“Dog and Butterfly” by Heart (1978)

6 11 2017

This was one of your grandmother’s favorite songs (and bands). The song was uncharacteristically subdued for Heart, which up to 1978 mostly made rock scorchers.

I remember your grandma sitting on the sofa and letting this track wash over her. It’s a song about yearning, about wanting more. At the time, your grandma was struggling, I think, being a stay-at-home-mom.

Sometime after this, she went back to school and completed her undergrad degree, then went on the get a Master’s degree (a “Master of Divinity”) to become a minister. One of the first female ministers, a pioneer.

She was a feminist way before it was “cool,” or even acceptable. She volunteered for a local “battered women’s shelter” for victims of domestic abuse when people barely acknowledged there was a problem.

She was the minister of a church up in Oregon, before deciding her calling was working directly with the terminally ill and the elderly. She even published a book on the subject (you can still get a copy of it at Amazon). It was well-received critically, but didn’t sell too well because–I think–of the fairly dark subject. I hope you still have a copy of the book that your grandma annotated for you, and I hope you will take a look at it.

Like HER mother, your grandma was smart, compassionate, and didn’t take any shite from anyone.

You should know that your grandma was an extraordinary person. And she would have been SO proud of the smart, conscientious young woman you have become.

She died almost 10 years ago now. I remember one of the saddest things she talked about when she knew her time was limited, was that she wouldn’t see you grow up. She loved you tremendously.


“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.

“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” by Marianne Faithfull (1979)

8 01 2017

This amazing song was written by Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends). It’s a lament about the sad plight of a housewife trapped in a life that wasn’t enough for her.

Until recently, there weren’t many options for women. Getting married and raising a family was one of the main options. But think about all that wasted potential talent! We could have had six different cures for cancer and world peace by now, if we didn’t insist for so long that women should be “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen” (yes, I’ve heard that many times).

Marianne Faithfull nails it with her husky, world-weary voice and plaintive delivery.

Things have really changed now, and women can pursue just about any job as a man.

But there is a holdover from the patriarchal, sexist past: there is still a ton of pressure on women to marry and produce children. There’s also a lingering perception that a woman is somehow not complete without experiencing motherhood.

Bullshit. Just because you have a uterus doesn’t mean you have to use it. Here’s a list of some women who didn’t have kids:

Jane Austen
Charlotte Bronte
Julia Child
Emily Dickinson
Harper Lee
Amelia Earhart
Georgia O’Keefe
Dorothy Parker

And on and on….

If you truly want to have children, that’s terrific. Many people do. But I’m telling you this because few others would. Your grandmother would tell you. You are the captain of your body in this area, too.

There is enormous pressure on us to do what we’ve been raised/conditioned by society to do. Often we’re not even aware of it, we just flow with it, like caught in a river current. Always check to see if your bearings aren’t effected by the current.

I just remembered that your middle name means “flow of the river.” We’ll have to find the Hindi word for “against” as a prefix to fix that.

“War Pigs” by Black Sabbath (1970)

2 10 2010

Anyone into hard rock will tell you how awesome Black Sabbath was. They were the godfathers of heavy metal, the pioneers of hell-raising. This song was their protest against the Vietnam war, and war in general. They knew the truth: regular folks fight and die in wars planned by rich people who risk nothing.

“Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role to the poor”

Powerful stuff. And as true today as it was 40 years ago. Turn it up.

“The Boys Are Back In Town” by Thin Lizzy (1976)

10 06 2010

This song was all over my youth. The radio, the school dances, the stereos of my friends’ older brothers and sisters. The energy is amazing. The vocal delivery is conversational, comfortable and recognizable, like your favorite uncle, after a beer or two, telling you about something your dad did when he was young and dumb. Precious.

Sad to say, the singer and bassist of Thin Lizzy, the great Phil Lynott, died much too young, not too long after this song was recorded. He’s a bit of a hero to me, and this song’s a bit of a shrine. You might hear this song in commercials or modern covers. I’d like you to hear the original.

“The Hellion/Electric Eye” by Judas Priest (1982)

27 09 2009

It was pointed out to me, correctly, that I don’t have enough hard rock on my blog.

Heavy metal. Hard rock. Speed metal. Norwegian death metal. How the hell do I recommend this stuff to my daughter?

Let’s start by acknowledging how much I listened to it. Consider this: no matter how crappy your car is, or how “jcpenney” your wardrobe is (“Hi Mom!”), or how much acne you’re face-farming, slam on and blast some righteous metal, and be who you are. Normally, it pisses off your parents, too, but you know I’d probably be raiding your mp3’s nightly.

“The Hellion/Electric Eye” is the opening track to Judas Priest’s album, “Screaming for Vengeance.” It was released (and bought by your old man as a high school junior) in 1982. That cassette survived two anxious years in my VW Bug. I’m fairly sure I still have it.

This song is about government surveillance. A rock and roll warning. Listening to this Priest track was possibly the first time I even thought about privacy issues, planting seeds that would grow into deep suspicion. Anyone who calls that paranoia doesn’t read the news.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” wrote Thomas Jefferson. These words are often misinterpreted by devious and/or stupid people. Jefferson meant citizens’ vigilance. Not the government’s.

“You think you’ve private lives
Think nothing of the kind
There is no true escape
I’m watching all the time”

“The Real Me” by The Who (1973)

27 06 2009

This track is from the album “Quadrophenia,” which is one of my all-time favorite records. If I could only pick 10 albums to carry me through the rest of my life, “Quadrophenia” would be one of them.

To me, this represents The Who at their finest, and this is a band that has made more than a few superb albums. The songs are great, the musicianship is terrific, Roger Daltrey’s vocals are as powerful and engaging as ever, and Pete Townshend rips on guitar, while also creating sonic magic in the studio. This album captivated me when I first heard it at the age of 14, and it’s never lost its power or appeal.

On top of the great music, “Quadrophenia” explores issues of social identity and expectations. The story is set in England around a group of “mods,” but it could be about anyone who doesn’t quite fit into the mainstream. Or maybe it’s about questioning whether one WANTS to fit in. Or maybe just trying to find out who you are and where you fit inside the social machine. It was all of that to me, and it came to me at a time when those issues were important. And now that I’m an old man, the issues are still there.

I love every song on “Quadrophenia,” so if you ever want to know a little bit more about some of the stuff that hangs in your Daddy’s head, listen to the album. They even made a pretty good movie out of it in 1979, which I highly recommend.

“I ended up with the preacher
Full of lies and hate
I seemed to scare him a little
So he showed me to the golden gate”