Leon Russell, RIP

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.

leon-russell-albums

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.

 

 

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Freewheelin’ Bob nabs the Nobel

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)

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

Copyright
© 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

A Thought on a Friday

“Life has got a habit of not standing hitched.  You got to ride it like you find it.
You got to change with it.
If a day goes by that don’t change some of your old notions for new ones,
that is just about like trying to milk a dead cow.”
—-Woody Guthrie

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend
filled with new notions
and maybe
a wild ride or two.

If you need a weekend soundtrack, this is a great one.

 

Random Notes

Last night Zippy and I, the temporarily childless couple, went to the Denver Botanic Gardens to hear Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson play.  The evening was perfect.  Dinner and a bottle of wine on the lawn as we listened to two extremely gifted songwriters pour out their hearts.  I laughed and I cried.  Loudon was coerced into performing The Acid Song (oh happy day!) and Richard sang Walking On a Wire (a song he wrote when he and his former wife/singing partner, Linda Thompson, were splitting up; Linda sang it on their album so I’ve never heard him sing it).  Wow.

Earlier in the week, R’s nurse and I were discussing the frustrations of trying to get R to drink some stuff he needed to drink before having a procedure he’d agreed to have done.  R was in rare form and had dug in his heels.  Big time.  He complained about what he couldn’t do and complained about what he wanted to do but refused to take any action that would alleviate his complaints.  It was infuriating.  The nurse told me she’d worked with him on a previous hospital stay and that R kind of cracked her up.  I told her she had a great attitude but that his contrariness was making me want to bang my head against a wall.  She said, “Don’t do that.  Then you’ll have a headache AND a pain in the ass.”  That really made me laugh (I was tired!) and I felt so much better.  Nurses are the best.

I’ve been disciplined about my writing goals this week and hit my word count five days in a row!  I’m realizing how important it is for me to establish a routine and stick to it.  And yes, I’ve had this realization before and then lost sight of it along the way so I’ll probably be back here in another few months saying, “You know?  It’s really helpful when I set a word count goal and then hold myself accountable to it each and every day!”  Feel free to laugh when that happens.

My other cool writing-related development is that I have a new technique for handling my inner critic.  Lately I’ve really been plagued with negative thinking whispered in my ear by that horrid inner creature.  I guess William Faulkner’s off drinking or having sex or something because he’s not doing a very good job watching my back right now.  But that’s okay because I now have an actual voice to put to that inner critic.  And that voice is………………R’s voice!  That’s right, folks.  Whatever nastiness starts echoing in my head (You know, Tracy, this isn’t very good.  No one’s going to want to read this.), I repeat aloud in R’s rasping whisper.  And then I laugh!  And keep writing!  I totally recommend this method for thwarting your critic.  Not everyone is as fortunate as me in having a near-constant negative person in my life who complains about everything in a very unique voice (his vocal chords were damaged years ago) but I’m sure you could use your father-in-law’s voice or that nosy neighbor’s or the twit at the bank the other day.  Try it, you’ll like it!

Wishing everyone a glorious weekend.

 

Making Every Word Count

Last  night as I listened to this, one of my favorite Billy Bragg songs, it occurred to me the song’s like a mini-YA.  Everything you need for a satisfying story, right here.  In just 267 words.

THE SATURDAY BOY By Billy Bragg

I’ll never forget the first day I met her
That September morning was clear and fresh
The way she spoke and laughed at my jokes
And the way she rubbed herself against the edge of my desk

She became a magic mystery to me
And we’d sit together in double History twice a week
And some days we’d walk the same way home
And it’s surprising how quick a little rain can clear the streets

We dreamed of her and compared our dreams
But that was all that I ever tasted
She lied to me with her body you see
And I lied to myself ’bout the chances I’d wasted

The times we were close were far and few between
In the darkness at the dances in the school canteen
Did she close her eyes like I did as we held each other tight
And la la la la la means I love you

She danced with me and I still hold that memory soft and sweet
And I stare up at her window as I walk down her street
But I never made the first team, I just made the first team laugh
And she never came to the phone, she was always in the bath

In the end it took me a dictionary
To find out the meaning of unrequited
While she was giving herself for free
At a party to which I was never invited

I never understood my failings then
And I hide my humble hopes now
Thinking back she made us want her
A girl not old enough to shave her legs

** This video ends before the song’s finished but it’s the best quality version I could find on YouTube.  Just a taste….