Light Through the Clouds


And it’s all so much bigger than it seems
And it all overwhelms us now and then
And I’m banking on a chance that we believe
That good can still control the hearts of men

Elton John, “Answer in the Sky”, 2004

 

It’s weird how a song you haven’t thought of in years can suddenly reappear in your mind.

And how timely it can seem after that long.

But the above lyrics from an Elton John tune from sixteen years ago speak right to the frightening times we find ourselves in now.

As overwhelming as this whole coronavirus thing is, it is bringing out the good in so many people worldwide.

Even as it brings out the worst in so many others.

People are performing extraordinary acts of kindness toward their neighbors, their communities, their coworkers. Companies are repurposing their facilities to make ventilators and masks and other necessary supplies. Even entertainers are performing to raise money, or just to offer comfort to their fellow humans, as I mentioned in my last post.

Everywhere are examples of benevolence and goodness, of people acknowledging the gravity of the situation and the urgency of helping each other get through this unprecedented time in our shared existence. And it’s encouraging.

Especially despite the inexcusable ignorance I see displayed on a regular basis among other people who just can’t be inconvenienced with this whole thing. Their actions and their words not only shame us, they endanger us.

Good can still control the hearts of men, but sadly, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s up to us to see to it the good outweighs the bad.

Let’s do our part, even if in a small way, to make that happen.

Be safe, y’all.

“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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Requests for Your Carolers

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You know, in reality, there are only about four Christmas songs, but approximately 8,463.75 renditions of them. 🎶🎵

Everybody records them. In fact, Izzy and Lizzy, my cats, have a new album coming out later this week: “We Need a Little Christmas Meow.” Look for it. 🐱

Anyway, we all have our favorite songs, and our favorite performances, that we simply must hear every year, don’t we? For example, I’ll take Elvis Presley’s covers of “Blue Christmas” and “Here Comes Santa Claus” over anyone’s.

Of course, that applies to least favorites, as well. I’m a lifelong Johnny Cash fan, but if I ever hear his version of “The Little Drummer Boy” again, I will not be responsible for my reaction. 🥁 😡

With that in mind, I’d like to tell you some of my favorite performances of my favorite Christmas tunes, and then take you a little off the beaten path and introduce you to some songs/renditions I enjoy, but you may not be familiar with.

But I’ll start with a classic, and my all-time favorite:

The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole. If I could only listen to one Christmas tune, by one person, for the rest of my life, this would be my choice, without hesitation.

White Christmas, The Drifters. Yeah, Bing Crosby’s version is the prototype, but once you hear the Drifters do it, you won’t want to hear it any other way.

Santa Baby, Madonna. Eartha Kitt’s version is so slow, I could have a nap before she finishes. 🎅🏻💍💋

I’ll Be Home For Christmas, Glen Campbell. You can just hear the longing to be home in his voice.

Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer, The Blenders. A lively a capella version, like the doo-wop boys on the corner would do it.

The Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, O Come, All Ye Faithful, The Vocal Majority, a Dallas-based, 100-voice men’s chorus. Google ‘em, they’re outstanding.

Christmas Island, Leon Redbone. 🏝 A perfect song for a performer so laid back, his pulse rate must be about 10.

Merry Christmas, Darling, Carpenters. Karen Carpenter was graced with one of the most beautiful voices ever, and she left us way, way too soon. But she did leave us this holiday gem. That last line, “I wish I were with you,” always chokes me up; I wish she was with us, too.

Grown Up Christmas List, Amy Grant. Great lyrics, great melody, great vocals.

Christmas Wrapping, The Waitresses. More rapping than wrapping, a peppy little tune that tells a story beginning with, “Bah! Humbug!”, but working its way to a “very happy ending.”

Mary’s Little Boy Child, Jose Feliciano. Beautiful. I also love his Feliz Navidad, but a store nearly ruined that song for me once, by playing it ten times in a row! Nearly went berserk.

Gift of Love, The Boones. My wife loves this one. Angelic female harmony, featuring Debbie Boone. (Ask your parents. Or maybe grandparents.)

Christmas Macarena. JUST KIDDING!!!

The Restroom Door Said “Gentlemen”, Didn’t I Get This Last Year?, Bob Rivers and Twisted Radio. If you want some laughs this Christmas, check out these hilarious send ups of traditional favorites. Oh, and also, The Chimney Song. Hysterical! 🤣

Sleigh Ride, the instrumental version, by any orchestra you choose. Love it.

Silent Night, Mannheim Steamroller. Absolutely breathtaking instrumental piece.

The Chipmunk Song (Christmas, Don’t Be Late), The Chipmunks. Can’t go a single Christmas without hearing, “AL-VIIIIIIIIIIN!!!!” Can you?

Step Into Christmas, Elton John. Just cuz it’s Elton, and I’m a lifelong fan.

Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season, Some Children See Him, Andy Williams. Both are classics.

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas, Gayla Peevey. Admit it, just reading the title put a big grin on your face, didn’t it?

Mary, Did You Know?, Pentatonix. Unbelievable harmonies from this talented a capella group from right here in Texas.

That’s probably enough for now, but there may be a Part 2 forthcoming. Because, really, there’s a lot more than just four Christmas songs.

Thank goodness. 🎄⛄️🔑🎁

Now, you tell me: what are some of your favorites?

 

 

 

 

 

They Listen

 

Interesting thing happened to me recently. I know, go figure, right?

Well, I got a text from a guy named Will, who was a client of mine last year, when I was still a chauffeur. Turned out, Will was a musician, in town for some huge, weekend-long wrestling event. He loves music, and he loves wrestling, and we joked about him maybe making a career combining the two, like being a musical wrestler. Or a wrestling musician.

Anyway, we talked some about the kinds of music we like, and he said he likes stuff with a jazzy vibe to it, so I asked him if he’d ever heard of Steely Dan, whose specialty is just that. He said he hadn’t, which was understandable; Steely Dan was a little before his time. So I suggested he check ’em out; he might like them.

Hadn’t had any correspondence with the guy since.

Until this text he sent me. He said, when he heard recently of the death of Steely Dan co-founder, co-songwriter and guitarist Walter Becker, I was the first person he thought of.

(!!!!!)

Mind you, I drove this guy once.

Over a year ago.

He still remembered me, and our conversation. He said in his text, he couldn’t believe it. I texted back, “Neither can I!”

 

This was a story about how you never know what you’re gonna say to someone that stays in his mind long after you said it. Good thing for us all to keep in mind.

Will, thanks for the reminder. Great to hear from you, even if it did freak me out just a bit. Hope you’re a successful musical wrestler, now.