“Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream (1967)

5 02 2017

Cream was a supergroup consisting of Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce. All three are considered masters of their game.

Jack Bruce, the bassist, sings this song, and he’s one of my favorite bassists. Thought that you should know that, as a bassist in your own right.

But there’s another reason I’m posting this song for you. Bear with me.

There’s a lot of hate and division in the U.S. right now, and I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse.

When I was a young man, I spent a summer in Israel. Israelis and Palestinians have been at each others’ throats for a long time. Well, mostly with the Israelis at the Palestinians’ throats.

While there, I spent two months on a kibbutz, which is a kind of collective, often a farming operation. I was a volunteer member of Kibbutz Rosh Haniqra, which mostly produced bananas. That’s right, your dad was a banana farmer in the Holy Land.

At this kibbutz, I jammed with a couple musicians. The bassist: me, with only limited Hebrew skills. The drummer: a Palestinian, who spoke Arabic and decent Hebrew, but no English. The guitarist: An Israeli Jew who spoke Hebrew, decent Arabic and English.

So we had no language in common, really. Except music.

After much linguistic confusion, we settled on this song, and the drummer counted us off.

For the first time, it wasn’t too bad. We kind of clicked. Even if sloppy and unrehearsed, you can still tell when you’re in sync with the other musicians.

And the three of us–who have no common language–knew it. Even though we couldn’t really speak to each other, we were smiling, and we were digging it.

This song always reminds me of that tiny little blues/peace summit.


“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams (1949)

4 12 2016

Loneliness is awful. It’s different than just being alone.

Most people can be alone for awhile, but feeling alone is much more intense than merely being alone.

Humans are pack animals, we run in groups and clans. Long-term isolation can take its toll.

My suggestion is to make as many good friends as you can. People who know you. Who can make you laugh, but who also can see pain or worry in your eyes hidden behind that laughter.

Then make a real effort to stay in touch with these friends. And be there for them, so they will be there for you.

Then, perhaps, you won’t ever need to sing this song by the great Hank Williams:

“I’ve never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by
The moon just went behind the clouds
To hide its face and cry”

“Man In Black” by Johnny Cash (1971)

12 11 2013

Not much anyone can add to Mr. Cash’s music. He says it pretty plainly.

Written and recorded during the Vietnam War, the song is something of a manifesto. The manifesto of a good man speaking up for what’s right.

Naturally, he’s something of a hero of mine.

“Oh, I’d love to wear a rainbow everyday
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
‘Til things are brighter, I’m the man in black.”


“Everybody’s Gotta Live” by Love (1975)

24 04 2009

Love was a fantastic and unique band that played a terrific mix of folk, rock, blues, psychedelia, and pop. They started in the 1960’s and were led by the great Arthur Lee (who is really the only remaining original member of Love by the time they recorded this track in 1975).

I just really dig the vibe of Arthur Lee’s music. It’s great on lonely days, and it’s great to play at parties. And I just wanted you to know about this band.

“I had a dream the other night, baby
I dreamt that I was all alone
But when I woke up I took another look around myself
And I was surrounded by fifty million songs”

(thanks to rsensorat3 for the images and upload to YouTube)

“Deacon Blues” by Steely Dan (1977)

13 04 2009

It wasn’t until I got older that I started really appreciating Steely Dan.  I knew who they were from their radio hits (“Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” “Do It Again,” “Reelin’ in the Years,” etc.), but I didn’t really appreciate the smooth, smart sophistication of their music.  Steely Dan is led by Walter Becker and Donald Fagan, two wildly inventive musicians who assembled some fantastic groups of session musicians to create great albums, including my favorite, “Aja,” from which this track comes.

I’ve always loved the gorgeous sax arrangement, including the loose but intense solo, and it wasn’t until a few days ago that found out who played that part:  Pete Christlieb.

Now here’s the thing that knocked me down about that discovery (other than feeling like a fool for not knowing the musicians on these great recordings):  When I was in my high school jazz band, Mr. Christlieb visited my school to talk to us and to sit in with our band for a couple of tunes.  I had no idea that he was the man who laid down that great solo, mostly because I wasn’t really aware of the song at the time.  But for the next 20 years or so, I’ve really enjoyed the track and its horn “section”— never realizing that I once played alongside the very artist who did it!

I was lucky to have a pretty good music program in my public school, but that’s not the case for most schools, especially with the massive cuts our schools have had to endure.  Yes, our kids need to learn the basic subjects like math and English and science, but they also need exposure to other things like art and music.  They also need to know about different avenues they can travel in life.  Some kids are just not that great at academic subjects, but they may find their calling elsewhere.

We need to make sure our schools have everything they need to educate and provide opportunity for our kids.

So here’s Steely Dan, featuring the blazing tenor sax of Pete Christlieb, a supporter of public schools.  And former bandmate of your daddy.  Um, sorta.

(Thanks to Melegorm for the video upload to YouTube)

“When the Saints Go Marching In” performed by Louis Armstrong (1938)

26 02 2009

What’s not to love about Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong?  A brilliant musician, an inspired singer, and by all accounts a kind and generous human being.  As a kid playing trumpet in school bands, I knew about Mr. Armstrong from a very young age.

This song is one of the most popular tunes in western music.  Just about every musician has probably had to play it, either by request or at some point while learning their instrument (like me, in school bands).  It’s so popular that many musicians have come to resent having to play it so much.  Supposedly, some musicians in New Orleans are so fed up with the non-stop requests to play the song, that they charge extra to play it.

“Saints” is a great example of Dixieland jazz, with a bouncy beat and wonderfully intertwining parts (especially from the clarinet and trombone in this track) that set off the melody.  Truly joyful music, and in New Orleans, it’s the kind of music they play at funerals, which is far and away better than the morose organ-based music most funeral homes cue up to bring everyone down.

You’ve probably heard the tune many times, but I want to make sure you hear it from Satchmo himself.

“Nobody Knows Me” by Lyle Lovett (1989)

23 02 2009

Lyle Lovett is considered by many to be a country and western artist, hailing from Texas and playing a lot of music in that style.  But I didn’t know that when I picked up his 1989 album, “Lyle Lovett and His Large Band,” an album full of wonderful big band jazz and blues tracks.  This song comes from that record, and it stands out in its stark simplicity.  An absolutely beautiful song.

Mr. Lovett is one of those artists who bends genres to create something altogether fresh and inspiring.  Maybe it’s his musical adventurousness, or the fact that his songs are so good that they stand on their own and translate well to any style of music.  Whatever it is Mr. Lovett has, I wish I had some of it.

Add Mr. Lovett to our list of national treasures.