A very close friend died last week. She had courageously battled cancer for over ten years. Her husband, also a dear friend, asked me to perform a special song, which had been meaningful to them in their marriage, at her memorial service. However, I will be out of country at that time, so I have offered to record the song for him, voice and guitar. I’ve been practicing for the past few days, and have a recording session scheduled tomorrow.
The song is You Are So Beautiful To Me, originally written by Dennis Wilson, Billy Preston and Bruce Fisher, and recorded by Preston. It was popularized by Joe Cocker. You may remember Joe Cocker and the Grease Band from the ‘60s, or the 1970s Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour with Leon Russell… Or not.
If you haven’t heard the 21st century Joe Cocker perform this song, you might want to give a listen. Here is a Youtube video (sorry, there may be ads you’ll need to skip):
Anyway, I didn’t know the song before I was asked to perform it. Listening, learning and getting up to speed to record it has put me back in touch with the raw emotion that flows out of Joe Cocker, and given me a deeper feeling for my departed friend and her grieving husband. What else can I say? For me, the song says it all.
Do you ever wake up and think that new scientific developments and new technologies are taken right off the pages of sci-fi novels or the latest futuristic films? That is how I feel today. I was catching up on the news and came across articles that threw me into the 21st century. Today I read that scientists have developed a bionic eye! Now I feel like I am in Terminator. This bionic eye is a contact lens that can zoom in and out. However, this is just the tip of the spaceship. Last week, astronomers announced they found three more planets that they think are likely to be habitable and contain liquid water. I was excited when I read that there were three life sustaining planets out in the cosmos, but today my mind was blown when I read this: “Thanks to clouds, some 60 billion planets are habitable in the Milky Way.” I had a hard time wrapping my mind around this. That is 60 billion possibilities in our own galaxy for life. Soon, I may feel like I am in a Robert A. Heinlein novel, like Citizen of the Galaxy, dealing with the species of planet Gliese 667C.
Looking at the pictures of the wildfire damage, I felt that I, like the very atmosphere of earth, was suffocating. The thought of how this will affect our planet, how long our world will suffer, the effects that we will never know and will never be able to stop… all crushing the life out of me. But then, after looking at the fiery scene, I was brought up short. The distant fire glowing neon through the smoky darkness stole my heart back to a distant smoke-filled memory from a more innocent time, when smoke was a good thing, and we never even considered the damage to our own lungs, or to the lungs of the earth…
I was a traveling blues musician, working the back road clubs in Europe. Those were days when people went to clubs to remember, just for a night, that life was itself an occasion for celebration. There were no designated drivers, no “political correctness”, and no non-smoking zones — there was smoking, and lots of it. Cigar smoke mixed with the multitude of European cigarette varieties – French Gauloises, British Senior Service, and the rich nutty aroma of Balkan Sobranies. Through it all filtered the perfume of whatever the folks were smoking backstage, creating a haze that hung stale during the day and was revived fresh every night. Looking at the crowd from onstage, all the faces were softened by the blur of the smoke, which added an aura of warmth and beauty. The buzz of conversation and laughter seemed to be amplified by the smoke, merging with the vibrations of my guitar until the thick air seemed alive. It felt like life, excitement and joy, and I inhaled it with all the intensity of a man being saved from drowning. You bet your ass, I inhaled.