Rocketman and Yesterday

Yesterday, my son and I saw the movie “Yesterday” about a young singer who is in an accident caused by a blackout leaving him injured, but also the only person on the planet who remembers The Beatles. The movie stars Himesh Patel as the singer and Lily James as his manager and largest fan among very few. Yet, it is abetted by the role Ed Sheeran plays as himself recognizing the genius songwriting and Kate McKinnon as both performers greedy manager.

Last month, my wife and I saw “Rocketman,” a biopic about Elton John and his songwriting partnership with Bernie Taupin. While it differs from “Yesterday,” both feature the musical genius of the songwriters and performers. “Rocketman” stars Taron Egerton as John with Jamie Bell playing Taupin. “Rocketman” also stars Bryce Dallas Howard and Steven Mackintosh as John’s unsupportive parents, whose best adult support came from his Nan played by Gemma Jones

In both movies, the stars sing the songs. Egerton does a highly credible job of singing like Elton. Patel does not sing as well, but that is a key part of the story. He is an unsuccessful singer who starts singing great music, while Egerton is playing the singer. “Yesterday” is directed by Danny Boyle with the story and screenplay written by Richard Curtis and Jack Barth. “Rocketman” was directed by Dexter Fletcher with the story and screenplay written by Lee Hall.

Both movies are worth seeing. “Rocketman” reveals the musical genius of Elton John who could play songs after hearing them for the first time, even as a young boy. He was classically trained after his Nan helped him, but he could only go as he benefitted from a scholarship. Billy Joel, who toured with John later in their careers, noted John wrote backwards from most songwriters, writing the music to the words of Taupin.

“Yesterday” introduces the breadth of music by The Beatles to a younger audience featuring the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney with a few of George Harrison’s thrown in. The movie includes songs from early in The Beatles’ career as well as songs off The White Album. Please stay around for the credits as well, as you will fade out with a well-known song.

It is hard to pick which movie is better. Since, I am a huge Beatles’ fan, I would have to give the nod to the latter, although the critics liked “Rocketman” a little better. It should be noted, I also liked the movie of a few years ago “Across the Universe,” which had young actors singing The Beatles’ songs as part of the plot, not unlike “Mamma Mia,” which uses ABBA’s music. I think both movies are just shy of the success of “Bohemian Rhapsody” about Queen which won some Academy Awards last year, but they are still highly entertaining.

Since my wife could not join us, I am likely to go see “Yesterday” again. I think it is worth another go. It should be noted Lily James also played in the sequel to “Mamma Mia” which came out last year. In “Yesterday,” her singing is relegated to playing a chorus in early recording sessions, but she adds greatly to the movie.

While my guitar gently weeps

George Harrison of The Beatles was overshadowed by the prolific song writing duo of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Yet, he was an excellent song writer as well. One of his best songs he wrote paired him with Eric Clapton – “While my guitar gently weeps.”

I use this song as a metaphor as many of us are exhausted by the US President and his daily lying and bullying, that we just feel like weeping. But, while we weep, important things are not getting done and some things that should not be are occurring. So, while our collective guitars gently weep;

– our planet continues to heat up and wildfires become more prolific, drought areas become more parched, farms are more at risk, and our coastal cities have many more days of sunny day flooding;

– our oceans have islands of plastic both above and below the surface, landfills are teeming with plastic, especially after China stopped taking plastic shipments at the first of the year and our coral reefs are dying due to a multitude of factors;

– our US debt has passed an unhealthy level of $22 trillion and is expected to grow to over $33 trillion by 2027, with this fiscal year deficit getting closer to $1 trillion, likely exceeding it next year (this is on annual budget of $4 trillion);

– our allies no longer trust the US and its bullying President, so we will continue to suffer as other countries and companies therein seek other avenues for their supplies and products looking for market stability – they will deal with us, of course, but are finding other sources, as well; and

– our democracy is under threat by a regal minded and thin-skinned man who lives in the White House who denigrates any person or entity that does not adequately genuflect to his greatness, which is far more perception than reality.

There is, of course, many other reasons to weep. We need to address real problems and not cause other ones. We are exhausted by the focus on one man 24×7. It is truly all about The Donald.

I sure wish to hear George and Eric playing this song and make it all better.

A few cheers for George and Ringo

My friend Jill did an excellent piece yesterday on John Lennon, so I have been humming tunes of The Beatles all day. Without question, The Beatles owe their amazing success to the collaborative song writing of John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Yet, to overlook the contributions of George Harrison and Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Starr) does a disservice to the band.

Harrison was the very young lead guitarist who learned how to play from banjo music. He was three years younger than McCartney and was only seventeen when they played for months on end in Hamburg. Lennon at first thought he was too young,

George Martin, their famous producer was walking the halls after Brian Epstein was unsuccessfully pitching the young band he managed to a Martin colleague. Martin overheard Harrison’s guitar playing on record and popped in the office and decided to take them on.

Harrison would flavor the Lennon and McCartney songs with his picking. He also penned some outstanding songs for the band such as “Something,” “Taxman,” “Here comes the Sun” and “Within you, without you” to name a few. He was accredited for introducing an amalgam of eastern/ western music which is unique to both cultures.

As for Ringo, he did not join the band until 1962 after the band fired their first drummer Pete Best. Starr had been following them even though he was drummer for another band. He liked to wear rings, hence the stage name.

I did not know this until later, but Starr is a left handed drummer who plays on a right handed drum kit. So, his style yielded an interesting sound. He also likes to record in the same room with the others to see and feel how they are playing. Starr collaborated with many artists following the band’s break-up, as he was easy to get along with and could play.

While he sang lead on a few songs “Little help from my Friends,” “Yellow Submarine,” and “Octopus’ Garden,” besides his playing, his main contribution was his effervescent fun loving spirit. He was the beloved jester in a band full of cut-ups.

One final thought comes from the excellent Ron Howard documentary “Eight Days a Week,” which highlights their touring period. Starr said he could not hear his band mates in the big arenas, as the sound systems were not ready for the challenge at that time. So, he watched their body language to keep in time with them. Now, that is professional.

Paul is dead

When The Beatles released what I think is their best album called “Abbey Road,” quite a stir was raised. It was in 1969, well before Social Media and just before the mechanics of the Internet were invented. A rumor was started that Paul McCartney was dead and it went global as a story.

The rumor was based off a story in 1969, that Paul had died in a car crash three years earlier and was replaced. There were several clues, but a key piece of evidence was on the cover of the Abbey Road album where the four band members were pictured walking across the street in front of their studio of the same name.

John Lennon walked first dressed in all white like a spiritual being. Ringo Starr came next dressed in black as a minister or funeral director might. George Harrison was last dressed in jeans and a blue work shirt, as if he portrayed grave digger,

Paul was third and was dressed in a suit with no tie and no shoes. He was also walking out of step with the other three. Other signs were used as evidence from earlier songs and albums. Was this to promote record sales or was it one of the many crazy stories that followed The Beatles?

Two final comments. If this story came out today with Social Media, it would go viral beyond belief. It would likely fragment into many permutations which would also go viral. I am reminded of the story about Bob Hope’s passing which led Congress to have a moment of silence for him to commemorate his life. Yet, no one checked into the fact that he was not dead at that time.

Lastly, I am among many tourists who travelled to the site of the famous album cover picture. Like many before, I quickly walked on the street for a photo shot. The dilemma is Abbey Road is a busy street and the tour guide forwarned us. We just might have ended up dead like Paul needing the three others to bury us. By the way, Paul is still not dead.


The sun shines in every state and country

I am constantly bemused how leaders will attempt to gain support for an investment in fossil fuel energy with the statement that it will create jobs. In the case of the Keystone pipeline, I have heard 40,000 jobs, which are largely temporary. But, let’s say the jobs are permanent for the sake of argument. Creating 40,000 jobs would be a good thing, yet we still need to look at the cost/ benefit of the investment. In essence, proponents are talking about piping oil derived from a horrible means of extraction across our country with the risk of leakage.

However, on the flip side is the growing elegance and cost effectiveness of the solar energy industry whose costs continue to fall and are on par in some places with other less environmentally friendly energy sources. * By 2018, the costs should be on par across the board. But, sticking with the jobs, there are now about twice as many solar energy jobs as coal industry jobs and the disparity continues to grow with double-digit job growth in solar and retrenchment in coal.

This next statement should be the clincher, in my simple view. The sun shines in every state in the United States and in every country. The Keystone pipeline would cross only a few states. Petroleum and coal are produced in only a few states. And, it should be noted that solar energy does not need to be large-scale to be introduced, which is one reason it scares the energy institutions. People like you and me can install solar energy to reduce or alleviate our energy costs. Companies like Apple, Google, IKEA, etc. have moved ahead and are moving further ahead with solar energy (and wind energy) to power their distribution centers and stores.

And, if that does not clinch the argument, the following should. Solar energy is renewable and does not cause environmental problems like fossil fuel retrieval and use. When the health cost/ benefit analysis is considered, the decision on where to invest becomes much easier, as evidenced by the State of New York banning fracking. So, even with leaders who are obviously heavily funded by the fossil fuel industry and want to do away with renewable tax credits and frack away on and offshore, this movement toward solar energy (and wind energy) is happening and is attracting a lot of capital investors.  Plus, there are jobs being created right and left, if leaders would look at what is happening rather than listen to the people saying to look the other way.

So, George Harrison and Bob Dylan told us the answers to our energy and climate change problems even back in the 1960s. “Here comes the sun,” sang George and “the answer my friend is blowing in the wind,” sang Bob. Remember those songs as they represent key parts of our energy future.


* Note: Please check out the link below to an article in The Charlotte Business Journal regarding the comparative cost of rooftop solar energy.


I Get by with a Little Help from my Friends – Tribute to The Beatles

As I searched my memory of the vast library of Beatles’ songs, I felt this title and its purposeful meaning told the best story about my love and respect for this group of talented musicians and songwriters. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Richard Starkey (aka Ringo Starr), have made a huge impression on the lives of many people and still do even today. Their body of work is truly unrivaled in terms of the number of songs that go well beyond their 27 Number One hits. In fact, much of their best work, never made it that high. As before, rather than highlight their top-selling records which I love with you, I will focus on a  few songs that have a some additional meaning due to their words and music. Yet, there is one difference from my earlier posts – I am doing these lyrics entirely from memory, so I am liable to make a mistake. So, if you catch one, please let me know.

Let me begin with the title song that Lennon and McCartney wrote for Ringo Starr to sing. Since he was not allowed to sing on many of the songs, it is a fitting tribute to this left-handed drummer.

“What would you think if I sang out of tune, would you stand up and walk out on me. Lend me your ears and I will sing you a song, but I will try not to sing out of key. Oh, I got by with a little help from my friends. I am getting high with a little help from my friends.”

My favorite Beatles song, if I have one, is “Eleanor Rigby” as it tells a tale of loneliness, which is not a foreign concept at all. Think of that and please speak to everyone with a good morning or some form of well wishes:

“Father McKenzie, writing the words to a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near. Look at him working, darning his socks in the night when there’s nobody there. What does he care. All the lonely people, where do they all come from. All the lonely people, where do they all belong.”

Lennon and McCartney penned almost all of the songs, with one taking the lead and the other offering input. One of Lennon’s quiet favorites of mine is “Norwegian Wood.”

“I once met a girl, or should I say, she once met me. She showed me her room, isn’t  it good, Norwegian wood. She asked me to stay and told me to sit anywhere. I looked around and I noticed there wasn’t a chair.”

He had far more meaningful songs, but I liked the fact this song was different sounding, but told of a personal encounter with two lonely souls in this world. I thought of this after the lonely people theme from ‘Eleanor Rigby.”

George Harrison also contributed a few of the better written songs. Frank Sinatra likes to say “Something” was one of the most beautifully written loves songs he had ever heard:

“Something in the way she moves, attracts me like no other lover. Something in the way she woo-hoos me. I don’t want to leave her now, I know I believe and how.”

McCartney penned another song about poverty where he elevates the working mother to higher esteem in “Lady Madonna.” Here is very brief taste:

“Lady Madonna, baby at your breast. I wonder how you manage to feed the rest. Who finds the money when you pay the rent, I wonder if the money is heaven sent.”

With deference to “Hey Jude,” probably McCartney’s best song was “Let it Be” as it was written in tribute to his mother Mary. When the song was first released, many felt it was reference to Jesus’ mother, given the church organ sound, but I think it was his way of saying his mother was a saint.

“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me. Speaking words of wisdom, let it be. And, in my hour of darkness, she is standing right in front of me. There will be an answer, let it be.”

As I read this, it is entirely possible, I reversed the chorus lines. Yet, the meaning holds with either version.

To me, Lennon’s greatest song was written after he left The Beatles – “Imagine.” It may be one of the more thought-provoking songs ever written, but let me save that for another day. Another powerful song written late in The Beatles is ‘Instant Karma.”

“Instant Karma’s going to get you. It’s going to knock you right in the face. So, you better get yourself together darling. And, join the human race. Yes, we will all shine on.”

To contrast, earlier in their career, he penned “Ticket to Ride” which is one of my favorites when they focused more on relationships.

“I think I’m going to be sad. I think it’s the day, yeah. The girl that’s driving me mad, is going away-ay. She’s got a ticket to ride-ide. She’s got a ticket to ride. She’s got a ticket to ride and she don’t care.”

Another favorite is such because they drafted Billy Preston to play the organ on it – “Get Back.” The lyrics are more avant-garde about interesting changes going on in our culture.

“Jo Jo was a man who thought he was an owner, but he knew it couldn’t last. Jo Jo left his home in Tuscon, Arizona, bought some California grass. Get back. Get back. Get back to where you once belonged.”

One of Harrison’s best is “Here Comes the Sun” as it is symbolic of the coming of spring and giving their relationship a new chance.

“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter. Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun….And, I say it’s alright….”

I have only scratched the surface on so many songs. I know I left off someone’s favorite. In addition to those noted above, just to name only a very few that I love: “Yesterday”, “A Day in the Life”, “Eight Days a Week”, “Come Together”, “Oh Darling”, “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Paperback Writer”, “Help”, “Michelle”, “Revolution”, “Back in the USSR”, and what many refer to as the end of “Abbey Road” where several songs are played together to close out the album. And, I could not think of a better way to end this tribute than the final words of that album:

“And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”