The Third Of June

tallahatchiebridgepic

You have seen many things, but you do not observe them; Your ears are open, but none hears. – Isaiah 42:20

It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin’ cotton, and my brother was balin’ hay
And at dinner time we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
Mama hollered out the back door, y’all remember to wipe your feet!
Then she said, “I got some news this mornin’ from Choctaw Ridge
Today, Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

Is it just me, or does the world feel a good bit colder these days? And I don’t mean the time of year. It seems to me that, even though we’re all more “connected” than ever, we can all, at times, feel more alone and isolated than ever.

It happens all the time, not just in the communities we live in, but in our very own homes. At least it does in mine. There are many times when I’m sitting on the couch, watching TV and surfing online with my iPad, and I’ll look over to see that my son and wife are both busily flipping through screens on their phones. And then “ping”, I’ll get a message from my wife on Facebook. Can’t we just talk to each other any more?

And papa said to mama, as he passed around the blackeyed peas
“Well, Billy Joe never had a lick of sense; pass the biscuits, please
There’s five more acres in the lower forty I’ve got to plow”
And mama said it was shame about Billy Joe, anyhow
Seems like nothin’ ever comes to no good up on Choctaw Ridge
And now Billy Joe MacAllister’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge

Isn’t technology grand? And within these social “networks” we all belong to (I still have a bit of trouble with the concept of “social” and “network” being used together in the same phrase) there is perfect love, peace and harmony, right? Not exactly. Sometimes it can be a downright snarky place to hang out. Gives a whole new meaning to “chillin’ out online”, doesn’t it?

And brother said he recollected when he, and Tom, and Billie Joe
Put a frog down my back at the Carroll County picture show
And wasn’t I talkin’ to him after church last Sunday night?
“I’ll have another piece-a apple pie; you know, it don’t seem right
I saw him at the sawmill yesterday on Choctaw Ridge
And now ya tell me Billie Joe’s jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

Yes, the world can be a cold and callous place. In the digital realm, even the death of folks around us can be trivialized, if not outright jeered at, in some of the more cruel cases. But what I think stings the most is simple indifference. You start to wonder how these people can just walk (or scroll) on by. Not just your own troubles and challenges, but those of others, as well. This is especially true for those with larger networks. Mine is pretty small, so I don’t often experience this side of it. But I know a lot of people do. And I’m as guilty of it as anyone.

And mama said to me, “Child, what’s happened to your appetite?
I’ve been cookin’ all morning, and you haven’t touched a single bite
That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today
Said he’d be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way
He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge
And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin’ off the Tallahatchie Bridge”

Maybe we can’t classify Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode To Billie Joe” as classic rock, but it’s definitely a classic and has always been one of my favorites from 1967. Apparently Rolling Stone magazine thought so too, ranking it at #412 on their 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time list.

Bobbie was one of the first female country artists to write and produce her own material and the southern-goth toned “Ode” was certainly one of her best songs, spending over a month at #1 on Billboard’s Top 100.

A year has come and gone since we heard the news ’bout Billy Joe
Brother married Becky Thompson; they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going round; papa caught it and died last spring
And now mama doesn’t seem to want to do much of anything
And me – I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge

One gets so caught up in the story about poor Billie Joe, that it’s easy to completely pass over the real meaning behind the song; the nonchalant indifference of this rural family during dinner small talk to the suicide death itself. It just gets mixed right in there amongst the peas, the pie and another 40 acres of field to plow.

The most common question on everyone’s mind after hearing the song centered on what the narrator of the song and Billie Joe threw off the bridge, thereby proving Bobbie’s underlying premise.

A few interesting tidbits about the song include:

  • The Tallahatchie bridge collapsed in 1972 , just a few years after the song hit the airwaves. It was later rebuilt.
  • After the song became a hit, Rolling Stone magazine reported that the bridge was only 20 feet high over the water and plenty deep, so there was no way to commit suicide by jumping off. Of course, this drove hundreds to try it for themselves, driving the local cops crazy.
  • Speculation as to what object Billie Joe threw off the bridge included: an engagement ring, a draft card, a bottle of LSD, and an aborted baby.

The song remains as one of my all time faves; I love the simple spare arrangement with Bobbie’s raspy vocal, her guitar and just a few strings stirring in the Mississippi breeze on a hot summer day.

I think Henry David Thoreau sums it up with his quote: “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”

So, can we all just put down our phones for a minute, and try to be just a little less oblivious to the needs of others in and around our lives?

Listen to Bobbie live on the BBC from 1968:

Original studio version here:

My sources for this post include:

Songfacts: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1623

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobbie_Gentry

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ode_to_Billie_Joe

A Brand New Story

manspeakspic

For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. – Matthew 12:37

Smile an everlasting smile
A smile could bring you near to me
Don’t ever let me find you gone
‘Cause that would bring a tear to me

You know the feeling, right? It’s intense. And things like a glance or smile, or even just the smell on the shirt or jacket he/she left at your place can stir your heart mightily. Little things, but they can mean so much.

This world has lost it’s glory
Let’s start a brand new story
Now my love, right now there’ll be
No other time and I can show you
how, my love

You feel like you’re living in a world of your own, just the two of you. Others pass by, darting in and out, occasionally interrupting but only superficially. You pay them no mind.

Talk in everlasting words
And dedicate them all to me
And I will give you all my life
I’m here if you should call to me

And then one day, IT happens. No, not that…it’s those words you just said. Hanging out there in the air. You can almost see them, as if captured in one of those comic strip “speech bubbles”, with the arrow coming out of your mouth. You’re frozen, unable to move or speak further.

Sometimes this can be a good thing, but more than often than not our mouths can get us in a lot of trouble. Sometimes a few carelessly spoken words hurt the ones we love more than anything else we can do. And once spoken, we can never get them back.

The Bible is full of warnings regarding the evils of the tongue and all the havoc it can wreak in our lives. To the point of our own condemnation. In the Book of James, it says that no human can tame the tongue and that it’s filled with evil. It cautions even those most pious, that to live with an unbridled tongue is to make their religion worthless.

It’s amazing how this tongue our Lord has blessed us with, can be such a force for good and happiness, yet can just as easily become a vessel of evil and heartache. Even so, many of us give very little thought to the impact that our words can have on others.

You think that I don’t even mean
A single word I say
It’s only words, and words are all
I have to take your heart away

If the Beach Boys are America’s original “brother” band, then certainly the Bee Gees (the Brothers Gibb) are the U.K.’s (though some might argue they were Australian).

The Bee Gees had two very distinct periods of success: from 1967-1975 (pre-disco) and from 1975-forward (post-disco). Their 1975 single “Jive Talkin'” was definitely the turning point, if you ask me. Even though their success after the release of 1977’s Saturday Night Fever was far greater than their earlier works – SNF alone sold over 15 million albums – I’ve always thought their pre-disco period material was superior. (That being said, I must admit “How Deep Is Your Love” is a favorite of mine and will always hold special meaning for me.)

“Words” was released in 1968 and charted at #15 here in the U.S and at #9 in the U.K. Interestingly, most all of their pre-disco songs featured Robin’s clear vibrato on lead vocals and most of the post-disco songs had Barry’s soul-infused falsetto, but “Words” was the exception. Barry took the lead on “Words” and it was also the first time one of the brothers solo-ed on one of their songs.

“Words” always stood out to me – it had that familiar Bee Gees sound, but was missing the harmony vocals. And with that unique “compressed” piano (sounded like 10 pianos playing at once), it had a spare, lonely, haunting sound that definitely stood out among the other songs swirling Top 40 radio at that time.

Barry actually wrote the song after the brothers had a few too many arguments in the studio, and to point out how hurtful some of the things the brothers had said to one another were. I guess you could say it was kind of an inter-group “make-up” song.

A few interesting notes about the song include:

  • Like a lot of their songs, they wrote it for someone else; in this case Cliff Richards. He never got around to recording it, so they did.
  • Elvis Presley chose to perform it in many of his early 70’s concerts.
  • The song was not on one of their albums; it was written for a movie soundtrack, The Mini Affair.
  • It reached #1 on the charts in Germany, Switzerland, Netherlands and China.

The Bee Gees went on to sell over 220 million records worldwide, making them one of the best selling acts of all time. The Bee Gees were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 and their citation says “Only Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, Garth Brooks and Paul McCartney have outsold the Bee Gees.”

When my son, Trey, was about 13, he and I were traveling on a camping trip and I had the Bee Gees live masterpiece, One Night Only, playing in the car. After listening quietly to a few songs (with Barry on lead vocals), Trey turned to me and asked “Dad, why does he sing like that?”. I looked at him and said, “Son, because he can!”.

Listen to the original studio version here:

Listen to Barry and the Bee Gees live on Ed Sullivan 1968 here:

Almost 30 years later in Las Vegas:

Sources for this article include:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee_Gees

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee_Gees_discography

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Words_%28Bee_Gees_song%29

Songfacts: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3371

 

 

 

 

The Eyes Of The Blind

negative_blind_eye

It is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed  ~Romans 13:11

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
From the mountains of faith
To a river so deep
I must be looking for something
Something sacred I lost
But the river is wide
And it’s too hard to cross

What are you searching for? Someone to love? A soul mate? A new career? A new place to live?

Or is your search much deeper than that? I know it is for me. It has taken me a long. long time to near the end of my search, but I’ve begun to at least see it now. Funny thing is that it has been right in front of me all along. My search is for meaning.

And even though I know the river is wide
I walk down every evening and I stand on the shore
And try to cross to the opposite side
So I can finally find out what I’ve been looking for

For us “baby boomers” maybe it’s just in the way we are wired. So self absorbed, so critically oblivious and materially motivated. I can remember clearly, when I was in my early 30’s, my mother saying to me when I was home for a visit, “Son, you know we’re proud for you and all you have accomplished, but you really need to stop and smell the roses.”

I heard her, but I didn’t really hear her. It’s taken me a long time to take her advice. And when I look, I can see the same thing all around me, in almost everyone I know.

And I’ve been searching for something
Taken out of my soul
Something I would never lose
Something somebody stole

And what was stolen can never be replaced. It can’t be repurchased. It can’t be replenished. And even if he wanted to, the thief who robbed me can’t give it back. That which was stolen is time. And like Jim Croce once sang, we can’t bottle it.

I don’t know why I go walking at night
But now I’m tired and I don’t want to walk anymore
I hope it doesn’t take the rest of my life
Until I find what it is that I’ve been looking for

One of my favorite quotes is from Sister Mary Corita Kent: “Life is a succession of moments; to live each one is to succeed.”

Yes, the things we search for are right here in front of us, in each and every one of those moments.

I believe the greatest meaning and fulfillment we can find in life, is found within the human relationships we have and living fully in those moments we share with others.

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the jungle of doubt
To a river so deep
I know I’m searching for something
Something so undefined
That it can only be seen
By the eyes of the blind
In the middle of the night

It’s ironic that Billy Joel, son of a Holocaust survivor and an avowed atheist would write a song so deeply infused with Biblical references. He said as much himself: he got the idea for the song in one of his dreams – in the dream he was sleepwalking – and when he awoke he said to himself “Hey, who am I to try to pull off a gospel song?”. But he just couldn’t shake the feeling and found himself singing it over and over in the shower that morning.

I do think his lyric about something that could “only be seen by the eyes of the blind” is a bit of a atheistic stab at religious belief, but I would challenge him to say that he had no religious inspiration in the song. And might that mean that he was being a little spiritually guided, as well?

I’m not sure about a life after this
God knows I’ve never been a spiritual man
Baptized by the fire, I wade into the river
That runs to the promised land

I guess we all have our doubts and struggles with our faith and beliefs, no matter what they are, and I’m sure it’s the same for Billy. “The River Of Dreams” was the title song and first hit single off his last recorded studio album to date, 1993’s River Of Dreams. The album leaned strongly towards themes around love, trust, betrayal  and loss. Sure sounds like a man searching for meaning to me.

In the middle of the night
I go walking in my sleep
Through the desert of truth
To the river so deep
We all end in the ocean
We all start in the streams
We’re all carried along
By the river of dreams
In the middle of the night

A few interesting notes about Billy and the album include:

  • The album cover art was painted by his then wife, Christie Brinkley
  • Each of the subsequent singles from the album featured cover art that was a small section of the album cover painting.
  • Rolling Stone magazine gave it a “Top Pick” in their Best Album Cover of the Year awards in 1993
  • Joel said “river of dreams” was a play on the phrase “stream of consciousness”
  • Billy often toured with fellow pianist, Elton John, another strongly non-religious musical artist

While I may not agree with Billy’s lack of religious belief,  I do have to admire the God given talent behind it. “The River of Dreams” may have been one of his finest recordings in a career that includes over 150 million records sold worldwide, making him the #3 solo recoding artist all-time in the Unites States.

So, let’s roll up our pants legs and wander down to the river where we can hear a non-sermon from “an innocent man”. And while we’re at it, we can say a prayer for Billy, too.

Listen to the original studio version and video here:

Sources for this post include:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Joel

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_River_of_Dreams

Songfacts.com: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=4600

My Secrets To Reveal

magnet

Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. -Proverbs 27:5

Now I told you so you ought to know
It takes some time for a feelin’ to grow
You’re so close now I can’t let you go
And I can’t let go

With you I’m not shy to show the way I feel
With you I might try my secrets to reveal
For you are a magnet and I am steel
For you are a magnet and I am steel

Isn’t there something in the Bible about not “coveting” your neighbor’s things? I’m sure I recall hearing and reading that somewhere. But who hasn’t done this? I have to believe this is one of the most common sins we all have. As hard as we might try not to, somewhere along the way, this little bugaboo bites you.

I can’t hope that I’ll hold you for long
You’re a woman who’s lost to your song
But the love that I feel is so strong
And it can’t be wrong

Now, this sin can come in the form of material envy -say your neighbor’s classic 1968 ‘Vette – or wealth envy – how did he or she get that job? – and just occasionally in the form of thy neighbor’s significant other.

And sometimes this bite is so hard and the pull is so strong, that you just have to give in. As the late, great Luther Ingram once sang “If loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.”. You know in your heart it’s not right, but it’s just too good to resist.

With you I’m not shy to show the way I feel
With you I might try my secrets to reveal
For you are a magnet and I am steel
For you are a magnet and I am steel

Yes, the attraction is just like that; a magnetic pull so strong you just feel locked in. You throw all caution and rational thought to the wind and just go for it.

“Magnet And Steel”, the hit single off of Walter Egan’s second album, Not Shy, is a tale of exactly this type situation. In this case, the coveted object was one Stevie Nicks, the ex-wife of Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham. Now we may have to give Walter a bit of a pass on this, as I believe that Stevie and Lindsey were not exactly “together” at the time. But given the close relationship between Egan and Buckingham, it seems a bit too close for comfort, if you ask me.

egan4

Walter met Lindsey at a party in 1976, and as a big admirer of his work on 1975’s smash hit Fleetwood Mac, he asked Lindsey to help with his debut album, Fundamental Roll. Lindsey agreed to work with it a bit and brought in Stevie to provide some background vocals. Walter wound up naming Buckingham and Nicks as album co-producers, along with himself and Duane Scott.

After that, it was a natural progression for Lindsey, Stevie and Rumours producer, Richard Dashut to jump in full force on Not Shy. The rest, as they say, was history. The album’s hit single “Magnet And Steel” went on to sell over a million copies and reached #8 on the Billboard charts.

Walter tells the story “behind the story” on Songfacts.com:

“On the night when Stevie did the background vocals for my song ‘Tunnel o’ Love,’ (on the Fundamental Roll lp) my nascent amorous feelings toward her came into a sharper focus – I was smitten by the kitten, as they say. It was on my drive home at 3 AM from Van Nuys to Pomona that I happened to be behind a metal flake blue Lincoln Continental with ground effects and a diamond window in back. I was inspired by the car’s license plate: “Not Shy.”

By the time I pulled into my driveway I had formulated the lyrics and come up with the magnet metaphor. From there the song was finished in 15 minutes. It was especially satisfying to have Stevie sing on ‘Magnet,’ since it was about her (and me).”

Most folks regard Walter as another “one hit wonder”, but he actually went on to release a total of 9 albums, with the latest being 2011’s Raw Elegant.

A few more interesting notes about Walter:

  • He never had another Top 40 hit himself, but a cover version of his song “Hot Summer Night” went to #18 for the band Night, who also had a female lead singer named Stevie (Stevie Vann aka Stevie Lange).
  • In 1985 he was a four time champion on the TV game show Catch Phrase.
  • He got credit as a co-writer on Eminem’s hit “We Made You” because producer Dr. Dre felt the song’s bass line was influenced by “Hot Summer Night”.
  • Walter got his start in music with a group called the Malibooz, imitating the Pac coast surf music sound of the Beach Boys and the Ventures, although the group was entirely from NYC and had never even visited the West Coast.

So, quit admiring your neighbor’s new car and focus on the blessings you have in your own hand. And please repress those longings for beautiful “things” others may possess. Then again, just looking never hurt anyone…did it?

Listen to the great original studio version here:

Night’s hit version of “Hot Summer Night” here:

Sources for this post include:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Egan

Songfacts.com: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=10286

Walter’s website: http://www.walteregan.com/

 

First Wound Of Pride

candle_heart_texture

The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving. -Proverbs 14:8

Dying flame, you’re free again
Who could love, do that to you
All dressed in black, he won’t be coming back

It’s over, right? Yep. He’s/she’s gone right? Yep, gone, long gone, gone like yesterday, and gone like a freight train, as Montgomery Gentry once sang.

But it’s not over.

And the truth is, it never really will be. Oh sure, you move on and accept the new reality, but it’s always still there, burned in like the exposed images on the negatives from an old-time camera’s film.

Look, save your tears
Got years and years
The pains of seventeen’s
Unreal they’re only dreams
Save your cryin’ for the day

I turned 21 in April of 1978, and Chris Rea’s debut album, Whatever Happened To Benny Santini and the hit single “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)” was all over the airwaves. Years of teen angst were still fresh in my mind and I was in the nether world between a high school romance lost and a long distance relationship via college separation gone awry. The song absolutely cut me to the quick. But it was so irresistibly catchy, I couldn’t wait to hear it again.

Fool if you think it’s over
‘Cause you said goodbye
Fool if you think it’s over
I’ll tell you why
New born eyes always cry with pain
At the first look at the morning sun
Fool if you think it’s over
It’s just begun

“The folly of fools” as the Bible said, was certainly all over me in trying to deceive myself. The real fool is one who thinks that just because you say it’s over, it really is. And yes, you must open your eyes and face the harsh light of reality, as painful as that may be.

Miss Teenage Dream, such a tragic scene
He knocked your crown and ran away
First wound of pride, and how you cried and cried
But save your tears, got years and years

I guess I’ll never really be able to understand the female side of this equation; I can only imagine what that must be like. I’ve always believed that women were much stronger emotionally than men, for all of our posturing and denial of feelings. I know that the key for men is to feel respected above all, and when not loved, we can justify that as less a loss of respect and more as a loss of value. OK, so she left me for something of higher value. No loss of respect there, right? It’s like she’s getting a new job or trading up for a new car. But a wound of pride? Definitely.

I’ll buy you first good wine
We’ll have a real good time
Save your cryin’ for the day
That may not come
But anyone who had to pay
Would laugh at you and say

Speaking of wounded pride, Chris would probably be chagrined to know that most folks here in the U.S. would probably call him a “one hit wonder”. While it’s true that his biggest hit came from his first album release here – instead of in his native U.K. – he later returned to Europe and recorded over 30 additional LP’s with several singles reaching the charts in France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria, as well as in the U.K..

In fact, his U.S. record label became so disenchanted with his efforts that they didn’t bother to choose a name for his fourth album (Chris Rea), and they just dumped out a bunch of his raw demo tapes as his fifth. Ironically, the fifth album ,Water Sign, became a surprise hit in Ireland and Europe, spawning a Top 20 single, “I Can Hear Your Heartbeat”.

Chris’ career in Europe took off like a rocket after that, with his breakthrough #1 charting LP The Road To Hell coming in 1989.

Fool if you think it’s over
‘Cause you said goodbye
Fool if you think it’s over
I’ll tell you why

No one here in the U.S. these days ever really wonders much about Whatever Happened to Benny Santini and Chris Rea, but here’s a few interesting tidbits to chew on:

  • The album’s title came about because Chris’ record label originally wanted him to change his stage name to – you guessed it – Benjamin Santini.
  • The album was produced by Elton John’s producer, Gus Dudgeon. Chris always wanted to try to sound more like Elton and/or Billy Joel.
  • Ironically, “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)” was nominated for a Grammy (Song of The Year) but got beat out by Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are”.
  • And to prove it really wasn’t over, British pop singer, Elkie Brooks, scored a 17 on the U.K. charts with her cover version in 1982.

So light a candle, pour yourself a glass of good wine and admit to yourself that a great song, like a great romance, will never really be completely over.

Listen to the original studio version here:

Elkie Brooks cover version on Top Of The Pops here:

Sources for this post include:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Rea

Songfacts.com: http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=19641