No looking back, this is our chance…

“Above all else, performers need to be what I call ‘ferociously curious.’ Secondly, they need to watch their creativity land: to watch it arrive. It’s not enough to just create and throw it out there. You have to watch it land. When you do things that people like, do those things again. When you do things that they don’t like, don’t do ’em any more. This is not rocket science here.”  Professor Livingston Taylor,  Berklee College of Music

We’ve heard at least the beginning of this bio before…Born in Boston he grew up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where his father was a medical professor at UNC and his mother who had studied at the New England Conservatory of Music had once been an aspiring opera singer  … However, this time the focus isn’t on the second Taylor son, James, it’s on third son, Livingston, born in 1950.

Like his older brother and later his younger sister (Kate), Livingston suffered from severe depression as a teen and committed himself to McLean Psychiatric Hospital in Belmont, where much of his therapy centered around his guitar playing and singing.

After his release in the late ’60s, he remained in Boston and began to perform in local clubs and coffeehouses, while touring with the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Jimmy Buffett and Jethro Tull.  His eponymous debut album was released in 1970.

Those of us living in the Boston-area in the ’70s had the opportunity to see him perform on a regular basis, much as we do now as Livingston Taylor still maintains a concert schedule of over 80 anecdote-laden shows a year, while serving as a full professor at Berklee (since 1989).

With easy proficiency within a range of musical genres, including folk, gospel, pop, jazz and musical theatre, his courses on Stage Performance (I and II) are by all accounts among the most popular at the college, with some of his students given the opportunity to perform at his concerts.

Written in 1991, various versions of “Our Turn to Dance” have been included on a number of his studio and live performance albums.  Today’s selection was featured on the 1997 studio effort, “Ink”

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Tuesday 9 October

 Our Turn to Dance

 We are working everyday…

…This is good for you

Fine things will come your way…

Ah, this aching back is sore…

…This is no problem

Because you’re building character…

 Thank you please, no more character…

It’s our turn to dance

Our turn to sing

Our turn to turn the world around

To give the best of everything

 No looking back

This is our chance

Our turn to sing

Our turn to dance

I was 1-8-0 on 95 (!)

So much youth

So few brains

How am I still alive?

 Darkly praying to the light

The tingling begins

Believing in the gospel of the state that I was in

 It was our turn to dance

Our turn to sing

Our turn to turn the world around

To give the best of everything

 No looking back

This is our chance

Our turn to sing

Our turn to dance

 Magic is the moonlight

Look into my eyes

Look at all those golden moments passing by

Forget about your heavy heart

This is romance

This is what we’ve waited for…

…This is our chance

It’s our turn to dance

Our turn to sing

Our turn to turn the world around

To give the best of everything

 No looking back

This is our chance

Our turn to sing

Our turn to dance

Follow the day and reach for the sun!

“Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.”  ~ Christopher Columbus ~

Seeing as an indigenous population stretched all the way from the Bering Strait to Tierra del Fuego at the time of his arrival, and that civilization had been established here in this Western Hemisphere for at least 15,000 years, I’m not exactly about to gore a sacred cow when I say that Columbus did not discover America.

Nor was he the first European to have reached these waters in a big way. Norsemen had preceded him on an ongoing basis by nearly 400 years.  What’s more, Columbus would have been the first to agree that he didn’t discover America, although that’s because he always maintained that he had actually reached Asia.

That said, his were the voyages that opened up these new continents (north and south) to European expansion and all that followed. And so on this day we recognize a man who not only altered the course of American history, but human history as well.  Take for example the biological and ecological “Columbian Exchange” that would effectually transform European, American and African ways of life.

While the New World would soon receive (as an example) horses, pigs, chickens, goats, oxen, cattle, donkeys, sheep, house cats, honey bees, coffee, sugarcane, apples, carrots, guns, the wheel (as a means of transportation) along with the common cold, influenza, malaria and smallpox that would wipe out nearly 90 percent of the native population, the Old World would receive potatoes, tomatoes, rubber, tobacco, corn, chocolate, turkeys, not to mention syphilis and a docile colony or two. And then there was the slave trade…

Not bad for a highly enterprising, slightly misguided Genoan who first went to sea at the age of ten and not only read everything he could about astronomy, history and geography, but leaned to speak Latin, Portuguese and Castilian.  Columbus (Anglicization for Colombo) was also adept at stepping in with an alternative solution.

When Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, over a thousand miles from Genoa, the long established Silk Road to China and India was no longer viable for the highly profitable spice, silk and opiate trades. While Portuguese navigators sought a route to Asia around Africa, Columbus and his mapmaker brother Bartholomew came up with a different plan…Go west across the “Ocean Sea”.

His inability to find any backers had little to do with the earth being flat (educated Westerners had understood a global concept since the 4th Century BC).  Actually most European navigators understood something that Columbus never seemed to grasp, that the world is very big (while he believed the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan was about 2,300 miles it’s actually 12,200 miles) and that no 15th Century ship could carry the food and water to make such a voyage.

However, having recently fought the pricey Granada War, Spain’s Catholic monarchs were desperate for a competitive trading edge and Ferdinand and Isabella elected to give Columbus’ proposal a shot. The fact that he was devoutly religious and vowed to do his best to convert any non-believers he encountered along the way also helped.

It was a risk that paid off.  He may have had his distances wrong but Christopher Columbus knew his trade winds and over the next decade his four voyages would provide Spain with an enormous (Atlantic) trade advantage for years to come.

Although patently not written with Columbus in mind, today’s selection by Tim DeLaughter rather nicely reflects Columbus’ determination (“reach for the sun”) in the face of adversity (“one more you’re nuts”).  DeLaughter is founder and lead-singer of the Dallas-based choral-symphonic-pop-rock group Polyphonic Spree. Featuring two dozen (!) musicians dressed in white choir robes, the band has moved from record label to record label and music festival to music festival since its start in 2000.

Columbus’ refusal to accept that the new world he had encountered was anything other than Asia is perhaps the main reason the two continents weren’t named for him…although the District of Columbia, two state capitals and at least one major river here in the US were, as were a Canadian province and a South American nation among many other such designations.  When you consider that the anniversary of his (not Amerigo Vespucci’s) arrival is observed (although not necessarily celebrated) annually throughout the Americas and Spain it’s clear that for better AND for worse, Columbus Day is a day to be remembered.

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Columbus Day 2012 

Light & Day/Follow the Sun

 Light and day is more than you’ll say

Because all

My feelings are more

Than I can let by

Or not

More than you’ve got

Just follow the day

Follow the day and reach for the sun!

 You don’t see me flyin’ to the red

One more you’re done

Just follow the seasons and find the time

Reach for the bright side

You don’t see me flyin’ to the red

One more you’re nuts

Just follow the day

Follow the day and reach for the sun

 Just follow the day

Follow the day and reach for the sun!

You don’t see me flyin’ to the red

One more you’re nuts

Just follow the seasons and find the time

Reach for the bright side

You don’t see me flyin’ to the red

One more you’re nuts

Just follow the day

Follow the day and reach for the sun!

 Just follow the day

Follow the day and reach for the sun!

 Just follow the day

Follow the day and reach for the sun!

Everything is temporary anyway, when the streets are wet…

“Any good mixer of convivial habits considers he has a right to be called a Bohemian. But that is not a valid claim. There are two elements, at least, that are essential to Bohemianism. The first is devotion or addiction to one or more of the Seven Arts; the other is poverty. Other factors suggest themselves: for instance, I like to think of my Bohemians as young, as radical in their outlook on art and life; as unconventional, and, though this is debatable, as dwellers in a city large enough to have the somewhat cruel atmosphere of all great cities. – Bohemian Club Member George Sterling

After Oscar Wilde visited Sterling’s private gentleman’s Bohemian Club in 1882 he commented “I never saw so many well-dressed, well-fed, business-looking Bohemians in my life.”

Personally, going by Sterling’s definition I’m not sure if I would have even made it as a Bohemian’s-apprentice.  How about you?  Certainly offbeat callowness and insolvency in a big, cruel city once came naturally, but if devotion “to one or more of the Seven Arts” was also required, (except for some musician and mathematician friends) I’d be hard-pressed to name many eligible candidates from my entire (Baby Boom) generation.

Formally conceived in the 5th Century as a basis for a medieval university education, and the distant precursor to a 20th Century Liberal Arts curriculum, those Seven Arts were rigorously divided into the Trivium – including Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric, and the Quadrivium – including Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy, which included studies in Astrology that assuredly stretched well beyond Linda Goodman’s “Sun Signs”.

Conveniently sidestepping Mr. George Sterling we see that as a concept Bohemianism  originated in 19th Century France, when writers and artists began to live en emass in the same low-rent neighborhoods inhabited by roving Romani (aka gypsies) who, it was believed, came from Bohemia, a land with Prague as it’s capital that would eventually be swallowed up by all that was to come. Soon the word “Bohemian” became an English colloquialism as well.

In England it was used to describe the anti-establishment, non-traditional aggregation of actors, writers, artists and musicians then burgeoning in every major European city.  In the States there had been a surge of actual Bohemian (as opposed to Romani) immigrants and for various reasons a number of them turned out to be talented, avant-garde journalists.  Predictably the term evolved into a tag-title for newspaper writers, particularly those who were known to be carefree and lighthearted.

By the end of the 19th Century both usages had pretty much melded into a generalized term for those with artistic or intellectual inclinations, who lived rather rootless, unconventional lifestyles.  Sometimes entire Bohemian communities arose when like-minded free-spirits gathered in such neighborhoods as Montmartre and Montparnasse in Paris; Fitzrovia, Chelsea and Soho in London; Greenwich Village in New York; and (close in proximity but light years apart from George Sterling and his Bohemian Club) San Francisco’s North Beach Neighborhood…

All of which goes a long way in introducing this selection from what was originally a ska band from Dallas in the early ‘80s.  With clear Bohemian intimations, New Bohemians (or “New Bos”) had taken on a more “alternative folk rock sound” by the time their singular lead singer joined the group in 1985 and the record label changed their name to Edie Brickell & New Bohemians.

The Dallas-born Brickell would eventually make her recording debut with the band on the 1988 album, “Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars” which included this somewhat Bohemian affirmation.  But in keeping with rubberbands and (previous posting’s) rubber balls, she would subsequently be in the middle of performing the album’s lead single “What I Am” on Saturday Night Live when she looked up and noticed Paul Simon standing near the cameraman.

“He made me mess the song up when I looked at him,” Brickell later said about her future husband, with whom she has had four children, adding “We can show the kids the tape and say, ‘Look, that’s when we first laid eyes on each other.’’”

  LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Friday 5 October

Circle

 Me, I’m a part of your circle of friends

And we notice you don’t come around

Me, I think it all depends

On you touching ground with us

But I quit, I give up

Nothing’s good enough for anybody else

It seems

And I quit, I give up

Nothing’s good enough for anybody else

It seems

 And being alone

Is the best way to be

When I’m by myself it’s

The best way to be

When I’m all alone it’s

The best way to be

When I’m by myself

Nobody else can say goodbye

 Everything is temporary anyway

When the streets are wet

The colors slip into the sky

But I don’t know why that means you and I are

that means you and….

I quit, I give up

Nothin’s good enough for anybody else it seems

But I quit. I give up

Nothing’s good enough for anybody else it seems

 And being alone

Is the best way to be

When I’m by myself it’s

The best way to be

When I’m all alone it’s

The best way to be

When I’m by myself

Nobody else can say…

 Me, I’m a part of your circle of friends

And we notice you don’t come around.

Halalalalalala

Don’t be so scared of changing and rearranging yourself

Certainly one of the hallmarks of “nailing” a major acting role is that the audience is left with the impression that nobody else could have played that part. For example, there’s Lynn Rachel Redgrave as Georgina “Georgy” Parkin in the 1966 film, “Georgy Girl”

Born in Marylebone in 1943 – the daughter of actors Michael Redgrave and Rachel Kempson, and the sister of actors Vanessa Redgrave and Corin Redgrave, and the aunt of actors Joely Richardson, Jemma Redgrave, Natasha Richardson and Carlo Nero – Lynn Redgrave was the granddaughter of Roy Redgrave, a popular actor of the stage and silent silver screen and Margaret Scudamore, a woman who in the early half of the 20th Century had chosen the challenging, unpredictable career of… stage and film acting.

Although she lost out to Elizabeth Taylor (who was also pretty good at nailing the occasional role and won that year’s Oscar for her portrayal as Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”), Lynn Redgrave was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Actress. And although it inexplicably lost out to the song “Born Free” (from the film, “Born Free”)“Georgy Girl” also received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, for its song, “Georgy Girl”.

Written by Tom Springfield (who with his famous sister, Dusty had formed The Springfields of “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” fame ) with lyrics by Jim Dale (best known in the UK for his ongoing appearances in the “Carry On” film series) there were at least three versions of the song.

Shown here is the first – in one of the most pleasing opening sequences on film (and proof positive that all that thespian heredity was naturally dominant in Lynn Redgrave’s genes) – as well as the second, for the rather more cynical closing sequence.

The third and best known version of the song reached Number 3 on the UK Chart and hit Number 2 in the U.S., making it the Seekers (remember them?) highest charting single.  Originally featured on the group’s 1966 LP “Come the Day”  (which as some may recall, was the very record that included the Seeker’s version of the Paul Simon/Bruce Woodley song, “Red Rubber Ball”), as a result of single’s upbeat success the album was artlessly renamed “Georgy Girl” for the American marketplace, presumably to ensure that at least in this country we can’t be accused of “always window-shopping, but never stopping to buy.”

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Thursday 4 October 

Georgy Girl

 Hey there, Georgy girl

Swingin’ down the street so fancy-free

Nobody you meet could ever see

The loneliness there

Inside you

 Hey there, Georgy girl

Why do all the boys just pass you by?

Could it be you just don’t try

Or is it the clothes you wear?

 You’re always window-shopping

But never stopping to buy

So, shed those dowdy feathers and fly

A little bit

 Hey there, Georgy girl

There’s another Georgy deep inside

Bring out all the love you hide

And, oh, what a change there’d be

The world would see

A new Georgy girl

 Hey there, Georgy girl

Dreamin’ of the someone you could be

Life is a reality

You can’t always run away

 Don’t be so scared of changing

And rearranging yourself

It’s time for jumping down from the shelf

A little bit

Hey there, Georgy girl

There’s another Georgy deep inside

Bring out all the love you hide

And, oh, what a change there’d be

The world would see

A new Georgy girl

 (Hey there, Georgy girl)

Wake up, Georgy girl

(Hey there, Georgy girl)

Come on, Georgy girl

(Hey there, Georgy girl)

Wake up, Georgy girl

 #######

Hey there, Georgy girl

Pretty as a picture — told you so

Can it be the Georgy we all know?

Or somebody new?

(I wonder!)

 Hey there, Georgy girl

Hurrying away to celebrate

Got yourself a man but wait!

There’s somebody else for you

Who needs a perfect lover

When you’re a mother at heart?

Isn’t that all you wanted right from the start?

(Well didn’t you?)

 Hey there, Georgy girl

Now that you’re no longer on the shelf

Better try to smile and tell yourself

That you got your way

(You’ve made it!)

 Hey there, Georgy girl

Now you’ve got a future planned for you

Though it’s not a dream come true

At least he’s a millionaire

So don’t despair!

You’re rich, Georgy Girl!

You’re rich, Georgy Girl!

You’re rich, Georgy Girl!

And It Burns, Burns, Burns

According to Rosanne Cash it’s a song “…about the transformative power of love and that’s what it has always meant to me.”  While Cash’s legendary father and his celebrated second wife surely nodded their heads in unison, as one might expect her head-shaking mother had a different tale to tell about “Ring of Fire.”

Born in 1932 and christened J. R. Cash because his parents couldn’t think of anything else, at the age of 18 the young Arkansawyer (native of Arkansas) went to enlist in the U.S. Air Force. Required to come up with an actual given name, the one he provided will forever be imprinted in the footnotes of Cold War (!) history.

Spending most of the following year in San Antonio to complete his basic and technical training, it wasn’t until the end of his stint in Texas that he met and fell hard for young Vivian Liberto at a local roller skating rink and had barely enough time for a few lovesick spins before deployment to Landsberg, Germany.

Assigned to the Air Force’s Security Service as a Radio Intercept Operator for Soviet transmissions, it was as Airman John R. Cash* that the future legend in black received his Cold War asterisk, when on March 5, 1953 he became the first American to learn of Joseph Stalin’s death after deciphering the Russian Morse code.

Within weeks of his honorable discharge, Cash married Liberto. And the 10,000 pages of love letters that had been exchanged during their long distance 1951-54 courtship would eventually prove a boon to the aggrieved first wife when it formed the basis of her late-life autobiography, “I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny”.

The tell-all featured other observations as well of course, including the actual origin (and meaning) of today’s selection, which remained at Number One on the Country Charts for seven weeks in 1963 and would prove to be the biggest hit of Johnny Cash’s career…

“To this day, it confounds me to hear the elaborate details June told of writing that song for Johnny,” Liberto wrote.  “She didn’t write that song any more than I did. The truth is, Johnny wrote that song, while pilled up and drunk.”

With lyrics that ostensibly describe the agonies that can come with falling in love, Carter, who was going through that very experience at the time, claimed to have seen the phrase “Love is like a burning ring of fire,” underlined in one of her uncle’s books of Elizabethan poetry and sought the help of singer Merle Kilgore to help round it out.

Adversely, the embittered ex remained steadfast in her assertion that Cash gave Carter the co-writer status because “she needs the money,” and that the lyrics actually allude to “…a certain private female body part….All those years of her claiming she wrote it herself, and she probably never knew what the song was really about.”

The truth? Who knows, and with each passing season, who cares?  Originally recorded by June’s sister Anita as “(Love’s) Ring of Fire” it was featured as a “pick hit” in Billboard magazine.  But then Cash claimed to have a dream involving “Mexican horns” and told his future sister-in-law, “I’ll give you about five or six more months, and if you don’t hit with it, I’m gonna record it the way I feel it.”

  “…BOOM – CHICKA – BOOM…”

 LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Wednesday 3 October

Ring of Fire

 Love Is A Burning Thing

And It Makes A Fiery Ring

Bound By Wild Desire

I Fell Into A Ring Of Fire

I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire

I Went Down, Down, Down

And The Flames Went Higher

 And It Burns, Burns, Burns

The Ring Of Fire

The Ring Of Fire

 The Taste Of Love Is Sweet

When Hearts Like Ours Meet

I Fell For You Like A Child

Oh, But The Fire Went Wild

I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire

I Went Down, Down, Down

And The Flames Went Higher

And It Burns, Burns, Burns

The Ring Of Fire

The Ring Of Fire

 Love Is A Burning Thing

And It Makes A Fiery Ring

Bound By Wild Desire

I Fell Into A Ring Of Fire

 I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire

I Went Down (down), Down (down), Down (down)

And The Flames Went Higher Higher Higher

 I Fell Into A Burning Ring Of Fire

I Went Down (down), Down (down), Down (down)

And The Flames Went Higher Higher Higher

And It Burns……..

The squirrels are on to something, and they’re working overtime

Head north from Baltimore on I-83 and take the last exit before you hit the Pennsylvania border.  Then travel east for a spell, over a grassy hill and down a dale. Turn north, then east again, and after the topography turns from meadow to woodland, you’ll come to a short beam bridge.

Just after you cross it, and just before the pavement ends, you’ll see a dirt road to your right.  It will lead you up an incline to the handcrafted cabin overlooking nine wooded acres, with that same creek winding through the back.

More or less these were the directions we were given after answering a Harford County, Maryland property-rental ad.  We’d recently transferred to the area and, after years of living in various cities, thought it time to try a little something different.

Oh, it was rustic, but in a contemporary way. There were two bedrooms, the Master being a suite atop a set of spiral stairs, featuring floor to ceiling windows (still…no need for shades or curtains here). There were two full bathrooms, a living room with a stone fireplace and an up-to-date country kitchen. Better still there was a screened-in deck and then a second deck overlooking the stream (with its own swimming hole).

I envisioned a big office bash at some point and asked, “I don’t suppose we’d be disturbing any neighbors if we had a party?”

The owner, who had moved to a bigger house nearby, laughed and responded,  “You can yell as loud as you want, nobody’ll hear you.”

That’s all I wanted to know, although Linda standing next to me with our five-month-old son, hadn’t quite found that to be one of the stronger selling points. We lived in that cabin, just a mile south of the Mason-Dixon Line (“Southerners by a mile”), for a little over a year.  But the day I signed that lease was precisely the start of a successful northbound lobbying campaign for my stay-at-home “New England mom” and our Canadian-born New England son …who had yet to lay eyes on our storied region.

Every weekday at 07:30 I would blithely navigate the hinterland to the Interstate, and turn south through an equestrian-centric countryside that became especially stunning in the cool Maryland fall.  But while I was on a blazingly eventful career path, the same can’t be said for my uber-accomplished wife, who would spend her days baby-on-hip, strolling ‘round the nearest grocery store (in York, PA), with a stop at the library, followed perhaps by coffee at a popular local establishment universally known for its (Pennsylvania Dutch) scrapple.

By 08:00 I’d reach my Baltimore County destination of Hunt Valley, where my “Executive Plaza” office building was just off the highway at the corner of McCormick Street, named for one Willoughby M. McCormick of Baltimore, who in 1889 at the age of 25 began a door-to-door business selling root beer, fruit syrup and flavoring extracts.

In time he managed to add spices to his wares, a decision so successful that by the early 1970s McCormick & Company (long-since run by Willoughby’s nephew, Charles) was impelled to re-establish itself in Hunt Valley with a 35,000 sq. ft. headquarters, manufacturing and warehousing facility, later to include the Old Bay Seasoning used in every crab house up and down the Chesapeake.

To this day I can’t tell you how they process their spices. But I can say that certain days feature the processing of cinnamon and from the near side of Sparks, to the north, to the far sides of Cockeysville, Lutherville and Timonium to the south, everyone knows that it’s…a…cinnamon day.

Timonium is the birthplace to another “hard-core New Englander” (in 1951), Cheryl Wheeler, who first performed in Baltimore and Washington, DC area clubs before making the move to Rhode Island in 1976.  That’s where she was discovered by Jonathan Edwards, who soon asked her to tour with him, and she has been based in New England ever since.

Although Wheeler has released several albums she is especially known for her live performances that include topical (serious/comic) monologues.  It is said that at least half of the songs she performs in concert are never recorded and eventually fade from her list.  Fortunately there are others such as this one, serving as keen inspiration for New Englanders who even from afar, can relish the very thought of this very special time…

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – Tuesday 2 October

…When Fall Comes to New England

When fall comes to New England

The sun slants in so fine

And the air’s so clear

You can almost hear the grapes grow on the vine

The nights are sharp with starlight

And the days are cool and clean

And in the blue sky overhead

The northern geese fly south instead

And leaves are Irish Setter red

When fall comes to New England

When Fall comes to New England

And the wind blows off the sea

Swallows fly in a perfect sky

And the world was meant to be

When the acorns line the walkways

Then winter can’t be far

From yellow leaves a blue jay calls

Grandmothers walk out in their shawls

And chipmunks run the old stonewalls

When fall comes to New England

The frost is on the pumpkin

The squash is off the vine

And winter warnings race across the sky

The squirrels are on to something

And they’re working overtime

The foxes blink and stare and so do I

‘Cause when fall comes to New England

Oh I can’t turn away

From fading light on flying wings

And late good-byes a robin sings

And then another thousand things

When fall comes to New England

When fall comes to New England