Tag Archives: songwriters

(364) Stay Tuned

Yesterday a friend gave me this awesome shirt:

StayTuned

I decided it was perfect for my musings today. I am typing this as I go, after thinking about the theme a lot, after going to Lakes Park and sitting in my power spot. Here goes…second last post!

**

Moving toward 2016, I understand my life is going to be more and more about sound. How the world sounds. How I sound. How we sound to each other.

Walking in the park today, I was behind two people who both had ear buds in, yet were talking loudly to each other. They obviously were listening to something, but decided it was important to communicate.  But here was my thought: If we really want to hear each other, we should be cognizant of shutting out other noise. It is like the people who talk on the phone when the television is on. Why?

**

This year has opened me up to sound. I planned a whole vacation around sound. We heard bluegrass music and blues music and synthesized music and musicians talking about the sounds specific instruments make, the sound of Jim and I singing together in the music booth at the Birthplace of Country Music, the sound of the Flint, the Cumberland, and the French Broad Rivers, the sound of old blues musicians wafting across Dockery Farms, the sound of The City of New Orleans speeding next to Money Road in the Delta. These sounds have stayed with me and I call on them from time to time.

Today as I walked I brushed my hand through all the palm fronds I passed. “How can I duplicate that sound” was my constant question.

**

Paul Simon had an exhibit on his songwriting at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. I was unable to get there, so I purchased the exhibit booklet. In it is Simon’s speech when he was inducted into the Rock Hall.  He said:

I thank Sam Phillips for Sun Records, for rockabilly’s Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Elvis Presley, whose recording of ‘Mystery Train’ remains my all-time favorite. I spent a career trying to get that sound.

This stood out to me for many reasons. First, because “Mystery Train” is my favorite Elvis tune, mostly because of the way it sounds. And second, because this came late in the book and I had already read Simon’s words over and over again about trying to get to a sound.  The exhibit was called “Words and Music,” but from what I read it was really about sound.

As I stay tuned to the sounds in my life, I am looking to get them into any music I create. My music teacher talked mainly about sound when I told him I wanted to write songs. Silly me — I thought it was about lyrics. Seems that isn’t always the case.

Not sure why I’m just learning that.

**

A friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook:

Soundmeme

We are the music we love. I want to do this experiment. Tell me the song that matters most to you, and I will listen for you in it.

**

Years ago I heard that our DNA, when related to various musical notes, creates a different musical composition for every person. This idea has never left me, and continues to intrigue. Today I found there is a website for it (of course there is) where you can actually send in your DNA information and the type of music you like, and they will create the composition for you. Here is a future birthday present!

If interested, check it out here.

They have created songs for all kinds of things, including this one for whales:

 

So, yes, sound is in our very DNA.

With sound comes vibration. This is why crystal bowl meditation and bells during ritual services and chanting monks lift us to new dimensions. Sounds and vibrations are our lifeblood. They can heal or poison.

**

As I finish up this blog, my plan is to stay tuned to the Five Questions in my life. They have truly become a part of me during this journey, and now I cannot imagine living life without seeing it through the lens of the Five Questions. Not writing about it will free me up to be in the moment, to search for the sound in the message, to stay tuned to doing the next right thing. All year long I have been listening, and this message comes to me continually like a drumbeat.

Listen.

Here (hear).

Now.

 

 

 

(352) Angel

It was the summer of 1997, the month I was told I might have ovarian cancer. My friends and I had tickets for Lilith Fair, the first year, and nothing was going to stop me from being there. I recall Sara MacLachlan, Paula Cole, and Mary Chapin Carpenter were on the bill.  I don’t remember who else.

I was in the throes of getting several tests before my scheduled surgery, and the day after the concert I was to have a procedure.  I needed to be cleaned out for this procedure, so had to bring a huge plastic jug of stuff to drink while at the concert, in order to maintain the proper timeline. I was fortunate they let me into Blossom Music Center with the jug, as they were being very picky about what was being allowed into this outdoor venue.

At one point of the concert I left our seats and made one of many treks to the bathroom. I decided it would be better to park myself on the hilly grass rather than keep going back into the pavilion. The moon was out and Sara was singing. I didn’t know her music that well at this point. I rested on the grass, looking at the moon, and realized she was singing about an angel.

In the arms of the angel

Fly away from here…

You are pulled from the wreckage

Of your silent reverie.

You’re in the arms of the angel

May you find some comfort there.

This was the first time I would hear her soon to be hit “Angel.” There, alone in my own reverie, future uncertain, I heard these words for the first time. And yes, I “found some comfort there.”

After my surgery, this was the first song I would have my friend play for me in my hospital room. I had brought my CD player with me specifically to listen to certain music that I believed was helping me heal that summer: James Taylor’s Hourglass, Sara’s Surfacing, and Gabrielle Roth’s Ritual.

Less than a year later, I would hear the song at a significant time. I had just left my father’s hospital room and was heading toward the parking garage. I had this thought that my prayer for him was to be in the arms of the angels, perhaps because the last prayer we had prayed together was the Guardian Angel Prayer. I heard “Angel” as I was getting on the highway.  Not long after I got home, I would get the call that he had made his transition.

Sadly, I feel “Angel” got overplayed, and it is really hard for me to hear it with any of the feelings I used to associate with it. Regardless, it is still a lovely song, and it helped me tremendously through a difficult time.

Here is a beautiful version with Emmylou Harris.

 

(344) Dangling Conversation

This morning I stepped out onto the lanai at around 5:30 a.m. to say my prayers. I listened to the frogs conversing across the lake. One would croak, and then across the way another. After a bit I realized there were three frogs involved. Sometimes there would be a break in their croaks. That brought to mind the phrase “dangling conversation.” I would be eagerly awaiting the next croak that would not come.

“The Dangling Conversation” is a song written by Paul Simon and performed on Simon and Garfunkel’s album “Sounds of Silence.” I looked up the words today and, although it has nothing to do with frogs, it certainly has a lot to say about relationships. I have contended for many years that Simon is our greatest American songwriter, and this is another example of why. You don’t even have to know the song to appreciate the poetry in these lyrics. How he could evoke something like this at such a young age is truly marvelous.

Every year I think I am going to do a lyric study with my students on Paul Simon’s songs.  Reading these words makes me think once again what a great unit it could be. This song along is so full of subtle metaphor and hints of who these people are. My favorite: “And I only kiss your shadow…”

It’s a still-life watercolor
Of a now late afternoon
As the sun shines through the curtain lace
And shadows wash the room
And we sit and drink our coffee
Couched in our indifference
Like shells upon the shore
You can hear the ocean roar
In the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs
The borders of our lives

And you read your Emily Dickinson
And I my Robert Frost
And we note our places with bookmarkers
That measure what we’ve lost
Like a poem poorly written
We are verses out of rhythm
Couplets out of rhyme
In syncopated time
And the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs
Are the borders of our lives

Yes,we speak of thing that matter
With words that must be said
“Can analysis be worthwhile?”
“Is the theatre really dead?”
And how the room is softly faded
And I only kiss your shadow
I cannot feel your hand
You’re a stranger now unto me
Lost in the dangling conversation
And the superficial sighs
In the borders of our lives

 

(181) Parallels: James Meets Marian

18332255I’ve never been to Montana, and doubt I will ever go there, but it has been in my consciousness lately.

I recently completed a novel called The Given World by Marian Palaia.  The setting changes, but it begins and ends in Montana. I couldn’t help but see the connection between some of the text in the novel and James Taylor’s recent song “Montana” from his Before the World.  When both titles have the word “world” in them, I guess that is another tip off.

Anyway…I have taken portions of Taylor’s lyrics and connected them to portions of text. I won’t pontificate here about how great the writing is — that is in the text itself, waiting to be discovered. All told, I think it informs us about Montana as a place of spirit and soul and ancient rumblings that affect people.  At least, I hope so.  Maybe someone from Montana will let me know. 😉

[The italicized text is from the Taylor song. The rest is from the novel, with page numbers noted.]

I’m not smart enough for this life I’ve been livin’,
A little bit slow for the pace of the dream.
It’s not I’m ungrateful for all I’ve been given;
But nevertheless, just the same…

One of my half-assed dreams, when I was still young, had been to become a diesel mechanic, work on huge things — equipment that could move mountains. It was not something girls normally wanted, but I was not a normal girl, and I had plans for that equipment. I guessed that given the right machinery, my little corner of the world — including all of Montana, parts of western North Dakota and southern Alberta, maybe just a small corner of Wyoming — could be arranged a little more to my liking. (65)

Over the ocean from here.
Over the mountains from there.

“That’s where this entire river came from, and this gorge, and smaller canyons, lakes, ponds — everything we can see. They’ve found pieces of Montana all the way at the Pacific Ocean.” (234)

Who can imagine the scale of the forces
That pushed this old mountain range up in the sky?
Tectonic creation, erosion, mutation;
Somethin’ to pleasure God’s eye.

I consider the broken and fused-back-together landscape. Chunky, ash-colored rock and scrubby brush, more gray than green; buttes and huge potholes that must sometimes hold water but are all dried up now, cracked earth the predominant decorating scheme. Evidence of calamity is all around, if you know what to look for. (234)

The world is a wonder of lightnin’ and thunder,
And green of the ground as we fall from the sky.
The old and new faces, the tribes and the races…
Thousands of places to try.

Out past the railroad tracks, a stretch of still and dusty plain lay unbroken except for the skeleton of an old railway spur and a couple of ancient and almost unrecognizable farm implements. Forty miles on was Alberta. He’d heard Canada was an option, but he’d never say it out loud; had never even formed the idea completely in his own mind. (53)

One sits and waits while the other one wanders,
And squanders his time with a life on the road.
Down from the mountain, across the wide ocean,
The world is in motion and cannot be slowed.

One day he told her about the ducks who’d made the continents by pulling up mud and plants from the bottom of a great sea. Before that, he said, the only creatures who survived were the ones that could swim. She said how she had always wanted to see the ocean — the Pacific especially — and how she imagined it was the same as Montana, only bluer and bigger, with no mountains. (52)

Enough for today… the demands of the moment,
The thing on my mind is the work in my hand.
Wood for the woodstove and water for coffee,
Somethin’ I can still understand.

I was supposed to come back sooner. I have known this, in some not-as-hard-as-I-made-it-to-get-to place, forever. Known that these people, my people, were not exactly encased in amber, waiting for me to come along with my little rock hammer. (271)

We got a few friends but not many neighbors,
The trip into town takes us most of the day.
And after, “Hello”, and “it’s sure good to see you”,
It seems like there’s nothin’ to say.

I look beyond the sagging fence…I see no hawk, no rabbit, no horse — just that one small mountain range in the distance, still holding its own out there, a reminder that there is such a thing as permanence, or something close to it. (285-6)

Over the ocean from here.

“What about this?” he says.

“This is good,” I say, and stay where I am, for now. I try as hard as I can to concentrate, to see what he is seeing. What is out there. What is left. What is possible. Still. Or again. (286)

(172) Cycles and Seeds, Part Two

This is a continuation of songs about fathers and sons, with connected poems and other text.

*4*

RECOGNITION

“Cat’s in the Cradle” written by Harry Chapin and Sandy Chapin

Recorded by Harry Chapin

Significant Lyrics:

Well he came from college just the other day

So much like a man I just had to say,

“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while.”

He shook his head and then said with a smile,

“What I’d really like dad is to borrow the car keys.

See you later, can I have them please?”

My thoughts: Perhaps it is just a sappy song from the seventies, but when Chapin had a hit with “Cat’s in the Cradle,” it was something that was finally being talked about.  During that time there was a lot of awareness about how our personal habits affected others — now that may seem commonplace, but the psychology of our interactions was just being brought to light. The recognition that a son has picked up not only good habits but bad habits from his father was blatantly clear in the song. Chapin was a wonderful storyteller, and although some of his songs might be a bit cheesy, he was always sincere. “Cat’s in the Cradle” pairs beautifully with a poem by W.S. Merwin called “Yesterday,” about a man relaying a conversation he had with a friend, who was telling the story of what a bad son he was. I have quoted the ending segment of the poem to go with the Chapin tune.

Text Connection:  last section from “Yesterday” by M.S. Merwin

…and my father turned

in the doorway and saw me

look at my wristwatch and he

said you know I would like you to stay

and talk with me

oh yes I say

and says my father

said maybe

you have important work you are doing

or maybe you should be seeing

somebody I don’t want to keep you…

…I told my father it was so

and I got up and left him then

you know

though there was nowhere I had to go

and nothing I had to do.

*5*

APPEAL

“This Is It” written by Cindy Walker, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, and V. McCoy

Recorded by Kenny Loggins

Significant Lyrics:

Are you going to wait for your sign, your miracle?

Stand up and fight

This is it

Make no mistake where you are

Your back’s to the corner

Don’t be a fool anymore

The waiting is over

No where to run, no where to hide

No time for wondering why

My thoughts: In May of 1998, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  His prognosis was good, but he didn’t seem to think so.  He shut down. Quit going to work, spent most of his day in bed, and within a couple of weeks stopped eating. At the time I was caught up in losing him, and had forgotten all about this song by Kenny Loggins, one that he wrote as a message to his own father with a cancer diagnosis. I have no idea what happened to Kenny’s dad, but mine didn’t last the month. I understand the plea here, as we made the same appeals to our father. It won’t change things when someone has made up their mind that “this is it.”

Text Connection:  last stanza from “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

*6*

INHERITANCE

“My Father’s Gun” written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Recorded by Elton John

Significant Lyrics:

From this day on I own my father’s gun
We dug his shallow grave beneath the sun
I laid his broken body down below the southern land
It wouldn’t do to bury him where any Yankee stands

I’ll take my horse and I’ll ride the northern plain
To wear the color of the greys and join the fight again
I’ll not rest until I know the cause is fought and won
From this day on until I die I’ll wear my father’s gun

My thoughts: This a song from Tumbleweed Connection, an early album of Elton John’s that was a concept album placed in Civil War era America.  It has always been my favorite album of his, although it is largely ignored. “My Father’s Gun” is all about what is left when dad is gone. What mantle does the son pick up and carry?  In this case, it is the cause of the South in the Civil War. The gun is a touchstone for all his father believed and fought for.

Text Connection:  last several lines from “For, Brother, What Are We?” by Thomas Wolfe

We are the sons of our father

Whose life like ours

Was lived in solitude and in the wilderness,

We are the sons of our father,

To whom only can we speak out

The strange, dark burden of our heart and spirit,

We are the sons of our father,

And we shall follow the print of his foot forever.

(171) Cycles and Seeds, Part One

It happens to be Father’s Day weekend, but that isn’t why I approached this topic.  I was looking to dissect a couple of John Fogerty’s songs and then all of a sudden, I was on a different mission.

I am a sucker for father/son stories. They have pulled me in since I can remember. It is the reason I love Hamlet the most out of Shakespeare’s plays and why Field of Dreams remains my favorite film of all time. The father and son connection — it’s ups and downs, ins and outs, and struggles, has been well-documented throughout literature and film since the beginning of storytelling.

My starting point was “Someday Never Comes” by John Fogerty, a song that I think is one of the saddest ever written.  It caused me to think about all the other songs I knew that were written about fathers and sons.  The list kept growing until I had eight that I thought showed as many different facets of the relationship that I could possibly conjure up.  I then named the key word for each, and decided on a piece of text to go with each one.  In that text I have included some various poems as well as dialogue from Field of Dreams. Since this is part of my Lyric Series, I will include selected song lyrics, as well as my own short commentary.  When including the video, I will attempt to include lyrics, either in the video itself or on the information with the video, if available.

Today’s blog will address the first three, and the rest will be posted tomorrow and Monday.

*1*

CYCLES

“Love Without End, Amen” written by Aaron Barker

Recorded by George Strait

Significant Lyrics:

Let me tell you a secret

About a father’s love

A secret that my daddy said was just between us

You see fathers don’t just love their children every now and then

It’s a love without end, amen.

My thoughts: This is probably the easiest song to listen to of all the selections here. It is a sweet story about the cycles found in the father/son relationship.  This one even includes God the Father. But it isn’t an overly religious song — it is simply about how we feel we fail our father figures.  That is very human and down to earth.

Text Connection:  from Field of Dreams, the opening monologue:

Ray Kinsella: [voice over] My father’s name was John Kinsella. It’s an Irish name. He was born in North Dakota in 1896, and never saw a big city until he came back from France in 1918. He settled in Chicago, where he quickly learned to live and die with the White Sox. Died a little when they lost the 1919 World Series. Died a lot the following summer when eight members of the team were accused of throwing that series. He played in the minors for a year too, but nothing ever came of it. Moved to Brooklyn in ’35, married Mom in ’38. He was already an old man working at the naval yards when I was born in 1952. My name’s Ray Kinsella. Mom died when I was three, and I suppose Dad did the best he could. Instead of Mother Goose, I was put to bed at night to stories of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and the great Shoeless Joe Jackson. Dad was a Yankees fan then, so of course I rooted for Brooklyn. But in ’58, the Dodgers moved away, so we had to find other things to fight about. We did. And when it came time to go to college, I picked the farthest one from home I could find. This, of course, drove him right up the wall, which I suppose was the point. Officially, my major was English, but really it was the ’60s. I marched, I smoked some grass, I tried to like sitar music, and I met Annie. The only thing we had in common was that she came from Iowa, and I had once heard of Iowa. After graduation, we moved to the Midwest and stayed with her family as long as we could… almost a full afternoon. Annie and I got married in June of ’74. Dad died that fall. A few years later, Karin was born. She smelled weird, but we loved her anyway. Then Annie got the crazy idea that she could talk me into buying a farm. I’m thirty-six years old, I love my family, I love baseball, and I’m about to become a farmer. And until I heard the Voice, I’d never done a crazy thing in my whole life.

Voice: If you build it, he will come.

*2*

WARNING

“Someday Never Comes” written by John Fogerty

Recorded by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Significant Lyrics:

When daddy went away he said try to be a man

And someday you’ll understand

Well, I’m hear to tell you now

Each and every mother’s son

You’d better learn it fast

And you’d better learn it young

Cause someday never comes.

My thoughts: I think this is one of the saddest songs ever.  I cannot listen to it without remembering something a student wrote once: “The last thing I remember about my dad is his back walking out that door when I was five-years-old.”  The cycle of trauma in this song is simply devastating, as it reaches down from father to son to grandson.  I know too many people who never knew their own fathers. I have seen women twist themselves into pretzels trying to stay in marriages that weren’t working because they knew the father would desert the children. I think Fogerty’s bravery in speaking up is impressive. We always think that someday the children will grow up and understand.  It isn’t always true.  Sometimes there is never understanding.  Acceptance maybe.  But don’t be fooled.  It is an endless weight that can never be lifted off their shoulders.

Text Connection:  last stanza from “The Weight of Sweetness” by Li-Young Lee

The good boy hugs a bag of peaches

his father has entrusted

to him.

Now he follows

his father, who carries a bagful in each arm.

See the look on the boy’s face

as his father moves

faster and farther ahead, while his own steps

flag, and his arms grow weak, as he labors

under the weight

of peaches.

*3*

BREACH

“Father and Son” written by Calvin Massey and Cat Stevens

Recorded by Cat Stevens

Significant Lyrics:

(Son)

All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,

it’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it.

If they were right, I’d agree, but it’s them you know not me

Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away

I know I have to go

(Father)

Stay, stay, stay, stay, why must you go and

make this decision alone?

My thoughts: This song came out when I was in high school, on Stevens’ Tea for the Tillerman album, and perhaps that is why I gained an emotional attachment to it which has never left me. I still get goosebumps at the end when the son is taking a stand, and the father is gently saying, Stay, stay, stay.  This lyric was the first time I heard a song in two voices, and I thought it was masterful then, and I think it is masterful now. The fact that I fell in love with this song as a teenager when I was doing my own separating, doesn’t fully explain why I still find this song so compelling today.  I have to chalk it up to excellent songwriting.

Text Connection:  from Field of Dreams

Ray Kinsella: By the time I was ten, playing baseball got to be like eating vegetables or taking out the garbage. So when I was 14, I started to refuse. Could you believe that? An American boy refusing to play catch with his father.

Terence Mann: Why 14?

Ray Kinsella: That’s when I read “The Boat Rocker” by Terence Mann.

Terence Mann: [rolling his eyes] Oh, God.

Ray Kinsella: Never played catch with him again.

Terence Mann: You see? That’s the sort of crap people are always trying to lay on me. It’s not my fault you wouldn’t play catch with your father.

(I particularly like this video of Cat Stevens, even though there are no lyrics attached.)

(166) Pieces (Found Poem)

IMG_0434

In my writing circle we have discussed doing a found poem from an entire album. We have done them from books and songs, but not from an entire album of songs. I decided to take on the task on Saturday.

It wasn’t easy.

I chose Jewel’s debut album Pieces of You.  I listened to the album, pulling out phrases that stood out to me. I wrote each phrase on an individual card. I learned that when an entire album is approached, many different points of view come into play, making it difficult to figure out how to make it go together.  I played around with the cards for a couple of hours, grouping them in different ways.  Finally, I just set it aside.

Then this morning one of the phrases came to me as an opening line.  And then the next. I wrote them down, had my coffee, did some journaling. I then started to shuffle through the cards to see what I could add.

Here is my final product. I only used a fraction of the cards — I still have more here.  Perhaps someday I will create another poem from them. Maybe not. At any rate, this turned out okay in my opinion. I might even do it again.

Pieces

Teach me of honest things

that I might fly today

see the world from another angle

things that are daring

things that are clean.

Words can crush things that are unseen.

A dry tongue screams at the sky

but the wind just breathes words in.

Let the world spin outside our door

Don’t try to understand me

Pretend we’re perfect strangers and

that we never met.

Same old story, not much to say

Pieces of us die every day.

(164) When I Was a Boy

I recently finished two novels, both of which took place in the Mississippi Delta, but during different time frames. A new setting was needed for my next book, so I’ve picked up a brand new release called The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader.  The setting is the English Midlands in 1255, and the main character is a seventeen-year-old who has taken the vow to be locked in a cell and live the Rule of Life — basically just praying her life away. This character, named Sarah, caught my attention right away with the opening paragraphs:

I had always wanted to be a jongleur, to leap from the shoulders of another, to fly and tumble, to dare myself in thin air with nothing but my arms and legs to land me safely on the ground. An acrobat is not a bird, but it is the closest a person can come to being free in the air. The nearest to an angel’s gift of flying.

But that was as a child, when my body was secure, like that of a boy, and I felt myself whole and able to try anything. That was before my arms and legs grew soft and awkward and my woman’s body took away those strong, pliant surfaces of skin, before I knew I could bleed and not die or, worse still, carry a life inside me and die because of it.

There was so much recognition for me in this. I grew up with brothers all around me, so I always just did what the boys did. I loved climbing trees and dangerous hills, where I had to cling to tree roots to pull me up. I loved wading in rivers and skipping rocks and balancing myself on the boulders.  I’d fling myself off swings at the park and climb fences just for fun — even if there was an opening. My older brother taught me every available sport because he wanted someone to play the game with. Baseball is the one I learned the best, and I can still toss out a pretty good pitch.  A few years ago, when I was a Golden Apple finalist, I was asked to toss out a pitch at the boys baseball game at my high school.  They didn’t expect I could actually do it.  The look of surprise on their faces!

But the point here is clear — we have to give up something as we grow up.  And it isn’t just girls who do.  It is men, too.  I have studied quite a bit about the fact that there is no real ritual for a boy becoming a man. Many times boys make their own rituals, some that are pretty devastating like joining a gang or going to prison.  In general, however, we are a culture that does little to help our boys.  Yes, there are religious ceremonies, and they help. But not everyone participates in those.

The quote above brought to mind one of my favorite songs by singer/songwriter Dar Williams.  It’s called “When I Was a Boy” and I swear, I never can listen to it without crying.  I don’t want to pontificate about it — it speaks for itself.  Dar has done a great job capturing all the nuances of the change we endure. Here is a video someone made, and the words below.  See if this doesn’t make a tear well up in your eye — especially those of you with sons.

I wont forget when Peter Pan
Came to my house, took my hand
I said, “I was a boy”
Im glad he didnt check

I learned to fly, I learned to fight
I lived a whole life in one night
We saved each others lives
Out on the pirates deck

And I remember that night
When Im leaving a late night with some friends
And I hear somebody tell me
Its not safe, someone should help me

I need to find a nice man to walk me home
When I was a boy
I scared the pants off of my mom
Climbed what I could climb upon

And I dont know how I survived
I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew
And you can walk me home
But I was a boy, too

I was a kid that you would like
Just a small boy on her bike
Riding topless, yeah
I never cared who saw

My neighbor come outside
To say, “Get your shirt,”
I said “No way, it’s the last time
I’m not breaking any law”

And now I’m in this clothing store
And the signs say less is more
More that’s tight means more to see
More for them, not more for me
That can’t help me climb a tree in ten seconds flat

When I was a boy, see that picture? That was me
Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees
And I know things have gotta change
They got pills to sell, they’ve got implants to put in

They’ve got implants to remove
But I am not forgetting
That I was a boy too

And like the woods where I would creep
It’s a secret I can keep
Except when I’m tired
‘Cept when I’m being caught off guard

And I’ve had a lonesome awful day
The conversation finds its way
To catching fire-flies
Out in the backyard

And I so tell the man I’m with
About the other life I lived
And I say now you’re top gun
I have lost and you have won
And he says, “Oh no, no, can’t you see

When I was a girl, my mom
And I we always talked
And I picked flowers
Everywhere that I walked

And I could always cry
Now even when I’m alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too
And you were just like me
And I was just like you

Songwriters
DAR WILLIAMS

Published by
Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

(159) What’s Going On

In October of 1983, an iconic show was produced on television — Motown 25. What I most remembered from that show was Michael Jackson performing Billie Jean for the first time nationally, moonwalk and all. I even show this to my students most every year and try to explain to them the excitement and uniqueness of something that to them just seems old school.

Recently, my husband and I watched the show again when it was on PBS.  After all these years, all I had remembered was the Jackson part — first with the Jackson 5, and then on his own.  I barely recalled Diana Ross singing “Reach Out and Touch” with red lipstick on her teeth. I didn’t remember at all that Linda Ronstadt and Smokey Robinson did a duet of “Ooh, Baby Baby” and “Tracks of My Tears.”  And most of all, I didn’t remember Marvin Gaye.

This came to mind today because I just finished reading a novel set in 1950’s Mississippi, and then immediately into reading a biography of Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers, who are from Mississippi. I originally planned to write about them here.  But first, Marvin.

He came out to the piano and noodled around on it while he talked about the birthplace of music. At one point he says, “Yesterday is the birthplace of today.”  I am not going to repeat everything else he says because the video is below. What he is doing, though, is a monologue about where music is born — how it comes from real life — and that is what makes it grow and change and expand. That is what makes it last forever.

Marvin then sings, “What’s Going On,” and it is obvious to me, sitting here in 2015, that the birthplace of his words may have been the 1970’s, but they are still relevant today:

Mother, mother

There’s far too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There’s far too many of you dying

You know we’ve got to find a way

To bring some lovin’ here today.

If today is the birthplace of forever, as Marvin concludes, then what we do each day truly does matter.  Even Marvin himself wouldn’t live another six months before being gunned down by his own father. Unity and humanity. We need to make them more than just words.

(158) Shaking Off the Dust

imageI took yesterday off from writing on this blog.  It probably was not the best idea because now I find myself trying to get started again.

But, it will come.

A friend posted the above meme, so I thought it was a good place to start. I took the day off from writing because I knew it would be good for my soul. I had a fabulous music lesson — I’ve decided to pick up the guitar again and got into some finger picking and blues shuffling that was an absolute blast. More on that as it develops.

I read a lot, too. I recently purchased the Paul Simon: Words and Music guidebook that commemorates his exhibition at that Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.  I am not going to get up to see the exhibit any time soon, so I figured this was the next best thing. The book reflects the exhibit —  most of it is in his own words, except for the timeline. His writing process is not a whole lot different than any writer, but it is still awe-inspiring to read what he has to say. As someone who thinks that perhaps she is moving toward songwriting, whatever Paul has to say is golden.

Playing my music and reading about the creation of other music went a long way yesterday to “washing the dust off my soul.” I continue today, as I finish a wonderful novel I’ve been reading and start something new.

This is where I am. Taking each day as an artist, and finding the gifts to be found.

Right now I am listening to The Mavericks.  Raul Malo’s voice is so amazing, I’ve decided I need to share it. Shake off a little more dust and listen to the pure artistry here as he sings a J.D. Souther song. Enjoy!