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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

The Story Behind The Song


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.

Here’s my cover of “Carefree Highway.”

Categories
Essays inspiration life musings personal growth

Echoes In The Valley Of Oops


This phrase came to me when I woke up this morning. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds interesting. So…let’s go exploring.

It could be someone telling me to recall the wrong turns I’ve made in life. To be honest, I haven’t made that many, but I’ve made enough. I’ve come perilously close to crashing and burning more than once.

I believe each one of us is walking a tightrope across a broad and deep chasm. Somehow, most of us are making it across. We are doing so by the hand of grace. Because we are loved. You might even say cherished. It’s easy to forget this love, but it is always there, like a gentle hand, guiding us on our way. I may often feel alone, but truly, I am not.

I hope these words help you on your journey. Have a wonderful day!

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acoustic guitar artists Arts & Entertainment music

Shadows Of Love


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.”

Categories
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.

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 inspiration music

“Vincent” Revisited


The Starry Night, Famous Oil Painting,

I’m reposting a blog previously titled “Vincent: A True Lover.” I’ve decided to re-learn the song closer to the original.

“Starry, starry night/ Paint your palette blue and grey/ Look upon a summer’s day/ With eyes that know the darkness in my soul.”

Those words came to Don McLean as he gazed at Vincent Van Gogh’s 1889 painting “The Starry Night.” Soon, he had a masterpiece of his own: “Vincent,” a 1972 hit that he released right on the heels of his defining epic “American Pie.”

Like Van Gogh’s painting, Mclean’s “Vincent” has touched a broad array of hearts and minds over the last 50 years. The song, the painting, and the book “Dear Theo,” written by Van Gogh’s brother, have certainly touched my heart again and again. I’ve always thought that Vincent’s style was at least in part inspired by his mental illness. To me, the brush strokes reflect an altered state of perception similar to the hallucinogenic patterns seen under the influence of Mescaline or LSD.

Famous Oil Paintings By Vincent Van Gogh

Van Gogh labored in obscurity until his self-inflicted death at the age of thirty-seven. He sold only a few of his paintings during his lifetime. Today, Van Gogh is a household word, and his paintings each sell for fifty million dollars or more. “The Starry Night” is one of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings.

Here’s the updated version of “Vincent” played closer to the original recording by Don Mclean.

Thought for the Day

When your world shrinks, your issues amplify. Keep your world and your perspective broad, for your own happiness, and the happiness of others.

Categories
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

Categories
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

Categories
ebooks fiction humor Novels

The First Day of Forever


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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