird. So I'm saying, `No, it worked.'
GROSS: What is it?
Mr. JAL: A bird, a crow.
GROSS: Oh, OK.
Mr. JAL: I was depending for some snails, snakes, vultures and then wild
GROSS: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. But some of the boys you knew did eat the flesh of
Mr. JAL: Some ate. You know, like when you relax, you're in a different
tree. Other people are in another tree. And when we later met different
group, different place. Those who ate never survived. Any person who ate a
human being that time, they never survived, but the few that survived went and
died from trauma because when we got rescued, there's proper food. So they
just become mad and they just die.
Mr. JAL: They're crazy because they remember the images, eating human being.
So they just go crazy. Some would just commit suicide.
DAVIES: Emmanuel Jal speaking to Terry Gross in 2005. We'll hear more of
their interview of the second half of the show. The horrific life Jal
experienced as a child soldier during the civil war in Sudan is now the source
of inspiration for his music. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.
GROSS: Eventually, you met an aid worker, Emma McCune. She met you, she took
you under her wing, she took care of you. She basically adopted you and
smuggled you into Kenya where you were able to actually live a more normal
life and get an education. How did you meet her?
Mr. JAL: What happened was there was an American friend of her called
Christian. So Christian introduced--Christian was the first one I met and
then told Emma like, there's this kid--so both of them were fighting over me.
One of them--Christian wanted to take me to America, and she wanted to take
me, so they were fighting over me. But later, Emma managed to convince
Christian, that--`Let me take the boy.' So then I don't know why they chose
me. There are many other boys, but I ended up being chosen. So she's the one
who--that's how it happened. But she came later and realized--like, she's
actually my cousin, because she married my uncle.
GROSS: What was it like for you to actually have an adult who wanted to
protect you? An adult who didn't want to send you into war but wanted to send
you to a safe place and protect you?
Mr. JAL: It's always been in my heart, that--like, I want to go to school,
so someone here's telling me, `I'll take you to school.' So I just said,
`Cool.' I was disarmed. And everyone there supported it. So they said `if
you take him to school, he's going to be a better person, and he'll come.'
Because in Sudan, people believe if someone has gone and they have the
knowledge, then they'll be able to help the people better. So it's like they
have seen the light, so I was so happy.
But life wasn't easy where I went to, because I am from a child--a child that
is just violent fighting. So people around me would suffer trying to control
me because I was fighting all the time. Taken to school, I'd fight in class.
So I was violent everywhere. But I change within time.
GROSS: Tell me more about what you were like then. Did you have any social
skills? Did you know how to talk to people? Were you honest? Were you
Mr. JAL: I was kind of naughty, you know, very naughty. Like, people would
remember me well because sometimes didn't remember how I used to do things,
like I never had any--terrible manners, nothing. So if I'm eating in a place,
maybe a chicken, I'd just eat it; after I finished, throw it on the floor.
Whether it's a carpet or no, I had no idea. So then, you see, people who had
cats, like Emma, they had cats, so I would kick them out of the house. Just
as--`why are you keeping animals? They're supposed to stay in the bush,' you
know, and dogs. So people--I used to cause a lot of trouble. But it took me
time to adapt, to lead a life with feelings, you know, where you feel for
people and children affection and love them, yeah. It took me time.
GROSS: How do you learn to feel affection and love when you've been deprived
of it for so long? And not only that, when you've been taught to just kill?
I mean, how does something like love re-enter your life? How do you learn to
Mr. JAL: It's just like the way people--just concern about you. They're not
even--you don't know why they give you nice things. They take you out. They
smile at you. You talk badly with them, but they still respond positively.
So you just wonder, why are they doing this? What are they trying to do with
me? Why are they like this? So Christians like those who were asking--I says
why is this white woman trying to take me all around? Why is she doing all
this thing? Can't she get her own child of hers? So with time, when I
understand the love she had for me, then it humbled me like to change and to
try to response, because I'm thinking, damn, this person is doing too much.
So those are the things that bothered me. She comes--I've done terrible
to--maybe I've fought with someone, so she's called. Or maybe I've broken
someone, thing or done--talked badly to someone, so the concern that she had
was--or the effects that it gave me, hard to adopt, and I began to develop
feeling for people and trying to talk to people positive and nice.
GROSS: But Emma McCune, the aid worker who adopted you, she died, what, a
couple of years later? And then after starting to feel something for her, and
after she helped you so much, she was gone. So what did that do to your
ability to continue to grow emotionally?
Mr. JAL: Yeah, I was like becoming more human. She died. And I said,
`What? She's dead? How?' So I said, `You mean, she's not going to be there
anymore? She's gone?' To me, when someone die, I don't respond like that, so
I--if someone die, I feel nothing. But here, if someone is dead, I was asking
a lot of questions, many questions. And I didn't know, but there were people
around me that tried to talk to me, like Emma's brothers came and Emma's
friends, and my uncle was there. So they talked to me, and I understood and
say, `This is life. People come, they'll show you love. They'll be with you,
but sometime they have to go.' Yeah, but it took me time to, like, understand
it fully, she's gone.
GROSS: You've gone from being one of the lost boys of Sudan to being a music
star in Africa. I'd like to talk with you a little bit about music. Let's
start with how it entered your life. I don't imagine you were hearing a lot
of music when you were a child soldier fighting with the Sudan People's
Liberation Army. Like, when did you start to actually hear contemporary
music? Because the music you're doing now is a form of hip-hop.
Mr. JAL: What happened is I explore my talent at the age of 20. That's when
I started, because I was not in school sometimes. Sometime I'm in school, so
I found like, oh, now I can afford to go to school. I can do anything. What
do I have? What can I do and know? So sometimes, you know, the only
community level that was ready to take care of people was the churches, you
know. The singing in the church was so beautiful, you know. In Africa, the
way they sing in the churches, it's awesome. You just go there, it's like
you're having a free concert with positive messages.
Mr. JAL: And then you walk home happy. And most of the time, they're
talking about God and all that. So I said, `This God helped me when I was
suffering, so why can't I write for him some songs?' Then I wrote songs
dedicated to God, and then we used to make concerts in schools and churches to
raise funds for ex-child soldiers to go to school with some communities there
which helped them, and also for the street children. So with time it
GROSS: OK. So you started off singing in church and you fell in love with
the music from the church. How did you hear hip-hop?
Mr. JAL: Basically, you know, like hip-hop, it has a lot of relation in
Africa. Like the style I'm singing...
Mr. JAL: ...that's no different with the way men sing at home. So the
difference is that we don't have beats recording it, you know. Mostly at
GROSS: You don't have beats?
Mr. JAL: ...you go to--you have people just use drums and they...
Mr. JAL: Sometime you don't need beats. You just use sticks and beat the
stick and make a song, and you just chant and people listen to you. So then
someone told me the way American are singing, they just more defined what
they've taken from Africa. So someone was telling me, `Even your grandfather
was chanting, so you're not wrong,' because I never wanted to do hip-hop. And
I said, wow. So when I did recite, I remembered how people back when as a kid
I used to chant and do this. And I said, `Cool.' So I'm hip-hop--let me just
do it. So I'll just say it. `OK, I'll chant like this, then I'll get the
chorus done this way, then now we add the music.' So I would go to a studio
and then give them the sound that I wanted to sound like, so it just grabs the
idea, then to put the way I want my music sound.
GROSS: Well, you're rapping about things like peace, and a lot of rap music
in America is about drugs and sex. I guess you won't be chanting about that
in your music?
Mr. JAL: It's for...
GROSS: Or will you? Or will you?
Mr. JAL: Not really, because, like, what I've come from, my past is
terrible. Then because I know many young people are suffering down there in
there, they need hope. They need to see good things happening. So, like, my
heart is poured down to them and see what I can do best. And, like, if I just
sing about women--and there are some of them who just look up to sing what I'm
doing, you know, because they like my music--it may force them to start
thinking about women. And so I want to pass messages of hope into the music
that can strengthen people and not to give up their dream. Because I was
hopeless, I was homeless, you know, things like those. And I've been a
refugee for 25 years. Nineteen years I was depending on aid, you know.
Things like those, just to show something to people, like it's possible. If
you have a dream, you can still achieve it if you hold it.
GROSS: Well, Emmanuel Jal, thank you very much for talking with us.
Mr. JAL: Sure, sure. You're welcome.
DAVIES: Emmanuel Jal speaking with Terry Gross in 2005. His story is told in
a new documentary called "Warchild," which is now on the festival circuit.
His new CD, also called "Warchild," will be released next week.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: David Edelstein on films "Redbelt" and "Turn the River"
DAVE DAVIES, host:
Amid all the summer season blockbusters are small films that can showcase more
idiosyncratic talents. "Redbelt" is a movie set in the world of competitive
judo, from playwright and film director David Mamet. The pool hustler drama
"Turn the River" is written and directed by Chris Eigeman, an actor who
starred in the films of Whit Stillman. Film critic David Edelstein reviews
Mr. DAVID EDELSTEIN: Avoid the virtual reality eyesore "Speed Racer" this
week, and look for two movies about underdogs who compete with their backs
against actual walls, "Redbelt" and "Turn the River."
The first and lesser is David Mamet's third stab at Mamet-izing a well-worn
genre. First there was "Heist," then the red meat soldier picture "Spartan."
"Redbelt" is a go-for-it sports movie that's like "Rocky" with more
four-letter words, betrayals and exhortations, which in MametLand spring from
the certainty that life is a series of betrayals accompanied by four-letter
words. The hero is Mike Terry, played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, a jujitsu
instructor who teaches the Brazilian variation, heavy on wrestling holds.
Given his Eastern tilt, his lessons are defensive. Everything is force:
deflect it, why oppose it? Conquer your fear and you'll conquer your
Ejiofor is a good Mamet spokesman. He internalizes the lines, so you're
rarely aware of the playwright's finicky punctuation. Mike has never fought
competitively, but after a series of betrayals--and four-letter words--he ends
up preparing for battle. But the road to the ring is rich in sudden
Should you ever wake up to find yourself in a Mamet film, here are tips for
survival: movie stars and their agents will bestow instant power, and
withdraw it just as capriciously; wives and girlfriends will always go for the
motherlode; Ricky Jay will embody the history of flimflam, be afraid; Joe
Mantegna is not to be trusted; Rebecca Pidgeon, Mamet's wife, is especially
not to be trusted.
Like its predecessors, "Redbelt" is so convoluted it barely holds together on
a narrative level, but it's intense and entertaining. Mamet has become a
resourceful director. Even when he's full of it, the fullness makes for quite
There's even more riding on the contests in "Turn the River," which is opening
only in New York this week, but will soon make its way around the country.
It's a triumph for Famke Janssen. She plays Kailey, a homeless pool and card
hustler, and she has a great, long body for leaning over a table. The cue is
an extension of her long arms, and her will. Kailey's son was effectively
pried out of her hands at birth by the father's religious Gorgon mom, played
by Lois Smith. But Kailey secretly made contact with the boy, played by
Jaymie Dornan, and now she needs $50,000 to kidnap him from his sliding mama's
boy dad and whisk him over the Canadian border. You can tell from her
interactions with her son that she's meant to be a mom, and also that she has
no idea what she's about to get into.
(Soundbite of "Turn the River")
Ms. FAMKE JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) I have to ask you a question.
Mr. JAYMIE DORNAN: (As Gulley) OK.
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) Not really a fair question.
Mr. DORNAN: (As Gulley) What do you mean?
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) I think you're too young to ask it to.
Mr. DORNAN: (As Gulley) That's OK.
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) How would you like to come live with me
for a bit?
(Soundbite of bird screeches, wind)
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) It'd be very different, you know. There'd
be a lot of changes.
Mr. DORNAN: (As Gulley) Yeah.
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) I mean, different school, different city,
all of that.
Mr. DORNAN: (As Gulley) I know.
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) What about missing Eric?
Mr. DORNAN: (As Gulley) I wouldn't miss him that much.
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) What about missing your dad?
Mr. DORNAN: (As Gulley) Dad found the letter.
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) Oh.
Mr. DORNAN: (As Gulley) But he didn't know it was to you.
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) Probably. But that's OK, then.
Mr. DORNAN: (As Gulley) Yeah, but still, he was mad about it, and this is
going to make him really, really mad.
Ms. JANSSEN: (As Kailey Sullivan) Yeah. Yeah, I know it will. And it will
make Abby mad, too. But you know what? You won't be around to see it, so you
won't have to worry about it, OK?
(End of soundbite)
Mr. EDELSTEIN: The actors around Janssen are up to her. The kid Dornan's
droopiness is deeply expressive, and Rip Torn plays Kailey's surrogate papa, a
pool hall owner, to the hilt. It's ham, but four-star Virginia ham.
Terry Kinney plays a jumpy passport forger and does wonders with a role that's
all subtext. He seems to be carrying a whopper of a torch for Kailey, but he
knows she's too wild to be protected.
"Turn the River" is the directorial debut of the actor Chris Eigeman, and its
mixture of edginess and melancholy is beautifully sustained. Kailey changes
in a van she won in a poker game and sleeps on a pool table. When she plays,
her need to put each ball in the pocket is so fierce it makes the gloomy
fatalism of the greatest pool room drama "The Hustler" seem puny.
But the movie takes a dumb turn at the end when the tang of realism becomes
the cudgel of melodrama. Janssen has never gotten her due as an actress, but
her flickering mixture of strength and vulnerability is amazingly vivid. She
makes Kailey one of the screen's most magnetic underdogs. I'd be prepared to
lose a lot of money just to watch her clear the table.
DAVIES: David Edelstein is film critic for New York Magazine.
Coming up, a new commemorative stamp for music lovers. This is FRESH AIR.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: Charles Granada on Frank Sinatra, whose picture will be
on a US stamp
(Soundbite of "I'm Going to Sit Right Down & Write Myself a Letter")
Mr. FRANK SINATRA: (Singing) I'm going to sit right down
And write myself a letter
And make believe it came from you
(End of soundbite)
DAVE DAVIES, host:
Soon, when you write a letter you'll be able to give "Ol' Blue Eyes" a lick
and stick him on the envelope. The 10-year anniversary of Frank Sinatra's
death comes next week, and the US Postal Service will soon be selling a Frank
Sinatra commemorative stamp. Few people know more about Sinatra's life and
music than Charles Granada. He's a police officer in New Jersey who's been
collecting Sinatra records, photos and memorabilia for decades. He's the
author of "Sessions with Sinatra: Frank Sinatra and the Art of Recording." He
was project director for the box set "Frank Sinatra: The Best of the Columbia
Years, 1943-to-'52" and co-produced the box set "Frank Sinatra in Hollywood"
released in 2002.
Terry spoke to Charles Granada in 1995 when Sinatra turned 80.
Mr. CHARLES GRANADA: I think the one song that really typifies Sinatra at
Columbia as a ballad artist--because primarily, during the Columbia years he
was known as a ballad artist, and that's really the style that he perfected.
TERRY GROSS, host:
And we're talking about, what, the late '40s and early '50s?
Mr. GRANADA: Yeah, I would--Sinatra was at Columbia from 1943 until 1952,
and during that period he developed his true song styling. I mean, Sinatra
became a song stylist. He wasn't just another singer. And people really
recognized Sinatra as a ballad singer. And I think the one ballad that I
loved that really typifies Sinatra as a ballad artist at Columbia is his
version of "Body and Soul."
GROSS: Oh, that's a beautiful record.
Mr. GRANADA: It's gorgeous. It's got a great Bobby Hackett cornet solo.
Sinatra's emotion is just right. And everything about this recording is--for
me, it's just perfection, and it really is the quintessential Sinatra Columbia
song, or ballad.
GROSS: It's a great record. Let's hear it.
(Soundbite of "Body and Soul")
Mr. SINATRA: (Singing) My heart is sad and lonely
For you I sigh, for you, dear, only
Why haven't you seen it?
I'm all for you, body and soul
I spend my days in longing
And wondering why it's me you're wronging
I tell you I mean it
I'm all for you, body and soul
(End of soundbite)
GROSS: Have you ever met Sinatra?
Mr. GRANADA: I met Frank at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1985.
GROSS: How did you get to meet him?
Mr. GRANADA: I just walked up to him. We had seen his concerts at Carnegie
Hall twice that week, and I knew that he went back to the Waldorf after he was
done with the show, and my wife and I waited at the Waldorf in the alleyway
where the cars come in. And he pulled up in his limo and he got out, and we
were the only people there. And he was very gracious. He signed an album
cover for me, and he, you know, talked to me for a minute. He was just very,
GROSS: What'd you say to him? Did you tell him, `I have a whole archive
Mr. GRANADA: No, but at that point, you have to remember, I was only about
probably 22 years old, and I was just awed that I was, you know, meeting Frank
Sinatra. To me that was just totally incredible. And I remember saying to
him that I really appreciated his music and that I really loved the concerts
that week. And the thing that struck me was that, you know, he very easily
could've just signed this album that I gave him and just tossed it back at me,
you know, he really took a lot of time. He looked it over and he kind of
chuckled to himself, you know, as though he were remembering something about
the album, and the signed it, you know, and there's--it's the "Wee Small
Hours" album, and he's standing there on a lonely street with a lamppost and
he's got a cigarette in his hand, and I remember that he very carefully signed
the F to the left of the cigarette butt so he didn't go over the smoke. And
then he looked at it, and then he continued to sign on the other side. He was
just so nice about.
You know, I'd heard horror stories, you know, that you couldn't get near him,
and that if you approached him that these bodyguards would pounce on you and
then kill you. And it wasn't like that at all; he was just very gracious. It
was a great experience.
GROSS: Well, Chuck Granada, thanks so much for talking with us.
Mr. GRANADA: You're welcome. It was great.
DAVIES: Charles Granada speaking with Terry Gross.
Next week the Postal Service will release a new commemorative Frank Sinatra
stamp. The cost is up a penny at 42 cents.
DAVIES: For Terry Gross, I'm Dave Davies.
(Soundbite of "I've Got You Under My Skin")
Mr. SINATRA: (Singing) I've got you under my skin
I've got you deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart
That you're really a part of me
I've got you under my skin
I tried so not to give in
I said to myself, this affair never will go so well
But why should I try to resist when...
(End of soundbite)
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