Tuesday’s gone

The tragic southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd sang a mournful ballad penned by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant called “Tuesdays’ gone.” Here are the first two stanzas and chorus about love lost.

“Train roll on
On down the line, won’t you
Please take me far away

Now I feel the wind blow
Outside my door, means I’m
I’m leaving my woman at home, Lordy

Tuesday’s gone with the wind
Oh, my baby’s gone, with the wind

The tragic part is the band suffered a plane crash which killed their lead singer and co-writer of this song, Ronnie Van Zant and two others band members. Here is quick summary from Rolling Stone. “The legacy began some 41 (now fifty) years ago in Jacksonville, Florida, and halted for a decade by the 1977 plane crash that killed three band members, including Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines. Since then, the band tragically lost Allen Collins, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Hughie Thomasson, yet Lynyrd Skynyrd rocks on with original member Gary Rossington…”

Lynryd Skynyrd was a talented group of musicians who brought a blues feel to rock and roll. They chose a tailored name of a coach at their high school who tormented them named Leonard Skinner. They covered other songs such as “T for Texas” by Jimmie Rodgers and “Call me the breeze” by J.J. Cale and blended their own music into the mix, most notably “Freebird,” “Sweet home Alabama,” and my favorite, “Simple man.” They were one of the few bands to open for the Rolling Stones that got as many cheers as the main band.

Unfortunately, their megahits – “Freebird” and “Sweet home Alabama” get overplayed at the expense of a large volume of great work. If I picked one song to highlight the band, it would be “Call me the breeze.” Cale has written many great songs covered by artists like Eric Clapton. If you prefer ballads, listen to “Tuesday’s gone” and “Simple man.”

So, if you are unfamiliar with them, give Lynyrd Skynyrd a listen. If you are, please enjoy.

Documentary on Sheryl Crow is worth the watch

Latifah Muhammed in “Billboard Magazine” wrote the following summary piece about the excellent new documentary from Showtime about the life and career of singer/ songwriter and producer Sheryl Crow.

  • Sheryl CrowSheryl CrowAmerican musician, singer, songwriter, and actress

“Directed by Amy Scott, Sheryl, features a mix of new interviews with Crow, behind-the-scenes footage on the road and in her studio and never before seen archival footage spanning 20 years of touring along with appearances from Keith Richards, Laura Dern, Joe Walsh, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile and more.

From battling sexism to depression, perfectionism, cancer, and the price of fame, Sheryl pulls back the curtain on the Grammy-winner incredibly story. The documentary made its world premiere at SXSW in March.”

Her story is one of persistence and perseverance. She kept knocking on doors until someone finally gave her a chance. And, once she got there, she had to persevere to keep her records and performances at a high level, while battling the other life challenges many face as well as few of her own due to being in front of cameras and microphones.

Not to give too much away, Crow and others are quite candid about some of the mistakes and hardships she faced. She also is open about how her albums and songs got produced, tapping resources she met along the way. For example, I was unaware she was on tour with Michael Jackson as his co-singer during the infamous Pepsi tour. There she met her best friend and manager Scooter Weintraub, who would be by her side on her future journey.

She tells us of her bouts with sexual harassment, where she was advised to grin and bear it, she tells of how difficult it is and was for a woman to get produced, she tells of backlash by using a poor choice of words in an interview with David Letterman, she tells of how she battled depression and even suicidal thoughts, she tells of her bouts with cancer, and she tells of her mother’s encouragement to adopt two young boys (Levi and Wyatt) to start a family.

The most powerful part of the story is when she speaks of hitting rock bottom with her depression. She notes she DOES NOT remember penning or recording this song called “The Weather Channel,” which she included on an album. She performed it in the documentary with just her acoustic guitar. She notes she must have written it as she included Winston Churchill’s reference of “black dog” to his depression. Here are the first few lines.

“Sunny morning
You can hear it
Siren’s warning
There is weather on both sides
And I know it’s coming
Just like before
There’s a black dog
That scratches my door
He’s been growling my name saying
You better get to running”

Her songs are milestones for many women (and men), even young ones who were born after some of the songs were penned. She was stunned that young girls and boys knew her songs word for word at concerts. Her hits are many, but a quick list of the top ones includes:

“All I wanna do” – Her first hit based on a poem by Wyn Cooper

“Soak up the sun” – written on a plane by her friend Jeff Trott

“My favorite mistake”

“If it makes you happy” – an anthem which builds to a huge audience chorus

“Strong enough” – she sings a duet with Stevie Nicks in the documentary which is excellent

“Leaving Las Vegas” – in a nervous interview, she did not give credit to the primary author of this song and she got backlash for it

“A change would do you good”

Crow still inspires many today. The interviews with stars, producers, family and friends reveal how well she is thought of. Give it a watch, even if not a huge fan. It is worth the effort to see someone speak so candidly about her ups and downs.

Nowhere Boy

Being a huge Beatles’ fan, I stumbled on to a movie released in 2009 called “Nowhere Boy” after the John Lennon penned song “Nowhere Man.” The movie takes us through the troubled life of the teenage John just as he is about to launch a musical career. It should be noted this career seemed very unlikely at the start of the movie.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson does an admirable job as the troubled Lennon who was not the best of students, while he dealt with his Uncle George’s death and the reemergence of his mother Julia into his life. Two women, though, play a vital role in his life – his aunt Mimi (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) who raised him with George (played by David Threlfall) in her sister’s absence and his mother played by Anne-Marie Duff.

The story focuses mainly on these two sisters and John. Whether the movie tells the story 100% correctly, it does impart the needed theme his mother was not around for long stretches and his father was nowhere to be seen. When Julia got back together with him, it was more like she was a big sister than a mother aiding his truancy and rebellious tendencies. But, she also taught him about Rock-n-Roll and how to play the banjo, which he jumped at. Apparently, she was gifted and could pick up playing pretty quickly, a trait he seemed to have as well.

Mimi was the sober mother figure doing her best. She came across as not endearing, but John realized eventually how important she was in his life seeing his mother being less responsible. Mimi would buy him his first (and second) guitars, but she also sold the first one when he had failing grades. That made him none too happy, especially when his group The Quarrymen” had a gig that night. And, while Julia loved Rock-n-Roll, Mimi would prefer Tchaikovsky as listening music.

A young Paul McCartney is played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. George Harrison (played by Sam Bell) makes a brief entrance, but for this movie he is put in the background. Josh Bolt plays a band member and friend Pete and Olivia Lovibond plays Marie, an earlier love interest. David Morrissey plays a key role as Julia’s boyfriend and father to John’s stepsisters. The movie is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and was written by Julia Baird and Matt Greenhaight. It should be noted Julia Baird is John’s youngest half-sister.

The movie is worth the watch whether you are Beatles’ fan or not. Rotten Tomatoes gives in an 80, e.g. It is easy to see why Lennon had a constant chip on his shoulder as a youth and how he had to become a better person to harness his talent. And, per the movie his observation to Mimi that you and Julia are still sisters, is a key point in his and their relationship.

Bat out of Hell – one of the finest rock and roll albums ever by Meat Loaf, may he RIP

I woke up to the news that Marvin Lee Aday had passed away. Better known as Meal Loaf, he was behind some of the most innovative rock and roll music. Here is a reprise of an old post to honor him and his Magnum Opus.

When you read this title, you may do a few double takes if you are unfamiliar with the music or the performer. Who is Meat Loaf and why should I listen to such an odd titled album? Yet, “Bat Out of Hell” is end to end one of the finest rock albums to which I have ever listened. And, it almost did not get promoted due to its theatrical set of songs during the Disco era. Did I tell you Meal Loaf, (Marvin Lee Aday) could belt out a song like few others?

Per Wikipedia, “‘Bat Out of Hell‘ is the 1977 debut album by American rock singer Meat Loaf and composer Jim Steinman. It was developed from a musical, Neverland, a futuristic rock version of Peter Pan, which Steinman wrote for a workshop in 1974. The album was recorded during 1975–1976 at various studios… produced by Todd Rundgren, and released in October 1977 by Cleveland International/Epic Records. Its musical style is influenced by Steinman’s appreciation of Richard Wagner, Phil Spector, Bruce Springsteen and The Who. Bat Out of Hell has spawned two Meat Loaf sequel albums:…Bat Out of Hell is one of the best-selling albums of all time, having sold over 50 million copies worldwide. It is certified 14x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.”

Every song on the album has its own merits.. The songs tend to focus on young love, angst, passion et al along with some adult realizations the song characters figure out along the way. The song that was the biggest hit off the album is not its best song, but is pretty darn good – “Two out of three ain’t bad.” One reason others did not get played as much as singles is their length – the songs each told stories. Let me highlight three of the songs.

Two out of three ain’t bad – the chorus tells an all too familiar story about lust and love, but there is more to the song than that.

“…And maybe you can cry all night
But that’ll never change the way that I feel
The snow is really piling up outside
I wish you wouldn’t make me leave here

I poured it on and I poured it out
I tried to show you just how much I care
I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout
But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m crying icicles instead of tears

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way
I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad”

If you focus on the chorus, you miss out that the lead character tried to make it work. What I also like is the song is sung in first person, so it is not gender specific. This could easily be a woman singing about a man or even someone who does not identify as either.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light – is the best song, in my view. It tells a story and involves in the recording Ellen Foley, who is much tinier than Meat Loaf, but whose voice can match his needed gravitas for this passionate song. And, when I say passionate, I mean two kinds – lust and eventually spite. I would add that talented Karla DeVito is seen in live performances, but the original recorded voice is Foley’s. Here are a few snippets.

“I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday
Parking by the lake
And there was not another car in sight
And I never had a girl
Looking any better than you did
And all the kids at school
They were wishing they were me that night
And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we’re glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife.”

This sets the stage, but the song describes what happens by the dashboard light using a famous baseball announcer for the New York Yankees, Phil Rizzutto. You hear Rizzuto’s voice as he broadcasts a game with the muffled foreplay going on in the background. To me, the best part of the song is when Foley’s character stands her ground and asks for a pledge of love.

“Stop right there!
I gotta know right now!
Before we go any further!
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?”

From there, I will leave it to your imagination, but the ending is worth the wait..

Bat Out of Hell – is also a story telling song as a lover leaves town, but the regret seems to drive him to be careless on the road. There are some lyrics my wife does not care for in the song as they are gruesome, but the song is vintage rock and roll.

“…Oh baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world
That’s pure and good and right
And wherever you are and wherever you go
There’s always gonna be some light”.

But I gotta get out
I gotta break it out now
Before the final crack of dawn
So we gotta make the most of our one night together
When it’s over you know
We’ll both be so alone

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone, gone, gone
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.”

Two other songs which are also strong are “All revved up and no place to go” and “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Give this album a try. When I read those lists of greatest albums, this one usually makes a top twenty list. It is different. It is excellent, if you are a rock and roller.

Note two sidebars: Meat Loaf appeared in the movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in a small but pivotal role and Ellen Foley is also known for being on the comedy TV show “Night Court” with Harry Anderson.

Trying to get to heaven before they close the door (a reprise tribute to Bob Dylan courtesy of Joan Osborne)

The following is a repeat of an earlier post from before the pandemic It was our last concert before the world changed.

Joan Osborne is an under-appreciated singer, songwriter, who is best known for her song “If God was one of us.” Bob Dylan, of course, is a Nobel Laureate who can also write compelling music to go with his beautifully scripted words.

My wife and I traveled to Atlanta to see Osborne sing a host of Dylan’s songs in tribute. She also has produced a CD of such songs. Osborne has a sensual and sensuous style in her singing that adds seasoning to Dylan’s music. She also hand-picked songs that resonated with her, selecting some deeper cuts, a few of which we did not know.

Here are some of the highlights:

“Buckets of Rain” – She said Dylan wrote several love songs that do not get acclaim.   We were unfamiliar with this one, but it is a  treat live and as a recording,

“Tangled up in Blue” – This is my favorite Dylan song and she did more than justice to it. Her pacing and style revealed the saga portrayed by Dylan’s words.

“Highway 61 Revisited” – This is a great song, but an even better one live. She makes it more human, beginning with the example of Abraham.

“Quinn the Eskimo” – Many people do not know Dylan wrote this classic. She opened her show with this one, so we, had to think for a second.

“Tryin’ to get to Heaven” – This was my favorite version of a Dylan song. She accentuated with a strategic pause each time “before they close the door.”

“Gotta Serve Somebody” – She excelled on this classic Dylan song. It was much more sensual and bluesy than Dylan could offer with his singing.

“Masters of War” – This was another Dylan song which was unfamiliar to us, but it is classic Dylan in protest chastising those who say you can win a war without costs.

“Don’t think twice, it’s alright” – When I think of this one, I think of Peter, Paul and Mary paying homage to Dylan. She covered it well.

She did not sing these songs during the concert, but she includes them in her CD.

“Dark Eyes”
“You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go”
“Rainy Day Women”

She probably dropped them as she sang a couple of songs she has yet to release along with her biggest hit. If you do not know Osborne, download or purchase her CDs. “Relish” is her second CD which won a Grammy. Our favorite is “Righteous Love,” which we saw her perform on Austin City Limits. Or, just buy her “Songs of Bob Dylan” CD.

Since it was a small venue, we got a chance to speak with her afterwards. She is very gracious and down-to-earth. And, definitely worth the listening.

Bat Out of Hell – one of the finest rock albums from a guy named Meat Loaf

When you read this title, you may do a few double takes if you are unfamiliar with the music or the performer. Who is Meat Loaf and why should I listen to such an odd titled album? Yet, “Bat Out of Hell” is end to end one of the finest rock albums to which I have ever listened. And, it almost did not get promoted due to its theatrical set of songs during the Disco era. Did I tell you Meal Loaf, (Marvin Lee Aday) could belt out a song like few others?

Per Wikipedia, “‘Bat Out of Hell‘ is the 1977 debut album by American rock singer Meat Loaf and composer Jim Steinman. It was developed from a musical, Neverland, a futuristic rock version of Peter Pan, which Steinman wrote for a workshop in 1974. The album was recorded during 1975–1976 at various studios… produced by Todd Rundgren, and released in October 1977 by Cleveland International/Epic Records. Its musical style is influenced by Steinman’s appreciation of Richard Wagner, Phil Spector, Bruce Springsteen and The Who. Bat Out of Hell has spawned two Meat Loaf sequel albums:…Bat Out of Hell is one of the best-selling albums of all time, having sold over 50 million copies worldwide. It is certified 14x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.”

Every song on the album has its own merits.. The songs tend to focus on young love, angst, passion et al along with some adult realizations the song characters figure out along the way. The song that was the biggest hit off the album is not its best song, but is pretty darn good – “Two out of three ain’t bad.” One reason others did not get played as much as singles is their length – the songs each told stories. Let me highlight three of the songs.

Two out of three ain’t bad – the chorus tells an all too familiar story about lust and love, but there is more to the song than that.

“…And maybe you can cry all night
But that’ll never change the way that I feel
The snow is really piling up outside
I wish you wouldn’t make me leave here

I poured it on and I poured it out
I tried to show you just how much I care
I’m tired of words and I’m too hoarse to shout
But you’ve been cold to me so long
I’m crying icicles instead of tears

And all I can do is keep on telling you
I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way
I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad”

If you focus on the chorus, you miss out that the lead character tried to make it work. What I also like is the song is sung in first person, so it is not gender specific. This could easily be a woman singing about a man or even someone who does not identify as either.

Paradise by the Dashboard Light – is the best song, in my view. It tells a story and involves in the recording Ellen Foley, who is much tinier than Meat Loaf, but whose voice can match his needed gravitas for this passionate song. And, when I say passionate, I mean two kinds – lust and eventually spite. I would add that talented Karla DeVito is seen in live performances, but the original recorded voice is Foley’s. Here are a few snippets.

“I remember every little thing
As if it happened only yesterday
Parking by the lake
And there was not another car in sight
And I never had a girl
Looking any better than you did
And all the kids at school
They were wishing they were me that night
And now our bodies are oh so close and tight
It never felt so good, it never felt so right
And we’re glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife
Glowing like the metal on the edge of a knife.”

This sets the stage, but the song describes what happens by the dashboard light using a famous baseball announcer for the New York Yankees, Phil Rizzutto. You hear Rizzuto’s voice as he broadcasts a game with the muffled foreplay going on in the background. To me, the best part of the song is when Foley’s character stands her ground and asks for a pledge of love.

“Stop right there!
I gotta know right now!
Before we go any further!
Do you love me?
Will you love me forever?
Do you need me?
Will you never leave me?
Will you make me so happy for the rest of my life?
Will you take me away and will you make me your wife?”

From there, I will leave it to your imagination, but the ending is worth the wait..

Bat Out of Hell – is also a story telling song as a lover leaves town, but the regret seems to drive him to be careless on the road. There are some lyrics my wife does not care for in the song as they are gruesome, but the song is vintage rock and roll.

“…Oh baby, you’re the only thing in this whole world
That’s pure and good and right
And wherever you are and wherever you go
There’s always gonna be some light”.

But I gotta get out
I gotta break it out now
Before the final crack of dawn
So we gotta make the most of our one night together
When it’s over you know
We’ll both be so alone

Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes
When the night is over
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone, gone, gone
Like a bat out of hell
I’ll be gone when the morning comes.”

Two other songs which are also strong are “All revved up and no place to go” and “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Give this album a try. When I read those lists of greatest albums, this one usually makes a top twenty list. It is different. It is excellent, if you are a rock and roller.

Note two sidebars: Meat Loaf appeared in the movie “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” in a small but pivotal role and Ellen Foley is also known for being on the comedy TV show “Night Court” with Harry Anderson.


.

Something to talk about

Any group of people, whether it is business, high school, church, or some other association, will have people that perpetuate the gossip and rumor mill. This attribute is as old as the hills. People are going to talk.

One of our favorite artists, country-blues singer and accomplished slide guitarist, Bonnie Raitt, had a huge hit about this very subject, “Something to Talk About.” Here is middle verse and the chorus to give you the gist of a co-worker slowly realizing that another co-worker seems to be as smitten as she is.

“I feel so foolish, I never noticed
You act so nervous, could you be fallin’ for me?
It took the rumor to make me wonder,
Now I’m convinced that I’m goin’ under.
Thinkin’ ’bout you every day,
Dreamin’ ’bout you every night.
I’m hopin’ that you feel the same way,
Now that we know it, let’s really show it darlin’.

Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
(Somethin’ to talk about)
A little mystery to figure out
(Somethin’ to talk about)
Let’s give ’em somethin’ to talk about
How about love?”

I love this song as she turns the rumor mill on its head. The rumors about them “standing a little too close” made her think and realize that is exactly what they were doing. The video which aired is clever, with Dennis Quaid acting as the interested and interesting co-worker.

Rumors at work do fly. It is hard to follow the advice of Dr. Wayne Dyer and defend the absent. But, that is what we should do. Yet, I shared the story of how a colleague was in a group dinner with a new senior executive who talked about everyone when each left the table. My friend said he did not want to go to the restroom as she would talk about him. It is hard to defend the absent when you might be next.

It is also hard to date someone at work for this reason. Yet, with limited social time, it is not uncommon to meet you future spouse at work. My wife worked at a small company that sublet some of our office space. What tickled both of us is a colleague of mine took credit for introducing us, when that was not the case. She actually told my future wife I was dating someone, which was not true, so she almost waylaid our plans.

So, if you do date someone at work, keep the PDAs to a minimum. More importantly, be prepared to ignore what people are saying as it is none of their business. As a friend, who actually met her husband at work, told her high school students she counseled, “if you do not take offense, you are not offended. Don’t cede your power.”

So, if you give them something to talk about, be OK with being the subject matter.

A Beautiful Loser – an encore tribute to Bob Seger

The following post was written eight years ago, so I thought it might be good to dust it off. Bob Seger combines great lyrics with a rock and roll melody. He remains a favorite even today.

One of the more surprising posts I have written was a tribute to one of my favorite artists, Jim Croce. I wanted to introduce him to new audiences as he passed away in the early 1970’s, yet it has been one of the more frequented posts I have written as many have fond memories of his music. Another favorite artist is Bob Seger. His combination of great lyrics and rock and roll sound is not often matched. His memorable songs are many in number and it is hard to decide which is my favorite. It is probably equally as difficult for other fans of his.

Unlike Croce, Seger is still with us and my wife and I have had the good fortune to have seen him concert. It was later in his career, but I have found that artists doing a later tour are much more appreciative of their audience. Seger was no exception. I use this title as “Beautiful Loser” is among my favorites. It resonates with me as we all are fixer uppers. None of us is perfect, but the song title reminds me we all aspire to be better than we are and we want it all – but we will fall short of that goal. We want to be the most beautiful loser we can be. The chorus goes as follows:

“Beautiful loser….where you gonna fall….when you realize…..you just can’t have it all.”

But, the list goes on. “Night Moves” is his most played song as he sings of how young teens are learning and experimenting with lustful romance.  They are “working on mysteries without any clues” which is a wonderfully expressive line. Yet, there are many classic lines throughout. Another example is “Trying to lose the awkward teenage blues.” It is a song that bring back many memories, both the excitement and the angst.

Some of his songs show how similar we are. He vividly portrays the uniformity of male lust under “Fire Down Below” whether you are “the mayor with your face hidden from the light” or the “lawyer or the cop.” He shows it is a universal trait across all US geography. If he wrote it today, maybe he would tease in whether you are a Tea Partier or a progressive, we all have the fire down below.

Another big favorite of mine is “Against the Wind.” I think the story it tells is so reflective. “We are older now, but still running against the wind.” Like Beautiful Loser, we are doing the best we can, but sometimes it feels like the odds are against us. So, just do the best you can. And, he laments as an older person “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” He sadly remembers the excitement and anticipation of it all when he was younger.

Others worth listening to include:

– “Main Street” which is one of the few songs by anyone that sounds better live with the haunting guitar sound. The intent of the song is how the memory of a “long lovely dancer at the club downtown” haunts him to this day.

– “Rock and Roll Never Forgets” was great even before a young Tom Cruise lip-sang to it as a teenager with his air guitar in “Risky Business.” The women reading this can thank me later for giving them a reminder of a young Cruise.

– “Feel Like a Number” resonates to this day, as we are an employment number, a social security number, a user code, etc. We have desensitized ourselves to each other and he saw it even then when he cried “I’m not a number, dammit I’m a man.”

– “Fire Lake” was not a huge hit, but is a great storytelling song – “You remember Uncle Joe, he was the one afraid to cut the cake.” The song has much deeper meaning, but I love that line as it remind us all of relatives we have.

– “Her Strut” which is down and dirty rock and roll. “I do respect her but, I love to watch her strut” pulsates to a great rock and roll beat. I have never wanted to look up the spelling of “but” as I wanted to leave it to my imagination.

– “Turn the Page” about an aging rock star, “Still the Same” whose title describes the song, “Like a Rock” which is a good song, but was burnt out by a commercial marketing pick-up trucks, “Hollywood Nights” another great sounding live song,  “You’ll Accompany Me,” We’ve Got Tonight” sung with Sheena Easton, “Roll me Away,” “Travelin Man”and Katmandu” are all terrific songs as well.

I am certain I left out someone’s favorite, so please forgive me. Please do comment with songs that resonate more with you. For those who have not listened to a fuller body of his work, give the above songs a try. He reminds us of ourselves. We are all doing the best we can to be “beautiful losers.”

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys – an encore tribute to Steve Winwood

One of the most prolific musicians, songwriters and performers is someone too few people know. Steve Winwood was born in Birmingham, England to a foundry worker and semi-professional musician. After playing with his Dad and brother Muff at the age of 8, he joined the Spencer Davis Group with his brother at the age of 14. That is not a misprint. Before being associated with a parade of compelling and different hit songs, he backed up musicians touring in England such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, and John Lee Hooker. A long list of instruments he plays would include, but not be limited to: keyboards, organ, guitar, bass guitar, violin, mandolin and drums.

He played and sang lead with great groups such as Spencer Davis, Traffic, Blind Faith (with Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker) and several others. In fact, Clapton always lamented leaving Blind Faith in his continual search for perfection, but often played with Winwood as recently as a few years ago. Then, in the mid-1970s, Winwood went out on his own. But, it was not until the mid-1980s did a new generation of fans rediscover this marvelous talent. His hit songs are many, such as “Well Alright,” “Higher Love,” “Roll with it,”  “Can’t Find My Way Home,” “Valerie,” as well as the songs noted below and others not mentioned.

The following songs are a taste of the breadth of his talent. I will lead with one of my personal favorites and close with another.

Presence of the Lord

Clapton wanted Winwood’s higher voice to sing this ethereal song. Even with the title, it is not an overtly spiritual song, yet is quite profound nonetheless as he sings about finding a better way to live.

 I have finally found a way to live
Just like I never could before
I know that I don’t have much to give
But I can open any door
Everybody knows the secret
Oh, everybody knows the score
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
I have finally found a way to live
In the color of the Lord

Gimme Some Lovin’

When I had the good fortune to see him play, he closed the show with this up tempo song, which has a classic bass beat throughout.

Well, my temperature’s rising and my feet hit the floor
Twenty people knocking ’cause they’re wanting some more
Let me in, baby, I don’t know what you’ve got
But you’d better take it easy ’cause this place is hot

So glad we made it, so glad we made it
You got to gimme some lovin’, gimme some lovin’
Gimme some lovin’ every day

Back In the High Life Again

This song was part of his rebirth as a single performer leading to his discovery by a new audience. More of today’s listeners would equate this with Winwood. It also is somewhat prophetic with his new audience.

It used to seem to me
That my life ran on too fast
And I had to take it slowly
Just to make the good parts last

But when you’re born to run
It’s so hard to just slow down
So don’t be surprised to see me
Back in that bright part of town

I’ll be back in the high life again
All the doors I closed one time
Will open up again

Higher Love

Like the previous song, “Higher Love” would resonate as a Winwood song to more people as part of his rebirth. He wants something more from a relationship, be it a higher love together or from a larger entity than both can provide.

Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Without it, life is wasted time
Look inside your heart, I’ll look inside mine

Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what is fair?
We walk blind and we try to see
Falling behind in what could be

Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love, oh
Bring me a higher love
Where’s that higher love, I keep thinking of?

Dear Mr. Fantasy

Yet, let me back up in time and close with two oldies, which are great songs, but different in lyrics and style. The lyrics of “Dear Mr. Fantasy,” remind me of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Minstrel of the Wind.” Both are singing of entertaining many, but reflective that the singer of the songs is an imperfect being just like the rest of us, those he is trying to provide a brief fantasy or respite away from their problems.

Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune
Something to make us all happy
Do anything take us out of this gloom
Sing a song, play guitar make it snappy
You are the one who can make us all laugh
But doing that, you break out in tears
Please don’t be sad if it was a straight mind you had
We wouldn’t have known you all these years

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

Let me close with the strangest of titles for a song you might ever see. To me, this song seems to be about a record producer or merchandiser who has made a lot of money off young, talented musicians – the “high heeled boys.” It is quite interesting even without the music, but the music adds a pacing that is also unique.

The percentage you’re paying is too high priced
While you’re living beyond all your means
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
From the profit he’s made on your dreams

But today you just read that the man was shot dead
By a gun that didn’t make any noise
But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest was
The low spark of high-heeled boys, high-heeled boys

If I gave you everything that I owned
And asked for nothing in return
Would you do the same for me as I would for you?
Or take me for a ride
And strip me of everything including my pride
But spirit is something that no one destroys

And the sound that I’m hearing is only the sound
Of the low spark of high-heeled boys, heeled boys

Steve Winwood may be the closest thing to a rock and roll prodigy we have ever had. At a minimum, he would be on a short list. Yet, he is not as well-known as his contemporaries. If you know Winwood’s magic, thanks for joining the memory lane. If you are not as familiar with his breadth or much of his work, give him a detailed listen. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Man in the wilderness – a tribute to a lyrical rock band called Styx (reprise)

The following post was written ten years ago, so please forgive the references to tours. Even if you are not a rock fan, take a peek at some of the lyrics.

Since my last musical post was about Rush, by venturing onto Styx you can guess that I was a head-banger in my youth – still am. Yet, with earlier musical posts on Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Harry Chapin and Bob Seger, with a little Springsteen, Dylan, and Elvis Costello thrown in, I must have interesting lyrics for the song to resonate with me. With Styx, the lyrics can be haunting and mystical as well as more concrete and still be meaningful. They had both. Unfortunately, when I say Styx, many people remember the more pop oriented songs in the 1980s, which actually led to significant creative differences and the band’s demise. When I think of Styx, I think more of the rock and roll version that filled the late 1970’s. This music is what the revived band is playing more of on tour these days.

The title of this post includes my favorite Styx song and you won’t find it on many Top 10 lists. Penned and sung by their lead guitarist, Tommy Shaw, “Man in the Wilderness” is very reflective and asks what am I all about? Here are some sample lyrics:

Another year has passed me by, still I look at myself and cry. What kind of man have I become?

All of the years I’ve spent in search of myself. And I’m still in the dark. ‘Cause I can’t seem to find the light alone.

Sometimes I feel like a man in the wilderness. I’m a lonely soldier off to war. Sent away to die, never quite knowing why. Sometimes it makes no sense at all. Makes no sense at all

The original band that hit it big in 1975 after Shaw joined them included Dennis DeYoung, the primary lead singer and key songwriter, James Young and the Panozzo brothers, Chuck and John. DeYoung penned many of the more mystical songs and his voice is as good as they come. My personal favorite of DeYoung’s is “Suite Madame Blue” which was written for the bi-centennial, but whose lyrics would be meaningful today as he speaks of America needing to reinvent itself, while remaining optimistic that it still can:

Red white, and blue gaze in your looking glass. You’re not a child anymore.

Red, white, and blue the future is all but past. So lift up your heart, and make a new start. And lead us away from here

DeYoung wrote and sang the lead on such tremendous hits as “Come Sail Away,” “Lorelei,” “Lady,” “Grand Illusion,” and “Light-up.” He also wrote some of the more pop songs in the 1980’s such as “Mr. Roboto” and “Babe” which were good, but caused the friction the band could never resolve. In fact, DeYoung does not tour with the band anymore and only Shaw and Young remain. One of the Panozzo’s (John) has passed away and Chuck only joins the band on occasion such as at a recent taped concert session which highlighted two of their albums – Pieces of Eight and Grand Illusion.  The current band is excellent and the cast is very talented and strong. I caught them in Milwaukee at the SummerFest in 2011 and they put on a great show.

The songs written by DeYoung above are all worth listening too, but they tend to show up on everyone’s Top Ten list. Another favorite of his that does not get as much airplay now is “Castle Walls.” It is vintage DeYoung and here is why:

Once in a dream, far beyond these castle walls. Down by the bay where the moonlit water falls.

I stood alone while the minstrel sang his song. So afraid I’d lost my soul.

There in the fog his song kept calling me. Leading me on with its haunting melody.

Deep in my heart a voice kept echoing. I knew I’d soon be wandering. Far beyond these castle walls.

With DeYoung’s voice and organ playing, John’s drumming and Shaw, Young and Chuck’s rhythmic guitars and bass, DeYoung would turn these words into magic.  Yet, let me highlight a few other songs, as the group was not all about mystical lyrics. My third favorite Styx song was written by Shaw before he joined the band and he brought it with him – “Crystal Ball.” While the title is the ethereal, it also is a reflection of what am I going to do next in my life?

I used to like to walk the straight and narrow line. I used to think everything was fine.

Sometimes I’d sit and gaze for days through sleepless dreams. All alone and trapped in time. All alone and trapped in time.

I wonder what tomorrow has in mind for me? Or am I even in its mind at all?

Perhaps I’ll get a chance to look ahead and see. Soon as I find myself a crystal ball.

Shaw also penned and sang about some of the more concrete trials and tribulations in “Blue Collar Man” and “Renegade,” but any inventory of great Styx songs must also include the contributions of James Young. “Miss America” is one of their better songs and is emblematic of the rougher edge of the band, while still telling a good story:

Are you really who we think you are? Or does your smile seem to wear your down.

Is the girl who you once were. Screaming to jump out?

Is the dream that you must live. A disease for which there is no cure.

This song speaks to the act that young women play to become Miss America. They cannot afford to be themselves. He asks is the real you screaming to jump out, which is a very insightful query.

For Styx fans, I am sure I have left off several of your favorite songs. They have a huge body of work. And, please do not construe this as a slight on the later songs, some of which I noted above. They are very good, but different from the earlier work and caused the band to break up over differences in direction.That is unfortunate, but not unusual for bands. Most bands do not make it as long as they did. To their credit, Styx’s  body of work can stand up to many and if you catch the current tour, you will be greatly entertained. Listen out for “Man in the Wilderness.” It is very powerful when heard live, as are most of their songs.

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