I took the day off from being productive and instead went to see the documentary AMAZING GRACE. In 1972 Aretha Franklin taped a two-album gospel album over two nights at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church with help from Rev. James Cleveland and the Southern California Community Choir (led by their incredible choir director, Alexander Hamilton).
I’ve listened to the Amazing Grace album numerous times and was thrilled right from the start of the film. Why? Because it turns out Aretha started her two-night concert with my absolute very favorite song from the album. She sang Marvin Gaye’s “Wholy Holy.” I watched, listened, and wept.
Aretha on the first night, bejeweled by perspiration.
I encourage anyone who loves Aretha to give yourself the treat of AMAZING GRACE. Her performance with the backing of that magnificent choir is mind-blowing. Witnessing it will do your soul good.
Check out the trailer:
Our friend Susan came to visit today before she flies across the pond to officially begin life in London. (She now has a visa and is totally legit!) Anyway, she and I are hooping buddies from way back and we try to hoop together whenever we can. It turns out I can’t embed video on my site, so I encourage you to play “Ooh La La” from Goldfrapp while perusing these stills from our afternoon session:
The final two photos show our hoops colliding which brought shrieks of laughter and big, big smiles. Our hooping technique may be suspect, but our passion and enthusiasm are real.
Love and hugs to Susan as she embarks on her grand adventure!
stomping boots on brittle ice
music to my ears
Yesterday was so damned cold I didn’t go outside. By evening, I was anxious and grumpy. Today it’s still very cold, but I just went for a fast 22-minute walk with Zippy and Emma in the sunshine. I feel exhilarated! And as soon as I post this, I’m going to turn up the music and get going on the Massive Photo Scrapbooking Project.
Because as Michael Franti says: Music is sunshine. Like sunshine, music is a powerful force that can instantly and almost chemically change your entire mood. Music gives us new energy and a stronger sense of purpose.
I’m gonna double down on the mood enhancement. Sunshine + Music. I refuse to let December’s cold and short days grind the life out of me.
Today we mourn the loss of Aretha Franklin. I am grateful for the many hours spent listening, singing along with and dancing to her music. She was an extraordinary artist (and I’m just now learning about her social justice work including a willingness to post bail for Angela Davis). I am the farthest thing from a religious person, but this version of Marvin Gaye’s Wholy Holy gives me goosebumps. Every single time.
Do yourself a favor and spend your next five minutes with the Queen of Soul.
Rest in power, Aretha.
You can’t always write a chord ugly enough to say what you want to say, so sometimes you have to rely on a giraffe filled with whipped cream. ~ Frank Zappa
I started the day grumpy and dissatisfied with various aspects of life and when I got to work on my revisions, my grumpiness and dissatisfaction grew. BUT. I stepped away from my desk to do some cleaning before Wildebeest arrives this afternoon and I’m happy to report feeling more centered. More calm. More whatevs about life.
Today I am thankful for my dirty kitchen sink that provided an outlet for frenzied scrubbing and J. Roddy Walston and The Business for the soundtrack for said scrubbing.
Not my kitchen, but rest assured my sinks are equally shiny.
CREDIT: Photo by Matt Wignall
Every time I pass by my dresser and see Marcel in his new favorite place,
the cat-aquarium, a Beatles song comes to mind:
I’m looking through you,
where did you go
I thought I knew you,
what did I know
Yes, I own it on vinyl. (And yes, I forgot that selfies flip the images).
Remember, if you want to end war and stuff, you got to sing loud.
After I finished my hoop-dancing session this morning, Zippy walked into the kitchen. I’d blasted lots of funky songs from my playlist and the final one was “Overpowered by Funk” by The Clash. As I danced over to pour myself coffee, I asked my mate, “Are you feeling overpowered by funk?”
Zippy said, “I think I’m immune to funk.”
“No,” I cried. “That’s just wrong! How could anyone be immune to funk?! That’s blasphemy!”
“Well,” Zippy conceded. “I do like Roger Clinton more than most people.”
“George Clinton!” I corrected. “You like George Clinton.”
“Oh, yeah,” Zippy said. “Roger Clinton is Bill Clinton’s brother.”
George Clinton: Parliament Funkadelic
No offense to Zippy, but there’s no mistaking Roger’s music for George’s.
Today I finished reading MY CROSS TO BEAR by Gregg Allman (with Alan Light). I was very sad when he died, and put a library hold on his autobiography. I’m currently listening to Brothers and Sisters, the first full album the group recorded after guitarist-extraordinaire Duane Allman died of injuries from a motorcycle wreck, and am listening to the music in a whole new way.
I’m feeling chock-full of Allman Brothers Band lore, but the anecdote that really gives me the chills is the one about how they chose the name for the band. I always assumed it was because Duane and Gregg put the group together, so Allman got top billing.
Photo for At Fillmore East album, 1971. Photographer Jim Marshall.
Once they (finally) found their perfect musical combination of two lead guitarists, two drummers, one bass player and one organist, Duane called for a vote on the group’s name. The six members each wrote down the band name he wanted. Gregg chose Beelzebub (the right-hand man of the devil) and Duane, a huge Tolkien fan, chose something from Lord of the Rings. The other four guys? They each wrote Allman Brothers Band.
For some reason, that story really makes me smile.
One of the very best things about running on the trails in June is the Western Meadowlark companionship. They’re all over the open space, perched on yucca or rabbit brush. The colors shown in these public domain photos might lead you to believe that meadowlarks are easy to spot. Not so.
I almost always hear a Western Meadowlark before I see it. These birds have the most beautiful song. It’s liquid and lyrical, warm and smile-inducing. A pure shot of joy.
And lucky for me, these birds love to sing.
Hoop danced this morning,
the circle is now broken.
Turbo hip action.
Seriously. I’d love to hear some good news so it doesn’t feel like all of humanity has slipped down the drain.
Tell me something good. Please.
I captured this image just before learning that Maggie Roche died on Saturday, January 21. She was the heart and soul of the singing sister trio, The Roches. I’m so very sad.
Thank you for the many, many hours of musical enjoyment, Maggie. Rest in peace.
Last night Zippy and I celebrated my birthday by going to a dive bar to hear local bands. My logic was that I’d feel less old and obsolete if I hung around the younger generation and heard new-to-me music.
The first band was a punk trio that played song after song in what felt like 45 second bursts of sonic-boom fury. People avoided standing in front of the stage because it was SO loud, and if I hadn’t feared for my long-term hearing, I would’ve been out there pogo-sticking. There’s something invigorating about music you can feel in your spleen.
Back at home where I’m modeling my wrist band that proved I was old enough to consume alcohol. I had to show ID for that sucker!
We stayed for two more bands and had a good time. Earlier in the week when I’d told my brother and his girlfriend our plans, she’d approved of my pre-emptive logic but also warned we’d be the oldest ones there. Well, I’m happy to say that Zippy and I spotted five people in the crowd who were clearly older than us. We high-fived after each sighting.
My plan was a success.
Today was another blue-sky-and-sunshine day, so I invited Zippy for a hike up in the open space. It was blissfully quiet out on the trails.
Another good call on my part.
Me meandering ahead of Zippy. We’d just scared up a Red-tailed Hawk, some magpies, and a flicker that’d been hanging out in a tree together.
So now I’m moving beyond another year and another birthday, and looking forward to any-and-all good stuff up ahead.
Leon Russell went to the big piano bench in the sky last night. When Zippy told me the news, I felt deflated. But I didn’t realize how hard his death had hit me until I put on “A Song for You.” I couldn’t finish listening because the grief was too intense.
Leon Russell was a singer-songwriter who created music I was ALWAYS thrilled to hear whether it came on the radio, popped up on an iPod shuffle, or was background music in a shopping mall. I never wanted to tune him out. Leon Russell’s music made me smile, made me feel, and inspired me to sing along. His voice was unusual, his phrasing could trip me up, and his piano playing made me want to dance.
These two albums reside in my record cabinet. I don’t remember when I bought the Best Of, but have a very clear memory of buying Looking Back. I’d spent the day at the beach and was in the neighborhood supermarket in West Los Angeles when I passed a bin of deeply discounted albums. (I remembered this being a cut-out, but when I pulled it out of my cabinet just now, I was surprised to see there are no notches in the cardboard). This particular Leon Russell record was being sold for about $2, and I snatched it up. Any Leon Russell is great Leon Russell, right? He could sing the phone book and I’d listen.
Well, I got home and discovered that Looking Back was purely instrumental. Leon didn’t even sing! Not only that, Leon didn’t play the piano! On Looking Back, Leon played the harpsichord!
I have to admit I didn’t listen to that album a whole lot over the years (and I doubt any radio stations ever played cuts from it), but I’m still glad I bought it. That record represents an enduring memory from my time in LA. Also? It’s fun to think of Leon now playing in that super-band in the sky, shredding on his harpsichord while Leonard Cohen plays piano.
Thank you for all the music, Leon.
Rest in peace.
As has been documented here over the years, I’m a long-time Dylan fan, so wasn’t completely surprised when it was announced today that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Although, as I said in an email to a friend, I do wonder whether Bob should’ve been disqualified from consideration due to his Victoria’s Secret commercial years ago.)
Bob Dylan in November 1963 (Unknown [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)
Nonetheless, this year the committee chose to honor Bob Dylan’s work which, on a personal note, feels very fitting because Zebu is studying in Sweden right now. The award also feels fitting because of one Dylan song in particular that tragically never, ever goes out of style. For “Masters of War” alone, I’m good with Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Masters of War
Written by Bob Dylan
Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks
You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly
Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain
You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud
You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins
How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do
Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul
And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
’Til I’m sure that you’re dead
© 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music
Zebu and Wildebeest have been avid Spotify users for years, and now Zippy and I also have access to ALL THAT MUSIC.
It’s great to have a song pop in my head and then seconds later, I listen to it. It was years since I’d heard Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and then the other morning her voice gave me chills.
Spotify is also great for quickly checking out bands and musicians I read about in Rolling Stone, plus I discover new music while listening to other people’s playlists. Case in point, Earl St. Clair. Spotify = MORE MUSIC TO LOVE.
But the absolute greatest thing about Spotify is how it’s rejuvenated my hoop dancing. In the dark ages, I’d cobbled together a playlist of songs that were mostly good for dancing within my hoop. And while Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” and Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground” are kick-ass hoop dancing songs, I was bored.
Dancer Doris Humphrey (1895-1958) in her hoop many years ago.
I’m now the proverbal kid in the candy store. New songs every day to inspire my hoop dance. New favorites to sample again and again without fear of getting in a permanent rut.
So on this Thankful Thursday, I am grateful for:
all the incredible music that makes me want to dance,
and Spotify which makes it easy to do.
and I’m not sure what I have to show for it
besides this self-inflicted Lynyrd Skynrd earworm.
Okay, this is a stretch.
Coco isn’t a Ramones fan
and she doesn’t sing Blitzkrieg Bop.
This expression, as she stands at the door waiting to be let inside for dinner, just screams HEY! HO! LET’S GO!
Or maybe I’m projecting a punk attitude on her because I know how when that door opens she’ll run inside and her back legs will go out from under her as she negotiates the turn to her food dish. Pure mosh pit enthusiasm.
Last night’s concert with Shovels & Rope and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats filled me with joy and admiration. I’m not a musician nor have I ever played one on TV, but I felt a kinship with the people on the Red Rocks Amphitheatre stage.
Why? Because as I watched and listened to all those talented musicians, I understood on a gut level the work they’ve done. They’re creative people who have put in years and years to get where they’re at, and they’ve enjoyed glimpses of triumph and then been dragged down low. They’ve been discouraged yet kept going and when something wasn’t working, they tried something else. Every one of them took chances and eventually triumphed.
I want to be like those musicians when I grow up.
In a few minutes Zippy and I are headed here:
Red Rocks Amphitheatre
to listen to opening act Shovels & Rope:
and then headline act Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats:
We try to see one Red Rocks show each summer.
It’s always a treat.
I’m not 100% positive, but am pretty sure this bunny
enjoys hooping and/or funky hooping music.
This guy/gal sat outside my picture window this morning,
watching and listening as I hoop-danced to
Aretha’s “Rock Steady”
Stevie’s “Higher Ground”
Know what this means?
I’ve got a new hooping buddy who happens to be a bunny
which makes him/her my hooping bunny buddy.
Try saying that three times real fast.
Hooping bunny buddy
Hooping bunny buddy
Hooping bunny buddy
Today is gonna be hot.
Red Hot Poker hot.
These beauties grow next to my driveway after former neighbors committed one of their “drive by plantings.”
While I do admire the Red Hot Pokers’ fiery colors,
I find these Purple Coneflowers more soothing:
After taking those photos, I spent a fair amount of time
chasing bumblebees around the lavender with my camera.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get anything worth sharing.
The good news is that I always, always have bees in my yard
so I’ll have plenty of chances to capture one of those bumbly bees.
In the meanwhile, I’ll kick back to a little Sly & the Family Stone:
Stay cool, people.