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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.

Categories
acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment inspiration music

The Love of My Life


Love In An Open Field

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 Discipline You Will See Your Dreams Come True.

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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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acoustic guitar Arts & Entertainment music

True Colors


“True Colors” is a song with legs. It started out as a song written for a mother in a traditional ballad format. Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly wrote the song in 1986 and offered it to Anne Murray, a popular singer at the time. Murray passed on the song. Cyndi Lauper took it and creatively revamped the format into a stark and breathtaking version.

The song became a hit worldwide because of its universal appeal. The songwriters acknowledge that Lauper was the perfect artist to adapt the song partly because of her bold style. Released as the title song on Lauper’s 1986 album, “True Colors,” is the only original song on the album that the artist did not help to write.

In 1998, Phil Collins covered the song on his “Greatest Hits” album. Australian country music star Kasey Chambers covered the song as the theme for the 2003 Rugby World Cup. In 2007, Cindy Lauper launched “The True Colors Tour” to support gay rights and fight hate crimes. In 2016, Justin Timberlake and actress Anna Kendrick used the song in the soundtrack for the movie “Trolls.” Kodak also used the song to advertise their film stock.

Like I said: The song has legs. Here’s my version.

When someone shows you their true colors, don’t try to repaint them.

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Arts & Entertainment music profiles

Time After Time


Cyndi Lauper Time After Time

Time After Time is a Cyndi Lauper song. I’ve never been a big fan of her music, but that only means it doesn’t resonate with me in general. She has a big enough audience without me. This song caught my attention when I heard Eva Cassidy sing it in her beautiful, unique style. It has taken me a few weeks to learn because the fingering is complicated. Eva Cassidy is known for her divine vocals, but trust me, she can play the damn guitar.

The meaning behind a lyric can create a strong connection to a song. It can help you to form a bond with a singer-songwriter. It lets you know the artist has gone through some of the same things you have. Cyndi Lauper’s hit Time After Time is one of those songs for many people. The song was the second single for her debut album, She’s So Unusual. It was actually the last song written for the album, but it made a lasting impact on the album and Lauper’s career.

A TV Guide advertisement for a science fiction movie sparked the idea for the song. Using a simple set of piano chords, Lauper co-wrote the song with Rob Hyman. As the song evolved, for Lauper it became a response to an ex-lover who was “lost” and in need of help. She can’t move forward without him by her side.

Over a two-week period, Time After Time was written, recorded, and mastered straight to the album. There wasn’t time for a demo. The song went on to become a number one hit in the United States. Here’s my version of Time After Time “Eva Style.”

Breaking a big project down into little steps makes it possible to achieve the final result.

Categories
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.

Categories
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 music

Where Does The Time Go?


futuristic super sonic Jet

Fifty years have flown by at supersonic speed. I can flash back on memories of my childhood and adolescence and remember them clearly as if they happened yesterday. I try to be present for each remaining moment. I forget. I get lost in my head. Again and again. A week slips by in a day. Does time go slower when we are young? I think it does.

How is time going by for you?

I thought Joni Mitchell wrote and popularized “Who knows Where The Time Goes.” It turns out a British folk rocker named Sandy Denny wrote the song and Judy Collins made it famous. A little research can go a long way. Here’s my version of the song based on the way the late great Eva Cassidy played it.

Science Fiction Writing Tip For Today:

“You have to be out of your mind while knowing what you’re doing most of the time.”

Jacob Casell

Best-Selling Author

The Silver Sphere

Volume 2 Coming Soon

Categories
Arts & Entertainment folk guitar music

Beauty of the Bells


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.”

John Lewis

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current events inspiration music

Is There Anything I Can Do?


Prayer for Peace

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.”

Elizabeth Gilbert