Songwriters and Performers

Periodically, I have written posts about the songwriters and performers who combined words and music so magically. The posts that have received the most notoriety on my blog are not necessarily the biggest names, although they are indeed popular.

The post on Bob Seger has been my most visited musical post. When I think of the line from the movie “Eddie and the Cruisers,” about the key to a great song is words and music, I think of a short list of names including Seger’s. “Rock and Roll never forgets” sang Seger. He is right .

The second most read, but with a bullet, is a tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Four terrific songwriters and musicians in one group. This post may pass Seger’s soon, but in fairness to Seger it is four against one. Plus, the music of CSNY has a more cultural message. Their self-titled first album with the four of them with “So Far” tacked on the end of the title is one of the finest end to end albums ever, in my view.

The next in kind is the post about Gordon Lightfoot. He is indeed a troubadour, but his songwriting has been covered by many including Peter, Paul and Mary and Elvis Presley. He is still touring, so try to catch his laid back sing-a-long. He speaks about his songs and life, which are also poignant reflections.

The fourth most frequented post is by an artist who left us much too soon, Jim Croce. His music spoke clearly about loneliness, heartache, love, melancholy and relationships. Had he not died so young, he would be as popular as any song writer.

Below is a link to these posts. They may also link you to other musical posts, so please feel free to reminisce and share your favorites.

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/a-beautiful-loser-bob-seger/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/teach-your-children-a-tribute-to-csny/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2013/01/31/rainy-day-people-tribute-to-gordon-lightfoot/

https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2012/09/29/jim-croce-a-voice-quieted-too-soon/

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I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then

I have always been a big fan of interesting song lyrics. The coining of a phrase that says more than the few words used in the song make it memorable.The above title comes from a Bob Seger song “Against the Wind” as he laments it was more exciting not knowing some things when you were younger about love and life. The following sample lyrics are not necessarily my favorites, but they are a few that represent my fascination with good wordsmithing.

“See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded,” is a line from Jim Croce’s song “Operator.” He is struggling to find the number of an old girlfriend who ran off with his “best old ex-friend Ray.” Since it was written on a matchbook, it means it was probably written down in a bar, maybe when  she let him know she was leaving.

“Just like a paperback novel, the kind the drugstore sells,” comes from Gordon Lightfoot’s “If you could read my mind.” He has several like this in the song, but to me he describes the cheesy romance novels you can buy in a drugstore where the hero saves the day. This is a melancholy song about people who can’t reclaim the love they once had, so the hero references are fantasy and not reality.

“Clowns to the left of me, joker’s to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you,” is a Stealers Wheel song whose title is the last phrase of the song lyric. The song can mean so many things, but it shows that we are in this together and we need to ignore the fools on either side telling us what to do. It is also a good metaphor for our political stalemate.

Bob Dylan wrote and sang “How many ears must one man have, before he can hear people cry.” The song made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary’s rendition sung on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial beside Martin Luther King is called “Blowing in the Wind.”  There are great references throughout this song, but I like this one the most as African-Americans have been maltreated for so long and it seemed to resonate more.

When people think of Rush, they do not first think of lyrics, but their many songs are replete with excellent wordsmithing. In the song “Free will” the words that resonate with me are “if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” I found this very poignant as many do not realize that by not doing something, they are making a choice. A good example is choosing not to vote believing it makes no difference. Yet, by not voting, the lesser of two candidates can be elected making a problem worse.

Of course, no list would be complete without some reference to a Beatles song. In “Lady Madonna,” Paul McCartney sings “Lady Madonna, children at your breast, it’s a wonder how you manage to feed the rest.”  This line speaks volumes of the difficulties in raising children, but especially in poverty or near poverty when you are a single parent.

Let me close with romantic song from David Gates of “Bread.” The lyric goes “When my love for life has all run dry, you’ll come and pour yourself on me.”  This lyric from the song “If” resonates with me as we pick each other up. He has done all he can and needs help, so his lover comes and pour herself on him to bring his spirits back to life.

I would love to hear your reaction to these and for you to share some of your favorites. These were top of mind, so I have overlooked many great lyrics.

 

Let’s go to a concert

Whether it is a local band or one who has sold millions of songs, attending a venue to hear live music is thrilling and makes you feel alive. My wife and I have stumbled into live music on vacation which was a treat and we have made special plans to attend artists of renown. We have even gone to see our friend play piano in one of his bands  on very short notice. This post is dedicated to him as he suffered a stoke yesterday and may not make it. We are thinking good thoughts for him and his family.

Let’s honor him together and take a trip down memory lane. Please feel free to offer some of your thoughts and experiences.Together, my wife and I have seen some fairly big name performers and with very few exceptions were worth trip. I have even taken my boys to see some artists that my wife has not cared for, but were excellent to us – I could not drag her to see ACDC, Styx or Rush, for example, but we enjoyed the heck out of them. Yet, I was able to get her to see the Allman Brothers, which was well worth the effort.

Some of the well-known artists we have been fortunate enough to see include: Bruce Springsteen, who will leave you worn out, but you could hear just one more; Paul McCartney, from which I had to text my Beatles fanatical brother to guess where we were, Elton John, where we saw three generations of fans singing word for word with Elton; Eric Clapton, who brought along Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks for kicks; Tina Turner, the best performer around; Heart, led by Ann Wilson, one of the greatest Rock and Roll singers around; Tom Petty, who is so very underrated even with his tremendous body of work; Steve Winwood, what a thrill; Rod Stewart, who my wife had to see, but I enjoyed as well; Bob Seger, one of my all time favorites where we got tickets in the nose bleed section; KD Lang (once with Tony Bennett),  who can sing almost anything and does the best version of “Hallelujah” you will ever hear; Bonnie Raitt, God she is great; Peter, Paul and Mary, a wonderful treat, Chicago, where it rained half the concert, and George Benson, a great guitarist and performer.

In some smaller venues, we saw Mary Chapin Carpenter, who is genuine, talented and funny; Elvis Costello, who my wife did not want to see, but enjoyed immensely; James Taylor, several times and always a treat; Jimmy Buffett, who is especially entertaining when seen with your drunk brother-in-law; Jackson Browne, who actually disappointed (avoid the first concert tour date), but whose music I love nonetheless and Flogging Molly, which was a wonderfully unique experience. We also saw: Arlo Guthrie (twice), Marcia Ball (go see her if you can), Marshall Tucker (a band with a tragic history), Altan, a neat Irish band, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Foreplay, Harry Connick, Jr. and I am sure I am leaving off several others. My wife has gone to several with my daughter that were interesting from Owl City to Emilie Autumn, who apparently throws muffins at her audience.

Yet, we have seen some nice local bands that were a thrill, from Jazz to Blues to Swing to Pop. We have bought their CDs to honor their performance and help them out. But, the CDs also provide some memories taking us back to Montreal, New Orleans, Killarney, San Francisco, Blowing Rock or even home in Charlotte or Winston-Salem when we lived there. There is a Cajun restaurant in my home city that has live music every day. A neat memory of ours is my oldest son being asked to sing along with an Irish family in a pub near Watertown, Ireland as he was the lone American who knew the words to a song.

Music heard at home or in your car is a wonderful experience, but hearing live music makes it memorable. My wife won’t listen to Elvis Costello at home, but she enjoyed his concert, e.g. Yet, let me close with a tribute and memory of our friend Eddie, who had the stroke. Eddie plays in several groups, but the last time we heard him play was at his oldest daughter’s wedding a few months ago. It was also memorable as my wife played social director and got everyone up to dance, including Eddie’s mother. God be with you Eddie. You make us feel better about our lives with your music.

So, let me hear from all of you. What are some of your memorable experiences? Have you seen some of same folks? Do you have friends that play?

A Beautiful Loser – Bob Seger

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.”