Looking Back, Looking Forward

Hello again.  Hope you all had a great summer.  Fall is almost here.  Yay!!!

Sorry for the unplanned/unannounced hiatus.  It has been a rough summer (year actually) for me personally & professionally, and it has all taken a toll on my creativity.  When I am in that place, I do a lot of reflecting.  The older I get, that seems more normal than looking ahead.  I am trying desperately to change that, but it is so very difficult.

I am looking forward to reawakening myself with the upcoming change of season we are about to begin.  Like the quote from F. Scott Fitzgerald goes, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall”.  I feel reborn when the weather cools and the leaves change.  This year I need a fresh start more than ever.

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The summer was hot and humid which was to be expected.  It was also full of loss which was not.  Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain losing their battle with depression was not only heartbreaking, but terrifying to anyone who suffers from that same disease (read:  me, although I prefer not to discuss this battle publicly).  I always hoped with more love and more success in my life I would feel more stable in fighting this demon.  But their stories only prove how much I have been kidding myself about this illness.  A few years ago I lost a dear family friend to the same battle.  We grew up together and I never knew what he was going through.  It scared me so much I had to stop looking at my fear because I was afraid if I didn’t, I was going to get lost in it and never come back.  Spade & Bourdain’s deaths so close together has made it impossible to look away.  And that is incredibly scary, too.  That is my present.

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Kate Spade & Anthony Bourdain (original sources unknown).

The reflecting started with the death of one of my childhood heroes, legendary disc jockey Dan Ingram.  One of the best things about growing up in New York was listening to music radio WABC-77.  All of the DJ’s were phenomenal (especially Harry Harrison & Ron Lundy), but Ingram’s time slot of 2PM-6PM was the one I could listen to almost all the way through, and I fell head over heels in love with his voice.  It was deep yet elegant, sharp yet comforting and funny and irreverent as hell.  He was the reason I fell in love with both voices and vocabulary.  One of his daily events featured a word of the day.  I always thought he was making them up until I was in sixth grade and one of my spelling words-eloquent-was one I heard on his show.  Then I learned the words were real but his definitions were the punch line.  It made me love Ingram even more and helped expand my vocabulary exponentially.

His show also featured an honor group of the day which ranged from those in certain professions, or hobbyists and club members to every other group in between, making anyone feel welcome in his world.  He referred to his audience as “the Ingramess” but kept it personal with his signature sign off  of “Bye now, Kemosabe” while big band music played him off.  Years later he moved to WCBS-FM where he did weekend shows and he was better than ever.  When he died on June 24 at the age of 83 it was like losing one of my dearest, oldest friends.   And for those of you not lucky enough to know who this man was, here’s a clip of his genius.

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Dan Ingram at WCBS-FM circa 1990’s (courtesy of the NY Times).

The friends we make in childhood we remember forever.  And I had some of the best.  Winnie the Pooh courtesy of A.A. Milne & Walt Disney, Mr. Rogers, the Peanuts courtesy of Charles M. Schulz and the disc jockeys at 77-WABC.  All of them held a special place in my heart, but Ingram had me holding on to every word.  His comments were as important to me as the lyrics of the songs he played every weekday afternoon.  He was one of the best teachers I ever had.  My childhood was briefer than most but he was a huge part of it.  And in those memories of when my life was whole, happy and full of color, he was one of the most vibrant ones.  I had the chance to interview him by phone many years ago when I was writing an article about CBS-FM’s yearly Thanksgiving countdown and it was one of the high points of my life.  Getting the chance to thank him for being such a hero of mine was one of the greatest gifts I was ever given.  His loss has me heartbroken in so many ways.  It is like losing the last piece of my childhood.

Then less than two months later, we lost the Queen:  Aretha Franklin.  For those of you who follow my blog, you know how much I love music, so this loss is ENORMOUS.  There will never EVER be a singer like Aretha.  Her voice, her soul, her passion, her songs……sublime.  The world is truly a darker place without her in it.  Yes, we will always have the music.  But her mere presence made our world a better place.  I am just devastated.

This is not as popular as some of her other songs, but it is one of my favorites:  “Angel“.

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                                                     Aretha Franklin at her concert at Jones Beach, NY July, 2011. 

Now we have lost Burt Reynolds.   If you saw my Instagram post about him yesterday, you know the first film I saw of his was “The Longest Yard”.  His infectious laugh hit me harder than his looks.  Who did not love him in the “Smokey & the Bandit” films?  Or with Goldie Hawn in “Best Friends”?  And how great was he on one of my favorite (and sorely underrated) shows, “Evening Shade”?  And how about him with my favorite ladies on “The Golden Girls”?  He was definitely a big part of my childhood, and now he is gone too.  Sigh.

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Burt Reynolds on “The Golden Girls” in 1986.  

I know full well that loss is a part of life, but this year has just brought so many that have forced me to revisit parts of my life I try to steer clear of.  Yes, avoidance works well for me.  Sometimes.

I tried writing about these losses as they occurred, but again, avoidance & the lack of creativity stopped that from happening.  But now that the summer is over but the losses continue, I am hoping that by finally writing about them will change my luck and the trajectory of the universe for a while.  One can hope, right?

The song I have been listening to almost non stop these last few months is one I have ADORED forever.  It is a sad song about the loss of a love but it is so achingly beautiful I find myself identifying with it while reflecting on the losses of my youth.  When I remember that this horribly underrated singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist wrote this song nearly 50 years ago before he turned 25 I am blown away.  If this was all he ever gave us, what a contribution it was on its own.  But he also blessed us with “For What It’s Worth”, “Suite:  Judy Blue Eyes”, “Love the One You’re With”, “Southern Cross” and many other songs which are enigmatic, timeless and beautiful.

“Stand by the stairway

You’ll see something certain to tell you

Confusion has its cost”

Stephen Stills (via Crosby, Stills & Nash):  “Helplessly Hoping“.

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing some of the people & things I love with you.

Until next time, happy digging.

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Rock ‘N’ Roll Fantasies & A Song

It still isn’t feeling much like spring yet, despite the fact that last week’s storm gave us only about two inches of snow.  And estate sales have been few and far between thanks to the weather and the upcoming Easter holiday.  I needed a break from the ballast of everyday living, so I did the only thing I could do-I went for a ride to listen to some music.  It’s like a mini-vacation for my soul.

My mind goes to so many different places as I drive, and one of the things I kept thinking about was how many artists I have been lucky enough to see in my life, but especially in the last several years because I could capture a moment of the show with my cell phone.

The quality is not the best on some of these shots, but here are several of the people I have been fortunate to see live.

Chris Isaak:

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Marc Cohn:

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Stevie Nicks (in her different looks):

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Todd Rundgren:

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The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin (who celebrated her 76th birthday yesterday):

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Yusuf Islam (f/k/a Cat Stevens):

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Sir Ringo Starr:

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And The Boss, of course:

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I do not have any shows to go to yet for 2018, but with the arrival of spring and the upcoming summer, I am sure it is just a matter of time before a few I want to attend are announced.  Then I will be able to add to this picture collection.

What concerts are you hoping to attend this year?

For this week’s song, I reached back to a band that released their ground-breaking self-titled debut record, “Boston”, in 1976.  Two years later, the group released “Don’t Look Back” and it is the title song that I played over and over during last week’s car ride.   Between Tom Scholz empowering lyrics and Brad Delp’s soaring vocals, it’s hard to feel anything but unshackled and free of the past with words like these:

A new day is breakin’
It’s been too long since I felt this way
I don’t mind where I get taken
The road is callin’
Today is the day”

“It’s a bright horizon and I’m awakin’ now
Oh I see myself in a brand new way
The sun is shinin’
The clouds are breakin’
‘Cause I can’t lose now, there’s no game to play

I do not own the rights to the song.  I am just sharing something that I love with you  🙂

Until next time, happy digging!!!

25 Days Of Christmas Music: Day 24

Hello, Vixens!!!  Merry Christmas Eve!!!  Welcome back to the countdown.

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 (Original source unknown)

Today’s song dates back to 1847 and combined the words of French poet Placide Cappeau and the music of Adolphe Adam.  The more familiar singing edition came to life in 1855 courtesy of Unitarian Minister John Sullivan Dwight.

In whatever language this song is sung, the message is clear:  to rejoice over the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  No matter how many signs we see at stores that read “Jesus is the reason for the season”, it may be easy to forget that Christmas is a religious holiday for those who believe in him.  We all know how commercial this holiday has always been (even Charlie Brown commented on that in 1965) and how it is arriving earlier and earlier in stores and the media each year.  But the little Catholic school girl I used to be 100 years ago cannot choose any other song for Christmas Eve than the one which celebrates the greatest gift God gave us.

These are my top three favorite versions of this song:

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Aretha Franklin:  “O Holy Night

Al Green:   “O Holy Night

Mahalia Jackson:  “O Holy Night

And for the sarcastic adult that I have become, I cannot resist including this irreverent version every year because it makes me laugh until I cry.

Eric Cartman:  “O Holy Night

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 (Original source unknown)

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing some things that I love with you   🙂

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs?

Until next time, fellow Vixens, happy listening!!!

Christmas Song Countdown #13

Hello, Vixens!!!  Welcome back to the countdown!!!

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Courtesy of Widadesign.com 

 

Today’s singer has being performing for decades, and is probably the greatest and most famous back up singer that ever was.  She has worked with the likes of Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and Aretha Franklin, whom she channels in today’s song.

A phenomenal singer in her own right, she will probably always be best remembered for her work with Phil Spector’s groundbreaking “Wall of Sound” recordings in the 1960’s; namely ”He’s a Rebel,” ”(Today I Met) the Boy I’m Gonna Marry,” and today’s featured song which she performed regularly on David Letterman’s show during the Christmas season.

She was one of the main singers spotlighted in the 2014 Best Documentary Oscar winning film, “20 Feet From Stardom”.  She also played Danny Glover’s wife in all four “Lethal Weapon” movies and Judy Burrell on my soap “Another World” in 1993.

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Danny Glover & Mel Gibson in Lethal Weapon” (Courtesy of IMDb)

 

If all that were not impressive enough, the New York Times paid her one of the greatest compliments ever when they said her voice is ”as embedded in the history of rock and roll as Eric Clapton’s guitar and Bob Dylan’s lyrics”.  Wow.  Who would not want to be remembered like that?

Darlene Love:  Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).

P.S.  An honorable mention to U2 for their version of today’s song.  Who does not want to imagine themselves as the reason for Bono’s pleading?  Or more to the point, who does not want to listen to Bono and the rest of U2, period???

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U2 by Mattia Zoppellaro for MOJO magazine

 

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing some things that I love with you   🙂

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs?

Until next time, fellow Vixens, happy listening!!!

Christmas Song Of The Day #7

Hi, Vixens!!!  How are all of you today?  Ready for another great holiday song???  Then let’s get to it.

Soul music-whether in the form of Motown, R&B, Philly Soul, Gospel or some other variation-has been a favorite of mine forever.  I love music that is consumed with so much emotion.  It reminds me I am alive and hits my soul like a bolt of electricity, which is perhaps where the term “soul music” came from-music that touches the soul.

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Original Source Unknown

So many moments hit me like that:  the first time I heard Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay“, and Ray Charles’ “America The Beautiful“, and Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through The Grapevine” not to mention his absolutely sublime version of “The Star Spangled Banner“, anything at all by Aretha Franklin and “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green, to name a few.

And while we are on the subject of Al  Green, his version of “O Holy Night” sent shivers down my spine from the second I heard it.  Done in his signature style, it oozes personality, charm, soul, R&B and every emotion it makes you feel.  It is simply majestic!!!

I do not own the rights to anything, I am just sharing some of my favorite music with you.

Enjoy!!!

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Source:  steppersusa.com

Valentine’s Day Music Countdown: Songs @ #7 & My Grammy Boycott

There are two songs tied for the #7 spot on the countdown, so we will look at them individually.  The first one comes from a man who is considered by some as not only the inventor of soul music, but the genre’s most distinctive voice as well:  Sam Cooke with “You Send Me“.

This song, penned by Cooke but credited to his brother LC Cook to keep record executives from taking the profits, hit #1 in December 1957,  ending Elvis Presley’s 7 week run in the top spot with “Jailhouse Rock”.

Crooning is what Cooke does throughout this song, using his smooth sophisticated voice’s range to lure the listener into his story of how his feelings came to be (and he even uses the M word):

“At first I thought it was infatuation
But oh, it’s lasted so long
Now I find myself wanting
To marry you and take you home

Cooke’s roots began in gospel music, but with the success of this song he became fully emerged in secular music. Then he used what he learned to help some other singers crossover from the gospel genre as well, including Lou Rawls who returned the favor by singing on Cooke’s song “Bring It On Home To Me“.

Singing, songwriting and producing records were not the only parts of the business Cooke was interested in. He was one of the first performers to take both artistic & financial control of his career and eventually started his own publishing company and record label.  He also has the distinction of writing a song that went on to become an anthem for the Civil Rights movement, “A Change Is Gonna Come“.  It has been covered by both black and white artists from Otis Redding, Al Green, Aretha Franklin and Bob Dylan, who inspired Cooke with his song  “Blowin’ In The Wind“.

1964 started on a somber note with the country still mourning the assassination of President Kennedy.  Unfortunately, the year also ended the same way as the country mourned Cooke’s tragic death on Dec 11 at the age of 33 after being shot at a Los Angeles motel.  His murder was eventually ruled a justifiable homicide.  The events of that night have been revisited several times over the last five decades to bring his friends and family a better understanding as to what actually transpired the night Cooke was shot.  Whatever it was does not change the outcome because there was nothing justifiable about the loss of this soul music renegade.  It was a heartbreaking ending to a stellar career.

Sam Cooke was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at its first ceremony in 1986 and Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him 4th on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers”.  His music has been featured in several movies over the years, but is most recognizable from “Animal House” (who can forget John Belushi’s character Bluto eating his way down the cafeteria line to “(What A) Wonderful World“) and “Innerspace” (Martin Short & Dennis Quaid dancing to “Twistin’ The Night Away“).

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The other song sharing the #7 spot on the countdown is by a man referred to as one of the greatest singers of all time, and I cannot express it any better than that.  The singer is Van “The Man” Morrison with his song “Have I Told You Lately“.

If you cannot tell, I love words, and this song has some of the most beautiful ones ever set to music:

“Fill my heart with gladness
take away my sadness
ease my troubles
that’s what you do”

“You fill my heart with laughter
Somehow, you make it better
Ease my troubles, that’s what you do”

“There’s a love that’s divine
and it’s yours and it’s mine
and it shines like the sun”

Just stunning.  And the music and delivery are perfect, too completing the holy trinity hallmarks of a great song.

Even Rod Stewart became choked up with emotion and when he sang his cover of the song on “MTV’s Unplugged” in 1993.

There really is not a genre of music Morrison has not explored with his voice, and that coupled with his immense talent has influenced performers like the Counting Crows, Bob Seger, U2, Bruce Springsteen and The Band.  In fact, that was a bit of a mutual admiration thing as evidenced by Morrison’s part in their swan song movie, “The Last Waltz“.   My favorite performance of his in that movie?  Caravan.

It was one of the members of The Band, guitarist and songwriter Robbie Robertson, who inducted Morrison into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.  In his induction speech, Robertson said of Morrison:  “…in the tradition of the great Irish poets and the great soul singers, he is the Caruso of rock and roll”.  Compliments do not get much better than that.  And Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Morrison 24th  on its list of the “100 Greatest Singers”.

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SIDE BAR:  Today is the 2015 Grammy Awards and for the first time in more than three decades I will neither be watching the show nor saving it to my DVR.  The only performances I would want to see from the broadcast are Hozier’s with Annie Lennox or Tony Bennett’s, but I can just look them up on YouTube tomorrow.

But I am happy to see super-talented singer/songwriter/musician Ryan Adams up for best rock song (“Gimme Something Good”) and Best Rock Album (for his self-titled release).  Tom Petty and U2 are also nominated in the latter category but I do not think either of them will be there to accept if they win, if that award is even broadcast.

Same holds true for the Best American Roots Performance, which is usually announced before the telecast.  Gregg Allman & Taj Mahal are nominated for their collaboration on “Statesboro Blues”, from “All My Friends: Celebrating The Songs & Voice Of Gregg Allman”.  Keb’ Mo’ Featuring The California Feetwarmers is nominated in the same category for “The Old Me Better” from the album “BluesAmericana”, which is also up for Best Americana Album.

“Twenty Feet From Stardom” is nominated for Best Music Film, and if you like music, this is a must see.  If you never saw “Standing In The Shadows of Motown” either, add that to your Netflix queue NOW.  The history and performances are way too good to miss.

I do like Sam Smith-this decade’s Rick Ashley-who is up for a slew of awards including Record, Song & Album of the Year, but not enough to sit through the boring list of  performers (and speaking of boring, weren’t we all just forced to sit through a not-very-surprised-because-she-is-mostly-over-hyped-anyway lackluster Katy Perry half-time show?)  Shouldn’t she just limit her involvement tonight to presenter only?

Let’s make it a rule-rather, a law-that a bubble gum pop princess who is too busy with her make up commercials to learn how to sing well should only be allowed to play one event per month.  Same rule should apply to anything-but-reality people and hosts (yes, Adam Levine, this includes you and your face stubble.  Don Johnson called and said it’s over, move on already!!!).

I am actually refusing to watch this year (read:  BOYCOTT) because the industry is continuing to change for the worse. Between Miley Cyrus even being nominated (and for her entire album no less-UGH) to that irritating trite Meghan Trainor “Bass” song (that will be part of a new Big Mouth Billy Bass singing fish in the not so distant future, I guarantee it.  How they got the rights to All Shook Up, Don’t Be Cruel, Take Me To The River in the past is beyond me).

I am a music purist so for me the rules are simple:  If you make bad music PLEASE STOP NOW before someone gets hurt (do you hear me Miley, Meghan, Gwen, Katy, Maroon 5 and the Black Eyed Peas, whether as a group or individually, for starters).  If you make good music please don’t sell out to hear it in a TV commercial.  It demeans us all.  I do not want nor do I expect to hear decent music used in commercials with the exception of car ads.  Those seem to leave the songs virtually intact with some redeeming qualities to them.

A good example from this year:  Bobby Day & the Satellites’ “Beep Beep Beep” used in a Kia Sorento spot.  Some bad examples:  The Who’s “I’m Free” in a local cable commercial ad & the Kinks selling yogurt with “All Day & All Of The Night”. The worst use of a phenomenal song to sell ANYTHING:  The Allman Brothers’ exquisite “Midnight Rider” as part of the Geico campaign (one more reason why I want to punch that dippy little gecko in his slithery neck!!!).

But to be honest, the biggest reason why I will not watch the Grammy Awards is because I prefer to remember Sir Paul McCartney, a freaking Beatle for God’s sake, the way he was…….when he had judgement.  That obviously is gone given his choice to collaborate with that no talent ego-maniacal hack, Kanye West (or did West kidnap McCartney and torture him until he said Uncle?  That would make this easier to swallow, not to mention understandable).

Whatever possessed Sir Paul to even appear at the same award show as West is belittling enough to us Beatles fans, but actually working with that irredeemably talent-less brat is so over the line it has now been eradicated.  I did not think anything could top the colossal lack of judgement U2 showed several years back when they decided to let no talent No Doubt open for them for a leg of the tour.  I am still wearing black and taking mood stabilizers from that debacle.  But this Sir Paul misstep may require me to go on a 72 hour suicide watch with round the clock doses of ECT treatments.

But it does make me profoundly sad that the longest tradition of my life is coming to an end after 30+ years.  Music is so important to me & continues to be that it is a part of me, like a dear old friend.  I have looked forward to the Grammy Awards ever since I was a kid.  I loved getting the chance to finally see my favorite singers on TV (as this was the pre-music video & pre-internet age-yes, I know I am old!!!) and the outfits they wore, what collaborations they would participate in and what songs they would perform.

My favorite Grammy moment ever?  Aretha Franklin’s performance of “Nessun Dorma” in 1998.  Unbelievably gorgeous. Some of my favorite collaborations (“London Calling”  with Bruce Springsteen & friends; “The A-Team” by Ed Sheeran & Elton John; “Across The Universe” introduced by the sinfully gorgeous Anthony Lapaglia) and salutes to some of those who died (Solomon Burke, Warren Zevon &  Levon Helm’s tributes).

Here’s to hoping the 2016 Grammy Awards are something worth tuning in for.

Enjoy!!!