Monday, November 16, 2020

Joe: Joey

Concrete Blonde: Joey

One of the things that made Joe Biden a compelling candidate (other than the fact that most people look good by comparison to the lame-duck president) is the way he appears to relate to his family. Clearly, so much of Biden’s life was shaped by the tragic loss of his wife and child, and his attempts to continue to be there for them as a single father trying to make his way in the Senate. And we’ve heard about his second marriage, his support of one son through addiction and other personal issues, and having to watch another child die. . His sister is his closest political advisor, who ran all of his campaigns until this last one. Not to mention his relationship with his grandchildren, who he claims to call or text every day. There’s a genuineness to all of this, which again contrasts with the man he beat handily, whose children seem to be more like junior business associates, and whose third wife regularly slaps his hand away. 

Much of this can be explained, I think, by the relationship that the men had with their fathers. Mary Trump has described her grandfather (and the two-time popular vote loser’s father) in very cruel terms, and as a man who forced his children to fight for his affection and money. (He also was charged more than once with racist practices in his business and was arrested outside a Klan rally. We report. You decide). 

Biden, on the other hand, had a close, friendly relationship with his namesake father, who appeared to instill in his son respect for others, personal humility, and a resilient personality, but most of all, a belief that family is paramount. Hearing Biden speak over the past few months, it is clear that he’s no communicator in the way that President Obama was, but he does display an “everyman” charm, and an empathy that has been lacking in our president since the current impeached resident of the White House was sworn in before a small crowd. Biden often refers to his father, and wisdom that Joe, Sr. imparted to him, and he often starts these anecdotes by quoting his father calling him “Joey.” (You knew we’d get there eventually, right?) Which makes sense, in a family with two Joes. In fact, last summer, Jill Biden released a children’s book about her husband’s childhood, called Joey

The featured song, “Joey” is, for most of us, the only song by Concrete Blonde that we know, and it was released in 1990 on the band’s third album, Bloodletting. Written by singer Johnette Napolitano, it was the group's biggest hit, topping Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart for four weeks and hitting number 19 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is about being in love with an alcoholic, who Napolitano eventually revealed to be Marc Moreland of Wall of Voodoo. 

Formed in 1982 as Dream 6, and renamed at the suggestion of Michael Stipe after signing to IRS Records, the band failed to achieve much success after “Joey,” broke up in 1993, and has had occasional reunions over the years. Napolitano has released albums as a solo act and with other artists, and was even part of the Heads, a project with the members of Talking Heads, without David Byrne, which fizzled out after the requisite litigation. 

Joe Biden ran for president in 1998, with little success, dropping out after a series of plagiarism allegations, briefly tried again in 2008, but was overshadowed by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and was asked to join Obama’s ticket in 2008, becoming Vice-President. He chose not to run in 2016, in part because of the death of his son Beau, and in part, I think, because there was a feeling that it was time for a woman to be president (which it was, and should have been). Biden has admitted regretting that decision. I have to admit that I thought that Biden’s dream of becoming President was over, and that someone younger would end up running in 2020. So, I was wrong. As it turned out, Biden’s message of empathy, competence, calmness and bipartisanship struck a nerve, and he won with an enormous margin in the popular vote, and a significant margin in the stupid Electoral College (winning a few states, though, by a slim margin). 

So, maybe Concrete Blonde has another comeback in them. Just ask Joey.