Keep On Rockin’

I got to thinking about all the rock and roll stars I’ve been lucky enough to see perform live in my life. Maybe you won’t be impressed by this list, but I kinda was.

Elton John. Billy Joel. The Eagles. Bruce Springsteen. Steely Dan. Rush. Neil Diamond. Stevie Wonder. Dan Fogelberg. Roger Waters. Phil Collins. Cher (with Cyndi Lauper). U2. The Doobie Brothers. Cat Stevens. The Allman Brothers Band, Joe Walsh, and The Marshall Tucker Band (together).

Oh, and N’Sync, with two of my nieces. Shriek!!!

Many of these guys, I’ve seen twice, and in Elton and Billy’s case, four times each.

Then, of course, there are the ones who got away, like Genesis, Wings, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Stevie Ray Vaughn, to name just a few.

Oh, and Johnny Cash.

Yes, Johnny Cash, my first musical hero. I would have loved to see him live.

I thoroughly enjoyed every concert I attended. (Well, not so much N’Sync, but my nieces loved it.) There’s nothing like the energy at a live rock concert. When it’s good, the performers and the audience feed off each other to make an unforgettable experience.

If you were to ask me what my favorite show was, I’d give you different answers, for different reasons. The easy answer is Elton, because he’s my favorite artist, from a long way back. Billy Joel, because he’s another piano player, like I once was (though nowhere near that caliber).

For professionalism and virtuosity, Steely Dan and Rush take the honors. For the sheer spectacle, I gotta give it to Cher and Roger Waters. Those weren’t just concerts, they were events.

The Eagles were and are my favorite band vocally. Their harmony just shines.

Stevie was just incredible. He is so musically gifted. He’s really one of a kind.

But nobody, and I mean nobody, gives more of himself onstage than The Boss. Bruce Springsteen just lays it all out there every time, and the E Street Band is always equal to the task. It is amazing to watch.

It’s great to see live shows coming back now, after going missing last year. There are still some restrictions in place, though. My sister-in-law and her daughter are going to a concert tonight, but they have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test result from the last 24 hours. It’s a new world, folks.

But it’s still a chance for fans to go see their favorite artists, sing along jubilantly, and just forget the world for a few hours and be only about the music. And that’s worth something.

Rock on, y’all.

It’s So Easy

Today, July 15, is the birthday of my favorite female vocalist: Linda Ronstadt.

You younger readers out there have likely never heard her. If that’s the case, treat yourself to a voice that can be sometimes powerful, sometimes tender, always crystal clear.

Ronstadt ruled the airwaves in the 1970’s, racking up hit after hit, like Blue Bayou, It’s So Easy, You’re No Good, That’ll Be the Day, Poor Poor Pitiful Me, Ooh Baby Baby, Tracks of My Tears, Don’t Know Much, Adios and so many more. And she made it sound just effortless every time.

Those of you who closer to my age, if you hadn’t heard Linda in a while, give her a listen today, wish her a Happy Birthday, and celebrate one of the all-time great singers of our time.

“The Power of Art”

Want a little inspiration?

Go to https://apnews.com/2d5956ccfe8e75fe1fda534324697633 and read a remarkable photographic essay about musicians in Iran who, despite being isolated due to the Coronavirus, still share their music with their neighbors, playing from their rooftops, front porches and apartment windows.

26yearold accordion player Kaveh Ghafari, had this to say about the opportunity to share music in his neighborhood:

“During these quarantine days, the only place that I feel I can share my music is in my yard with my neighbors as my main audience,” he said. “These days I can feel the power of art more than ever.”

Instead of being silenced because of their circumstance, they offer some beauty amid all the ugliness that surrounds them. A divine protest, if you will, against the cruelty of their condition.

It’s a wonderful story. Check it out.

Be safe, y’all.

The Naked Guy at the Organ

When I was a teenager, I discovered Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a British television comedy series. My local public TV station, I later learned, was the first in America to broadcast the show. It came on Sunday night, after my bedtime.

I would sneak into the living room, turn the TV on at a low volume, and watch comedy like I’d never seen before. It was stream-of-consciousness comedy, one sketch flowing right into the next, with occasional interludes from animator Terry Gilliam.

And it was hilarious, I thought. Unabashedly silly nonsense, and I loved it. The writing was sharp and brilliant, and so were the performances by the Pythons: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Gilliam, Eric Idle, Michael Palin…

…and Terry Jones, who passed away yesterday at age 77, due to complications from a rare form of dementia.

Terry brought many funny characters to life: the waitress reading a menu which included Spam in every single item, the naked man sitting at an organ in the unlikeliest of places (a boxing ring, a battlefield, etc.), the Spanish Inquisitor torturing with “the Soft Pillows!”, the dangerously obese Mr. Creosote in the movie “Monty Python’s Meaning of Life”, and the mother of Brian in the movie “Life of Brian”, who famously chides Brian’s followers who have mistaken him for someone else, “He’s not the Messiah! He’s a very naughty boy!”

R.I.P., Terry. Long live Spam Monty Python Spam!

Saturday Night’s Alright for Rocking

 

As long as there’s been rock and roll, there have been rock and roll idols.

From Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley and Little Richard, to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, to the Eagles, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Madonna, U2 and more, there have been certain stars who have shone brighter than all the rest.

You bought all their albums, you put their poster on your wall and, if you were lucky, you got to go see them perform in person. And you shared the experience with a whole host of other fanatics.

The brightest star for yours truly has always been, and always will be, Elton John. Sir Elton John, that is.

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This past Saturday, I went to see him in concert. For the fourth time.

And he was absolutely awesome!!

He was energetic, engaging and in peak form. At seventy-one, no less. Just incredible.

 

Elton claims this tour is his last, even calling it his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour, a twist on the title of his popular album, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. 

Yeah, right; how many other performers have made that same claim, only to turn around and say, “Ehh, maybe not.” And I get it; performing must be awfully tough for a performer to give up. All that adoration is like oxygen to him.

So, we’ll see if, at the end of this three year worldwide tour, Elton sticks to his word.

But, if this was really my last time to see him in person, he definitely made it memorable.

 

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The show began with all the lights off, and snippets of several songs throughout Elton’s long and illustrious career playing over the speakers, getting us all into an appropriate frenzy.

Suddenly, on came the spotlight, and there he was, seated at his piano, where he announced his presence by emphatically striking the opening chord of Bennie and the Jets.

And, so began two and a half solid hours of spectacular entertainment. He was totally on top of his game all night.

 

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Among the Elton John classics we heard that night were:

Tiny Dancer, Rocket Man, Philadelphia Freedom, Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me, Candle in the Wind, Your Song, Someone Saved My Life Tonight, The Bitch Is Back, I’m Still Standing, I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting, Burn Down the Mission, Daniel and oh, so many more.

I’ve also got to single out three standout performances. There was Indian Sunset, an obscure, but brilliantly written tune by Elton, for an equally brilliant vignette by his longtime lyricist, Bernie Taupin.

There was an extended version of Levon, featuring some of Elton’s best piano playing of the night. It even featured the familiar Elton pose, head back, eyes shut, mouth wide open as he pounded the keys with abandon. I mean, he and his band absolutely rocked the house.

And there was the crowd favorite, Crocodile Rock, which greatly pleased, among others, my wife to hear. The fun part was when Elton and the band stopped playing to hear the audience’s full-throated rendition of “Laaaa, la-la-la-la laaa…” in the chorus. We sounded great, if you ask me.

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He closed the show with Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, in keeping with the theme of this tour. As he sang, a video montage played onscreen of all his different looks, and a few of his more memorably outrageous outfits (Donald Duck? Really?) over his career.

As I watched, I thought, I don’t think anyone has had quite the journey that Elton John has had. This dude has had an amazing life, not just as an entertainer, but as a human being. The places he’s been. The people he’s met. The things he’s seen and done. His triumph over addictions. His significant contribution in the fight against AIDS.A456E868-1E53-4E1B-9BC8-71BFAF6FC56F

He has to just look back over his life sometimes and just think, Wow.

Early in the show, Elton lauded the singular talent of the late Aretha Franklin, reminding us we would never see the likes of her again.

Well, I say the same thing for Sir Elton John.

If this could actually be your last chance to see his show, I highly recommend you go. Performers like him come along once in a lifetime, and that’s the truth.

Sir Elton, thanks for all the good times. You are my once and forever rock and roll idol.

 

More Requests for Your Carolers

 

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So, about this time a year ago, I shared a list of some of my favorite renditions of Christmas tunes; some familiar, others, less so.

Well, here’s a few more of my favorites for you to check out. Enjoy:

Don’t Save It All for Christmas Day, Christmas Eve, Céline Dion. The first one, a reminder to keep the Christmas spirit alive year round; the second, an uptempo love song about spending a special night with your special someone.

I’m also including The Prayer, by Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli. Even though it’s technically not a Christmas song, it’s included on Céline’s holiday CD, These Are Special Times. But, everybody deserves to hear these two sing together. Andrea is, for my money, the greatest vocalist in the world, and the note he holds at the end of this piece is absolutely breathtaking.

Run Rudolph Run (live), Bryan Adams. Bryan does this Chuck Berry classic justice.

Jingle Bell Rock, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Everybody knows the Bobby Helms rendition, but this instrumental take is a lot more fun.

‘Zat You, Santa Claus?, Louis Armstrong and the Commanders. Louis gets an unexpected visitor one night. Who might it be? Hmmm…

Someday at Christmas, Stevie Wonder. This song was originally released in 1967, but its message is as timely as ever, which means, unfortunately, Someday hasn’t arrived yet.

Louisiana Christmas Day, Aaron Neville. A little zydeco music for Christmas. It’ll get your feet movin’.

The Twelve Days of Christmas (live), The Christmas Can-Can, Straight No Chaser. Two hilarious tunes by this men’s à capella group.

Christmas is Just Around the Corner, Barry Manillow. Barry knows how to deliver a happy tune, and this one about anticipation of the Big Day is yet another example.

Silver Bells, Kenny G. Jazzy instrumental version, with Kenny G.’s smooth sax out front.

Please Come Home for Christmas, Eagles. Fellow Texan Don Henley gives this one the proper blues treatment.

All I Want for Christmas Is You, Vince Vance and the Valiants. Country Christmas ballad featuring terrific lead vocals by Lisa Layne.

All I Want for Christmas Is You, Mariah Carey. Yeah, this is the one we all know. Mariah rocks it.

Little Saint Nick, The Beach Boys. Because, after all, it just ain’t Christmas without The Beach Boys, am I right?

O Holy Night, anybody. Best sacred Christmas number of them all.

 

There you are. Enjoy the music you love with the people you love this holiday season. Season’s Eatings, um, Greetings. Peace and love to you all.