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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
I’m always interested in the story behind a good song. “Carefree Highway” is one of Gordon Lightfoot’s most popular offerings. He released it on his Warner Reprise 1974 album “Sundown.” It has a free and easy feel and I found it relatively easy to learn.
Carefree Highway is the actual name of a section of Arizona State Route 74 in Maricopa County connecting I-17 to Darlington Drive near the town of Carefree. The Highway rolls through desert mountains, Saguaro cacti, and the mesas of Tonto National Forest.
Driving from one southwestern concert to another, Lightfoot saw the name Carefree Highway on a sign and thought it would make a good song title. He wrote it down and quickly added the lyrics on some scraps of paper. The song then hibernated in a glove compartment for eight months. Lightfoot says in one of his interviews that he almost forgot about it. Fortunately, he rediscovered the lyrics and wrote the tune for the song. Once released, “Carefree Highway” reached the top of the charts in the US and Canada.
In the lyrics, Lightfoot reminisces about a brief love he had with a woman named Anne when he was twenty-two. He wonders if Anne ever thinks of him as often as he thinks of her. In his song, “For Lovin’ Me,” released in1967, Lightfoot sings about all of the hearts he’s broken as a wandering lover who can’t be tied down. In “Carefree Highway,” the tables are turned. Anne quickly dumps Gordon. (Can you hear the cheering women in the background?) As a sidenote, Lightfoot no longer sings “For Lovin’ Me” since it is now politically incorrect.
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.”
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.
Jim Brickman collaborated with Tom Douglas to write “The Gift.” Jim wrote the melody and Tom wrote the lyrics. Listening to many of Jim’s love songs, I can’t help but think that the man has a heart the size of Kansas.
I found an entertaining video on YouTube describing the story behind the making of The Gift. In the video, Jim reveals a healthy sense of humor about himself, and Tom tells the story with a healthy dose of humor. Here’s an edited version of the story’s opening. For the full version, click here.
Jim: “The Gift is the first song I wrote with Tom. It just felt right from the beginning. I have a recollection of our first meeting, but it’s not very clear. I’d like Tom to give his version of the story.”
Tom: “Mine’s not gonna be very flattering.”
Jim: “That’s alright. They know me.”
Tom: “So, I get a call from my agent saying I have America’s foremost Romantic songwriter and pianist who wants you to do a song with him. Needless to say, I was more than a little intimidated. I’d just moved to Nashville with my family, and I was nervous about everything. So, I walk in to meet Jim for the first time, and he’s matter-of-fact. ‘Hi. Good to meet you.’ That sort of thing. Then he starts in with, ‘I have this song with a title, The Gift. Here’s the goal: I want it to be spiritual, but not religious, seasonal, but not Christmas, and, I want it to be a love song.’
Tom (continued): “So, I’m thinking to myself, I made a terrible mistake leaving my hometown of Dallas. I was kinda like stunned, and Jim goes, ‘Here’s the melody. I’d like the syllables of the words to match the music.’ “And I’m thinking, really? Anything else? So, he goes ahead and plays the melody and I record it. Then he says, ‘Oh. One last thing: I need it by tomorrow.’
And so on. Let’s get to the music. Here’s my version.
When Jim Brickman began taking piano lessons at the age of five, his first teacher reported to the boy’s parents that he showed little promise as a future pianist. The student didn’t follow directions. He did things his own way.
I can think of four reasons why Jim’s first teacher thought so little of his potential. Either the boy was unusually rebellious, lacking in talent, or mentally ill. The fourth reason proved to be the right one. Jim was born with extraordinary talent.
Fast forward a half-century. Jim Brickman is known as one of the world’s foremost Romantic songwriters and solo pianists.
Brickman started his career writing advertising jingles. To call the man persistent is probably an understatement.
To his credit, Jim has recorded twenty-one number one albums, thirty-two top radio hits, and he has been nominated for two Grammy Awards. He is also a published author and appears on his own radio show, “The Jim Brickman Hour.” Not bad for a kid with no potential.
Many of Jim’s songs have been covered by leading pop singers such as Carley Simon, Olivia Newton-John, Johnny Mathis, Kenny Logins, and others.
“The Love of My Life” is one of Jim’s better-known and typically beautiful songs. I’ve adapted it for the acoustic guitar. Here’s my version.
By Developing the Habit of Focus and DisciplineYou Will See Your Dreams Come True.