the power of music

A young man or woman goes to the music store.
Or the pawn shop.
They buy a beat up guitar.
A keyboard.
Some blank music sheets.
Or a note pad and a number 2 pencil.
They sit in their basement with their headphones. Fumbling to play along to their favorite artist.
Or, on the side of a lazy river, scribbling the lyrics to their someday breakout hit.

They dream.

Do they dream about fame? And fortune? Thousands of screaming fans clamoring for their attention, in desperate need to hear their favorite song? Isn’t that the goal, after all? I would imagine it is.

But I wonder if an aspiring artist knows that, despite their level of achieved success, they have the potential to make someone’s day, even change their life by sharing a piece of themselves with us.

Did Bruce Springsteen know that a 47 year old man would immediately go to his music while driving 2 hours on a cold December night, tears streaming down his face, to see his father before he draws his last breath?

Did Journey know that their music would make millions of 80’s kids remember sweaty fumblings in the back seat of sedans and slow dances with their High School Sweetheart?

Did Van Morrison know that Into the Mystic would always remind me of that one night, sitting oceanside, watching a thunderstorm in the distance, drinking bourbon in beach chairs with a dear friend that has since died?

Did Dawes know that in his song A little bit of everything he would perfectly illustrate, as if on a design board, how to approach life when you don’t know how many days you have to live?

Did Michael Franti know that he would inspire my blog when he sang Good to be alive today? The song that slapped me in the face and told me that it is so simple, and necessary that I spend each day trying to make the world a better place and just be glad to be ALIVE.

So many songs.
So many associations.
So many memories.
So many things to so many people.
So many powerful emotions. Smiles of nostalgia. Tears of angst. Pains of heartache, sadness and loss. Euphoria and joy. The urge to play air guitar or pound the steering wheel to your favorite drum solo. The feeling that you have been where the artist has.

I have listened to thousands of songs in my life. There are millions of songs that I still want to hear. Songs that I know could speak to me. That will make me feel something, experience something powerful. I can only hope that when I hear them, I have a takeaway. Something that I can relate to. A fresh perspective on a old subject, a new spark to light the candle of another fond yet dormant memory.

Here’s to the person out there, just getting started, setting out on your musical journey and hoping for all of the typical trappings of success. May they know that success can me measured in so many ways.

Always keep in the back of your mind that you may change just one life with your efforts.


Song lyric Sunday

Some of you may know this song by heart, some may have never heard it. It is one of those songs that proves the adage that the music you listen to in your formative years will always be sentimental to you, if not remain your favorite music. The latter has proven true for me, and in times when I lack clarity or need a reminder of what drives the blood in my veins I play those songs.

Bob Seger’s Like a Rock is the title track of his ’86 album that cemented my love of Seger’s gritty, honest, relateable songs. This song, before it became a Chevy commercial at least, was a staple in my daily playlist.

Now, as I find myself weakened and looking for strength I love this song more than ever. It reminds me of the days when I was young, strong and carefree. Of the days when I walked with my shoulders back and my chest out. When I swung an axe in the crux of a cold October afternoon in just a T shirt, my brow sweaty and my muscles tight, plowing through the woodpile my dad and I had just created. My friends were all playing football but I committed myself to the task at hand. Like a rock.

I miss that feeling, I want it back. I hope to get it back. When I hear this song I am reminded of better days and given hope that they will return.

Give it a listen will ya?

Stood there boldly
Sweatin’ in the sun
Felt like a million
Felt like number one
The height of summer
I’d never felt that strong
Like a rock

I was eighteen
Didn’t have a care
Working for peanuts
Not a dime to spare
But I was lean and
Solid everywhere
Like a rock

My hands were steady
My eyes were clear and bright
My walk had purpose
My steps were quick and light
And I held firmly
To what I felt was right
Like a rock

Like a rock, I was strong as I could be
Like a rock, nothin’ ever got to me
Like a rock, I was something to see
Like a rock

And I stood arrow straight
Unencumbered by the weight
Of all these hustlers and their schemes
I stood proud, I stood tall
High above it all
I still believed in my dreams

Twenty years now
Where’d they go?
Twenty years
I don’t know
I sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they’ve gone

And sometimes late at night
When I’m bathed in the firelight
The moon comes callin’ a ghostly white
And I recall
I recall

Like a rock, chargin’ from the gate
Like a rock, carryin’ the weight
Like a rock

Like a rock, the sun upon my skin
Like a rock, hard against the wind
Like a rock, I see myself again
Like a rock

Song lyric Sunday

I have chosen to share with you this Sunday a song, a well-known song that you may have heard a thousand times. Pearl Jam’s Black.I share it as an homage to a love that I never had. One that I desperately crave.  One in which I am so happy, so awe-struck, enamored and smitten that in the throes of loss, I could write a song as powerful as this.
I dedicate the last paragraph, the one that disembowels me emotionally every time I hear it to my ex-wife. Some of my anger has subsided. I have knelt at the altar of painful accountability and have found myself looking at my marriage in a different light.
I don’t like failure. My divorce is just that. I committed to put in the work, to love for better or for worse. While I can point to several formidable moments that caused me to have contempt for her, I failed to recognize that I had a few myself. I wasn’t always a saint. I made several risky career choices with good intentions and poor outcomes. There were times I could have been kinder, more nurturing. A little more present. When we began to really fight I began to come home later, often a little drunk to offset the contempt and animosity in my own home.
It’s not all her fault and while I most certainly do not want her back, too much has happened and she doesn’t love me anymore, I wish more than anything that she will someday have the life she dreamed of as a wide-eyed young woman, yet to be spoiled by the realities of wasted potential and poor decisions.
I don’t know if I failed her, if she lost faith in me, if I failed to provide her the life she deserved or if it was meant to be that we would part ways after so many years together. After seeing the 100 or so pictures she posted online the other day of the old days with our friends and family I saw an awful lot of pictures of she and I looking happy. Real happy. If I didn’t know better I would call it love. But in the wake of our tumultuous demise I had forgotten those times, when the world was bright and our futures held hope and promise.
I dedicate this to her because, despite our ruined state I still wish the best for her. I wish that things had turned out different for us. May she find balance in her life, may she overcome her demons and ultimately meet someone who makes her happy. To find the type of love that inspires a song like this. In particular I dedicate the last stanza, which I have highlighted below.
Hey, oh
Sheets of empty canvas
Untouched sheets of clay
Were laid spread out before me
As her body once did
All five horizons
Revolved around her soul
As the earth to the sun
Now the air I tasted and breathed
Has taken a turn
Oh and all I taught her was everything
Oh I know she gave me all that she wore
And now my bitter hands
Chafe beneath the clouds
Of what was everything
Oh the pictures have
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
I take a walk outside
I’m surrounded by
Some kids at play
I can feel their laughter
So why do I sear
Oh, and twisted thoughts that spin
Round my head
I’m spinning
Oh, I’m spinning
How quick the sun can, drop away
And now my bitter hands
Cradle broken glass
Of what was everything
All the pictures had
All been washed in black
Tattooed everything
All the love gone bad
Turned my world to black
Tattooed all I see
All that I am
All I’ll be
Yeah
I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life
I know you’ll be a star
In somebody else’s sky
But why
Why
Why can’t it be
Why can’t it be mine

Song Lyric Sunday

Today, on a day when I crave positivity as a flower does water, I give you Michael Franti and Spearhead, whose music absolutely oozes positivity, empathy, acceptance and understanding.

This song in particular is named Good to be alive today, which I have adopted as my blog URL…that’s how much this song means to me.

Franti can be seen traveling the world, dancing with children, coaxing shy people out of their corners to dance, spreading hope and optimism like a bee does pollen in the spring. His love for life is nothing short of inspi-fucking-rational.

I hope you get something out of this song…

It’s a long road, oh
Everyday I wake up and turn my phone on
I read the news of the day, just as it’s coming down
I do my best not to let it get me down
I try to keep my head up, but is Babylon
This world’s in crisis, we try to fight it, this changing climate
With scientists and politicians divided by it
So many ways we could solve it but they would never sign it
This mountains tumbling down, but still we try to climb it
It’s in the Torah, Quran and in the Bible
Love is the message for some how we turn to rivals
It’s come to people always picking up their rifles
Another school getting shot up homicidal
Some people tryna look fly, some people tryna get high
Some people losing their mind, some people tryna get by
And when you look in my eyes, you see the sign of the times
We all looking for the same thing
But what if this song’s number one
Would it mean that love had won?
Would it mean that the world was saved?
And no guns are being drawn today?
What if everybody had a job?
And nobody had to break a law?
What if everyone could say
That it’s good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
No matter what nobody say
People used to feel safer when they would hear a siren
Like help is on its way but now they only think of violence
Another youth in the streets and police is in a conflict
And now they hear the guns click, yo
Ebola crisis and ISIS is taking heads off
A drone is bombing a village and now the kids all
Signing up to be soldiers, but they all willing now
To do the killing now, now are you willing now?
Some politicians out there making up some problems
And tryna tell the people that they can solve them
With TV shows and soundbites and quotes
But everybody knows that it’s all about the cash flow
They telling you and me, they’re making progress
But tell it to the millions of jobless
It’s like a players club with billions of dollars
To get the votes you got to make it rain in congress
Some people tryna look fly, some people tryna get high
Some people losing their mind, some people tryna get by
And when you look in my eyes, you see the sign of the times
We all looking for the same thing
But what if this song’s number one
Would it mean that love had won?
Would it mean that the world was saved?
And no guns are being drawn today?
What if everybody had a job?
And nobody had to break a law?
What if everyone could say
That it’s good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
Is it good to be alive today (oh, oh, oh, oh)
And we all say
One day, one day
One day, one day
One day, we all will say
That it’s good to be alive today
One day, one day
One day, one day
One day, we all will say
That it’s good to be alive today

Country music

I was watching a show the other night that mentioned the 80’s urban legend about playing music backwards. Supposedly some weird things would happen. I was intrigued.

I’ve been listening to a lot of country music lately so I gave it a shot and played a country album backwards.

I’ll be damned if I didn’t get my house back, my job back, my dog back…

the power of music

 

I did some work for a guy the last couple of days. It was a nice opportunity to dabble in my old profession, make a few bucks in the process. It put some wind under my sails to do it again. The only drawback is that I had a 3-hour drive ahead of me. It’s not too bad, I can do that drive non-stop if I have my faithful companion Spotify with me.

I strapped on my seatbelt, made sure the lid on my coffee was on tight and opened the app. I was about to select one of my new Playlists (I have been a Spotify junkie this past year with all of the driving) when I saw an option for “Your favorites for 2017”. Wtf, I put it on shuffle and promised myself that I would listen without skips. How would I know that my drive would end up not as a tedious straight line between 2 points, but instead an emotional, unflinching, and cathartic journey of my last year in song.

The music took me away. I went down to the River with Bruce only to find that it was the River of Dreams by Billy Joel. I waded in looking for answers, found none and on the way out Stevie Nicks warned me that taking my love down would cause a Landslide.

I gathered my strength to climb the embankment and took a breath, which was painful, I have been thinking about my wife and the pending divorce, feeling bad about it, and Rascal Flatts didn’t hold back from reminding me of What hurts the most. Dave Mason softened the blow a bit by pointing out that, at the end of the day, We just disagree.

Hoping for a break the next song delivered with a jam session as the Allman Brothers took me Southbound, I jammed on the dash like John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles doing the Messaround by Ray Charles. I got to thinking about how much the world misses John Candy.

mess around

On the theme of days gone by, Al Stewart brought me back in time to the Year of the Cat. A simpler time indeed. Tom Petty would then tell me all about his American Girl, and then make it impossible to drive the speed limit when he offered up You wreck me. The wailing guitar and the pounding drums urged me to go faster, faster you son of a bitch! But alas the car in front of me didn’t see the urgency or hear the song.

After I slowed down a little, the Indigo Girls brought me a little Closer to Fine but I was in a funk.  I again thought of the failed marriage and the Eagles were there to remind me that, at the end of the day, I gave her the Best of my love.

Nearing the end of my journey, I found myself teary eyed, reaching towards the heavens, while trying to drive of course, hands to God as Mondo Cozmo powerfully, with vocals and harmonies that filled my car and and the world around it, implored God to Shine his light down upon us. An emotional wreck, I pawed at my eyes and Journey had the nerve to ask me Who’s crying now? It’s me, alright? You got me.

Fortunately, Michael Franti, my barefoot Brazilian Messiah, took it to a metaphysical level and asked all of the right questions, said all the right things as he explained why It’s good to be alive today (my blog URL btw).

Then I pulled in my driveway. My physical journey over for the day, my emotional one only beginning. This playlist was my year in review. It nailed it.

I’ve had love and I’ve lost it.

I’ve sung and danced, and I’ve drummed with delight and cried my ass off on the same steering wheel.

I know what I need to do just not how to do it.

I’ve been to the River and found nothing but dirty water.

I’ve reached to the sky and found heaven right in front of me.

And I’ve gotten behind the wheel, gotten the urge to go somewhere and God help the bastard in front of me if they don’t let me pass them.

It is good to be alive today.