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Van Dyke Parks goes 'Across the Borderline' for Roskilde Festival

July 23, 2010 | 10:33 am


The Roskilde Festival in Denmark, billed as Northern Europe’s biggest music and culture festival, usually coincides with Independence Day in the U.S., and this year, veteran composer-arranger-orchestrator-raconteur Van Dyke Parks decided to weave something socio-politically relevant into his recent performance as one of the headliners of  the 2010 event, which wrapped up on July 4.

So he turned to an expansive arrangement of “Across the Borderline,” the Ry Cooder-John Hiatt-Jim Dickinson song that was featured prominently in the 1982 Jack Nicholson film “The Border.”

Now a fascinating behind-the-scenes video has surfaced from Parks’ performance, including interview footage with him and highlights of the song featuring young Guatemalan singer Gaby Moreno and the Danish Radio Youth Ensemble.

“When I got asked to come to Roskilde, I decided that I should keep a focus on something that I’m interested in,” Parks says in the video. “And I found by going to Pan-American music that I could hit on something which is essentially a very hot political topic right now, and that is immigration.”

To complement the songs’ lyrics about the perils people are willing to risk in search of a better life for themselves and their families in another land, longtime Southern California resident Parks said, “We took a trip back to these great romantic classics of Latin America to find the rhythms we love that said the things that we think are important to think about.

Musically speaking, “I presented some very difficult arrangements for a bunch of young people. …I think it served what I wanted to do: I wanted it to serve people that are younger than any of my neckties.”

As for the heated debate raging over immigration back home, Parks notes, “I don’t have any answers. But I want my music to raise questions. I would like to comfort people, but I'd also like to take the people that are comfortable by the throat and yank them into a sense of obligation into improving this world.”

Take a look and give a listen.

-- Randy Lewis