Saturday, October 03, 2009

Repeating History

One of the cliches we all recognize as cliche by the time we are about 16 years old is those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. I got to thinking of that one, in light of a session I had of hunting down old blues music &$151; especially those tunes covered by the Grateful Dead. There are three songs covered by the Grateful Dead (however, one dropped out of their repertoire perhaps in the late '60s or early '70s, but one other definitely not, and the other was altered significantly enough to be distinct -- but is definitely based on Canon's work).

The original artist (AFAIK) is Gus Cannon a black banjo player from the early 20th century and he played a bluegrassey sort of blues music. The three songs are Viola Lee Blues, Big Railroad Blues, and the New Minglewood Blues. When searchlight for YouTube Grateful Dead renditions of Viola Lee Blues (there appears to be only one and that from the Monterrey Pop Festival) I came across the Gus Cannon pieces (see Wikipedia on Gus Cannon. The Grateful Dead renditions are nothing less than history in repetition.

However, there are a lot more examples of history repeating itself that result in a positive outcome. One example is (and I have the details foggy) a British commander in Palestine during WWI was maneuvering to fight an enemy force. He recalled a Biblical story of Joshua fighting a battle in the same area and how Joshua used a relatively unknown mountain pass to maneuver behind and win the battle. Sure enough, the pass was there, and the British commander repeated history.

Learn history not to learn how to avoid repeating it, learn history to learn when to repeat it.

Update: The WWI battle I describe relates to the Michmash Pass and the Biblical account of the original maneuver is documented in 1st Samuel Chapters 13 & 14.