The Test of Time

hourglassAugust 19, 2016 – This month marks the 77th anniversary of the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” As a fan of old movies, it is one of my favorites. I can quote from it and sing along with its upbeat tunes as if I were performing it myself.

A true classic appeals to all generations. Here are a few other entertainment vehicles stands the test of time.

Movies:
There is abundant of movies to choose from, but the first two that pop into my mind is “Casablanca” and  “Citizen Kane”, although the latter isn’t one of my favorites. And, of course, “The Wizard of Oz”. Honorable mention goes out to anything by Alfred Hitchcock, and to the wonderful family movies made in the 1960s, such as “The Sound of Music”, “Mary Poppins”, and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, to name a few. My own personal favorite, “So I Married an Ax Murderer”, makes me stop flipping through the channels immediately.

Television Shows:
Classic TV shows are readily available to new generations now that so many cable channels broadcast them. However, classic and stand the test of time do not always go hand in hand. “Seinfeld”, for example, is relatively new, but it can stand against any classic now and probably in years to come. Others include “Bewitched”,  my personal fave from childhood, “MASH”, “Cheers” and “I Love Lucy”. They are examples from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. I’m not sure any television show beyond that (at least so far) qualifies.

Singers/Bands:
How about Frank Sinatra, or anyone in the Rat Pack to start? They are still wildly popular today. You could also include The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who and Bob Dylan in the mix because all of their music still has a strong audience, even though many of the songs were recorded 50 years ago. I wonder how many people will listen to Kanye West or Justin Bieber in 50 years. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say not many.

Songs:
Funny how Led Zeplin didn’t cross my mind as a band, but their song “Stairway to Heaven” certainly makes the cut for songs that stand the test of time. At least it continuously makes top five of every classic rock list. “Hey Jude”, “Let it Be” or anything by the Beatles is also a qualifier, and it’s the same for any hits by the Stones or The Who. Let’s reach back a little further and consider those romantic ditties from crooners past, such as “The Way You Look Tonight” or “Fly Me to the Moon”? They are still making present generations swoon. Or,  how about the most popular song ever—“Happy Birthday”?

Books:
This is probably the easiest category because schools will always push the classics on students, although they probably won’t really appreciate them until they are adults. So, what books stand out? How about “The Catcher in the Rye”, “Jane Eyre”, “Pride and Prejudice”, “Anna Karenina”, and “The Bell Jar”, to name a few? I would be remiss not to mention Judy Blume because I know that young girls in the future will still likely be captivated with “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?”. And something tells me the Harry Potter books will stick around for a long time, too.

I could add more, but this post might end up as long as a Marcel Proust novel, and I’ve been working on knowing my limits.

 

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Happy birthday, Carly!

carly-simon_7June 24, 2016 — Carly Simon, an icon in the music industry over the past 50 years turns 71 tomorrow.

I’ve listened to this great singer/songwriter all of my life. Simon’s lyrics make me feel more emotion than any other female in the industry–although Joni Mitchell is a close second–and her music never grows old.

Through the years, I’ve read several books about her life, including her own Boys in the Trees, and I always learn something new and fascinating. But she wisely says that if you want to know anything about me, just listen to my lyrics.

In honor of her birthday, here is a blog I wrote five years ago to commemorate the same occasion. It contains eight of Simon’s song titles in the content. Can you find them?

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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 who rose to fame during the 1970s is 66 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 was married to singer/songwriter James Taylor, suffers from severe stage fright and rarely tours. 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 recently toured with her two children, Sally and Ben. 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.

Songs for your dad and mine

maxresdefaultJune 17, 2016 – This Sunday, we celebrate Father’s Day. To honor that special man, here are my top five favorite songs about dads. They’re dedicated to my father, to all of the other wonderful fathers celebrating, and to those fathers who left us too soon.

Leader of the Band
Recorded on the double-album, “The Innocent Age”, Dan Fogelberg wrote and sang this song to his father in 1981. The song reminds me of my grandfather, but he was my dad’s dad, so it’s still appropriate.

Father and Son
Cat Stevens recorded “Father and Son” on “Teal for the Tillerman” in 1970. He originally wrote the song as part of a musical project set during the Russian Revolution. In the exchange between father and son, a boy wants to join the revolution against the wishes of his father.

Father and Daughter – Paul Simon
Paul Simon always says it right. He wrote this song for the animated “The Wild Thornberrys Movie” in 2001. It was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Original Song.

Oh My Papa
This is one of my dad’s favorites; he used to sing it to his dad at every family party. It was recorded by Eddie Fisher in 1954. Originally titled “O Mein Papa” from 1939, it was a German song sung by a young woman remembering her once-famous clown father.

Daddy’s Little Girl
A classic written in 1906 and recorded by a number of artists in the 1950s, including Al Martino. My dad used to sing this to my sisters and me. It was commonly played while fathers danced with their daughters at weddings. Sadly, it’s a tradition that didn’t continue. I can’t remember the last time I attended a wedding that played the classic.

Happy Father’s Day!

The day the music died

thDecember 16, 2015 – It was eight years ago today, on a cold Sunday morning in Maine, that one of my favorite singer/songwriters passed away.

I wasn’t born yet that original “day the music died” in February 1959 when Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper perished in the plane crash. For me those sad American Pie moments came when John Lennon and George Harrison passed, and most recently on December 16, 1997, when Dan Fogelberg left us.

And yes, all of those moments made me shiver. (How ironic that today is also the 44th anniversary of the single “American Pie”. Don McLean released the song on December 16, 1971.)

Fogelberg hit the music scene in Nashville in 1972 with the classic album “Home Free.” He went on to record 22 albums in all, and reached the Top 10 Billboard Charts with hits like “Longer”, “Leader of the Band”, “Hard to Say”, “Run for the Roses”, and  “Same Old Lang Syne”. While these are great songs, many of his best and my personal favorites were the deeper cuts on his albums.

His fans keep his legacy alive by listening to his wonderful music, and the Fogelberg Foundation of Peoria, the city in Illinois where he was born, also honors the memory of their native son with this tribute. There’s also a campaign on Facebook to get Dan inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

There are many of us “Fogelheads” who miss you, Dan, and we’re glad your music lives on.

Happy Birthday John

112308+John+Lennon+P11October 9, 2015 — John Lennon would have been 75 today.

I’ll never forget waking up on December 9, 1980 and learning that he’d been shot and killed the night before at the age of 40. I’ll also never forget meeting him as an 11 year old girl obsessed with the Beatles when he appeared on the Mike Douglas Show in Philadelphia. He was nice to me, taking the time to chat and giving me his autograph.

To commemorate the occasion, a Philadelphia radio station, WXPN, will celebrate John’s life and his music with local musicians Jim Boggia, Ben Arnold, Kevin Hanson and others during a free concert performance at World Café Live at noon. If you can’t be there to enjoy the show in person, the next best thing is to listen live by streaming it on www.xpn.org.

The best non-traditional Christmas songs

downloadDecember 3, 2011 – Let’s keep music the theme going this week because it’s time to turn on the radio and hear Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer for the umpteenth time.

It’s not that I dislike Rudolph or any other traditional Christmas music, but there is a lot of interesting, non-traditional music that goes unnoticed unless you happen to own the CD and discovered it for yourself.

You probably won’t hear these non-traditional songs on the radio. The stations play the same songs over and over again, most likely because they have a limited selection available, and many people enjoy sticking with tradition. That’s why I opt to create my own playlists of holiday tunes to create a wonderful mix of the traditional and non-traditional.

I realize that putting an original song on a holiday CD isn’t always welcome, but there are singers who do it well. Some do it so well, in fact, that their original song becomes a tradition. The best example of that may be John Lennon’s Happy Christmas, War is Over. It’s covered plenty.

Here are 10 fine songs (in no particular order) that follow the same tradition:

Christmas Passing Through – The Roches
Love this little ditty so much; the harmonies are rich and it just makes me smile. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this on YouTube, so you’ll have to click through a few screens to listen, but it’s worth it.

Christmas on the Block – Alan Mann
If you don’t get that special warm feeling listening to this song – about a blind family in Upper Darby, Pa., who decorate their house with Christmas lights to the extreme for those with sight to enjoy – you may not have a soul.

The Night Before Christmas – Carly Simon
It’s joyful, it’s uplifting, and now it’s tradition.

Father Christmas — the Kinks
It’s not a warm, fuzzy Christmas you want. It’s not joyful in anyway. But it tells an interesting story for sure.

It’s Christmas Time – Dan Fogelberg
I once read that Dan wanted to record a Christmas song in the spirit of Carol of the Bells where it sounded like the voices were singing in rounds. He succeeded with this bright tune.

Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song) – Amy Grant
This song is beautifully hypnotic, and always puts things back into perspective.

I Believe in Father Christmas – Emerson Lake and Palmer
Listening to this takes me back to the day, all right. It’s so good you can listen to it year round.

My Christmas Card to You — The Partridge Family
Here’s my guilty pleasure of the playlist. I’m almost embarrassed, but it’s really fun to listen to.

Christmas at the Zoo – The Flaming Lips
Weird, it’s true, but I do love the lyrics to this gem.

Merry Christmas, War is Over – John Lennon
Sure, I’ve mentioned this already, but I still have to mention it in the list because I love it. Much better than McCartney’s sappy tune!

 

Enjoy!

Christmas songs that have nothing to do with Christmas

ptree1December 1, 2014 — Now that Thanksgiving is over and December is here, ’tis the season to crank up the Christmas tunes.

It’s also time to wonder why certain songs are played at Christmas that have nothing to do with the holiday, like the ones below:

Same Old Lang Syne – Dan Fogelberg
Singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg weaves a touching story in a song that isn’t about the spirit of Christmas, but rather the chance meeting that occurs on Christmas Eve. While home for the holidays, he runs into an old girlfriend at the grocery store. They talk about their unfulfilled dreams and mundane lives, and it turns sadder when they say goodbye as the snow turns into rain, a gut-wrenching last line that’s enough to make anyone cry. The song touches us because we can all relate to it in some way. However, it doesn’t make you want to deck the halls with boughs of holly.

River – Joni Mitchell
In “River”, Joni Mitchell shares another love story gone wrong. Sad stuff, but why do many artists cover it on their Christmas albums? Sure, it’s a great song, and the first line indicates, “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cutting down trees,” but that’s it. Mitchell wishes she had a river to skate away on in this song, to escape the sadness that has set in since she screwed things up with her lover. Sad situations occur year round unfortunately, but they are not typically the subject of the jolly Christmas tunes. I also read an interview where Joni recently stated she despises when folks sing the song with a smile on their face.

It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way – Jim Croce
“Snowy nights and Christmas lights, icy window panes, make me wish that we could be together again.” Are you starting to see a pattern here? Jim Croce’s sad little ballad is the third love gone wrong song on this list. Believing this is a Christmas tune is like believing “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie because it takes place on Christmas Eve. I suppose the Christmas season at times magnifies what is missing in your life, but let’s wait until January to obsess about heart-break. Christmas songs should be about joy and peace.

My Favorite Things – Various Artists
This song, from “The Sound of Music” is nice enough, but doesn’t remotely relate to Christmas, or even occur during the season like those above. If Christmas is one of the songwriter’s favorite things, he doesn’t mention it. Warm woolen mittens and brown paper packages tied up with string could be considered Christmassy if you stretch it, but it is not a holiday song, no matter how many artists record it on their Christmas albums. Julie Andrews, who is most associated with this song, didn’t include it on her Christmas recording. She knew better.

Any song about the cold weather  – Various Artists
“Frosty the Snowman”, “Let it Snow”, “Winter Wonderland”, “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, and even “Jingle Bells” may be associated with  Christmas and played throughout the season, but they have more to do with cold weather and snow than the holiday. In the Northern Hemisphere it makes sense. We associate cold and snowy weather with Christmas because it is cold and snowy in December. What about the folks in the Southern Hemisphere? Many celebrate Christmas in these countries, where it’s summer in December. Makes you wonder if they include “Catch a Wave” or “Surfer Girl” in their Christmas song repertoire.