Something to talk about

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Immerse yourself with Van Gogh

My wife and I went for a second time yesterday to see the “Immersive Van Gogh” exhibit that has been making its way across the country. This time we took two of our adult children to experience it. They enjoyed it as much as we did. What is it?

It is a blend of wonderful music highlighting Van Gogh’s wonderful art as it appears slowly at times and explodes on occasion onto every wall of of a large exhibit room. The fact it is not a rectangular room aids to the viewing, as you could change your position on your bench seat (built for two or three) and see nooks of art or turn around and see a larger wall.

The viewing is of repetitive segments of about fifty feet long where the art comes alive. The immersive experience has the computer presented art actually moving, whether it is shimmering light on water from a town across the inlet or birds flying in the trees or people smoking in a room

Van Gogh was highly prolific in his art, I believe because he was a voracious painter. He had a self-portrait of the artist wearing a straw hat with lit candles around the brim, so he could paint at night. His paintings of fields of flowers are experienced in large viewing form, as well as his paintings of cafe scenes, empty streets, starry nights, and people. He captured people so well, showing that we are an imperfect lot, himself included.

The people in his scenes reveal an observant man. One of his series of paintings seem to be of men lined up to go into a mental asylum later revealing the less than inviting halls of the place. This is likely from his own experience as he spent time there of his own accord. I think that may be an additional reason for his appeal. He was both talented and tortured. While this song was not one that was played, I have always had a fondness for Don McLean’s “Vincent” which is also referred to as “Starry, starry night.”

If you get a chance, I encourage you to go see it. It lasts about fifty minutes, but the time passes easily. I attached a link which shows the various cities it has and will play. It will be here in Charlotte for the rest of the month.

A BIrth Control Message – courtesy of Bruce Springsteen

The following is an encore performance for a post written nine years ago. This time it was inspired by our musically inclined blogging friend Clive, whose specific post is linked to below. He has a link to the song on his post.

With due respect and credit for inspiration to one of my favorite bloggers, Jenni at www.newsforthetimes.wordpress.com, who publishes a Tune Tuesday weekly post on the personal or societal impact of a favorite song or singer, I want to use one of Bruce Springsteen’s songs to embellish a point I have been making the past few months. I think I have cited the Boss on a couple of occasions, but I want to lift some lyrics from one of my favorite songs of his “The River” which is pertinent to my point of readily available birth control and education. This song is about a man remembering nostalgically how he used to go “down to the river” with his girlfriend and how life was much simpler before she got pregnant with his child.

The lyrics I want to quote are as follows:

“Then, I got Mary pregnant and man, that was all she wrote.

And, for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat.

We went down to the courthouse and the judge put it all to rest.

No wedding day smiles, no walk down the aisle.

No flowers, no wedding dress.”

In my post “If Churches Really Want to Make a Difference” a few weeks ago, I suggest that the church should be more involved with legitimate sex education with their young teenagers, including the use of contraception. Kids don’t know enough about this subject and it is the thing they talk most about. The peer pressure is intense. It is more than OK to discuss abstinence, but if you remember your teenage years, that is not going to happen very often. I won’t repeat all of the points made therein, but informed teens should be aware of the need for protected sex as well as ways to say no, if they feel pressured (if a girl) and ways to treat a girl who is saying no (if a boy).

The LA Times reported just this week that data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed the birthrate among American teens between  15 and 19, while decreased since 1991 is still at 34.3 births per 1,000 women. That rate is 5 times the teen birthrate in France and 2 1/2 times the teen birthrate in Canada. It is also higher than the rates in China and Russia. THe CDC reports that 80% of teen pregnancies are unintended meaning after unprotected sex or under protected sex. We have a higher incidence of sexual assault among teens as well.

Using Springsteen’s song, Mary did not need to end up pregnant. With birth control access and better sex education, Mary and the boy could have been more adroit at handling the issue before the heat of the moment caused a fate accompli. The rest of the song talks about how Mary and the boy go through the motions of life after being forced to do the right thing and marry. Their dreams were stifled. Yet, if she could say no, or have protected intercourse, then their lives need not be over.

My main point is so many issues could be better addressed through a better protected and more informed group of teenagers. There is high correlation to poverty and family size, especially if the family starts early. There is a high percentage of single parents in teen mothers, so in more cases than not, Mary’s beau would have left the building. With fewer unwanted pregnancies, then there would be fewer abortions. And, our teens would have a chance to grow up more before they start having babies. Finally, per Dr, Cora Breuner of Seattle Children’s Hospital, babies born to teens tend to fare more poorly than babies delivered to older age group parents.

I also believe the education part is just as vital. If the young girls and boys hear from respected sources about these very important life issues, they will be better positioned to handle them. More and more kids are not seeing churches in the same light as their parents. Some churches are actually driving people away with their evangelicalism. I firmly believe if you provide more venues to talk in an intelligent way with the teens about their problems, they will attend and listen. They don’t need to be preached to on the subject, but abstinence is an acceptable discussion point. I think it is important to note that you do not have to have sex if you are being pressured into doing so.

Per Dr. Breuner as reported by the LA Times, “We really can do better. By providing more education and improving access to contraception and more education about family planning, we can do better.” Note, Breuner helped write the new policy statement as a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Adolescence.

Springsteen, as usual, vividly depicts a real world problem. I think his song could be played during the sex education classes. These kids loved each other (or at least thought they did), gave into passion and after unprotected sex, their dreams were over. This is reality. Why should we not finds ways to educate and help before the “point of reckoning” rather than to let the kids figure it out after it is too late. In today’s time, it can be even worse when a STD enters the equation.

Thanks Bruce for your terrific song. “The River” can permit the dream to continue with protected sex. And, for parents and church leaders who want to throw the bible at me, let me quote a truism that I said in my previous post. Teenagers are going to have sex. If you do not believe me, there is an evangelical university within a three-hour drive of where I live. These young church raised kids “go crazy” when they get away from mom and dad. I actually cleaned that up a little from the quote from someone who attended there. So, we should help them on their journey by giving them the tools and education they need.

A Beautiful Loser – an encore tribute to Bob Seger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Others worth listening to include:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Presence of the Lord

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

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

Gimme Some Lovin’

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

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

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

Back In the High Life Again

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

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

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

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

Higher Love

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

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

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

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

Dear Mr. Fantasy

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

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

The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday I got traveling on my mind

Fleetwood Mac fans will know this is the second line of the song whose title are the first two words of its opening sentence, “Monday morning you sure look fine.” It is about a fickle love interest, that by the end of the week has sown enough doubt, her partner is looking to leave. Yet, when he talks of leaving, she heightens her interest in him and he stays.

It reminds me of the old line, we don’t know what we want until it is gone. Think of why Rhett Butler’s line at the end of “Gone with the Wind” is so impactful. Rhett has had enough of Scarlett and her being smitten with Ashley Wilkes. So, as she pleads for him not to go and asks what shall I do? his response of “Frankly, my dear I don’t give a damn” brought down the house using a curse word not usually heard in popular movies in 1939.

People play too many games with the hearts of others. Most often, it is due to the games player not being as in love with the partner as the partner is in return. So, the partner who is more smitten has to put up with a lot more. The games player wants to cover his, her or their options, so plays both ends against the middle, as Scarlett O’Hara did.

It is funny, my sweet mother was kind to every one, but the one character she did not care for was Ashley Wilkes. She did not like he was emotionally unfaithful to his wife and that he would not tell Scarlett “no.” On the flip side, Melanie Wilkes was a saint and there were many times you wanted her to confront her wishy-washy husband.

It is refreshing when people shoot straight with each other. Yet,it should not be so hard. Who should reveal love interest first? Does the partner love me as much as I do the partner? The hesitancy in these cases may relate to that “commitment” word that scares people, yet it is a variation of the games playing.

One of the scenes which speaks to this topic came in the movie “An American President” with Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. Paraphrasing, Bening’s character says I am going to fumble this around, so bear with me. I am in love you with, for that I am certain….I love this scene as she tells him I am going to not say this well, but please listen. It reminds me how nervous each of us are when we first utter those words.

So, if we shoot straight with people, fighting our nerves along the way, maybe, just maybe, we can avoid those fickle relationships. And, we should not be scared of the word “no.” Knowing that another does not and will not feel the same about you is both painful and liberating. My educated guess is we all have been on the wrong side of this conversation more than once. And, the sun did come up the next day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

.

The Spinners did make us take a spin

When I was in high school, it was in the middle of the Disco era of music. While the Disco era got people off their feet to dance, not all the music was substantive lyrically and repetition was the elixir. There are a few exceptions to this rule, one of which is The Spinners. Since the band started in its initial permutation in 1954, this may be a reason why. In fact the band, has had a number of members over the years, where former members easily outnumber the current ones (see below).

Per Wikipedia, “The Spinners are an American rhythm and blues vocal group that formed in Ferndale, Michigan, United States, in 1954. They enjoyed a string of hit singles and albums during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly with producer Thom Bell. The group continues to tour, with Henry Fambrough as the only original member…

When the Spinners signed to Atlantic in 1972, they were a respected but commercially unremarkable singing group who had never had a Top Ten pop hit — despite having been a recording act for over a decade. However, with songwriter Thom Bell at the helm, the Spinners charted five Top 100 singles (and two Top Tens) from their first post-Motown album, Spinners (1973), and went on to become one of the biggest soul groups of the 1970s.”

During the 1970s, they released a string of very good songs, that were easy to dance to, but also made you think. Here are a few of them, where I included a sample of lyrics.

It’s a shame

It’s a shame (shame) the way you mess around with your man
It’s a shame (shame) the way you play with my emotions
It’s a shame (shame) the way you mess around with your man
You’re like a child at play, on a sunny day
‘Cause you play with love, and then you throw it away

This song has a terrific musicality to it to match its lyrics about a woman who is routinely unfaithful to her man. I recognize the song could quite easily be reversed, but the lyrics are indeed powerful especially referring to her cunning efforts as a child at play.

Games People Play

Games people play
Night or day, they’re just not matching
What they should do
Keeps me feelin’ blue

Been down too long
Right, wrong, I just can’t stop it
Spending all day
Thinking just of you

This song reminds me of high school as much as any other, including the next one. Even high school students understand the context of the games people play. Later in the song, the bass voice comes in to co-anchor the lead and lifts the song further.

The Rubberband Man

Hand me down my walkin cane
Hand me down my hat
Hurry now and don’t be late
‘Cause we ain’t got time to chat

You and me, were goin out
To catch the latest sounds
Guaranteed to blow your mind
So high, you won’t come down

Along with The Commodores’ “Brick House,” The Spinners “The Rubberband Man” is just a fun song. The song jumps out of the gate with its opening lyric and leads us to “prepare ourselves for when the rubberband man starts to jam” on the dance floor.

But, the group had so much more to offer. Just to list a few more hits, some of which eclipsed the above songs in popularity.

I’ll be around

Could it be I’m falling in love

Mighty love

One of Kind Love Affair (see below for a link)

The Spinners were one of several R&B groups that I enjoyed. The Commodores, The Stylistics, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Bee Gees, et al, each had substantive musicality.and lyrics to offer during that time. The Bee Gees took a lot of grief for their success during this time, but they should be included on such a list, in my view.

Below, I list the many Spinners who helped us spin around the dance floor and in our cars as we motored around town to events or just to nowhere in particular. The members may have changed, but the music lives on.

Former members

Current members

  • Henry Fambrough (1954–present)
  • C.J Jefferson (2020-present)
  • Jessie Robert Peck (2009–present)
  • Marvin Taylor (2009–present)
  • Ronnie Moss (2013–present)

Heart of Gold – an encore tribute to Neil Young

“I want to live, I want to give. I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold. It’s these expressions, I never give. That keeps me searching for a heart of gold.” The words from “Heart of Gold” ring true to many. We are searching for a heart of gold; all of us in one way, shape or form. Neil Young, like some of the others I have written about, is our conscious. Like Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot and Harry Chapin, he sang about us. Our trials and tribulations. Like Dylan, he told us what was wrong in the world – he could just play a meaner guitar.

To appreciate fully the greatness of Neil Young, I would encourage you to give some compilation of his songs a listen on a long trip somewhere. I have a CD called “Decade” which is a two disc set, which seem to always have one of the two in my car’s CD player. Yes, I am an Old Fart, I know. One of his conscious testing songs still resonates today – “Southern Man.” Read on and tell me if you agree: “Southern man, better keep your head. Don’t forget what your good book said. Southern change gonna come at last. Now your crosses are burning fast. Southern man.” Please know that I am from the south. Yet, there are cadres of people who have become quite exclusionary, which is giving the south a bad name once again. This is very frustrating to many, but our voices aren’t as newsworthy as the loud and proud neighbors we have.

Another favorite is “Old Man.” It tells the tale of how the old man was once just like the young rebel. “Old man, look at my life, I’m a lot like you were…. Old man, look at my life, twenty-four and there is so much more.” The times were different, but the arguments are similar. Let me live my life. It is mine not yours. This argument has been going for years and will go on tomorrow. Mark Twain once lamented how stupid his father was when he was a teenager and how smart he became once Twain got in his twenties. That was written more than 125 years ago. He could write it 125 years into the future and it would still be true.

One of the best tunes he wrote with a very distinctive title is “Cinnamon Girl.”  He describes her as “A dreamer of pictures, I run in the night. You can see us together, chasing the moonlight. My Cinnamon Girl.” I think he uses Cinnamon as it is spicy and often used with something sweet. At least that is the conclusion I like to believe is true. But, the song is evocative in many ways. Give it a listen and see if you concur.

There so many to choose from – “Helpless” is a favorite. If you get a chance to see The Band’s final concert movie “The Last Waltz”, look for Joni Mitchell singing a haunting back-up to “Helpless” with Young.  “Ohio” is an anthem against President Richard Nixon for allowing the national guard to be called out on college students at Kent State, where an itchy trigger finger caused students to die. This was one of the more avoidable tragedies in our country and was a damn shame.”Down by the River”, “Cowgirl in the Sand”, “The Needle and the Damage Done”, “Like a Hurricane”, “Long May You Run” and “Sugar Mountain” are all terrific. He has so many songs, that I have likely left off someone’s favorite.

Let me close with one he wrote during the time of the first President George Bush, back when our homeless problem was becoming worse, the war on drugs was failing miserably and we tended to speak in platitudes, some of which you may recognize. “Keep on Rockin in the Free World” is an anthem*. To me it says, I am still here and this is a great place to be, but quit screwing people over: “We got a thousands points of light, for the homeless man. We got a kinder, gentler machine gun hand….Got a man of the people says to ‘keep hope alive.’ Got fuel to burn, got roads to drive…Keep on rockin in the free world…”

One of the reasons I like this song is politicians and leaders like to speak in buzz words or say things that sound great. Yet, talk is cheap. You need to make a move to make a difference. People were dying on the street, yet little was done by leadership. Plus, I like it as he showed he still had the knack. The 1980’s had some good songs, but it was a decade of big hair bands whose lyrics and music were fairly straightforward and similar. This song made a statement by its words, as well as made a statement by its tune. But, the other reason it resonated as one month after its release, the Berlin Wall fell and it became an anthem for “rockin in the free world.”

Neil, you have been our conscience for a long time. We love the important words, the storytelling and the music. We love that you stand up for what you believe. Keep on rocking for a free world and mining for that heart of gold.

*Note: Here is Neil Young singing “Rockin’ in the Free World” on Saturday Night Live in 1989.

Thursday by Jim Croce

There are not too many top of mind of songs about Thursday. In fact, I had to go searching for a good song, as my efforts last week for a song a day, ended when I switched gears. In turns out I found a song by the late, great Jim Croce which I already knew, but did not know its title.

Here are a few lyrics from Croce’s wonderful song called “Thursday” about what happens so much in life.

Well it started out just like a dream
And like a dream I knew that what we had,
Would have to end
‘Cause I was lookin’ for a,
Lifetime lover and,
You were lookin’ for a friend
Someone to be there
After all your night time lovers had gone,
The way they came
Someone who knew the way
And helped to play your daytime game
It’s not the same

One person is looking for a lifetime lover and the other is looking for a friend. How often in life have we each had that kind of mismatch of desires? How many times have we liked someone more than they liked us? Or, maybe the shoe was on the other foot, where a good friend is more smitten with you than you are with him, her or them.

I remember the scene in “Four Weddings and a Funeral” with Hugh Grant, when his best female friend (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) confides that she has always been in love with him. The words shared by the two of them after that moment are tender, affectionate, but not love like she wanted.

Even though he died much too young, Croce left us with a huge body of work like this. “Thursday” was not a huge hit, but it is a lovely song. Here is a link, so give it a listen. It is vintage Jim Croce. There are a few other Thursday songs to give a listen to.

https://spinditty.com/playlists/songs-about-thursday