It’s Monday. A new week, though, filled with hope and challenge and opportunity.
It’s a strange time. Again.
Yes, our world carries on, wrestling with Covid version 4.0 or whatever this is. We’ve passed and skipped a chunk of the Greek alphabet and we’re now on Omicron which is now morphing into the combination of Flu and Coronavirus, something scientists are calling “FluRona.” (Rhymes with “Sharona” as in, “My Sharona,” from The Knack.)
It all deserves a giant WTF. (That doesn’t mean Welcome To Florida, by the way).
So it’s not, as of a yet, another full reclusive hermit like existence, and I’m hopeful we’re not going there again. Before we bitch about inconvenience, remember the families who’ve lost loved ones. It doesn’t matter what we choose to call it, or how we label it. It’s real and it’s affected us.
But we persevere. Armed with things like Art. Entertainment. Books. Stories. Music.
Many of us have learned to appreciate, during our re-treat, there’s the chance to binge, re-watch, re-listen and savor some music from our past, present and from tangential genres. Re-treating should mean giving yourself the treat of something you enjoy, like music, again.
Retreat with Re-Treat.
Personally, I love music, and it has served well as a warm, familiar refuge. It is not an indulgence, it is more like a vital nutrient. Here Comes The Sun should be seen as nourishment — as natural sunshine is seen as Vitamin D.
Music is a virtually limitless gift — we have historical music. New music. New interpretations of classics. Tribute bands. Reboots. Remasters. Countless artists. Too many to mention, too many to recognize. Artful blending of notes, keys. Instruments. Vocals. They are the bits that combine, to produce the sounds of our lives. And like the sun, the sounds shine on us, illuminating otherwise dark corners. I love that the people I speak with tell me that during the last few years their playlists continue to evolve. They evolve. We evolve.
Our music should too.
I love the trivia around music — like how Pattie Boyd was a muse for George Harrison songs, including Something, and for Derek and the Dominoes/Eric Clapton songs such as Layla and Wonderful Tonight. How Sinatra thought Something was the best song ever written. How Sib Hashian, Boston’s incredible drummer, if he were still alive, would be The Rock’s father-in-law. ZZ Top’s drummer Frank Beard was the only guy in the band who doesn’t have a beard. Led Zeppelin’s song Black Dog was titled after a black Labrador retriever that wandered around the Hedley Grange studios where the band was recording in England. The Red Hot Chili Peppers recorded Blood Sugar Sex Magik in a haunted house that was previously owned by Harry Houdini. Lynyrd Skynyrd is named after a high school teacher, Leonard Skinner, who suspended students for having long hair.
Most of all I think about how happy some of these musicians looked while playing. Some more than others. Some are more in touch with time. Speaking of Time, Morris Day and the Time are having a much better time performing Jungle Love or The Bird, than The Moody Blues playing Nights in White Satin.
Mark Knopfler masterfully tells stories in Brothers in Arms, What it Is, Monteleone.
Think about Johnny Cash playing Folsom Prison. Think about Johnny Cash taking U2’s “One” to a new level. Think about Johnny Cash flipping the bird. Think about Johnny Cash struggling through Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.” All different versions, eras, moments of Johnny Cash. Timestamps on his personal struggles, angels, and demons. All great music. (More strange trivia — his next door neighbor was Roy Orbison, and Roy’s house burned down. A resulting tragedy. After Johnny passed, one of the Bee Gees had bought the Cash estate. It burned down. Hallowed ground there.)
When Johnny Cash sings your song, “it ain’t your song no more.” Same goes for MJB. Mary J. Blige took U2’s One to a level beyond anything U2 could even fathom.
Life is experiential. Life is wonderful. Life is fragile. Strange times give us the gift of seeing things from the past in new and interesting ways. Consider the project where artists are creating interpretive videos based on Elton John’s classic music. Here’s the one for Rocket Man:
Whose idea was it to take away Betty White, Sidney Poitier, and now, Bob Saget? These are larger than life people who have given us such artistry. And one common denominator among those three — how much they loved their work. We love musicians, as we do actors and performers, who love their work.
And there is the looming passion. The story telling. There is Simon and Garfunkel’s The Boxer and there is Sam Cooke’s foreshadowing A Change Is Gonna Come. There are newer, lesser played, lesser known like Mazzy Star’s Fade Into You, and The Church’s Under The Milky Way Tonight. There are story ballads like Skip Scarborough’s Love Ballad performed by LTD (lead singer was Jeffrey Osborne) and later, George Benson. There are countless ‘80’s “power ballads” by hair bands.
There are instrumental masterpieces like Hans Zimmer’s A Small Measure of Peace. There are perfect instrumentals like Nino Rota’s Speak Softly Love which evokes the dark layers of our favorite movies — songs sometimes spoiled when they are paired up with the wrong artist — in my opinion Andy Williams was as out of place performing that song as Diane Keaton was playing Kay. Speak Softly Love with words is as junked up as Josh Groban’s worded version of Morricone’s Love Theme for Nata from Cinema Paradiso. The Sopranos faded to black and frustrated us believers with the power of Steve Perry and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’. Even The Many Saints of Newark can’t bring us down from that cliff.
A few videos come to mind, when I think about musicians that love their work. Earth, Wind and Fire singing with The Emotions and killing it with the horn sections on Boogie Wonderland. I know what you’re thinking. Disco. It is inevitably a time stamp on our experience in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Don’t judge it until you watch it — and witness the energy, the sheer talent.
Earth Wind and Fire, and Chicago mastered the now lost art of “horns sections.” And seriously, who is having a better time than the late Maurice White?
KC and the Sunshine Band belting out I’m Your Boogie Man. Yes, I know, more syrupy, shlocky disco. But look at these guys. They love their work. They are happy. The lead singer, admit it. You don’t even know his name. Harry Wayne Casey.
The Doobie Brothers, Take Me In Your Arms. Boom.
Glenn Campbell graciously belting out Gentle On My Mind in front of his peer group. They are all fans and admirers. By the way, Glen couldn’t really read sheet music:
Just listen to the following: 1. More Than A Feeling, Boston, 2. L’estasio dell’Oro — the Venice 2007 Live Performance, Ennio Morricone, and 3. Luciano Pavarotti performing Nessun Dorma and Ave Maria, a toss up between Lincoln Center, 1979, and the Three Tenors version, 1994.
And if you think a few notes of percussion don’t matter, check out the drummer on Morricone’s masterpiece at 2:39. Time. Timing. And, get inspired and watch The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Sergio Leone’s movie that the score accompanies.
Some music casts a shadow that influences other artists and changes the sound, and the industry. Consider Ronnie Spector and the Ronettes’ Be My Little Baby, which launched the famous “Wall of Sound,” a brainchild of the infamous Phil Spector, and was the song most admired by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys, and was one of 3000 songs session-backed by the incredible “Wrecking Crew” featuring legends like Hal Blaine. Brian Wilson’s God Only Knows was revered by Sir Paul McCartney. There were spillover influences across Pet Sounds, Sgt. Pepper’s and Rubber Soul — Pet Sounds, perhaps the most brilliant and pioneering creation.
There are modern masters, some underappreciated, watch Sara Bareilles knock one out of the park with Laura Nyro’s Stoney End at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
Just about anything by Chris Stapleton, but this CMA 2021 version of Cold really stirs…
And veritable swan songs like Aretha Franklin’s performance of Natural Woman for Carole King’s honor by the Kennedy Center, bringing a sitting President to tears.
And who could forget the impact of midstream Covid’s tenor Andrea Bocelli filling the the empty Duomo in Milan:
The Arts are our gifts to ourselves — Music is our life’s songbook.
Music, like food, like water, is life.
It’s Monday. Take it in.
Copyright 2022, Paul Fioravanti, MBA, MPA, CTP, all rights reserved.