The ABCs of male song names

Several months ago, I wrote a post which identified a few songs with a female names in the title by letter of the alphabet. Thinking it would be harder (and it was), here is the same rendering with male names.

A – Abraham, Martin & John, You can call me Al
B – Me and Bobby McGee, Ode to Billy the Kid
C – Charlie Brown, Chuck E’s in Love
D – Daniel, Danny’s Song
E – Eli’s Coming
F – Fernando
G – Gabriel and me, Gabriel’s Message
H – I’m Henry the Eighth
I – Ivan meets GI Joe, Igor’s Theme
J – Hey Jude, Johnny B. Goode, Hey Joe
K – Keith don’t go, Kevin
L – Levon, Bad Bad Leroy Brown
M – Mack the knife, Matthew & son
N – Ned Kelly
O – Oliver’s Army
P – Pancho and Lefty
Q – Quinn the Eskimo
R – Richard Cory, Rapid Roy
S – Boy named Sue
T – Tom Sawyer, Ghost of Tom Joad
U – Uncle Albert, Uncle John’s Band
V – Vincent
W – Little Willie, Willie the pimp
X – X-Men Apocalypse
Y – Flight of Yuri Gagarin
Z – Zack and Codeine

In preparing this list, I did more Googling than with female names in song titles. There are several songs on the list with which I am not familiar. Also, there are more single word female titles, with more of the men name’s accompanied by an action or noun.

Nonetheless, there are a number of very good songs from Dion’s “Abraham, Martin and John” to The Beatles “Hey Jude” to Don McLean’s “Vincent” to Loggins and Messina “Danny’s song” to Jim Croce’s “Bad, bad Leroy Brown” to Elvis Costello’s “Oliver’s Army,” et al.

Please offer your thoughts. I did take liberty with the word “Uncle,” but since it enabled me mention Paul McCartney and Grateful Dead songs, I feel better about it.

Only the good die young

One of Billy Joel’s biggest hits was called “Only the good die young.” It actually was controversial in the Catholic Church, when he sang “you Catholic girls start much too late.” But, taking the title a little differently, there is a long list of very talented performers who left us way to early. The following is by no means a complete list, but illustrates the loss of music never written or sung.

Ritchie Valens died at the age of 17 after the start of a bright future. He had three huge hits under his belt, including a rock-n-roll version of the Mexican song “La Bamba.” Valens’ real name was Ricky Valenueza.

Buddy Holly died at the age of 22 on the same plane crash with Valens and the Big Bopper. This spawned the song “American Pie” by Don McLean when he sang of the “day the music died.” Holly was a meteoric talent and some say would have been bigger than Elvis, primarily because he wrote his own music. Before he died, he had a solid dozen big hits.

The class of age 27 deaths is profound. Jim Morrison of The Doors died at that age. He was the enigmatic leader that wowed the female audience. The Doors had a significant number of hits with very interesting lyrics. Morrison, though, did his health no service with his excessive alcohol and drug use which led to some rocky stage performances.

Jimi Hendrix died at age 27 as well. Hendrix was regarded by many as the greatest rock-n-roll guitarist ever. He matched his unique abilities playing a right handed guitar upside down as a lefty, with lyrics that matched the psychedelic age. He also does the best cover of a Bob Dylan song called “All along the watchtower.”

Janis Joplin was another talent that died at age 27. Her voice was spectacular and she put every pound and inch of her body into belting out her songs. I remember Dick Cavett interviewing her after one of her songs and she was still catching her breath. She was influenced by Bessie Smith, Nina Simone, Etta James and Aretha Franklin.

Kurt Cobain also died at age 27. He led a grunge rock movement from the Northwest that was gaining huge footing. It would have been interesting to see where his music went in the future.

Hank Williams died mysteriously at age 29. He was one of the more prolific country song writers, with many of his songs crossing over into more national appeal. If you ever have a couple of hours, watch “The Hank Williams Story,” with George Hamilton playing Williams.

Patsy Cline died in a plane crash at the age of 30. Her voice and style took country music more mainstream. While there is a movie on her career, I love how Beverly D’Angelo played her in “Coal Miners Daugher” about her good friend Loretta Lynn. Her version of Willie Nelson’s “Crazy” is legendary.

Jim Croce also died in a plan crash at age 30. Croce was a prolific song writer and talent who wrote every day music for the every day person. His wordsmithing and guitar driven music was a classic match. It should be noted the great guitar work was played by Croce and Maury Meuhleisen, who also died in the crash. If you ever get a CD of Croce’s greatest hits, you need to get a package set, as it will need two.

Cass Elliott of The Mamas and the Papas died at age 32. She was the lead voice on most of their biggest hits and her vocal talents could blend with a variety of music. I saw her and legendary crooner Andy Williams sing two different songs in harmony on his show.

Stevie Ray Vaughan, the great blues guitarist, died at the age of 35. The story goes he and Eric Clapton switched places on a helicopter ride from a guitar festival. We would have lost a talent either way. Vaughan still does not get the notoriety he deserves as he could match Hendrix and other blues legends. It should be noted, he gave homage to these legends when he played with them.

Harry Chapin died in a car accident at age 38. He was on his way to a benefit concert. If you are not familiar with his work, he was one of the best storytellers in song. Plus, he would talk with the audience between songs making them live more. People know “Cats in the Cradle,” but do check out “Mr. Tanner” and “A Better Place to Be.”

The final three need no introduction and deserve their own post – John Lennon was killed at the age 40, Elvis Presley died at the age of 42 and Marvin Gaye died at age 44. Three of the most legendary talents could have offered so much more.

If I left off someone, please add them in a comment. If you are not familiar with any of these performers, please check them out. You will not be sorry. If you are familiar, please revisit your past. Only the good die young.

Stop in Nevada

“And she doesn’t know what’s comin’ but she’s sure of what she’s leaving behind,” sings Billy Joel in “Stop in Nevada.” This lyric is pertinent as a stop in Nevada would reveal the only state with a female majority in the stafe legislature.

And, it works well. Nevada has far more bipartisan legislation than any other state. The women legislators find common ground and show men the path forward. As 49% of the state house consists of men, their votes are needed to pass legislation.

The women represent both parties. They socialize and do community service and events together. Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy and Democrat Selena Torres sat for an interview on CBS Saturday Morning News. These two have worked across the aisle to push a bill to improve education.

Hardy said. “I think it has been the most incredible experience of my life,” Torres noted, “I know we have over 90% bipartisanship on the bills passed so far.”

This is what our country needs more of. We need representation that looks like America. Two states I won’t mention have only 15% and 17% female membership in their legislatures. It is important to increase those percentages as women tend to be the primary healthcare giver of the family and make up a higher percentage of teachers. So, dinner table issues of medical bills and education will get more weight.

I also believe women will help us break through zero-sum politicking (I must win and you must lose). It should be noted it took ten female US Senators to avoid the US defaulting on its debts in October 2013 after the government was shut down. This last minute effort was highly commendable and a relief to the male leaders who could not stop their posturing long enough to keep us from driving off a cliff.

We must work together to solve problems. We must demand our politicians do the same, otherwise they are shouting at the wind or come up with extreme versions of laws. I am enthused by the new majority in Nevada as well as the wave of women who won US House seats last fall.

I hope they can break down barriers. The US Congress removed an area where legislators socialized across party lines. Now, about 40% of their time is doing fundraising phone calls, per a retired Congressman. It is hard to work on anything, much less biparisan laws, when you don’t take the time figure out how to pass laws together. Maybe, just maybe, these women will change that paradigm.

Memorable concert moments

My wife and I have enjoyed many concerts throughtout our almost 35 years together as a couple. I wrote recently about our joy in seeing Joan Osborne in a small venue. Here are a few more memorable moments.

– Tina Turner is high up on a short list of performers. Before ending one of her famous songs, she asked the men in the audience to sing the chorus. She chided, “You’ve been saying this most of your lives.” The song was “What’s love got to do with it?”

– Billy Joel has so many hits, on three occasions during his performsnce, he asked the audience to vote on one of two songs to sing.

– Elvis Costello had this huge spinning wheel on the stage which had his song titles listed. He would ask someone from the audience to spin the wheel to pick the next song.

– Eric Clapton was joined on tour by Derek Trucks and Buddy Guy. Now, that was a treat.

– Bob Seger is one of my favorites. Near the end of his great show, he introduced the band. Don Brewer, the drummer, was a foundjng member of Grand Funk Railroad, a great 1960-70s band.

– Sarah Brightman, the London theatre actress who was once marriied to Andrew Lloyd Webber, can flat out sing. Her version of “The Theme to Titanic” was sung in French. Bravo.

– Elton John has a multi-generational following. It was so cool to see grandmothers, mothers and daughters sing each song word for word.

– Paul McCartney is a treat, anytime, anywhere. From The Beatles to Wings to his solo career, he has a significant body of work. The stories behind some songs were an added treat.

– Heart puts on an amazing concert. Ann Wilson was introduced by her sister Nancy as having one of the greatest Rock-n-Roll voices. No argument here.

– Tony Bennett and kd lang toured together after the cut an album. Her admiration for him was obvious. She offerred a humorous story about a hit song of hers “Constant Craving.” An uninformed fan had referred to it as “Instant Gravy,” which tickled her.

– Two concerts where I took my boys stand out, as Mom did not want to go. ACDC was terrific as we sat above left of the band. Also, Rush was outstanding as three musicians could produce so much sound.

And, there are so many more – Tom Petty, James Taylor. Chicago, Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood, Bonnie Raitt, Janis Ian, Don McLean, etc. But, let me end on a personal note.

We attended an outdoor concert of Jimmy Buffett’s. My brother-in-law went with us and was feeling no pain. Someone from behind was shouting for Buffett to sing “God’s own drunk,” then I realized everyone was looking at us – it was my brother-in-law standing on the bleachers shouting.

Well, that is enough for now. What are some of your favorites? Any amusing memories?

That happiness thing

“Success is not the key to happiness,
Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing,
Then you will be successful.”

I do not know the author of this quote, but we have it hanging as a beautiful banner in a hall. I believe it is important to be the best you can be at whatever endeavor you embark upon. But, it makes it far more rewarding if you enjoy what you are doing.

I am reminded of the successful producer of movies who, after closing on his beautiful home, realized this did not make him happy. He decided to make a documentary movie which he called “I Am,” about what makes people happy. After interviewing a number of sociologists, philosophers, doctors, religious leaders, etc., his conclusion was money did not buy happiness. But, the absence of money could cause unhappiness.

Using economic terms to describe this, as people earn money beyond funding basic needs of food, shelter and health, there is a “diminishing marginal utility” to having more. Once you have enough to survive with comfort, having more does not make you happier. This documentary reinforced doing something that gives you purpose.

Having said that, many of us cannot afford to do what we want. We have to do what we can to make ends meet. And, sometimes the ends don’t meet. So, find joy where you can be it work, volunteer work, helping friends and family, attending classes at the community college, hanging with your mates, practicing your faith, etc. Don’t let your job define you.

At almost 59 years of age, I can attest life can be hard. It can beat you up. So, laugh, sing and dance more and often. Be a friend and listen with both ears and help when needed. When times get rough, take it a day at a time and do what you can.

Billy Joel sang that it iseither sadness or euphoria” which defines our moments. I think we live most of our lives in between those two extremes. If we find ourselves leaning toward sadness, we need to change the scenery. When euphoric, we need to remember well those moments especially when the sad ones intervene. We should recognize euphoria is fleeting, so find contentment where and when we can.

In another old song, Bob Dylan offers the simplest advice to our complex challenges. Just “keep on keepin’ on.” It beats the alternative and helps us navigate those rough waters.

 

Scenes from an Italian Restaurant – Billy Joel impressed us all

My wife and I joined some good friends to go see Billy Joel in concert last Saturday. It was a wonderful evening, one where we left hoarse from all the singing we did. The beauty of his music is he has something for everyone and many generations were captured on the big screen singing right along.

At the age of 66, Joel can entertain, but he does get weary. His only break was he spoke between songs and the few minutes before he returned for five song encore. The song that the crowd loves to hear, “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” took its toll on him. It is three songs blended into one, with distinctive melodies in each as it tells the story of Brenda and Eddie who were high school sweethearts, marry and divorce during the same summer. But, it is more about reflections of others over these times as they drink bottles of reds and whites at the restaurant.

Joel was so spent, that as he put on his harmonica holder around his neck, he had to catch his breath to begin his pre-encore finale of “Piano Man.” His songs help you reminisce about times in your life, as he told you every so often which album and year the song came out. He was also very engaging, dedicating one song to Donald Trump, before he proceeded with his first hit “The Entertainer.”

In addition to his songs, he noted that it was the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album and sang “Norwegian Wood” and “Hard Days Night,” blending this song into the middle of his “In the Middle of the Night.” His group is so talented musically, as he of course is, they even finished one of his faster songs with a tribute to Led Zeppelin.

He took the time to honor the victims in Paris as he played France’s national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” and encouraged us all not to give up our freedom and live our lives. He then paused and said “f*ck them,” about the terrorists. This drew a lengthy applause.

Throughout, he played and talked to us. It was a special evening. After “The Entertainer,” which has a line which means if you don’t stay on the charts, you get put on the discount rack like another can of beans. He said, “what do I know. I haven’t been on the charts for 22 years and I am still here. And, so are you.”

He played about 2 1/2 hours and we heard many of our favorites. “She is always a woman to me,” was a huge sing along. “I’m in a New York state of mind,” was terrific. He started his encore with “We didn’t start the fire,” which led into “Uptown Girl,” which is even better sung live.

It was a terrific concert, flashback and memory. Billy, thanks for all you have done for us. And, keep on doing it.

Some good news for the holidays

Billy Joel’s song “We didn’t start the fire” is an accurate reference that problems exist in the world and always have. I think the key difference is with the Internet and social media age we live in, you can find bad news anywhere in the world. It even slams you in the face if your browser opens up to the news of the day. But, it is not any worse than it has been before. I don’t know if that gives people greater or less comfort. To me, the worse issue is the amount of money it takes to get elected makes politicians beholden to funders and not the issues that face their constituents. So, real issues are not addressed in the way they should be.

However, in this time of bad news first, or per my friend Barney’s favorite quote about the press, “if it bleeds, it leads,” there are a few bright spots, even in the darkest stories.

  • The state of New York has banned fracking in their state due to a report that brings into the equation the health risks that fracking poses for its residents. This caught even anti-fracking advocates by surprise with the report noting there is a correlation between health risks and fracking and it warrants further study under the Precautionary Principle, which scientists around the world uphold. This principle states if there appears to be a risk to humans or the environment which impacts humans due to a process, then the group who benefits from the process needs to convince others that it is safe before proceeding.
  • The number of uninsured folks without healthcare coverage has dropped significantly per the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation from 17.7% to 12.4% as of September 30, 2014. With the huge enrollment success underway with the Affordable Care Act, with over 2.5 million new enrollees as of December 13, this uninsured rate will drop further. This helps people and the economy as it keeps more folks from becoming a train wreck through preventive services and medications, lessens the risk of bankruptcy due to medical reasons and gives them more money to spend. And, the healthcare costs increases are moderating due in part to the Affordable Care Act per multiple sources.
  • While the war on Ebola is far from won, significant progress has been made to the extent people can get a breath of air. Also, with candidates not in election mode spreading fear about Ebola risks, it is less center stage in the US. While it is still a real threat in those countries where it started, there seems to be more concerted efforts and positive stories in the battle to contain the virus. Time Magazine hit a home run with its recognition of the Ebola Fighters as the persons of the year in 2014.
  • Beneath the bad news on ISIS and the Taliban attack that killed the children in Pakistan, the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds are beginning to see who the real danger is to their existence. It is not the US and western allies with all of our imperfections. It is extremists who take advantage of economic strife and blame others for their problems. Killing children glorifies no one. Killing women glorifies no one. Killing people who disagree with you means you fear your argument cannot stand up to debate. The counter balancing problem is the corruption in the leadership. When leaders pocket money for aid, permit bribery to be standard operating practice, and squelch dissent, then they also are as guilty for sowing the seeds of disenfranchisement.
  • For all the crap the President is taking for immigration actions and the recent action on normalizing relations with Cuba, the moves are supported by many including the US Chamber of Commerce and will enhance trade, facilitate the retention of intellectual capital and let the economy be the best goodwill ambassador. Even during the Jim Crow era, economic trade benefitted all and normalized relations to a certain extent. The economic goodwill set the stage for civil right changes. So, if we can leverage what has been done and pass supportive bills to both, getting beyond the “gotcha politics,” then these efforts can be made even more significant.

Some people may not agree with my conclusions, but I see the above as positive developments, even though some of the good news has been instigated at a horrible cost. To me, we must honor those who have died to make sure that others do not die in vain, especially our children and women who are maltreated in far too many places.

Happy holidays to all. And, bless the women and children in the world. They need our support.

Miami 2017 – Billy Joel may need to change the ending with the encroaching seas

In one of Billy Joel’s more memorable songs written in the 1970s, “Miami 2017” sometimes referred to as “The Night the lights went out on Broadway,” he sings of how everyone moved away from New York to Miami when it got so bad there. Here are the concluding lyrics: You know those lights were bright on Broadway. But that was so many years ago… Before we all lived here in Florida. Before the mafia took over Mexico. There are not many who remember. They say a handful still survive… To tell the world about… The way the lights went out. And keep the memory alive…

However, Joel may need to change the song ending as Miami is being encroached upon by the sea and it is not anticipated to let up. Per a PBS Newshour news article led by Kwame Holman, sea water is now coming up through the sewage system into the streets, the only place the water can escape. And, unlike Hurricane Sandy that leveraged off the rising seas to wreak havoc, this is happening without a hurricane, which makes it even more scary. Here is a link to the article:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/south-florida-rising-sea-levels/

I am not implying Miami will be under water by 2017, but I am saying that the predictions of a meter rise in the seas (between 39 and 40 inches) by the end of the century, may be too optimistic. Miami’s Dade County has been joined by three other adjacent counties to plan for the rising sea. Per the article, Eric Carpenter of Miami Beach Public Works Department said, “We have done our storm water management master plan that was adopted in 2012, and that had identified approximately $200 million worth of improvements that we needed to do over the next 20 years in order to keep pace with sea level rise and addressing flooding concerns within the city of Miami Beach.”

Per Holman, “Miami Beach is not alone in addressing sea level rise. South Florida has become a model for regional cooperation on this issue. Projections by a four-county climate change compact were turned into an action plan with more than 100 recommendations. Those now are being reviewed. Some have been adopted by county governments. Broward County Mayor Kristin Jacobs has been at the forefront of South Florida climate change discussions and has earned national recognition for her work.”

The dilemma is the $200 million estimated fix will likely not be near enough, some thinking it may need to be doubled. Miami is right at sea level, so any rise of significance will be problematic. Yet, the fact four counties have joined together to discuss the problem and identify action steps is encouraging. The logical concern is how to pay for what needs to be done. So, mapping that funding strategy must be a key part of the equation.

Several states have accepted reports of the 39 inch plus sea level rise – Virginia, Louisiana are two that come to mind. Unfortunately, I sit in a state that refused to accept such a report and would only accept one that projected forward off the previous 100 years’ results. So, North Carolina is hoping the seas only rise by 8 inches by the end of the century. North Carolina is literally holding back the sea with legal briefs. I applaud South Florida for doing what we are not in NC. Climate change is real, we are seeing it already and we need to do something about it. I hope that other communities share Miami’s concern and plan accordingly.

I’ve Loved These Days – Tribute to Billy Joel

So before we end and then begin
We’ll drink a toast to how it’s been
A few more hours to be complete
A few more nights on satin sheets
A few more times that I can say
I’ve loved these days

While the choice is so very hard, this is the end to my favorite Billy Joel song – “I’ve Loved These Days.” It is not his most famous, but like many, it is very pure and heartfelt. I have not written a tribute to Billy Joel before, as it is quite difficult to hone down to a list of songs to highlight. One of these days, I will attempt The Beatles, Rolling Stones or Bruce Springsteen, but for now let my highlight one of the best songwriters of our time, William Martin Joel.

I like this song for the somber remembrance and the quiet echo of we are mortal, so let’s make the best of it. He has so many songs like this which have both meaning and wonderful music to highlight the words. As with other tribute posts, I am going to stay away from the biggest hits, yet I will mention some below. Another melancholy song along these same lines is “Summer, Highland Falls.” Here is a brief taste of lyrics:

How thoughtlessly we dissipate our energies
Perhaps we don’t fulfill each others fantasies
And as we stand upon the ledges of our lives,
With our respective similarities
It’s either sadness of euphoria

This song is a little more unique, as his wordsmithing and tune is catchy, but the words are so powerful. I take away from this song that none of us are perfect, so let’s do the best we can to fulfill each other. The choice is sadness or euphoria.

Another favorite is one of several where he shows his love for New York City. This if from “A New York State of Mind”:

Some folks like to get away,
Take a holiday from the neighborhood.
Hop a flight to Miami Beach or to Hollywood.
But I’m takin’ a Greyhound on the Hudson River line.
I’m in a New York state of mind.

While many of his songs are reflective and focus on our imperfect humanity (“Honesty”, “Captain Jack”, and “The Stranger”, Joel is quite the romantic and nostalgic person. A wonderfully written song, which needs to be listened to carefully is “She’s Always a Woman”. Here is a very small sample, as you cannot take this song out of context:

But, she’ll bring out the best
And the worst you can be
Blame it all on yourself
Cause she’s always a woman to me

The message to me is his lover is her own person. She will think for herself, so it is up to you to understand this and, if you do, then you can have a wonderful, meaningful relationship. If you don’t, then you better get out-of-the-way, as she wants someone who will love her for herself and not who you want her to be.

The romantic comes out in “Just the Way You Are”, “Tell Her About It”, “You’re My Home”, “Uptown Girl” and “She’s Got a Way”. But, the nostalgic songs are great as well. “We Didn’t Start the Fire”, “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”, “Only the Good Die Young” and “The Ballad of Billy the Kid” are excellent samples. One of my favorite nostalgic songs is “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” the song about Brenda and Eddie who were the king and queen of the prom, got married but divorced early and could never go back again. The song starts and ends at our favorite Italian place with a melancholy accordion playing in the background:

A bottle of red, and bottle of white
Whatever kind of mood you’re in tonight
I’ll meet you anytime you want
In our Italian Restaurant

Joel is most known for his first, most memorable hit “Piano Man” although he did make the charts earlier with “The Entertainer” an appropriately named song. Piano Man is sung as limerick and tells the tales of grandeur of all of the folks at the bar. The song concludes:

And the piano sounds like a carnival. And the microphone smells like a beer. And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar. And say “Man what are you doing here?”

Sing us a song you’re the piano man. Sing us a song tonight.  Well we’re all in the mood for a melody. And you’ve got us feeling alright

Thank goodness, Joel was given a much bigger platform to sing than this piano bar. I have left off so many songs, many of my favorites. I did not want to make this post a list, as it easily could have been. If you have not truly discovered Joel click here: http://www.billyjoel.com. If you have and want to wax nostalgic, go for a ride on the Hudson River Line with Billy as well. I will leave you with some lines from “Everybody Has a Dream”:

So let me lie and let me go on sleeping
And I will lose myself in palaces of sand
And all the fantasies that I have been keeping
Will make the empty hours easier to stand
I know that everybody has a dream
Everybody has a dream
And this is my dream, my own
Just to be at home
And to be all alone…with you.

Thanks Billy. Like you “I’ve Loved These Days.”