Posts Tagged ‘Harry Nilsson’

GC Myers-Dropping Clues 2021

There is always a pleasure in unravelling a mystery, in catching at the gossamer clue which will guide to certainty.

― Elizabeth Gaskell, Mary Barton, 1848

We all have questions and we all want answers, don’t we? For many of us, it’s just the nature of who and what we are, this need to figure out the mystery of all things. As a result, we sometimes see clues in the mundane and the innocuous.

The color of the sky. The patterns of the stars. The way the light shifts and filters through the trees. The moon’s path and its effect on things here. The way a path winds.

Answers seldom, if ever, come.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe we need this mystery hanging in front of us like a carrot tempting a mule. We might be even more dangerous to ourselves, if that’s possible, if we definitively knew our origins, our true limits and possibilities. I sometimes think we all have a bit of nihilism tucked away in our genetic codes, one that wants us to burn down the whole shooting match once truth is revealed and there’s no longer any way of wrapping reality in mystery and supposition.

Who knows?

Not me, surely. I am just here for the mystery. Plus, I heard there’d be cake.

Anyway, those are some thoughts inspired by the new painting shown at the top, Dropping Clues, part of my solo show now hanging at the Principle Gallery. I thought this was also match up with an old song from a late singer/songwriter that many of you probably don’t know, Fred Neil. Neil was a highly regarded folk singer in the 1960’s, one of the bigger stars of NYC’s Village folk scene. He is best know for his song, Everybody’s Talkin’, made popular in the film Midnight Cowboy as sung by Harry Nilsson. Most people, myself included, assumed Nilsson wrote the song but it was Fred Neil.

His other popular song is the one I am sharing today, Dolphins. It’s a moody musing on our existence that, in part, reflected Neil’s own fascination with dolphins. He became interested with dolphins in the 60’s and in 1970 was one of the founders of the Dolphin Research Project. From that point on, his life was more or less devoted to watching dolphins. He performed his music only occasionally through the last thirty years of his life, until his death in 2001 at age 65.

This song has been covered by a host of notable performers and has been used in many soundtracks for movies and television. It’s a good song to have on when you’re trying to figure out the mystery.


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You can climb a mountain, you can swim the sea
You can jump into the fire but you’ll never be free
You can shake me up or I can break you down
Oh, oh
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy
We can make each other happy
Oh, we can make each other happy

Harry Nilsson, Jump Into the Fire

First Sunday of the new year. This coming first week of 2021 may well be one of the ugliest and most dangerous and undemocratic in our history. There is a lot of treachery at hand from those who would abuse our system and rile deadly passions among the populace for purely selfish gains. While I don’t know what might happen in the coming days, I believe we will survive this stress test. We may take some dings and who knows what lasting damage might be done, but we’ll get through.

We’re at a point where words from anyone, let alone mine, won’t have much effect so lets play the first Sunday song of the 2021. Fittingly, it is Jump Into the Fire from the late great Harry Nilsson.

The complete lyrics are above in all their glory. Among his many talents as a songwriter, Nilsson had a genius for taking simple songs and making them memorably powerful. For example, his CoconutYou put de lime in de coconut, you drink ’em bot’ togedder/ Put de lime in de coconut and you feel better— is a one chord song.

One chord. Even a musical moron like me could play it.

Anyway, here’s the song. The little triptych at the top is from way back in 2002 and is called Waiting For the Fire, a not so subtle commentary on the coming weeks.

Have a good day.

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This Painting Up For Auction Today to Help Our Furry Friends

I thought that for this morning I would just let you know that the painting above, Ask the Night, is up for auction this evening with all funds going directly to the support of our local Chemung County Humane Society and SPCA. It’s all part of an online event on Facebook today, the SPCA Virtual FB Fundraiser, that takes place from 4-7 PM.

The benefit features a variety of different auction items as well as video performances from some very talented folks. You see, this benefit has successfully taken place over the past several years as a Drag Show in a local nightclub. This year, because of the covid-19 restrictions, it simply wasn’t possible to hold an in-person event. But the pandemic doesn’t mean that the dogs and cats and kittens and puppies of this area still don’t need a little help. So, they decided to move the whole show to a Virtual event.

I understand that the performers have really taken to the challenge of producing their video performances so you can expect some pretty great stuff. Plus, you can tip the performers with all tips going directly to the SPCA.

So, if you have some time this afternoon from 4-7 tune in to the SPCA Virtual FB Fundraiser. Or you can put in a bid on any of the featured items right now or any time right up to 7 PM when the auction ends.

The painting I have donated, Ask the Night, is a 10″ by 20″ painting on canvas valued at $1600. The current bid is $1200. 

Anything you can do to lend a hand to our furry friends is deeply appreciated. Here’s a little reminder of who you’ll be helping from the late great Harry Nilsson. Have a great day and, if you can, visit the benefit later today.

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Archie Comics Cover _608It’s always interesting to discover something new — a few interesting facts or the true backstory — about things that have been in plain sight for most of your life.  Take for instance the song Black and White , released in 1972 by the pop band Three Dog Night.  The song went to #1 on the pop charts here and, with its pleasant beat and gentle message of racial equality, has been a staple of oldies radio for decades now.

I never really thought much about the song even though I’ve heard it hundreds of times over the years, even singing along with the lyrics that have been embossed in my synapses with repeated listening.  It came on the radio in our car the other day and Cheri and I couldn’t agree on who had written the song.  Three Dog Night didn’t write many of their own songs, most being penned by other, more notable songwriters– Hoyt Axton, Laura Nyro, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Elton John and others.  So whenever we hear one of their songs we try to identify the original songwriter.  But we drew a blank with Black and White.

Looking it up, we were both surprised that it was written in 1954 by songwriters Earl Robinson and David Arkin, a blacklisted teacher and set-designer who was the father of actor Alan Arkin.   This fact  made sense to me because I knew that Alan Arkin was a folksinger in the 1950’s, scoring a hit that went to #4 on the charts with a version of the The Banana Boat Song with his group, the Tarriers.

The song was written to celebrate the Supreme Court decision in the landmark case  Brown v Board of Education which outlawed segregation in public schools and was first recorded in 1956 by Pete Seeger.  In the original version, which Seeger sang, the beginning lyrics are different than the ones that so many of us who know the song through the Three Dog Night version remember– the ink is black/the page is white/ together we learn to read and write.  The original deals directly with the supreme court decision:

Their robes were black, Their heads were white,

The schoolhouse doors were closed so tight,

Nine judges all set down their names,

To end the years and years of shame.

The 1972 version that Three Dog Night recorded was based on one that was recorded a year before, in  1971, by a British group, Greyhound, that had a hit in the UK with it.  The Greyhound hit did not use these original lines anywhere in their version and Three Dog Night merely copied  this.  Though it doesn’t greatly diminish the song, it would be nice to have these lines in the song.  Perhaps by 1971 or 1972 they felt that the 1954 Supreme Court decision was no longer topical or relevant.

So, there you have it: a seemingly innocuous and pleasant song with some real history behind it.

Here’s a 1970 version from the Jamaican band The Maytones.  I believe that Greyhound‘s version of the following year came from this one.

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Fred at restI am on the road today, delivering the work to the Kada Gallery for my show, Alchemy,  which is opening this coming  Saturday.  While it’s always a relief to deliver a show and be out from under the weight of a deadline, today is a bittersweet trip for me.  You see, today is the day that Fred leaves for his new home.  I didn’t want to be there when he goes so I said my goodbyes before I hit the road this morning and when I return, the studio will be strangely empty without him there.

Young Fred

Young Fred

I wrote about Fred here back in September, a few weeks after we had found him nearly dead in a ditch, barely a few weeks old.  He has prospered beyond our hopes and is now healthy, strong and happy.  Thanks to the carpenters and other workmen who’ve been in the studio for a few weeks now, he is comfortable and outgoing with all sorts of people.  Our vet is amazed at how socialized he seems to be.

But now he moves on to life to be a companion to Lucky,  my brother-in-law’s exceptionally sweet cat.  They have had several meetings to get acquainted and Fred is fascinated by the much larger Lucky, following her constantly as he attempts to get her to play with him.  Lucky is very tolerant of the energetic little guy.  Everything points to them being ideal companions.

I know I will miss the little guy.  I hope he remembers me when he comes back to visit in the future.  Here’s one of my favorite songs from Harry Nilsson, circa 1974 and fittingly from his Pussy Cats album,  that expresses that very sentiment.

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GC Myers 2001One of my favorite songwriters is the late,  enigmatic Harry Nilsson, who passed away in 1994.  While he is somewhat still well known, it is probably not the same level of fame that his work deserves even though he achieved great fame and earned many accolades during his life.  He recorded and wrote many hits, earned Grammy Awards, and cavorted with the biggest names in music. Lennon and McCartney named him as their favorite songwriter  ( he also recorded an album and more with John Lennon) and Keith Moon and Mama Cass both died in his London flat.  Yet how many twenty or thirty year-olds even recognize the name?

But there is still a great deal of interest in his music and life and there are those out there trying to let the world about the talent of this flawed man.  This past month there was a release of a  large box set spanning his career at RCA as well as a biography, Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter,  from author Alyn Shipton.  Not to mention, a celebrated documentary from several years back, Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)?  So, hopefully his work will stick around in the public eye a bit longer.

If you don’t know his name, you probably know the music.  It is used extensively by filmmakers including this song, Jump Into the Fire, that was used in a pivotal scene in Goodfellas by Martin Scorsese.  It’s a good song to pump up a dreary morning.

FYI, the painting at the top is an older piece of mine from back in 2001.



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I’m on the road today, taking a group of work to the Principle Gallery in Alexandria.  So, I thought I’d play a song that ties together several different elements.  It’s a song that I referenced in yesterday’s post on Harry Nilsson, Don’t Forget Me.  It’s performed by one of my favorites, Neko Case, who has been featured here a number of times.  She covers this song on her most recent album but this is from Elvis Costello’s Spectacle television series.  She also hails from Alexandria.

So, give a listen and, like the songs says in such a wistful way, come on, get happy

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There’s a new documentary out (actually a re-edited version of a 2006 film) called Who Is Harry Nilsson? (And Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him) which concerns itself with the life, death and influence of the late American singer/songwriter.  His career was both brilliant and tragic, qualities you can often see in many of his songs. 

 He had a genius for composing beautiful ballads yet often had a bitter edge, throwing in lyrics that catch the listener off guard.  For example, in Don’t Forget Me Nilsson takes a tender song that has a wistful air and suddenly drops a line like “and when we’re older and full of cancer, It doesn’t matter now, Come on, get happy” that disarms you completely.  Neil Diamond perfromed that song on a recent album and changed that lyric, which bothers me in that it alters the whole song.   Or you can choose any of the lines from You’re Breaking My Heart with its happy rhythms and the ultimate punch of its chorus.

I’m hoping that more people will learn more about Nilsson and his talent to keep his music alive.  It has been a staple for film-makers since his Evcerybody’s Talkin’ from Midnight Cowboy  in 1969 captured the essence of  film and its memorable characters.  A personal favorite of mine is Martin Scorsese’s use of Jump Into the Fire from Goodfellas.

So, if you get a chance, take in this documentary or least find a Nilsson song and give it a listen.  I guarantee you will find something in there to like.  Here’s the trailer:

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