Monday morning you sure look fine

Fleetwood Mac gave us this first lyric to “Monday Morning.” Some of us may remember the next line is “Friday I’ve got traveling on my mind.” That must have been some rollercoaster week. If your week turns out to be a rollercoaster, I hope you enjoy the ride and want more, instead of traveling away from someone who looked so fine on Monday. Speaking of rides, take a little ride with me as I touch on a few miscellaneous thoughts.

As we have begun the final week of July, 2021, I have become less enthusiastic about this Christmas time in July bit. Some of the channels are running holiday movies, which is fine, but when they start to sell me Christmas deals in July in the commercials, that is a bridge too far. I don’t want to buy a fake Christmas tree in July – I am just not in the mood.

My wife and I have watched a little bit of the Olympics in Japan, but we won’t be watching it too much. We do find the second page sports entertaining, as we have watched the finishes to the bicycle races, fencing, with a little swimming and gymnastics thrown in. Of course, the last two are usually front page sports during these events. What I don’t care for is NBC does not show non-American athletes near enough to balance out the show. Usually, they appear when competing directly against the Americans.

We did go see a pretty good movie called “Joe Bell” with Mark Wahlberg and introducing Reid Miller. I won’t spoil it for you, but it is based on a true story about a father and his gay son. The movie is somber look at the bullying that goes on toward gays in school and life. Rotten Tomatoes does not rate it as well as the Google viewers do, but it does make you think. Connie Britton plays the mother and Gary Sinise shows up late in the movie adding a lot of value.

Our friend Joy put a picture in her recent blog post of a frozen peach Margarita, which looked delicious, although. I do not drink anymore. So, with her impetus, I went to a local Farmers’ Market (hence yesterday’s post) and picked up, among other things, “Free Stone peaches.” Apparently, the pulp peels away from the pit very easily and, while guarded by a little tougher skin, are delightfully sweet and tart. The virgin Margaritas were a blend of the peeled peaches, pineapple sherbet, orange juice and ice. Thanks Joy for the inspiration.*

My mother and father’s birthdays are approaching. They would have been 89 and 90 this year. Dad went first about fifteen years ago, while Mom went almost five years ago. Plus, the only grandmother I had met (when not a baby) has an approaching birthday. I just wanted to think a few good thoughts about them as I close out. Have a great week everyone

*Here is a link to Joy’s post: Friday’s Super Short Stories! | Nuggets of Gold (wordpress.com)

A memory from when the kids were small (a reprise)

Reading Clive’s many posts on songs from the 1960s and 1970s, I was reflecting on some previous posts about favorite songs. This one was posted about six years ago after the insitgation of another blogging friend.

Our blogging friend Erika prompted a great memory with her Song of the Day post. This morning’s entry is “You are so Beautiful” sung wonderfully by Joe Cocker. A link is provided below. While this song was likely intended for romantic love, it works quite well for all kinds of love, in particularly the love of a parent for a child.

Although my kids are in college or just graduated now, I have the memory today of singing to them softly while I rocked them to sleep as babies. This was one of the songs that I sang. Definitely not being known as a singer, I sang a repertoire of songs that I knew the words to as well as could be sung softly. So, the ACDC and Deep Purple songs did not qualify, although Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” works well until the final verse.

My wife and I bought one of those glider chairs that we put in the nursery. That was one comfortable chair. In that chair, I sang a number of songs, based on how quickly the kids would nod off and were certain to stay that way. My list varied for my own sanity, but would include songs from artists like Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Peter, Paul and Mary, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Loggins and Messina, The Beatles, Bread, Harry Chapin and others that popped into my head or that I may have heard on the radio.

Invariably, I would include Joe Cocker’s song, as it had great meaning. But, Jim Croce’s “Time in Bottle” and “Photographs and Memories” were frequently sung. David Gates of Bread would appear with “If” or “Diary,” and Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” served as a reminder to not forget what is important. The Beatles would often be included as their own evening of song drawing from “Yesterday,” “Something,” “Norwegian Wood,” and many others.

John Denver would sing through my voice “Follow Me” or “Take me Home, Country Roads,” while Gordon Lightfoot might pop in with “If you could read my Mind” or “Carefree Highway.” Loggins and Messina might be there to with Anne Murray’s “Danny Song” or “House on Pooh Corner.” And, Peter, Paul and Mary would show up with Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind” or Pete Seeger’s “Where have all the Flowers Gone?”

I am evidence that you need to not sing well to entertain a sleepy child. The key is some semblance of a soft tune and words that soothe. These are moments I cherish. When we are driving with one of the kids to school and one of these songs would come on the radio, if I was melancholy, I would tell the rider that I sang this to them when they were little. They are the best of memories and I cannot wait to rock a future grandchild to sleep.

https://erikakind.wordpress.com/2015/09/22/tidbit-song-of-the-day-7/

Breaker Morant – a terrific Aussie film about a true story

The following post was written a few years ago. My wife and I re-watched another great film from Australia yesterday called “The Man for Snowy River.” It reminded me of this movie, which remains a favorite of mine.

When I am asked to list my favorite movies, I will usually include a film made in 1980 in Australia called “Breaker Morant.” The movie did not get enough airplay here in the US, so if you missed seeing it, that would not have been a difficult task. The movie was directed by Bruce Beresford, but starred several terrific actors who would go on to fame – Edward Woodward (an English actor), Bryan Brown and Jack Thompson. A key role was also played by a younger actor, Lewis Fitz-Gerald. Woodward would play in the US television series called “The Equalizer” while Brown would appear in a number of films like “Fx” and “Australia.” Thompson would also appear in “The Man from Snowy River,” another favorite of mine from Australia, as well as “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

The movie is about three men who were convicted as scapegoats for committing war crimes they had been authorized to perform during the Boer Wars in South Africa. The men were part of a guerilla team called the Bushveldt Carbineers, who had to resort to unusual tactics to remain safe and be effective. It is based on a true story from the novel “Scapegoats of the Empire” by George Witton. Lt. Harry Morant, played by Woodward was a former horse-breaker on which the title is based. He is a former Englishman of society who is forelorned over a lost love, so he has devoted his career to helping the military fight in faraway places. He is also an acclaimed poet, which is part of his fabric and the movie.

Brown plays Lt. Peter Hancock, who is Morant’s trusted friend, but a man with faults and desires which make him less than perfect like everyone else. Fitz-Gerald plays a more naïve young soldier who gets caught up with the others just doing as he is told. Thompson plays the second lead character as Major J.F, Thomas, an unprepared, but eventually very capable and practical attorney who defends the three in a court-martial trial. He was picked because the leaders wanted someone not to defend them well, but the opposite occurred.

The three are on trial as the British leadership wanted to distance themselves from the Bushveldt Carbineers’ tactics, which were successful. They also were on trial for killing a priest who was a Boer spy before he could get back to share his reconnaissance. The tactics included placing the captured military leaders in the front of returning horse soldiers from battle, as it dissuaded the Boers from attacking them. This was a guerilla type war, where new practices were being done and confirmed at the higher ranks.

Yet, as the war was winding down, the British leadership needed to provide a peace-offering, so the three were put on trial as scapegoats. I will hold off on the conclusion, although some of it is obvious from the title of the book. If you do watch it, know that the movie shows the horror of war, the lack of humanity that can be all-encompassing and how soldiers just doing their job often pay for the sins of their leaders. I also like the fact that they do not promote the three on trial as better men than they are, especially Hancock and Morant. These are cynical and worldly men who realize what they are up against.

If you have seen it or take the chance to do so, I would love to hear your feedback and thoughts.

John Barry wrote the movie soundtracks to our lives (a reprise)

Many do not know the name of John Barry Prendergast who was born in York, England in 1933. More know him by his first two names, but when he died in 2011, I would wager the average person on the street would not know his name or what he did for us. He made his music our music by composing some of the most memorable movie scores. Mind you, these movies would have been good without his contribution, but the memories we have of them are significantly flavored by his contributions. So much, when we hear the beautiful music he wrote, we are transported to the movie. That is magical.

His most known piece is probably the theme from James Bond. He wrote music for eleven of the Bond movies starting with the very first one, “Dr. No.” Yet, that piece, while memorable, pales in comparison to the music he wrote for movies like “Out of Africa,” for which he won one of his five Academy Awards. The scenery, story and acting that make this movie memorable are leveraged by the, at times, exhilarating and, at times, reverent music he wrote. I cannot listen to his music without thinking of Robert Redford and Meryl Streep’s characters flying over the African tundra.

Yet, his first African score landed him two Oscars, the fantastic “Born Free.” Both the title song and movie score are as magnificent as his later “Out of Africa” work. He also won Oscars for two very different movies, “The Lion in Winter,” which starred Peter O’Toole as Henry II, and “Dances with Wolves,” with Kevin Costner. The latter movie is not unlike his Africa themes, as he is at is best when capturing beautiful vistas with a great story and time.

One of my favorites is the score to “Body Heat” starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner who had a sultry affair in the Florida heat. Barry’s music adds to the double entendre, lust, and subterfuge of this movie. The music is a co-star every bit as much as Richard Crenna, Ted Danson and Mickey Rourke.

While he wrote many other scores, one that resonates with my wife and me is “Somewhere in Time,” with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve. The story is enchanting and we fall in love with Jane Seymour just as Reeve’s character did in the movie, leading him to travel back in time. Yet, the music makes what could have been a cheesy story a classic in our view. It takes us from the present to the enchanting past, so much that the Grand Hotel, where it was filmed has “Somewhere in Time” gatherings throughout the year. One of my best Valentine’s Day presents was to give my wife the soundtrack to this movie.

If you get a chance, order these soundtracks or some compilation of his music. It is well worth the listen and, if you enjoys these movies, you will enjoy revisiting them through Barry’s music. It might make a great Valentine’s Day present.

Rainy Day People – a tribute to Gordon Lightfoot (an encore)

With it raining cats and dogs outside tonight (and this morning with tropical storm Elsa), this title has greater meaning. “Rainy Day People” is not necessarily my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song, but it describes my bride of 27 years. Why you might ask? Here is a glimpse of Lightfoot’s magical pen in this song (a link to the song is below).

Rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call

Rainy day people don’t talk…they just listen til they’ve heard it all

Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell you they’ve been down like you

Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re crying a tear or two.

My wife embodies rainy day people. She is a listener who people feel comfortable in being around; comfortable in confiding in. Gordon Lightfoot’s talent and the reason we both love his music is his ability to capture who we are. We saw him perform a few years ago. We enjoyed his music, but also his storytelling between songs. A man who could have many did not seem to have any airs.

His most famous song is “If You Could Read My Mind.” I think even non-Lightfoot fans could sing many of the lyrics of this song. Since it is so popular, I will skip over it to some of his lesser known, but also great songs. Another favorite is “Circle of Steel” because it tells a painful story of an alcoholic mother whose husband is incarcerated and who will lose her child in a week. The gripping, soulful lyrics include:

A child is born to a welfare case…where the rats run around like the own the place

The room is chilly, the building is old….that’s how it goes

A doctor’s found on his welfare round…and he comes and he leaves on the double.

The subject of the song is not heroic, but the words tell a story of how people struggle. Most of us don’t live in gated communities. Life is very hard for many.

For the romantic side in each of us, he write songs like “Beautiful” which has words like:

At times I just don’t know….how you could be anything but beautiful

I think that I was made for you and you were made for me

And I know that I will never change…’cause we’ve been friends through rain or shine

For such a long, long time.

He has written so many songs that were so well-loved others also recorded them. “Early Morning Rain” was sung by Elvis. “For Lovin Me” was sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. He also added a second song to the back of that one as the first part talked disdainfully to a woman scorned when the man said “that’s what you get for lovin me.” The added song he recorded had a lament “Did she mention my name” as the person who scorned his lover was feeling great remorse later on. Other great songs of his include:

“Whisper My Name”

“Sundown”

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

“Carefree Highway”

“Cotton Jenny”

“Old Dan’s Records”

“Summer Side of Life”

“Cold on the Shoulder”

And, countless others, that should not be construed less by my failure to list them. Yet, let me close with a self-portrait of Mr. Lightfoot, at least by my interpretation – “Minstrel of the Dawn.” In it he says:

The minstrel of the dawn is here….to make you laugh and bend your ear

Up the steps you’ll hear him climb….all full of thoughts, all full of rhymes

Listen to the pictures flow….across the room into your mind they go

Listen to the strings…they jangle and dangle…while the old guitar rings.

Words and music. To me this is what it is all about. Gordon Lightfoot would have been an excellent poet without his music. He was lesser known, but may have rivaled even Bob Dylan on his penning of songs. Maybe the fact one was from Canada and the other from Minnesota meant they had time to collect their thoughts when it was too cold to venture outside. Yet, with his music and armed with a better singing voice that Dylan could only dream of, he was the minstrel to all of us.

For our younger readers who may not know him as well, I would encourage you to take a plunge. You can start with the songs above, but that is only sticking a toe in the water. I invite other Gordon Lightfoot fans to offer their favorites whether listed above or not. “If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts would tell….just like a paperback novel, the kind the drugstore sells.”

Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People – Bing video

Land of Hope and Dreams – a Bruce Springsteen song to relish this July 4th

Whether it is people in poverty, the abused, the disenfranchised, or specific groups whose civil rights are threatened, Bruce Springsteen has been a consistent voice of reason and support. Like Bono, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Harry Belafonte, Joni Mitchell, John Mellencamp, Elton John, etc., Springsteen does not mind sticking his neck out or lend his voice to fight for the disenfranchised folks in the world. In fact, if people listen to his songs, many are about those who have little voice in a society that sometime steps on them.

One of my many favorite Springsteen songs is called “Land of Hope and Dreams” which speaks of the train taking us all to a better place. To me the song lives in the chorus which is repeated often as the song winds down. This is one song where the live version sounds better than the studio-recorded one, in part as the studio version was recorded after Clarence Clemons had passed with his saxophone being overdubbed.

Here are most of the lyrics, with the chorus highlighted at the end.
Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back
Well, darling, if you’re weary, lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry, yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Folks, The Boss’ words are compelling. We are all imperfect. We are all sinners. But, there is a place on the train for everyone. I for one applaud Springsteen for what he does to help. It is not a stretch for him to do so.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Land of Hope and Dreams (Live in New York City) – Bing video

Can’t find my way home

Eric Clapton rejoined forces with Steve Winwood to form one of the best short lived groups ever called Blind Faith. Both were very talented musicians who met when Clapton had a one off group called Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse, when Winwood was just a teen. It should be noted Winwood was only fourteen when he joined the Spencer Davis group. Here is a news story about their formation:

“On February 8th, 1969, three anointed stars of the music world announced the formation of rock’s first true supergroupBlind Faith.

Featuring Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Steve Winwood–and, a few months later, Ric Grech–the band had all the eyes of the music world squarely on them, as Blind Faith’s debut was easily one of the most anticipated moments in the then-young history of commercial rock and roll. At the time, no one would know how quickly the promise of magic to come would turn into a tale of wasted potential, even though the writing was on the wall from the beginning.”

In the band’s short life together they produced some excellent music. “Can’t find my way home” was penned by Steve Winwood is a great barometer of the band, featuring Winwood’s beautiful voice along with the talent of Clapton and Baker, who had a tempestuous relationships that sometimes led to fist fights. The latter two would form two-thirds of a group called Cream that would also produce great music in a short time.

Two other Blind Faith favorites of many are “The presence of the Lord,” written by Clapton and “Well alright.” Reading Clapton’s autobiography reveals a man in search for perfection, which is unattainable. He tended to regret leaving bands that were very good and Blind Faith is no exception.

I have seen footage of Winwood and Clapton performing together later in their careers and there seemed to be affection and respect. My wife and I have had the pleasure of seeing Winwood and Clapton each perform live which were treats.

Winwood has a had a long and successful career, but may be more known for his singles career that took off in the 1980s. He could play dozens of instruments, but that got overshadowed by his hauntingly melancholic voice which appeared on many group albums.. .

Give this song a listen as evidence.

Blind Faith ~ Can’t Find My Way Home – Bing video

Rally caps and what ifs

I recently wrote a post on avoiding celebrating at halftime as the game is not over. Too many politicians want to spike the ball celebrating success, when it has not yet happened. To illustrate my point, I used several games where premature celebration proved unwise. This got me thinking about some other premature celebrations in the sporting world to illustrate a few life lessons about thinking you won before you did or overcoming an obstacle to win..

Baseball has a fun tradition of camaraderie for a team that is woefully behind its opponent late in the game called “Rally Caps.” The magnitude of the deficit will dictate how early rally caps are deployed. The losing team will invert their ball caps and wear them backward in the dugout as they root their teammates on. While baseball is a team game, a key part is based on one individual batting against a pitcher. If a batter gets a hit, the next batter starts to think he or she can too. And, momentum can build.

The Boston Red Sox baseball team has participated in two such rallies in World Series games, losing one and winning one. They lost a lead in game six (out of a potential seven) of the 1986 World Series against the New York Mets, sadly with the game ending on a key mistake by one of its better players. Eleven years before, the Red Sox rallied in another game six against the Cincinnati Reds trailing 6 to 0, winning on a big home run in the eleventh inning. For non-baseball fans, the retelling of this story by Robin Williams to Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting” was a pivotal moment of the movie.

In golf, Arnold Palmer succeeded and failed in two separate US Opens, one of the four major championships. In 1960, he was seven shots behind the leader, when he was asking a sports writer what he needed to shoot in the last round to come back and win. The sports writer told him he had zero chance of winning and laughed. Palmer proceeded to shoot a seven under 65 and win the tournament. Six years later, Palmer had a seven shot lead in the US Open in the final round. He continued to play aggressively while Billy Casper, the best golfer few have heard of, started making putts. Casper would go on to win in a play off.

In basketball, Coach Dean Smith of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels was famous for come from behind wins. One in particular stood out as his team trailed a Florida State Seminoles basketball team by twenty plus points in the second half. Since basketball is a game of momentum, Smith’s team starting playing more aggressively and in short order had halved the lead. Then, Smith called an unusual time out which the announcers questioned. Smith later said he wanted the other team to think more about what was happening. The Tar Heels went on to win easily.

Sports give us many examples of why early celebration is unwise. The above illustrate what can happen when teams or individuals that are ahead start thinking of winning and less of doing what it takes to get there. It also shows how a determined opponent can overcome obstacles. And, it shows how a person or team who think they can win, can build its momentum from a small crack of success.

Let me end with one more story which is telling based on the mental aspects of the game. In golf’s British Open (or The Open as it is called there), Frenchman Jean Van de Velde will go down as the golfer more people anguished over than any other. He walked to the last hole of the tournament with a three shot lead at Carnoustie in 1999. He needed to shoot only a double bogey six to win.

The tragic man made a series of poor club and shot selections that painfully unfolded on live TV coverage and he lost the tournament to Paul Lawrie who started the day ten shots behind the leader and behind many others. Yet, the story does not end with Van de Velde. Colin Montgomerie started the day tied with Lawrie, ten shots back. When asked, Montgomerie told a reporter he had no chance of winning, a self-defeating prediction. The man he was tied with came back and won.

If you think you can, you just might. If you think you cannot, you won’t. As for our dear Mr. Van de Velde, this is one of the few times a caddy should have not given the player the club he asked for. The player needed an intervention to stop the negative thought patterns. Like Palmer before him in 1966, he started to think about what losing a big lead would look like.*

*Note: A friend who went to Stanford was following Palmer that day in San Francisco in 1966. He recalls standing behind Palmer when he was seven shots ahead while Palmer’s ball was in the very deep rough. Palmer pulled out a driver to try to advance the ball to the green and my friend and the crowd groaned. The ball went four feet and Palmer never mentally recovered. He needed his caddy to do what Van de Velde’s should have done and handed him a different club.

Please don’t celebrate at halftime – the game is not over

Growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, the annual Georgia/ Florida football game is played in the downtown Gator Bowl, which today has some corporate name on the building. It was dubbed the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party, even though it was a college game where no alcohol is served. Since it is usually a sell out, the networks televise the game locally.

Watching the game with several friends one year, all but one of which were Florida fans, the Gators took a 27 to 14 lead to the halftime locker room over Georgia. My Georgia Bulldogs’ friend had to leave after much teasing and, as he did, he said “Remember gentlemen, they play two halves.” The Bulldogs came roaring back to win 41 to 27, with the Gators not scoring in the second half.

I remember this often, as I see business people and politicians celebrate victories at halftime. I recall two incidents one that happened this week and one in the former president’s first year. This week, President Biden celebrated on the front driveway with a bipartisan group of Senators the agreement on an infrastructure bill that is sorely needed for our country. By the next day, the agreement may be waylaid as the president spoke again pairing the bill with another one he wanted passed during reconciliation. Not smart. Now, the bill may not get passed as he made the other party look bad.

In 2017, former president Trump had House Republicans to the White House to celebrate a repeal and replace bill of the Affordable Care Act. The bill was poorly conceived, debated, and rushed, but there they were spiking the ball saying look what we did. Later that summer, the Senate failed to pass the bill, with Senator John McCain joining a few other Republican Senators to defeat it. McCain noted he was offended how the bill did not follow due process and, as a result, would hurt many millions of Americans.

In this 24×7 news cycle, too many things get reported before they are fully baked. The stories give the impression this is a done deal. The stories are too often portrayed in a zero-sum manner with one side winning, the other side is losing. My business career relied on interpreting laws, regulations and rulings. It is funny, but the press did not refer to the Reagan White House or the Clinton White House when discussing these matters, referring instead to the IRS, Department of Labor, SEC, House, Senate, reconciliation of differing language in the House and Senate bills, etc. It was not reported as a contest.

So, a strong message to legislators and reporters. Do not celebrate at halftime – the game “ain’t over until it’s over” as the famous New York Yankee Yogi Berra used to say. And, reporters and pseudo news people, focus on the what, how, why, and when and less on the who. I have long grown weary of news reporting on who wins or loses in legislation. As noted earlier, it is not a contest. The idea is for the constituents to win.

Note: For sports fans, I want you to Google “Frank Reich and comebacks,” who as a quarterback led two of the greatest comebacks in collegiate and pro football history. In both games, one for his University of Maryland the other the Buffalo Bills, the eventual winning teams were well behind and written off by the announcers. And, if more recent history is for your liking, think Tom Brady and his New England Patriots roaring from behind in the Super Bowl to beat the Atlanta Falcons.

I’ve Loved these Days – a tribute to Billy Joel (encore)

Our friend Jill just highlighted Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” yesterday. It got me reminiscing about an old post that I will repost today. The following highlights some of Joel’s lesser known songs.

So before we end and then begin
We’ll drink a toast to how it’s been
A few more hours to be complete
A few more nights on satin sheets
A few more times that I can say
I’ve loved these days

While the choice is so very hard, this is the end to my favorite Billy Joel song – “I’ve Loved These Days.” It is not his most famous, but like many, it is very pure and heartfelt. I have not written a tribute to Billy Joel before, as it is quite difficult to hone down to a list of songs to highlight. One of these days, I will attempt The Beatles, Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen, but for now let my highlight one of the best songwriters of our time, William Martin Joel.

I like this song for the somber remembrance and the quiet echo of we are mortal, so let’s make the best of it. He has so many songs like this which have both meaning and wonderful music to highlight the words. As with other tribute posts, I am going to stay away from the biggest hits, yet I will mention some below. Another melancholy song along these same lines is “Summer, Highland Falls.” Here is a brief taste of lyrics:

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we don’t fulfill each others fantasies
And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives,
With our respective similarities
It’s either sadness of euphoria

This song is a little more unique, as his wordsmithing and tune is catchy, but the words are so powerful. I take away from this song that none of us are perfect, so let’s do the best we can to fulfill each other. The choice is sadness or euphoria.

Another favorite is one of several where he shows his love for New York City. This if from “A New York State of Mind”:

Some folks like to get away,
Take a holiday from the neighborhood.
Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood.
But I’m takin’ a Greyhound on the Hudson River line.
I’m in a New York state of mind.

While many of his songs are reflective and focus on our imperfect humanity (“Honesty”, “Captain Jack”, and “The Stranger”, Joel is quite the romantic and nostalgic person. A wonderfully written song, which needs to be listened to carefully is “She’s Always a Woman”. Here is a very small sample, as you cannot take this song out of context:

But, she’ll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she’s always a woman to me

The message to me is his lover is her own person. She will think for herself, so it is up to you to understand this and, if you do, then you can have a wonderful, meaningful relationship. If you don’t, then you better get out-of-the-way, as she wants someone who will love her for herself and not who you want her to be.

The romantic comes out in “Just the Way You Are”, “Tell Her About It”, “You’re My Home”, “Uptown Girl” and “She’s Got a Way”. But, the nostalgic songs are great as well. “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”, “Only the Good Die Young” and “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” are excellent samples. One of my favorite nostalgic songs is “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” the song about Brenda and Eddie who were the king and queen of the prom, got married but divorced early and could never go back again. The song starts and ends at our favorite Italian place with a melancholy accordion playing in the background:

A bottle of red, and bottle of white
Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight
I’ll meet you anytime you want
In our Italian Restaurant

Joel is most known for his first, most memorable hit “Piano Man” although he did make the charts earlier with “The Entertainer” an appropriately named song. Piano Man is sung as limerick and tells the tales of grandeur of all of the folks at the bar. The song concludes:

And the piano sounds like a carnival. And the microphone smells like a beer. And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar. And say “Man what are you doing here?”

Sing us a song you’re the piano man. Sing us a song tonight.  Well we’re all in the mood for a melody. And you’ve got us feeling alright

Thank goodness, Joel was given a much bigger platform to sing than this piano bar. I have left off so many songs, many of my favorites. I did not want to make this post a list, as it easily could have been. If you have not truly discovered Joel click here: http://www.billyjoel.com. If you have and want to wax nostalgic, go for a ride on the Hudson River Line with Billy as well. I will leave you with some lines from “Everybody Has a Dream”:

So let me lie and let me go on sleeping
And I will lose myself in palaces of sand
And all the fantasies that I have been keeping
Will make the empty hours easier to stand
I know that everybody has a dream
Everybody has a dream
And this is my dream, my own
Just to be at home
And to be all alone…with you.

Thanks Billy. Like you “I’ve Loved These Days.”

Billy Joel – I’ve Loved These Days (Audio) – YouTube