This is a strange question. I’ve lived 71 years. The number of events that have changed my world are … literally … countless. From learning to stand, to learning to read. To learning to love furry creatures, to discovering the woods and the sky.
Moving along and learning that I want to know everything. Discovering I’ll never be a math genius, but knowing I can write. Painting. Photography. What’s wrong with one marriage and what’s right with another.
Discovering quiet and being alone.
Recognizing that I can’t do the things I did, but I can do other things I never thought I could do. Life is a long pattern of discoveries and each changes your life. From tiny changes, like a new way to lace your shoes or brush your teeth, to realizing that you never will know “the meaning of life” unless you agree that 42 will do it for you.
Playing the piano. Struggling with guitar. Falling in love with computers.
All the books you read, all the thoughts they put in your head. All the things you write and the pictures you take. I don’t think there’s one single thing that changed my world. There were millions of things that changed it. And, with a little luck, there will be millions more yet to come.
Complete this sentence: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s…
Mom? How did you get up there?
What genre of music do you like?
I like music with melody, rhythm, and when possible, words I can remember. I don’t like rap or “hard rock” which to me just sounds like noise. To be fair, this isn’t recent. I always felt like that about it, even when I was a whole lot younger.
My favorite piece of music is Beethoven’s 6th Symphony, The Pastoral.
Second favorite (at the moment): Pancho and Lefty.
What did you appreciate or what made you smile this past week?
Finally getting antibiotics and discovering this morning I can breathe without making that hideous bubbling sound. This is a better morning!
Hanging out is a concept lost to modern youth. I think it’s a tragedy, personally. The best parts of my life were spent hanging out.
I was a teenager in college. Madly in love with my first boyfriend who was seriously into the “Village scene.” He brought me there for my first taste of cold chocolate at a MacDougal Street coffee shop. I took to the Village like the proverbial duck to water.
From the old Italian coffee houses that sold coffee along with a few other non-alcoholic drinks, to the tiny, dingy coffee houses where folk music was born, this was the Heart of Hip. Everything was a 15 cent subway ride from home.
The world was mine.
It wasn’t only the Village, either. A lot of New York was free back then.
Museums were free. The Metropolitan Museum of Art was a magical experience. For that matter, the huge New York Public Library behind the stone lions had basements full of original, ancient documents into which you could freely delve. You couldn’t take them out of the library, but they were free for you to absorb. (I have no idea if that’s true anymore.)
You could spent an afternoon at the Hayden Planetarium watching the stars. If you had just a little bit of money, afternoon plays on Broadway could be very cheap, especially if you could live with “standing room only.” In the afternoon, there were always seats available. A lot of things you pay big money for now weren’t expensive then … and this wasn’t just a matter of the change of the value of money through the years. It was a huge change in culture.
If you were a teenager, New York on your doorstep was heaven, but Greenwich Village in the 1960s on your doorstep? That was the stuff from which dreams came true.
From Bob Dylan and Tom Paxton, to Pete Seeger and Judy Collins … they were all there. The famous, soon to be famous and a few infamous people. All young, making music and passing the basket.
I’d take the subway and get off at Bleecker Street, alone or in the company of friends. It didn’t matter whether you brought company or went by yourself. There were always people to meet. You didn’t need much money — good because none of us had any. We were kids, mostly without jobs and in school. Those of us not still living with parents lived in apartments shared with other people so we could make the rent and maybe afford food too.
All I needed was subway fare — 30 cents round trip — and a few more cents for a hot (or cold) chocolate at the Reggio. For this pittance, I could spend an entire day and evening in the Village. Hanging out.
“What do you mean “hanging out?” asks my granddaughter.
“You bought a coffee or a chocolate and just sat around waiting to see what might happen. You could read or watch people coming and going. Hoping you’d see someone you knew — or maybe wanted to know.”
“That’s it? You just sat around?”
“Yup. Just sat around. And we didn’t sit around with our cell phones because there were no such things. We just sat around. Talking or thinking or reading. It was a quiet place until the music started. That was hanging out. No one told you to hurry — or told you to buy something or leave. It was cool to simply be there.”
I often sat with a cup of coffee or chocolate for a whole day. No one pushed us out the door to make way for ‘the lunch crowd.’ No one bothered you unless you looked like you’d like some bothering.
When it got dark, you went to one of the places where people sang. There were usually no entry fees. Hopefully you had enough money to drop something in the basket for whoever was performing. It wasn’t particularly odd to have no money at all. A lot of us walked around with empty wallets. Without wallets, too. Rich was having exactly enough money to buy a coffee and subway tokens. It was okay in the 1960s. Poverty was cool.
Not only were there no cell phones. A lot of people had no phone. People rode bicycles with naked guitars strapped to their backs. Cars? I think most of us didn’t have driver’s licences. I know I didn’t. That was a decade in the future.
People were friendly, funny, and we were sure we were going to change the world. I think we did, though sometimes when I’m in a dour mood, I wonder if all we really did was make denim a fashion fabric.
Out near Hofstra in Hempstead, where I was occasionally attending school and getting far better grades than I deserved, I was a music major and one of the perks were free concert tickets to Carnegie Hall. There’s the “main room” — but there are also a number of “recital halls” where up and coming musicians perform. I’m hope that’s still true.
Meanwhile, one of my soon-to-be husbands and his best friend decided to bring culture to Long Island. They opened the AbMaPHd (pronounced ab-ma-fid) coffee-house. It was a light-hearted reference to education — AB, MA, and Ph.D. Nobody got the joke.
They brought in the same people who were playing in the Village. Dave Van Ronk gave me my first good guitar strings. He even put them on the guitar for me.
What did I do there, in Hempstead? I hung out, of course. Sat around, meeting friends, drinking something, listening to music, meeting musicians. Hanging. I also played bridge upstairs in Memorial Hall instead of attending classes, but no one is perfect.
No one was texting, computing, or phoning. There was no electronic background noise (unless you count the squeal of feedback from the microphones). Nobody’s phone was beeping, dinging, or wailing. No one was going off into a corner to talk on the phone.
If you were going off into a corner, you were either making a date — remember dating? — or buying (or possibly selling) drugs. All the noise was human. Talking, laughing, fighting, singing, discussing. Eating. Drinking.
It was an incredibly happy time for me, even though I thought I was deeply troubled, probably because I hadn’t really made the full breakaway from home to real life … and also because I’d read too many books about troubled youth and figured I must be one.
I know that whatever kids are doing today, they aren’t having nearly as much fun as we had. I feel sorry for them. We were adventurous, playful, willing to try anything at least once and most of us, more often. If I hadn’t been me during those years, I’d envy whoever had been the girl hanging out. If I miss anything of the “old days”? It’s hanging out. Just being there and doing nothing important.
You’ll just have to live with the religious elements of the song because that’s the way it was written. So if we are going to have a song today, let’s make it about this world we love in the hopes that maybe we can keep it “bright and beautiful.”
I have often written that 1969 was my favorite year … and explained why.
As a start, it was epic from a news viewpoint.
Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in July 1969. I watched it. I had a baby that year and it might not have made the networks, but it was big news at my house.
So, as a new mother, I got to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. A real live guy walking — leaping — on the moon! We viewed it on CBS. It was obvious Walter Cronkite wanted to be up there with Neil and the rest of Apollo 11. He could barely control his excitement. He was nearly in tears. Me too.
The great Arthur C. Clarke was his guest for that historic news event. Neil Armstrong died a couple of years ago, an honorable man and a true American hero.
How I envied him his trip to the moon. I always tell Garry that if the Mother Ship comes and offers me a trip to the stars, I’m outta here. Maybe there would be room for him, too and we could travel together to the stars. Our final vacation. I hope the seats have better leg room than what we usually get.
Woodstock was a 1969 event too. Rumors were flying about this rock concert which would totally blow up the music world. I had friends who had tickets and were up, up and away. I was busy with a baby and wished them well.
There were hippies giving out flowers in Haight-Ashbury, but I was happier that year than I’d ever been before. I didn’t need to be in San Francisco. I was entirely okay with being right where I was.
I was young, healthy. I was sure we would change the world. End wars. Make the world better — for everyone. I was young enough to believe that our beliefs were enough make the changes and those changes would last forever. All the changes would be permanent.
It never crossed my mind that 50 years later, we’d be fighting the same battles again. I probably wouldn’t have been nearly as happy had a realized that nothing is permanent. No legislation is forever.
I figured we just needed to love each and it would fix everything. I still think if we had all learned to love each other, it would have fixed everything. For some strange reason, I thought the people I knew and cared for were all the people.
I never realized there were so many other people who hated everyone. People who loved no one, not even themselves. They would never be happy. Or allow anyone else to be happy either.
I had a baby boy and I sang “Everything’s Fine Right Now.” The song made a great wonderful lullaby and also, it made my baby boy laugh.
It was the year of the Miracle Mets. I watched as they took New York all the way to the top. New York went crazy for the Mets. A World Series win. 1969. What a year!
I wore patchwork bell-bottom jeans and rose-tinted spectacles. I had long fringes on my sleeves and a baby on my hip.
Music was wonderful. How young we were! We could do anything. The world belonged to us. I just knew it.
Decades passed; youth was a long time ago. The drugs we take control our blood pressure, not our state of consciousness. Today’s drugs aren’t much fun, but along with replacement heart valves and implanted breasts to replace the pair that tried to kill me, they keep me alive.
1969 was my year. But in its own weird way, all the years have come around again and today’s young people are fighting the same old battles — again. Fighting to get the assault weapons out of the hands of people who kill kids in schools and trying to make the world right. I want them to do a better job than we did.
Often, these days, I wonder what we accomplished. I’m sure we accomplished something. We probably brought the close of the Vietnam war, but so late and so many were dead by them. Maybe this group of kids who seem so determined and seem to get that voting is going to be how they will make the system work — maybe THEY will make things change and somehow keep the change alive.
Nothing lasts forever. Freedom is not free.
Regardless of how hard we work and how much we change the world, like a rubber band, “the world” will go back to where it was. The generation that follows change will forget how they got their freedom, so the next one will have to fight again. Freedom is the thing we fight for. Not once, but over and over and over again.
Since it is National Poetry Month, I thought I would share my favorite lyric from the musical Liberation. We previously told you the story of Liberation – A Musical That Almost Was and the book’s co-author, Betty. I mentioned that Betty’s favorite song was called “I Believe” and I posted that lyric over on Sunday Night Blog.
My favorite song was the only one not expressly written for the show. It was written in the time period of the original script and only 20 years later did we decide that a secondary character needed a song. He represented the only love interest in the show, but we were concerned about writing a new song in the style of the original show. One day I played a recording for Betty without comment hoping she would say what I wanted to hear, “Ray’s song!” And so it is.
Perhaps I love it so much because the music seemed to match up perfectly with the words. That is good since I rarely would comment to Michael what type of music he should write for any set of lyrics. The Soundcloud recording below is the one made by Michael after we agreed to put this song in the show. It includes the one word changed from the original recording, although I am still not convinced we needed to change. Can you guess the word below that was put it in only for the show, and what it might have replaced? Hint: It’s an end of line word.
What are the words to convey the meaning?
How can I express this feeling in me?
How to say thanks, for all that you’ve done —
You’ve opened my world infinitely.
You are the light that shine on my journey.
You are the smile that inspires my day.
You are the power that makes me keep moving.
You are the wisdom that shows me the way.
For me to share in the dreams of your world,
For you to share in the building of mine –
This is a gift for which I am grateful.
This I’ll remember throughout my lifetime.
You are the laughter that sings in my heaven.
You are the tears that come now and then.
You are the reason for me to keep trying.
Thank you so much,
Thank you so much,
Thank you so much
For being my friend.
What comes to mind when I say “rock star” or “pop star?” Do you think of your favorite singers? Do you hear their music in your head? Can you sing along with their songs? Have you gone to their concerts? What if I was to say that I am not talking about stars of the past, just stars of today? Now who do you think of?
Perhaps Justin Bieber and all the little “beliebers” come to mind. Perhaps you think of Miley Cyrus and the strange antics that have surrounded her career. Lady Gaga with all of her wild outfits might be the next image in your head. There are plenty of stars that stand out as much for their behavior or arrests as they do for their music.
So what about qualities? Humanitarian efforts are probably not among the list. Self promotion might be at the top. Self gratification might seem like a top quality of many. Don’t you wonder how underage stars take an entourage to a night club and then get drunk? Who finds it OK to condone the drinking, drag racing and egg throwing?
Don’t get me wrong, I think there are plenty of good new rock and pop performers out there trying to do their best without making fools of themselves. So what do you do when you get near the top? Perhaps you put out You Tube “vlogs.” Maybe you get a Tumblr, Twitter and facebook account. You can do lots of radio interviews and public appearances. If you’re a young guy, you can even date Taylor Swift. She likes young guys. Or you can stun the public and do something totally different.
As a teenager, David Archuleta made a name for himself on Season Seven of American Idol. His pleasant personality and angelic voice captured the imagination of the viewers and the final episode went down to the battle of the two Davids, with David Cook. While the more versatile rocker David Cook seemed the odds on favorite in the final weeks, the cute teenager from Utah was quietly impressing everyone, including the not easily impressed Simon Cowell.
If you watched the above, you saw the entire panel praise Archuleta, with Cowell saying after this performance, “You’re the one to beat.” In the final night of singing, reviewers would tell you Archuleta was clearly the better performer. The public, however, went with the rocker who showed great musical skills and was the best on many of the shows. Archuleta received 44 percent of the over 97 million votes cast (an Idol record). It was an emotional ending with Cook grabbing Archuleta and keeping him in the spotlight. It was an Idol finish at its best.
From there Archuleta went on to make records, go on tours, make public appearances. He appeared on a PBS Christmas special, made a separate Christmas album and built a fan base like many other young stars. He filmed a mini series in the Philippines and recorded traditional songs. Then one night he told a sold out performance in Salt Lake City, “I would like to make a special announcement: that I have chosen to serve a full-time mission.” It was not going to be one where he would be doing photo ops and promotional work. He was going to really do missionary work. So he left for Chile.
As you can imagine, it was a bit of a conflict for the popular young member of the Mormon Church. Of course, he was encouraged to stay. He was told he was doing a lot of good here. He had a very positive public imagine. His appearance with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s Christmas show was very successful. They had more ticket requests than ever before. He could travel the world giving performances. Indeed he made many international appearances. It was not enough.
“I needed to do something that has nothing to do with me,” he later explained. While his fans (Archie’s Army) and website released whatever they could, David was doing what he wanted to do. Occasionally, a video of David would pop up on his You Tube channel, not much more than David saying Merry Christmas or some other greeting. Meanwhile, he walked the dusty back roads of San Vincente, praying, studying and helping strangers. It was not the life of a pop star.
David returned home after two years away. He felt blessed to have helped others. He visited, he preached and he sang, feeling more comfortable in song than in his Spanish language skills. He learned more about life than any pop star on tour will ever know. When you think of pop star qualities, you would not typically think of those his vocal coach used to describe David: “purity and wholesomeness.”
“When I went on my mission, it kind of gave me a step away from everything, and I was able to grow up a little bit, on my own, without everyone watching me,” Archuleta said recently. David is now 27. He has moved to Nashville and concentrates on making music that is meaningful to him. He may not have the huge pop star success he might have had, but is still a big concert draw. Now he is not looking for pop hits as much as songs that are more adult, more important, more David.
Way back in the dark ages, the third week in February (an otherwise dreary and neglected month) was designated National Brotherhood Week. As designated special weeks go, it was never a big hit with the general public. In the 1980s, it disappeared completely. Probably because it failed to sell greeting cards. Which is probably the point of such created events.
The National Conference for Christians and Jews (NCCJ) came up with the idea of National Brotherhood Week in 1934. Given the current political climate, maybe we can agree more brotherhood year round would be an improvement. Sadly, we no longer have even that one, measly week.
February is now Black History Month which seems to mean movie channels run films featuring non-white stars. Unless you watch PBS or the History Channel where you might see a documentary or two.
The man who took it seriously — even in the old days — as he took all politics seriously, was Tom Lehrer. He taught math at Hahvid (Harvard, if you aren’t from around here). He didn’t write a lot of songs since he, till his dying day (which hasn’t occurred yet as he’s alive and living in California), thought of himself as a math teacher who wrote silly songs. Not as an entertainer.
Despite this unfair self-assessment, I’ve always felt Tom got this particular holiday dead to rights. Ya’ think?
He got a lot of stuff right. Check him out on YouTube. He only wrote about 50 songs and most of them are posted in some video or other. Me? I’ve got the CDs. (Remember CDs?)
And because the news has been so … fraught … I thought I’d add a couple of more shockingly relevant songs for this day in February, 2018.
My, how times have not really changed — except we really do have colored TV pretty much everywhere!