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.”

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.

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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

Rainy Day People – a tribute to Gordon Lightfoot (an encore)

With it raining cats and dogs outside tonight (and this morning with tropical storm Elsa), this title has greater meaning. “Rainy Day People” is not necessarily my favorite Gordon Lightfoot song, but it describes my bride of 27 years. Why you might ask? Here is a glimpse of Lightfoot’s magical pen in this song (a link to the song is below).

Rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call

Rainy day people don’t talk…they just listen til they’ve heard it all

Rainy day lovers don’t lie when they tell you they’ve been down like you

Rainy day people don’t mind if you’re crying a tear or two.

My wife embodies rainy day people. She is a listener who people feel comfortable in being around; comfortable in confiding in. Gordon Lightfoot’s talent and the reason we both love his music is his ability to capture who we are. We saw him perform a few years ago. We enjoyed his music, but also his storytelling between songs. A man who could have many did not seem to have any airs.

His most famous song is “If You Could Read My Mind.” I think even non-Lightfoot fans could sing many of the lyrics of this song. Since it is so popular, I will skip over it to some of his lesser known, but also great songs. Another favorite is “Circle of Steel” because it tells a painful story of an alcoholic mother whose husband is incarcerated and who will lose her child in a week. The gripping, soulful lyrics include:

A child is born to a welfare case…where the rats run around like the own the place

The room is chilly, the building is old….that’s how it goes

A doctor’s found on his welfare round…and he comes and he leaves on the double.

The subject of the song is not heroic, but the words tell a story of how people struggle. Most of us don’t live in gated communities. Life is very hard for many.

For the romantic side in each of us, he write songs like “Beautiful” which has words like:

At times I just don’t know….how you could be anything but beautiful

I think that I was made for you and you were made for me

And I know that I will never change…’cause we’ve been friends through rain or shine

For such a long, long time.

He has written so many songs that were so well-loved others also recorded them. “Early Morning Rain” was sung by Elvis. “For Lovin Me” was sung by Peter, Paul and Mary. He also added a second song to the back of that one as the first part talked disdainfully to a woman scorned when the man said “that’s what you get for lovin me.” The added song he recorded had a lament “Did she mention my name” as the person who scorned his lover was feeling great remorse later on. Other great songs of his include:

“Whisper My Name”

“Sundown”

“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

“Carefree Highway”

“Cotton Jenny”

“Old Dan’s Records”

“Summer Side of Life”

“Cold on the Shoulder”

And, countless others, that should not be construed less by my failure to list them. Yet, let me close with a self-portrait of Mr. Lightfoot, at least by my interpretation – “Minstrel of the Dawn.” In it he says:

The minstrel of the dawn is here….to make you laugh and bend your ear

Up the steps you’ll hear him climb….all full of thoughts, all full of rhymes

Listen to the pictures flow….across the room into your mind they go

Listen to the strings…they jangle and dangle…while the old guitar rings.

Words and music. To me this is what it is all about. Gordon Lightfoot would have been an excellent poet without his music. He was lesser known, but may have rivaled even Bob Dylan on his penning of songs. Maybe the fact one was from Canada and the other from Minnesota meant they had time to collect their thoughts when it was too cold to venture outside. Yet, with his music and armed with a better singing voice that Dylan could only dream of, he was the minstrel to all of us.

For our younger readers who may not know him as well, I would encourage you to take a plunge. You can start with the songs above, but that is only sticking a toe in the water. I invite other Gordon Lightfoot fans to offer their favorites whether listed above or not. “If you could read my mind love, what a tale my thoughts would tell….just like a paperback novel, the kind the drugstore sells.”

Gordon Lightfoot – Rainy Day People – Bing video

Land of Hope and Dreams – a Bruce Springsteen song to relish this July 4th

Whether it is people in poverty, the abused, the disenfranchised, or specific groups whose civil rights are threatened, Bruce Springsteen has been a consistent voice of reason and support. Like Bono, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Harry Belafonte, Joni Mitchell, John Mellencamp, Elton John, etc., Springsteen does not mind sticking his neck out or lend his voice to fight for the disenfranchised folks in the world. In fact, if people listen to his songs, many are about those who have little voice in a society that sometime steps on them.

One of my many favorite Springsteen songs is called “Land of Hope and Dreams” which speaks of the train taking us all to a better place. To me the song lives in the chorus which is repeated often as the song winds down. This is one song where the live version sounds better than the studio-recorded one, in part as the studio version was recorded after Clarence Clemons had passed with his saxophone being overdubbed.

Here are most of the lyrics, with the chorus highlighted at the end.
Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back
Well, darling, if you’re weary, lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry, yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Folks, The Boss’ words are compelling. We are all imperfect. We are all sinners. But, there is a place on the train for everyone. I for one applaud Springsteen for what he does to help. It is not a stretch for him to do so.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Land of Hope and Dreams (Live in New York City) – Bing video

Dialogue by Chicago – the words still matter (a reprise)

Robert Lamm, of the wonderful band Chicago, penned a song more than forty years ago called “Dialogue” that could still ring true today. The song resonates with me and is one of my personal favorites of the band because of its theme and musicality, but also the fact Lamm and lead singer Peter Cetera sang it as a dialogue. Two guys talking about the problems in the world. Here are the words:

Are you optimistic ’bout the way things are going?
No, I never ever think of it at all
Don’t you ever worry
When you see what’s going down?
No, I try to mind my business, that is, no business at all
When it’s time to function as a feeling human being
Will your bachelor of arts help you get by?
I hope to study further, a few more years or so
I also hope to keep a steady high
Will you try to change things
Use the power that you have, the power of a million new ideas?
What is this power you speak of and this need for things to change?

I always thought that everything was fine
Don’t you feel repression just closing in around?
No, the campus here is very, very free
Don’t it make you angry the way war is dragging on?
Well, I hope the president knows what he’s into, I don’t know
Don’t you ever see the starvation in the city where you live
All the needless hunger all the needless pain?
I haven’t been there lately, the country is so fine
But my neighbors don’t seem hungry ’cause they haven’t got the time

Thank you for the talk, you know you really eased my mind
I was troubled by the shapes of things to come
Well, if you had my outlook your feelings would be numb
You’d always think that everything was fine

We can make it happen
We can change the world now
We can save the children
We can make it better
We can make it happen
We can save the children
We can make it happen

I heard this song the other day on the radio for the first time in a long while and listened with my daughter as we drove to school. I found myself pointing out how the song is sung and called a dialogue. She thought that was cool. But, it got me thinking about the words. The problems then still exist today. The more things change, the more they stay the same. We have a national and global poverty problem. I am glad Pope Francis is bringing attention to this more.

We have a national and global problem with how we treat women and girls. Former President Jimmy Carter’s said his new book “A Call to Action” on this issue is the most important mission of his life. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book “Half the Sky” speaks to these issues as well. I would add global poverty and how we treat women are linked, as woman hold up “half the sky” per the Chinese proverb used by Kristof and WuDunn. If you treat women poorly, in addition to their maltreatment, you are impacting half of your intellectual capital and economic value as a community.

Per my blogging friend George Dowdell, through his vast experience on a mission to help the impoverished, global poverty is also directly traceable to violence and corruption. Corruption takes the money that could be used to help others and violence is the mechanism to keep control and keep others down. These two seem to go hand in hand. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had a net worth of $70 billion, while his constituents got by on less than $2 a day, e.g.

Throughout history, the “haves” have taken advantage of the “have-nots.” The “have-nots” do not have a voice or when they have, it has taken a huge effort over time to change the paradigm. It is only with this groundswell of effort that will help change the world. Per Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

So, back to Chicago’s song “Dialogue.” Re-read the final chorus that closes the song. It is repeated as a mantra over and over again. The influence of the “haves” is huge and, in the US has been made easier with recent Supreme Court rulings. The “have-nots” need that voice. They need those committed citizens that Mead and Chicago talked about.

How do we do this? One step, one block, one community, one city at a time. Find your passions and reach out to help others. But, don’t just band-aid a problem. Look to find ways to improve people’s lots in life. Become better informed through reputable news sources. Speak out against injustice or just start asking more “why” questions of leaders and people with strident views that seem harmful. Why do you think that? Why should we do that? Write letters, write emails, make phone calls. Go to events to educate yourself on an issue. Go to protest injustice.

Many of the leaders of efforts to help did not listen to naysayers and blockers who said they could not accomplish change. There is an old line about change. Get people on the bus that will help you make change, not hinder it. We are more powerful than me. So, enlist or join your efforts with others. The operative word is “we” – “we can make it happen.” But, it starts with me.

dialogue by chicago live – Bing

Mr. Tanner – a Harry Chapin vignette (a repeat performance)

The following post was written about five years ago. I was thinking about this song the other day. Please do give it a listen.

One of my favorite performers who passed away much too early is Harry Chapin. Some may remember his biggest hits like “Cat’s in the Cradle” or “Taxi.”  Each of these songs is exemplary of his work as his songs told short stories. I have written before about my favorite one called “A Better Place to Be” where he tells two stories, one being recounted by a midnight watchman to a rotund waitress with the second one when she responds to his sadness.

But, a close second is called “Mr. Tanner” about a man who would sing while he worked. The lyrics follow, but listen to the song at the link below:

Mister Tanner was a cleaner from a town in the Midwest.
And of all the cleaning shops around he’d made his the best.
But he also was a baritone who sang while hanging clothes.
He practiced scales while pressing tails and sang at local shows.
His friends and neighbors praised the voice that poured out from his throat.
They said that he should use his gift instead of cleaning coats.

Chorus: But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

His friends kept working on him to try music out full time.
A big debut and rave reviews, a great career to climb.
Finally they got to him, he would take the fling.
A concert agent in New York agreed to have him sing.
And there were plane tickets, phone calls, money spent to rent the hall.
It took most of his savings but he gladly used them all.Chorus

The evening came, he took the stage, his face set in a smile.
And in the half filled hall the critics sat watching on the aisle.
But the concert was a blur to him, spatters of applause.
He did not know how well he sang, he only heard the flaws.
But the critics were concise, it only took four lines.
But no one could accuse them of being over kind.

(spoken) Mr. Martin Tanner, Baritone, of Dayton, Ohio made his
Town Hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately
his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards.
His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it
consistently interesting.
(sung) Full time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.

He came home to Dayton and was questioned by his friends.
Then he smiled and just said nothing and he never sang again,
excepting very late at night when the shop was dark and closed.
He sang softly to himself as he sorted through the clothes.

Music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
(And) he did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole. 

His songs are reflective and poignant. Often, they leave you with melancholy. “Mr. Tanner” is no different. Yet, he also balanced these with some fun songs like the one where a truck load of bananas crashed in the middle of a small town. When he performed, he told you about the songs and then sang his stories.

Please do listen to this song and catch a few others while you are at it. He made you feel at home as he regaled you.

Lines to remember

Those who follow this blog know I love good song lyrics. Here are few, leaving off the ones I tend to quote the most. Please add your favorites at the end, as any list like this will be found lacking.

You’ve been telling me you’re a genius since you were seventeen. In all this time I’ve known you, I still don’t know what you mean.” Steely Dan in “Reelin’ in the Years.”

“I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” Bob Seger in “Against the Wind.”

“Stayed in bed all mornin’ just to pass the time. There’s something wrong here there can be no denyin’. One of us is changin’ or maybe we’ve just stopped tryin’.” Carole King in “It’s too Late.”

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Rush in “Free Will.”

“I wish for just one time, you could stand in side my shoes. Then you would know what a drag it is to see you.” Bob Dylan in “Positively 4th Street” better known as “You’ve got a lotta nerve.”

“You got a fast car. I want a ticket to anywhere. Maybe we make a deal. Maybe together we can get somewhere. Any place is better.” Tracy Chapman in “Fast Car.”

“Then I fumbled through my closet for my clothes. And found my cleanest dirty shirt.” Kris Kristofferson in “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”

“Just when I think. I’ve taken more than would a fool. I start fallin’ back in love with you. Alicia Keys in “Fallin'”

“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.” Bruce Springsteen in “The River.”

“And every time you speak her name. Does she know how you told me. You’d hold me until you died?” Alanis Morisette in “You Ought to Know.”

“Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothin’ to kill or die for. And no religion, too. Imagine all the people livin’ life in peace.” John Lennon in “Imagine.”

“Operator, well could you help me place this call? See, the number on the matchbook is old and faded. She’s living in L. A. with my best old ex-friend Ray. A guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated.” Jim Croce in “Operator.”

“Daddy loved and raised eight kids on a miner’s pay. Mommy scrubbed our clothes on a washboard every day. Why, I’ve seen her fingers bleed. To complain there was no need. She’d smile in Mommy’s understanding way.” Loretta Lynn in “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

“Maybe I’m just too demanding. Maybe I’m just like my father too bold. Maybe you’re just like my mother. She’s never satisfied (She’s never satisfied). Why do we scream at each other. This is what it sounds like. When doves cry” Prince in “When Doves Cry.”

“Do you want to see me crawl across the floor to you?. Do you want to hear me beg you to take me back?. I’d gladly do it because. I don’t want to fade away. Give me one more day, please. I don’t want to fade away. In your heart I want to stay.” Eric Clapton in “Bell Bottom Blues.”

Love. Loss. Pleading. Contempt. Reality. Reflection. Aspiration. There are lots of emotions wrapped up in these songs. I added the last one is it is not as well known, but to hear Clapton’s guitar and plaintive voice accent this song is worth listening to.

Diamonds and Rust – a repeat tribute to Joan Baez

I was feeling melancholy after watching a performance by Judy Collins on PBS last night. My mind drifted to a song from a contemporary of hers, Joan Baez. My brother introduced me to Baez, as she was a strident voice for the disenfranchised and often sang at marches or events to bring attention to the cause. Her most popular was song was a rendition of “The Night they Drove Ol’ Dixie Down,” which I find ironic, as she spoke often against racism, in general, but especially in the south.

Yet, my favorite song of hers has nothing to do with causes. It is about the human nature of reflection and how memories can be both good and bad, especially with relationships that waned. The best of Joan Baez to me is found in “Diamonds and Rust” which is a fitting description of our memories. Here are the lyrics. At the conclusion, there is a link to the song which is worth the visit, as her melancholy guitar playing and voice make the song resonate even more.

Well I’ll be damned, here comes your ghost again. But that’s not unusual. It’s just that the moon is full. And you happened to call.

And here I sit, hand on the telephone. Hearing a voice I’d known a couple of light years ago. Heading straight for a fall.

As I remember your eyes were bluer than robin’s eggs. “My poetry was lousy”, you said. Where are you calling from? A booth in the Midwest.

Ten years ago I bought you some cuff links. You brought me something. And we both know what memories can bring They bring diamonds and rust.

You burst on the scene already a legend. The unwashed phenomenon. The original vagabond. You strayed into my arms.

And there you stayed temporarily lost at sea. The Madonna was yours for free. Yes the girl on the half-shell. Would keep you unharmed.

Now I see you standing with brown leaves falling around. An’ snow in your hair. Now you’re smiling out the window of that crummy hotel over Washington Square.

Our breath comes out white clouds mingles and hangs in the air .Speaking strictly for me, we both could have died then and there.

Now you’re telling me, you’re not nostalgic. Then give me another word for it. You, who are so good with words. And at keeping things vague.

‘Cause I need some of that vagueness now. It’s all come back too clearly. I once loved you dearly. And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust. Well, I’ll already paid…

If you don’t know her work, please enjoy and investigate further. She writes meaningful lyrics and captures things well. She could hold her own with many more well-known contemporaries. Oftentimes, it is these “under the radar screen” gems that stand the test of time. She was my Janis Ian before Janis came around. I would love to hear your thoughts on Baez and learn of your favorites.

http://www.songlyrics.com/joan-baez/diamonds-and-rust-lyrics/