I called Mom today and wished her a happy 82nd birthday. It’s always nice to talk to her, though I wish more than anything I could have been with her in our hometown to wish her a happy birthday in person.
I also wish I could give her a gift, to show her my appreciation for all she’s given me through the years. Until that day comes, I’ll have to give her something that’s a reflection of just a part of what she gave me for a lot of years — a gift of music, an appreciation for the art.
My tastes in music are diverse. Mom’s taste in music is pure country. But if it wasn’t for that musical “kickstart” she gave me all those years ago …
So, here’s a music playlist with a few of the tunes I think Mom would appreciate. Oh, and I was just informed by her youngest sister that Mom’s developed quite a hankering for Blake Shelton, so I’ve gotta get some of his tuneage in as well.
I wrote earlier today about the “Coexist” bumper stickers and the meaning behind them, along with the trouble the world has witnessed the past few days alone with anti-American views coming from some in the Muslim world and the demonization some Christians heap upon Muslims.
As I was writing that, I thought of who I could feature for a classic rock playlist. One name came to me, a name of a musician whose music I’ve loved for decades, dating back to the early 1970s.
His birth name is Steven Demetre Georgiou. His stage name was Cat Stevens. His Muslim name is Yusuf Islam.
He’s just one of those musicians who’s written or sung about a silly thing known as peace, which goes hand-in-hand with one word …
The Moody Blues put out more than one great progressive rock song. But there’s one song The Moody Blues did that will live on in anyone’s memory if they ever heard it and took the time to appreciate it.
That is one progressive rock song that I do remember hearing on the radio many times from my childhood days in the isolation of central Idaho. Maybe that particular radio station played it so often because it sounded so much like the “easy listening” music they’d play so much during the day — like Henry Mancini and the Ray Conniff orchestra and singers.
That’s not what “Nights In White Satin” was about. It was haunting. It was classical. It was lovely. It was moody. It was blue.
It’s getting very late, and I haven’t posted a single thing for this blog all day long. I have that goal to post something here every day for a full year to think about, and I’m so close to that goal now … I can’t give it up.
It’s funny I should say that — “can’t give it up.” I could get into a debate with Marvin Gaye about that. I could say, “Can’t give it up,” and he’d turn around and say, “Got to give it up.”
That Marvin Gaye song’s on my mind now for some reason, although there are so many good Marvin Gaye songs. But that song, “Got To Give It Up,” why … that was just one of those songs I used to play on the record player in my room in my late high school years, late at night, with the headphones on, and I’d start dancing. To Parts I and II.
Nope, I couldn’t give it up. No matter what Marvin said.
I guess you could say I have quite a few “flower children” on my Facebook friends list, and that’s cool. I find myself on the same wavelength with a large percentage of them.
If it weren’t for the fact that I have so many “flower children” on my friends list, I might have totally spaced the fact that we’re in the midst of the 43rd anniversary of the Woodstock festival, during which 400,000 people descended on Max Yasgur’s farm near White Lake, New York.
How does one forget the anniversary of an event that changed the history of popular music, and — despite the protests of local residents including signs that said “Buy No Milk. Stop Max’s Hippy Music Festival” — prompted Max himself to speak so highly of his multitude of “guests?”
That’s where I get by with a little help from my friends.
Those puffed-out cheeks caught my attention whenever I’d see them on the television as a kid. So did that bent trumpet that those cheeks would almost seemingly surround. I used to look at the sight of it and think of how much power Dizzy Gillespie must have had when he’d play those jazz tunes, with all that air tucked away.
Some things happen in a “wonderfully accidental” way. According to Dizzy’s autobiography, when a pair of dancers fell on Gillespie’s trumpet while it was on a stand in 1953, the bell bent upward at a 45-degree angle. It changed the tone of his instrument, and Dizzy found that he liked that tone. He played a horn like that from then on. It became a part of that “Dizzy style.”
You need to get past the puffed-out cheeks and bent horn and really listen to what Gillespie was doing with the music to really appreciate what the man did in the world of jazz, though. He played in a way that many found difficult to copy.
He brought along trumpeters like Miles Davis who would continue to enrich the jazz world. Dizzy was like a skilled farmer planting seeds and treating them with care, bringing the most out of them.
Fans around the world have eaten it up ever since.
Continuing with “Django week,” there was one country music legend who, when asked to name the 10 most influential guitarists of the 20th century, put Django Reinhardt at the top of the list, and he placed himself fifth.
Some people might think that Atkins placing himself that high might have been a display of ego. I’d say it’s more a sign of self-confidence, knowing the kind of influence you’ve had when it comes to your craft throughout your career.
There are few who could argue that Chet Atkins didn’t deserve to be ranked that high … at least anyone who was really paying attention to what Chet was doing when he played. He didn’t just play country. He could handle jazz and classical styles as well. In fact, he was at times criticized for crossing those “musical boundaries” a bit too much.
Maybe that criticism came more from jealousy that Atkins could do it so well, so effortlessly.
But it was country music where Chet’s signature sound was born, and it’s there that it will always remain.
Both Rodriguez and Fender were born in Texas, they both infused Latin sounds in their music (singing part of the time in Spanish), and they both topped the charts — Rodriguez with six No. 1 songs, Fender with four among the eight tunes that cracked the top 10 on the country and pop charts.
You could say their music was a novelty because some of their biggest hits were sung in English and Spanish, but that seems to lessen the fact that those songs were and still are popular to this day.
We’re getting down to the end of the playlist’s Independence Week celebration, and now that we’re down to the soul/funk/blues category for a Funky Friday, let’s go to Saginaw, Michigan, the birthplace of an American music legend, Stevie Wonder.
Born with the name Stevland Hardaway Morris, and born blind due to the fact he was premature and his sight hadn’t developed before birth, he was given the name Stevie Wonder as a “child wonder” by a Motown producer who said, “”We can’t keep calling him the eighth wonder of the world.”
Instead of holding him back, Stevie’s blindness gave him an entirely different kind of vision … an “innervision.”
Stevie hears with his perfectly functioning ears and sees things in his mind that those of us with sight may never see, unless we put ourselves in the same frame of mind as Stevie.
He hears people’s cries and their laughter, he envisions the pain and joy that’s around us, he feels the love, and he shares it all with us. He’s also able to “see” injustice” in the land of the free and talk about that as well, with a vision many of us can only hope to attain someday.
He’s done it all for so many years with so much soul, style, and funkiness … that’s why I’ve loved his music ever since I was a kid myself. Stevie’s been among my lifetime musical heroes ever since childhood, which made seeing an old photo this year of my friend Lester Chambers of The Chambers Brothers sitting near Stevie in a recording studio back in the ’70s so amazing. Man, I would’ve loved to hear Lester and Stevie blow on their harmonicas together!
I’ve heard it, I’ve felt it, and I’ve tried myself to get that “Stevie Wonder innervision.” It’s possible if you try.