Category Archives: Music

Born to entertain

I’m picky about my rock legends.

Having been to scores of concerts, I’ve seen most of the musical greats live on stage, even met one or two. I still listen to all my favorite recordings, singing along and reliving the highlights of my career as an avid listener.

But I rarely go to see these idols live anymore. It often pains me to see how they’ve aged, how some have lost their ability to sing as they used to. Aging is a natural part of life, I know; I just prefer to remember the legends as they were.

Bruce Springsteen still is as he was. Only better.

I’ve told you before that I’ve been to more Springsteen concerts than I can count, the first one 37 years ago. As many Springsteen concerts as I’ve attended, I hadn’t been to one since I was in my 20s. I’m now in my 50s, as were most of the fans filling Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center Sunday night, some of whom have spawned a whole new generation of fans.

If you’re a fan, I don’t need to tell of the magic of Bruce. If you’re not, then you likely already quit reading after the third paragraph.

This isn’t a concert review; rather, just a recap of the impressions occupying my consciousness in the afterglow of the evening.

Bruce Springsteen is a man who . . .

  • At the age of 62, is as fit and energetic as he was at 25–and plays a better guitar than ever.
  • Speaks out boldly for his passions—personal, professional and political.
  • Might not enunciate his lyrics clearly, but has millions of fans sing along verbatim.
  • Still looks on the outside like the rugged bad boy we all fell in love with, but has mellowed into a sensitive and humble man who isn’t afraid to sing about Jesus and end his show with a “God bless.”
  • Has brilliantly mastered the art of musical orchestration and stage production to the extent it seems impossible to top.
  • Deeply misses, nearly to tears, his friend and saxophone player Clarence Clemons.
  • Had the wisdom to bring in Clarence’s nephew, Jake Clemons, to fill the Big Man’s big shoes and throw in four additional horns for good measure.
  • Has proven it’s possible to work successfully, side by side, every day, with one’s spouse.

Bruce gave 20,000 lucky fans three hours of musical muscle for their money. And while he was in town, he saw to it that wounded veterans from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, as well as those served by DC Central Kitchen, were included in the magic.

Yes, indeed. The man’s still got it.

More…

For a real review, today’s Washington Post says it more eloquently than I, and had more space to work with: Read David Malitz’ excellent account.

Previous Word Nymph pieces:

The Boss
Big Dream

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Inspiration

In a concert Mary Chapin Carpenter once introduced her song, “The Last Word,” as many songwriters do, by telling the audience what inspired her to write it. She observed that often writers are inspired by the beauty of nature or an overwhelming feeling of love. “I wrote this one,” she said, “because I was pissed off.”

Today, all mankind is on my nerves.

Years ago, a loved one made me laugh when she shouted, very seriously, “What is everybody’s problem?” Today I can relate. Surely it isn’t me. (I know, it’s I.)

The experts say that making a list can be a good first step in addressing the source of one’s anger. So here goes.

  1. When people who borrow my books write in them
  2. When texters walk in front of moving cars
  3. Rush Limbaugh
  4. Rush Limbaugh
  5. Rush Limbaugh
  6. When people expect the Earth to revolve around them
  7. When people over-post on Facebook
  8. When people spew venom on Facebook
  9. Facebook
  10. When The Washington Post doesn’t know who from whom
  11. Me, for over-consuming and under-producing — and getting pissed off.

Thanks. I feel better.

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Filed under Family and Friends, Music, News, Politics, Rants and Raves, Technology and Social Media

Waring thin

December relics, part two

This time of year I spend a lot of time standing at the intersection of Memory Lane and Frustration Freeway.

Yesterday, I took you on a tour of my aging crèche. Last December you kindly indulged me in accounts of favorite holiday movies (including a really old one), traditional cookies and some pleasant and less pleasant family rituals.

Today, I remember Fred Waring.

From my youngest days, the definitive holiday album in our house was The Sounds of Christmas, by Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians (sometimes called His Pennsylvanians). I’m pretty sure this record made its way into our home about the same time I did.

You can go online and read all about Fred Warning who, by the way, was also promoter, financial backer and namesake of the Waring Blendor. Yes, with an o.

There were songs on that album that you don’t hear—at least I haven’t heard—on other collections:  “I Wonder as I Wander,” “Go Where I Send Thee,” for example. I always loved his rendition of “Caroling, Caroling.”

The pops and cracks of the LP are essential elements of the audio experience, and they transferred well when my mother copied the record to a cassette tape for me one year. Short of digging a boom box out of the basement, though, there’ll be no easy way for me to enjoy The Sounds of Christmas this year.

Amazon would be happy to sell me a CD version for 99 dollars. Another site offers a CD copy of the LP for $24, but “to abide by copyright laws, you must own the vinyl record to buy the CD. If you don’t already own the record, you can purchase one with your CD.” I wonder (as I wander) what proof they require that an LP exists somewhere in our family.

While browsing the Fred Waring shelves in cyberspace, I was offered an opportunity to acquire a Waring carol as my ringtone. Having never tapped into an online ringtone, I stupidly completed three steps on a site called Jamster which, by its name, should have clued me in that they’d have no Fred Waring. Indeed, despite the come-on, they didn’t and my mobile account was charged $9.99. I then spent 20 minutes on the phone with a gentleman in the Eastern hemisphere who finally agreed to send me a hard copy refund check via snail mail.

But I digress. Literally.

What’s your definitive holiday album?

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Filed under Hearth and Home, Holidays, Music

Stream of unconsciousness

It’s interesting where roads lead. Sometimes a little free association can take us down an amusing path to sparkling treasure.

For me, the starting point was ballroom dancing. As a freelancer, my flavor of the week can be just about anything; this time, it’s dancing. Often when I start a new writing project, I go to sleep with ideas swirling about, in hopes a few will collide and stir creative copy. Other times, it’s just dust.

While listening to the radio on Sunday, I sang along with Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” as I had a thousand times before. It’s a beautiful song. This time, though, I wondered what in the world it meant that “We skipped the light fandango.” I thought about it. Could the phrase be a variation on “trip the light fantastic?”

I always considered trip the light fantastic to be ritzy and glitzy, from another era. I’ve never found occasion to use it in conversation, and certainly never understood where it came from or what it even meant exactly. (For you younger readers, it means to dance nimbly or lightly in a pattern.)

On Monday I woke up mulling my latest writing challenge. Might there be a place for tripping the light fantastic? I looked it up to ensure I understood the meaning and origin of the expression. Good thing too because I learned that, not only did it come from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, but “tripping the light fantastic” was sixties drug lingo.

I continued searching. And I found a most delightful poem by John Milton, L’Allegro, published in 1645. It’s 150 lines long; I’ll share just the first excerpt that popped up:

Haste thee, Nymph, and bring with thee
Jest, and youthful Jollity,
Quips and cranks and wanton wiles,
Nods and becks and wreathed smiles
Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.
Come, and trip it, as you go,
On the light fantastic toe;
And in thy right hand lead with thee
The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty;
And, if I give thee honour due,
Mirth, admit me of thy crew,
To live with her, and live with thee,
In unreproved pleasures free …

Don’t you just love it?

Later in the poem, I found bonus words I’ll tuck away, should I ever be hired to write about beer:

To many a youth and many a maid,
Dancing in the chequer’d shade;
And young and old come forth to play
On a Sunshine Holyday
Till the live-long daylight fail,
Then to the spicy nut-brown ale.

So here’s to A Whiter Shade of Pale.

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Filed under All Things Wordish, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Music, Quotes, Reading, Theater

Silly songs

While we’re on the subject of song lyrics, may I share something else?

I’ve told you before that all twenty-something of my iPod playlists are themed. Surprised? Each one is fashioned around an era, a genre, a mood or a bit of subject matter, sometimes a bit subtle but always cohesive.

Recently I went a little wild and created a playlist willy-nilly. No theme; I just named it Background Music. I made it for a little get-together, to which most invitees didn’t show, so it’ll be safe to bring out again.

Meanwhile, I put it on two CDs, in my own version of Shuffle (songs organized in alphabetical order, pretty crazy, eh?). While listening to these, I discovered that a theme has nonetheless emerged—laugh-out-loud lyrics.

For example:

“They say that absence makes the heart grow fungus.”

“I don’t remember you looking any better, but then again I don’t remember you.”

“My dog’s not in your dumpster.”

“Mama’s been cryin’ in the kitchen since morning; she cried right through As The World Turns.”

“Trying my best to set the highway on fire, but my bicycle won’t go no faster.”

“You think you’re so smart but I’ve seen you naked.”

“I dug up this old photograph; look at all that hair we had.”

“When it rains, I pour.”

Have you any of your own that might have zipped by us without notice? Do share.

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Gavotte words?

Do you ever think about—really think about—where we get our vocabulary words?

They come from an endless variety of places. There are the ones we were forced to learn in school, the ones we read in books and looked up, the ones we heard smart people use and adopted as our own. There are the ones our parents wrote on cards and made us study in the small room of the house.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still collecting vocabulary words. From time to time I spotlight my favorite ones in this space. Right next to the song lyrics.

Only recently have I thought about the words I learned in my adolescent years as a radio junkie. One day last week, while in the car, I remembered the first time I ever heard the word invincible. I wonder if you learned it from the same source.

If you’re about my age, and you grew up listening to Top 40 hits of the 60s and 70s, you too might have learned invincible from Helen Reddy. “I am strong, I am invincible, I am wom-a-a-a-n.”

I’m making an effort now to listen more closely and nostalgically to the oldies so I can build the list.

I had never heard of a funeral pyre until 1967, when The Doors sang, “and our love become a funeral pyre,” which I confess I thought was funeral parlor; it makes about as much sense, not to mention the lack of subject-verb agreement. Leon Russell came along in 1972 with “I’m up on a tight wire, flanked by life and the funeral pyre.”  I still didn’t know what a pyre was but I liked the song and, looking back, it’s pretty darn poetic.

Let’s skip over pompatus, because it’s been overdone and everyone knows pompatus isn’t really a word. Next?

Again in 1972, I learned a word that I couldn’t imagine ever using, but it caught my attention when Carly Simon sang, “You had one eye in the mirror as you watched yourself gavotte.” I think I did try to look up gavotte as a curious 12-year-old, and have been looking for the right opportunity to use it ever since. It was also in  “You’re So Vain” that I first heard of Saratoga.

In 1973, I first heard the word espionage. Anyone remember where? It’s obscure, I know. “He’s a mastermind in the ways of espionage.” All these years later, I still know all the words  to “Uneasy Rider” by Charlie Daniels (from which I also first heard of John Birch and Mario Andretti).

I know there are more. Can we keep this going?

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Finale favorites

It was bound to happen. Yesterday’s reference to choosing one’s own funeral music has led to lengthier discussions.

I was comforted to discover I’m not the only healthy person to put a little thought into this. I view my funeral as one last opportunity to amuse my friends and still end the conversation with the last word.

My father said long ago that when he goes, he wants “Abide With Me” played on a bad cello with canaries singing in the  background. One last joke.

My mother—in comments to yesterday’s post—shared her funeral program plans du jour, which include both a Requiem and a Bruce Springsteen ballad.

In a chat with friends yesterday, one said she had her whole service planned. Another said she’d leave the details to her mourners, while preferring to focus on the wake.

Recently, while giving you my impressions of the final scene of Les Misérables, I shared that I’d be adding “Finale” to my funeral program. “Finale” isn’t just the reference to the musical’s closing number, but (spoiler alert) a commentary on the death experience.

I’ll say, I do have a few hymns picked out. Some come and go, but two definites remain, “I Want to Walk as a Child of the Light” and “There’s Wideness in God’s Mercy,” but I don’t want the traditional version of the latter. The one I want is a different melody altogether. For the record, it’s #469 in the Episcopal Hymnal, not the more popular #470. Are we clear on that?

I’d like to avoid what happened at my mother-in-law’s funeral. As she was near the end of her life, she requested specifically that “How Great Thou Art” not be played. She hated that hymn. Guess what the organist played as the final hymn of the service? Personally, I love “How Great Thou Art.” A little overdone on the funeral circuit, but moving nonetheless.

Don’t hate me, but I’m not a fan of “Amazing Grace,” so let’s skip that one and leave more time to get to the potato salad.

Now, on to the after party. Some of the popular music I’ve chosen includes The Beatles’ “Let it Be,” Jackson Browne’s “Rock Me on the Water,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” and now, “Finale” from Les Miz. There are many others that come and go from the hopper.

We make these selections as if we have any control but truly, we are at the mercy of our loved ones, who may have a different agenda.

I remember a time when my son, who was seven or eight at the time, was really angry at me. He searched for the most hurtful thing he could think of to say, which was: “When you die, I’m gonna get up and sing ‘Go Go Power Rangers’ at your funeral!”

It still makes me laugh to imagine him as a middle-aged man in a suit and tie, standing at the church lectern and singing this thumping cartoon theme song to his mother. He will, after all, have the final say.

Your turn. What’s in your final playlist? Anyone have “Dust in the Wind?” “Last Train to Clarksville?”

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