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.
“Crossroads” is another great song by Don McLean. It first appeared on his hit album, “American Pie.” Although the song is not as well-known as the title song and some of the other songs on the album (“Vincent”“And I Love You So” and “Empty Chairs“) Crossroads is nonetheless moving and beautiful.
On the surface, the song is about a man remembering a long-lost love with a sense of regret and a desire to turn back time. I believe the subtext of the song has a larger and more universal meaning: hope and happiness can be found with anything that joins us on the inevitable journey of life. It doesn’t have to be a lover or anyone in particular. It can be an idea, a thought, an emotion, or even an absence of something or someone. An absence can be as strong a motivator as a presence.
On the album, McLean performs the song on Piano. Fortunately, my good friend and tutor, Jerry’s Guitar Bar, has transposed the song for guitar. Here’s my version.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. BELIEVE IN A POSITIVE OUTCOME. AND, IT WILL BE SO.
Like many of us, Don McLean suffered through difficult passages in his life, many of which are reflected in his music. He wrote and recorded “Empty Chairs” when his marriage was failing. Despite the subject of lost love, I feel there is incredible beauty in the lyrics and the melody, and Mclean’s unique guitar style. If you are tired of lost love songs, I recommend listening only to the melody and the guitar.
Although the title is mentioned just once in the song, McLean chose the symbol to sum up his feelings and state of mind at the time. The title is inspired by Vincent Van Gogh’s paintings of empty chairs. Mclean sympathized with Van Gogh and admired his paintings as revealed in his song “Vincent” recorded on the same album: “American Pie.”
The tutorial and the song are best played in the key of G. There are a few high notes I’ve done my best with. Please enjoy my version.
Be positive and stay faithful. Love will bloom anew.
In 1964, Gordon Lightfoot wrote one of his most memorable songs: Early Morning Rain. Lightfoot, a Canadian singer-songwriter, has become a folk legend. Along with his crystal clear singing voice and accomplished guitar playing, Lightfoot has written a library of outstanding folk songs depicting historical events and all manner of love relationships. To single out a smattering of Lightfoot’s top hits is to do the man an injustice. “Early Morning Rain” appears on his 1966 debut album Lightfoot! Before he released the song, another Canadian duo, Ian and Sylvia, recorded it in 1964. Many other folk singing notables (Peter, Paul, and Mary) also adopted the song.
The genesis of “Early Morning Rain” can be traced to Gordon’s 1960 stay in Westlake, Los Angeles. At the time, Lightfoot became homesick for his Canadian roots. He remembers going to the Los Angeles International Airport on rainy days to watch the aircraft take off and land. The memories of the flights launching into the overcast skies stayed with him. In 1964, while caring for his 5-month-old son, Lightfoot remembers thinking, “I’ll put him over here in his crib, and I’ll write myself a tune.” In that moment, “Early Morning Rain” was born.
The lyrics refer to someone down on his luck who stands at an airport fence to watch the thunderous take-off of a Boeing 707 airliner. The theme of the song suggests a jet-age musical allegory to a hobo of bygone days loitering at a railroad yard to steal a train ride home. Lightfoot credits the popularity of the song to his steady improvement as a songwriter.
I’ve always loved this song. Lightfoot strums it. When I heard Eva Cassidy perform the song using a picking technique, I had to learn it her way. Unfortunately, there were no guitar tutorials available. Since Eva plays “Early Morning Rain” close to her version of “Kathy’s Song,” I was able to figure out how to play EMR three-quarters of the way she does.
Why do I bother to learn how to play these songs the way these great artists do? It’s simple. I become a better guitarist with each song I learn. Most importantly, I enjoy it immensely. Here’s my cover of the song.
Thought for the Day
Am I doing the world a favor if I add one more sad voice to the wailing, no matter how artfully I express it?
Paddy and Tom Clancy came to America intending to develop lucrative acting careers. Little did they know they were destined to succeed enormously in the music business while making a tremendous contribution to the form, awareness, and appreciation of classic Irish folk music.
After arriving in Greenwich Village in 1951, the enterprising duo quickly established themselves as successful Broadway, Off-Broadway, and television actors. During this period, the brothers also created their own theater production company which they named: “Trio Productions.” To help raise money for the new company, Tom and Paddy sang old Irish folk songs they had learned as children. They rented The Cherry Lane Theater in the Village and performed shows regularly on Saturday nights. Soon, they were joined by notable folk singers like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Jean Ritchie.
Liam, the youngest of the three brothers, came to America in 1956. He joined his brothers in the singing group, along with his good friend, Tommy Makem. The group came to be known simply as “The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.” The group distinguished themselves with their rousing style of singing Irish folk songs and ballads, while staying true to some of the slower and more mournful tunes.
The group adopted a trademark uniform after their mother, it is said, read about the inclement New York winters. She sent her boys Aran jumpers (sweaters) to keep them warm. The boys wore the sweaters for the first time at the Blue Angel nightclub in Manhattan as part of their regular winter attire. The group’s manager, Marty Erlichman, had been searching for a kind of logo-look for the group. When he saw the sweaters, he knew he had found the “special look” he was searching for. Erlichman asked the group to wear the sweaters for their first TV appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. After that appearance, the Clancy Brothers and Makem wore the sweaters whenever they performed.
The Sullivan TV appearance aired to an audience of forty million. The TV show and the group’s nightclub appearances attracted the attention of a Columbia Records executive. They signed a $100,000 recording contract (a staggering sum at the time) with Columbia and recorded seven albums with the studio. While the members of the group changed from time to time, their success and influence on modern folk music has endured. In all, the group recorded 24 albums on various labels. In 1964, their albums accounted for one third of all the record albums sold in Ireland.
I first saw the Clancy Brothers at Carnegie Hall when I was a callow lad of seventeen. I went to the concert with my best friend. He remains my best friend today, even though he is half a world away. The song I’m about to sing has two names: “Will Ye Go Lassie Go” and “The Wild Mountain Thyme.” It’s a Clancy Brothers favorite. This one’s for you, Danny Boy.
I choose to wander in sunlight to avoid the riptide of darkness threatening to engulf our world.
I prefer to see and hear beauty.
I endeavor to open my heart to love. Not the love that comes and goes. Rather, to eternal love.
I am human. I need love and beauty as much as air and water.
Lately, I’ve been bathing in beauty, love, and light by listening and playing music. Specifically, one person’s music. Listen to my cover of Kate Wolf‘s “Muddy Roads” recorded on her last album (1986) Poet’s Heart. Tell me what you hear and feel.
“When we are connected — to our own purpose, to the community around us, and to our spiritual wisdom — we are able to live and act with authentic effectiveness.”
At the risk of sounding sexist, I’ll say that only a woman could write this song. And, it’s probably appropriate that only a woman should sing it. At least in public.
So, why am I sitting here singing it for you?
Because it’s just so damn beautiful. I can’t freaking help it. Here’s my cover of the song.
As life is interrelated, the effort to cut oneself off from the other has the impact of cutting oneself off from oneself and life itself. We deny part of ourselves when we deny the other, as the other is indeed a part of us.
Nanci Griffith is a popular singer/songwriter who came to prominence in the 1980’s. I bought one of her albums recorded in 1988 and then tracked back to discover more and more of her music. She wrote and performed her first song at the age of twelve.
Griffith was the daughter of musical parents, and she spent her childhood involved with theater and literature as well as music. She began playing clubs around Austin at the tender age of 14 and continued to perform during her college years at the University of Texas, as well as during her stint as a kindergarten teacher in the mid-’70s. Nanci finally decided to make music her full-time ambition in 1977.
One observer said of Nanci, “She found it easier to deal with the cowboys in bars at night than she did with her kindergarten students during the day.”
Nanci Griffith’s world tours are now the stuff of memories and Youtube videos, but her heart and soul will endure for years to come. She recorded and released more than twenty albums during her brilliant career. The video above features me playing one of Nanci’s rousing songs titled “Say It Isn’t So.”
David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing. He plays guitar as a hobby.