Songs We Used To Sing

Music is life – for all of us. We all have our stories: where we grew up, what we heard, what we sang, what ran through and through us, and continues to. Because of a recent trip visiting a friend, I now hear Sia’s I Love Cheap Thrills, among others, in a new context, and my friend is with me when I hear it.

My history continues in song, being a vocalist, or even just interested in music, but I doubt there is anyone on the planet who hasn’t experienced some form of music. If so, I’m sorry for them. Music is an entity unto itself, and I’d be sad for anyone who never experienced music’s transcendence.

My older brothers cued me into The Beatles, and other mid-sixties music that my parents found irritating and banal. They appreciated the swing and ballads of the 1940’s and 50’s.

I grew up in dire circumstances, not only in my personal life, but in the world around me. Vietnam was raging, my oldest brother escaped my family horror to fight in that war, and other family members went as draftees or joiners.

Music accompanied life’s tension: releasing and building – crying out and pleading – or ignoring the larger world for personal circumstance, or love and romance.

I understand the far-away look in my mother’s eyes when she heard the songs of the late 1940’s and the 1950’s that touched her heart and soul. You Are My Sunshine brought tears to her eyes, and because of that it brings tears to mine – a learned sentiment.

Driving home tonight I heard several songs from my youth, but one in particular: Love Hangover, enveloped me, and I time-traveled like a boss. A friend, long passed on, was with me as the dulcet tones flowed out of the Honda Accord’s inadequate speaker system because we needed that shit turned UP. She was there with me, feeling the beat, vocalizing, and jamming out, and then she was gone.

I was in my driveway, loathe to turn off the radio and take the key out of the ignition in case another song came on calling her back, but the DJ interrupted the moment, so I turned the few clicks releasing the key, and sat in the silence – hoping she’d materialize – speak to me – something – but the empty air grew colder, so I went inside.

My life has reached a weird divide where the past barely matters anymore. That’s good – fantastic even – but also a loss. My brain has changed and my memories aren’t as vivid, except situationally – like tonight in the car – but I feel like I’ve lost something important.

Maybe we’re designed this way. We slowly let go of what no longer matters and now I can focus on what’s in front of me.

I’ve heard that the past is gone, the future is unknown, but now is an alive & vibrant gift – that’s why it’s called the present.

I understand that sentiment, but I still miss friends and acquaintances, and our place in time that’s quickly receding. I’m becoming not even a footnote in history, among other barely-footnotes that I appreciate more and more.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summertime Songs

From musicals like Porgy & Bess, and Grease, to pop songs through every decade, summer songs create, or re-create feelings of freedom, ease, love – especially young love with all that angst and yearning – and even if the heat and humidity are hard to take in the moment, I look back fondly to sticky summer nights spent hanging out with my group of friends, skinny-dipping in the river, or pool-hopping around the neighborhood, with or without permission…

Songs heard in my youth stir me more deeply than newer summer-themed tunes, or even old ones newly discovered. Those tunes center me in time and place unlike most anything else in my life.

The following links worked at this posting, but you can always search the song names yourself if any links become broken.  Perhaps a few are already in your play list!

George Gershwin’s, Summertime, an aria in 1935’s, Porgy and Bess, evokes a haunting sweetness of that which is hoped for, however unattainable, for the impoverished Bess singing to her baby.

Another “Summertime” by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, from 1991, breathes summer’s relative freedom, and speaks to slowing down and enjoying summer’s romantic possibilities.

Eddie Cochran told us there’s no cure for the “Summertime Blues” in his 1958 rockabilly number, referring to his having to work and not getting to be with his girlfriend or friends all out having fun.

The Drifters’ trill about their relaxing seaside summer in 1964’s: Under The Boardwalk.  You can feel summer’s heat, smells, sights, and sounds, while taking a chance at falling in love near the surf, away from the boardwalk’s crowds.

1966’s, Summer in the City, by The Lovin’ Spoonful, brings you into the city’s grit and grime from the first guitar strains just as Under The Boardwalk conveys a carnival feel from the start.  And while the city heat shimmers off the asphalt, a cooler breeze and romance prevail at night.

Juxtapose that with, In the Summertime, by Mungo Jerry, 1970’s bubble-gum ditty, where finding a date was summer’s full-time pursuit – and dig the mutton chops, man!:

The late 1960’s and early 1970’s released several songs intoning summer’s graces and privileges for young and old alike.  Several appeared in the summer of 1972.

Seals and Crofts’ Summer Breeze, is more folk than pop, and makes me want to lie under my favorite maple watching the leaves sway and hush each other in the warm breezes.

Saturday in the Park, Chicago’s ode to summer, also invokes a festival atmosphere, celebrating old-time holiday conviviality with street vendors and singers.

Alice Cooper’s, School’s Outbrought harder rock and attitude to summer’s opening, and remains one of my top summer songs:

Hot Fun In the Summertime, 1969’s summer hit by Sly and The Family Stone, also speaks to freedom from school in a mellow blues style, just as memorable for its ease and friendliness as Alice Cooper’s is for its ‘screw you’ ethos.

Flash forward to 1977 and The Ramones punking out with Rockaway Beachanother of their non-stop, driving beats insistent on another popular summer pursuit, days at the beach.

I don’t think Sandy Olsson from, Grease, would have been as attracted to one of the Ramones as much as she was to Danny Zuko, because meeting him on the beach was more like a Beach Boys’ dream song than the tough guy he portrayed in front of his friends, confusing poor Sandy.  But, oh, what fun they had in those Summer Nights:

Sandy Olsson could have used Bananarama’s pop tune, Cruel Summer, to console her, but 1983 was too far in the future for the 1950’s character, and besides, it wouldn’t have been broody enough for our melancholy Sandy.  Many of us with broken hearts related to their pop ballad while we danced away our sad summer nights.

A year later, in 1984, Don Henley rocked out smoothly with
The Boys of Summer, crooning his heart out about the girl who got away – while those mean girls kept walking – pushing their Wayfarers a bit further up on their pretty little noses.

While this list isn’t in any particular order, excepting its mostly chronological look at summer songs, no list would be complete without Bryan Adams’, Summer of ’69the youth rockers ode and anthem – finding belonging, following a passion – both in love and artful expression, and the sweet remembrance of summers past.

Make sure you add your favorite summer songs and why you like them in the comments!

Cheers, happy writing, and happy Summer 2016!

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

Songbird Sings

This winter is easier than last, but the chill and fierce wind still keeps me indoors.  I was part of a songwriting group last winter given by Robin Lane, called A Woman’s Voice, through her non-profit: Songbird Sings.  We met for several weeks of songwriting and recording at The Salasin (Women’s Resource) Center, in Greenfield, MA.

We started meeting around this time last year, and what helped as much as songwriting was the wonderful and resilient women who participated.

Sharon Brody from WBUR.org came to Robin’s recording space last summer to interview those of us who wished to, and to talk about Songbird Sings, and how we were helping heal some of our trauma through song writing, and through connecting with other survivors/”thrivers”.

In an interview with Robin, several participants, and myself, some of my song, February Day, plays after I speak, and in the background.

I seem to write best, and most often, in a group, and hope to continue song writing, as well as blogging, fiction, and non-fiction writing.  Snippets of two of my older songs, Listen To Me, Rock of Gibraltar, and our collaborative song, Free Your Power, can be heard on the CD Baby site: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/robinlane.

So much work lies ahead to realize my dreams, and being a singer-songwriter leads more to lots of gigs in lots of coffee-shops, bars, and out of the way places, than to vaunted halls of music, but at least I’m trying, and that trying keeps my hope – and so far me – alive.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

 

Changing Leaves, Changing Attitudes

I practically needed a crowbar to get myself out of bed this morning.

Way over-doing brush cutting and hauling scraps out to a pile at my mother’s place left me with contracting pain down my right arm, making it impossible to sleep, so I took a muscle relaxer, which; while it helped, also relaxed everything – and I still feel like my head weighs a ton.

We’re at another end of October, the summer’s retreat depressing, but autumn’s offerings somewhat eases the transition.  The turning leaves have been spectacular, and it’s been lovely to witness.

Montague, MA
Montague, MA

Our local Pumpkinfest took place this past Saturday, October 24th.  One of my girlfriends invited two of us to sing back-ups with her for, Curly Fingers DuPree, a great local band, so we debuted as the ‘Curly Q’s’.  It was so much fun, and as with most shows or events I’ve been involved in, there’s the anti-climax feeling when it’s over – like, ‘that’s it?’  Heavy sigh.

Photo Credit : Vinny Natale
Photo Credit : Vinny Natale
Photo Credit : Vinny Natale
Photo Credit : Vinny Natale

I broke up with the best guy I’ve ever dated, and I started listening to suicide’s siren call again.  If I go that route, I know I’ll cause irreparable harm to my son, my S.O., and many friends and family.

I actually opened my virtual ‘coping toolbox’, and found a reason to hang on another day.  I’m doing what I can to stay positive as the darkness and cold increases.  I’m using all the attitude adjusters I know to not slip down.

Sometimes keeping that guttering candle of hope burning is as easy as lighting a new candle with the old flame, but other times a bonfire is needed, and as many others before me have said, it’s better to have a full ‘coping toolbox’ when times are easier than trying to fill it when I’m desperate, and not in my right, or wise, mind.

I am where I am, and much like the late, great, Yogi Berra, said: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Oh, and my S. O. told me he’ll only break-up when I’m not depressed, then he’ll know it’s real and not from ‘the dark side’.  Amazing man, that one.  He is either an idiot, or he sees what I can’t.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

The Blue Guitar

Once there was a girl who sang.  She sang her heart out to all her favorite songs on the radio, to songs others made up and sang around her, and to her own songs that she kept in her heart and mind, but didn’t know how to strike the chords to bring out what she played inside her.

She bought a guitar and tried to play it – so many times – but it wasn’t like singing.  She had trouble with her fingers on the strings to make chords, and didn’t understand things like thirds and fifths and sevenths – it all sounded like calculus to her, and she was terrible at math.  So, she gave up.  She didn’t get rid of the guitar, and did learn to play one song on it.  It was a folk song her best friend had sung when they were twelve, and she never wanted to forget it, and if she could only ever play one song, that was the one she wanted to play.

Time passed.

She had a son, and he sang all the time once he figured out language, and she sang too, but the guitar sat in its case.  At least it wasn’t gathering dust.

She brought out the guitar and played her one song now and then, but even that song was hard to switch chords, and she never got the hang of it and thought she must be that stupid.  She could sing but she wasn’t smart enough to know music.  Her guitar became art.  It reminded her of all the beautiful songs she had ever heard, and all the vibrant, robust, sad, powerful , joyful, ecstatic sounds that came out of that one instrument.

It was a savior and a nemesis.  How could that be?

She finally closed the guitar in its case and thought about selling it.  She brought it to the music store and the man behind the counter came around and took her guitar and started strumming.  He told her that it was a beautiful guitar and he could not give her the amount it was worth, and if she thought she wanted to play, she needed to keep it.

The guitar sat while she looked longingly at it for another year.  One day, she saw an advertisement for another guitar – shhhhh – is it even okay to get another guitar when you aren’t playing the one you have? – please don’t tell!

This one is blue, and smaller, and it’s blue!

photo by Jerri Higgins
photo by Jerri Higgins

She loved it so much she got out her old ‘Standard Guitar Method’ book one, and began.  It’s been two weeks and she hasn’t stopped practicing.  Her fingers hurt, and she’s frustrated, and feels stupid, but every time she picks up her Blue, she feels like she’s home.  It’s OK to be stuck at level 1 forever, if that’s all she can do, because she has never felt so happy to be so terrible at something.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current

Full Moon in Wendell Brings A Coffee House

Last Saturday, January 18th, Livingston Taylor played in bucolic Wendell, Massachusetts, at their monthly fund-raising Full Moon Coffee House.  The day had been snowy off and on, my boyfriend and I wondering if the event would be cancelled, or if we should attempt the winding back-road drive in the now heavy-falling snow, but it was so worth the risk getting there and back!

Taylor’s voice is higher toned, although of similar timbre or resonance as his older brother, James’ – but Livingston has a playfulness and sardonic sense that’s evident in his music and story-telling.  He grabs your attention from the start and holds it to the end through his self-effacing stage presence and excellence.  Whatever talent he defers to his older brother, he has himself, regardless of public acclaim differences.

The show opened with Carrie Ferguson playing the piano and singing several of her songs with her lilting, tremolo, vocals and sweet sound.  Taylor took a few moments after her performance saying that’s a tough act to follow, and then continued with ‘notice how I’m standing here, waiting for the memory of what you just heard to fade.  I’ll give it a few minutes more.’

From that opening, to his songs such as Life Is Good, Never Lose Hope, Pajamas, I Will Be In Love With You, Everybody’s Just Like Me, and several more entrancing tunes, he wove stories, and musical history through a magical hour and a half, bringing us snippets of Yip Harburg’s pop song work, who was inspired by Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert, and Harburg inspired others such as Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart, who also clearly enthralled Livingston Taylor, informing his musicality and love of music history.

Livingston Taylor teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and his performance made me want to take his classes, and become the best musician I can be.  I bought his book: Stage Performance, and asked him to sign it for me, to which he readily obliged.  When asked to whom he should address it, I said ‘to Jerri, and add how wonderful it is to meet me, and what a great time we’ve had…’  His droll smile illuminated his face as he penned: “Wow! What a time!  To Jerri, Livingston Taylor”  I’m most pleased that I made him smile.

Taylor’s performance closed with his sweet rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, to which we all joined in, and it was a truly lovely ending to a superbly entertaining show.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Daily Prompt: Musical

Michelle W. posted this prompt yesterday, January 26, 2013:

What role does music play in your life?

Having sung since I can remember (and far before that, my mother tells me), music and song are inextricable from my life.  It’s no happy accident that movies are scored, and that specific tones evoke or heighten emotion.  Music has helped me survive loss, and hurt.  Music bolsters my courage, energizes me, and connects me to others.

When I sing, I feel like a separate entity is within me, making beautiful sound come out of me – especially wonderful if I’m feeling ugly in any sense of that word.  Music is that in which the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

I am definitely a rock-n-roll woman, TrainWreck Sept. 22, 2012

although I appreciate many musical genres, and instrumentation.  While I can’t listen endlessly to certain genres, cultural influences, whether regional or global, enthrall me.  Music through the ages and across cultures fascinates me with its many variations and combinations of sound and style.  If you’ve been exposed to music from around the world, you can listen to a piece and likely know what part of the world it’s from, and I find that astonishing.  We bend and re-shape genres more and more these days, mixing old world in with new, in ever-expanding creative expression.

I can be moved to tears, called to action, and filled near bursting with joy – all from one song!  My inner homeland soundtrack includes: America The Beautiful, The Star-Spangled Banner, This Land Is Your Land, and dozens of others, while other country’s anthems and signature songs connect me to people and places I might not otherwise feel any affinity toward.

Music helps us learn, and moves uniquely through our brain.  A fascinating look at this can be found here: This Is Your Brain On Music.  The academic writing and science made it difficult for me to follow some of it because of my learning deficits, but it’s remarkable material and well worth reading.

Beyond the scientific data, we know that music touches us as few other things do.  I find it incomprehensible that there once was a movement to banish music, and some people still believe that music is somehow ‘evil’, and responsible for humanity’s downfall.  Yes, emotions are heightened, but the same thing can be said about prayer, and anytime people gather for a common purpose – with or without music.

To me, music is life.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Wild Wind

The wind has been stirred up all day.  Tonight’s temperature is milder than this morning’s was, even though the wind never let up today.  Today started with yesterday in its mood although not composition.  It was a summer-like day yesterday, temperatures in the mid-seventies, barely any wind, and mild until after I got home around 11pm.

I had a late rehearsal for A Streetcar Named Desire, last night, and wasn’t feeling well when I got home, but attributed that to the local Pumpkin Festival’s Thai food vendor’s fare I had earlier in the evening.  I woke up this morning still feeling badly, so I laid low except to retrieve some items from my car, which is when I noticed how cold it had become overnight, with the wind punctuating that discovery.  I felt better as the day wore on, and studied some of my lines, and eventually got myself together to make band practice in the later afternoon.

The ride to my band mate’s house involved several enchanting moments of swirling autumn leaf showers, and a visual feast of bright and muted colors as I passed russet colored oak leaved trees, red, orange and yellow-leaved maples, yellow-leaved birches, brilliantly red-leaved sumacs, and other dazzling autumn colors in the many shrubs and vines I passed on my way.

It was fully dark outside by the time practice was over, but the wind had persisted and rushed around me as I made my way to my car.  The quarter moon hung low and deeply yellow-orange in the starlit sky, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to have entered another dimension.  (It would have been horrifying if I’d entered another dimension, just not surprising.)

I lingered at every stop sign on the way home tonight to hear the wind while I watched the moon.  I was reminded of several nights when my son was three or four and we lived in South Portland, Maine, and I would sit in my wicker rocking chair gazing up at the moon, while listening to the night wind.  I think those moments reside more potently in my memory because of how difficult my every day life was back then.

Tonight, however, was a night of power.  This month represents possibility to me, even though its natural significance relates diminished, rather than increased, potential.  Nothing new can start without shedding the old, and if the ancient religions had any validity, this time of year heralds the meeting of the seen and unseen worlds more strongly than at any other time of the year.

At the very least, I felt somewhat transported by the whispering winds’ incantations as I sat entranced in the glow of a bright and low quarter moon.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Post Show Day

My desktop computer died yesterday and I have a bunch of important files on the hard drive.  I had been migrating files over to a separate hard drive, but hadn’t gotten all of them, and not the most recent ones.  The desktop PC was my work computer while the laptop computer I’m typing from was my travel computer.  Now I’m super paranoid that this one is going to fail me too.

I had my internet speed reduced, thereby reducing my monthly bill by half, but webpage access is much slower, and download times are close to dial-up.  I think I’ll have to go to a library, or some other public venue when I want to download something so it won’t take half a day, and I can work on other stuff at the same time.

My band had our first job at a local nightclub, and it was so fun.  I wish I had given a perfect performance, but I’m so good at screwing up I decided to make it a regular feature in my work, besides, our band name is Trainwreck, so you could say I was obliging our name. 😉  I could pretend I’m like those people who mess things up on purpose because they feel that only ‘god’ should do things perfectly (twisted logic, but I suppose it works for them).

Here’s a link to a short video clip one of my friends took of me singing some of Wild Horses:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6CsU6yJEdQ

Two of my friends were dancing silly and they cracked me up while I was singing, which you’ll hear, but I have to get used to not reacting to that kind of stuff!  The song was recorded at the end of the night and I think you can hear that in my voice as well, but some of you have asked me to post clips when I had them, so there you go!  There might be more coming because another friend was shooting some video of the gig last night too.

Now that the pressure’s off, I’m hoping I’ll sleep better tonight.  Cheers!

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Stressed

I’ve made some changes that will help my financial situation, even if only moderately.  John Steinbeck wrote in America and Americans: “I guess the trouble was that we didn’t have any self-admitted proletarians.  Everyone was a temporarily embarrassed capitalist.”  Well, who wants to be the proletariat?  I’d rather have the problems of the wealthy than the problems of the impoverished.  The chances of that happening, while not impossible, get slimmer with each passing year.  Mostly, I’d like to be comfortable, and not have to choose paying utilities vs. eating.

Richard Branson, the entrepreneur extraordinaire was asked at what financial level he felt successful, and his alleged reply was: ‘fifty million’.  I’d feel successful if I still had fifty dollars in my account at the end of a month!  Well, maybe not successful, but certainly less stressed out.

I can also use my local food bank once a month – as long as there’s food – and if worse keeps going to worst, many of my bills will be moot because I’ll be homeless (even though friends have offered their couch if it comes to that)!  I have the library I can connect to the internet with, and I can store stuff with various friends.  At least it’s just me now.  I know my poverty embarrasses my son, but I’m doing the best I can, for me.  And it’s not like I’m not doing anything!  I am working – but it’s a few jobs that are still only part-time, and not enough to afford much more than basics, and I’m also trying to build a life that I want to be in.  My son would like me to stay alive for as long as that’s possible, and that’s my commitment to him, whether or not I want to.

I have to remember that I was a success for a long chunk of time.  I raised a son, who is a good human being.  He had way more than I ever had, and that’s how it should be.  He’s in college, and while I can’t help him financially, he’s getting scholarships, and taking out loans, and at least he’s earning a degree which I hope will help him pay back all his loans quickly.

In the meantime, I have my band, and the rest of the world goes away when I sing – which is one of those gifts I wouldn’t trade for more money but no solace.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unfocused

I went with a friend to see Cyndi Lauper in concert.  My friend and I both took pictures, but hers came out better than mine.  Although the photograph isn’t focused, I like how Cyndi’s brightly colored hair shines through, even though they aren’t her true colors…

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Regret

One of my deepest regrets is not getting to sing with Hans Sven Poulsen again after he visited the commune/cult and recorded “The Wonderchild Family” album with a group of us kids.

Hans had invited me to come sing with him in a benefit he was going to do for the Children’s Hospital in Boston after he finished his recordings with us.  I wasn’t able to get to Boston, and a few months later, Hans found out he had cancer and began treatment for that, eventually leaving for the West coast, and then back home to Australia.

In June of 2000, my son and I went to Australia to meet and stay with my pen-pal whom I’d been writing to since I was twelve.  I managed to track down Hans and got in touch with him so my son and I got to visit him and his wife in Melbourne a few days before our flight back to the U.S.  He had suffered a stroke back in the 1990’s, but had done much to rehabilitate, and was again playing music and working as a music therapist.

Perhaps everything unfolded perfectly, or maybe my desire wasn’t stronger than my fear, but I’ve always thought that if I had sung with him at the benefit concert I would have ‘been discovered’ or somehow made connections to start my singing career.

If getting the life I wanted when I wanted it meant that I wouldn’t have had my son, then I’m less remorseful, and seeing as there is no way I can know that, I choose to believe that having my son was the best opportunity I took.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.