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Exclusive: Ry Cooder’s ‘No Banker Left Behind’

Posted on May 26, 2011
AP/ Chris Pizzello

Musician Ry Cooder poses alongside a custom-built ice cream truck featuring a mural of Los Angeles’ Chavez Ravine.

(Page 2)

Ry Cooder: No, that’s good.

Robert Scheer: You know, we were discussing earlier that Chris Hedges gave this speech at one of our fundraisers; it was the night bin Laden was shot; he gave a little impromptu speech; we transcribed it right away; it’s brilliant, as Hedges always is. And we had 100,000 people come to it in a matter of hours. And I know we’re going to do that with this album of yours. It’s coming out in September. And I think, through the Internet, we can. Now, I don’t know if it turns into record sales; I don’t know how iTunes works; I don’t know …

Ry Cooder: I have no idea. No idea.

Robert Scheer: But you know, it seems to me that the Internet is a great vehicle for letting people in on something. And if we do our job right, you know, and we promote this record, it will be a very good test for us. You know, we want to really push it. It comes out in September, and I’d like to see if we can’t find a big audience for it.

Ry Cooder: Well, I think your audience is right there.

Robert Scheer: Yeah, but not only our audience. We want to share it with The Nation, and AlterNet, and all the other folks that are out there; you know, they’ll steal it anyway, so we might as well share it. [Laughter] In a good spirit; I don’t mean they are, particularly, thieves. But you know, the Internet is a place where people—you know, my column this morning was grabbed on about 10 different sites before I read it on Truthdig.

Ry Cooder: Wow.

Robert Scheer: Why not take advantage of that, get the word out. And then, I think—and you said you’re not familiar with it—but I think with something like iTunes or something, you must get some income …  no?

Ry Cooder: Not that I know about. It’s tiny. The artist is usually at the bottom of that food chain.

Robert Scheer: Oh, OK. Well, that’s depressing. But anyway, as far as getting the music out, and getting the content of it out, I think the Internet is an incredible vehicle. And you know, someday we’ll figure out how to make a little money off it.

Kasia Anderson: Well, speaking of the Internet, I think this is the point where we’re going to share some of the message on And we will start by playing another track from the album. And Ry, can you set that up for us? It’s track nine, another of our favorites.

Ry Cooder: I don’t know how I got to this John Lee Hooker for president idea, except that I began to hear him campaigning. And hear him telling you, the audience, what politics means to him. … He was a very funny fellow, John Lee Hooker. He had a very interesting view of the world, and tremendous language; I just loved to hear him talk. And so, if he did run for president, what would be important, you know? And then juxtaposed along with certain issues like the horrible failure of the Supreme Court to do the right thing—what would he do about that? Would he reorganize the court? Who would be his running mate? [Laughter] You know, Jimmy Reed for vice president. And so forth. And then, so to extrapolate, I took certain passages out of some of his songs where he talks about himself, and just reworked the language a little bit. But I just like to play his music myself on guitar as best I can. It’s something that I like to listen to, and he’s not around to do it anymore.

Kasia Anderson: Let’s hear a couple of minutes from that track, then.


Peter Scheer: That was Ry Cooder, singing a song off his new album, “Pull Up Some Dust and Sit Down,” which comes out in September ... . That’s it for this week’s Truthdig Radio. Catch us next week. Thanks for listening.

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By Lee Jones, May 18, 2012 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

An artist who puts out music that will be heard by the masses should, at the very least, be able to sing on pitch.  Next, while I’m not real big on slick and perfect recording production, there should not be glarinly clashing notes between instuments - including drums.  One last thing, that fake southern accent (no banker was left bahaaaaan), makes me cringe.  Sorry, I’m not here to blow smoke, I’m here to call it as I see it.

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By George Petrella, November 8, 2011 at 6:51 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In “No Banker Left Behind” it can be argued that Cooder wrote and vocalized a
Warren Zevon song. Conversely, it might also be suggested that the song actually
shows Cooder’s influence on Zevon. Either way, the song is so pure Zevon that it
would have been nice to see him mentioned in the interview.

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By baileywick, May 31, 2011 at 12:14 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Two of my favorites, Ry Cooder and Robert Scheer.
Keep at it both of you.

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By Inherit The Wind, May 29, 2011 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

I first heard Ry Cooder as a college student in the mid 70’s when he came to play and Patrick Sky opened.  I didn’t even know who Cooder was but he played a hell of a slide guitar.  Back then it was him on a chair with two big acoustic guitars and a bottle neck, banging out the beat in heavy work shoes.

I was amazed. Later he did the first regular-priced digital-to-vinyl LP, “Bop ‘Till You Drop” an album of incredible music and a technical marvel of clear sound and pure presence—you felt that Ry and the gang were playing in front of you.

It’s good to know that, unlike a whole breed of American rockers with Southern and country roots, Ry didn’t turn into a right-wing asshole (think of Kid Rock and Gene Simmons).

I have NO idea what Rolling Stone’s “list” was all about.  Hendrix was #1 and Dwayne Allman was #2. While both were fine musicians, and Hendrix was a force of nature, it’s hard to imagine how guys who died in their 20’s (27 and 24)can be compared to a virtuoso who has been playing for twice as long as either of them were alive.

Also the list left off Django Reinhardt, who invented the modern jazz guitar, and Skip James, who was a contemporary and equal of Robert Johnson and just as influential.

Notice that Cooder totally side-stepped the question—classy!

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By Amon Drool, May 28, 2011 at 6:22 pm Link to this comment

i only have 1 ry cooder album (yes, i still play
vinyl)...‘into the purple valley’.  ry seems to have
somehow imbibed a southern populist take on things
that comes through nicely in his music.

ry, when captain beefheart went down earlier this
year, i spent some time searching the internet for
interviews and videos.  i came across a bbc doc in
which it was stated that the ‘magic band’ was
scheduled to play monterrey pop, but withdrew cuz you
decided to leave the band.  godamn, i wish a larger
audience had been exposed to the captain’s trippy
take on the blues, but i guess you had your reasons
for leavin’.

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By sufferthis, May 28, 2011 at 10:18 am Link to this comment

A shout out to Truthdig readers who enjoy that xroad where music and the
politics of the day meet and intersect: The New White Trash is a music project from
Venice, CA whose members include uber-activist, author and journalist Michael C.
Ruppert.  Their debut release, DOUBLEWIDE, a 37 song double album chronicles
the demise of the former middle class into the ‘new white trash’ (no, you don’t
have to be white to be new white trash).  The NWT refer to their brand of
storytelling and cool grooves as ‘music of the post-paradigm’. It really is worth a
listen.  You decide:

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By Mike, May 28, 2011 at 9:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

No banker left behind should be played loudly by all
truthdig members at all big banks.  Might make a good
rally for all.  Perhaps on ‘Bankers get it all Day”,
the day the bill was signed?


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culheath's avatar

By culheath, May 27, 2011 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment

Thanks for keeping the faith and candle burning, Ry.
I’m 62 and I’ve been listening to you seems like forever and I can’t tell how isolated I feel these days from the political truths we all used to find in our music. Definitely going to grab your new release.
And thanks Truthdig for being there too.

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Angel Gabriel's avatar

By Angel Gabriel, May 27, 2011 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment

reminiscent of Don McCleans ” The Day the Music Died” in the message of how
God has evolved in America to become an instant cash machine, spitting out
It’s a treasure to have grown up and lived in the time of music in the 20th Century.
Everything else can go to hell in a hand basket, but leave your filthy hands off the
music Mr. Banker!
Maybe Robert Scheer could arrange with Ry for an early release for us

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By Alan Lunn, May 27, 2011 at 1:16 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I love this song. I too am righteously pee-o’d about
what I call “Grand Theft America” and there is rarely
a day that goes by I’m not commenting about it in
papers, Facebook and anywhere else, really.

I too have written songs about this massive rip-off
and theft of our democracy. Recently, I was just
sitting around singing John Lennon’s utopian
“Imagine” and came up with some dystopian words to
the melody. A friend of mine wanted to edit the song
into a video called “Corporatopia.”

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By joe marcinkowski, May 27, 2011 at 12:54 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Need to provide some advise to those important bankers (Head of the IMF) write about how bankers can stay out of jail.

Call it “Keep your bonus in your pocket”

Rape the country and get a bonus,
Rape a lady say good bye to your bonus,
life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

If the Banker lets his ego go, he is cable of delivering:

Front, middle, and back office with superior accounting functionality,together in one system
True “straight through” processing
Real time system with real time monitor updates
Flexible instrument definition with complete range

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By Sunshine Jim, May 27, 2011 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

Eya Ry, you mentioned how hard it is to get a straight shot on issues. these are home grown efforts but worthwhile.

Good Radio, blog supported, news and commentary, home grown show tunes.

Sam Seder show, he’d love to have you on the show:  Contact at: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Excellent blog family news site/Web radio station:

todays news and conversation thread:

) SJ

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By Sunshine Jim, May 27, 2011 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment

Eya Ry and friends,

Hat tip to Uncle Dave Macon, who better to channel eh? The song is revolutionary, a whole movie went on in my mind while i was listening. Heh! Banker herding! Harder to tame than cats. As a mando player myself i enjoyed the Mandolin riffs and harmonies immensely. Good on ya Ry! Happy trails )

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By BlueHatMan, May 27, 2011 at 12:16 pm Link to this comment

If you were set up to do pre-sales of Ry’s album, I’d buy it right now and you’d get
the metric on your impact…

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