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Posts Tagged ‘Bruce Springsteen’

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I have heard the big music
And I’ll never be the same

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I was looking for a song to play this morning and I thought about a favorite track from an album, A Pagan Place, from back in the 1980’s from the Irish group The Waterboys. I was surprised to discover that in the nearly 12 years I’ve been doing this blog that the song hasn’t somehow surfaced.

The song is The Big Music and it’s about hearing a song or piece of music that just opens you up. Shakes up your whole world and changes how you see everything in it. Maybe even alters your whole life path.

It’s a song that really speaks to me. Growing up in the country at a time before digital broadcasts, satellite television and streaming services, we had two TV channels so reading and listening to music filled the void for a kid who was eager to learn about the world.

We had a big box of singles from the late 50’s and early 60’s that had by a cousin and somehow ended up with us. It had tons of good stuff including early rock from Elvis, lots of surf music from the likes of Jan and Dean and the Surfaris, goofy novelty songs and lots of pop chart hits that feel pretty dated today, such as Heart from Kenny Chandler, a song I listened to hundreds of time back then.

Plus, my sister was an avid music fan so there were always plenty of early Beatles, Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan singles on the record player. That first ringing chord of A Hard Day’s Night still thrills me in the same visceral way that I remember feeling as a kid.

Through those formative years, there were plenty of songs that hit me hard and opened up the world for me in small ways. Too many to list, actually. But I don’t know that I can mark one song that was that single defining moment. The Big Music for me.

Well, maybe it was from the first time I saw Springsteen back in 1977. The show and sound was unlike any other rock show I had seen up to that point. I wrote about that show in one of my favorite blog entries and mentioned his performance of It’s My Life,a song that was originally recorded by The Animals. That song and performance changed a lot of things with repercussions that echo through my whole life.

When I think about it, I doubt that I would be writing this today without that song at that moment.

So, I guess that would be my Big Music moment. Do you have a Big Music moment or one big song that just does it for you?

Here’s the song, The Big Music, from The Waterboys. Have a good Sunday.

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“Elbow Room” – Now at the Principle Gallery

 

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“The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around.”

― Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

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I am a bit distracted this morning so I will make this short. Lots of moving parts this morning with much to do and lots of thoughts running through my mind. Some are small and trivial and some more momentous. Kind of like the difference between a road and a path. The path is the smaller, more familiar one, the comfortable one we walk each day as part of our everyday world. The road, on the other hand, denotes greater distance and further destinations.

My thoughts are of both paths and roads this morning. But none of it is really anything I wish to share now.

Maybe some other time. Maybe. Maybe not.

Instead, I am just going to share a song. It’s one of Johnny Cash‘s late recordings, this one made in the final months of his life. I have commented here before that I believe the work from late in his life was as raw and powerfully deep as anything in his long and illustrious career. This is his cover of a Bruce Springsteen song, Further On Up the Road.

Fits the morning.

Have a good day.

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Going forward, I think I am going to designate Tuesday as a No-News-Day. Just turn off the news and the social media. Whatever is there will catch up to me soon enough, that’s for sure. Listen to only music and try to focus on the work at hand.

So, Tuesday’s a No-News-Day.

And if this works out, maybe Wednesday, Thursday and a couple of others will follow.

Probably not Friday though. The masochistic part of me that seems beyond my control wants to go into the weekend at least a little pissed off.

So, I am starting this Tuesday No-News-Day with some comfort music. Well, at least, for me. It’s Darkness on the Edge of Town from the 1978 album of the same name from Bruce Springsteen, which was his long awaited followup to the classic Born to Run.

It was an interesting and dark period for Springsteen in the 3 years or so between the release of Born to Run and the making of Darkness. He had all these accolades for Born to Run which was hailed as an instant classic and seemed to be on top of the world. But he was in the midst of an ugly, protracted lawsuit with his former manager that stripped him of the rights to his music, left him broke and prohibited from recording. He survived by a heavy touring schedule with long epic shows that built up the base of hardcore fans that would support him for the rest of his career. This period of time was reflected in Darkness on the Edge of Town.

There was an HBO documentary from about 10 years ago about making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. In it, Springsteen talked about wanting to create a cinematic feel and sweep with the music, one that evokes a visual image with the sound. Sound pictures, he called them. I understood what he meant by that because I have always viewed my paintings in the reverse of this, as being visual music. As though the message or feel he (and I) wants to get across is caught somewhere in between the two mediums. Or maybe even more than the two.

I believe a lot of artists must see their work as a mixture and synthesis of multiple mediums. I certainly sometimes see my own work in terms of literature or poetry or cinema.

Anyway, this is an easy throwback in time for me. I am coupling it with an older small piece from 2006 that I think fits the song’s feel. This was from a series of small cityscapes that featured the outskirts set against skylines of tall buildings or industrial structures. I loved painting these piece and they still bring me a lot of joy when I revisit them.

Give a listen. Enjoy your own No-News-Day if you can.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kg0ekQBmzKs

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Paradise

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“The dead can survive as part of the lives of those that still live.”

Kenzaburō ŌeHiroshima Notes

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I didn’t post anything yesterday. That’s kind of unusual because I have been posting a song every Sunday for the past decade without missing a week that I can remember. But I spent yesterday with two of my cousins in a local nursing facility at the bedside of our Aunt Norma. She had been battling a rare esophageal melanoma that blocked her airway and didn’t allow her to eat solid foods for the past several months.

A few day ago she went, at her request so as not to be a burden on her extended family, into a nursing facility for the end of her life. Her journey ended last night around 6 PM.

I am not going into a long story here about Norma. She had seen a lot of life, both good and bad. You have a lot of ups and downs in 93 years. She had outlived most of her siblings, longtime friends, two husbands and a single son who died many years ago, drowning in the Chemung River at the age of seven. The last decade of her life was spent in a an apartment building primarily for the elderly and she thrived in that environment, making tons of new friends with her warmth and sharp mind and wit.

For our family, Norma served a lot of purposes. For some, she was a surrogate mother. For others she was a doting aunt who was always willing to sit and talk, giving you her whole attention which, for that short time, made you feel special, like you were really being heard. It’s a small but precious thing, a gift that you hate to lose.

She was a touchstone to the past, both my own and the family as a whole. She linked to and had memories of ancestors that passed away long before my time. She had a great memory and provided a lot of insight and context to family events from the past. She had sharp memories of the funeral her grandmother, my  great-grandmother, who had drowned in an Allentown, PA canal in the days shortly after my father was born.  She sometimes described the farm in St. Regis Falls of my great-grandfather who was a pioneer in the early logging of the Adirondacks.

And so much more.

She was warm of heart, funny, self-effacing, and generous and gentle of spirit. There was no cruelty in her at all. Everything you would want in an aunt. She was loved and will be missed by many. She leaves a big hole in our little world.

Been great knowing you, Nornie. Say hi to everyone for me.

Here’s a belated bit of Sunday morning music. It’s Paradise from Bruce Springsteen.

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Fear’s a powerful thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust

Bruce Springsteen, Devils & Dust

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Very late getting around so I don’t have time to say much. How much do I really ever say anyhow? But I had this song in my head that seemed to be setting the tone for my day and maybe my week. Maybe my month. I thought I’d share it.

The song is Devils & Dust from Bruce Springsteen‘s 2005 album with the same title. It’s a song that wasn’t really a hit but received some critical acclaim including several Grammy nominations. Even so, I believe it’s a song and album that I think is very much underrated in the Springsteen canon. It’s an adult album, as it should be, from a man forty years removed from the youthful exuberance and anthemic nature of his early work.

I always pay attention to this song when it comes on my playlist and it never fails to bring on a few moments of quiet rumination. A tone for this moment, as I said.

Give a listen. For you keen eyed readers, the image at the top is the dining room of Mrs. Haversham from the great David Lean adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, a book and film that is very much a favorite of mine.

Have a good day.

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Thought I’d take it easy this morning and just share a song, as I do every Sunday morning. The painting here is a favorite of mine, Le Cirque from Georges Seurat, which is I believe is considered to be the last painting from the great French Pointillist.

I am not a big fan of circuses now but as child I had a slight fascination with them. I have distinct memories of watching lion tamers, acrobats and high wire walkers on a television show that used to be on Friday nights in the early and mid 1960’s. It was called International Showtime hosted by Don Ameche, featuring filmed performances from European circuses. I think my interest in the circus was mine alone in my family because I seem to remember watching this show alone.

It’s one of those things I moved past. I began to have a great dislike for animals (or children, for that matter) in cages and gained an understanding of the hardships and tragedies of the lives of many of the circus people. The glossy fascination of childhood dulled and the clowns that once made me smile now make me slightly sad.

But I still like this song very much. It has wonderful imagery that rekindles the lure of the circus a bit though it points out the seedier aspects that I didn’t notice as a 6 year old but which ultimately made the circus less appealing. This is a live performance of Wild Billy’s Circus Story from Bruce Springsteen from way back in 1973.

Sigh.

Have a good Sunday.

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And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
As the tracks clack out the rhythm, their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread
But it’s too hot in these tunnels, you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop, but they push you back in your seat
Your heart starts beatin’ faster as you struggle to your feet
Then you’re outta that hole and back up on the street…

–Bruce Springsteen, It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City

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The other day, I was working on another of the Multitudes pieces, a 12″ square canvas that was featuring a halo or at least a gold orb hanging over one of the faces. The painting started with this central haloed character and the rest of the faces grew out from it. The faces other than the one with the halo were originally going to be many shades of blues and purples but while I was working, a song from Bruce Springsteen‘s first album in 1973, Greetings From Asbury Park NJ, came on.

I could lie here (as I have been known to do on occasion) and say that it was It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City. That would make for a nice tidy little tale.

But it was actually Spirit in the Night. At first I thought that maybe I should use that title for this piece. It would work pretty well, especially with the dark blues and purples. But  instead I instantly saw in my head the title from another song from that album, It’s Hard to Be a Saint. It fit even better. The painting already had a saintly halo, for god’s sake. So I decided to go back at the surrounding faces and give them a green, jaundiced tone. Give them a uniformly alien appearance that would contrast against the lightness of the haloed one.

It works for me, at least. You may or may not like it and, again, that’s okay.

Anyway, here’s the song that gives this painting its title. It’s early Springsteen so its densely worded in its lyrics, the thing that really attracted me to his work at first. Many of the songs from his first albums felt more like short stories or novellas than songs. As his work evolved, his best work moved from this sense of literature with intimate, wordy description to one that felt more cinematic, with broader, sweeping vistas. I like both styles but this early work still appeals deeply to something in me.

Give a listen and have a good Sunday. And a good Father’s Day.

 

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Want to keep it short this morning as I want to get right to work on a piece that is on the easel. And that desire to go right to the brushes is a good thing, an indicator that a groove is coming.

So, for this Sunday morning here are a couple of noir-ish photos to accompany one of  my favorite songs, Stolen Car, from the 1980 album ,The River, from Bruce Springsteen. The mood of this song, especially within its organ and piano lines, always moves me.

Good painting music.

Have a good Sunday…

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Another gray, wet, cold Sunday morning here in paradise. The sun lately seems like a stranger who, on those rare occasions when it appears, I have a vague recollection of once seeing. It’s grim and has me gazing out my window, hoping that the ghost of Tom Joad, like he had somehow stepped right out of The Grapes Of Wrath, might emerge out of the darkness set against the distant pines. This weather puts me in that mood, that grim feeling of that we need somebody to stand against the darker forces of this world.

Tom Joad, as dark and ill-fated a character as he seems, still gives me hope that there are still people out there who won’t turn a blind eye to injustice and inequality. People who haven’t been numbed by their own self-interest and comfort. They don’t have to be heroes, just plain people with a sense of decency and an unwillingness to turn their back to the wrongs they witness.

We sure could use some more Tom Joads.

Here’s my Sunday morning music. It is, of course, The Ghost of Tom Joad, from Bruce Springsteen. Have yourself a day– good, bad or indifferent– and if you see Tom Joad, tell him I am looking for him.

 

 

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Thought for this Sunday I’d share a painting from my upcoming solo show, The Rising, which opens July 13 at the West End Gallery.

I think this piece, a 24″ by 24″ canvas titled Never Alone, represents the theme of this show very well. The rising moon and the angular, colorful  shapes of the light of the sky creates an almost cathedral-like presence. The two Red Roof houses may be separated physically– and perhaps these days idealistically– yet they seem connected by that which is rising above them.

I’ve lived with this painting for a few months now here in the studio and it never ceases to give me pause when my eyes fall on it. I find great tranquility and comfort in it.

The song for this Sunday’s musical selection is fittingly a version of The Rising, the song written by Bruce Springsteen in the aftermath of 9/11. The lyrics describe the thoughts of a firefighter as he ascends one of the towers after being hit by a jetliner.

Can’t see nothing in front of me
Can’t see nothing coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile line

It progresses to depict the darkness that descends upon him and his subsequent resurrection in spirit with a chorus that is triumphant rather than grim. It is a grand portrayal of the selflessly heroic.

In the years since, it has become more symbolic and uplifting as it celebrates a rising of virtue to overcome impending darkness. It’s a song that definitely is right for the time and one that played a large part in my choice of title for this show. I can see it in the painting above.

This version is performed by Sting from the 2009 Kennedy Center Honors. Give a listen and have a great Sunday.

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