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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment folk music music

Across the Barrier of Time


I’ve always wanted to learn Kate Wolf’s guitar-picking style. Granted, she plays every song she’s written differently, but I just wanted a glimpse. Since Kate has mostly been an under-the-radar, brilliant singer/songwriter, no one has taken the time to create an accurate tutorial of her guitar method. That is until now. My go-to-teacher, Jerry Lamberth, best known for his unequaled guitar tutorial site (Jerry’s Guitar Bar) has finally posted the first of what I hope will be many lessons of Kate Wolf’s songs.

I’ve recorded Kate Wolf’s remarkable story and several of her songs on previous blogs. To learn more about this courageous and uniquely talented person, go to: “An Unfinished Life” “Gentle Love” “Feeling the Heart” and “Through Her Music”.

We lost Kate almost forty years ago to Leukemia, but her music has endured across the barrier of time. Coincidentally, the song is about memories of times past.

Not surprisingly, “Across the Great Divide” is one of Wolf’s most popular songs. Without Jerry’s help, I would never have figured out how to play the song Kate’s way. She uses a simple and at the same time complex alternating base method the likes of which I’ve never seen.

Kate wrote “Across The Great Divide” specifically for Robbie Osman’s folk-oriented show of the same name on KPFA radio, San Francisco. Robbie and Kate were friends who shared similar experiences.

This exercise might be a case of “careful what you wish for.” I busted my ass and fingers to learn this. Here’s my cover of the song.

If you love life with abandon, everything you want will come to you quickly and freely.

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Jefferson Airplane: Comin’ Back to Me


Jefferson Airplane was one of the premiere psychedelic rock bands of the nineteen-sixties. The Airplane epitomized the subversive love and drug culture that emerged from psycho-active drugs like LSD, Marijuana, Mescaline, and Peyote. The band came to prominence in San Francisco in 1965. The original group of six, featuring lead singer Grace Slick, had a seven-year run. Later incarnations of the group lasted until 1990, but the original group spawned the songs that mattered. “Comin’ Back to Me” is one of those hits. The piece appeared on the band’s second album, Surrealistic Pillow.

The story behind “Comin’ Back to Me” goes like this. While sharing a joint of righteous Marijuana with blues guitarist and harpist Paul Butterfield, Marty Balin wrote the song in five minutes. “It just popped out,” Balin said in an interview. He immediately went to the studio to record the song with any available musicians there. Jerry Garcia happened to be one of them.

In addition to being one of the Airplane’s greatest hits, the song was covered by major recording artists like Richie Havens, and versions of it appear as background music in several Hollywood feature films.

Here’s my cover of the song.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music profiles

From a Distance: The Song


A telephone call changed the life of Julie Gold. Although she had solid management, steady gigs, and a powerful repertoire, she failed to progress as a singer/songwriter until becoming involved with the Greenwich Village singer/songwriter scene. Performing at open mikes, Gold was befriended by Christine Lavin, who became her mentor.

When Julie’s parents sent her a piano she played while growing up, the first song she wrote on it was titled “From a Distance.” Lavin sent a tape of the song to a rising star on the country/folk music scene.

While working as a secretary for HBO in New York, Gold received her life-changing phone call from Nanci Griffith. Nanci wanted permission to record “From a Distance” on her cross-over album, Lone Star State of Mind. The album and the song went on to become big hits.

“From a Distance” became even more popular and won a Grammy Award for Song of the Year when Bette Midler recorded it in 1990.

Here is my cover of the song accompanied by an original guitar composition.

This blog post is dedicated to Toby Aurora Bentley. Toby was taken from us too soon. May she rest in peace and love until we can welcome her back.

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Reprise: And I love You So


Even if you aren’t a fan of seventies music, you’ve probably heard Don McLean’s hit song, “And I Love You So.” What you may not know is the song was widely covered by other recording artists, most notably Elvis Presley and Perry Como. Yes, I said Perry Como.

In a career that spanned decades, Don McLean wrote and recorded twenty-two studio albums, four live albums, and 16 singles. He is best known for his song and album of the same name, “American Pie.”

I’m constantly amazed at the way major recording artists create unique compositions to express their music. “And I Love You So” features an original picking method combined with interesting chord shapes. Learning to play a song the way the artist does is a great way to expand your musical scope and technique.

Here is my cover of McLean’s hit. I’ve re-recorded it one fret lower.

Take the next step that’s in your wheelhouse. This is the path to your success.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment children music parenting

Rise and Shine


Singer and songwriter Raffi has conveyed a central message of respect for children and people of all races during his forty-year career of entertaining children’s audiences around the world. The Washington Post has called him “the most popular children’s singer in the English-speaking world.” Raffi has recorded dozens of albums and sold more than fifteen million records. He has also written books for children and adults.

Raffi Cavoukian was born to Armenian parents in Cairo, Egypt. In 1958, the family fled genocide in Turkey and immigrated to Toronto, Canada. Raffi began his musical career singing to children and parents in libraries and eventually in concerts. He says about those early years:

“I thought about who these children were as people. My audience was full of children ranging in age from three to seven years. I wanted to learn about these young people, and the more I learned, the more I was fascinated by how intelligent, spontaneous, and delightful young children are. I was full of admiration for who I call humanity’s ‘primary learners.’ By observing and interacting with these children, I learned something profound: Play is an intelligence that we’re not supposed to lose in our lives. I came to admire and respect the young child as a whole person. That value of respect has guided my whole career.”

Like many parents, I became aware of Raffi’s music when my daughter was a child. Perhaps having a child is a secret door through which only parents and children can pass to hear Raffi’s music.

Raffi has toured the world with his Rise and Shine Band beguiling children and parents alike with his joyful and magical music. His song, “Rise and Shine” quickly became one of my favorites. I played and sang it for my daughter, Danielle when she was a child. Now, it’s my pleasure to play it for my granddaughter, Ashley.

True love does not need or expect reciprocation.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment inspiration Making Changes music

Fleetwood Mac: Landslide


When Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, the band had been in a state of constant turnover. Originally a blues band, the group was as famous for its revolving door of guitarists and vocalists as it was for its handful of hits. Because of its changing lineup, the band had no signature sound. Fortunately, the addition of Buckingham and Nicks was just what Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and his then-wife Christine McVie needed to achieve the group’s long-overdue success. The duo gave the band new energy, a unique and recognizable vocal sound, and material that would become part of Fleetwood Mac’s identity, like the song“Landslide.”

A song about the changes and challenges of life, Stevie Nicks wrote “Landslide” in 1974 in Aspen’s snow country when her then-boyfriend, Lindsey Buckingham, was on tour. Nicks has said in interviews that the song is about her romance with Buckingham and their career struggles, as well as her relationship with her business-executive father. Her months in the mountains helped to inspire the song’s title contained in the lines: 

And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills/‘Til the landslide brought me down. 

Another verse contains questions that most of us ask ourselves at one time or another:

Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

While they may sound simple, the introspection of these words resonated with millions of record buyers and helped to make the debut album by this Fleetwood Mac cast one of the best-selling albums of the 1970s.

How great musicians like Lindsey Buckingham create original compositions like this one is beyond my understanding. His guitar accompaniment on this song is a testament to his extraordinary talent.

Here’s my cover of “Landslide.”

Love is the Truth of the Heart

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Another Word For Love


You might expect there to be, like the Hallmark cards, an overabundance of love songs about valentines. Well, I’m here to tell you there ain’t. Jim Brickman sought to rectify the situation when he co-wrote the song “Valentine” with Jack Kugell.

“I thought it was odd that for a day or for a word that is such a euphemism for love that there wasn’t a song that celebrated it, considering that most songs are love songs,” Brickman said in an interview. “The word ‘valentine’ is a euphemism for love or a replacement word for love, so I wrote it like, you are my love, only the song says, you are my valentine.”

Jim selected Country and Western singer Martina McBride to sing “Valentine” on his album “Picture This” which he released in 1997. Brickman said he selected McBride because he thought she sang like an Angel when he heard her debut album. I would have to agree with him.

To paraphrase, Brickman has said he feels that his music can go with anyone’s music collection. “We have different songs for different occasions. My songs are for romantic occasions.”

I would agree with Brickman there too. Here’s my cover.

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Beautiful


I started out with the intention of learning the song “Beautiful” by Jim Brickman, and then stumbled upon a song by the same name taught by my good friend Jerry at Jerry’s Guitar Bar. Both songs are true to their titles, but the one by Brickman has some complex chords I’d have to figure out how to play. So, I took the easy way out and decided on “Beautiful” by Gordon Lightfoot because it comes with a tutorial. Please note: I really did try NOT to do another Lightfoot song, but here we go again.

Lightfoot had this comment about the song. “It’s about love fulfilled. One of those songs I’ve played every night for over a quarter-century, and I don’t get tired of it.”

Here’s my cover with help from Jerry.

Make the most of your time now because the world will get along just fine without you when your time comes.

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Shadows Of Love


Gordon Lightfoot is one of those rare individuals who resides in the top echelon of his profession. It takes a huge deposit of raw talent, hard work, intestinal fortitude, and luck to reach the level of success Lightfoot has achieved in the music business. Amidst all of this recognition, Gordon remains a simple and straightforward man. He is a survivor with no plans to retire. At 83 years young, Lightfoot once dodged death when his manager found him lying on the floor of his dressing room with a burst aorta. Lightfoot has navigated numerous romantic relationships, spawned six children and five grandchildren, remained close with his offspring, and outlasted most of his contemporaries, not without some regrets.

When he comes on stage these days, Lightfoot often uses a misquote inaccurately attributed to Mark Twain: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” In November of 2021, Lightfoot had the honor of re-opening the newly renovated Massey Hall in Toronto in a live performance. He has played the historic concert venue more than 160 times.

Lightfoot released his fifteenth original album in 1982 on Warner records. The songs on the album are slower and more contemplative than many of the songs he released in the prior decade. As is his custom, Lightfoot compiled the album’s songs from scraps of notes he collected in his briefcase and tapes he recorded at home.

Of the album’s title song, “Shadows,” Lightfoot has made a few somewhat vague comments. He says it was the best song he had at the time, and that it is about a particular problem he was going through in his life involving a man and a woman and nature.

I feel the song is quite beautiful. I’ve learned it the way Lightfoot plays it. Here is my cover of “Shadows.”

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment folk music music

If You Could Read My Mind


I’m watching an interesting film titled “If You Could Read My Mind.” The Canadian documentary is about the life and career of Gordon Lightfoot.

Lightfoot arrived in downtown Toronto as a young man after growing up in Oridella, a small rural Canadian town. Since there were no clubs to play in at the time, Gordon landed a job in a bank to earn a living. Lightfoot was about to earn a promotion when he told his manager that he had decided to leave the bank to accept a role as an extra on a square dancing Canadian TV show. Lightfoot’s manager found it hard to believe that the young man was leaving a good job with a future to go square dancing.

As folk music became commercially viable in the late sixties, clubs began to spring up featuring promising musicians. Gordon landed a spot in one of them. He stood apart from the crowd because he performed many of his own songs in a characteristically pure voice. After he developed a following, a club owner invited Lightfoot to perform at his club across the street at twice the salary. Lightfoot gratefully accepted the invitation to perform at the Riverboat, Toronto’s premier folk music club.

With his beautiful voice and prolific outpouring of quality music, it was only a matter of time before Warner/Reprise records rewarded Lightfoot with a one million dollar recording contract, an unheard-of number for a Canadian singer. His first album with the new label was released in 1970 when Gordon was forty-two. Lightfoot had left United Artists after five albums because he felt they did not represent him adequately. “Sit Down Young Stranger” shipped 80,000 copies before sales stopped dead. The album “had no legs” in the industry’s parlance. Warner changed the name of the album and picked a new single to lead it off. “If You Could Read My Mind” became a runaway hit when an announcer on an important local radio station kept playing it. Sales of the album ballooned to 650,000 copies. The rest is history.

Here’s my cover of the song.

Gordon Lightfoot is not a “legend in his own mind” as Dirty Harry said about the perp he was about to blow away. Lightfoot is a genuine “legend in his own time.” He has been performing live well into his seventies and beyond. It is said that time waits for no man. Time may have made an exception in Mr. Lighfoot’s case.