If you are a child of the 1960’s/70’s, then you’ve probably heard of Don McLean’s memorable hit song, “And I Love You So.” What you may not know is that the song was widely covered by other recording artists, most notably Elvis Presley and Perry Como. Yes, I said Perry Como.
It is a paradox that McLean created such beauty in his music while being a monster in his personal life. His controlling, verbally abusive treatment of his daughter left her with serious psychological disorders. His behavior ruined his marriage. I guess we are all Jekylls and Hydes. The differences individually lie in which side prevails and to what degree.
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. To learn to play a song the way the artist does is a great way to expand your musical scope and technique. It took the better part of three weeks to master this song. It has some beautiful riffs in it. Here is my version of McLean’s hit. I hope you enjoy it.
Take the next step that’s in your wheelhouse. This is the path to your success. Don’t overreach. Falling off a cliff is no fun.
Have you ever heard of Steve Gillette? If you were alive in the 1960’s and liked folk music and folk ballads, there’s a chance the name rings a bell. Gillette never made it to the top of the charts, but he’s a very talented singer/songwriter. Many of his songs have been performed by artists you have heard of like John Denver, Gordon Lightfoot, Ian and Sylvia, Nanci Griffith, and Linda Ronstadt.
Steve has recorded seven solo albums. In 1989, Steve married Cindy Mangsen. Together, Steve and Cindy have recorded seven albums while touring across the country for decades. Steve and Cindy are truly wandering minstrels.
The Bells In The Evening appears on Gillette’s debut album released in 1967. In my opinion, the album, simply titled “Steve Gillette”, stands as one of Steve’s finest recordings. “The Bells” is a bittersweet (actually sweet bitter) song of love blossoming in the spring and fading away in the fall. It’s a song full of immense joy and sorrow that combine in a mixture of awesome beauty. The song is also replete with imagery. When you listen, what images come to your mind?
Please enjoy my version of “The Bells In The Evening.”
“Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light.”
In these troubling times, it seems like the world could go off a cliff at any moment.
I remember what it was like in the nineteen-sixties when we lived under the threat of nuclear devastation. Today, we live under the veil of multiple threats: COVID, cyber attacks, totalitarian regimes, Jihad, the environmental crisis and a few others topping the list. Taken together, I believe these threats have made the world a more dangerous place to live in than ever before.
Can I/we do anything about these threats? Let’s try to answer the question with some self-inquiry.
I’ve noticed on WordPress that there is a lot of blogging about the pain of life: heartbreak, lost loves, loneliness, anxiety, and more. Sure, pain is part of life, and people can relate to it. My question is: Is there something else?
The news carries stories constantly about the daily tragedies that occur around the world. Last night, for example, I was listening to a CNN report about a horrible flash flood in Germany. It’s good to know about these things, but is there something else I can focus on?
If I am a compassionate person and I listen to the suffering of others, is there someplace I can go to find peace, strength, and even, God forbid, Joy?
How many people in the world interrupt their complaining to find this place? Does it exist? Have you found it?
And finally, if I find peace within myself, will the world be a better and more peaceful place to live in?
Think about it.
Before we close, I’d like to continue the inquiry with some questions surrounding the hot topic of vaccinations.
If you don’t want to get vaccinated because the short or long-term effects are unknown, do you stand a better chance of survival if you get the more virulent COVID Delta Variant?
Did you know if the rate of Delta infections keeps rising, there is a very good chance the virus will mutate into even more virulent strains? Quite possibly, these new variants could be immune to our current vaccines.
Do you realize that not getting vaccinated puts not only you, but everyone else in the world at high risk?
If you are in good health, what is your reason(s) for choosing not to be vaccinated?
It seems I can’t end without singing you a song. Talking about the sixties, here’s one that goes back there. It’s from Steve Gillette’s debut album released in 1967. In my opinion, every song on this album is outstanding, except maybe the first one. Steve Gillette never made it to the top of the charts, but he’s a very talented artist.
“Back On The Street Again” is one Gillette’s best known songs. The song is about a lost love (there I go contradicting myself). It’s also about getting back up and moving on. I find the song to be touching and stirring. Maybe you will too.
“The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them.”
This is the prologue to the new edition of “Three Days to Darkness.” I’ve extensively rewritten the original novel (first published in 2010) to bring it up to date. It’s amazing how the world has changed in eleven years, but some things never change, like the themes grounding the story. I’ve also added a paperback edition to the digital edition, along with a spiffy new interior design. Don’t miss this heartwarming, humorous, and action-packed saga available at major online retailers worldwide.
Darius McPherson never saw it coming. His thoughts were elsewhere. On the kids. The ones he could save. They weren’t kids, really. Some of them were older than him. They were all tough and uneven around the edges, but a few of them were diamonds in the rough. They were the ones he considered his kids. They had real potential. They just needed someone to care about them. They needed a role model and some inspiration. Darius was happy to provide both. Not a bad summer gig for a guy waiting for his first year of law school to begin.
He pressed the bell on the side of the barred wooden door. The royal blue paint under the ugly bars gleamed in the direct sunlight and looked completely out of place in the burned-out industrial neighborhood in midtown Detroit.
He waited patiently to be buzzed into the youth counseling center. “Be right with you, Darius,” his supervisor said through the intercom. He liked Allison Turner. In her late thirties and twice divorced, she had managed to stay kind-hearted despite rough circumstances. She was also extremely capable. Allison had taught him more about inner-city teenagers than he could have learned in a decade on his own.
The door opened and a group of youthful offenders burst into the street. Darius knew several of them. They were attending classes at the center as part of their plea bargains. Darius smiled at them, even though he knew most of them were as dangerous as plastic explosive wired to detonate at the slightest provocation.
“Hey La Vonn” Darius called to the tallest boy in the group. “I hope you learned something today.”
“Yeah. How to stay outta’ the crowbar hotel,” the slender boy replied.
“Do you mean learning how to game the system or how to stay out of jail?”
Darius noticed La Vonn’s eyes open wide. He turned around in time to see a gray Lincoln Navigator with shiny, twenty-inch wheels and dark tinted windows round a nearby corner. No rap music blared from inside the car, which made Darius suspicious. He heard the sound of footsteps running away from him. He thought it undignified to run. And why would anyone in the neighborhood want to harm him? When the windows came down in unison, a cold chill went through his body. Darius saw young men wearing ski masks inside the car. He had no time to react.
The first shots hit the cinderblock wall of the youth center. Not unlike fireworks on the Fourth of July, Darius remembered thinking before a bullet pierced his chest. At first, he felt like an ice pick had stabbed him in the heart. Then there was a burning sensation. He remembered seeing his body lying on the cracked sidewalk in a pool of blood. The last thoughts that went through his brain were of his parents, his older brother and younger sister, and of course, Rebecca. After that, he sensed his awareness swirling down a dark tunnel opening at the far away end into some kind of scintillating light.
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I see a woman shopping in a shoe department. She is long and lean, quite beautiful and unmindful of my lustful stare. She is like so many women men like me desire. I am a fool, of course.
What I want can never be satisfied by any woman. Even the most beautiful woman in the world cannot quench the flame that burns within me.
The joys and sorrows of my relationships come and go like passing clouds. I need them, but…
I often forget what I truly want: You, my beloved. Beyond the fantasies and small desires conjured by a deceitful magician. Mind brandishes multi-colored shrouds in a deft attempt to lure me away from where You reside.
Your palace is more luxurious, more enchanting than any abode the world has to offer. Beyond words. Beyond imagination.
Beyond the boundaries I call myself. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of You. A flawless diamond. Perfection itself.
Too beautiful for these outer eyes to see. More precious than a hundred Spanish treasure ships. Waiting to be discovered.
Lately, I’ve been posting on Facebook images of late 18th century impressionist paintings and 1930-40’s Art Deco cars and architecture. I’ve also been listening to and playing a lot of Kate Wolf’s music. I believe the unifying theme of these adventures is BEAUTY.
What I’m about to say may seem odd, self-inflated, or downright delusional, but what the hell. I’m going to say it anyway. It seems that I’m undergoing a dramatic shift in consciousness. I’m focusing on, feeling, and sensing the beauty and light within me and around me.
I’m choosing to focus on this beauty, not as some kind of self-improvement practice. It’s something I want to do. I don’t have to impose it on myself. You might say “the sun in my heart is rising,” finally, after all these years of struggling to arise out of the negativity in and around me. It’s not that the negativity has gone away. It’s just easier and more desirable to focus on something better.
It’s something that comes from inside and outside of me. It’s something that is beautiful, peaceful, and fulfilling. It’s something that beats the hell out of the over-controlled grind of daily life.
I started with the intention of sharing a selection of the beautiful images and music I mentioned earlier. I may have gotten a bit side-tracked along the way. So, without further delay:
My version of “Poet’s Heart” written by Kate Wolf Copyright 1985
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.”
“Lay me Down Easy” is technically a blues song. To me, the song sounds upbeat with a whisper of the blues in the background. And there’s definitely an element of wry humor in the mix. Maybe “bitter sweet” is a better description of “Lay Me Down Easy.”
I’ve been playing many of Kate Wolf’s songs lately. The beauty of Kate’s music steals its way into my heart the more I listen to one of her songs. As illustrated by the photos, I’m feeling the joy and the love in the song more than the backdrop of the blues. Listen, and let me know how you receive it.
Photo by Vlada Karpovitch on Pexels
We must continually choose love in order to nourish our souls and drive away fear, just as we eat to nourish our bodies and drive away hunger.
Six years ago, I attended a seminar presented by Saniel Bonder titled “The Sun in Your Heart is Rising–Activating Your Embodied Awakening, Wholeness, and Unique Purpose.” Nine people attended the five-day event at Kripalu Yoga Center in western Massachusetts. One of the exercises in the seminar is called “Heart Seat Share.” Each person in the group speaks for seven minutes about what is going on in their lives with time allotted for feedback from the teacher and group members. I’ve decided to revisit this post, polish it up, and hope it brings you some inspiration.
Here I am. It’s my time to share. I imagine myself walking down a circular staircase in my throat. I arrive on the first floor of my chest cavity.
Leaving the staircase on the bottom floor, I encounter a winding corridor with no doors or branches. At least I don’t have to decide which way to go, because I basically have no idea. I just need to put one foot in front of the other and have faith that my feet are taking me where I want to go.
Finally, I see a doorway in the distance. The overhead lighting becomes increasingly bright as I reach my destination. It’s a wooden door painted gold with an intricate star pattern splashed on the surface. What does it mean? Maybe it’s just a goddamned ornament put there to look mysterious. Who knows? I decide it looks inviting.
I grab the brass handle, turn it, and nothing happens. The door is firmly locked. I knock a few times and wait. Seconds go by and then a full minute. No response.
“Anybody home?” I call out.
Total silence. Not even the sound of air-conditioning.
“You know, I’ve come a long way to get here. The least you can do is answer your fancy door.”
I’ve traveled this way many times before, but I always get lost. Not this time. I’m convinced this is the real deal.
I’ve been told by numerous teachers that someone or something dwells deep within the recesses of the heart. I’ve always believed this to be true. I never doubted it. Yet here I am, standing around like an idiot. I’ve heard some vague rumblings from time to time from the other side of the door. I’ve had a few inklings, maybe even heard a faint burbling sound, but that’s about it.
“This is getting embarrassing,” I say to the elaborate, mysterious door. “I’m here in front of the class, and I need to sound halfway intelligent. Can you please give me some material to work with?”
“Like what?” a voice says from the other side in a slightly irritated tone.
I almost fall down. These two words are more than I’ve heard in thirty years. It’s a clear, unmistakable, somewhat irritated voice. I quickly regroup before the voice loses interest. I must take advantage of this opportunity. I have to get right to the point. I imagine whoever is speaking to me is quite busy. I’m not even going to imagine if it has a shape. I can’t risk wasting its time.
“Okay,” I begin. “Can you tell me why we haven’t met yet?”
“It’s a very long story all having to do with you that we can’t get into right now because it would exceed your share time.”
“Okay, okay. Well, then, can you tell me when it might be possible for us to meet.”
“I really can’t believe you haven’t figured this out yet,” the voice answers wearily. “I suppose I’ll have to spell it out for you.”
There is a long pause before the voice speaks again.
“You aren’t ready to meet me. And PUHLEASE, don’t ask me when you’ll be ready.
“You’ll be ready when you’re ready.”
“I feel like I’m getting ready,” I say like a little boy holding out a shiny apple for the teacher.
“Good. Keep it up. Let me give you one word of advice: Patience. Everything is timing. Have you heard that one?”
“Then practice it.
I wait for more words of wisdom. There are none forthcoming.
I’m suddenly impelled to ask, “Is that it?”
I wait anxiously for a response. When none comes, I turn to leave. Then, from behind me, I hear:
“If it makes you feel any better, you’re right on schedule. THE SUN IS ACTUALLY RISING IN YOUR HEART. As a matter of fact, it’s rising in everyone’s heart, some faster than others. Pray that you are one of the faster ones. Remember these words, David:
“WISDOM IS EASIER TO ATTAIN IF YOU TRY VERY HARD NOT TO BE OBTUSE.”
“Now, If you’ll excuse me, I have work to do. Hopefully, we’ll meet again in less than a few hundred years.”