Another Fall in Philadelphia

Not that I consider it a bad thing. Like most Philadelphians, I love my city and its sports teams, no matter how bad our reputation might be. Sure, we have our share of issues like any other major metropolitan city in the country, but sports myths around here are so blown out of proportion, so I decided I’ll wear my Philly roots proudly.

Fall in Philadelphia is lovely, no matter how depressing Daryl Hall says the song really is. Here you’ll find some of the most beautiful foliage found in any urban area, especially along Kelly Drive and Boat House Row where the river sparkles in the sunshine and the days are filled with tourists and residents alike strolling, biking, rowing or jogging along the path by the Schuylkill River.

The fall colors also make a trip to Old City worthwhile, and this fall, Philadelphia’s Independence Visitor Center, located on one of the most historic square miles in our country, will undoubtedly help plenty of visitors. The Visitor Center is one of the busiest in the country, welcoming more than 20 million tourists over the last decade, which is double the number that was originally expected when the center was first built.

There’s plenty to do in Philadelphia, and there’s no better time of year to take a stroll through history than in the fall when the weather is usually perfect.

I say count your blessings if you get to spend another fall in Philadelphia.

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10 quotable lines from 10 great songs

music-notes3-e1567985530545.jpgSeptember 8, 2019 – As someone who enjoys a top 10 list, here some pretty awesome song lyrics that can stand alone as inspirational quotes. Can you guess what songs they are from?

10. “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” — John Lennon

9. “Watch out, you may get what you’re after.” — David Byrne

8. “Laughing and crying, it’s the same release.” — Joni Mitchell

7. “It’s five o’clock somewhere.” — Jimmy Buffett

6. “I’ve seen the bottom, and I’ve been on top, but mostly I’ve lived in between.” — Dan Fogelberg

5. “I am I said, to no one there, and no one heard at all, not even the chair.” — Neil Diamond

4. “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls.” — Simon and Garfunkel

3. “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” –– Bob Marley

2. “I wish that for just one time you could be inside my shoes; then you’d know what a drag it is to see you.” — Bob Dylan

1. “Carve your number on my wall and maybe you will get a call from me.” — The Beatles (George Harrison)

The meaning behind, 2

MN0103084July 26, 2019 — The Weight (The Band)

The Weight is my favorite song from The Band, the musicians who backed up Bob Dylan after the folk singer went electric in 1965. The song was recorded in 1968, appearing on the first album they recorded as a solo act. After 51 years, it’s still played on radio stations and other music streaming sources.

Two of my favorite performances of the song came from The Last Waltz, the Martin Scorsese film that documented The Band’s farewell tour when they performed the song with the Staple Singers in 1976, and from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon when Jimmy sang it with the Muppets in 2014. I had the opportunity to see the song performed live during one of Ring Starr’s All-Star Band performances when The Band’s Levin Helm joined Ring on tour.

The lyrics seemed biblical to me. Consider, “I pulled into Nazareth…” where the man can’t find a bed or a place to lay his head. Add the devil, Moses and even the mention of judgment day and there you’ll notice the religious significance.

One could also assume that “the weight” is a burden lifted from someone, as the lyrics suggest, “Take the load off Fanny … and you put the load right on me.” Not only that, what about those madcap characters, including Crazy Chester, young Anna Lee and Carmen, who walked side-by-side with the devil? What were they all about?

Turns out the Nazareth in the song isn’t the biblical town mentioned in the bible, but actually Nazareth, Pa., a town north of Philadelphia. The Band was on the road, pulled into Nazareth literally looking for a place to stay and couldn’t find a vacancy. The characters mentioned in the song were based on real people The Band members knew. Luke, the man waiting for the judgment day, was a guitarist in one of the member’s former bands, young Anna Lee was one of The Band member’s old friend from Turkey Scratch and Crazy Chester, was a resident of Fayetteville known for carrying a cap gun. Fayetteville and Turkey Scratch are both towns in Arkansas, the former of which is Levin Helm’s hometown.

According to songwriter Robbie Robertson, the song does have somewhat of religious meaning, but not to the extent I imagined. “It’s about the impossibility of sainthood,” he said. “I took my inspiration less from the bible than from Luis Buñuel, a Spanish filmmaker and master of surrealism who, for half of a century, poked fun at the hypocrisies of religion, patriarchy and middle-class culture.”

The title, The Weight, according to Robertson, explores a similar theme. “Someone says, listen, would you do me this favor?” he said. “When you get there, will you say ‘hello’ to somebody or will you give somebody this or will you pick up one of these for me? … So the guy goes and one thing leads to another and it’s like ‘Holy shit, what’s this turned into? I’ve only come here to say ‘hello’ for somebody and I’ve got myself in this incredible predicament.’”

There is also a bit of drama surrounding the song. While Robertson is the credited writer, Helm, who sang the song, insisted that the composition of lyrics and music was collaborative, declaring that each band member contributed significantly to it.

The Weight
I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling ’bout half past dead
I just need some place where I can lay my head
Hey, mister, can you tell me, where a man might find a bed?
He just grinned and shook my hand, “No” was all he said.

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

I picked up my bags, I went looking for a place to hide
When I saw old Carmen and the Devil, walking side by side
I said, “Hey, Carmen, c’mon, let’s go downtown”
She said, “I got to go, but my friend can stick around”

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

Go down, Miss Moses, isn’t nothing’ you can say
It’s just old Luke, and Luke’s waiting on the judgment day
Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee
He said, “Do me a favor, son, won’t you stay and keep Anna Lee company”

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

Crazy Chester followed me, and he caught me in the fog
Said, “I will fix your rag, if you’ll take Jack, my dog”
I said, “Wait a minute Chester, you know, I’m a peaceful man”
He said, “That’s okay, boy, won’t you feed him when you can”

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

Catch the cannonball, now to take me down the line
My bag is sinking low, and I do believe it’s time
To get back to Miss Fanny, you know she’s the only one
Who sent me here, with her regards for everyone

Take a load off Fanny, take a load for free
Take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me

(Sources: https://www.shmoop.com/the-band-the-weight/meaning.html)

The meaning behind

39272-adad2a9b76feaae9fb70dabc68d7b62c.jpgJuly 19, 2019 — My good friend could tell you a story about driving with me one stormy night in a worn-out car that couldn’t handle the windshield wipers and the radio on at the same time. Something had to go, and to her horror, I turned off the wipers.

Does that indicate the impact music has on me? I think so. I love how it brings out my emotions, takes me back in time to good and not so good memories and makes me tap my foot, shake my shoulders, dance, cry—or all of the above.

As a writer, it may not be surprising that lyrics are equally important to me. However, it is surprising how wrong I can be when I interpret the message behind the lyrics. In this series, I’ll highlight “the meaning behind” what the songwriter wanted to declare when he or she put pen to paper.

Norwegian Wood (The Beatles)

Norwegian Wood is one of my favorite Beatles’ songs, and it appears on one of my favorite Beatles’ albums, Rubber Soul. The John Lennon ballad was a huge milestone for the band, taking them from the pop sound of the early sixties to the first song to feature George on the sitar, which led the way to an entirely different sound.

To me, the song was about a man who met a woman (maybe at a bar), and after she decided not to sleep with him when they got back to her house, he slept in the bathtub. The next morning, she was gone, so he lit a fire to keep warm. Or, possibly he fired up a joint to ponder the events of the night before. Naïve, yes, but the music and the lyrics were so beautiful, and although you could detect frustration in the lyrics, how could it mean anything else?

Several years ago, my cousin told me he actually burned down the house at the end of the song. I didn’t want to believe that, but she reminded me of Lennon’s sarcastic wit, and after I did a bit of research, it turns out she was right.

The song was inspired by an extramarital affair Lennon had and the lyrics did mean that he burned down the house out of revenge. John and Paul both agreed it was a quirky song, sort of like an Irish folk song. And while the song and music belonged to John, Paul claims that he lyrically had the idea to burn down the house and takes some of the credit. Why does that last part surprise me?

After Norwegian Wood introduced pop music to the sitar, the rest of the world seemed to latch on to the craze, equating it with “flower power” and “free love” and the rest is history.

Norwegian Wood
I once had a girl

Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?
She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair
I sat on a rug biding my time
drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”
She told me she worked
in the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
and crawled off to sleep in the bath
And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

(Sources: http://www.thebeatlesbible.com and http://www.beatlesbooks.com)

Happy Birthday, Carly Simon

carlyJune 25, 2018 – It’s no secret that I adore Carly Simon. She’s my favorite female singer/songwriter of all time. In fact, nobody does it better than she does.

The Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe winner turns 73 today. A legend in her own time, she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994.

The biggest success of her career was the classic “You’re So Vain”, which prompted rumors worldwide as fans speculated who she was singing about when she crooned, “I bet you think this song is about you.” Likely suspects include Mick Jagger, Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson and Cat Stevens. Recent speculation, however, claims that it’s actually music and movie mogul David Geffen.

Simon, who suffers from severe stage and rarely toured during her hey day. I was lucky enough to see her twice, once in the late 1970s and once in the late 1980s. With much anticipation I waited for her to announce new tour dates for venues in my neighborhood when she toured with her two children, Sally and Ben in the early 2000s. Alas, they didn’t come my way.

If you’re not familiar with Simon’s music, especially the wonderful deeper cuts on her albums, give her half a chance. You won’t be disappointed.

So join me in wishing Carly a Happy Birthday. It’s the right thing to do.

Ok, I may have overdid it with weaving in the song titles. Can you spot how many I mentioned? There’s at least one in every paragraph.

My favorite video of Carly on ; the harmonies are beautiful…

 

Christmas on the Block

December 18, 2017 – Nothing says it’s Christmastime like Alan Mann’s Christmas on the Block.

If you’re a Philadelphian who listened to WMMR in the 1980’s, you’re probably familiar with this song and love it as much as I do. If not, listen to it below and I dare you to not become enchanted.

Alan Mann was a local singer/songwriter who played clubs in Philly during era of The Hooters and Robert Hazard. Sadly he died in 1987 after jumping out of his South Street apartment window to escape a fire inside the building. His legacy, a touching tribute to a Philadelphia home for the blind in the Overbrook section that decorated their house with Christmas lights for their neighbors, thankfully lives on.

Legend has it that it was the first music video from an independent artist to be shown on MTV, and we have Yoko Ono to thank for that. She heard the song and loved it, believing it sounded like something John Lennon would’ve written.

Merry Christmas!

Music and Film: Perfect Together

Joni Mitchell and Neil Young performing in The Last Waltz

April 3, 2017 – What do you get when you combine music and film?

Aside from two of my favorite things – or a great soundtrack – if you’re a Philadelphia area resident, you get the WXPN Music Film Festival.

WXPN is a public radio station operated by the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, which broadcasts adult alternative music, and may be best known for its World Café music programs. This year’s festival, which ran from March 31 through April 2 at the Prince Theater, celebrated the 25th anniversaries of both the World Café music radio program and the Philadelphia Film Festival. It featured classic concert films as Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense and The Band’s The Last Waltz. It also featured movies about music, like High Fidelity, Singles and Almost Famous.

I attended the viewing of The Last Waltz on Saturday night, and although I’ve seen it several times, the experience of watching it on the big screen, and at the loud volume it was meant to be shown, made the great concert film even better. Martin Scorsese directed the film, which chronicles The Band’s farewell performance in 1976, and features guest appearances by Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and several other notable artists.

The WXPN Music Festival and Philadelphia Film Festival are perfect ways to celebrate the spring and the fall each year. The Music Film Festival takes place each March/April, and the Philadelphia Film Festival in September/October.