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Arts & Entertainment humor inspiration Interviews music

The Gift


Jim Brickman at the Los Angeles Gracie Awards in 2013

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.

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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music

Another Slice of “American Pie”


Don McLean released his iconic album, “American Pie,” in 1971. The title song epitomizes the era of the nineteen sixties. A famous lyric from the title song; “the day the music died,” refers to the day Buddy Holly’s plane went down. Holly and the other passengers, including Ritchie Valens and The Bigg Bopper, all died in the crash. The song “American Pie” goes on for some nine minutes to memorialize other landmark events of the era in rich metaphors. Some of the other outstanding songs on the album include, “And I love You So,” “Crossroads,” “Empty Chairs,” and “Vincent.” I’ve covered these songs in earlier posts on this blog.

“Winterwood” is an upbeat love song featuring McLean’s typically vivid imagery. Technically, the title of the song does not exist in the English language. McLean invented the name to evoke the sights and sounds of a snowy mid-winter day with the sun peaking through barren tree branches and birds chirping in the background. The image came to Mclean as he rode through mid-winter streets recalling fond memories with his wife by his side. The image and the related memories stayed with the artist for six months until he finally wrote “Winterwood.”

The technique is a departure from the finger-picking method I used in many of the other songs I’ve posted. “Winterwood” is played entirely with a guitar pick (flat picking). I abbreviated the introductory lick because it might have taken me six months to learn.

Time and Opportunity Wait for No One.

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music

“American Pie” Gold Nuggets


“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.

nuggets of gold

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. BELIEVE IN A POSITIVE OUTCOME. AND, IT WILL BE SO.

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music

Empty Chairs: The Beauty of a Broken Heart


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.

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar folk music Interviews music

An Unfinished Life


“I live for a sense of a feeling of purposefulness in this world, you know, that I could stop my life at any point and feel that my life has been worthwhile; that the people I’ve loved and my children have all reached a point where their lives are now going to come to fruit. And as far as something I live by, it’s to try to be as alive as possible and feel free to make my mistakes and try to be as honest as I can with myself.”

Kate Wolf–Singer Songwriter–1942-1986

Perhaps Kate Wolf had these thoughts in mind when she wrote the song “Unfinished Life.” It’s a haunting ballade filled with hard won wisdom, exquisite beauty, grace, and focused determination. The song is also ironically prophetic. Kate Wolf died tragically of Leukemia at the age of forty-four. Despite her abbreviated life span, she wrote over two hundred songs and performed them at venues in her native state of California and around the world. Kate’s life was, indeed, unfinished, but she left behind a treasure trove of beautiful music.

I first recorded “Unfinished Life” using a free-form guitar strumming method. Recently, while driving in my car, I listened to the song with a different pair of ears. I noticed the unique and highly effective guitar picking technique Kate used to express the words and melody of the song. After some trial and error, I’ve come up with a version that approximates Kate’s unparalleled recording.

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”

JOHN SCHAAR

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music

Throw A Stone In The Water


THROW A STONE IN THE WATER

Kate Wolf left a legacy of over two hundred songs that she recorded and performed in live concert. I’ve played a number of those songs here and in online groups. I’ve tried to embody and share Kate’s love, beauty, compassion, pathos, and joy. Now, it seems my journey with Kate’s music is ending with a few songs from her last albums. Here’s an upbeat one titled “Stone In The Water.”

Bonus Track

Linda Ronstadt made this song famous. I’m playing Eva Cassidy’s version of “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” close to the style she used to perform it. Paul Anka wrote the ballad for Buddy Holly, and Holly was the first to perform it in 1958. The song reached number 13 on the charts at the time.

Ronstadt and Cassidy, two great artists, are no longer with us. They both sang like angels and their legends have grown over time. Their music lives on and is enjoyed by a worldwide audience. This track is dedicated to the memory of Linda Ronstadt and Eva Cassidy.

My version of “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”

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Arts & Entertainment folk guitar inspiration music

The Gathering Of Spirits


Folk Artist, Composer, and Singer
Carrie Newcomer

I had never heard of Carrie Newcomer before a friend played one of her songs (“The Gathering of Spirits”) in an online gazing/meditation class. The song bounced around in my head until I finally had to learn it.

I bought Newcomer’s album of the same name, and I have to say the other songs on it are, for me, an acquired taste. However, I’m glad I was introduced to Carrie’s music and to this song in particular. She’s a unique individual and an unusually talented artist, as you’ll see by clicking on the link above. Here’s my version of “The Gathering of Spirits.” *

In case this blog is too short, here’s my version of another song by Kate Wolf titled “An Unfinished Life.”

*On the album, Alison Krause sings harmony on the song.

Categories
folk guitar music poetry

Gentle Love


Singer, Songwriter, Folk Music, Folk Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Musician, Poet

Born in San Francisco, Kate Wolf started her musical career in the band Wildwood Flower before recording ten records as a solo artist. Her songs have since been recorded by famous artists such as Nanci Griffith and Emmylou Harris. “Poet’s Heart,” recorded in 1985, is the last album Kate released before her untimely death at the age of forty-four. During her life, Wolf’s music was not widely known beyond the borders of her home state of California. Over the years, Kate has attracted a broader audience of millions who appreciate her beautiful voice, poetic song lyrics, and guitar/piano artistry. “Poet’s Heart” features several songs which have touched me deeply such as, “Slender Thread,” “Brother Warrior,” and the title song, “Poet’s Heart.”

Here’s my version of “Poet’s Heart.”

Kate Wolf, Acoustic Guitar, Love, Beauty, Peace, Memories
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inspiration music

Awakening Vision


There is beauty within us. There is beauty everywhere in the world. All we have to do is to want to feel it and see it.

Even in the midst of darkness, this is the dawn of a new age. It may be difficult to believe it or see it, but it’s happening. Nothing can deny us our destiny in love. Not doubt. Not ignorance. Not fear.

Some of us are on the cutting edge of this new world. Kate Wolf was one of these visionaries. I’m a great admirer of her work and her music.

“At this time when the earth is waking.

To the dawn of another age.  

I tell you now.

There is no reason to be afraid.”

Excerpt from “Brother Warrior” by Kate Wolf ©1985

One of these days I’ll get a band to play with. For now, here’s my cover of “Brother Warrior.”

Spiritual Awakening
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music

“Give Yourself to Love”


Female Folk Singer Image Representing the Late and Great Kate Wolf

Kate Wolf came to prominence during a ten year period from 1975 to 1985.  Tragically, Leukemia brought Kate’s life and singer/songwriting career to a premature end at the age of forty-four. In the brief time she had, Kate managed, in her gentle way, to become a major influence on the folk scene with songs like, “Give Yourself to Love,” “Across the Great Divide,” “Green Eyes,” “September Song,” and many more.  In all, she wrote over two hundred songs, a prodigious output considering Kate’s foreshortened career.

The appeal of Wolf’s music is the same today as it was when she released her first album on her Owl Records label more than 30 years ago. Millions of fans around the world remain loyal to Kate and her music. She continues to attract new fans, like me, with her abundant legacy.

I want to thank Gena Netten for introducing me to “Give Yourself to Love” and the incredibly beautiful music of Kate Wolf.

Give Yourself to Love