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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

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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Buried in my work right now and there doesn’t seem to be enough time for much of anything beyond it for the next few weeks. So I miss some things here and there. But I did remember, a couple of days ago, to think about my mom on the date that marked the 22nd year of her death. I’m not going to get sentimental here. It’s an unfortunate fact that most of us experience our parents’ passing at some point so my bit of sadness is no greater or different than that of most other folks.

But I do miss her. She was a mass of paradox, battle-hardened tough but also fragile and generous to a fault. Uneducated but hardly unintelligent. Stubborn but always changing. Deeply private and funny. I wish I could have seen her live into old age–it would be wonderful to sit with her once more and have a cup of her coffee. Ask her all the questions that went unasked, tell her all the things that went unsaid.

But life is like that, leaving us a handful of memories to recall when we need them. It’s been good doing just that this morning.

Here’s a song form her favorite singer, Eddy Arnold. I remember the album cover this song comes from like it is burnt into my memory. The song, fittingly, is You Still Got a Hold on Me. The painting at the top is named after my mom-it’s called In the Window: Flower of Doreen.

Have a great day…

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“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”

George Eliot

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November 2 is Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead, in Mexico. Actually, it’s a multi-day holiday that spans from October 31 to November 2. It’s a holiday that has ancient roots dating back some 3000 years and was originally celebrated earlier in the year until the Spaniards conquered Mexico in the 16th century. They moved the date to fall in line with the Christian Allhallowtide.

Most of see the imagery that is associated with the Day of the Dead, such as the painted skulls like the one at the top, and automatically equate it with our Halloween. Spooky and scary. But it is a much more benign and pleasant holiday, a celebration of the memory and spirit of our deceased relatives, a day to travel to cemeteries to eat and drink at their graves. The ancient belief was that that on that day each year the spirits would come back to visit their worldly ancestors.

Being a person who loves to stroll through cemeteries  among the stones and monuments, it’s my kind of holiday, more so than our Halloween. I find the calm and quiet of cemeteries to be comforting and not spooky at all.

The names and words written about them on their stones give each the feel of a voice waiting to be engaged and I am often more than willing to stop to speak their name, especially the older stones where it is obvious that they are no longer visited by family members, if any remain at all. I get a feeling that simply speaking their name aloud once more brings them back to life in some small way, like a feint trace of mist appearing in the vast sky of our collected memory.

That may seem crazy but that doesn’t matter. Nobody gets hurt and it creates a little peace for myself. And I think that’s what the Day of the Dead is about.

That being said, here’s a video that might seem a little more Halloween than Dia de Muertos. But it is a song about love and attraction and that makes it more about this day. It’s Shakin’ All Over. I was going to play the original by Johnny Kidd and the Pirates or the great live version from The Who but settled on this version from The Guess Who, mainly because of it’s cartoon video with dancing skeletons.  Feels like a fitting song for Dia de Muertos.

Enjoy yours and remember the dead.

 

 

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I am running late this morning and there’s a long to-do list of things waiting for me. But I definitely wanted to get out a little music for this Sunday morning. Here in the northeast, it’s rainy, dark and gray. It would be easy to gravitate towards music that reflects that mood but I think I am going to go the other way.

Bright and light. Pop.

So I am going to play a song written and released by Cat Stevens in 1967. The British group the Tremeloes also released the song that same year.

It’s hard to believe that this song is 50 years old. It feels like a perfect pop song. It’s bright and clean and doesn’t feel dated in any way. If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson films, you probably will remember the song ( the Cat Stevens version) from Rushmore.

I like both versions but slightly favor the Tremeloes version which is the one I am showing here today. Plus it has a neat live video of the era, which is always fun to see. It’s a little unusual in that it focuses on the band without the usual go-go dancers from TV performances of that time. Hope it brightens your day.

Have a great Sunday.

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Have a lot on my plate this morning, a lot of things needing to be done. But I came across this video by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, the late Townes Van Zandt, and thought I would share it. It’s called Big Country Blues and the video features the photos of primarily working class Americans from the great Richard Avedon.

It’s a compelling video, given this time in this country. I watched it twice this morning just to fully take in the imagery and Townes’ music never lets me down. I wish he were around just to hear his take on these times. He could write some sad songs, after all.

Give it a look and a listen.

 

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Mesmerized

I was looking for an image to pair with the music I want to share today  and thought this old piece might work since I’ve been showing a lot of older unseen work lately. It’s a watercolor piece from 1995 or 1996 that I never felt secure enough about to show, one with a guitar dominating the front of the picture plane and a dark character propped in the doorway.

There are a few things wrong with this piece, most notably the way the fretboard  just ends at the body of the guitar. And the dark character is just, well… a little strange. He’s either smoking a cigarette or has been recently on fire–which might explain his charred appearance– and is still smoldering.

But even with these obvious flaws, for some reason I still find myself looking fondly at this piece and liking it. Still not sure about showing it to anybody but liking it, nonetheless.

The music I wanted this to accompany is from Australian fingerstyle guitarist Alan Gogoll who is being hailed for his technique that creates bell-like harmonic tones. I came across a couple of his videos and was drawn in by the way the filming focused on his hands. I am fascinated by watching the hands of musicians when they play and his technique has a grace and poetry in the movement of his hands.

He also has a series of short Instagram videos and one very long Youtube video in which the camera is inside the guitar facing out through the sound hole. You see his fingers picking and the vibration patterns of the strings as each string is plucked. Called Stringscapes, they are pretty mesmerizing.

I am showing a short song called Mulberry Mouse first, followed by the Stringscapes video. As I said, this video is long, coming in at 28 minutes. But it is worth at least taking a look for a minute or two. Or longer. Actually, while I was writing this I took a look and about four minutes passed. I said they were mesmerizing.

You can see more on Alan Gogoll’s website by clicking here.


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I am at work on a large commissioned piece. As a rule, I don’t like doing commissions because I sometimes fear the client’s aims and expectations will somehow cloud my creative process and ultimately make the painting less than it might otherwise be. And for me, trying to please someone else’s eye rather than my own is not usually conducive to good work.

And at the beginning of this particular painting, that definitely seemed the case.

I had several reference photos that were provided by the client to give me context and as general guidelines for the kind of landscape they hoped for in the painting. I don’t normally– actually, I never– work from reference photos. I don’t know why but in this case I tried to remain absolutely faithful to them.

It wasn’t good.

I spent a few frustrating days repeatedly laying out the piece then painting it over to restart again. It just didn’t move, didn’t feel alive. It made me tense and a little angry to where I finally came to a place where I determined that I was being too fixated on accuracy and was setting aside the things that I felt were important to me in my work– rhythm, line and pattern.

This was my painting so it had to excite and please me first. I made the decision to have it do just that and began making big changes that would imbue it with the things I needed to see and feel in it. I began to move things around, cutting away elements in the composition and changing the flow of the landscape.

It began to grow in a more organic and less thought out way. Each step got me more engaged and more excited, each subsequent layer of color bringing it a bit more vibrant and alive. I worked last night on it, leaving as it came to a point where it is has all its momentum steaming forward. All of it’s potential seems now evident to me and it feels like it is a balloon filled to the absolute limit, ready to burst at any instant into a mass of color and movement.

For me, this is the most exciting point of a painting. It’s there and I just have to tear away the shell that is keeping it restrained. I feel a palpable excitement looking at it this morning.

I feel good.

I can’t show you any in progress shots because I believe this is meant to be a surprise gift. So I will instead show a very old watercolor from around 1994 which acts as a segue to a little music from the venerable John Lee Hooker and a song whose title and feeling absolutely hit the mark this morning.  It’s his boogie classic I Feel Good.  I call the painting Leroi’s Yellow Guitar.

I could paint to this all day long…

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