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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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.

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.

A few thoughts on a rainy Sunday

As I type upstairs underneath a sky light which is being pummeled by the constant rain, it offers a serene mood inducing backdrop with the screen illuminated by a small lamp nearby. Since I use an older laptop, some of the keys are missing, so I need to see them as I type to assure I hit them. Missing a few keys does alter the passwords I choose.

In no particular order, I have a few rainy day thoughts.

I read where the actress and singer Irene Cara died yesterday at the age of 63. It hit me a little harder than some other celebrity deaths as I remember Cara as the young and youthful looking student from the movie “Fame” as she sang the title song. Around that same time, she also sang the theme from the movie “Flash Dance” called “What a feeling.” Both of these movies were about the newfound angst of young adults and older teens as they made their way forward, so to see Cara pass before I did is unsettling.

My wife and I caught the beginning of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony after seeing only the last two-thirds before. In particular, I wanted to see Pat Benatar and her guitarist husband Neil Giraldo get inducted. Not only did the two make powerful music using her marvelous voice and chutzpah and his excellent play, but they have lived a wonderful life as a couple complete with kids and grandkids. They obviously are in love even still and also can still belt out some good old rock and roll.

The other thing that struck me about this year’s awards, is the number of top-drawer female artists who attended to honor the inductees such as Benatar, Dolly Parton, Annie Lennox, Carly Simon and a couple of music producers that helped women with their careers. Just to name a few, Pink, Sheryl Crow, Janet Jackson, Gwen Stefani, Mary J Blige, and Brandi Carlisle, all took active rolls in honoring the new inductees. These women were inspired by the inductees and it was nice to see them sing word for word the songs performed.

During the ceremony, they also paid tribute to lesser known African-American artists who influenced many, but never got acclaim due to the Jim Crow era. One such person was Elizabeth Cotten, a left-handed guitarist who played a right-handed guitar upside down. We saw footage of Pete Seeger speaking with her as well as watching her enormous skill as she played, rhythm, lead and bass at the same time on the guitar. Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family used the method called the “Carter Clutch,” but she self-confessed learning it from some African-American players in the mountains where she was raised. As an aside, Duane Allman, an excellent guitarist, taught his kids the “Carter Clutch” years after she passed.

I was fortunate to visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland with my oldest son. We were there four and 1/2 hours and never were bored. The best part is where you get to listen to snippets of who influenced these performers in contrast to how and what they played. If you love music, I encourage you to go.

Now, stay warm and dry today.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Cotten

What a real hero looks like (an encore performance)

Two years ago I wrote about the latest act of heroism from Dolly Parton. Last night, we watched a host of popular, rock and country singers honor her as one of the latest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From Pink to Brandi Carlisle to Sheryl Crow to Zac Brown to Pat Benatar, we saw a loving and admiring tribute to this talented woman. She also played a new rock and roll song she wrote for the occasion, “Rocking til the cows come home.” It was pretty good. Yet, she might be remembered more for her humanity.

I have written before about this hero primarily for her book gifting program for young kids, which is now an international program called “Imagination Library” (see second link below). Her name is Dolly Parton. I heard she could write songs and sing, as well. Yet, Parton just received some new acclaim for helping fight COVID-19.

In an article in The Hill by Judy Kurtz (see first link below) called “Dolly Parton among donors behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine,” her efforts are revealed. Here are a few paragraphs from the article.

“Dolly Parton can add another achievement to her résumé: helping to fund research for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.

The ‘9 to 5’ singer was one of several donors listed Monday as part of the announcement that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate was 94.5 percent effective in an interim analysis. The ‘Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund’ was named as a supporter in the footnotes of a New England Journal of Medicine report.

Parton, 74, announced back in April that she was giving $1 million to researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center toward finding a vaccine to fight against COVID-19.

In an April Instagram post announcing her contribution, the Grammy Award winner said she was donating in honor of her longtime friend, Dr. Naji Abumrad, a researcher at Vanderbilt who informed her ‘that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure.'”

Parton will be remembered many years from now for her Imagination Library where 147 million books have been provided to young children. Currently, there are 1.7 million children signed up for the program. Yet, seeing her do things like the vaccine funding adds to her legacy.

Seeing her interviewed on multiple occasions, the depth of her kindness, integrity, and approachability is heart warming. Her ability to laugh at herself (both the stage personality and at home one) reveals a very smart woman that disarms people. She does not need to solicit attention for her good deeds, it just spreads.

Well done, Ms. Parton. You are a credit to the human race. Thank you for your music and big heart.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/dolly-parton-among-donors-behind-moderna-s-coronavirus-vaccine/ar-BB1b6aIj?ocid=msedgdhp

https://imaginationlibrary.com/

Learning to Fly – a repeat tribute to Tom Petty

Our friend Clive inspired me to repeat this old post written before Tom Petty died at only the age of 65. His post of yesterday can be linked to below.

If you ever want to see an entertaining concert, I encourage you to go see Tom Petty. He is an under-appreciated musician, singer and songwriter as the number of songs of his that are part of our musical lexicon are staggering. Better than many, he and his band the Heartbreakers mix words and music in a very memorable way. And, his genuine persona seems to resonate with people, which may be one reason he does not come across larger than life, which is indeed a compliment.

As I was scrolling through his vast inventory of songs, I came to the realize what makes his songs so memorable. They start with great music, but endure through some of the best written chorus stanzas based on people or situations we all find ourselves in. A good example is the title of this post, “Learning to Fly.” Here is a sample:

I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings
Comin’ down is the hardest thing
I’m learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

These words could take on so many meanings, but the song is about a young man who is beginning his life away from home. He knows life will be rough, but he wants to go make it on his own.

Carrying this theme further is “Into the Great Wide Open,” whose chorus is below:

Into the great wide open,
Under them skies of blue
Out in the great wide open,
A rebel without a clue

This song notes he may be aware of troubles ahead, but for the most part he is “a rebel without a clue.”

Probably one of his most memorable songs is “Refugee.” This song resonates with so many, as it tells a story of helping each other out, especially when life has stepped on you:

Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have
Kicked you around some
Tell me why you wanna lay there,
Revel in your abandon

Honey, it don’t make no difference to me
Baby, everybody’s had to fight to be free
You see, you don’t have to live like a refugee
No baby, you don’t have to live like a refugee

Yet, he also shows how he could mistreat someone who did not deserve it leaving the offender in a free fall, when he realizes what he did. “Free Fallin” tells a story of this good girl he left behind:

She’s a good girl, loves her mama
Loves Jesus and America too
She’s a good girl, crazy ’bout Elvis
Loves horses and her boyfriend too

It’s a long day living in Reseda
There’s a freeway runnin’ through the yard
And I’m a bad boy cause I don’t even miss her
I’m a bad boy for breakin’ her heart

And I’m free, free fallin’
Yeah I’m free, free fallin

Yet, true love can be found, but it does take time. In “The Waiting,” Petty tells us how love can be dreamlike, but waiting for it to come, is the hardest part:

Oh baby don’t it feel like heaven right now
Don’t it feel like somethin’ from a dream
Yeah I’ve never known nothing quite like this
Don’t it feel like tonight might never be again
We know better than to try and pretend
Baby no one could have ever told me ’bout this

The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part

There are so many songs to choose from, which I have left off: “An American Girl,” “Breakdown,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” “Runnin Down a Dream,” and “Don’t Do Me Like That,” just to name a few more. Let me close with one where he stands his ground and fights back when life knocks him down. Here is the chorus from “I Won’t Back Down:”

Well I know what’s right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin’ me around
But I’ll stand my ground and I won’t back down

Tom Petty ranks up there with some of his idols that so influenced him. He joined several on the facetiously named, but excellent group The Traveling Wilbury’s, which included George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne. His words and music will remain with us, just like those of his fellow Wilbury’s. He may not have written as eloquently as Dylan, but Petty wrote about life and people. Thanks for helping us realize we are all learning to fly. And, we don’t have wings.

Sonic Highways – a terrific Foo Fighters Journey across America (an encore)

The following is an encore post of an earlier one I wrote in 2015. Since that time, the Foo Fighters have released an album called “Sonic Highways.” It is a hard rock album, but the songs have purpose, especially if you have seen the documentary series.

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For those who subscribe to HBO, there is a terrific series about American music called “Sonic Highways.” In essence, Dave Grohl and his band the Foo Fighters are traveling to various cities across America that have innovative music scenes. In essence, the Foo Fighters are tracing our musical roots. Thus far, I have seen episodes in Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles and Austin and each have been wonderful and unique. Each show culminates in the Foo Fighters recording a song in a memorable venue such as Preservation Hall in New Orleans, in Steve Albini’s studio in Chicago or the original television studio for Austin City Limits. I highly recommend you check the series out.

In each of the five shows, they talk with performers who made it big in these locations as well as regionally, nationally and/ or globally. They speak of key influencers early on in the music scene there. So, it is both historical and current. For example, a key reason Seattle has been a big venue for new music is bands from Los Angeles and San Francisco did not like traveling up the coast several hours for only a few gigs. As a consequence, Seattle started its own music scene which culminated with Nirvana’s success but could trace its roots back to much earlier times.

In Chicago, they spoke at length with Buddy Guy about his career and work with his good friend Muddy Waters. They also spent a lot of time with Rick Nielson, the uniquely fabulous guitarist of Cheap Trick, who tied blues with punk rock and tremendous theater. Nielson actually joined the Foo Fighters on the recording at the end of the show, based on Guy’s quotes called “Something from Nothing.” Albini produced the Nirvana second album where he met Grohl when he was Nirvana’s drummer.

Austin is a melting pot of music from blues to country to rock to all of the above blended together. Musicians from Willie Nelson to Jimmy and Stevie Ray Vaughan to Gary Clark, Jr. to Billy Gibbons to Roky Erickson have graced the city and stages there. Plus some of the more colorful band names like “Thirteenth Floor Elevators,” “Moving Sidewalks” and “The Fabulous Thunderbirds”  were spawned there.

Austin City Limits exposed the Austin music scene even further and has been going strong for 40 years. Grohl was amazed the old theater and stage where ACL was filmed and recorded was still in tact and they performed the song for the show there. Grohl was amazed the grand piano that was used for the show was still there behind the seats covered with a tarp. This piano had been played by Fats Domino and many others and there it sat unused.

Like Austin, New Orleans is an amalgamation of different types of music and is where Jazz really got its roots and took off. One of the reasons for the blending of jazz, blues, zydeco, etc. is the eclectic mix of people who were allowed to commingle before it was acceptable in other places. While the venues are many, the Foo Fighters chose to perform at Preservation Hall, which is a tiny and old venue with one of the best house bands around. If you go, you will stand (in line and while listening), but it is worth it. I took my teen boys there as it is the only venue where they don’t serve alcohol.

I look forward to seeing more of these shows. I think they are still filming, but have already recorded versions in Washington, Nashville and New York and maybe other places. Please do yourself a favor and check it out.

A Night with Janis Joplin – a terrific tribute (an encore)

Last night watching a terrific blues and rock and roll guitarist and singer named Joanne Shaw Taylor, my wife and I were enthralled by her talent. And, when she brought out the talented Joe Bonamassa to sing and play with her, it was even more eventful. Yet, when she broke into a wonderful version of “Summertime,” my wife and I were reminded of the legendary Janis Joplin. Here is a reprise of a post after we saw a Janis Joplin tribute show a few years ago.

My wife and I ventured to Durham this week and caught a sensational tribute to the late Janis Joplin. starring Mary Bridget Davies as the lead. She does a breathtakingly exciting and vulnerable impersonation of Joplin. When she broke into “Summertime,” with her bluesy variation of the “Porgy and Bess” song, we knew we were in for a treat. But, when she rocked us with “Piece of My Heart,” we felt that Joplin was indeed with us as she left everything on the stage.

The show is not just about Joplin, as in character, Davies speaks of her influences ranging from Bessie Smith to Etta James to Aretha Franklin to Nina Simone. Four very talented singers occupied the stage in tribute to these wonderful talents. My wife and I both thought it was done, in part, as singing as Joplin would take a toll on you if you sang for two hours plus. We also heard the variation between the operatic and bluesy “Summertime.” Plus, Joplin was influenced by Broadway show songs that her mother would play as they cleaned the house every Saturday with her brother and sister.

Joplin had a unique voice that was powerful, but bluesy and soulful, at the same time. Like a great blues singer, her voice was indeed an instrument and she held nothing back. If I had to equate it with someone else, she would be a female James Brown, in that she would give it all with her voice, body and expressions  Plus, Davies did a great job with Joplin’s stage presence and frank language, so we truly felt we were seeing Joplin in person.

We heard renditions of “Cry Baby,” which was sensational, “Try, just a little bit harder,” which was spot on, and “Me and Bobby McGee,” which had us all singing along. She ended the show after the accolades and applause, with a capella version of “Mercedes-Benz,” with the only the drummer giving us a beat. The audience was right there with he as we sung every note.

If you get a chance, please go see this show. If you cannot, here is a link to a few “real” Janis Joplin songs. It is a tragedy she died so soon.

More movies to take a peek at

Here are a few more movies that I have enjoyed watching to varying degrees. Most of these were found on the free-service Tubi, but a few came from HBO and Showtime.

“Once upon a river” starring Kenadi DelaCerna, John Ashton, Tataka Means, Ajuawak Kapashasit, Coburn Gross, Lindsey Pulsipher and Kenn Head is about a half Native American teen whose father is killed. She travels up river to find her mother who left several years before. She befriends an elderly man who gives her shelter on her journey. The movie is compelling in the uphill struggle for this disenfranchised young woman as she seeks help.

“Nothing special” starring Julia Garcia Combs, Karen Black, Barbara Bain and David Hardie is about a woman (Garcia Combs) who is having difficulty taking care of her bipolar mother (Black) while trying to serve a demanding, but supportive boss (Bains) and find time for some kind of love life. The three lead women are each excellent in their roles. You feel for this young woman as she comes close to her wits end.

“Small town crimes” underlines what an imperfect hero looks like. John Hawkes is excellent as a suspended, alcohol and drug addicted cop trying to solve a murder case as an unregistered private investigator. Anthony Anderson and Octavia Spencer are his only support, with Spencer playing his foster sister. Michael Voltan, Clifton Collins, and Robert Frasler play key roles.

“Peaks and valleys” starring Kitty Mahoney, Kevin T. Bennett and Ted Carney is also excellent as it shows Bennett taking care of a woman in a mountain cabin after he witnesses her body being cast out of a small plane into a lake. This cantankerous man nurses her back to health and teaches her how to hunt and fish. She will return the favor as his own issues become apparent. Given the verbal volleying back and forth, the movie remains interesting.

“Road to Perth” starring Tommy O’Brien, Hannah Lehman, Ellen Grimshaw and Kat Kaevich is an Australian movie about an American who travels alone after his girlfriend declines his marriage proposal. He is intent on taking pictures and interviewing Australians along his journey. He befriends and gives a ride from Adelaide to Perth to a woman who is the sister of an internet friend as she scatters her Dad’s ashes in places he held dear. Along the way, he speaks by phone with his own sister who offers milepost check-ins as the travelers become mutually infatuated.

“The Honeymooners” (not that one) starring Jonathan Byrne, Alex Reid, Justine Mitchell and Conner Mullen is an Irish film about a man who gets stood up at his wedding (at least she tells him) and after drinking too much of his wedding champagne pays a waitress who just got fired (and whose married boyfriend can’t be with her) to drive him to a cottage on the coast. They butt heads often and the say hurtful things,but do have enough fun and good conversation as their hard feelings soften. Like the “Road to Perth,” the movies are more about the journey and travails, where two people in angst can lift each other up.

“Wanderland” starring Tate Ellington, Tara Summers, Victoria Clark, Harris Yulin and a host of others is about a relatively rational man who accepts an invitation to house sit over a weekend in a Long Island coastal village. He befriends a charming woman on the beach and she invites him to a party later, which he surprisingly declines, but we learn later he too often says no. So, he goes from party to party meeting a wide assortment of characters as he tries to track down this woman . The name of the movie connotes wandering, but the similarities to a male Alice in Wonderland are not unfounded. His journey and the bohemian characters make you want to watch.

“Jackie and Ryan” starring Katherine Heigl, Ben Barnes and Emily Alyn Lind is about a hobo traveling musician trying to put a band back together. He winds up in a beautiful mountain town and befriends a woman who has had success as a musician, but has moved back home with her daughter to live with her mother as she is finalizing her divorce. The movie is a little trite, but the music is good and we learn Heigl can sing, especially with a lovely duet with her daughter played by Lind. Barnes also sings a poignant song that he is encouraged to finish by Heigl.

“Bonneville” starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, Christine Baranski and Tom Skerrit offers an interesting road trip plot as Lange takes her husband’s ashes to a funeral arranged by her step-daughter. “Surviving love” stars actual life married couple Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen as they get stranded in the Maine mountains and is worth the watch. “Christmas Eve” with Loretta Young, Arthur Hill and Trevor Howard offers a cheesy, but feel good movie about a dying woman wanting to see her grandchildren who escaped from her controlling son’s grip. Finally, we just watched “Being Rose” with Cybil Shepherd and James Brolin who play late in life lovers as Shepherd is dying.

Each of these movies is worth the watch and I don’t think any have things that are too risque for younger eyes, even the two jilted lover stories, although the adult themes and language on some may need to be factored in. The ones in the final paragraph are neat as they give a glimpse of actors who are later in their careers. Let me know if you have seen any of these.

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.