"…By what stretch of arrogance do you think a life form that looks like you is more important than a life form that doesn’t?”Joel Salatin

Nothing is more beneficial to your wellbeing than to look for and acknowledge those parts of everyday life that you enjoy.

"If you are happy where you are now, why does it matter how painful it was to get there?" -- Abraham

"It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life." -- Bilbo Baggins a.k.a. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

"And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play in your hair." -- Kahill Gibran

“And forget not

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Music! Music! Music! Happy Birthday to my Humble Bumble!

The Lone Ranger -- the original version

I first fell in love with the symphonic sound when I was 4 years old and The Lone Ranger and Silver blazed across the television screen, to The William Tell Overture . This is a much livelier version of it from the recent movie, The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Dep as Tonto.  Crazy movie. You can hear the original tv version on the link under the picture above.

My son, Ronnie, and daughter, Deidre, both celebrate birthdays in February and share my love for music. We all, of course, go in different directions sometimes, but music has always been a joy for all of us. So, I'm taking a long trip down memory lane.  It is a tedious process finding links to the music that inspired me early on and that which inspires me now -- and to what Ronnie, Deidre, my mother, my sister and friends introduced me to along the way.   There are a lot of links to youtube (sorry about all the ads) in this post, but I hope you'll click on some and enjoy the ride.

All the words to a song often don't make sense to me.  Sometimes it's a guessing game as to what the songwriter intended to impart.  This, I believe, comes from the limitations in songwriting. Hit records are usually not over 4 minutes long, especially in the old days when this post begins. ;) Remember American Pie? The radio stations very seldom ever played the full version. So basically a writer has 4 minutes to say it all. The wisdom tucked in among the filler is usually what attracted me to a song.  And while I loved the liveliness of tunes like "Pop a Top Again", I soon got to the point where the beer drinking songs really grated on my nerves and I turned to music that had something more valuable to say. But that is a soapbox I will avoid for now.

In the early 1950's when we lived in Lubbock, my mother took us to a radio station because Jim Reeves was there.  Remember the scene in Coal Miner's Daughter when Loretta and Dew were running around to radio stations looking for announcers who would let her sing on the air? They really had to do that back then.  The Blizzard, in the Jim Reeves link came later but it was a favorite of mine and Mama's so I used it -- although I still cry every time I hear it.

I grew up with Country Music. I'm not sure it was because my mother was a Country Music fan as much as she just loved music. Hank Williams,  Jim Reeves, Lefty Frizzel and others were being played on the radio stations of that time. 

Me in second grade
When we lived in Wherry Housing at SAFB during the mid 50's, I bought my very first record,  a pop hit, The Green Door by Jim Lowe.  It was the only record I had to play and I'm sure my mother got sick of it because she very quickly encouraged me to spend my weekly allowance for more  records. The second record I bought was "Flying Purple People Eater." I bet that really drove her nuts -- but she wanted us to enjoy music so she tolerated our tastes.

Mama played the piano and most of my life she had one in our home.  Some of my fondest childhood memories are of Sunday morning fried pies and my mother playing "Bringing in the Sheaves". She also paid for us to take piano lessons. Although the piano is still my all time favorite instrument, I never got the hang of reading music and being able too locate the keys by touch. Didn't happen for me, but Peggy did quite well.  She has a key board now and says she's going to brush up on playing, so those who know her, tell her to get off Facebook and get at it.

In junior high I was re-introduced to classical music -- and to the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra.  Rhapsody in Blue was one of my favorites.  Although I never really got hooked on Mozart or Chopin or any of the other famous dead composers, I did get hooked on the symphonic sound.  All those instruments, in the hands of musicians who practice, practice practice -- and know what they are doing  -- not merely playing a song together, but their part in it -- at just the right time -- and perfectly pitched!  It is still simply amazing to me. And to think the composers of those pieces actually write the music for every instrument. Mind boggling to me.

Later, when I was in my teens I fell in love with the instrumental sounds of Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass, Whipped Cream and Other Delights This link gives you the entire album although I noticed the last song is not familiar to me, so this is not the original publication.   When I picked out my first stereo system in 1965, a Christmas gift from my mother, A Taste of Honey was playing. I had never heard anything quite like it.  I had to have the record, too.  I married Ronnie in 1966 and took my beloved stereo and my records with me. By then I had all of Jim Reeves albums, many of Elvis Presley's, Marty Robbins, and many others along with a slew of 45's.  When I was pregnant with my son, Ronnie, (Howie) I had the music going all day every day while Ronnie Sr. was at work.  After Howie was born, I kept the music going and I had it loud because Dr. Spock said if I'd do that the baby wouldn't be so easily awakened. And, besides that, when I'm listening to music I enjoy, I want to hear every word, every note, every drum beat.

That stereo system and all the records were destroyed when our house burned in 1969. Of everything we lost in that fire, I missed my stereo and records the most.  .

Around 1972, we bought a beautiful console stereo system with great speakers and I was in HOG HEAVEN, Honey!  Something was playing on it when we bought it and I had to have it too, but now I can't remember what it was.  I want to say it might have been Charlie Pride, but although I loved Charlie, I can't imagine that he would have had that "gotta have this record" effect on me. I remember Ronnie telling the salesman, "We'll take the record too."

My sister, Peggy and I  both joined Colombia Records' Record of the Month Club and I started my music collection all over again.

Some time in the 70's I parted ways with Country music for one reason: it was depressing to me.  It was mostly about lost loves, cheating on the spouse, getting drunk and women putting up with shit no woman should ever have to put up with, behavior that I didn't agree with and many other subjects I had problems "enjoying". There were a lot of good singers at the time and a lot of good songs during that time frame so I'm not saying I never listen to it, but I drifted toward milder subject matter and instrumentals -- for a while. 

Henry Mancini, famous for the theme from The Young and the Restless, and MANY others,  did a double number on me and Peggy when he produced the album "Mancini Salutes Sousa" in the early 1970's.  I couldn't find the whole album but here's Semper Fi Mama, Peggy and I had always loved parades because the Marching Band from Sheppard Air Force Base, The Band of the Oil Belt, was usually present. It is wonderful rousing music. Howie and DeeDee were at Peggy's one day playing with her son, Jack.  She had "Mancini Salutes Sousa" playing loud while she cleaned house.  She said she looked outside and all three kids were marching up and down her long porch. Listen here to Stars and Stripes Forever, also by Henry Mancini and his orchestra.

Charlie McCoy fascinated me with his harmonica talents. My mother also toyed with playing the harmonica -- for her own enjoyment mostly.  My nephew, Jack picked it up.  He actually played the "Wedding March" on it for one of his brides. Charlie McCoy could pamper  a few moments of depression with Shenandoah or get my heart to racing with his rendition of The Orange Blossom Special

When I wrote the scene in Come Hell or High Water where Revis is watching Amanda play the fiddle, she is playing the Orange Blossom Special.  Charlie McCoy's version of it, is what was in my mind, extremely fast and lively.

I fell in love with Frank Sinatra when he starred in "Von Ryan's Express".  Then  fell in love with his voice and his music.  No one sings "My Way" any better than Frank, including Elvis. There's not one thing wrong with Elvis' version.  I just like Frank.  Frank's song "Cycles" which came out in the early 70's, I believe, had special meaning for me. I heard it on the radio for the first time shortly after our house burned. Since it was not one of his major hits, it was several years before I found it on an album. When he said, "Life keeps running in cycles, first there's laughter, then those tears," chill bumps went all over me.  It was one of those moments when I realized there has to be more. At the end he says, "Ya know, it's almost funny but things can't get worse than now, so I'll just keep on trying to sing, but please just don't ask me now." To me, he was saying that regardless of how bad things are, we pick ourself up and move on. To top it all off, this song has the most beautiful piano playing with violins.  I would love an instrumental version of this. Found it on youtube! But it isn't as emotional as that behind Frank.

Also in the mid 70's Olivia Newton John recorded, "Have You Never Been Mellow". In this song, she implies the value in taking the path of least resistance, taking time to "kick your shoes off, close your eyes," In other words slow down and enjoy life. This had a major impact on me.  It was when I started seeing the value in listening to others, in keeping my opinion to myself when I knew voicing it would cause a pointless uproar. It was the beginning of "pick your battles" for me.

Later in the 70's I fell in love with movie sound tracks.  The first movie sound track I bought was Once Upon A Time in the West by Ennio Morricone

Once Upon a Time in the West is, in my opinion, the best Western ever made -- bar none. It is a stark, sad tale of hardship and greed with a hauntingly beautiful musical score. There isn't one note in that movie that does not appropriately lend itself to the mood of the scene for which it was written.  It is a masterpiece. All the way through the movie, the "Death Rattle" that Charles Bronson's character plays on the harmonica warns the viewer of impending doom.  Music can lift you up or take you down. This album does both. The music from that movie aided one of the deepest depressions I've ever experienced via A Dimly Lit Room Thank goodness I finally realized that the music wasn't helping and turned it off.  It is still an outstanding piece of music.

Now I have MANY soundtracks --  Somewhere in Time, Out of Africa, Raise the Titanic, Medicine Man, Starman, Witness, to name a few. It is beyond my understanding why whoever picks out the music for the Wichita Falls Symphony never honors the new Master Composers like Ennio Morricone, John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith and many others. They are equal to any of the Old Masters.  In my opinion, if the Wichita Falls Symphony would play recent movie themes, at least interspersed with the old dead guys, they would see a rise in the attendance of young people.  But as long as they continue to try to force the old dead guys on the young people, in a power struggle to  keep those old dead guys alive, the majority of those youngsters will stay away. What a loss -- for both.  I haven't heard anything more awesome than the Wichita Falls Community Orchestra launching full volume into The Game of Thrones and Phantom of the Opera.

Alright, I'll get down off my band wagon.

Both Sides Now by Judy Collins also came out in the 70's.  The words, 'Tears and fears and feeling proud to say I love you right out loud", caught my attention because there is always so much secrecy and even denial, and a sense even of being forbidden surrounding love and who loves who and is it right? Is it a sin because you're committed to someone else? I didn't understand it then, I don't understand it now. As my friend Lanore Dixon says, "Love is LOVE and there is NEVER anything wrong with it."

"Feeling proud to say I love you right out loud!" What a concept for the '70's!

And then came -- John Denver -- 

my favorite singer of all time. John's music spoke to me in a way no other ever had. His song "Spring" was later altered and renamed Summer. The link to Summer shows a great slideshow of John.

In both these songs, he says, "rejoicing in the differences, there's no one just like me, yet as different as we are, we're still the same."

I felt that statement into the deepest core of my being. 

Spring -- by John Denver

Open up your eyes and see the brand new day,
The clear blue sky and brightly shining sun
Open up your ears and hear the breezes say
Everything that's cold and gray is gone

Open up your hands and feel the rain come on down
Taste the wind and smell the flowers' sweet perfume
Open up your mind and let the light shine in
The Earth has been reborn and life goes on.

Do you care what's happening around you?
Do your senses know the changes when they come?
Do you see yourself reflected in the season?
Do you understand the need to carry on?

Writing on the tapestry of all there is to see
So many ways to know so many things
Rejoicing in the differences, there's no one just like me
Yet as different as we are, we're still the same

Oh I love the life within me
I feel a part of everything I see
Oh I love the life around me 
A part of everything is here in me
A part of everything is here in me.

A friend/fellow writer said, "I can't stand John Denver."

"Why?" I asked.

"He hoarded oil."

I don't know anything about that and I don't care. Nobody's perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.

I just know the man's music moved me in very profound, life changing ways.

Where I grew up listening to my mama's favorites, my kids grew up with John Denver. And for you Denver fans, The final performance this season of the Wichita Falls Symphony Orchestra  will be a "Tribute to John Denver", so get your tickets! I expect it to be AWESOME! 

When my son, Ronnie, was in second grade, we gave him and Deidre a record player for Christmas for the purpose of playing Disney Story Book records. "Turn the page when Tinkerbell rings her little bell -- like this!"

Little did I know, a whole new world was fixing to open for both of us.  The first record Ronnie, (better known then as Howie) bought himself was Disco Duck, by Rick Dees , Hot
Line by the Sylvers, then, Car Wash by Rose Royce. He spent all his allowance on music after that. He and I spent many hours in the record section of Treasure City and Woolsworth. Treasure City actually had a section of sheet music for musicians. It was in this section I found the words to the popular songs by Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilo, Rod Stewart and just about any song I couldn't quite make out some of the words

Diana Ross put out two songs that made me question my life and my happiness. The theme from the movie, Mahogany, asks the question, "Do you know where you're going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you?" I didn't really have an answer because I was still figuring out how to deal with the "Cycles" that Frank Sinatra had pointed out a few years before. But because of  that song, I started wondering what my own answers were.

Then came,  It's My Turn. I felt like this song was written to inspire me to come out of the closet with my writing. My kids were growing up. There was no reason to deny myself any longer the joy that writing brings me. I bought an electric typewriter and the rest of that story is history.

DJ Ronnie Bruno

Deidre, my right hand man -- well -- woman

In the late1980's, Ronnie started on his path to becoming a club dj in Dallas  -- and he took me, Deidre -- even his dad to a certain extent -- with him. I didn't know such a thing existed. But he bought turn tables to "mix" and we entered a new age of music -- dance music -- disco -- electronic -- at 80 -120 beats per minute! Awesome sounds, awesome feelings, wonderful memories -- all wrapped up in the music! 

To be continued.