Teach your children – an encore tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

With the passing this week of David Crosby, a founding member of both The Byrds with Roger McGuinn (“Mr. Tambourine” and “Turn, Turn, Turn”) and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, below is an encore of an earlier post for the latter band.

You, who are on the road, must have a code, that you can live by.
And so, become yourself, because the past, is just a good-bye. 

Teach, your children well, their father’s hell, did slowly go by.
And feed, them on your dreams, the one they picked, the one you’re known by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh, and know they love you.

The lyrics of “Teach Your Children” are highly representative of the songs of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I was torn with leading off with a number of their songs, yet I chose this one as the song starts with teaching our children to seek their dreams and letting them go with your guidance and love. The song is even more profound today, as it concludes with a stanza on “teaching your parents well.” With technology so rapidly expanding and changing our world, the song is emblematic that we can learn from each other.

David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and later Neil Young formed a group of songwriters and singers who wrote and sang eloquently. Their harmonies made great songs even better. I have an entire post devoted to Young, so I will not highlight some of his many contributions, but let you take a peek at your leisure with this link: https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/03/30/heart-of-gold-a-tribute-to-neil-young/. Young added guitar-might to the stage presence of the initial trio and had played earlier with Stills in Buffalo Springfield. Crosby was a key part of The Byrds and Nash was with The Hollies. So, CSN and then CSNY became a blend of some prolific musicians and songwriters.

LIke earlier posts, I will leave off some of mine and others’ favorite songs. My intention is to highlight a few songs that resonate with me and leave others for your perusal. If you have not dived into CSNY, I would encourage you to do so. Many of their lyrics will be apropos today, like those in the above song.  One that is hauntingly compelling and so simple is a lament over those who pay the ultimate price fighting wars in the name of freedom. From Nash’s “Find the Cost of Freedom” here is only a small taste:

Find the cost of freedom
Buried in the ground
Mother Earth will swallow you
Lay your body down

I started to quote more lyrics, but I thought these words state the obvious very succinctly and could be used easily to describe those honorable, young men and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq for uncertain ends. To me, the next song can be used for multiple separations from those you love, but I interpreted it along the above lines of someone going off to fight a war. I will let you judge from the sample lyrics from “Just a Song Before I Go:”

She helped me with my suitcase,
She stands before my eyes
Driving me to the airport,
And to the friendly skies.

Going through security
I held her for so long.
She finally looked at me in love,
And she was gone.

They have so many great songs: “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” which is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Judy Collins, “Our House” which even our kids know word for word, “Deja-vu”, “Helplessly Hoping,” Helpless,” “Southern Cross,” “Marrakesh Express” and “Guinevere” are just a few. I also won’t highlight “Ohio” which I did in the earlier post about Young. It needed its own space as it spoke volumes against President Nixon who called out the national guard on US college students at Kent State and a couple of kids got shot. This was a stain on Nixon before his Watergate Waterloo.

Another favorite is “Wooden Ships” as it is a great tune with great lyrics written by Crosby and Stills:

Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy,
Easy, you know the way it’s supposed to be,
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be,
 Talkin’ ’bout very free and easy…
Horror grips us as we watch you die,
All we can do is echo your anguished cries,
Stare as all human feelings die,
We are leaving – you don’t need us.

To me, these words say go live your life and pursue your dreams. Don’t stand by and watch life pass you by. Don’t save it for later, so take time to explore and you will learn something about yourself. Otherwise, you may be on the shore waiting to die. This same theme is picked up by Nash’s song “Wasted on the Way:”

And there’s so much time to make up
Everywhere you turn
Time we have wasted on the way

Oh when you were young
Did you question all the answers
Did you envy all the dancers
Who had all the nerve

Look round you NOW
You must go for what you wanted
Look at all my friends who did and got what they deserved.

There is so much more to write about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. I would love to see newer artists start covering their play list more. Their songs need to be heard by more people. Let me close, with their most iconic song “Woodstock” which was written by Joni Mitchell, Nash’s girlfriend, another great songwriter:

Well, then can I roam beside you? I have come to lose the smog.
And I feel myself a cog in something turning.
And maybe it’s the time of year, yes, said maybe it’s the time of man.
And I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.
We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.

“I don’t know who I am, but life is for learning.” These are profound words. I have tried to teach my children this. Never stop learning. I often say you can judge people’s intelligence by their awareness of how much they don’t know. And, getting back to the theme, even old farts like me, learn something new everyday. So, teach your parents well. Thanks guys for the journey which has not stopped.

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Martin Luther King – thoughts against the use of violence still resonates

On this holiday, we should remember the words of its namesake. Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very things it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, it merely increases the hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

These aspirational words ring true even today. A historian made a comment on the news the other day, saying the only thing man has been very good at since the beginning is killing people. To many people have died when leaders say I want what you have or you are different from us or you worship the wrong way. On this latter point, one of the keys to our founding father’s separation of church and state in the US constitution and bill of rights was a comment made by Thomas Jefferson who noted that Europe had been awash in blood due to religious zeal and he did not want religious zeal doing the same in our country. This runs counter to self-proclaimed constitutionalists who want a national or state religion and don’t realize they are advocating against the constitution.

My blogging friend George Dowdell has written a thought-provoking post about “No More Us and Them.” A link to his post is below.* When religious leaders exclude, they create this kind of divide. Yet, when religious leaders are inclusive, religion is at its finest. Just witness the actions of the people’s Pope Francis to see what one leader can do. We should follow his lead. We must do our best to be bridge builders. We must do our best to condemn intolerant thinking and action. We must do our best to not condone violence. We must do our best to control the proliferation of violent tools to people who should not have them and govern all owners of them well, as these tools are designed to kill. We must do our best to work toward civil discourse when disagreements occur. And, we must not tolerate treating women as second class citizens or even assets, which is even further demeaning.

I recognize we all cannot be like Atticus Finch (see Emily J’s post on “The Perfect Book: To Kill a Mockingbird” with the link below **) and wipe the spit away borne from someone looking for a fight, but he shows us what real courage looks like. It takes more courage not to fight back when it would have been so easy to do so. I recognize we cannot all be like Gandhi whose example was studied, admired and copied by Martin Luther King showing that civil disobedience is far more powerful than violence. I recognize we call cannot be like Mother Teresa who just went around helping people and praying with them not caring how they worshiped. And, I realize we cannot all be like Jesus who uttered the words we should all live by and can be found in other religious texts – treat others like you want to be treated.

We must treat others like we want in return. We must elevate women in a world to equal footing with men. We must challenge our historical texts which were written by imperfect men to diminish women. We must be the ones who lift others up. If we don’t then we will continue to be our own worst enemy and do what we are good at – violence and killing.

*

http://georgedowdell.org/2014/06/10/no-more-us-and-them/

**

http://thebookshelfofemilyj.com/2014/06/09/the-perfect-book-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

I’ve loved you so long – a movie surprise

My wife and I watched a French movie starring Kristin Scott Thomas called “I’ve loved you so long.” If you don’t mind movies with subtitles, this an excellent and unexpected movie, with Scott Thomas and Elsa Zylberstein playing the lead roles as two sisters. Here is brief summary from Wikipedia, which holds back some as to not reveal too much plot

“When Juliette Fontaine, formerly a doctor, is released from prison, her younger sister Léa invites her to stay with her family – including her husband, his mute father, and their two adopted Vietnamese daughters – in their home in the university town of Nancy in Lorraine. Why Juliette was in prison is revealed slowly throughout the film,” but it is told upfront that she was in prison for fifteen years, so it was a serious crime (my editing).

“Léa, a college professor of literature, is considerably younger than Juliette. Because of the nature of Juliette’s crime, their parents denied Juliette’s existence and refused to allow Léa to visit her. In addition, Juliette had refused to speak throughout her trial. As a result, Léa knows nothing about the circumstances surrounding the crime and, when pressed for details, Juliette refuses to discuss what happened until the end of the film.”

The movie is primarily about two sisters who are rekindling their strong bond from before the imprisonment, especially with the younger sister not knowing many of the events and surrounding stories of earlier life with her sister. But, it is also about Juliette befriending two men who understand more about what she went through, without knowing all the details. Luc is a colleague of Léa’s (played by Serge Hazanavisius) and Captain Fauré, her parole officer played by Frederic Pierrot. Laurent Grévill plays Michel, Léa’s husband who shares his concerns over the arrangement early on.

We do not mind subtitles, so movies like this are enjoyable. Although Scott Thomas is an English actress, her French is excellent and this is the second movie we have seen where she speaks only French. We both think she plays melancholy roles so well. The movie is compelling and does require some tissue as the revelations are made toward the end. The title is indicative of the two sisters affection for one another that had been missing for so long. It is definitely worth the look. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an 88 rating, while other watcher sources rank it highly, as well.

New Year’s Resolutions I can keep

The following is a repeat and updated post for the time sensitive information.

It is that time of year to say farewell to an old year and welcome a new one. I am not too keen on making resolutions, as they usually don’t last too long into the year. They are not unlike the sandcastle virtues I wrote about in my previous post. So, with that in mind, what are some resolutions that I can keep alive in 2023?

– I resolve to remain imperfect. I will do my best to mitigate the impact of my imperfections, but they will shine through.

– I resolve to try to maintain my weight. I am good at trying to do this and sometimes I am successful. It is the sustainability of that success that usually gets me.

– I resolve to lose more of my hair. Look at it this way, I am just gaining face and visible scalp. Maybe I will invest in Coppertone stock.

– I resolve to retell stories I have told several times before. And, when I ask my kids if I told them that before, they will say only five or six times.

– I resolve to try to stay married for my 38th anniversary. Thank goodness my wife has a good sense of humor, otherwise we may not have made it to ten.

– I resolve to treat others like I want to be treated. I will fail on occasion, but know that I will feel badly when I do and apologize when I can.

– I resolve to continue to focus on the issues of the day and not who is winning a political game. I will do my best to give a needed voice to the disenfranchised, as they tend to get lost in far too many political calculations.

– I resolve to love my kids and my wife. That is the easiest resolution to make.

So, I think I can keep the above. But, I did note my resolution to remain imperfect. So, we will see. Let me know some of yours. Have a safe New Year’s celebration and a wonderful 2023.

And in the end

The final lyrics on the final album produced by The Beatles go something like this:

“And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

The lyrics end a compilation of songs at the conclusion of “Abbey Road,” an album which I have long felt rivaled the more critically acclaimed “Sgt. Pepper.” It should be noted the “Let it be” album was released after “Abbey Road,” but it was already in the can, so to speak being recorded earlier over much acrimony.

In a book by reporter and Beatles’ fan Ken McNab using this title “And in the end,” he chronicles “the last days of The Beatles,” which is the book’s subtitle. If you like The Beatles, this is a tough book to read, but an excellent and entertaining one as well. If you are not a fan of the Fab Four, it remains a good book to show how people who become at odds with each other can still work together and collaboratively toward a common goal.

The key takeaway from McNab’s book is, first and foremost, it was time for The Beatles to go their separate ways. Yes, things precipitated this inevitable conclusion, but they had been together, three for more than ten years, but at least eight years as group in the limelight or beginning stages of such fame. The acrimony was already in evidence, but it was not just between the two principal song writing leads of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It was not just a divorce between the two, as a key third member was feeling unloved needing to spread his wings.

George Harrison was beginning to reveal a great talent for song writing building off his earlier craftmanship. Yet, he had a difficult time getting heard by the others and was the first to announce he was quitting, but stuck around after his first outburst. It is ironic two of the best selling songs from “Abbey Road” are arguably written by George, “Something” and “Here comes the sun.” Yet, he had several more he had recorded as full demos that were passed on by The Beatles and he used in his first solo album, “All things must pass.”

What became clear from my reading are these themes. The Beatles are hugely creative as individuals and as a group. They would hone songs written largely by another offering key input. Yet, when the song writer had a strong sense of how a song should go, the other three would back off and become just excellent studio musicians and get it done. This kind of give and take was marvelous to behold by others who were in the studio with them.

But, the other key backdrop is as good as they were musically, they were equally as poor as business managers. A lot of the acrimony came from some poor business decisions and contracts where they were taken advantage of. And, even more acrimony came from the decisions to create Apple Records who spawned talents like James Taylor, Badfinger, etc. They had way too many sycophants and hangers on who just wanted to be at a party paid for by The Beatles. Apple was hemorrhaging money.

Yet, the final straws get more attention than the above, but were important nonetheless. Lennon began a relationship and eventual marriage to Yoko Ono and invited her to seemingly every meeting and recording session of The Beatles. It became a source of irritation to say the least (I used to think the Ono issue was overstated, but that was not the case). McCartney married Linda Eastman one of the heirs to the Eastman Kodak legacy and was pushing the other three to hire his future brother-in-law to run Apple and sort out the financial mess. The other three would not have it suggesting they hire a brow-beating music industry executive, so it began a three on one negotiation on most financial matters. So, trust in McCartney from a business standpoint waned.

With all of this happening, they did largely complete an album called “Let it be” that the band just did not love. “Get back,” arguably the best song from the album, was played live on film on the rooftop of the Abbey Road studios, but it showed the acrimony as much as their talent. This is a key reason it was not released until after “Abbey Road.”

On Abbey Road,” they brought in producer George Martin, who was heavily involved on earlier work but left, to help them with “Abbey Road.” Even though the band had issues, they focused like they used to on making excellent music working long days to do so. Ironically, the last song they recorded was “I want you (she’s so heavy)” which was a tribute to Yoko Ono. Maybe that is fitting. And, one sidebar is the compilation of songs that concludes with this title include Ringo Starr’s only drum solo, which he was urged to do as he hated drum solos. What I also did not know, he had just received some new tom-tom drums as he called them for his kit and they made a prolific sound throughout the album.

The book also chronicles some of the solo activities that were started in earnest during this period. Lennon and Ono began their peace awareness and had their famous “bed in for peace” and recorded “Give peace a chance” from a hotel room with a large crowd in tow. Lennon was actually the first one to formally quit The Beatles, but was asked to keep it hush hush until a new contract was signed on revenue sharing. McCartney was the first to announce to the public he was leaving and gets too much blame, as he was the third one to say he was leaving. Starr was depressed from all the fighting and eventual split up, so he worked with Martin to produce an album of old songs his parents used to play for him.

This was a group divorce that had been in the works for a while. The fact they could still produce musical magic is a credit to them. As Lennon said with three song writers, he did not want to work months on album where only two of his songs were included. So, they needed to go their separate ways. And, it is not ironic that all four produced some great work individually after the split-up.

Happy Easter, too – another reprise of an old Christmas post

While I did not grow up Catholic, my best friend did. So, one of our rituals that lasted about ten years was going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. One of the traditions of that mass was the Father would also wish Happy Easter, as he knew he would not see more than a few parishioners until next Christmas.

While fewer people are church goers than before and some check the box “none” when surveyed, Christmas remains an important holiday for the promise it brings. Whether you believe that Jesus is the son of God, there was a man by this name who walked the earth and spoke to gatherings of people of all sizes. He reminded us of four key themes among his many parables and lessons. And, these themes can be found in other religious texts.

– Treat others like you want to be treated.

– Help people less fortunate than you.

– Recognize each of us is imperfect.

– Forgive those who trespass against us.

To me, if we live our lives doing our best to remember these four things, Jesus’ words will help us be better people. And, if enough of us do this, the world just might be a better place.

Let me leave you with a true story. One of the homeless families we were helping did not know what their daughter was doing after school. She did not want her parents to know as they may make her stop. She finally confessed that she was going down to the soup kitchen to feed the homeless. To state the obvious, a homeless teen was helping serve other homeless people a meal each afternoon after school. Please feel to share this poignant and powerful story.

A Christmas wish – do our part to break down barriers (a repeat post)

The following is an edited version of an earlier post that remains relevant today. In the spirit of the Christmas season, it is worth a revisit.

Last night, my wife and I attended one of a series of “talks” around improving racial relations. It is a weekly chat sponsored by a multi-faith group based in our city. In essence, it is facilitated small group and large group discussions on breaking down barriers and listening to others who do not look like you do. It was well done and very meaningful.

To hear stories about small and large examples of racism is very important. To hear about how assumptions can be made and, if not corrected, can be become more concrete in the eyes of the beholder. Children learn lessons whether you want them to or not, even when you try to do the right thing. So, it is imperative to have open conversations about treating people like you want to be treated and listening to comments, so that they can be reinforced or amended.

Yet, it is we adults that need to do better. A few themes we discussed include:

– do not indict a group for the actions of a few;

– recognize that small slights can be hurtful, as well;

– try to walk in another person’s shoes; understand that a white person has more liberty to go anywhere, while a black man, even when dressed-up, faces more restrictions and risk;

– shine a light on hateful speech or behavior; tolerance must be viewed toward a greater good, so it is OK to be less tolerant of those who use words to demean and diminish;

– speak up and speak out to people who share your skin color, ethnicity, religion or politics who are indicting others who are different just because they don’t look, think or worship as you do (this is especially true if those who are condemning others are in leadership roles);

– be the change you want to see and see people for whom they are; and

– recognize that racial injustice is also the result of a larger poverty issue, which affects people of all colors.

There are many more lessons that were conveyed during the session, but one of my takeaways is this is religion at its finest. Welcoming, including and helping. Let me end with one more tidbit on how religion can help provide solutions and create a welcoming dialogue. Walk the talk. Words are easy. The person who gets up out of his or her chair to help people is admirable. The person who tells someone they not do appreciate hateful criticism of others is steadfast.

Jesus said it so well in his Golden Rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. If we do this, we are way ahead in the game. And, if anyone thinks they are better than others, the same guy said something about “he who is without sin, can cast the first stone.” So, welcome, include and help.

The Un-Golden Rule

Growing up I learned the most important words in my bible were the ones in red print. The publishers wanted to highlight the words attributed to Jesus. Some of the most notable red passages are often referenced by another color calling them the Golden Rule. One from Matthews 7:12 quotes:

“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Mark 12:31 uses different phrasing but gets to the same theme:

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

In short, I prefer the paraphrase of “treat others like you want to be treated.” Note, there are no caveats to the rule. Yet, what frustrates me is when Christians and other religious groups place caveats on these important words. They tarnish the rule making it “un-golden.” In their minds, the rule reads “treat others like you want to be treated….”

-unless such person is attracted to a person who is not the same gender,

-unless such person does not know what gender they identify with,

-unless such person worships differently,

-unless such person is from a country that promotes other religions,

-unless such person is from a different ethnic group, or

-unless such person belongs to a different political party.

While too many preach some of these caveats as witnessed by the public splits in the Methodist, Episcopalian and Baptist churches, there are many ministers who see the bigger picture. From the blog of Reverend John Pavlovitz in a post called “Phobic Christians, while you have been bothering LGBTQ people…:”

“Stop spending so much time and energy trying to make gay people ‘not gay’ or transgender people ‘not transgender’—it isn’t going to happen.

Instead, try spending that time and energy, making:
hungry people less hungry,
hurting people less hurt,
lonely people not feel alone,
victimized people not feel victimized,
invisible people feel seen.
bullied people feel protected.
grieving people feel comforted“

I have often found comfort in the words of Reverend Pavlovitz. I even know of atheists and agnostics who react favorably to his messages. Just seeing a glimpse of his style in the above piece, he focuses on using religion as way to reach out and help others. To me, this is religion at its finest. Picking others up.

Per my bible, that guy who is quoted in red print tended to hang out more with folks who were disenfranchised. As a symbolic mantra, WWJD is a bracelet worn by many Christians to ask themselves and others “what would Jesus do?There is a famous example in the bible of a woman being publicly stoned for infidelity. So, what did Jesus do? Jesus stopped people from stoning this woman by making a simple comment – he who is without sin shall cast the first stone. Maybe we should think about that when the perceived others are being stoned by the self-anointed ultra-pious worshipers.

Christine McVie – may she RIP

Per ABC News, “Christine McVie, the British-born Fleetwood Mac vocalist, songwriter and keyboard player whose cool, soulful contralto helped define such classics as ‘You Make Loving Fun,’ ‘Everywhere’ and ‘Don’t Stop,’ died Wednesday at age 79.

Her death was announced on the band’s social media accounts. No cause of death or other details were immediately provided, but a family statement said she ‘passed away peacefully at hospital this morning’ with family around her after a ‘short illness.'”

Christine McVie was the steady influence on a tumultuous and highly prolific band. Even with her own divorce from bandmember John McVie, she offered a professionalism that matched her talent. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham got more notoriety, but the woman on the keyboard could match them song for song. They also blended their harmonies quite well.

That may have been their greatest gift to us fans. They offered three unique styles of singing that provided the audience a variety of voices. The band would be less without Christine McVie, with the fall off even more noticeable than when the other two left. But, you would not think that at first, as she did not command attention like the other two leads did.

One of the things I appreciated most is the harmonies they offered. There were times when you did not know who was taking the lead as they sounded so good together. Nicks’ voice was quite unique, so it actually lent itself to harmony. I hope a new crop of fans can come to appreciate Fleetwood Mac and Christine McVie, in particular. May she RIP.

Four pieces of advice from rock and roll hall of famers

I have written two earlier posts about the latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. One current that seems to run through these talented people are that folks helped them along the way. There were four quotes that resonated with me from the various acceptance speeches by guitarist Neil Giraldo, singer Pat Benatar, and producer Jimmy Iovine.

We all can learn from these paraphrased quotes, so please pass them along.

  • No one does this alone. They get help from many sources to get here.
  • Each of us have had mentors in our lives. Pay it forward by mentoring someone and teaching and supporting them.
  • If you are down and sitting in your room, pick up an instrument and learn to play. It will lead you down new paths.
  • If you want to learn how to write great lyrics, read books. Lots of them.

These each sound so simple, yet are so profound and pertinent. The people who think they accomplished everything on their own are not being very truthful with themselves. Yet, the final two pieces of advice are telling as well. There is an interesting psychology article on “Stinking thinking.” A key way to address being alone with stinking thoughts is change the paradigm – pick up an instrument or pick up a book. Learn.

Not to be outdone, a few years ago I wrote about another quote from an acceptance speech by Jon Bon Jovi. He had the name of his guitar instructor carved into his guitar. Why? When Bon Jovi was not practicing between lessons, the instructor fired his pupil. He told the future star, “Stop wasting my ‘effing’ time. If you won’t practice, then you won’t ever get any better.” That struck a chord with Bon Jovi and he told the audience to never waste any one’s time.

Lessons abound. Ask for and get help. Help others in return. Learn new things. Don’t waste people’s time.