No Crazy Dream

man on tracks

For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. ~ Galatians 5:17

Now blue ain’t the word for the way that I feel
And the storm’s brewing in this heart of mine
This ain’t no crazy dream, I know that it’s real
You’re someone else’s love now you’re not mine

Yes, we are born into sin and it’s only through His grace that we are saved. Even then the temptations lie there, seething and waiting, just below the surface, ever lurking. Every day we face the ultimate decision and we must answer the ultimate question. The one that Lenny Kravitz so succinctly posed “Are you gonna go my way?”.

Crazy arms that reach to hold somebody new
While my yearning heart keeps saying you’re not mine
My troubled mind knows soon to another you’ll be wed
And that’s why I’m lonely all the time

It’s a constant struggle. One starts to wonder, can I ever really completely follow the straight and narrow path? We are perpetually torn and tortured within ourselves. I have been told that living in such a state is a sure sign of having received God’s most gracious gift. That only those truly saved will experience such constant turmoil; it is only those without this gift that can walk through this world without a troubled conscience.

Now take all those precious dreams I had for you and me
And take all the love I thought was mine
You know someday those crazy arms may hold somebody new
But honey I am going to be lonely every time

I’ve been reading Rick Bragg’s magnificent book, Jerry Lee Lewis – His Own Story,  and I can testify with certainty that The Killer – as Jerry Lee is known – was certainly not one of those without a troubled soul. Born into the Pentecostal Assembly of God and raised by his mother, Mamie, to revere the Gospel, Jerry Lee found it exceedingly hard to reconcile the devil’s music in his hands with the Godly beliefs in his heart. He once asked Elvis Presley a fundamental question that apparently had tormented him all of his life: “Do you think you (or me) can play rock-n-roll and still get into Heaven?”.

Crazy arms that reach to hold somebody new
While my yearning heart keeps saying you’re not mine
My troubled mind knows soon to another you’ll be wed
And that’s why I’m lonely all the time

Now, I still believe that Elvis is the true king of rock-n-roll, but after spending some time researching, one can see where the Killer may have a case to dispute the throne. The legend goes that Elvis came to the Sun Records Studios in Memphis to meet with Jerry Lee one day shortly before he was inducted into the Army and, with tears in his eyes, said simply, “You can have it.”

“Crazy Arms”, originally a  hit for Ray Price, was the song that first began to open doors for Jerry Lee – it sold 300,000 copies – but it wasn’t until the legendary Otis Blackwell penned “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On” took off that Jerry Lee shucked the “rockabilly” label and was catapulted to heights above Elvis, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly – and everybody else – in the rock-n-roll pecking order of the day.

A few of my favorite Jerry Lee stories:

  • After losing an argument with Chuck Berry about who would close a show, Jerry Lee stormed onstage and played “Breathless”, “Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On” and finally launched into “Great Balls Of Fire”. He then pulled out a small Coke bottle filled with gasoline, doused the piano top and set it on fire. He finished the song with the flames still roaring and then sauntered past Berry offstage and said “I want to see you follow that, Chuck!”
  • In 1950 Jerry Lee’s mother enrolled him in the Southwestern Bible Institute in Waxahachie, Texas. During his first term there, he was invited to perform a solo at a student talent show and assembly. Jerry Lee was set to play the Assembly of God standard “My God Is Real”. When it was his time to perform, he announced “I understand we are going to have a little change in tempo.” His hard rockin’, boogie-woogie infused rendition had the students rocking and rolling in the seats, but the school’s dean expelled him the very next day.
  • Jerry Lee always swore that nobody had more faith in him – and his plans to become a star – than his Mom and Dad. After knocking around playing the clubs in Ferriday and Natchez, Mississippi for several years, Jerry Lee heard stories about how Sam Phillips was turning music into gold for the likes of Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and, of course, Elvis Presley. He told his daddy, Elmo, who was out of work at the time, that he needed him to take him to Memphis’ Sun Studios to see if he could get a break, too. Elmo collected 36 dozen eggs over the next few days from area hen houses and sold them to get the money to finance the trip.

After all these years, the Killer remains steadfast in his two core beliefs: that he is the greatest rock-n-roller of all time and in the Gospel of the Pentecost. And he has yet to answer that fundamental question that has haunted him his entire life.

As he strolls his farm today in Nesbit, Mississippi, he often walks down to the railroad tracks nearby to see the big trains lumber through; some heading in one direction and some in the other. And he knows he’ll get his answer one day.

Listen to the song that started it all here:

And the song that made him a star:

And just in case you still don’t think he can rock-n-roll:

Sources for this post include:

“Jerry Lee Lewis, His Own Story” by Rick Bragg

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

 

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Its Just The Radio

blaupunktradio

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. ~ Psalm 147:3

Long ago, and, oh, so far away
I fell in love with you, before the second show
Your guitar, it sounds so sweet and clear
But it’s just the radio and you’re not really here

It’s a solid fact; since the days of the Hillbilly Cat – and probably way before that – girls have always fallen hard for the boys with guitars. And the nomadic lifestyles and aloof personalities that often accompany the young men that play that six stringed bandit just add fuel to the fires burning within their hearts. Before there was ever a name or term for those girls so madly in love with the boys in the band, the inevitable attraction simply was.

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

And there’s no hurt on earth like the pain of unrequited love. Promises made and never kept. Feeling it so strongly and knowing it will never, ever really be returned. And wallowing in such heartache, even in this self deceit is found such sweet anguish. The Bible tells us that He will heal us of such pain, but trying to tell that to those so afflicted with this particular brand of longing, is like telling an orphaned child that he’ll get over the fact his mother left him and said she would be back, but really will never return.

Loneliness is such a sad affair
And I can hardly wait to be with you again
What to say to make you come again?
Come back again and play your sad guitar

In the heady and wild, early days of what we now know as classic rock-n-roll, women like Bebe Buell, Bianca Jagger, Pamela Des Barres, and Anita Pallenberg brought fame to the term “groupie”.  They were professionals. But these were not the women that a young Bonnie Bramlett was writing and singing about in “Superstar” – a song with the working title “Groupie”. This was real – the girl next door kind of real.

Listening to the original version of the song – it was the B side of Delaney & Bonnie’s 1969 single “Comin’ Home” – gives one the impression that Bonnie had some firsthand knowledge of this kind of feeling. Like most kids back then – glued to Top 40 radio – my first intro to the song came from the Carpenters cover in 1971, with Karen Carpenter’s rich, pure contralto voice pouring out of the speakers. It wasn’t until many years later, long after becoming familiar with Delaney & Bonnie via their hit singles “Never Ending Song Of Love” and “Only You Know And I Know”, that I found “Groupie (Superstar)” tucked away on an album sandwiched between “Comin’ Home” and “Country Life”.  I wondered if it was the same song. Fortunately, I was working in a record store by that time, so I was able to simply pop the wrapper and find out for sure that it was.

Don’t you remember, you told me you loved me baby?
You said you’d be coming back this way again baby
Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby
I love you, I really do

Having become so accustomed to the Carpenters version – which was a huge hit – listening to Bonnie’s original was a rare treat. The Carpenters version was so ingrained in my head, it felt like D&B’s version was the cover. And while Bonnie’s vocal starts out strikingly similar to Karen’s, it quickly morphs into a delightfully soulful “Stax Records” sounding, blues-infused confession of longing love. Give it three more listens and suddenly Karen’s vocals sounded…well…more like a Carpenters record. A sweet and touching ballad for sure, but way more pop sounding – “Easy Listening” as the category was referred to back then – than real rock-n-roll.

Here’s a few interesting notes about “Superstar”:

  • It has been covered by dozens of artists as diverse as: Cher, Vikki Carr, Ruben Studdard, Usher, Elkie Brooks, David Sanborn, Chrissie Hynde, Luther Vandross, Sonic Youth and The Motels
  • It has appeared on multiple movie soundtracks including: Tommy Boy, Juno, The Frighteners, Wayne’s World 2 and Ghost Rider
  • The lyrics in the second verse were changed by Richard Carpenter from “And I can hardly wait, to sleep with you again” to the more socially acceptable – at that time – “And I can hardly wait, to be with you again”
  • The Carpenters cover version went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Easy Listening chart

Bonnie’s career has taken a lot of twists and turns over the years and – as Hank Jr. might have said – she has definitely lived out her life in the songs she wrote, sang and backed up. One thing is for sure, no matter whether she was singing with Delaney or Eric Clapton, backing up Albert King, or belting it out as the first white singer to join Ike & Tina Turner as an Ikette, she did it in her own style and with that unmistakeable sound you can pick out on any recording she ever did – with your eyes closed.

And, as for all those love torn, rock star crazed young ladies; the bad news is he ain’t ever coming back. The good news is there’s someone out there who knows exactly how you feel.

To learn more about what Bonnie is doing today check out her profile at: Leadership Artists LLC

Listen to the Delaney & Bonnie original here:

The hauntingly beautiful Bette Midler cover here:

And my favorite soulful cover by Luther Vandross here:

My sources for this song included:

Leadership Artists LLC: http://leadershipartists.com/bonnie-bramlett/

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstar_%28Delaney_and_Bonnie_song

Nothing Left To Fear

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And he takes the way to her house, In the twilight, in the evening, In the middle of the night and in the darkness.  – Proverbs 7:8-9
Hold on
I’ll be back for you
It won’t be long
But for now there’s something else
That’s calling me
So take me down a lonesome road
Point me east and let me go
That suitcase weighs me down
With memories
How many songs have been – and will yet be – written about the fears, doubts and insecurities of the night? What is it about this time, this deep black void of night that causes us to feel washed over in it’s midst? Whether lying awake, or twisting in fitful dreams, it’s in the night that we feel most alone, vulnerable and most needful of someone to be beside us.
I just wanna be the one you run to
I just wanna be the one you come to
I just wanna be there for someone
When the night comes
Let’s put all the cares behind us
And go where they’ll never find us
I just wanna be there beside you
When the night comes
When the night comes
The Bible tells us to have faith and to fear not, over and over again. Yet from our early childhood and even on through our older years, the nights can often bring such trepidation. So, we turn to one another – and to God – for comfort in the dark.
Two spirits in the night
That can leave before the morning light
When there’s nothing left to lose
And nothing left to fear
So meet me on the edge of town
Won’t keep you waiting I’ll be ’round
Then you and I
We’ll just roll right out of here
John Robert Cocker was surely no stranger to the night. His trademark spasmodic hand motions and gravelly voice were forged in his soul like the steel from the mills of his home in Sheffield, England while toiling the nights away honing his skills in the bars and clubs around the South Yorkshire area. Joe, as he was later called, was a working class kid from a blue collar town and could definitely relate to the cold of the night and the fears of doing without.
I know there’ll be a time for you and I
Just take my hand and run away
Think of all the pieces of the shattered dream
We’re gonna make it out some day
We’ll be coming back
Coming back to stay
When the night comes
And, unlike many of his mates in Sheffield, Joe did finally rise up and make it out of the gritty mill town, emulating Ray Charles and classic bluesmen like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and by putting his own special stamp on songs penned by others. Probably the best example was one of his first covers, “With A Little Help From My Friends”, which reached #1 on the British charts and #68 here in the U.S.. Paul McCartney reportedly enjoyed the remake very much and had the following to say about it: ” I was especially pleased when he decided to cover it and I remember him and Denny Cordell coming round to the studio in Savile Row and playing me what they’d recorded and it was just mind-blowing; (he) totally turned the song into a soul anthem and I was forever grateful to him for doing that.”
I wanna be the one you run to
When the night comes

To be the one you’d come to
I wanna be the one you run to
Oooh I just wanna be the one you run to
Wanna be the one you come to
I just wanna be there for someone
When the night comes

A few interesting tidbits about Joe and his career:

  • His first group was the Cavaliers in 1959. He was the drummer and harmonica player. The group had to pay to get into their first gig together.
  • His 1969 debut album Joe Cocker! featured guest appearances from two legendary artists: Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Traffic’s Steve Winwood.
  • His version of “With A Little Help From My Friends” was later used as the theme song for the TV series The Wonder Years.
  • He had several songs that were featured on TV or movie soundtracks, including a song that resurrected his career in 1982, “Up Where We Belong”. The stirring duet (with Jennifer Warnes) was on the soundtrack for An Officer And A Gentleman.

Let’s put all the cares behind us
And go where they’ll never find us
I just wanna be there beside you
When the night comes
When the night comes

“When The Night Comes” has long been one of my favorite Cocker tunes, coming along on 1989’s One Night Of Sin. It reached #11 on the Billboard charts and was Joe’s last U.S. Top 40 hit. Like all the others, this was another great cover; the song was written by Brian Adams, Diane Warren and bandmate -and frequent writing partner – Jim Vallance, specifically for Joe to sing. Like a bookend some 20 years after his major debut, there was no drop off in Joe’s passion and performance.

In his later years, Joe moved to Crawford, Colorado and built the Mad Dog Ranch while continuing to tour right up to the end. As you may be aware, Joe passed away on December 22 after a long struggle with lung cancer. I’m happy knowing he’s at peace with the Lord – and definitely getting a little help from his friends – in Heaven’s all-star band.

Hear Joe live and at his best here:

 

Bryan Adams version here:

Sources for this post included: