Since music is one of the things that energizes me (and ‘saving the planet’ requires having lots of energy), I thought it would be nice to share with you, from time to time, in this space, some of the songs and music that I find the most energizing.
Most, if not all, of the songs I will mention in this section, you can find on YouTube; but one major caveat, concerning YouTube, is this: just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, don’t necessarily judge a song by how it sounds on YouTube. For example, sometimes, a song I like listening to, on a particular album, sounds very different on YouTube (same song, same artist, but a different musical arrangement and/or performance). Just something to keep in mind.
Additionally, this section will also be an ideal location for posting any thoughts that aren’t necessarily related to environmentalism (if the urge strikes me).
Hallo meine deutschen freunde The Frankfurt Book Fair is soon about to begin, October 10-14, in Frankfurt, Germany. (I advertise my website in The New York Review of Books, and the current issue is the Frankfurt Book Fair issue.) It’s the world’s oldest and largest book fair. According to Wikipedia, it “has a tradition spanning…
I was going to begin by mentioning a song that has hundreds of millions of views on YouTube. And then mention three other songs. But I’m going to save those for another day. Because after going through my notes, I decided to feature three different songs today. They’re songs I came across years ago while doing research. I planned to eventually include them as part of an Earth Day post. But a few years have passed and I’ve decided to share them today, instead. All of these can be found on YouTube.
“When You Look at the World” is a song you can find by searching for “JP Taylor – When You Look at the World” on YouTube. The YouTube channel is JP Taylor. This was published on YouTube in 2010 and has just 4,341 views. It’s not a song that I would put on one of my compilations tapes. [JP Taylor seems to target his songs toward children.] But it’s a nice way to begin. This song and the next one I’ll mention are both on JP Taylor’s 12-track album Looking for a Sign.
I will also add that one thing I don’t like about this music video is that it represents a lost opportunity in that while it generally has been put together nicely, I believe it focuses too much on the “palm oil” issue. Habitat destruction involving forests that orangutans depend upon for their survival is clearly an important issue for JP Taylor. But I would like to have seen a much wider array of environmental issues included in this video — fracking, deep sea oil drilling, mountaintop mining, oil pipeline laying, bottom trawling, deforestation in other parts of the world besides those regions highlighted in the video, the mass extinction crisis, desertification, pollution, overdevelopment, human population growth, global warming, and so forth. I think that would have made the video more powerful.
The next song I’ll mention can be found by searching YouTube for “JP Taylor – Is It Really a Smile?” This one was published in 2011 and has 1,530 views. Re-listening to this, my eyes filled with tears. To people who don’t understand these complex, intelligent marine mammals, the song might sound a little corny, but the more you learn about dolphins, and even orcas, that opinion is likely to change. For example, an opinion piece in the Times (Susan Casey, “An Orca, Her Dead Calf and Us” Aug. 5) just two weeks ago, reports that last month a mother orca carried her dead calf around with her in the ocean for at least ten days. “Orcas and other cetacean species have been observed carrying their dead,” the article states, “but rarely longer than a day.” The calf lived for just 30 minutes. Why did it die so soon? Well, as Casey writes:
“These whales contend with a host of stresses — pollution, development and industrial marine noise, to cite a few — but their main problem is malnutrition. The southern residents feed primarily on Chinook salmon; overfishing and habitat destruction have made those fish not just scarce but contaminated with everything from flame retardants and lead to Prozac and cocaine.”
This particular 20-yer-old orca, according to Casey, is “from the critically endangered southern resident population based near Puget Sound, Washington.” Here’s a link for the song: JP Taylor’s “Is It Really a Smile?”
Finally, the last song I’ll include in this post, is Katie MacDonald’s “Our World.” And, this song, too, made my eyes well with tears. It’s a little trickier to find. You have to search YouTube for “Our World Packinshed song” [if you don’t add the word “song,” or you won’t find it]. The YouTube channel associated with this song is Packinshed. I can’t believe there are just 1,384 views — and it was published eight years ago! Listen to it; I think you’ll like it! Here’s a link to make it a bit easier: Katie MacDonald sings “Our World”
I should note that “When You Look at the World” and “Our World” are both songs that I would categorize as “environmentalism lite” (e.g., they make it sound like saving the planet is a snap). I say that not so much to be critical of these particular songs, but in order to point out that saving the planet isn’t as easy-breezy as the lyrics to a song — any song — might suggest. In “Our World,” for example, the song’s lyrics state that “if we all fight the fight” and “Each do a little,” … then “eventually / The land and the sea / Will be what it used to be.” Realistically speaking, saving the planet will not be possible without thinking big and without setting the bar high. We’re going to have to think imaginatively and transform this world in ways most of us would never even have thought possible. But we can still derive pleasure and enjoyment from songs like these, along the way. So please listen and enjoy!
This is the space on my website where I share with you some of the music that I enjoy listening to. And here’s a quotation I once stumbled upon, which addresses the allure of music:
“Only a world without love strikes me as instantly and decisively more terrible than one without music.” — Kingsley Amis
A few months ago, I heard Carly Simon’s “Anticipation” played over the radio. It’s a nice song. And there’s a beautiful live version of this song posted on the CarleySimon YouTube channel. Seagulls are flying in the background. The wind is whipping through Carley’s hair, and rippling the blouses of her background singers. The ocean is clearly visible in the background. This has become one of my go-to songs to play on YouTube when I’m working late on my computer and need a quick energy boost.
Incidentally, my ability to listen to music has been dealt a severe blow. My 3-CD/cassette stereo swallowed two of my CDs. While it did eventually regurgitate my The Best of Mike Oldfield / Elements album (on rare occasions, I play “moonlight shadow”), my Take Me Home / A Tribute to John Denver album is still irretrievably stuck inside the belly of this beast. Consequently, I haven’t attempted to load any more CDs, for fear they might suffer a similar fate. If there’s a silver lining, though, it’s that the CD the machine decided on keeping, is one that I hardly ever listen to. Still, this Bob Denver tribute album has some nice songs on it. “Follow Me” (The Innocence Mission) might be my favorite. “Back Home Again” (Low), features that classic Bob Denver line “Sometimes this old farm, feels like a long lost friend.” “I’m Sorry” (Red House Painters) was the last song I listened to on this CD before the machine digested it. The other songs I occasionally listen to on this album are “Matthew” (Granfaloon Bus), “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (Tarnation with Joe Gore), and “Annie’s Song” (Sunshine Club).
Gary Moore’s “One Day,” which can be found on his Ballads & Blues 1982-1994 album, is a song I enjoy playing every now and then. It’s the only song I listen to on this album. “Your life is like a wishing well / where it goes, only time will tell,” are two lines from this beautiful song. Whenever I play it, I have to play it at least two or three times, back-to-back, since this is one of those songs that seems to zip by so fast, even though it’s a somewhat slow-paced, over-four-minute song.
John Mellencamp’s “Peaceful World,” is a nice song. I bought this CD at a used music store, for just 95 cents. It’s the only song on the CD — dated “July 25, 2001”. I’m not entirely happy with this version, though. I wish Mellencamp, or someone else, would do a slightly softer version.
It’s funny, I very rarely listen to Five for Fighting’s “Superman (It’s Not Easy),” but every time I do listen to it, I come away wondering why I don’t play this song more often. It’s flawless. And sounds great!
I once googled the phrase “I am a billionaire,” and that led me to a song by Bruno Mars. I didn’t particularly like the song, but that led me to discover another version of the song that I do like. Evidently, the television show The Voice produced a spinoff where only kids compete. I don’t know who this young singer is, but this short, two-minute “Jarmo – Billionaire (The Voice Kids 3: The Blind Auditions)” video has close to 27 million views, and can be found on The Voice Kids YouTube channel.
Do you envy the dead? Come on, not even a little? Maybe you will after listening to this next song I am about to mention. After recently checking an email account I use far less often nowadays, I learned of the local band, Universal Dice; and, eventually, while googling, I found “I Envy the Dead” — from an earlier album of theirs — on YouTube (this wasn’t easy — I’ll explain about that in a minute). The song sounds very good, I was impressed — and it has a nice catchy melody. Most surprising of all: it has only a couple or so views on YouTube (my recent viewings — I’ve listened a few times — have no doubt driven this up). I’m surprised there aren’t more views, considering the song was posted to YouTube back in 2015.
Okay, now some background. I am familiar with at least three of the members of this band. I was at Gerry Dantone’s house, once, years ago, for a “Center for Inquiry, Long Island” fundraiser, at which I paid the minimal membership dues (my membership has since lapsed). Dantone used to put together the newsletter — which was something I enjoyed receiving. Walt Sargent I am also familiar with, since he has been the most recent coordinator running the monthly Long Island Songwriter’s Workshop, at Five Towns College, in Dix Hills (I vaguely recall reading on either the group’s website — IslandSongwriters.org — or on the group’s Facebook page, that it no longer holds regular meetings at that venue). Vincent Crici had been a frequent attendee there, over the years, and is also an accomplished songwriter in his own right.
It has long been a mystery to me why attendance at these Long Island Songwriter’s Workshop monthly meetings fizzled out so, over the years. When Newsday did a big story about the group quite a few years back, this group regularly packed a large room, with dozens of people. But the last few times I made it there, there were only a half dozen people or less. Every time I went, I heard at least one song that knocked my socks off. There was so much talent there! I’m not sure what it says about society, but I think it says something, the fact that attendance has dwindled so precipitously over the years. The meetings were even being held at a music school; and yet, still, attendance fell so dramatically. How come? (If transportation hadn’t always been such a major issue for me — too long a regular trip, for such a cheap, inexpensive vehicle — I would have tried my best to not ever miss a single meeting. That’s how much I enjoyed it.)
Getting back to the song “I Envy the Dead.” It comes from Universal Dice’s My Name is Thomas album. I couldn’t find the song using Google (which is strange) and instead used the YouTube.com search box, to search for: I envy the dead, gerry dantone. With that, it comes right up. “I Envy the Dead” is the YouTube title, “UniversalDice.com — Topic” is the YouTube channel. Their UniversalDice.com website has lots of their songs.
One other thing I should mention: my Logitech Z506 computer speakers are rather crappy. The sound quality itself is quite good, except for one thing: there’s a really annoying and very audible constant clicking sound that starts the moment I turn the speakers on. That makes trying to hear the lyrics to a song like “I Envy the Dead” very difficult. I envy people who have speakers that work!
It’s been quite a while since I’ve had the pleasure of sharing some great, energizing music on this page. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do today.
The first song I’ll share is “Smile,” by the Rave-Ups (Jimmer Podasky sings). This is such a beautiful song. Nice lyrics. Nice voice. Perfect length song (3:45). This song can be found on YouTube. Listen to the non-live version. This is the one with the album’s cover illustration (which, strangely, features an unsmiling baby — strange, because a smiling baby is what this song is about). With only about 28,000 views, this song is one of the best-kept secrets on YouTube.
Supertramp’s Crisis? What Crisis? is a great album. “Easy Does It” is probably my favorite song on it; but that song is ridiculously short (2:16), I usually have to listen to it two or three times, back-to-back. “A Soapbox Opera” is probably my second favorite song on the album (5:00). “Ain’t Nobody But Me,” “Poor Boy,” “Two of Us” and “Sister Moonshine” are also good songs. Track nine is too repetitious for my taste — I find it irritating, sometimes, when a song repeats the same line, over and over again, like a broken record (song endings, notwithstanding).
From the moment I first heard Mickey Hart’s “Down the Road,” played over the radio, I knew I had to buy it. When I finally did buy the album, Mickey Hart’s Mystery Box, I only bought it for that one song. But while that song is likely the only one that I would put on one of my compilations tapes, the album overall is pretty good. The first two tracks I usually skip. And the next-to-last track I usually skip. That leaves these tracks: “Down the Road,” “the Sandman,” “the Next Step,” “Look Away,” “Only the Strange Remain,” “Sangre de Cristo,” and “the Last Song.” “The Next Step” features bird sounds, which lend the song a forest-like ambiance. Mickey Hart was also a member of the Grateful Dead.
Many times, YouTube videos are, well, just not very good. The song is good. But the accompanying video is uninspiringly blah, or just plain weird. So I thought I’d mention three now that all get an enthusiastic thumbs up! This first one I’ll mention is from the Samuel Hopp YouTube channel, and goes by the title “Martin Solveig dragonette Hello, I just came to say hello Traducao”. (The song is “Hello,” by Martin Solveig and Dragonette.) I bet you can’t watch this video, without bobbing your head like a bobblehead.
Another one I’ll mention, is “With God On Our Side – Aaron Neville”, which can be found on Connie Gremmer’s YouTube channel. Personally, while I like this song, it’s probably not likely to wind up on one of my compilations tapes (I might listen to it occasionally, but not frequently). It’s a bit slow, for my taste. But the imagery on this video is superb; and the speed at which the images change, fits the song perfectly. The part about the Vietnam War, is especially moving. Together with the imagery, “So many young men died / So many mothers cried,” are powerful lines. It’s a very interesting song, too, for it’s conflicting message. At once both bitingly questioning of faith, and yet, simultaneously, at its conclusion, a barely audible “Jesus loves me” ends the song. I do love that very last image of a peace sign, beautifully formed by a half dozen hands. Bob Dylan wrote this song; and he performed it for the first time in 1963. He added the lines about the Vietnam War in the 1980’s.
Finally, the last YouTube video I’ll mention is this one: “Traveling Wilburys – End Of The Line”, which can be found on the TravelingWilburys YouTube channel. It’s a relatively simple set design (they’re on a moving train), but it fits this song like a glove. Tom Petty very unexpectedly passed away recently, at the age of 66. An interesting bit of background info regarding Petty and the Traveling Wilburys — as it states on Wikipedia — is that “Tom Petty’s involvement came by chance, as Harrison had left his guitar at Petty’s house, and the invitation for Petty to join the session was made when Harrison went to retrieve it.”
Tom Petty’s Full Moon Fever is a good album. “I Won’t Back Down” is probably my favorite Petty song. I’ve always liked “Zombie Zoo.” That’s also on this album. “Yer So Bad,” I sometimes hold up as a good example of a simple song that demonstrates how songwriting shouldn’t be deemed beyond the reach of the average person. With a bit of inspiration and some confidence, an amateur songwriter can conceivably write a song like that one. It’s a far cry from a typical Meatloaf song — whose lengthy lines and veritable avalanche of words, is enough to intimidate any amateur songwriter.
In addition to the Tom Petty songs mentioned above, two others that I’ve included on compilations tapes, are “Refuge,” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance.”
Rest in peace, Tom. Rest in peace. (October 20, 1950 – October 2, 2017)
It has probably been a couple of years since I decided to make The New York Review of Books my main venue for advertising this website. I like the fact that it’s not monolithic. Some publications are very narrowly focused. But with The New York Review of Books, as the pages turn, so do the topics.
I remember back when World Press Review magazine was still around, The New York Review of Books advertised in it, and their ad pointed out that Esquire magazine called the Review “the premier literary-intellectual magazine in the English language.” Similarly, The New York Times has called The New York Review of Books “the country’s most successful intellectual journal.”
Something else that impressed me: a couple years ago, driving home from work, listening to Bloomberg Radio, I heard Charlie Rose ask David Remnick (editor of The New Yorker), who he considered to be the best editor in New York City, and his response: Bob Silvers, of The New York Review of Books.
Well, it is with deep sadness that I have to report that Robert Benjamin Silvers (Dec. 31, 1929 – Mar. 20, 2017) has passed away — about a month ago, shortly after completing the April 6 issue. He had edited the Review for the 54 years since its founding. (Barbara Epstein, his co-editor, passed away in 2006.)
I’m not sure whether it’s currently in stores yet, but the May 11, 2017 edition of The New York Review of Books features a six-page special section devoted to memorializing Bob. Here is some of what Elaine Blair wrote: Bob “had an infallible eye for loose thinking. His brilliance lay in his sense of clarity. He made you think harder. There was no room in his ‘paper’ for fuzziness or vague abstractions. He wanted examples, descriptions, and concrete thoughts. And because he was the ideal reader you most wanted to please, you gradually learned how to express yourself better.”
In addition to the nineteen remembrances in a six-page special section published in the May 11 edition of the Review, it also states: “Additional remembrances of Robert Silvers by more than sixty New York Review contributors and friends can be found on the Review’s website at nybooks.com/rbs.” (The New York Review of Books can be purchased at Barnes and Noble bookstores.) Also, The New York Times published an opinion piece this past Saturday, by Roger Cohen, about the passing of Bob Silvers (“The Importance of Bob Silvers: Honoring the Legacy of an Extraordinary Editor” Apr. 29, 2017).
Bob was 88. My condolences to all those who knew him. He’ll obviously be missed.[One final note: The 50 Year Argument, a 97-minute documentary about The New York Review of Books, directed by Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi, made its debut in 2014, a year after the Review celebrated its 50th anniversary. Mr. Silvers approached Scorsese, an avid reader of the Review, with the idea to do the documentary, and Scorsese appreciatively agreed to do it.]
In Frank Bruni’s column in yesterday’s New York Times (“The Horror of Smug Liberals”), he writes about “the most surprising movie hit of the year so far.” A film that is titled Get Out. I have to admit, he has tantalizingly piqued my interest in seeing this film. While he states that it “is being categorized as a horror movie,” his column only leaves me questioning how that can possibly be so. Is it a horror film only in the sense that some might mistakenly position The Rocky Horror Picture Show in that genre? I don’t know. I’m confused. He just makes it sound so mysteriously alluring.
Anyway, while I did briefly (very briefly) mull over the thought of actually seeing it, that is probably as likely to happen as for me to get hit by lightening nine times in the same day. It’s not a matter of wanting to see it or not wanting to see it, it’s a matter of there being only twenty-four hours in a day and my main drive is aimed toward saving the planet (and also I need to find an affordable place to live). As such, I haven’t been to a movie theater in decades.
However, there is a 1981 “made for TV” film (of a play) that I might see. Let me explain …
I watched this many years ago on television, when I was very young; and I still remember (very vaguely) there was a portion of it that really “spoke my language,” regarding my lifelong atheism. It’s a very powerful, moving film/play adaptation of a Frank O’Connor short story. It’s called Guest of the Nation (1981) and was directed by John J. Desmond. Frank Converse is one of cast members featured in it. Here is the plot synopsis as it appears in the Internet Movie Database (imdb.com): “Irish insurgents guard their British prisoners-of-war in a remote farmstead. Gradually the opposing soldiers come to respect, even like each other. This greatly worries Frank Callahan, the Irish leader, because his prisoners may have to be killed in reprisal if the British execute two IRA soldiers as they threaten.”
The reason I mention this now is because just last week I searched for this online and finally found it. I didn’t know the title, only hazily remembered part of the plot. For example, I only remember there being one hostage, not two. Anyway, I’m glad I found it. Since it’s only an hour long, and appears to be available at a not-to-distant library, I might watch it again soon. I would like to find out whether that scene I particularly want to revisit, is as good as I remember it to be. Eventually, after I do get around to watching it, I’ll report back here how it goes. So stay tuned.
“The best feeling in the world, is to know that your parents are smiling because of you.” — Author Unknown
That’s a sweet sentiment. And it must be very hard to lose a parent. Well, two Fridays ago, I learned exactly what it feels like, to lose a parent.
Last November, in an opinion piece published in The New York Times (“My Deathbed Playlist” Nov. 6, 2016), Mark Vanhoenacker wrote that putting together a deathbed playlist (of your favorite songs), for a time when we might find ourselves in a situation where “we are still able to experience music, but can no longer choose it for ourselves” is a good idea. Vanhoenacker brought up the example of a longtime family friend who spent the last week of her life often only partially conscious and unable to speak. Putting together a deathbed playlist, I suppose, isn’t a bad idea. But it wouldn’t have helped my father. He died peacefully in his sleep, after a midday nap. A very peaceful way to go.
He wrote three books during his retirement years, and was even working on a fourth [all unpublished]. I’ll miss him. Even his bone-crushing, boa constrictor-like handshake. I’ll miss that, too. Rest in peace, dad (Paul H. Reinicke), 6/6/31 – 3/3/17, rest in peace.
At his memorial service, Glen Miller’s “Moonlight Sonata,” was played as a loving tribute. It’s an example of the big band era type of song that he liked to listen to. Of all the music compilation tapes I’ve made over the years, I think I only twice made ones that are composed entirely of instrumental songs. And so, in memory of my father, I’ll dedicate this following playlist to him. Though I’m not familiar with big band era music, I’m guessing that he probably would have liked most of these. This is from a 100 minute compilation tape I made years ago. It is simply labeled “TT2”:
Side A: “I Should Have Known Better” (from The Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ soundtrack); “Fanfare Intro — Rhapsody in Black,” [and] “Reach Out I’ll Be There” (Classic Rock, The Second Movement, The London Symphony Orchestra, 1987); “Axel F” — Harold Faltermeyer (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic, 1991 — Tape 1); “Hawaii Five-O” — The Ventures (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 1); “Song from M*A*S*H” — Al De Lory (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 2); “Classical Gas” — Mason Williams (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 1); “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” (20 Solid Gold Instrumental Hits — Vol. 2); “The Magnificent Seven” — Al Caiola (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 1); “Memphis” — Lonnie Mack (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 1); “(Main Title) The Pink Panther Theme” (Revenge of The Pink Panther soundtrack); “Also Sprach Zarathustra” — Deodato (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 1); “Sugar Blues” (20 Solid Gold Instrumental Hits — Vol. 2); “Feels So Good” — Chuck Mangione (Easy-Listening Hits of the ’60s & 70s — Tape 3); “Almond Eyes” (Revenge of The Pink Panther soundtrack); “Marching Strings” (20 Solid Gold Instrumental Hits — Vol. 2).
Side B: “Endgame” — R.E.M. (Out of Time album); “Theme From ‘Hill Street Blues’ ” — Mike Post (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 2); “Love is Blue” (L’Amour est Bleu)” — Paul Mauriat & His Orchestra (Sessions Presents Everlasting Love — Tape 2); “Love Theme From Flashdance” (Flashdance soundtrack); “A Lover’s Concerto” (Henry Mancini Plays Great Favorites of the 60s & 70s); “Feelings” (Henry Mancini Plays Great Favorites of the 60s & 70s); “Love Theme From ‘Romeo And Juliet’ ” — Henry Mancini (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 1); “Annie’s Song” (Henry Mancini Plays Great Favorites of the 60s & 70s); “Music Box Dancer” — Frank Mills (Easy-Listening Hits of the 60s & 70s — Tape 3); “The Rockford Files” — Mike Post (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 1); “Gotcha (Theme From ‘Starsky & Hutch’)” — The Best of Tom Scott; “A Fifth of Beethoven” — Walter Murphy (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 1); “Theme From ‘St. Elsewhere’ ” — Dave Grusin (Mystic Music Presents Instrumental Magic — Tape 2); “Poor People of Paris” (20 Solid Gold Instrumental Hits — Vol. 2); “Telstar” (20 Solid Gold Instrumental Hits — Vol. 2); “Java” (20 Solid Gold Instrumental Hits — Vol. 2).
Rest in peace, dad. Rest in peace.
With The 2017 Grammy Awards show just days away, this is a good opportunity to share songs from two of the music CDs in my collection. I haven’t bought any new music CDs in quite some time, but two of the ones in my collection contain Grammy nominated songs of the past. One CD is 1997 Grammy Nominees (Grammy Recordings), and the other is 1999 Grammy Nominees (Grammy Recordings). Two albums, containing only Grammy-nominated songs … how can you go wrong? Songs featured on these albums include nominees for the “Record of the Year” category, the “Best New Artist” category, and the “Best Female (or Male) Pop Vocal Performance” category.
Since my cassette/CD-player has a three-CD capacity, I rarely load one of these albums without loading both. Jewel’s “Who Will Save Your Soul” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” go well together and I usually play them back-to-back. Shawn Mullins’ “Lullaby” is another one I really like.
The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979” and the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” also go well together back-to-back.
Other good songs I sometimes listen to on these albums are Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic,” Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn,” and Celene Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On.”
Of all of these, I think “Lullaby” and “Who Will Save Your Soul,” are my favorites.
The Grammy’s show will air this Sunday, February 12th. I know I won’t be watching. I just always have way too much to do. Besides, I haven’t watched TV in about nine years or so, and I really don’t miss it at all. But if you do decide to watch, enjoy the show!
I’ve heard two songs over the radio this past six months or so that I really like. One is “Sprawl 2 (Mountains Beyond Mountains),” by a group called Arcade Fire. Nice song, nice beat, nice energy. It’s hard to listen to this song without moving. It’s just that kind of song.
The other song is a cover of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” performed by a singer who goes by the stage name Birdy. Wow! Really nice. And glancing over the “Birdy” Wikipedia article, I can understand why she uses the stage name “Birdy.” If your name was “Jasmine Lucilla Elizabeth Jennifer van den Bogaerde,” you’d probably search for something more catchy, too.
Let me mention one more song. I came across a page I had saved from the September 20, 1993 issue of People magazine. It talks about John Hiatt’s album, Perfectly Good Guitar. I googled it, and listened to a couple tracks. I like the title track, “Perfectly Good Guitar.” It’s probably not the type of song that is likely to find its way onto one of my compilation tapes; but I really like it. In fact, I’ve probably listened to it so many times that if my computer hard drive could talk, it would probably say “What, again?” (The version I’ve listened to is on the YouTube channel RockandRollRevised, and is titled “John Hiatt – Perfectly Good Guitar.”)
It also struck me that “Perfectly Good Guitar,” can stand in as a fitting metaphor for how we’re treating this perfectly good planet.
I haven’t subscribed to People magazine, by the way, for many years. But one of my favorite stories was one titled “In one bookshop, he’s a best-seller” (there’s no date printed on the page, but its probably from a 1990s issue). This is a very short piece. Only four sentences. But it tickles the imagination.
Here is the opening sentence: “All the fancy New York City publishers rejected “me ‘n Henry,” Walter Swan’s collection of homespun tales about his Depression-era youth, so in 1989 the retired plasterer paid to have it published and opened the One Book Bookstore in Bisbee, Ariz.” It then states that he’s “sold more than 25,000 copies at $20 each.”
I remember crunching the numbers and quickly concluding “Wow, you really can do that — open a bookshop that sells just one title.” That’s half a million dollars!
It also states in this old article (he was 77, when this was published) that he had moved into a new space, “down the street from the old store,” and in it, had a section called “the Other Book Store,” containing the other four books he authored.
About a month ago, I promised to reveal the name of the song that I loosely refer to as my “theme song.” That song, is “Days Like These,” and it can be found on Asia’s The Very Best of Asia: Heat of the Moment (1982-1990) album. It’s a nice album, overall. “Heat Of The Moment,” “Wildest Dreams,” and “Go,” are some of the songs I like most on this eighteen-track album.
Don’t read too much into the fact that I refer to this song as my “theme song.” The explanation is actually quite simple. Besides being a nice, energetic song, the lines “Days like these, I feel / like I can change the world” — which you can hear a total of eleven times throughout this four minute song — very much reflect how I feel. The mere fact that this website is up and running, after having taken so many years to make that a reality — and on a shoestring budget, no less — is empowering.
One of the things I like about this website, is that it’s even more of a workaholic than I am. It never needs sleep (I’m jealous!). It’s continually “working,” non-stop, 24/7. At any given moment, someone, somewhere in the world, can stumble upon it, and … all it takes is that one individual, just one major philanthropist, and I can “put the pedal to the metal” (metaphorically speaking, regarding what I want to be doing to put us on that path towards saving the planet).
In 2015, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report, there were approximately 510,000 individuals throughout the world with assets totaling $10 million or more (in U.S. dollars); and, according to Wealth-X, in that same year, some 210,000 individuals had a net worth of $30 million or more. Wealth-X estimated the number of billionaires that year to total 2,473. So the potential is definitely there. All it takes is for just one such individual to discover my website, and, perhaps, as the saying goes … the rest is history.
There’s also a measure of irony in the fact that, as the lyrics state, “days like these, I feel like I can change the world.” After all, we live in a world where someone will spend tens of millions of dollars to purchase a painting such as Bamett Newman’s “Black Fire 1” (it once sold for $84.2 million) — just two colors, and a line painted down the middle — while someone such as myself (whose focus is saving the planet) waits for funding, that perhaps, might never come.
There are many other examples I could cite, to illustrate this same sort of irony. Just the other day, I read someone paid $5 million for a Marilyn Monroe dress. And remember Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Gates,” which uglified New York City’s Central Park for sixteen consecutive days, in 2005? Couldn’t that colossal waste of a not-so-small-fortune (up to $21 million) have been much better spent on, say, oh, I don’t know, maybe helping to save the planet, instead?
Here’s another one that sticks out in my mind. This three-sentence tidbit appeared in the New York Post’s “Weird but true” column (Bill Hoffman, Wire Services, Apr. 24, p. 25), back in 2003. It describes how a “home-care worker,” in Sweden, placed a small classified ad that read: “I want a well-paid job. I have no imagination, I am anti-social, uncreative and untalented.” What happened next? “Her phone started ringing off the hook,” and she landed a job paying “30 percent more” than what she had been making. Huh? I’ve gotten bupkis; while that ad netted her a large salary increase? Hello?
(Incidentally, on that same day and in that same column, there appeared another mini news item, describing how a California college student set up a website asking for donations to have her breasts enlarged, and, yep, she raised $4,500.)
All of this reminds me of a Rhymes With Orange comic strip I once ran across while reading a newspaper one day. [Rhymeswithorange.com, Dist. by King Features, copyright Hilary B. Price 3/19/2014.] It shows someone strolling past a bulletin board, while noticing two flyers that are posted upon it. One reads “SAVE THE WORLD!”; and all of its pull-tabs are intact. The other flyer reads “Lose Five Pounds!”; and all of its pull-tabs have been removed. I’ll let you connect the dots.
Also, I suppose it shouldn’t seem too surprising that I, as of yet, have not received any funding, when you consider that an entire page of my website is devoted to illustrating the extent to which eco-consciousness is nowhere on our radar (so to speak).
Truthfully, I take that all in stride. I’ve long-since made peace with the fact that it might simply not be possible to save the planet/biosphere/humanity. I’m not saying that’s the case; but it certainly is very possible. And, if someone like me can’t get funding, well, I see that as just one more indication that that might indeed be the case.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m going to keep trying, and keep doing all that I can, no matter what. Always! Because, while I know it could all in the end have been for naught, at least I can go to sleep every night knowing that I tried. I really, really tried. And that’s what counts.
Another irony is that after this past election, I might now need to find a new “theme song.” As I recently stated in an email, “It feels like the window of opportunity for saving the planet is slamming shut.” With a Trump administration, I anticipate more pipeline-building, more fracking, more drilling, more exporting, more scrapping of those pesky E.P.A. rules and regulations that interfere with profit-seeking, more “global weirding” (a cogent term, coined by Hunter Lovins), and so on …
Once again, soon, we will have a White House that is occupied by global warming denialists, who see Ayn Rand as their messiah, and The Market as sacrosanct. [Note: My contention regarding Ayn Rand and the Trump administration is a matter of dispute.]
I know I said in my previous post that in my next post I’ll reveal my “theme song.” Sorry, that will have to come in my next post (coming soon!). I just wanted to post something real quick about something I heard this afternoon on the radio. It was one of the most heart-warming stories I’ve ever heard on the radio.
As part of my normal routine, when I’m in the kitchen, I turn on the radio. One of my go-to stations is WNYC; which on this occasion happened to be airing the current episode of RadioLab (Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich are the hosts). The latter portion of this episode included a segment titled “Finding Emilie.”
Emilie was involved in a horrible accident. In fact, it came to the point where doctors approached her mom and told her Emilie was “gone,” and … would she like to donate her organs? There they were, ready to remove her organs and dispense them to people who needed them … and, well, as you perhaps might have guessed, that’s not where this story ends. I don’t want to give away the ending. It’s a really heart-warming story that you won’t want to miss! (The segment lasts 21.36 minutes.)
You can google “RadioLab” and “Finding Emilie” or try the link below:emiliegossiaux.com. I took a quick look. The “unfixtures” (first click on “Works,” on her Home page) image is very nice. In fact, I think her “3 Graces” sculpture would look much better displayed under that style of lighting.]
I haven’t had the opportunity to add a new post here in quite some time. So here goes …
Here’s the playlist for a mix tape I made years ago. I’ve been listening to it again recently. It’s a nice one. This 90-minute cassette tape is simply titled “SSS”:
Side A: “Morning Has Broken” (Cat Stevens); “Vincent” (Don McLean); “Dog Days” (Atlanta Rhythm Section); “You’ve Got a Friend” (Carole King); “Diary” (Bread); “Here Comes the Sun” (Richie Havens); “Greatest Love of All” (George Benson); “Mr. Tambourine Man” (The Byrds); “Tapestry” (Carole King); “In My Life” (Bette Midler); “There’s a Kind of Hush” (The Carpenters); “Happy Together” (The Turtles); “Why Worry” (Dire Straits).
Side B: “Still the One” (Orleans); “Seasons in the Sun” (Terry Jacks); “I’ll Have To Say I Love You In a Song” (Jim Croce); “You Light Up My Life” (Debbie Boone); “The Morning After” (Maureen McGovern); “Do You Know Where You’re Going To? (theme from ‘Mahogany’) ” (Diana Ross); “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding); “Conquistador” (Procol Harum); “The Sound of Silence” (Simon & Garfunkel); “Lucky Man” (Emerson, Lake & Palmer); “The Rose” (Bette Midler); “Behind Blue Eyes” (The Who); “How Can I Mend a Broken Heart” (Bee Gees); “We May Never Pass This Way (Again)” (Seals & Croft).
It’s worth mentioning that whenever I make a mix tape (which I haven’t done in quite some time), I focus a little extra attention on deciding which song to place at the very end of each side. I do this because I know it will probably get “chopped off” when the tape runs out and the machine shuts off. This comes in handy for when I like a song (like the Beatles’s “Hey Jude”), but don’t like the ending or the latter part of the song (like the screaming at the end of “Hey Jude”). In this particular instance (above), while I like the song “We May Never Pass This Way (Again),” I only like it up to a certain point. I like the first half of the song, but not the second half (and that’s where it happens to get “chopped off” on my mix tape).
For me, the words “we may never pass this way again,” conjure up the dizzying feeling one might get, if contemplating the fact that all throughout our lives, there are countless people who “sail” right past us (like “ships passing in the night”), who we never have a chance to even say “Hello” to, but, who, if we did, have a chance to stop and converse with, who knows where it might have led … friendship, business partnership, marriage, children, advice that puts us on a different path in life. Who knows? It’s possible. Maybe it’s just me, but I find it kind of profoundly sad that there are billions and billions of people (both living and no-longer living), that we will never have had the opportunity to meet or get to know, on any level — including those that we would have regarded as “kindred spirits,” had we had the chance to get to know them. “Could’ve Been” (a song by Tiffany), stirs a similar feeling in me. When I listen to that song and hear its signature phrase “what could’ve been,” I can’t help but reflect on how prominent a role circumstances beyond our control play in shaping our destiny in life.
The Don McLean album with the song “Vincent,” includes another song which I’ll mention here. It’s not the type of song I’m likely to include on a mix tape that I will listen to again and again, but it’s a playful little song that’s refreshingly creative and holds your attention both lyrically and musically throughout. It’s titled “Everybody Loves Me, Baby.” It reminds me a little of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida,” even though they are very different songs. Speaking of “Viva La Vida,” I noticed that it currently has 332,240,119 views on one YouTube channel; and 1,163,936 likes!
Since it’s been such a long time since I last posted, I’m going to share with you one more of my playlists. This is from a 60-minute cassette that I have titled “EEE” (I am leaving out one song, because if I had it to do over again, I would leave out that particular song):
Side A: “Band On The Run” (Paul McCartney & Wings); “Forever Young” (Rod Stewart); “Be Bop A Lula” (John Lennon); “Stand By Me” (John Lennon); “Whipping Post” (The Allman Brothers Band); “Runnin’ From The Devil” (Ohio Players).
Side B: “Slippin’ and Slidin’ ” (John Lennon); “Roll With the Changes” (REO Speedwagon); “Stuck In the Middle With You” (Stealers Wheel); “Ain’t That a Shame” (John Lennon); “Time For Me To Fly” (REO Speedwagon); “Sure As I’m Sittin’ Here” (Three Dog Night); “Celluloid Heroes” (The Kinks); “Just Because” (John Lennon).
All the songs above that are performed by John Lennon, come from the 1975 album “John Lennon / Rock ‘n’ Roll,” on which he covers songs from the late 1950s and early 1960s.
In my next post on this page, I’ll share with you the song that I loosely refer to as my “theme song.” I think you’ll like it!
Just days ago, the world received word that the world champion boxer Muhammad Ali lost his final match. He lost that bout to the only opponent impossible to overcome: the grim reaper. As the Associated Press points out, Ali was once “perhaps the most recognized person in the world.” And perhaps still is. Personally, I don’t think I would ever consciously wish to become famous. As the historian Leo Braudy once noted, “Lurking behind every chance to be made whole by fame is the axeman of further dismemberment.”
Why am I writing about Muhammad Ali? Because we share something in common. Did we both knock out George Foreman? No, not quite. In fact, I can relate to a sentiment I once heard expressed by a caller to a radio program (I’m either paraphrasing or quoting): “If society had evolved to the point where I would think that by now it should have, then we wouldn’t still be paying people to beat each other up.” Furthermore, I care as much about sports, in general, as I care about whether the groundhog sees its shadow. I’m just far more interested in other things. So what then do I have in common with the great Muhammad Ali? Let me explain.
More than a couple decades ago, a man describing himself as a “foot reflexologist,” Dr. Richard Minarik, N.D. (“Naturopathic Doctor”), distributed booklets titled “Introducing: Dr. Richard Minarik, N.D. / Foot Reflexologist” to establishments such as health food stores and the like, as a means of advertising his services. I still have three (including two that featured former New York State governor Mario Cuomo, who had denied that he was ever a client). They are made of high-quality paper, twenty pages in all, and include almost a dozen photos and testimonials of people whose names you might recognize. There is a photo of Ali receiving treatment by Minarik, and what appears to be a signed letter from Ali (I’ll get back to that). The next page begins with this at the top:”Was Ken Norton’s electrofying 58 second knockout of Duane Bobick a coincidence?” Further down the page, above a photo of Norton receiving a treatment by Minarik, it states “Despite all my training my legs always felt like lead, now they feel light as feathers, in fact my whole body feels brand new. There was no way I could have destroyed Bobick the way I did in one round, had I not the good fortune to meet Rich Minarik.”
The next page in the booklet begins with the heading “President Ronald Reagan thanks foot reflexologist Richard Minarik for curing spasms and cramps in his legs.” Below the photo and text it reads “Photo and Article from The Washington Post.” The next page features testimonials from the hosts (David Hartman and “Ms Desault”) of the TV show “Good Morning America” and its Executive Producer. Then there are the first two of a total of eight testimonials from local residents, including one from a New Jersey resident. The next page has the heading “America’s most popular disc jockey Ted Brown of WNEW radio gets chronic low back pain cured with foot reflexology treatment.” The next page includes a copy of what appears to be an article that was published in the Star (there is no date), titled “Jackie Onassis’ neck pains are cured thanks to foot massage.” Besides helping Onassis, the article states “Minarik has also treated actress Barbara Eden and the late Jayne Mansfield.”
Are you still with me? The next page features Michael Spinks, and the caption below the accompanying photo reads “Michael Spinks gets a foot reflexology treatment from Richard Minarek one hour before he goes into the ring to battle Larry Holmes for the Heavyweight Championship.” It then points out that Spinks won that championship bout. It quotes Spinks as stating “Richard Minarik has been one of the biggest assets in my boxing career. I met him in Las Vegas 3 years ago, and he has treated me before each fight ever since.” Further down, he states “I believe that Foot Reflexology is the best treatment an athlete can get whether it be for aches, pains or for just added energy and stamina.”
Next, there is a testimonial from “the new Miss Universe,” Margarette Gardner. Then there are photos of New York Mets Darryl Strawberry and Gary Carter receiving treatments. Another page includes a testimonial from boxer Gerry Cooney. The next-to-last page is titled “New York Mets Superstars,” and states (above the accompanying photo) “Jesse Orosco, Darryl Strawberry, George Foster, Gary Carter and Keith Hernandez, relax after a Reflexology Treatment from Richard Minarik during the start of the 1986 season.” The back page of the booklet is basically an ad for his patented “Acupresser,” which he invites you to come and try “completely free of charge,” with office hours available seven days a week.
Now back to the Muhammud [as spelled in the booklet] Ali testimonial. I can’t include all thirty-one sentences here, but I’ll quote some parts of it. He starts by stating “If there’s one person in this world greater than me, it is Richard Minarik. … Throughout my career I have met the most respected people in the world: kings, queens, presidents, and other leaders of the world. In my eyes and wisdom, this foot man, Richard Minarik stands out above them all. He is a super extraordinary human being. I met Rich right after my first fight with Ken Norton in California.”
Curiously, the testimonial refers to “Budini Brown” as his trainer and not an assistant trainer (and cornerman) and misspells his name (it is Drew Bundini Brown, according to Wikipedia). Ali states at one point “I felt energy in my body like I never felt before.” He states Minarik has treated him before every fight since he first met him, and was even with him in Zaire, Africa, and Ali gives Minarik “all the credit for my stunning knockout of George Foreman which shocked the world.”
He further states that he calls Minarik “super human not only because of what he did for me, but because of what he has done for all my friends and family that he has treated,” and concludes the testimonial with “I recommend Richard Minarik to anyone who is ailing or who wants to get rejuvenated. He’s the greatest!”
Wow! And a forty-five minute treatment from this man who worked on world champions, a former president, and so forth, could be had for only $20 (I still have one of the original coupons). It took a few years for me to finally get around to making an appointment; but I eventually did. And was I ever glad I did! It was just exactly like Spinks described. My legs felt like feathers. I remember saying to myself as I left, “Wow! I feel like I can run the New York City Marathon!” That’s exactly how it felt.
So that’s what I have in common with Muhammad Ali: Richard Minarik!
Let me quickly add that Richard Minarik is no longer in practice. It appears he passed away in 2009. I’ll also point out that whenever I’ve tried to substantiate any of the material in the booklet (using Google), it’s usually amounted to a surreal experience, because I can hardly find any information at all to substantiate any of the claims. Based on my own experience with him on that one occasion, and seeing all the corroborating photos in the booklet, I don’t really doubt any of it. But considering how glowing the testimonials are, you would think there would be some traces of evidence left behind on the internet that the man existed and had the accomplishments that he had. Just about the only corroborating evidence I could find on the internet is a slightly different photo very similar to the one in the booklet showing him treating Muhammad Ali (AP Wire Photo, 1976), and the published piece relating to Jackie Onassis, which evidently also appeared in the San Antonio Express (August 8, 1976, page 153), but with a different photo of Minarik than the one that accompanied the Star article.
In conclusion, I’ve for years wanted to attempt to see if I could track down a close relative of his, to suggest that they consider putting all of the material contained in that booklet up onto the internet (create a simple, low-budget website), as a tribute to the man and the work that he did and believed in. I don’t believe in reflexology from a scientific perspective (I think it works, but for entirely different reasons than its practitioners believe). I don’t necessarily subscribe, for example, to the notion that it has anything to do with “breaking up calcium deposits on the nerve endings in the feet,” as Minarik writes in the booklet. But whatever the proper scientific explanation for its efficacy actually is, it [sustained excitation of the nerve endings in the feet] does work. One of the machines that he had used on me (on both my hands and my feet), was truly unique (I haven’t seen anything like that on the market). The “Acupresser” (which he also demonstrated on me throughout the treatment), I probably wouldn’t recommend (but in fairness, I don’t know how my experience would have been different without his having used it).[Incidentally, in my opinion, I think the closest that you can come to actually receiving a treatment by the late Richard Minarik, would be by using the very powerful foot massager sold at medmassager.com.]
I heard on the news yesterday that the final episode of the season, of the TV show American Idol (which will not be renewed), will be broadcast. I haven’t watched or turned on a TV in about eight years, (and no, I didn’t watch last night’s episode), but over the years, I have watched two or three seasons of the show. So I thought I would share with you my two most favorite American Idol performances. George Michael, singing “Praying for Time,” would be one. The other would be Taylor Hick’s duet with Toni Braxton, where they sang “In the Ghetto.” (These are pretty easy to find on YouTube.)
Truthfully, though I’ve never been much of an Elvis fan, I’ve always liked “In the Ghetto.” And without a doubt, the Elvis version is definitely much superior to the Hicks/Braxton duet. But still, while the duet might sound weak (if you were hearing it over the radio), it was nevertheless a perfect performance, visually speaking.
Listen just once to George Michael’s “Praying for Time,” and it might remain etched in your memory, forevermore.
Let me end with this. I own just one American Idol CD. It is an album titled American Idol / Greatest Moments [this album features the cast from season 1]. The only song on it that I really like, is Nikki McKibbin’s version of “Piece of My Heart.” I bought it, used, specifically for that one song. It was a perfect song choice to choose, and she nailed it. I never liked the Janis Joplin version. The Joplin version hurts my ears. It sounds too much like screaming (not singing). But the McKibbin version is great. (Another song that always hurts my ears is a certain Springsteen song that begins with the word “Born.” It, too, sounds like screaming, not singing.)
Recently, it was in the news that Keith Emerson, of the band Emerson, Lake & Palmer, passed away, as the result of an apparent suicide (self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head). My condolences to those who knew him. I occasionally listen to their single “Farewell to Arms.” It’s a great song, I love it [but not the live version, I prefer the Black Moon album non-live version]. I also like their classic single “Lucky Man.”
When it comes to music, I can hardly stand listening to the radio. So-called “Top 40” songs often sound to me more like they should be termed “Bottom 40.” For every song I very much like, there are dozens of songs played over the air that I don’t particularly care for. Therefore, over the years, I’ve made my own compilations tapes, for those times when I want to listen to music. (I haven’t had time to make any more of these, in probably a decade or so; so I often sidestep this strategy and instead just pop in one or more CDs, and play through just the tracks I enjoy listening to.)
Here, below, I’ll share with you the playlist for one of my compilations tapes (this particular 60 minute cassette, I’ve labeled “WWW”). The ‘B’ side turned out particularly good. The ‘A’ side has two songs on it that if I had it to do over again I would definitely omit; and therefore these two songs I’ve not listed below. Here are the contents of my “WWW” tape:
Side B: “If Looks Could Kill” (Rodney Crowell); “(Just Like) Starting Over” (John Lennon); ” ’39” (Queen); “Show Me the Way” (Styx); “Saltwater” (Julian Lennon); “Lord Is It Mine” (Supertramp); “You’re My Best Friend” (Queen).
Side A: “My Hometown” (Bruce Springsteen); “Casual Conversations” (Supertramp); “Small Town” (John Cougar Mellencamp); “That’s the Way it Goes” (George Harrison); “I Feel the Earth Move” (Carole King); “Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough” (Patty Smyth and Don Henley); “Best of Times” (Styx).
Like father, like son. John Lennon gave us “Imagine,” and his son Julian gave us “Saltwater.” [Note: “Saltwater” was written by Mark Spiro, Leslie Spiro and Julian Lennon.] They’re both eminently poignant masterpieces. “Saltwater” is a beautifully crafted song that broaches the broad topic of ecological destruction and what man is doing to the planet. Unfortunately, however, the YouTube music videos I’ve seen done of this song are all pretty lame. (I’m not sure how to “fix” this. I don’t have any really solid ideas on how this song can be better presented on YouTube.) Maybe that will change. But in the meantime, my advice is this: if you listen to this song on YouTube, listen with your eyes wide shut! Listen with your imagination.
This new year is flying by so quickly; already, we’re into February!
To me, the Sunday edition of The New York Times is like an ice cream sundae — with a cherry on top! I love the Times. My favorite sections are the Sunday Review and the Book Review. In this Sunday’s Sunday Review section, there is an article (“How to Raise a Creative Child,” by Adam Grant) which uses a quotation from Albert Einstein — and this quotation really shows the power of music: “The theory of relativity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving force behind this intuition.” Nice!
Probably at every place where I’ve ever worked, there’s always been at least a couple people or so who were also musicians or singers in their spare time. I remember one guy in particular was in a band, and his band’s name was also a clever palindrome (something that reads the same backwards or forwards, like “Was it a cat I saw?”); so while I can’t so much remember what he looked like or recall his name, I can never forget the name of his band: Runnur.
At another place where I worked, I remember speaking with someone who was also a drummer for a band. I mentioned some songs that I liked, and right away he said “Oh, you like ballads.” My immediate reaction was to suggest that might not be the case; but the more I thought about it, I realized he was right. If you take the definition of a ballad to be “a song that tells a story,” then, yes, I do tend to like songs that have a narrative to them.
So perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that as I reflected on the passing of two of the music world’s stars — David Bowie; and Glen Frey, of the Eagles — two of the three songs of theirs that I most like, both have a narrative: Bowie’s oddly-titled “Space Oddity,” and the Eagles’ “Lyin’ Eyes.” (I also like the Eagles’ “Hotel California.”)
Truthfully, I wasn’t particularly a fan of either … but in recognition of the fact that they both had so many fans who did love their music, let me mention another song I like, in their memory, and it’s particularly fitting under these circumstances: The Righteous Brothers’ “Rock and Roll Heaven” — I’ve always loved this bittersweet song. It’s a classic.
Okay, while I’m at it, I might as well mention two more: I’ve always liked the somber Kansas classic “Dust in the Wind” (I noticed there are about a quarter of a million “Likes” for the official version on YouTube, so clearly I’m not the only one who likes it); and I like how the Scorpions took this same somber song, and did an acoustic version, wherein it starts out very slow but then becomes powerfully energetic. Nice!
Kate Murphy, a freelance journalist living in Houston, writes a weekly column that appears in the Sunday Review section of the Sunday New York Times. Bernhard Misof, an Austrian evolutionary biologist at the Alexander Koenig Zoological Research Museum in Bonn, Germany, was the focus of her November 30, 2014 column. Misof gave a very interesting response to Murphy’s query regarding what music he listens to. Here was his response: “Cello Solo Suites by Bach, vocal music by Carlo Gesualdo, symphonies by Bruckner. Listening to genius brings back my faith in mankind. When I listen, it’s just for the music and I do it in one completely empty room. Just a chair and nothing else.”
Those last two sentences grabbed me. What an interesting idea. I can’t imagine only listening to music that way, but I can certainly see how enriching that alternative way of experiencing music can be. It’s quite different than listening to a song in a brightly lit room while multitasking, or watching/listening to a song on YouTube. And it’s an interesting thought to have a room set aside specifically for that purpose. Which reminds me, one of my biggest dreams is: to have a house with two large bedroom-sized rooms set aside exclusively for having the space to spread out all of my main saving the planet-related notes and ideas for all the many different projects I want to be working on simultaneously. To satisfy my need for ample work space, I envision having tables and shelves circling the perimeter of each room. Anyway, that’s my dream — that, and funding, of course.
Incidentally, you don’t necessarily need to have an extra room to set aside specifically for the purpose of listening to music to experience music in the way Misof describes. An alternative way to listen to music in a thoroughly non-distracting way would be to do so while sitting in a comfortable reclining chair, with a towel or soft shirt gently resting over your eyes to block out all light. That would be a nice, relaxing way to listen to music.
When I listen to music it’s usually a very different experience. One of the things I like about the energizing quality of music, is … like at the end of the week when I have a pile of notes and stuff to sort through and put away, and it’s hard to get started because there are so many notes and stuff to sort through and put away, I can just put on some music and then that enables me to plow right through this tedious chore like it’s nothing. Even if it takes six or seven hours to accomplish all that, having music on in the background makes even the most tedious work breeze by like a three-minute song.
Let me now share with you two albums that I particularly like. These both happen to be pretty good and they’re perfect for providing that background music for plowing through what would otherwise be tedious work. The first one is Hard Rain, Volume Two: A Tribute to Bob Dylan (Uncut, 2002). It has 15 tracks. The only ones I skip through (don’t like) are 01, 06, 10 and usually 12 as well. My favorite tracks are probably “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (performed by Echo & the Bunnymen), Love Minus Zero/No Limit (Steve Harley) and “Tangled Up In Blue” (Robyn Hitchcock). Someone once gave me this album as a gift (thanks Eric!). I’ve enjoyed listening to this album so much that I can’t wait to someday hear Volume One of this two-volume tribute album.
The next album I’ll mention today — for your listening pleasure — is Smooth Sounds (Razor & Tie, 1998). This one you can play at very low volume, if someone is sleeping in the next room, and still feel its energizing quality seeping into your every pore. This compilation album has a nice seamless sound, from beginning to end, and includes several instrumental compositions (like Dave Grusin’s “Theme from St. Elsewhere”). This is one of the very few (!) albums I can listen to without having to skip over even a single track. I hate to admit it but I even kinda like Bobby McFerrin’s “Simple Pleasure.” It’s funny how such a disparate “song” can fit in so seamlessly on this album. I think I like it for its entertainment value. Every time I hear it I’m kind of thinking “Is that even really a song? If that’s a song, then maybe even I can be a singer!”
These are the songs that appear on the Smooth Sounds album: “Breezin’ ” (George Benson); “Am I The Same Girl?” (Swing Out Sister); “Linus & Lucy” (David Benoit); “Dreamwalk” (Peter White); “Save The Best For Last” (Vanessa Williams); “Feels So Good” (Chuck Mangione); “101 Eastbound” (Fourplay); “Valentine” (Jim Brickman with Martina McBride); “You Make Me Smile” (Dave Koz; “Chris” (Pat Metheny Group; “Street Life” (The Crusaders); “Theme from Seinfeld” (Jonathan Wolff); “Mr. Magic (Grover Washington, Jr.); “Simple Pleasure” (Bobby McFerrin); “Let’s Stay Together” (The Rippingtons with Carl Anderson); “Get Here” (Oleta Adams); “Theme from St. Elsewhere” (Dave Grusin); “Shaker Song” (Spyro Gyra). Many of these songs are instrumentals.
These are the songs I like listening to on the Hard Rain, Vol. Two: A Tribute to Bob Dylan album:  “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” (Echo & the Bunnymen);  “Visions Of Johanna” (Lee Ranaldo);  “Positively 4th Street (Paul Westerberg);  “I Threw It All Away” (Yo La Tengo);  “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” (The Charlatans);  “Highway 61 Revisited” (Dr. Feelgood);  “Tangled Up In Blue” (Robyn Hitchcock);  “Love Minus Zero/No Limit” (Steve Harley);  “If You Gotta Go, Go Now” (Cowboy Junkies);  “Series Of Dreams” (Gallon Drunk);  “Every Grain of Sand” (Emmylou Harris).
Give your neurons a five-minute vacation and listen to Neil Young’s new protest song “A Rock Star Bucks a Coffee Shop.” The lyrics include these lines: “I want a cup of coffee, but I don’t want a GMO [Genetically Modified Organism]. / I’d like to start my day off, without helping Monsanto.” You can read all about it on the Internet; but to hear this catchy tune, search Google or YouTube, and look specifically for this: Neil Young + Promise Of The Real — A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop (Official Music Video).
Two songs I like listening to a lot are “Thrice All American” (Neko Case & Her Boyfriends) and “Avalanche” (Heather Nova). Another song I like listening to — though I don’t listen to it nearly as often as these first two — is “Cool Change” (Little River Band). A funny thing about “Thrice All American,” is towards the very end of the song, I always hear “God bless California, make way for the woman,” but having looked up the lyrics online, it looks like the actual line is “God bless California, make way for the Walmart.” But it’s still a great song, no two ways about it. It starts out slow, but then the music just picks you up, carries you, and gently puts you back down again, at the very end.
These first two songs, I have on CDs, and the albums, respectively, are Furnace Room Lullaby and Siren. Quite often, when I listen to “Thrice All American,” I also play “Porchlight”; and when I listen to “Avalanche,” I’ll often also play “London Rain (Nothing Heals Me Like You Do)” and “What a Feeling” (and occasionally, “Heart and Shoulder”).