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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

I completely overlooked that yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the death of the great soul singer Otis Redding. He died in a plane crash on that date in 1967 as he made his way to a show in Wisconsin, only a short time after recording his iconic (Sittin’ on)The Dock of the Bay. He was only 26 years old.

I hear that voice and it’s not the voice of a 26 year old. It’s ageless. To me, that voice is the definition of soul music. Every time I hear it is a new experience, even on those tracks I’ve heard a thousand times before. What a gift we were given in the short time he lived in this world.

Here are two of his songs from so many that I call favorites, Just One More Day and You Don’t Miss Your Water. Give a good listen– it’ll do your soul some good.

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Some days reveal their moods pretty quickly. Today is one of those days– bone cold with a slate gray sky, the first dusting of this winter’s snow on the ground. Feels somber and a little sad, even mournful, just to look out the studio window. There is a group of deer milling around out there, moving with a slowness that makes me think they feel that same somberness, sensing that the good times of summer and fall are past and that ice and snow will soon be a constant for them.

One of the first songs I clicked on this morning fell right into this mode of feeling. It’s Down By the River from Neil Young. Released in 1969, it’s a song that has been covered by a lot of people and I was close to using a live performance of it by Norah Jones and Young but the original just has the right amount of anguished beauty for this morning.

The paintings I am including here are from back in 2009 and doesn’t really adhere exactly to the mode of this post or the song but something about it seems to fit. It’s   a small group of work that dealt with tightly clusters of red roofed structures hugging a a river or canal, often with no sky visible, just a jumble of roofs and buildings. It was work that I really liked and looking at it this morning while listening to this song brought forward a whole slew of concepts that I would like to soon pursue in this same vein, perhaps on a larger scale.

Anyway, give a listen and have a good day…

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Can’t get my mind organized this morning, can’t seem to want to focus on any one thing. Had a lot of ideas for the blog but just lacked the desire to follow through so I am just going to play a song this morning accompanied by a tiny painting from back around 1995 called Harlequin. I always smile when I come across this piece.

The song is a favorite of mine, Dead Flowers, from the Rolling Stones and their 1971 album, Sticky Fingers. But the version below is from the late great Townes Van Zandt. I can’t say that it’s better or worse than the Stones version but it’s one that I like very much.

So give a listen and I’ll try to get my act together this morning…

 

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It was about this time last year that I ran a post with a couple of different versions of the song, Nature Boy, the wonderful song first sung by the incomparable Nat King Cole. Maybe it is the time in which we live, with an administration that seems hellbent on decimating all conservation efforts and environmental protections, but I really felt a need to hear the original again this morning. I thought it might be a good opportunity to repost the story of the interesting man who wrote the song. 

eden ahbez with cowboy jack pattonSometimes when you look behind something that’s been in front of you for years you find out things you would have never imagined otherwise. Such is the case with the song, Nature Boy.

Nature Boy, as recorded by the great Nat King Cole, has long been one of  my favorite songs. It has a wonderful haunting melody and tells the story of a “strange enchanted boy” and his search to find love. It always has had a sort of mystical feel to me, a real oddity in the world of popular music in 1948 when Nat King Cole recorded and had a huge hit with it, staying at #1 on the charts for eight weeks.

I was going to just have a short post and put up a YouTube video of Cole’s version but in doing so I saw the name of the songwriter, eden ahbez, and was intrigued, perhaps by the lack of capitalization in his name. Doing a little research I came across some photos of him such as the one above, from the late 40’s sitting with Cowboy Jack Patton (who wrote the song Ghost Riders in the Sky) and a spaniel of some sort. I’ll let you figure out who is who in the photo.  ahbez’s long hair and attire seemed really out of place for me in thinking of 1948 so I read on.

eden ahbezeden ahbez was a real one of a kind character in the world of music and in general. You could probably guess that from the name which he adopted and wrote only in lower case letters. Born in 1908, he is regarded as the first hippie by many, a long-haired and bearded wanderer who crisscrossed the country on foot, wearing robes and sandals, maintained a vegetarian lifestyle and slept out under the stars. In fact, when Nature Boy hit the charts he and his wife were living under the first L on the Hollywood sign, which stoked a bit of a media frenzy around ahbez. He worked in and frequented a vegetarian restaurant (that’s where he met Cowboy Jack Patton, another interesting character) in 1940’s Los Angeles whose German owners preached the gospel of natural and raw foods. Their followers became known as the Nature Boys.

Not really what I was expecting from a pop songwriter in 1940’s LA. ahbez died in 1995 from injuries sustained in an auto accident. He was 87. His was a truly unique life, just waiting for a biographer to tell the story, and reading the little I discovered makes me find the song even more interesting. Hope you’ll do the same now that you know a bit more about eden ahbez

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First thing on this Sunday morning, I would like to send out many thanks to Kathy and Joe at the Kada Gallery for hosting my current show as well as to everyone who took the time on a busy Friday evening to come out to attend the opening on Friday evening.

It was good to see and talk with many wonderful folks again and meet many new ones, as well. The response to the work was strong which is gratifying because even though I might feel the show was good that means little unless people react positively to the work.

So, thank you to everyone involved.

This Sunday morning music is a song you most likely haven’t heard from an artist whom you also are probably not aware. It’s titled Pawky and is from the late Dorothy Ashby who was a jazz harpist who is considered one of the most unjustly under loved jazz greats of the 1950’s. I came across her and this track in particular the other day by chance. And it pleased me greatly.

This song has a kind of 50’s jazzy, witchy feeling, like it should have been in the soundtrack of the movie Bell, Book and Candle, the 1958 film about modern day witches in Greenwich Village, starring Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak and Jack Lemmon. But it was not in the film though I think the title theme poaches elements from this song a bit.

Now, pawky is a British word that means shrewd, tricky or slyly humorous.  I chose the painting here, Pax Domum, that is part of the Kada show not because of the word’s definition but because there is something witchily atmospheric in the sky that reminds me of the sound of this song. Take a look and a listen and see if you agree.

Oh, have a good Sunday.

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You see, the point is that the strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.

― Henrik Ibsen, An Enemy of the People

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This is another new painting that is headed to the Kada Gallery for my show, Sensing the Unseen, that is opening there on Friday, December 1. It is titled Resist the Dark and is 8″ by 24″ on canvas.

There are a lot of possible interpretations for this piece, the most obvious being to the current state of affairs in this country and the resistance of many citizens to the actions of this administration as they seek to strip away many protections– financial, environmental and regulatory– that seem to only benefit the wealthiest of us and leave many of us vulnerable to the whims of large corporations. You may not feel this way– and if not, I both envy and pity you– but many folks feel like this country is living under a dark cloud at this point and without resistance it will only get darker.

This resistance to an impending darkness is the most obvious reading of this piece but it can also be taken to a more personal level, one where each of us has to stand our ground again the darker impulses we see being played out every day. We cannot personally fall prey to feelings and actions borne of hatred and prejudice nor can we stand idly by while others act out their own hatreds and prejudices.

Each of us is a barrier, a dam, against the baseness and incivility that is always ready to flood over us, if given the chance. There have been breaches in the dam as of late, these darker aspects getting bolder and stronger. It grows because it is allowed to do so, because many find it easier to accept the darkness rather than stand firm and shine their light into it.

Don’t let that darkness become your darkness.

If each of us stands our ground, even when it seems we are alone in doing so, the darkness will recede and return to the far corners where it has lived in anonymous shame for so long. And that is the only place where it should exist, which is still more than anything that thrives on hatred, fear and prejudice deserves.

Okay, that’s enough for this Sunday morning. Here’s a song from the 1960’s from the late, great pianist/composer Vince Guaraldi who you most likely know from his iconic music for the Charlie Brown specials. You most likely will hear a lot of his music from  A Charlie Brown Christmas this holiday season. Unlike some holiday music, I never get tired of hearing his stuff. This song is not a holiday song however. This song, Cast Your Fate to the Wind -which seems to fits this painting- was released in 1962, winning the Grammy for Best Jazz Composition, and has been recorded many, many times by other artists. It’s a nice way to kick off a Sunday morning.

Give a listen and have a great day. And resist the darkness…

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It’s hard to believe that we are screaming toward the end of 2017. When I was a kid that seemed like a date from some science fiction book or movie with all of us buzzing around with personal jet packs or in cars that were shaped in the fever dreams of industrial designers, all swoopy and elegantly curved. And we would all be wearing jumpsuits made from sort of shiny fabric while cooking dinner with the flick of a finger like Jane Jetson.

But somehow we slogged through the years and found ourselves here in 2017, living in a much more mundane future than we had envisioned all those many years ago. Oh, there are wonders that we didn’t foresee clearly, like the smartphone. I don’t remember seeing anything that predicted the prevalence of these devices, how we are glued to them or how any photo of a crowd seems like a sea of lit screens recording the moment.

But overall, things are very much the same with many of the same concerns,worries and joys. But sometimes when I see how people of the past envisioned this time, I would like to be living in their future if only for a short while. Maybe tool around on the futuristic motorcycles and cars from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s shown here.  Then maybe pop a meal pellet and zip off to Mars for a long weekend.

I guess this is all leading up to this week’s Sunday song. I think this calls for Living in the Future from John Prine in 1980. I’ve been singing this chorus for the past 37 years:

We are living in the future
I’ll tell you how I know
I read it in the paper
Fifteen years ago
We’re all driving rocket ships
And talking with our minds
And wearing turquoise jewelry
And standing in soup lines
We are standing in soup lines

Have a great Sunday…


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