I remember when (an update of an older post)

As I dressed for a long walk this morning, I was reminded of an old dressing habit. This prompted a reflective post (you can hum Nat King Cole’s “I remember you” as you read with me):

I remember when we used to cut the tops off athletic socks to make footies, as they did not make those when I was growing up, at least for boys and men.

I remember when phones were dialed and not keyed; if you did not complete the dial, the phone might call the wrong number.

I remember when there were three serious US news anchors whose words were gospel; Nixon once said when he lost Walter Cronkite, he lost the country.

I remember a time when we lived in blissful ignorance that all priests, pastors and evangelists were above board and not participating in criminal behavior.

I remember when both parties cared that the US President was exactly what he said he was not; Nixon said “I am not a crook,” but that was a lie.

I remember when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assasinated, but was too young to remember JFK’s.

I remember when a country trio named the Dixie Chicks were condemned for sharing their concerns about the false pretenses of the US invasion of Iraq. The fact they had a right to do so is lost on many, but the fact they were dead-on accurate in their concerns, as determined by a British commission years later (which noted George Bush and British PM Tony Blair misled the British people), should not be set aside either.

I remember the moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s words of “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Sadly, I remember the Challenger blowing up with citizen astronauts aboard. It showed how difficult it is to leave and return to our planet.

I remember when a president was vilified for not wearing a flag pin and yet, some of those same people think it was alright for a later president to openly lie to the American people and invite and incite insurrectionists to storm the Capitol building because he could not face the music that he lost the election. But, the insurrectionist at least like to hug the flag.

I remember when the US celebrated its bicentennial and when we prepared for computers programmed in Cobol to recognize the new millennium.

On this last comment, my wife and I hosted a New Millennium Eve party. We got so interested in shooting fireworks with the kids, we forgot to put the lamb in the oven. That was the only time we cooked lamb, and almost did not then. We were eating at midnight when the year 2000 rolled in.

I hope I spawned some memories. Please share a few of yours. I remember when…

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Monday morning meanderings

It is a quiet morning after all the rain we got yesterday. One thing is for certain, my dog loves being toweled off when he comes back inside after a restroom break and is all wet.

Here a few meanderings this Monday morning.

-Another mass shooting in America. What a surprise. It truly saddens me that our headlines are peppered with daily shooting deaths, with a seemingly weekly mass shooting. If I lived in another country, I might look to other places to visit, as we Americans cannot get our act together. Canada and Australia look nice.

-I saw some headline where the former president lost a bloc of voters. I chose not to read it as his political career ended two years ago and his followers are finally figuring out what kind of person he is, which they should have known all along as he has acted this way over the years. It is all about The Donald, always has been, always will be.

-Lisa Marie Presley was buried this weekend. It saddens me when I remember when people were born and when they passed away. That is not how it should be. I cannot imagine the pain of losing a child no matter how old they are, so my heart goes out to Priscilla Presley. I remember the agony of my grandmother losing her youngest daughter and my aunt at a similar age.

-I would love to have a job where I can be the metaphorical lifeguard of the swimming pool that is the US Congress. When the elected kids are acting up, I can blow my whistle and tell them “Out of the pool!” And, when a group of the elected kids get too rambunctious, I can say “Alright, everyone out. Adult swim only!” Or, “Hey Marjorie, Matt, Paul, Ted, Kevin, go sit in the time-out corner.” This makes me smile.

And, on that note. Enjoy your week. Stay dry, warm and safe.

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.

When sermons miss the mark so badly on a practical level

Loretta Lynn passed away during 2022. She was a prolific songwriter who someone once said she wrote uniquely with two choruses often in a song. She may also have been one of the first feminists per a documentary on her life. Why do they say that? She had four kids by the time she was 18 years old. And, after its invention and improvement, she wrote a song about taking control of her destiny for all women to heed – “The Pill.” Here is the second stanza:

“All these years I’ve stayed at home
While you had all your fun
And every year thats gone by
Another babys come
There’s a gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You’ve set this chicken your last time
‘Cause now I’ve got the pill”

Strident ministers who want married couples to only have conjugal relations to procreate are very out of touch with their congregations, no matter how pious the followers might be. People are going to have these relations regardless of what any minister might say, especially if they follow along with Ms. Lynn’s line of thinking. By the way, those ministers who belong to the Southern Baptist Convention may want to explain why there was a sex scandal and cover-up therein for so many years.

Not to be outdone, the Catholic Church has long been a proponent of this same message, but at least recognized that married couples are going to have sex. Yet, the church strongly condemns artificial means of birth control advocating the very ineffective rhythm method where couples try to time conjugal relations with the wife’s menstrual cycle. There is a reason for large Catholic families. Of course, premarital sex is a preached no-no in the view of the church and in other religions.

Yet, the last poll I saw about American Catholic women noted that 90% of the women disagreed with the church’s position on this issue. They were more inclined to heed the instruction of Loretta Lynn using the pill or some other means. The result does not surprise me, but the 90% magnitude of support does.

Watching old movies and TV shows, it is not uncommon to see a plot line around a teen girl or young women who gets pregnant being an outcast, while the sower of the seed not being condemned at all. Even when said sower forces his will shy of rape, he is not held to the same standard as the woman who gave into the same temptation. In the Catholic Church there are numerous movies (see “Philomena” or “Oranges and Sunshine”) about a girl’s child being taken away without her permission throughout the last century. These movies made me ill that a pious group of leaders could be so mean-spirited.

So, we must ask our leaders to be more in line with what is happening in general society. It is OK to teach abstinence before marriage, but to not recognize that people are going to have sex regardless of what a leader might think is just naive and out of touch. Just think of that 90% figure for American Catholic women. And, taking this one step further what two married people (or consenting adults) do behind closed doors is none of a church leader’s business. It only matters if there is domestic violence and someone is getting hurt.

Having worked with homeless working families I know first-hand a statistically supported truism. There is a causal relationship between increased poverty risk and increased family size. It is not just a correlation, it is causal. Full stop. I have long been a believer of teaching pragmatic sex education, even if done in a church setting. If people want to call this planned parenthood, that is more than fine.

Teach boys and girls that self-esteem is not tied to having sex before you want to. Teach girls how to say “no” and to lessen pressure and teach boys what “no” means. Teach them that some partners are more about bragging on a sexual conquest than quietly expressing love or intimacy. Teach them the facts about how easy it is to get pregnant. Teach them the various means of birth control, their pros and cons and how to use them. Teach them not to take a drink at a party from someone you don’t know or to overdo it. And, it is OK for religious groups to teach abstinence, but they need to be realistic about its veracity and teach the other things.

Loretta speaks the truth from a position of knowledge and experience. Women must be in control of their bodies. When people in power try to deny this, they are doing a disservice to women. I do know if men could get pregnant, they would not favor a leader telling them what to do with their bodies. And, realizing what women go through, these men would be strongly in favor of birth control means.

What is that song again? – an encore post

“You’ve gotta lot of nerve” sings Bob Dylan over and over again in one of the greatest put down songs ever written. But, that is not the name of the song, it is “Positively 4th Street.” Simon and Garfunkel sang of “feelin’ groovy,” but the name of the song is not that repetitive lyric, it is “The 59th Street Bridge Song.”

And, one of my favorite songs written by Kenny Loggins speaks to “Even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you honey” in its chorus. But, the name of the song is “Danny’s Song.” It was written for his brother and covered well by Anne Murray, although I prefer the Loggins and Messina version.

Other song favorites where the title cannot be found in the lyrics include:

– “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles

– “After the Gold Rush” by Neil Young

– “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen

– “Baba O’Riley” by The Who

– “Annie’s Song” by John Denver

– “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin

The list is actually not a short one. Yet, it does complicate things when the chorus or a clever song verse is how the song is remembered, not the title. Fortunately, Google understands this and will get you to the right place. If you Google “You fill up my senses,” you can find Denver’s “Annie Song.” If you Google “I read the news today,” you would be steered to “A Day in the Life.”

The one exception to my list might be “Bohemian Rhapsody,” even before the movie, given the memorable title. This may be due in part to the cult like status of the song or its length. Yet, you could find it with searching on several of its bizarre lyrics.

If you Google “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot, you can find Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi.” Now, technically Mitchell’s song does not belong on the list, as taxi does appear in the final stanza. Yet, I include it as throughout the song are environmental references. It is actually disappointing those references are metaphors for missing her “old man” after the big yellow taxi takes him away.

What are some of your favorites where the title cannot be found in the song? Feel free to take the same license as I did with Joni Mitchell’s song.

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.

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.

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

Thanksgiving leftovers abound

We sent many leftovers home with our guests, but we also have samples of what they brought. So, we will have to delay the calorie reduction for a few days. The weight has creeped up the last week with the combination of casseroles, pasta, bread and the wonderful desserts. I hope I can find a walk in-between the possible rain today.

The weight is also increased by the diplomatic desire to sample everyone’s dishes. When I see my plate, it looks like a series of two dollops of everything. My rule for judicious eating is homemade stuff gets priority over heated purchased stuff. The one exception is a honey balked ham, which gives a great alternative to turkey, which I also like.

The fellowship was wonderful. We had sixteen in total and since it was the day after Thanksgiving, the rule was to sit where ever there is a place. We have a new niece who we saw for the first time. She was quite animated as she looked around the room while being held. I got my chance to hold her and sing softly like I did with my kids. My wife thinks she likes my voice coming through my chest for comfort. She seems to like the Righteous Brothers better than Elvis and Bread. So, “Unchained Melody” may be her new theme song when visiting.

Fun was had by all. We even called another niece and had a live chat with sixteen folks on our end. The final thing we do before everyone leaves is get a photo shot of all present. I think we have about ten of these pictures over the years.

I hope everyone had a great holiday. Have a wonderful weekend. Pick out a good tree if that is in the works.