You Are So Beautiful

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):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpgY5S3AcSw.

joe_cocker

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.

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Why Do We Love Music?

Why do do we spend hours listening to our favorite bands? Why do we crank up the volume till we can feel the base in our heart beats? Why do we spend money on iPod’s in the hopes that we can listen to thousands of songs? Why do we sit down and play an instrument until our fingers callous over? Why do our ears crave that substance we call music?  Well, a new study may have the answer.

According to Chris Loersch and Nathan Arbuckle, as Homo sapiens evolved into the hairless bi-pedal beings we are today, we also evolved to love music. Their study proposes that music evolved as a way for people to connect to others and “a tool to pass information about the group’s shared mental state to a number of individuals at once”. No shit Sherlock. Okay that may be a little unfair, but I think most of us already knew the purpose of music. Ask most musicians and they will tell you that they use their music as a way to communicate their experiences to others.

Take a minute to meditate on the melodies in your life: Do you know a song that, no matter how dreadful your day is, always lifts your spirit? Have you ever seen the whole crowd at a concert begin to sway in perfect time, not a single person off-beat? Or experienced a blues musician strum the guitar and sing about loss and heartache, only to feel their lament bubble up in your own soul? Have you ever gone dancing and seen all the people feel the beat and tempo of the music with their bodies? Music does and always has elicited emotional and communal action. Hundreds of teen girls swooned and yelled till they passed out when they heard the Beatles, college football fans will scream their fight songs as if their lives depend on it, churches vibrate with the sound of hymnals, and whole countries swell with patriotism as their anthem rings out at the Olympics. So, why do we love music so much? Maybe Jimi had it right when he said, “Music is my religion”. If human beings need music and evolved to loved it, then perhaps music is the religion that all of humanity can get behind.

evolution-music

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Everyone Digs The Rolling Stones, Even Whales

Whether we are hopping into our cars, going for a run, working on our computers, sitting around the house, or simply cooking, we all tend to turn on our favorite music and soak in the notes. All of us have a favorite band that we firmly believe exemplifies all we are about. When our favorite songs are played, we can’t help but tap our feet to the beat. Because of our appreciation of music we may think we are enlightened and exceptionally intelligent, but it seems Homo sapiens aren’t the only mammals who like to groove…

I read this article today, talking about a researcher, Dr. Paul Spong, and his orca friend Hyak. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s Spong would lug large underwater speakers into Hyak’s tank, play music for him, and see his reaction, and he DID react. Hyak got to sample everything from Mozart to Ravi Shankar to The Moody Blues.

Working with whales in the Vancouver Aquarium, Spong soon discovered playing the same old shitty music over and over again not only annoys us naked apes, but also orcas. If Spong dared play a song Hyak had heard before, he would sulk in the corner of his tank and wouldn’t move until Spong put on some new grooves.

While all of this is interesting, the day Hyak heard the Rolling Stones for the first time was something else. When the LP of “Jumping Jack Flash” begun to play, Hyak swam at Spong, leaped out of the water, spun in circles, splashed, barrel rolled, slapped his fins, and kept on grooving. This reaction was unique and was one that he brought out only for the Stones.

I would say the morale to this story is: everyone digs the Rolling Stones, even whales! So give Hyak’s favorite song  a listen and see if  you feel the urge jump with Jack, or at least bob your head.

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A Drummer To Beat All Drummers

ginger baker

Red hair flying, eyes glazed over, skin pulled tight over bulging bones, hands flying at the speed of light, and a perfect beat flowing out of drumsticks. This is Ginger Baker. You want to meet a badass rock star? He is your man.

Yesterday I finally got around to watching the documentary Beware of Mr.Baker, and it was worth the wait. Talk about an all-star cast. The film features interviews with Carlos Santana, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, Neal Pert, Johnny Rotten, and the man himself, Ginger Baker.

If you’re not a follower of jazz (because Baker is at the end of the day a jazz drummer) or ’60s & ’70s  rock-n-roll, you may be unfamilar with Ginger, but I suggest you get familiar! Give him a listen. My personal favorite is his drum solo in “Toad.”

This man is a raving lunatic, an asshole, and a drum genius. In my personal opinion he is one of the most talented drummers around, and Eric Clapton agrees with me. I can put a record on and listen to him play the drums for hours, but after watching this film I can’t decide if I would love meeting him or feel compelled to punch him the face. I wonder who would come out on top, Myron or Ginger? He is over 70 years old, and age has not mellowed him one bit! He broke the director’s nose on the last day of filming, with his cane! This man played with some of the best musicians of all time, and I mean the best! He has been married 5 times, lived in at least 5 countries, been in countless fights, was a relentless chain smoker and major junky, and is somehow still alive.

This film’s name says all you really need to know: Beware of Mr.Baker! But no matter how much you may want to hate him, you’ve got to respect him.

Just to give you all a taste, here are some of my favorite quotes from the film: “He looks like the devil.” “Ginger Baker is a motherfucker.” “He, personally, is what drums are all about!”

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Shape-shifting Soldiers From Another Dimension????

Not really. Just wanta talk about the music in my novel Twist. In 2075, how will we get our groove on? There are only a few mentions of music in the novel: soothing background music in the exotic office of the Great Man, Montrose; a string quartet playing beautiful music in that whack-job Sal’s account of murder at a garden party; and in a crappy juke-joint outside the protecting Wall of Wichita, the “classic” music of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Mick Jagger.
But what about the movie soundtrack? Unlike electronic Vangelis in the high-tech future of Blade Runner the film adaptation of dystopian Twist will feature a retro jazz and R&B soundtrack. Check out Ray Charle’s rendition of THE DANGER ZONE (“…the world is in an uproar, the danger zone is everywhere…”) You might be able to give it a listen at http://m.beemp3.com/download.php?file=8867507&song=The+Danger+Zone

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