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Posts Tagged ‘music’

Dear John Prine

This morning, I cried so hard, listening to the new John Prine album, the Tree of Forgiveness,  I ran a red light and had to pull over. Mascara rolled down my face. It’s his first new album in 13 years and it’s a dandy. His songs are still beautiful, silly and heartbreaking,  John Prine is the cheerful and melancholy Dr. Seuss of the music world.

I started listening to John Prine when his first album came out in the 70’s. I was thirteen. My big brother Jack who was a freshman in college was a huge fan. He had a beat up pick-up and we’d roll down the windows and howl along to every song.  Two years latter both my dad and Jack died suddenly, two weeks apart and for several years John Prine’s voice, his messages and emotions,were just about  the only music I could tolerate.  His broken voice and sad, goofy songs some how  duct taped my heart for a little bit,  until it began to heal on it’s own.

In the beginning most of John Prine’s songs were really sad. But every album he has grown more hopeful, his view of life has evolved.  The world, I think, used to hurt his soul, now he seems amused and charmed by this planet and her inhabitants.

Over the years I’ve tried to meet John Prine, but it’s never meant to be and that’s ok.  I talk to him in my head sometimes.  Today, I imagined telling him about the two Mennonite men I saw this morning with long beards, big hats and antique hats and they were vaping.

My son Jack is a songwriter in Nashville, he grew up listening to John Prine and the influence is obvious. Jack is taking me to see Mr. Prine live next weekend in a little venue in Nashville. I don’t need to meet him anymore, but if I did I’d tell him I’m happy he’s happy. He wasn’t always. And I’m so glad we’re both still alive. That’s takes a lot of work sometimes. I’d thank him for Jack’s songs because they bring me joy and make me proud. I’d thank him so staying with me all these years.

I was still listening to Tree of Forgiveness when I got to work. I parked, turned off the car and the music stopped suddenly. And that med me cry all over again.

 

Jack and Eddie too me to see John Prine ten years ago.

 

 

Al Green to Johnny Cash…Why Arkansas is So Amazing

Arkansas is a strange little state and my home. We constantly rank in the top five for bad things like obesity, teen pregnancy, high school drop outs, poor health care, and poverty. Any outsider might think we were a lowly and pathetic place. What they don’t know about Arkansas is it is an absolutely gorgeous and lush state, it’s also a ridiculously friendly place. Though poor, Arkansas is, per capita, one of the most generous states in America.

But it’s the musical side of Arkansas that always strikes me as most remarkable. We have a population of less than 3 million still the list of famous musicians, singers and songwriters is so stunning. This morning I spent an hour doing research (something you know I rarely do, generally my big fat opinion is enough for me). I made a list of the musicians I like who came from my lovely emerald green state.

The List:    Sonny Burgess, Howlin’ Wolf, Al Bell, James Cotton, Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Driftwood (he wrote Tennessee Stud and The Battle of New Orleans because he was a high school teacher and he wanted to help his students understand a history class),Ronnie Dunn of Brooks and Dunn, Lefty Frizzell (He wrote If You’ve Got the Money Honey, I’ve Got the Time),Randy Goodrum, Al Green (who is in my top five for favorite singers of all time, just ask my kids),Ronnie Hawkins, Levon Helm, Scott Joplin the King of Ragtime, Louis Jordan (a contemporary of Louis Armstrong but dirtier and a lot blacker. Beans and Cornbread, Choo Choo Boogie, He had something like 14 number one hits),Buddy Jewel, Albert King, Tracy Lawrence, Joe Nichols, Charlie Rich aka the Silver Fox, Sister Rosetta Tharp( she influenced everyone in rock and roll including Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley and fellow Arkansan Johnny Cash)Conway Twitty (super sleazy legendary country singer),Sonny Boy Williamson, Justin Moore, and R&B icon Ne-Yo. And of course TI did prison time right here in Arkansas. The list would have been much longer if I’d included jazz and opera stars.

I looked at other states with close to 3 million residents and they didn’t have near the musical star power and history of Arkansas. Kansas can brag about Charlie Parker, Joe Walsh and Melissa Ethridge, but that’s about it. Then there’s Utah and Nevada, both with embarrassingly shallow musical benches.

So, what is it about Arkansas? Maybe it’s the poverty that inspired so many of our country and blues greats. Perhaps the lack of educational opportunities gave the trifling young men and women time to hone their craft. One observation I couldn’t ignore. Most of the great musicians came from the uglier parts of the state. Maybe they were all just looking for a way out of this beautiful, friendly but often times impoverished state.

In less than ten years there’s another band of Arkansas players who will make my list and yours too. The Natural Outlaws. Big fat fun abrasive southern rock.
Play on boys.

Lady GaGa’s Love Game and Disco Stick Were Not The First

I know it seems as though really creepy sexy songs  just arrived on the musical scene but freaky lyrics have been around since the advent of rock and roll, actually it started with the blues. And by comparison, Lady GaGa’s “I want to take a ride on your disco stick” is pretty mundane.

Remember My Sharonna? “Running down the length of my thigh, Sharona, Never gonna stop, give it up. Such a dirty mind. Always get it up for the touch“.

But wait, there were lots of dirty lyrics before the Knack. My bedroom nearly exploded when Rod Stewart came out with, Tonights The Night… he actually sang, “C’mon angel my hearts on fire Don’t deny your man’s desire You’d be a fool to stop this tide. Spread your wings and let me come inside“. It’s no wonder my parents nearly had seizures when I sang along with that one.

Ok, Marcy’s Playground just about hit it out of the creepy song park a few years ago with “I Smell Sex and Candy,” but what about George Michael’s I Will Be Your Father Figure, “put your tiny hand in mine, I will be your father figure, anything you have in mind.” How old is this kid with the tiny hand?  “Just for one moment to be warm and naked by my side“. That one always made me feel slimy.

I’m not defending the guys who wrote “Smack That” but rap and hip hop didn’t start this overtly sexual musical revolution.

How about Chuck Berry’s My Ding-a Ling,”Then mama took me to Sunday school. They tried to teach me the Golden Rule. But when the choir would stand and sing. I’d sit there and play with my Ding-a-ling-a-ling”.  I listened to that one on AM radio. And Chuck was always the thirty five year old man singing Sweet Little Sixteen to screaming little girls. Humm, in retrospect that seems kind of weird.

So, quite picking on Lady GaGa  and her Love Game and all those hip hop guys I can’t name. You know you were singing along when Warrent sang She’s My Cherry Pie…

Swingin’ in the living room
Swingin’ in the kitchen
Most folks don’t ’cause
They’re too busy bitchin’
Swingin’ in there ’cause
She wanted me to feed her
So I mixed up the batter
And she licked the beater