What she did, what she did, and I thank you

images-7I can’t think of a better time than Thanksgiving Day to express my gratitude, so this weekly blog comes to you a day early this holiday week. You can never have enough gratitude and, since this is a music blog, I’d like to point out how continually amazed I am at the central role music has played in all my many blessings:

I’m thankful that I had parents who were great role models who showed me the importance of close family ties.  They instilled in me a deep appreciation for great music — big band music, swing, Broadway musical tunes, classical pieces, traditional torch songs, seasonal carols.  And they strongly encouraged piano/guitar lessons and all my musical pursuits.  (Cue up:  “The Things We’ve Handed Down,” Marc Cohn, 1993)

I’m thankful to have met and married the most wonderful, compassionate, talented, attractive woman in the world, who, for 35 years and counting, has been my best friend, my anchor, my partner in parenting and, not coincidentally, my companion at countless rock concerts, and my groupie when I pull out the guitar!  (Cue up:  “My Girl,” The Temptations, 1965)

I’m thankful I was blessed with the chance to be a doting father to two amazing, smart, resourceful, beautiful daughters.  Nothing warms my heart more than having watched them grow from toddlers into strong young ladies who fill me with love and pride every single day.  They can both sing way better than I can, and I like to think I’m a big reason why music is a huge part of their lives.  (Cue up:  “Fathers and Daughters,” Paul Simon, 2006)

I’m thankful that, while I’m not a religious man, I have come to increasingly appreciate the strength and hope I am getting from my recent spiritual explorations.  I have always enjoyed the rich strains of choral music and hymns heard in places of worship, and now I’m paying a little more attention to the underlying inspirational messages.  (Cue up:  “Presence of the Lord,” Blind Faith, 1969)

I’m thankful that, despite heart issues, hip replacements, ever-increasing aches and pains and other annoying medical concerns, I’m in reasonably good health for a 62-year-old.  As the saying goes, “If we have our health, we have a great deal.”  And by the way, music soothes the body, the mind, and the soul…  (Cue up:  “I Feel Good,” James Brown, 1965)

I’m thankful for this incredibly beautiful country, and world, we live in. Although the human race has despoiled far too much of it with our selfish and negligent ways, there are countless places where the scenic beauty can literally take your breath away.  If we would all work a little harder to be respectful of the environment, we might have many more centuries left to enjoy it.  (Cue up:  “Share the Land,” The Guess Who, 1970)

I’m thankful how lucky I am to have had such warm, funny, supportive friends, both old and new, through my life.  They bring me joy in so many ways, helping me celebrate and grieve as the situations warrant, but especially when we sing around bonfires, when we volley music/lyric trivia questions back and forth, and when we dance the night away to the oldies. Nothing better.    (Cue up:  “Friends,” Elton John, 1971)

I’m thankful to now be living in a safe, comfortable home within a short bicycle ride of the stunning Pacific.  While I cherish my many years in Cleveland, Ohio, and Atlanta, Georgia, I am thrilled to be realizing one of my dreams — to live near the ocean, watch the sunsets, listen to the waves, contemplate the beauty.  Every day.  (Cue up:  “Home By the Sea,” Genesis, 1983)

I’m thankful for the wisdom I learned several years ago from this important philosophical life lesson:  “Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift, and that’s why they call it the present.”  Essentially, it’s “don’t cry over spilled milk, don’t worry about things you can’t control, be in the now.”  The late great former Beatle would certainly agree.  (Cue up:  “Just for Today,” George Harrison, 1988)

I’m thankful that I seem to have what some refer to as an encyclopedic mind for music trivia, which has helped me recall everything from the lyrics of “Louie Louie” to the name of the original bass player in The Doobie Brothers.  It sure makes it easier to write these blogs when I have this stuff at my fingertips.  For example, here are candidates for a “Thanksgiving Mix” of popular music tracks you can play to mark the holiday:

“Thank You,” Led Zeppelin, 1969; “Thank U,” Alanis Morissette, 1998; “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” Sly and The Family Stone, 1970; “Grateful,” Art Garfunkel, 1996; “I Thank You,” Sam and Dave, 1967; “Thanks,” The James Gang, 1970; “Thank You Girl,” The Beatles, 1963; “Thank You,” Boys II Men, 1995; “Thank the Lord for the Night Time,” Neil Diamond, 1967; “Thank You for Being a Friend,” Andrew Gold, 1978; “I’m So Glad,” Cream, 1966; “Be Thankful for What You Got,” William DeVaughn, 1974; “Thank You Pretty Baby,” Brook Benton, 1959; “My Thanksgiving,” Don Henley, 2000.

I’m thankful for those who take the time to read my humble music blog each week, and I’m especially grateful to those who make comments and offer ideas and suggestions, which bolsters my confidence and keeps me moving forward.  (Cue up:  “Keep on Truckin’,” Eddie Kendricks, 1973)

And lastly, I’m thankful for the way I am revitalized, soothed, inspired, comforted, astounded and exhilarated by music of (almost) all kinds, in all settings, all day and night, whether listening or participating.  (Cue up Average White Band’s 1976 song, whose chorus joyously exclaims,  “Music, sweet music, you’re the queen of my soul…”)

I can’t stand it no more

Popularity is a strange, strange thing.

74273719Songs that have reached #1 on Billboard’s Top 40 singles charts over the years have shown an astonishing range, from universally loved classics to truly bizarre novelty items.  Witness these two examples:  Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and Rick Dees’ “Disco Duck.”  Both #1 singles.  Go figure.

If you look, for instance, at just the decade from 1966-1976, the recordings that became (at least for a week) the hottest selling songs in the nation covered an extraordinarily broad spread of genres, styles, tempos, moods and lyrical themes.  Consider these wildly disparate songs:  the garage band rock of “Wild Thing” by The Troggs; the Motown soul of “I Can’t Get Next to You” by The Temptations;  the pop/country/rock mixture of “Black Water” by The Doobie Brothers;  the disco sheen of “Get Down Tonight” by KC and The Sunshine Band; the introspective soft rock of “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor; the country pride of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” by John Denver; the bubblegum pop of “Sugar Sugar” by The Archies; the mainstream rock of “We’re an American Band” by Grand Funk;  the effervescent British period pop of “Penny Lane” by The Beatles.

Read More