Listening to Bowie and reading obits. Here are some choice lines from the NYTimes obit:
Mr. Bowie wrote songs, above all, about being an outsider: an alien, a misfit, a sexual adventurer, a faraway astronaut.
Angst and apocalypse, media and paranoia, distance and yearning were among Mr. Bowie’s lifelong themes. So was a penchant for transgression coupled with a determination to push cult tastes toward the mainstream.
Mr. Bowie was his generation’s standard-bearer for rock as theater: something constructed and inflated yet sincere in its artifice, saying more than naturalism could. With a voice that dipped down to baritone and leapt into falsetto, he was complexly androgynous, an explorer of human impulses that could not be quantified.
The 38th post in this series, listening to my cd collection in alphabetical order.
It is difficult for me to listen to Kate Campbell's "New South." Watching the reaction to marriage equality in Alabama reminds one of how little the South has changed.
Growing up in northeastern Oklahoma, I always considered myself a Southerner and resented the notion of outsiders that we were all like those of the past--prejudiced hicks. Sadly, that stereotype does remain too true.
Of course watching police violence against black men across the country, one realizes that many of our old problems remain.
With some preparation through my friendship with Tim Youmans, it was while I was living in Fayetteville, Arkansas that I drifted into listening to more folk and that genre of American music that combines the best elements of rock, blues, folk, country, and gospel (think Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams). David Breckenridge (the pastor I was associate for) and John Meadors (the husband of the other associate pastor) helped those interests along.
I'm drawn to this music that explores the American story, often expressing our longing for something better (more on that in a moment). It is usually music of the people, with a grassroots, populist feel.
I think it was David, who was from Mississippi, who gave me Kate Campbell's Monuments. Campbell's songs are narrative windows into the South. Her Wikipedia article says "Her story-filled songs feature quirky characters and often deal with the region's complex issues." The bio on her own website notes that her "eloquent gift for storytelling . . . has drawn repeated comparisons to such bastions of the Southern writing tradition as Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty and William Faulkner." High praise indeed.
Heard about a man From Birmingham Went down to Selma To take a stand How much Can one heart hold He sang some songs About peace and love And took a beatin' From a billy club How much Can one heart hold
It was the Sunday morning of the Austin City Limits Music Festival in September 2004, and I was driving over to the festival that morning listening to the radio where they were discussing the bands and recommended that everyone go see the group Calexico. Here's what I wrote later:
They were fantastic. I thought their mix of sounds was unique. I rushed right over to the Waterloo Records tent and bought their album, Feast of Wire. And the cd is great too. It is more mellow than the live performances, which really got you moving. I highly recommend this band if you haven't heard them.
"Their musical style is influenced by traditional Latin sounds of mariachi / conjunto / cumbia / Tejano music and also the Southwestern United States country music as well as '50s-'60s jazz and '90s-'00s post-rock," according to their Wikipedia article.
They remind me of Woody Guthrie. They eloquently sing of the longing for a better country. Here are the lyrics for the song "Sunken Waltz:"
Washed my face in the rivers of empire Made my bed from a cardboard crate Down in the city of quartz No news, no new regrets Tossed a susan b. over my shoulder And prayed it would rain and rain Submerge the whole western states Call it a last fair deal With an american seal And corporate hand shake
Bush and Cake stand next to each other in the alphabetical order of our cd collection. They make me think of the 1990's and my roommates and friends
Michael brought the Bush album into the marriage. Though I did listen to them because friends owned their albums. At the time I was, of similar bands, more into Live. Listening to Michael's Bush album makes me think of visits to the Dallas-Fort Worth area with Derrek Housewright when we'd be glad that our car radio finally picked up the alternative stations we couldn't get in Oklahoma. Bush makes me think of driving around Dallas. It was also when I went through my own obligatory period of shoulder length hair.
Cake I loved. They are a much better band, though the one time I saw them at ACL, I thought they phoned it in, which was mighty disappointing.
There songs were fun, their lyrics were clever, and they recorded great covers, such a this one of "I Will Survive" which was never convincing. By that I mean that you knew Gloria Gaynor was in fact going to survive. Cake, you weren't quite so sure. And that really fit our mood in our twenties.
My cd collection series continues with this, post number 35.
Tom Nix would occasionally play special music at Cathedral of Hope in Oklahoma City. Tom would play piano and sing. Once he sang this song:
I liked it so much that I began to request it. Eventually Tom gave me the cd Grateful: The Songs of John Bucchino. A variety of stars from Art Garfunkel to Liza Minnelli perform the songs on the album, all written by John Bucchino. They are easy listening with smart lyrics. This is not the music I normally listen to.
But when we drove a few weeks ago to meet the woman who had selected us to adopt her child, I grabbed a bunch of cds that I thought would be relaxing. This was one of them. Michael had never listened to it before.
As we drove back from the meeting, I played this song "Grateful" and then the song "This Moment" sung by Kristin Chenoweth:
Since then, I have played these two songs repeatedly as I've imagined holding my newborn son.
As I've written previously, my generation fell in love with the music that our Boomer parents had largely rejected, the American songbook of our grandparents. Harry Connick, Jr., who was big when I was in high school, helped with this.
In the early 21st century Michael Buble emerged sounding even more like Sinatra. I initially bought his first , self-titled album after hearing it at a party because I thought it was sexy. It opens with "Fever."
But I was like most about listening to this album now is dancing with my husband. I like to put it on in the kitchen when we are cooking together and during "For once in my life" I'll grab him, and we'll dance around the kitchen.
My favourite part of that song is:
For once I can say; this is mine you won't take it Long as I know I have love I can make it For once my life I have someone who needs me
My more serious acquaintance with jazz began in the late nineties when I would attend jazz nights at the favourite local coffee shop in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The coffee shop went by various names over the years as it changed hands, but it was a regular hangout throughout my college and grad school days. It felt very grown-up to hang out at a coffee shop with cool music playing.
I liked the jazz music, but was ignorant of it, so I was quite excited when Ken Burns announced the upcoming Jazz documentary series on PBS. I would use that series to introduce me to the genre, its history, and major stars and movements. Once the series was over, I began to collect the major works of the genre and others that I'd really liked from the TV show. So, as this blog series continues, you'll see more of those jazz greats appearing (I've already written about Louis Armstrong).
One of the albums I bought after the Ken Burns documentary was Time Out by The Dave Brubeck Quartet.
Time Out includes "Take Five" the biggest-selling jazz single of all time. Here is the description on Wikipedia:
Written in the key of E-flat minor, it is famous for its distinctive two-chord piano vamp; catchy blues-scale saxophone melody; imaginative, jolting drum solo; and use of the unusual quintuple (5/4) time, from which its name is derived.
I've never been quite as captivated by Brahms as I have been by some of the other great composers, though I did write once after hearing the Omaha Symphony perform his "Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major for Piano and Orchestra" with Andrew von Oeyen on piano and my friend Paul Ledwon on cello that the third movement "sounded like the piano and the cello were making love." But I don't own a copy of Concerto No. 2.
We do own The Complete Symphonies. So, on occasion I get to listen to the melancholy, moving third movement of the 3rd Symphony, the poco allegretto:
In the summer of 2001 I was twenty-seven years old, and I was a brand new youth minister at Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Fayetteville, Arkansas. For my first Wednesday night activity I wanted to talk about faith as a journey and decided to play some popular music that helped to convey that theme. I opened with "Airline to Heaven."
Two of the greatest albums of my young adulthood were Mermaid Avenue volumes 1 and 2. Recorded by the British singer Billy Bragg and the American folk rock band Wilco, the songs were unrecorded Woody Guthrie lyrics. The albums are an incredible artistic collaboration.
Take "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" for instance. For one, that's an incredible song title. An incredible English clause. Then listen to what the musicians do with the song.
Though these albums remain in regular rotation in my listening, I associate them most closely with the turn of the millennium and the period of my life when I was first working with youth. I associate them with Tim Youmans, particularly, and our friendship. I'm pretty sure I had the albums before Tim and I met. They may have been part of how we related to one another.
Tim came to Shawnee near the end of the 1990's to be the youth minister at First Baptist Church. About that time I was getting bored at church and my previous leadership role of directing the college program. Tim enticed me to do something I never thought I'd do--work with youth. Part of what intrigued me was a different way of doing youth ministry than what I'd seen growing up. Tim's approach was thoughtful, edgy, and incorporated great music.
Guthrie's lyrics speak in the grassroots, populist, evangelical religious language of Oklahoma, while proclaiming how liberal the gospel is. For example, from the song "Blood of the Lamb:"
Have you learned to love your neighbors? Of all colors, creeds and kinds? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?
I've learned to love my peoples Of all colors, creeds, and kinds I'm all washed in the blood of the lamb
I am washed, yes I'm washed I am washed in the blood I'm all washed in the blood of the lamb
Or the catchy "Christ for President:"
These songs were a great soundtrack as my experience in full-time ministry made me more progressive and liberal.
This is post number Thirty in my series listening to our cd collection.
It was May 1992 at the Coleman Theatre Beautiful in downtown Miami, Oklahoma and the graduating class of Miami High School was coming to the end of the annual Senior Talent Show. The class spilled out onto the stage and standing side-by-side began to sing one of that year's biggest hits, Boyz II Men's "It's so hard to say goodbye."
I must say that I find these early '90's styles to be hilarious.
I think we forget how big they were. Their dominance of the top of pop charts is only rivaled by the likes of Elvis and The Beatles, as you can read in their Wikipedia article.
I bought their album II which had a number of big hits on it, including these two sexy and romantic songs.
That night of our senior talent show, I remember the emotion, as we were saying goodbye to one another. I loved high school, and though I was looking forward to college with great excitement, I knew I would miss my friends and activities.
Since I did love it, I'm one of those who enjoys reunions. In 2012 we gathered for our 20th, and it was a blast. Though I don't remember that we played any Boyz II Men.