Movies that kindle (or rekindle) a song

While watching a re-run of the movie “Ghost” with Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, I was reminded of how a song can be kindled, or in this case, rekindled into pop culture. The Righteous Brothers had a huge hit that has been covered by many called “Unchained Melody.” But, one very seductive scene between the two leads elevated interest in both pottery making and this old classis from years before.

This got me thinking of other songs which were a key part of the movie. Note, I am not considering musicals which have several songs (“The Sound of Music” or “Saturday Night Fever,” eg) or movies that have marvelous soundtracks like “The Last of the Mohicans” or “Out of Africa.” The purpose is to note dramatic movies that include a key song.

In no particular order, here are ten songs and the movies that created them. This is not a Top Ten list, so please share ones I overlooked. I know I missed many.

“Ghost” and “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers – see above

“The Breakfast Club” and “Don’t you forget about me” by Simple Minds – in my view, this was the best of the Brat Pack movies, but the song became an anthem to rebellious youth.

“To Sir with Love” and “To Sir with Love” by Lulu – This is a brilliant movie with Sidney Poitier. Lulu accentuates the student’s feelings for their teacher with this marvelous song.

“The Graduate” and “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel – Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross and Dustin Hoffman star in this unusual film of seduction. An instrumental song is part of the movie soundtrack, until it is sung in full.

“Live and Let Die” and “Live and Let Die” by Paul McCartney and Wings – there are many James Bond songs to choose from, but this one was one of the more rock and roll ones.

“Billy Jack” and “One Tin Soldier” by Coven – Billy Jack was a cult hero in a cult movie as he took on big money as they unseated Native American rights. This is very powerful song of rebellion that has been used for protests.

“The Princess Bride” and “Storybook Love” by Mark Knopfler – Knopfler and his wonderful guitar and deep and raspy voice lend themselves to this charming and well done tale of adventure.

“Titanic” and “My Heart will go on” by Celine Dion – this is arguably one of Dion’s greatest songs, as it tells the story of love, love lost and living on after loss, the theme of the movie..

“Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid” and “Knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door” by Bob Dylan – Dylan had a bit part in this movie with Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn.

“Top Gun” and “You’ve lost that lovin’ feeling” by the Righteous Brothers – I give this duo a second song because of the importance the song had in Tom Cruise’s character wooing Nicole Kidman’s.

Let me know what you think. Do you like these choices? Which ones did I miss? I would love to hear from you.

A unifying person – walking the talk with Carlos Santana

The following post was written a few years ago, but I felt the words and actions of Carlos Santana are more needed than ever. Santana is one of the greatest guitarists and is known for his collaborations. And, let me add that collaborations must be nurtured and cultivated.

I was watching an excellent documentary film on HBO about Carlos Santana, which included the lead up to and concert in his birth country of Mexico at the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The music is terrific, but the stories from Santana and his fellow performers, friends and family are enlightening and confirming. Santana received a Kennedy Center Honor from President Obama in December, 2013 for his life’s work and devotion to making great music and sharing it with us and his fellow performers.

As one of the best guitarists around, Santana has a gift of working well with other performers and using their talents to make beautiful music. In the documentary, he was described as a “unifying person” which may be one of the nicest compliments you could pay to someone. The story-teller said Santana had a gift for unifying diverse music and musical talents to make a unique and wonderful sound. Three quick stories, two from Santana and one from his wife Cindy Blackman, will provide great glimpses into Santana’s make-up.

Someone asked Santana how he was able to collaborate so well with other musicians in recordings and in performances. He said, “I just show up with a smile on my face and a willingness to work together with others.” If we could bottle that and give it to everyone to drink, what a difference that would make. A simple example of this was when Santana was talking to his fellow musicians about “not playing too loudly, so as not to drown out the voice of the singers.” I had heard him earlier describe that you have to provide some space for people to listen to the various subtleties of the music. To me, this is giving of himself to make the whole sound better.

The last example comes from his relatively new bride, Cindy Blackman, whom he married in 2010. She was describing how at the Kennedy Center Honors banquet, Santana went back to the kitchen to thank all of the chefs and wait staff for their help that night. He noted later in the documentary, many of us immigrants came to America and took jobs to have a chance to live in a great country. They work hard and we should acknowledge them.

I purposefully did not make this about his wonderful repertoire of songs. His music will live on. I was so moved by this quote of him being a “unifying person” I felt the need to share his example for us all. Muchas gracias, amigo.

What a real hero looks like

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

You remember that place next to the restaurant we liked – an updated version

This is an example of “couplespeak.” After years of marriage, it is entirely possible the other member of the couple will know precisely where the speaker is meaning. And, neither may actually remember the name of the place or the restaurant used as the landmark. This kind of conversation can surface in a multitude of ways. Here are a few more examples.

Oh, she is that actress who starred in the action movie with the guy we like.

This one usually requires some stumbling add-ons. Because the responding question will usually be, “Which movie are you talking about?” Nowadays, with Google, it is possible to come up with names and trace the movie to the other star. Yet, it is possible for the spouse to know after some add-on suggestions, who the actress and actor are.

Why don’t you make that casserole you made when we had some folks over?

Between the two, the name of the other couple can be surfaced which will help with the mental Rolodex of recipe names. Otherwise, it will be an ingredient hinting exercise. “I remembered it was a chicken and sausage dish.”

Was it Johnny, Susie or Joey that had the whooping cough or was it the croup?

This is not a fill in the blank question like the others. But, if you are a parent of more than one child, some of the younger child illnesses blend together. Your kids will laugh at you if you don’t remember, but they will cease laughing when it happens to them as parents. Also, the diseases do get mixed up some, which is why you keep a list.

What is the name of that singer that sounds like the woman we heard on the American Idol or The Voice?”

It is the “name that person questions” that come up the most. We know both of us know her, yet neither can recall her name. We do need to find some hint that will jog memory or facilitate the Google search.

Do you think the “Sun” or “Jellyfish” or “Popcorn” is that actress or singer who was in…?”

To get this reference, you have to be a fan of “The Masked Singer,” where artists dress in very creative costumes and sing in competition. Throughout their stints, the competitors offer clues. Yet, given the previous and first example above, it does test our couplespeak. Do you think that is the guy who starred in the sit-com about the young family with two dads?

To others, it will appear we have no sense at all. If you told someone that you could not remember a popular person or place, the other person would think you were crazy. “How can you not know that?” Yet, all couples will eventually migrate to this couplespeak at some point.

Tell me a few of your examples. Which ones did I not capture? When did you first notice this trend?

More than James Bond – Sean Connery RIP

Of course, I am biased, but the best actor to play the character James Bond is the first – Sean Connery. I am sure others might argue more recent actors fit the bill, but he is my number one. We should celebrate the life of Connery with his passing this weekend at the age of 90.

Yet, he was far more than James Bond, both from a movie standpoint and everyday life standpoint. On the former, one of my favorite movies of all time is “The Man who would be King,” which Connery starred in with his friend and prolific actor Michael Caine. It is truly a spellbinding adventure of two friends who were British soldiers stationed in India.

Another favorite is also not a Bond movie, yet Connery won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, “The Untouchables” with Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro. Connery makes the movie, in my view, and apparently in the view of the Oscar voters. His character’s chance meeting Eliot Ness is a good example, when Ness asks why he believes that Ness is a Federal agent – Connery’s character said why would anyone confess to being that if he were not?

One of the best ensemble movies that Connery starred in was “The Hunt for Red October” based on the Tom Clancy novel. A stellar cast of Alec Baldwin, James Earl Jones, Tim Curry, Sam Neill among others made this great movie even better.

Another favorite movie is “The Presidio” with Mark Harmon and Meg Ryan. This one did not get the fanfare as the others, but it has a good plot and is well-acted. Connery character leads base security at the Presidio in San Francisco (as a retired soldier) and must solve a crime with Harmon’s police character, who is not a fan of the military, but is of Connery’s daughter played by Ryan.

Let me finish with another favorite called “Finding Forrester.” Connery plays a recluse writer who befriends a young teen played by Rob Brown who tries to rob his apartment in New York. Brown’s character keeps a journal that falls out of his pocket. Connery’s character sees promise in the journal, then corrects all the poor grammar and returns it to him. This movie also has one of the best covers of “Over the Rainbow” as it fades out. Below is a link to this version from the movie.

Connery made several other movies, including “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” which endeared him to the younger crowd. Since that movie is mentioned often along with the Bond movies, I will only mention it here. He also was in a movie called “In the Name of the Rose,” about a murder at an abbey, which is entertaining, as well as being unusual. As for my favorite Bond movie with Connery, “Goldfinger” would likely be it as it has two of the best villains in the title character and his armed guard “Odd Job.”

As for his personal life, I was unaware of his advocacy for Scottish independence. He spoke in front of the Scottish parliament to elicit their support. He also was used by the Scottish tourism industry to sell his country as a destination. There could be none better. I read once, maybe from Caine’s biography, that Connery was a very prepared actor. When he arrived at the movie set he was ready to go.

Connery will be missed by his fans and Scottish citizens.

Atlanta Rhythm Section – smooth but less known

The Atlanta Rhythm Section (ARS) is likely not a top of mind group. They formed as a session band in the early 1970’s emphasizing a rhythm guitar sound. Some of its members were in an earlier band, “The Classics IV,” while others came from “Candymen.” From Wikipedia:

“In the spring of 1970, three former members of the Candymen (Rodney Justo, Dean Daughtry and Robert Nix) and the Classics IV (Daughtry and James B. Cobb, Jr.) became the session band for the newly opened Studio One recording studio in Doraville, Georgia, near Atlanta.

After playing on other artists’ recordings, the Atlanta Rhythm Section was formed in 1971, with Rodney Justo (singer), Barry Bailey (guitar), Paul Goddard (bass), Dean Daughtry (keyboards), Robert Nix (drums) and James (J.R.) Cobb (guitar).”

ARS had a few hits “So into you,” “I’m not going to let it bother me tonight,” “Doraville,” “Imaginary Lover,” and a remake of a Classics IV hit “Spooky.” Another hit called “Champagne Jam” highlighted an Atlanta summer music festival by the same name.

The group is easy to listen to. One reason I highlight them is I used to live near Doraville when I was in university in Atlanta. If I had to recommend three songs – “So into you,” “Imaginary Lover” and “Spooky” have a universal appeal. I have provided a link to “Spooky” at the end. Let me know what you think.

Here are a few of the lyrics of each:

So into you

When you walked into the room
There was voodoo in the vibes
I was captured by your style
But I could not catch your eyes

Now I stand here, helplessly
Hoping you’ll get into me

I am so into you
I can’t think of nothing else
I am so into you
I can’t think of nothing else

Imaginary lover

Imaginary lovers
Never turn you down
When all the others turn you away
They’re around
It’s my private pleasure
Midnight fantasy
Someone to share my
Wildest dreams with me
Imaginary lover you’re mine anytime
Imaginary lovers, oh yeah

Spooky

In the cool of the evenin’ when ev’rything is gettin’ kind of groovy
I call you up and ask you if you’d like to go with me and see a movie
First you say “no”, you’ve got some plans for the night
And then you stop, and say, “all right”
Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you

Each of these these songs will likely resonate with their interesting lyrics and subject matter. I love the phrase “I am so into you,” as it conveys a deeper feeling than love or lust. “Imaginary lover” is self-explanatory, while “Spooky” reminds us of the person who fascinated us, but we probably should have not gotten involved with.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=atlanta+rhythm+section+spooky&qpvt=atlanta+rhythm+section+spooky&FORM=VDRE

The Go-Gos – an underappreciated group

The Go-Gos are the first popular all female band that played their own instruments and wrote their own songs. There were earlier female bands, but this New Wave group catapulted to the top of the charts faster than others and belong in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A Showtime documentary called “The Go-Gos,” produced by Alison Eastwood, provides a great look into the band.

The Go-Gos are usually identified by the five members when they hit it big – Belinda Carlisle (lead singer), Jane Wiedlin (rhythm guitar), Charlotte Caffey (lead guitarist and keyboards), Kathy Valentine (bass guitar) and Gina Schock (drummer).

Ironically, they started as a punk rock band as the initial members felt they were not part of any other culture. Their initial drummer was Elissa Bello and initial bassist was Margot Olavarria. Even more surprising, none of the four initial members knew how to play instruments. Fortunately, in punk rock, belng a bad musician was not a total liability. So, they played and learned. Caffey joined them and brought musicianship and song writing. And, when Bello left due to a paying career, she was replaced by Schock who had been drumming for years. Valentine would replace Olavarria later.

They hit it off with Madness and The Specials, two Ska revival UK punk rock bands, when they played in the US. So, The Go-Gos joined these groups on a tour of Scotland. It should be noted their first manager Ginger Canzoneri sold everything to underwrite their UK trip. Now, the Ska bands attracted a white nationalist fan base that did not like non-Scots, Americans and women playing in a band, so the group took a lot of grief which toughened them and made them a more cohesive group.

They released “We’ve got the beat” as a single under Stiff Records in the UK. When they returned to the US, they signed with IRS Records and released their double platinum album “Beauty and the Beat” which soared to #1 on the Billboard charts. The album included their hit single and “Our lips are sealed,” “Get up and go,” and “This old feeling.”

They would release “Vacation” as their second album, whose biggest hit was the title cover. “Talk Show” followed, but by that time, the band was having troubles. Personal differences, song writing revenue sharing and drug issues led to the eventual split. Wiedlin left and was replaced by Paula Jean Brown, but the band would not last long after that.

The band would break up in the mid-1980s, but tour off and on in the 1990s through today. There was even a Broadway show called “Head over Heels” about the band. Carlisle would go on to have a successful solo career and the others would form or join bands. Yet, they would reconvene to celebrate and re-perforn what made them great.

The Go-Gos had a fun, energetic sound. They also played with a joie de vivre. They influenced many a young girl to strive to be a musician or artist or follow a passion. Seeing someone like you on stage is an inspiration.

Do you think they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. What are your favorite songs or memories?

The music of The Bridges of Madison County

A few months ago, I rewatched the movie “The Bridges of Madison County.” The movie stars Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep and is directed by Eastwood.

The movie is about a weekend tryst between a photographer who traveled to the area to take pictures of the county’s covered bridges and a woman in a routine marriage. Her husband is away with the kids camping.

The movie is very good, but is bathed in wonderful music of the 1950s and early 1960s. Eastwood is very musical, so he took time to select music that accentuated the romantic scenes between the two.

Johnny Hartman and Dinah Washington are featured several times. If you don’t know Hartman, think Nat King Cole with a deeper voice. Irene Kral appears a couple of times and Barbara Lewis sings “Baby I’m Yours,” her biggest hit.

My kids bought me the soundtrack CD for Father’s Day. It is smooth listening music. If you are looking for a birthday present, it is a nice treat. And, it is not just for older people, as my oldest son in his late twenties knew who Hartman was.

We have several soundtracks that well-accented the movie they were in. They range from “The Big Chill” which has artists’ songs to “The Last of the Mohicans” whose score is marvelous. And, if you want to get a selection of themes, John Barry has a CD of several movie themes he wrote such as “Born Free,” “Somewhere in Time” and “Out of Africa.”

What are some of your favorites soundtracks?

A unifying person – a tribute to Carlos Santana, the person (a reprise)

The following was written and posted in 2014. The theme is so very relevant today as a much needed approach to emulate. Carlos Santana is known for his collaboration with singers and other performers.

I was watching an excellent documentary film on HBO about Carlos Santana, which included the lead up to and concert in his birth country of Mexico at the Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The music is terrific, but the stories from Santana and his fellow performers, friends and family are enlightening and confirming. Santana received a Kennedy Center Honor from President Obama in December, 2013 for his life’s work and devotion to making great music and sharing it with us and his fellow performers.

As one of the best guitarists around, Santana has a gift of working well with other performers and using their talents to make beautiful music. In the documentary, he was described as a “unifying person” which may be one of the nicest compliments you could pay to someone. The story-teller said Santana had a gift for unifying diverse music and musical talents to make a unique and wonderful sound. Three quick stories, two from Santana and one from his wife Cindy Blackman, will provide great glimpses into Santana’s make-up.

Someone asked Santana how he was able to collaborate so well with other musicians in recordings and in performances. He said, “I just show up with a smile on my face and a willingness to work together with others.” If we could bottle that and give it to everyone to drink, what a difference that would make. A simple example of this was when Santana was talking to his fellow musicians about “not playing too loudly, so as not to drown out the voice of the singers.” I had heard him earlier describe that you have to provide some space for people to listen to the various subtleties of the music. To me, this is giving of himself to make the whole sound better.

The last example comes from his relatively new bride, Cindy Blackman, whom he married in 2010. She was describing how at the Kennedy Center Honors banquet, Santana went back to the kitchen to thank all of the chefs and wait staff for their help that night. He noted later in the documentary, many of us immigrants came to America and took jobs to have a chance to live in a great country. They work hard and we should acknowledge them.

I purposefully did not make this about his wonderful repertoire of songs. His music will live on. I was so moved by this quote of him being a “unifying person” I felt the need to share his example for us all. Muchas gracias, amigo.

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand – great first lyrics

Great songs do not have to open with intriguing first lyrics. Some great songs do not have lyrics at all – Booker T and the MGs (“Green Onions”), Eric Johnson (“Cliffs of Dover”)and The Ventures (“Walk don’t run”) all had instrumental hits. But, a catchy first lyric can grab your attention.

Warren Zevon did so with these lyrics, “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand, walking on the streets of Soho in the rain.” This song is obviously “Werewolves of London.” What I learned yesterday is Zevon was talked into switching the first two stanzas for this purpose by Phil Everly one of the famous Everly Brothers.

Procol Harum (a great name) sang these lyrics to begin a “Whiter shade of pale,” a great song title. “We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels cross the floor.” You just have to listen as “the crowd called out for more.”

Known for interesting lyrics, Freddie Mercury of Queen sang, “She keeps her Moet et Chandon in her pretty cabinet, let them eat cake she says just like Marie Antoinette.” “Killer Queen” is packed with lyrics like this, as are many Queen songs.

Jimmy Webb wrote these lyrics sang so well by Glenn Campbell in “Wichita Lineman.” “I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road, searching in the sun for another overload.” It is the daily life of man who does his job as he greatly worries about his wife who is in need of a break.

The Kinks introduced us to the enigmatic “Lola” with these lyrics. “I met her in a club down in old Soho. Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like Coca Cola. C-O-L-A Cola…” Soho is an interesting place, as it found its way into two songs herein, so it serves as a great backdrop to Lola and this young man’s encounter

Yet, the words need not be complex. Paul McCartney grabbed our attention with a simple plaintive lyric “Yesterday, when all my troubles seemed so far away.” The lyric makes you want to know what happened “Yesterday.”

Not to be outdone, John Lennon wrote “Imagine there’s no heaven, it’s easy if you try.” His lyric was so provocative, you had to listen to his point to “Imagine” a kinder world.

I treasure great lyrics, so I admire great song writers who coin them. Yet, the song need not start out that way. Motown coined many great lyrics, but the Motown sound started with “rhythm upfront.” That was the hook.

But, it was later when Marvin Gaye penned these heartfelt, and still needed words under the Motown label. “Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying.” This powerful song “What’s going on?” is a needed anthem.

Songs like Gaye’s are the reason lyrics move me. Let’s celebrate the music, but hear the words. I know I left out many favorites of mine. What are some of your favorites I missed?