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'Rambling Boy': Haden's Musical Homecoming

Bassist Charlie Haden is known as a great jazz musician, but his lineage is all country: Growing up, he performed alongside his brothers and sister in the Haden Family Band, a country group led by parents, Carl and Virginia.

44:42

Other segments from the episode on September 24, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 24, 2008: Interview with Charlie Haden's family; Review of the television program "Dexter."

Transcript

DATE September 24, 2008 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM
NETWORK NPR
PROGRAM Fresh Air

Interview: Jazz bassist Charlie Haden, his wife Ruth, son Josh,
triplet daughters Rachel, Petra and Tanya and son-in-law, actor
Jack Black, on Charlie's new album, "Rambling Boy"
TERRY GROSS, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Our show today focuses on Charlie Haden and his family, and a great new album
that's also a big surprise. The surprise is that the jazz bass player Charlie
Haden, who was famous among other things for his role in helping start a jazz
revolution in the late 1950s with the Ornette Coleman Quartet, has a new CD of
country music. It's actually the music he grew up with. The CD features his
family and friends. Here's Haden on bass with vocals by his three daughters,
who are triplets.

(Soundbite of "A Voice from on High")

Ms. RACHEL HADEN, Ms. PETRA HADEN, and Ms. TANYA HADEN: (Singing in unison)
I hear a voice calling
Must be our Lord
It must, it must be our Lord
It's coming from heaven on high
I hear a voice calling
I've gained the reward
I've gained, I've gained the reward
In the land where we never shall die
Jesus who died...

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: In a few minutes we'll meet the Haden triplets--Tanya, Rachel and
Petra--their brother Josh; Tanya's husband, the actor Jack Black; and
Charlie's wife, Ruth, who co-produced the album. They all sing on the new
Charlie Haden Family & Friends CD. Some of the friends who sing are Roseanne
Cash, Elvis Costello and Ricky Skaggs. They're backed by top Nashville
session musicians, including Jerry Douglas and Sam Bush.

Joining us first is Charlie Haden. He was born in Shenandoah, Iowa, in 1937,
and two years later started singing with his family on their country music
radio show. In fact, his new CD "Rambling Boy" features a recording of him
singing on the show at the age of two. Here's Charlie Haden's father
introducing little cowboy Charlie.

(Soundbite of radio show)

Charlie Haden's Father: Honey, say good morning to all the little boys and
girls. Say, "Hello, all you little boys and girls."

Mr. CHARLIE HADEN: Hello, all you boys and girls.

Haden's Father: Say, "I'm just fine."

Mr. C. HADEN: I'm just fine.

Haden's Father: Just fine. And say, "I've got a brand-new song to sing for
you this morning."

Mr. C. HADEN: Got a song to sing.

Haden's Father: This morning.

Mr. C. HADEN: This morning.

Haden's Father: There you are. All right. Little Charlie has had so many,
many requests to sing that dandy little song "Roll Us Over the Tide."

(Soundbite of child making noise)

Haden's Father: And then Mama's going to take him out and get his big bottle
of soda pop. So you sing real loud and nice here and a nice yodel. All
right.

Mr. C. HADEN: (Singing) Roll me over the tide
Roll the tide
Roll, roll on over the tide
Roll over, roll over oh, oh, oh, oh, oh
Roll us over the tide

Haden's Father: Yodel loud.

(Soundbite of yodeling)

Haden's Father: All right. Thank you, honey. Friends, that's...

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Charlie Haden, welcome to FRESH AIR. Charlie, that is just about the
most adorable thing I've ever heard, especially the yodel. What goes through
your mind when you hear it?

Mr. C. HADEN: I remember being there and I remember my mother holding me,
and my dad telling, you know, he's going to go get me a big bottle of sodey
pop if I sing. And it's, you know, it brings back really wonderful memories
to me. And, of course, that's a radio show from 1939, which was really edited
to get it on the record. We didn't have that much space, so you don't hear
the commercials my father was giving, you know, for Wait's Green Mountain
Cough Syrup and Sparkle Light Cereal and Allstate Insurance, and talking to
all the listeners out there and all the songs that my brothers and sisters
sang. And the song that you hear me singing and yodeling is really cut very
short. You don't hear the verse. You just hear the chorus right before I
yodel.

GROSS: How old do you think you were before you could sing on pitch?

Mr. HADEN: Well, my mom told me this story. She was walking me to sleep and
I'm 22 months old and she's humming all these hillbilly songs, and all of a
sudden I start humming the harmony. And she said, `Wow, you're read for the
show.'

GROSS: God, that's so amazing. So Charlie, would you share one of your
favorite memories of your family's country radio show, from when you were, you
know, a child.

Mr. C. HADEN: Every day was like a great experience for me. I just loved
it. You know, when we were in Shenandoah, we were there until I was four and
then we moved to Springfield, Missouri. My dad got a farm near my
grandmother's, near his mother's place, and we did our radio show from the
farmhouse. And my brothers and sisters would go out and do the chores, milk
the cows and come in, have breakfast, and my dad would crank the phone on the
wall to let the engineer in Springfield know that we were ready to go on the
air, and we'd do the show. And every day was like a wonder to me, you know.
I just loved it.

And then we moved to Springfield and we did all the shows from KWTO Studios,
which was--I loved that so much, I couldn't wait to get there. The
double-glass windows and the acoustic tile and the air conditioning and all
the entertainers and, you know, that I met. And, you know, then the people
from Nashville started coming into Springfield to do this network radio show
similar to the Grand Ole Opry called "Corn's A Crackin'," and then, you know,
Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters were coming into Springfield and coming
over and visiting my mother. And I got, you know, I was a little kid and
Mother Maybelle was singing all these great songs in our living room, and I
was just thrilled. It was like--I can't really pinpoint one day. I can just
pinpoint the whole thing.

GROSS: What made you think of doing a family album of your own?

Mr. C. HADEN: Of course, this music's been inside me since I stopped
country music and started in jazz when I was 15, and I have this music in me,
inside me, and I have always thought about playing and singing again. I had
to stop singing when I was 15 because I had bulbar polio that paralyzed my
vocal chords, and that's when I started playing. And when I play jazz, the
folk and hillbilly music comes out of me in one way or another in different
improvisational ways and so, you know, my wife, Ruth, made a point of wanting
us to go to visit my mother on her 80th birthday in 1988. She bought plane
tickets for all of us. She said, `I want the girls to go. I want Josh to go,
and us, a family reunion.' And we all went to Kissee Mills, Missouri, which is
south of Springfield in the Ozark Mountains.

And at one of the gatherings when my mom made all this great food and homemade
doughnuts, Ruth said, `Would you guys sing a song?' And we all looked at each
other like, what? Because we hadn't sung together, my brother and sisters,
and so we started. We said, `What are we going to sing?' and Ruth
said--nobody could decide, so Ruth said, `What about "You Are My Sunshine"?
Because I know everyone knows that.' So we started singing "You Are My
Sunshine," and it was fantastic. And so Ruth said, afterwards she said,
`You've got to do this. You've got to do a country record. You've got to do
a record with your family. It's really essential that you do this.'

GROSS: You grew up, you know, singing in a family act, and I'm sure, like,
your parents told you what to sing on stage. Now, managing, you know, like
putting this record together that features your whole family, your four
children, your wife, Ruth, what were some of the difference between being, you
know, like, the kid in the band, the kid in the family band, and now being
like the father in the family band?

Mr. C. HADEN: As I was growing up, I became more and more a part of the
family preparations for the radio shows. We did two radio shows every day.
And then later on, at the end of--before my dad got out of the business, we
had a television show in Omaha, Nebraska. That's when TV came in. And so I
became more and more a part of that as far as the production of the show and
choosing the material and what songs we were going to do and what songs we
wanted to learn. You know, my brothers and sisters, especially Jimmy, my
brother who was five years older than I, he was a big part of, you know, the
repertoire and what we were going to do. And I was very influenced by him and
his love of jazz. That's when I started listening to jazz, when I was just a
little kid.

With my family, it was like I wanted to make sure that they were all happy and
that they really wanted to do this. And they all did want to do it, and of
course, I hadn't done any country music since I was 15 and I was, you know, a
little bit apprehensive and a little bit nervous about whether I could really
pull this off. You know, I'm a jazz musician for 50 years. So the first
rehearsal we had over at the house with Ruth and the kids, and I was, you
know, blown over about how great they were. I mean, they all sang with such
great intonation. I played all these Stanley Brothers songs for them and the
Carter family songs and Jimmy Martin, and they just, you know, took to it as
if they'd been doing it every day, you know, the girls and Josh.

GROSS: My guest is Charlie Haden. His new country music CD, featuring family
and friends, is called "Rambling Boy." We'll be back with Haden and his three
daughters, who sing on the CD, after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: My guest is jazz bass player and composer Charlie Haden. His new CD
returns to his roots when he sang with his family on their country music radio
show. He's joined on the new CD by family and friends. Here's a track
featuring his triplet daughters--Tanya, Rachel and Petra, who have each had
careers in indy rock. They'll be with us in a minute.

(Soundbite of "Single Girl, Married Girl")

Ms. R. HADEN, Ms. P. HADEN and Ms. T. HADEN: (Singing in unison)
Single girl, single girl
She's going dressed fine
Oh, she's going dressed fine
Married girl, married girl
She wears just any kind
Oh, she wears just any kind

Single girl, single girl
She goes to the store and buys
Oh, she goes to the store and buys
Married girl, married girl
She rocks a cradle and cries
Oh, she rocks a cradle and cries

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's "Single Girl, Married Girl," from the new Charlie Haden Family
& friends CD "Rambling Boy," and my guests are the three singers who we just
heard--triplets Petra, Rachel and Tanya Haden.

Welcome, all of you, to FRESH AIR. Your father Charlie Haden is in the studio
with us as well. What beautiful voices you have and what great harmonies.
Did you grow up singing harmonies like that with each other?

Ms. P. HADEN: Yes, we did.

Ms. R. HADEN: Yeah.

GROSS: How did it get started? How did you get started singing harmonies
together?

Ms. P. HADEN: I don't really even know how to answer that. I think we just
sang, you know, since we were 10, maybe at summer camp. I don't... It was
younger than that, like seven--six, seven, eight. We were always singing.

Ms. R. HADEN: I think I remember it at summer camp.

GROSS: And what about the song we just heard? Did you choose that song?
Charlie, did you choose it?

Mr. C. HADEN: They chose it. I mean, you were singing it before...

Ms. P. HADEN: Well, we just thought it would be a given because we've sung
it live before and we know, you know, we know it like we put our socks on.

Ms. R. HADEN: We've just always liked that song.

Ms. P. HADEN: Yeah. It's easy. It's fun.

GROSS: How did you start singing it? It sounds like you've been singing it a
long time.

Mr. C. HADEN: I think I played a Carter family record for them one day and
they just loved it, you know. And then I left the room, they took it from
there.

GROSS: You know, it's amazing that you all have such great voices, and of
course you grew up in such a musical family. What were you exposed to
musically of your father's music, either, you know, his performances on
record, concert, or just him playing or, you know, practicing around the
house?

Ms. R. HADEN: I remember listening to whatever our dad was listening to.
There was always something playing musically, and a lot of jazz, of course.

Ms. P. HADEN: Classical music and jazz and...

Ms. R. HADEN: But I remember always sitting in our dad's lap and he would
have big, huge headphones on, and I remember like tapping him and trying to
talk to him and he'd say, `Just a minute.' Because he was listening to
something and be like, `oh, boy.' But yeah, there was always music playing.

GROSS: Now, would you mind if I asked you three to just sing something a
cappella briefly just to show us where your harmonies fit with each other?

Ms. T. HADEN: Hm.

Ms. R. HADEN: Hm.

Ms. P. HADEN: Hm.

GROSS: Just a few bars. Just like maybe you could kind of chime in one at a
time just to hear where all three voices, how all three voices connect.

Ms. P. HADEN: Hm.

Mr. C. HADEN: Sing something from the record.

Ms. P. HADEN: Yeah.

Ms. T. HADEN: How about--what is the other one that we sing? All three of
us together?

Mr. C. HADEN: Well, you sing...

GROSS: It's...

Mr. C. HADEN: "A Voice from on High" and...

Ms. T. HADEN: (Singing) I hear a voice.

Ms. P. HADEN: Oh yeah. Yeah, let's do that one.

Ms. R. HADEN: OK. You start it, Petra.

(Soundbite of "Voice from on High")

Ms. P. HADEN: (Singing) I hear a voice calling, it must be our Lord

Ms. T. HADEN and R. HADEN: (Singing in unison) It must, it must be our Lord

Ms. R. HADEN, Ms. P. HADEN and Ms. T. HADEN: (Singing in unison)
It's coming from heaven on high

I hear a voice calling

Ms. P. HADEN: (Singing) I've gained the reward

Ms. T. HADEN and Ms. R. HADEN: (Singing in unison)
I've gained, I've gained the reward

Ms. R. HADEN, Ms. P. HADEN and Ms. T. HADEN: (Singing in unison)
In the land where we never shall die

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Oh, that's so great. Now, do you trade off who sings high and who
sings low and who sings in the middle?

Ms. R. HADEN: Yeah.

GROSS: Do you have similar ranges in your voices?

Ms. T. HADEN: We trade a lot. Rachel likes to sing the pretty melody
parts, so a lot of times I get scooted to the bottom without really knowing
it.

GROSS: What was your reaction when your father proposed this CD to you of a,
you know, a family album of country songs?

Ms. T. HADEN: Finally.

Ms. R. HADEN: Yeah. We said, `About time, let's do it.'

Ms. P. HADEN: Let's do this!

Ms. T. HADEN: Because we'd been thinking about it for a long time,
right...(unintelligible)?

Ms. P. HADEN: We been talking about it for a long time.

GROSS: Charlie, when your triplets were born, did you--I don't know if you
knew that three were on the way, but when they were born, did you think to
yourself, `They're all going to sing, they'll sing great harmonies together,
and someday I'll record with them'?

Mr. C. HADEN: I knew they were going to be the best singers in the world
and--just like Josh, too, and I knew that. You know, my family was like that,
and I knew my kids were going to be like that. There was no thought about it.
It was just going to happen.

GROSS: We're going to bring in your brother, Josh Haden, in a couple of
minutes and talk about his track on the new family album. First, I want to
thank you all, Petra, Rachel and Tanya Haden, and while we're playing musical
chairs and you're leaving and Josh is coming in, I want to play a track,
Tanya, that you recorded for the family album, and it's "He's Gone Away."

Ms. T. HADEN: Oh, boy.

GROSS: This is such a beautiful recording, and I know some of these lyrics,
the "Who will tie my shoes?" and "Who will glove my hands?" part but I always
heard it as a more, like up-tempo, you know, banjo-fretting kind of song, and
this is a beautiful ballad. And do you know like several different versions
of this song?

Ms. T. HADEN: I've heard faster versions of it, but the version that I've
listened to the most is the one by Jo Stafford.

GROSS: Oh.

Ms. T. HADEN: And she sings it pretty slowly, too. And she...

GROSS: Oh, that explains it. She's a jazz singer, not a country singer,
yeah.

Ms. T. HADEN: Yeah. But she really belts it out, so I was nervous because
I'm more, you know, of a quiet singer, so.

GROSS: Well, this is gorgeous. So this is Tanya Haden, "He's Gone Away." And
Bruce Hornsby's at the piano, from the new Charlie Haden Family & Friends
album.

(Soundbite of "He's Gone Away")

Ms. T. HADEN: (Singing) He's gone away for to stay
A little while
But he's coming back
If he goes 10,000 miles
Oh, who will tie my shoes
And who will glove my hands
And who will kiss my ruby lips
When he is gone
Look away, look away
Over yonder

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: We'll hear more music from the new CD by Charlie Haden Family &
Friends, and meet more of Haden's family in the second half of the show. The
CD is called "Rambling Boy." I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Charlie Haden and
members of his family. Haden, who was one of the most important bass players
in the history of jazz, returns to his country roots on his new CD "Rambling
Boy." He grew up in the 1930s and '40s singing on his family's country music
radio show. His new CD features vocals by his wife, his children and friends.
One of the friends is Bruce Hornsby. Here's Hornsby's vocal track, "20/20
Vision."

(Soundbite of "20/20 Vision")

Mr. BRUCE HORNSBY: (Singing) Went to the doctor
He says I'm all right
I know he's lying
I'm losing my sight
He should have examined the eyes of my mind
Twenty-twenty vision
Walking 'round blind

Since she left me I feel so alone
I carry a heart that is heavy as stone
Knew she cheated, I knew all the time
Twenty-twenty vision
And walking 'round blind

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Bruce Hornsby singing on a track from the new CD by Charlie
Haden Family & Friends. Joining Charlie Haden and me is his son, Josh, who
sings on the CD. Josh is also the lead singer of the indy rock band Spain.

Josh, you're the oldest of the Haden children. What are some of your earliest
musical family memories?

Mr. JOSH HADEN: Probably my earliest musical memory is seeing my dad
practice his bass in the living room of our old apartment in New York.

GROSS: And what impact did it have on you?

Mr. J. HADEN: It most likely made me want to be a musician when I grew up.

GROSS: Now, the song you sing on the Haden family CD is an original, a song
you wrote called "Spiritual." And Johnny Cash recorded it. He did a great
version of it on his CD "Unchained," one of the sessions he recorded late in
life. How did Johnny Cash end up recording the song that we will soon hear
you sing?

Mr. J. HADEN: I think that, at the time, Rick Rubin was producing the
record for Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin liked the song and presented it to
Johnny Cash, who liked it, and that's how that happened.

GROSS: So, Charlie, did you know Johnny Cash from your family radio days as a
child?

Mr. C. HADEN: No, that's one person I didn't know. My dad knew him and,
you know, Hank Williams, a lot of the guys that were a long time, you know, in
the '30s I didn't know. But Johnny Cash I listened to and loved very much,
and I'm really glad that I was able to get Roseanne to come and sing on this
record.

GROSS: Right, because she's featured on it. It must have meant a lot to you
to hear Johnny Cash recording your son's song.

Mr. C. HADEN: You know, it was a natural because the guy is such a great
singer and he has this range which is very low. But I was kind of worried
that he wouldn't make the high part, and when I heard the recording, it was
just unbelievable. I've never heard him sing in that range before. He goes
the highest I've ever heard him sing before, and it was just really moving.

GROSS: Josh, this is a song about, you know, it's a plea to Jesus that you
don't want to die alone. Did this song come out of religious belief, or is it
more of a character song writing about somebody else?

Mr. J. HADEN: I think it's a little of both. When I wrote this song about
maybe 15 years ago and I decided that I wanted to be a serious songwriter, and
I kind of wrote it as an experiment in storytelling. And I think out of all
the songs I've written, that's the one that resonates the most with people,
so, you know, I really like that song.

GROSS: Charlie, tell us what you're doing on bass behind your son?

Mr. C. HADEN: I'm just trying to make everything, you know, sound complete.
That's what I do when I play with anyone, and I'm just following Josh,
following the song.

GROSS: Well, let's hear Joshua Haden singing his song "Spiritual," with his
father, Charlie Haden, on bass. And while we listen to this, we're going to
bring in Ruth Cameron, Charlie's wife, and then we'll hear the track that she
sings on the new CD. And this again is from the new CD Charlie Haden Family &
Friends, "Rambling Boy."

(Soundbite of "Spiritual")

Mr. J. HADEN: (Singing) Jesus, I don't want to die alone
Jesus, oh Jesus, I don't want to die alone
My love wasn't true
Now all I have is you
Jesus, oh Jesus, I don't want to die alone

Jesus...

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Joshua Haden singing his song "Spiritual" from Charlie Haden's
new CD, Charlie Haden Family & Friends, and of course we heard Charlie Haden
on bass. And joining us now with Charlie Haden is his wife, Ruth Cameron, who
sings a track on the CD.

Ruth, thank you for being here.

Ms. RUTH CAMERON: A pleasure.

GROSS: I want to ask you about the track that you sing on the CD.

Ms. CAMERON: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: It's called "Down by the Sally Garden."

Ms. CAMERON: Right.

GROSS: Tell us how you chose this track.

Ms. CAMERON: Well, the thing that--there were several things that really
impressed me. I love poetry, and of course William Butler Yeats wrote the
lyric and he took it from old Irish tales that had been handed down throughout
the years, and fashioned the lyric as he imagined an Irish folk song to be,
and then it was put to music, I think, after that. And it has something very
special in the lyric for me about, you know, how we waste our youth. And, you
know, it's a shame we didn't have the same wisdom when we were younger.

GROSS: Well, why don't we heard it? This is Ruth Cameron singing "Down by
the Sally Garden," with her husband, Charlie Haden, on bass, from the new CD
Charlie Haden Family & Friends, "Rambling Boy."

(Soundbite of "Down by the Sally Gardens")

Ms. CAMERON: (Singing) Down by the Sally Gardens
My love and I did meet
She crossed the Sally Gardens
With little snow white feet
She bid me take love easy
As the leaves grow on the tree
But I was young and foolish
and with her did not agree

In a field down by...

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Music from the new CD by Charlie Haden Family & Friends. We'll talk
more with Haden, hear him sing, and meet his son-in-law Jack Black, who also
sings on the CD, after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Announcements)

GROSS: My guest is Charlie Haden. His new CD, "Rambling Boy," returns to his
country roots when he sang with his family on their country music radio show
back in the 1930s and '40s. The new CD features Haden's family and friends.

Charlie, the last track on your CD is you singing, and people who have
followed your career know that, although you sang as a boy with your family on
their country music radio show, polio affected your voice and your vocal cords
and stopped you from singing. But a few years ago you recorded a track again,
"Wayfaring Stranger," and you sing again on the final track on this CD. And
the song is "Shenandoah," which is also the name of the place where you were
born. This kind of tears me up every time I hear it. Tell me why you chose
this song as the one that you would sing on this CD and what this song means
to you.

Mr. C. HADEN: It means a tribute to my parents, who were traveling around
the United States before I was born, auditioning on all the big radio stations
with my brothers and sister, and they were on their way to Des Moines, Iowa,
to do an audition. And there was a blizzard, and they stopped in Shenandoah
at a motel, and while we were there my dad went over to the radio station in
Shenandoah and auditioned and got the job, and they stayed in Shenandoah for
four years, and that's where I was born. And that's where I started singing
with him.

And the two rare times I've sung since, you know, I've been in contemporary
music is "The Wayfaring Stranger," which was with Quartet West and Shirley
Horn and strings, and then this time. And they were both a tribute to my
parents. I don't sing these songs as a singer; I sing it in tribute and
thanking my mom and dad for making this music and creating this music and my
being a part of it and it being inside my soul, and I want to thank them, you
know, whenever I can thank them, and this is the way that I can thank them.
Because I know they hear this. They hear this. So that's why.

GROSS: You know, I always say that you're the most melodic and emotional bass
player I've ever heard, and I think that that must have something to do with
the fact that you grew up with this, that you grew up with melody and harmony
and songs about life and death and love and loss. I mean, that's just, it's
so deep inside of you.

Mr. C. HADEN: Yes. The music--you know, both of the indigenous artforms in
music that come to the United States, you know, hillbilly music and folk music
came over from England and Scotland and Ireland into the Appalachian Mountains
and the Ozark Mountains where I was raised. And then my attraction to jazz
was of course the struggle of the African slave and the Underground Railroad,
the music that evolved from that struggle. And it seems like, you know,
beautiful music, if it's from the United States or wherever it is--it can be
from Bulgaria, it can be from Spain, it can--it comes from a struggle, you
know, of people either in poverty or trying to--a struggle for freedom, and so
this music is very, very melodic. It's filled with wonderful chords and
voicings and harmonies, and I grew up with these harmonies, and I'm so lucky
because this was my early musical education, and I feel very fortunate.

GROSS: Just one more thing about your singing. I know there was a long
period when you physically couldn't sing because of the polio that you got
when you were young. When you sing now, what does it feel like physically to
sing?

Mr. C. HADEN: It's very difficult for me because intonation is--one of the
priorities in my life is to play the music in tune, and I don't use my voice
every day the way a lot of singers do, you know, who are professional singers.
When I did "The Wayfaring Stranger," I hadn't sung in 40 years, or whatever,
you know, since I was 15. And I didn't practice, you know. And so I got in
the studio and just sang, and it was--I think I did one take, or maybe two.
And on "Shenandoah," I was kind of nervous because I wanted to be in tune and
then I started thinking, you know, I'm doing this for mom and dad. I'm not
doing this, you know, to be a great singer. I just want to do this. And so I
just relaxed and did it. But whatever.

GROSS: Well, I find it incredibly moving and I'm so glad that you sang it.
So let's hear Charlie Haden singing "Shenandoah" from his new CD Charlie Haden
Family & Friends. And Charlie, it's just been great to have you back on the
show and to talk with your family. Thank you so very much.

Mr. C. HADEN: Thank you, Terry, so much for inviting us.

(Soundbite of "Oh Shenandoah")

Mr. C. HADEN: (Singing) Oh, Shenandoah
I long to see you
Away, you rolling river
Oh, Shenandoah
I long to see you
Away, I'm bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri

'Tis seven years
Since I last saw you
Away, you rolling river
'Tis seven years
Since I last saw you
Away, I'm bound away
'Cross the wide Missouri

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Well, we're back for an encore. Charlie Haden continues to be here
with me, and joining us is Jack Black. And if you're wondering why is Jack
Black a part of this project, Jack Black--yes, the actor Jack Black--is
married to one of Charlie's daughters, Tanya Haden, and Jack sings on the CD.
He sings "Old Joe Clark," as you're going to hear momentarily.

Jack Black, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Mr. JACK BLACK: Thank you.

GROSS: What was it like for you to marry into the Charlie Haden family? I
don't know if you knew his music beforehand.

Mr. BLACK: Yeah. I was not really well versed in the world of jazz. I
didn't...

GROSS: No, because you're Mr. "School of Rock."

Mr. BLACK: Exactly. I was more of a rocker, although I did have an
obsession with Bobby McFerrin, the jazz vocalist.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. BLACK: But, yeah, so I was a little nervous because I knew that Tanya's
father was a great jazz musician and I kind of gave myself a crash course in
jazz before I asked for her hand because I wanted him to think I was worthy.

GROSS: So what did you study up on before committing the deed?

Mr. BLACK: Well, I watched that documentary. You know that 10-hour
documentary on jazz by...

GROSS: Oh, Ken Burns.

Mr. BLACK: Yeah, Ken Burns. I was going to say Ed Burns, but that would
have been wrong. And, yeah, just listened to a bunch of Charlie's old albums,
and now I'm an expert. Now I could teach a class in it.

GROSS: Charlie, what's it been like for you to have Jack Black in the family
since he's such a movie celebrity now?

Mr. HADEN: You know, I didn't know about his celebrity when Tanya introduced
us.

GROSS: Wait a minute. You were supposed to study his movies before allowing
your daughter to marry him.

Mr. HADEN: I didn't have a chance. She called us one day and she said, `I'm
bringing my friend over and I want you to meet him and he's an actor.' And I
said, `Great, what's his name?' and she said, "Jack Black." And I said, `Oh,
that's nice.' And she said, `He was in the "School of Rock."' And I said,
`That was a movie?' And she said, `Dad, you didn't see the "School of Rock"?'
And I said, `Tanya, you're talking to your dad here. I don't go to movies
like "`School of Rock."'

And so he came over, and I was so impressed with his love for Tanya and his
depth as a human being, and I just love him, man. And I'm really glad he's in
the family.

Mr. BLACK: Wow.

Mr. HADEN: and I wanted to put him on this record. The way it happened was
is that I brought the finished product over to Tanya and Jack's house and
there was an instrumental, and we listened to it. And when we got to the "Old
Joe Clark" instrumental, Jack said, `What's that song?' And I said, `That's an
old folk song called "Old Joe Clark."' And he said, `Does it have words?' And
I said, `Yeah, it's got great words.' He said, `You know, isn't this a family
affair?' And I said, `You ain't kidding.' Because I was afraid to ask him,
really. You know, I was a little--and he said, `Well, I want to sing that.' I
said, `That is fantastic.'

Mr. BLACK: Yeah. I know it seems like that's the whole reason I got married
to Tanya, was that I wanted to be on the family album, but that's not the
case.

GROSS: Is this...

Mr. BLACK: That was just icing. Icing on the cake.

GROSS: Is this the first time you've sung a bluegrass song?

Mr. BLACK: Yeah. I had not tried it before, so I was actually a little
nervous to jump into a new genre of music, but once we got there, to the
recording studio, and you sang me the part that I would be singing and I--it
just--I felt like I was possessed by some old ancestors of mine. I felt like
my roots came out and...

Mr. C. HADEN: That's right.

Mr. BLACK: You know what I mean?

Mr. C. HADEN: That's right.

Mr. BLACK: I was like, I even sounded different, like a different character
I was singing as.

Mr. C. HADEN: Exactly. And at the end of some of them you said, "Yee-haw!"

Mr. BLACK: Exactly.

GROSS: Well, I wish we had more time. Thank you so much for talking with us.
And, Charlie, congratulations again on the new CD. It's really wonderful.

Mr. C. HADEN: Thank you so much, Terry.

GROSS: Jack Black, Charlie Haden, thank you.

Mr. BLACK: Thank you.

GROSS: And here's Jack Black's recording on Charlie Haden's new CD, Charlie
Haden Family & Friends, "Rambling Boy." So here's Jack Black singing "Old Joe
Clark" with, of course, Charlie Haden on bass.

Mr. BLACK: Yee-haw!

(Soundbite of "Old Joe Clark")

Mr. BLACK: (Singing) Wish I had a nickel
Wish I had a dime
Wish I had a pretty little girl
To kiss and call her mine
I went down to old Joe Clark's
I didn't mean no harm
He grabbed up his .44
And he shot me through the arm

Fare thee well, old Joe Clark
Fare thee well, I say
Fare thee well, old Joe Clark
I'm going away to stay
Fare thee well, old Joe Clark
Fare thee well, I say
Fare thee well, old Joe Clark
I'm going away to stay

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Music from the CD "Rambling Boy," featuring Charlie Haden Family &
Friends.

The series "Dexter" returns to Showtime for its third season Sunday. David
Bianculli will review it after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: David Bianculli on the upcoming third season of "Dexter"
TERRY GROSS, host:

Earlier this year, because of the TV writers' strike, CBS viewers got the
opportunity to watch a slightly edited version of the first season of
"Dexter," the Showtime cable drama showing Michael C. Hall as serial killer
Dexter Morgan. Sunday night Showtime begins the third season of "Dexter," and
our TV critic David Bianculli says it's one of the best dramas you'll see all
season anywhere on television.

Mr. DAVID BIANCULLI: If any one TV show ends up benefiting the most from
last season's writers' strike, it may be "Dexter." The show, in which Michael
C. Hall plays a serial killer good guy who hunts down and slaughters serial
killer bad guys, is the highest-rated drama series in the history of Showtime.
But that's still only somewhere between one and two million viewers. When CBS
repeated season one of "Dexter" to fill prime time during the strike, those
re-broadcasts of "Dexter" drew about eight million viewers weekly, a great
advertisement for people to subscribe to Showtime. Another great promotion is
the recently released DVD set of season two of Dexter, allowing new converts
to get up to speed.

However you get there, get there, and fast. Season three of "Dexter" starts
Sunday, and almost instantly sets up the kind of nonstop TV tension familiar
to fans of "The Shield." But first, the new season of "Dexter" starts with a
false sense of serenity. At work, where he's a blood spatter expert for the
Miami police force, Dexter is handing out doughnuts and feeling safe. Off
duty, Dexter is with his girlfriend and her kids, faking a normal relationship
as best he can, with every scene bathed in happy sunlight or the afterglow of
passionate sex. Once again, he's gotten away with murder--actually he's
gotten away with murders--and he's so happy, he decides to celebrate. He
targets another victim and sets out to kill him.

Except something goes wrong, and Dexter kills someone else instead. That
someone turns out to be the brother of the district attorney, played by new
season-long guest star Jimmy Smits. As Dexter tries to discover why the
brother was in the wrong place at the wrong time, the district attorney,
questioning Dexter at the crime scene, listens to Dexter's interpretation of
the blood evidence, then poses a question of his own.

(Soundbite of "Dexter")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. JIMMY SMITS: (As Miguel Prado) One more thing, Mr. Morgan. Why would a
blood spatter analyst spend time searching the sheriff department's database
for information on my dead brother?

Mr. MICHAEL C. HALL: (As Dexter Morgan) Um. Like you, sir, I wanted to
understand what happened here. I thought that knowing some details about your
brother's life would help me make sense out of his death.

Mr. SMITS: (As Miguel Prado) In your line of work, Mr. Morgan, is it usual
for you to get so involved? I just sounded like a prosecutor there. I'm
sorry.

Mr. HALL: (As Dexter Morgan) It's not a problem, sir, and no, it's no usual
for me to get so involved. But this one, this death, got to me.

(End of soundbite)

Mr. BIANCULLI: This sudden death, the first unplanned murder committed by
Dexter, sets everything in a frenzied motion. One cop on the force, Dexter's
foster sister Deborah, played by Jennifer Carpenter, is handed the case, so
she sets out on the trail of the killer, unaware that she's hunting down her
own brother. The district attorney launches an investigation of his own, and
Dexter has to stay ahead of both of them and tie up some lose ends. Tie them
up, and maybe kill them.

And yet this isn't Dexter's only big problem this season. His father issues
come back to haunt him--big time--in ways that are best kept a surprise. But
in juggling all of this, Dexter is struggling with his feelings and he usually
doesn't have them. This time, though, he has some guilt and some anxiety and
even a taste of what other people might call happiness.

Hall portrays all of this magnificently. Dexter almost always puts up a false
mask--at work, in bed--and Hall, with his subtle but telling expressions and
body language, lets us see through the cracks. We hear his true thoughts as
narration, but the only time we see the real Dexter, it seems, is when he's
trapped another killer and is about to take his life.

This is a TV character worth embracing? Most definitely. And he's not alone.
The entire Miami precinct is filled with characters that are well fleshed out
and have issues and ambitions of their own. This season an internal affairs
officer begins sniffing around, another page from the playbook of "The
Shield," and that looks to be a great subplot, too.

I know this is the official fall premiere week, when the broadcast networks
are trying to get attention by rolling out many of their new and returning
shows, but this week, for me, the best hour of first-run TV is on Showtime
with "Dexter." As lean-forward-in-your-seat TV dramas go, it's a real killer.

GROSS: David Bianculli is TV critic for tvworthwatching.com and teaches TV
and film studies at Rowan University.

You can download podcasts of our show on our Web site, freshair.npr.org.

(Credits)

GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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