Friday, July 31, 2015

All words have a history, an ancestry of some kind.

Sailed across a few....

Most of us know the term scuttlebutt as a folksy way to refer to rumor or gossip, but in nautical nomenclature, a scuttlebutt is an open cask of drinking water or a drinking fountain. The former definition evolved out of the nautical sense, as sailors would engage in idle chat while gathered around their version of the office water cooler.

In sailing, a moonraker is a light square sail set at the top of the mast. But this term is also a demonym for people from Wiltshire, England. As the story goes, a few men from Wiltshire were discovered trying to rake the moon's reflection out of a pond. However, if you ask a Wiltshire native, he or she might tell you another version of the story: the men were raking a pond for kegs of smuggled brandy, and when authorities appeared, the rakers feigned madness.

The term groggy means dazed and weakened or intoxicated, the way one might feel after he or she partakes in a goblet full of its root word grog, which is a mixture of rum and water. The term grog is a reference to a British admiral who ordered his sailors' rum to be diluted; he was nicknamed Old Grog because he wore a grogram cloak.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Paul Hostovsky 

I was glad to. After all,
it would be just him and me in the cab
together for eight whole hours,
talking. He’d been away at college
for four whole years, text-messaging
every now and then, and now
I expected some full sentences.
That was the deal. In return
we’d use my credit card and I would drive
him and all his worldly possessions
home. Somewhere around Delaware
the mirror on the passenger side
starting turning inward against the wind
and I couldn’t see, and it wouldn’t
stay when we opened the window
and readjusted it. I told him
to take off his shoes and give me his laces,
and I’d pull over and tie the mirror
to the antenna to keep it from drifting.
He asked me why his shoes and not
my shoes? It was a good question,
the kind of question you might debate
in a sociology class in college
if you were still in college. But we were
speeding down I-95 in a U-Haul
with one functioning mirror, a resourceful
father at the wheel, a credit card
in his pocket, his thumbs keeping time
to an old-fashioned song in his head
that only he could hear, and a son
drowning out that song now, turning
the radio on. Loud. Louder. Silently
bending down to untie his shoes.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

In case you misplaced your summer 2012 copy of

Mules & More Magazine.

Toby has a few signed copies for sale.

Sammy Joe is jealous so he got cleaned up
and had a publicity photo taken.
Anyone looking for a mule model?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The greatest songwriting team of all time.
Carol King and husband Gerry Goffin.
They penned one of my favorite Byrd's songs
Goin' Back.

Goin' Back
Carole King & Gerry Goffin

 I think I'm goin' back
 To the things I learned so well in my youth
 I think I'm returning to
 Those days when I was young enough to know the truth
 Now there are no games
 To only pass the time
 No more electric trains
 No more trees to climb
 But thinking young and growing older is no sin
 And I can play the game of life to win

 I can recall a time
 When I wasn't ashamed to reach out to a friend
 Now I think I've got
 A lot more than just my toys to lend
 Now there's more to do
 Than watch my sailboat glide
 But every day can be
 A magic carpet ride
 A little bit of courage is all we lack
 So catch me if you can, I'm goin' back

 La la la la la, etc.
 Now there's more to do
 Than watch my sailboat glide
 But every day can be
 A magic carpet ride
 A little bit of courage is all we lack
 So catch me if you can, I'm goin' back

 La la la la, etc.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Under Stars
Tess Gallagher

The sleep of this night deepens
because I have walked coatless from the house
carrying the white envelope.
All night it will say one name
in its little tin house by the roadside.

I have raised the metal flag
so its shadow under the roadlamp
leaves an imprint on the rain-heavy bushes.
Now I will walk back
thinking of the few lights still on
in the town a mile away.

In the yellowed light of a kitchen
the millworker has finished his coffee,
his wife has laid out the white slices of bread
on the counter. Now while the bed they have left
is still warm, I will think of you, you
who are so far away
you have caused me to look up at the stars.

Tonight they have not moved
from childhood, those games played after dark.
Again I walk into the wet grass
toward the starry voices. Again, I
am the found one, intimate, returned
by all I touch on the way.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Who you lookin' at?

This snap shot triggers the fingers

to dance a jig on the keyboard.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Blues
Billy Collins

Much of what is said here
must be said twice,
a reminder that no one
takes an immediate interest in the pain of others.

Nobody will listen, it would seem,
if you simply admit
your baby left you early this morning
she didn’t even stop to say good-bye.

But if you sing it again
with the help of the band
which will now lift you to a higher,
more ardent and beseeching key,

people will not only listen;
they will shift to the sympathetic
edges of their chairs,
moved to such acute anticipation

by that chord and the delay that follows,
they will not be able to sleep
unless you release with one finger
a scream from the throat of your guitar

and turn your head back to the microphone
to let them know
you’re a hard-hearted man
but that woman’s sure going to make you cry.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Hip hepcats can dig. Keep your chops in the pocket and just scat sing. Groovy Friday fun.

The word hip (originally spelled "hep") describes someone who is "in the know" or "in tune" with the latest style. This usage of hip gained popularity around 1905, and in jazz it refers to the "cool" demeanor of talented musicians or informed listeners. While hip also denotes the pelvis, hip and hep have been the accepted names for "the fruit of the wild rose" or "rose hips" from as early as 725 BCE. But whether it's a rose or a song, in the words of legendary saxophonist Cannonball Adderley: "hipness is not a state of mind, it's a fact of life."

 In 1938 bandleader Cab Calloway released The Hepster's Dictionary, in which he defined the word hepcat as a guy or gal "who knows what it's all about." A portmanteau of hep and cat, the word came to represent both lovers of the music and jazz musicians themselves. But by the late 1950s it was shortened to "cat" alone in common usage, and a decade later "cat" was documented as the accepted title when the jazz giant, pianist Thelonious Monk first heard revolutionary saxophonist Ornette Coleman; "Man, that cat is nuts!" Monk said.

When a jazz musician really identifies with a tune or a jazz devotee discovers a new sound, you can say they dig the music. In the sixth edition of The Hepster's Dictionary Cab Calloway defines "dig," as "to comprehend, to understand," using the example: "Do you dig this jive?" (with "jive" referring to music). But in jazz, "to understand" is often synonymous with "to enjoy" and dig can point to love just as easily as mastery.

If you've ever seen a jazz musician blush after being told they've got chops, it's not because they have something in their teeth. The word refers to musical skill or ability. In bebop, chops implies not only the stamina necessary to keep up with the style's lightning-fast melodies, but the ability to successfully improvise within a bebop tune. And in the words of bandleader Duke Ellington, bringing your chops to a session is as vital as bringing your instrument because "playing [bebop] is like playing Scrabble with all the vowels missing." 

Jazz vocalists love to solo, but that might not be the case if a singer had to invent new lyrics when he or she wanted to riff. Enter scat singing. Scat style substitutes words with nonsense syllables allowing vocalists to improvise in the style of a musical instrument. Trumpeter Louis Armstrong is rumored to have invented scat when he dropped his lyric sheet during a performance, but bandleader Jelly Roll Morton contested this claim, citing comedian Joe Sims as the first man who ever did a scat number in the history of this country.

When a tune is really grooving and everyone in the room feels the beat in their bones, or when a jazz musician falls into a rhythm like he's falling into his mother's arms, you can say he's in the pocket. The term refers to a unified understanding of rhythmic time among musicians. Though there is little etymological evidence, Freddie Green's 1956 composition "Corner Pocket" has led many to believe that the term originated in pool playing vernacular, as in "I'm going to sink the eight ball in the corner pocket." 


Thursday, July 23, 2015

All three snap shots tell the same story 
in a different way.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Oh yeah!

So You Want to Be a Writer
Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.

unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.

if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.

if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.

if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.

if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.

if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.

if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.

if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.

unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.

unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kay Ryan 

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
she can ill afford the chances she must take
in rowing toward the grasses that she eats.
Her track is graceless, like dragging
a packing-case places, and almost any slope
defeats her modest hopes. Even being practical,
she’s often stuck up to the axle on her way
to something edible. With everything optimal
she skirts the ditch which would convert
her shell into a serving dish. She lives
below luck-level, never imagining some lottery
will change her load of pottery to wings.
Her only levity is patience,
the sport of truly chastened things.

Monday, July 20, 2015

My songwriting buddy Roger sent me a killer tune he wrote called "I'll Be Moving On". Made me think of Joni's tune-

Night Ride Home

   Joni Mitchell   

Once in a while
In a big blue moon
There comes a night like this
Like some surrealist
Invented this 4th of July
Night Ride Home

Hula girls
and caterpillar tractors in the sand
The ukulele man
The fireworks
This 4th of July
Night Ride Home

I love the man beside me
We love the open road
No phones till Friday
Far from the overkill
Far from the overload

Back at the bar
The band tears down
But out here in the headlight beams
The silver powerlines
On this 4th of July
Night Ride Home

Round the curve
And a big dark horse
Red taillights on his hide
Is keeping right alongside
Rev for stride
4th of July
Night Ride Home

I love the man beside me
We love the open road
No phones till Friday
Far from the undertow
Far from the overload

Once in awhile
In a big blue moon
There comes a night like this
Like some surrealist
Invented this 4th of July
Night Ride Home

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Article from the winter 1994 American Songwriter magazine about Kris Kristofferson setting high standards for himself. Great advice that needs rereading ever few months. Written by Deborah Evans Price.

Kris Kristofferson is inarguably one of contemporary music’s most successful and highly respected songwriters. Kristofferson tunes such as “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” “Me and Bobby McGee,” “For The Good Times,” and “Why Me Lord” have become classics that have set standards for great writing other songwriters continually aspire to attain.

Sitting in his bus waiting to tape a television show for The Nashville Network, Kristofferson seems uncomfortable with the pedestal some have tried to place him on as a songwriting legend and more willing to be viewed as just another songwriter in the trenches giving it his best shot each time he picks up a pen. “When I came to Nashville, the one thing I learned – starting at the bottom and trying harder [to be a songwriter] than anything I’d ever tried in my whole life – was that you set your own standards. Immediately, the stuff I was doing wasn’t even considered worth demoing for a while. But I finally sort of gravitated toward a group of people I idolized, people like Willie Nelson, and they liked my stuff. And that was enough for about three or four years to keep me coming back.

“As I finally got into a rhythm of writing good songs – by the time I was writing Bobby McGee and those songs – I started performing and that really cuts into your creative time for some reason. I’ve noticed it with Willie, Merle, everybody. As they perform, it’s more fun than writing. Writing’s lonesome. But I found that as I write, I think my standards are the ones I try to meet.”

Kristofferson is a complex individual who has always set high standards for himself, no matter what the pursuit, and has excelled in a variety of endeavors. A native of Brownsville, Texas, Kris was the son of an Air Force major-general and spent his youth moving from air base to air base before finishing high school in San Mateo, California. He majored in creative literature at Pamona College and was awarded a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford University.

After graduation, he entered the military and served as an Army pilot. He was offered a teaching post at West Point and much to his family’s dismay, declined the position to move to Nashville and take a series of odd jobs (janitor, bartender, helicopter pilot) while trying to get his songwriting career off the ground. He hung out with other aspiring tunesmiths, learning the craft and making connections. His career steadily gained momentum and in 1970 he won the Country Music Association’s Songwriter of the Year accolade and Song of the Year for “Sunday Morning Coming Down” which was recorded by Johnny Cash.

Music Row legend has it that Kristofferson landed a helicopter in Cash’s front yard to pitch him the tune. “It wasn’t “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Kristofferson says, setting the story straight. “John believes to this day it was and I’ll let John tell his story. I did land a helicopter there and it was a National Guard helicopter. I was trying to make an impression, but I already knew him for a year and a half. I was his janitor and I had pitched him every song I had ever wrote through June Carter or Luther Perkins and he never cut any of them. When I landed, I almost landed on his roof cause the lawn used to go out over his house. It’s on a cliff. He remembered me getting out of the helicopter with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other. Never. I could no more drink a beer while I was flying a helicopter, especially in those old helicopters that they had in the National Guard. I practically had to fly my own wings. They were just falling apart and a helicopter takes both feet and two hands. No way could I have been drinking a beer. It’s very risky saying it happened one way and John’s way is wrong cause John probably knows as well as I what was going on those days. Neither one of us had a clue. Maybe that happened, but I have a hard time thinking that I’d have the gall to drink a beer in a helicopter.

Kristofferson says the song he pitched Cash that day was never cut. “It wasn’t that good a song,” he says. “It was a song I wrong back when I was writing for Marijohn Wilkins. It was a stupid song.”

Kristofferson admits that in setting his standards he’s discovered that a songwriter never quits learning about how to improve his craft. He recently finished working on a new album with producer Don Was’ label, Karambolage Records, that taught him some interesting lessons. “When I did this album, he did something to me that I’d never ran into,” Kristofferson says. “On five of the songs he said ‘You should write another verse.’ I don’t know what other songwriters are like, but for me, that was like saying your kid needs another arm. I just couldn’t conceive of writing another one with the same inspiration. But he was right on every one of them. The good thing about it was that once he got me to doing that, I got good at it and wrote five new verses on five days and it made the songs.”

Though he admits he was a little resistant at first to writing the additional verses, Kristofferson says he tries to be open to suggestions. “God knows I haven’t been setting the world on fire. If somebody you respect tells you something, you might ought to take a shot at it,” he says. “In every one of the cases he was right. And what pleased me is that it was the first time I was able to do that on command. Songwriting, for me, was always kind of like sex or something – you know, if it wasn’t spontaneous, forget it. When people would say ‘Oh so and so is coming to town and you’ve got to write a song for Leroy Van Dyke or somebody,’ I never could do it. I was never able to write like that, but I was able to on my own songs. I feel real good about these songs. I feel like “The Promise,” “Good Love,” and “Johnny Lobo” are complete songs now. And I thank Don Was for that.”

Kristofferson says one of the most gratifying things about his songwriting career is that he’s always chosen to write what he feels. His passion for politics and his desire to speak about what he believes in is as legendary as his songwriting prowess. However, he admits those topics haven’t always yielded radio hits. “Since I’ve started making records, I’ve always done just what I wanted to do,” he says. “I just wrote about what I wanted to and that’s what I’ve done again this time.

“Unfortunately for me and the record [company] when I did The Third World Warrior I was so full of passion about a subject that not too many people are passionate about and that was particularly hard for the record company to market.” He says the new record will have a variety of material. “There are a couple songs on there that are commentary songs,” he says. “And I try to make it entertaining. “Slouching Toward the Millennium” is pretty funny I think. And there’s one, “Johnny Lobo,” that is pretty serious. It’s a true story about a friend of mine, singer/actor John Trudell, whose family was burned down. He was one of the AIM leaders, back when the FBI was targeting the leaders of the organization that were supposed to be dangerous. This guy burned a flag on the steps of the FBI building. Before he got back to the reservation, somebody locked his house and burned it down with his wife and two children and her mother in it.”

Kristofferson has also been very vocal about his support for imprisoned Native American activist Leonard Peltier, who has been accused of killing FBI agents. Kris sys both he and Willie have been banned for life from two Southern California radio stations because they performed a benefit for Peltier. “I said in Willie’s case it might amount to something, but it’s not gonna cause a stock market crash if you quit playing mine. They hadn’t played mine in forever. But I hope there are alternative markets where you can still listen to an intelligent song.”

Regardless of when and where they may be played, Kristofferson has always written songs from the heart that expressed what he’s wanted to say. Early in his career songs like “Help Me Make It Through The Night” were heralded as ground breaking because the lyrical content was considered a little more explicit than much of what was being written at the time. Kristofferson didn’t see it that way. “I felt I was writing in the tradition of country music,” he says. “The reason I came to Nashville was that the lyrics here were the best that I could identify from my experience. The people that were writing the closest thing to white man’s soul music were country writers. They were writing about real life – about sex and cheating and drinking and losing and stuff like that. I figured the most honest you could be would be the most successful.” Though he’s been successful as a touring performer and as a actor in numerous films, on his passport Kris Kristofferson lists writer as his occupation. “To me writing songs, I feel, saved my life,” he says. “If you want to be a songwriter and you don’t care if you ever make an y money at it, and you can’t do anything else – I mean, you just can’t not write songs, then do it,” he advises. “But be prepared to never be a commercial success.”

Kristofferson has written songs that have moved many people and songs that have only spoken to a certain few, but over the years it’s been that desire to inform and entertain on all levels that has continually fueled his creativity. “I feel good about my writing now,” he says. “I’m not writing a lot, but when I’m writing, I’m satisfied with it. I’ve already got four songs written toward the next album. So we’ll see how that goes.”

Saturday, July 18, 2015

                       Shake Shake Shake                     
Walt Sample

Sally Salt shook her shaker up and down all night 
Wetting Sargent Pepper’s lonesome appetite 
Danced to every song the Lonely Hearts played 
She was the spice his hungry heart craved 

Shake shake shake shake shake shake 
Shake shake shake shake shake shake 

Sarge drafted Sally to come dance on stage
Friction between ‘em smoldered to a blaze
Rock rolled jumped rubbed and jiggled 
Sizzlin’ like lovers belly bouncin’ a griddle

Shake shake shake shake shake shake
Everything yummy since there rubbin’ tummies

Shake shake shake shake shake shake
Everything’s better since they came together

Shake shake shake shake shake shake
Everything yummy since there rubbin’ tummies

Shake shake shake shake shake shake
Everything’s better since they came together

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Strangers 
Patrick Hicks 

After we picked you up at the Omaha airport,
we clamped you into a new car seat
and listened to you yowl
beneath the streetlights of Nebraska.

Our hotel suite was plump with toys,
ready, we hoped, to soothe you into America.
But for a solid hour you watched the door,
shrieking, Umma, the Korean word for mother.

Once or twice you glanced back at us
and, in this netherworld where a door home
had slammed shut forever, your terrified eyes
paced between the past and the future.

Umma, you screamed, Umma!
But your foster mother back in Seoul never appeared.

Your new mother and I lay on the bed,
cooing your birth name,
until, at last, you collapsed into our arms.

In time, even terror must yield to sleep.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

What a week for Cincinnati!
Kids of all ages exploding with excitement.
Gloves pulled from dusty boxes and corners of musty basements.
Fingers pushing apart leather fingers empty for decades.
Stiff leather waking memories like a old home movie.

American Summer 
Edward Hirsch 

Each day was a time clock that scarcely moved,
a slow fist punching us in, punching us out,
electric heat smoldering in the purple air,
but each night was a towering white fly ball
to center field — “a can of corn” — coming down
through stars glittering above the diamond.
Each day was a pair of heavy canvas gloves
hoisting garbage cans into an omnivorous mouth
that crept through thoroughfares and alleys,
but each night was the feeling of a bat
coming alive in your hands, it was lining
the first good pitch for a sharp single.
That summer I learned to steal second base
by getting the jump on right-handed pitchers
and then sliding head-first into the bag.
I learned to drive my father’s stick shift
and to park with my girlfriend at the beach,
our headlights beaming and running low.
I was a 16-year-old in the suburbs
and each day was another lesson in working,
a class in becoming invisible to others,
but each night was a Walt Whitman of holidays,
the clarity of a whistle at 5 P.M.,
the freedom of walking out into the open air.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

In a Room with Many Windows 
Jane Hirshfield 

In a room with many windows
some thoughts slide past uncatchable, ghostly.
Three silent bicyclists. Slowly, a woman on crutches.
It is like the night you slept out on the sandy edge of a creek bank,
feeling the step of some light, clawed thing on your palm,
crossing to drink. You were nothing to it.
Hummock. Earth clump. Root knob wild in the dark.
Like that thirsty creature, to you.
You could guess it, but you can’t name it.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Daughter Describes the Tarantula 
Faith Shearin 

Her voice is as lovely and delicate as a web.
She describes how fragile they are,
how they can die from a simple fall.
Then she tells me about their burrows
which are tidy and dry and decorated
with silk. They are solitary, she tells me,
and utterly mild, and when they are
threatened they fling their hairs, trying
not to bite. She says they are most
vulnerable when they molt: unable
to eat for days while they change.
They are misunderstood, she explains,
and suddenly her description becomes
personal. She wants to keep one
as a pet, to appreciate it properly,
to build it a place where it belongs.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Spend a cup of coffee gazing at this painting.

A picture really is worth a thousand words.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Wisteria can pull down a house 
Marge Piercy 

The wisteria means to creep over the world.
Every day its long tendrils wave in the breeze,
seize the bench under its arbor, weave
round the garden fence obstructing
the path. Its arbor’s long outgrown.

Such avidity. Such greed for dominance.
It has already killed the Siberian irises
it shadowed, stealing all their sun.
Should I admire or resent? Neither.
I go out with loppers and hack and hack.

If it could, it would twine around my neck
like a python; like an angry giant squid
it would pull me into a strangling embrace.
I will grow back, it swears, and outlive you.
Its vigor outdoes mine. It will succeed.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Old Train
Herb Pederson

Old train I can hear your whistle blow
But I won't be jumping on again
Old train I've been everywhere you go
And I know what lies beyond each bend

   Old train each time you pass you're older than the last
   And it seems I'm too old for running
   I hear your rusty wheels grate against the rails
   They cry with every mile and I think I'll stay awhile

Old train I grow weary from the miles
And I'll miss the freedom that was mine
Old train just to think about those times
I'll smile when you're high-balling by

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Gary Ewer's blog post "It's Always About People" is well worth reading and remembering.

When Titanic the musical opened on Broadway in 1997, it closed a couple of years later after running for 804 shows. It lost money, even though it picked up 5 Tony awards. It wasn’t a huge hit, getting some positive but mostly negative reviews.

When Titanic the movie opened later in 1997, it was a smash box office hit. People couldn’t get enough of the story. It eventually earned 2.18 billion dollars.

There’s a big reason why when you say “Titanic”, people are as likely to think about the movie first, then the actual disaster. And almost no one talks about the musical.

It has to do with people.

To put it succinctly, Titanic the musical was about the Titanic. The writers told the story by focusing in on various characters, but few of the personal stories were compelling or at all powerful.Their story was about the ship, and it was a story that everyone who had even just a shallow knowledge of history already knew.

But Titanic the movie was primarily about an intense, over-the-top love affair between Jack and Rose. It focused on those two characters as the main story. Yes, it was taking place on the Titanic, and everyone knew what was going to happen to the ship.

But they didn’t know what was going to happen to Jack and Rose. In the telling of that story, audiences experienced every possible emotion that comes from that kind intense love affair: love, hatred, jealously, tenderness, abandonment, and sadness.

Oh right… and a ship sank as well.

And now, songwriting: If you’re planning write a song where the main focus of your attention doesn’t place people front and centre, you’re going to have the same problem that the makers of Titanic the musical had.

Many songwriters write about love, and so it’s easy to keep an emotional leash on your listeners. But if you’re writing about the following, your listeners may appreciate your writing, but lose interest:

◾Social justice (e.g., rights and freedoms)

◾Climate change

◾The poor and homeless (particularly if we sing about the homeless as objects as opposed to people)

◾Grand buildings and other edifices

◾The beauty of nature

These are all great topics, but will fail to make a connection unless listeners have people to whom they can relate. Everyone can get comfy with the sentiment of a song message that calls for universal freedom, but you need to do more if you’re going to really make a connection.

So if you plan to write a song that addresses one of the above topics, you have to immediately place a person, couple or group at the front of that story:

◾Social justice: Who is being wronged? What pain are they feeling? What rights are they being denied? What is their story?

◾Climate change: Who is this song about? Is there possibility of a personal story to focus on? Instead of singing about clouds that won’t give rain, sing instead about someone, and the pain and anxiety they are facing when the clouds won’t give rain.

◾The poor and homeless: Tell someone’s story. Create a name. Where did they come from? Where is their family? What happened to get them out on the street? Show a tender side, a loving side, a sad side… tap into your listeners’ emotions.

◾Grand buildings and other edifices. So you want to do a story about the beauty of the Statue of Liberty? Give her a name. Tell her story. Invent thoughts and feelings. Or describe a relationship between a visiting child and the statue in which they actually communicate with each other. Pull emotion out of the story.

◾The beauty of nature: Nature is beautiful because people see its beauty. So a song about nature will succeed if it’s a song about a person, and their relationship with someone else in nature. Make nature, and the nice things you say about it, a poignant backdrop for a more powerful story.

Show me a list of the best songs ever written, and I’ll show you a list of songs about people and their personal interactions with others, and then the results of those actions.

Remember, it’s always about people.

Tons of great stuff on Gary's site;

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

What I Mean To Say 
Maureen Ryan Griffin 

How have I never noticed
a gull partake
with such nonchalance
of its sunrise breakfast,
clamping its prey
in its mouth to carry
it from the ocean’s edge
before beak stabs
again and again
into body, plucking
meat from a crab
that does not go gentle into
being eaten, jerking, waving
its claws in what looks
to me like protest
and still I don’t step away
until the gull finishes,
not long after
the crab’s shuddering
stops, leaving
a small litter
of shell and cartilage
I wouldn’t recognize
for what it was
had I not been standing here
as the sun kindles
the morning, here where
I came to drink in
a glorious dawn.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015


buoyant or suspended in water or air.
"a massive floating platform"
synonyms: buoyant, on the surface, afloat, drifting

not settled in a definite place; fluctuating or variable.
"the floating population that is migrating to the cities"
synonyms: unsettled, transient, temporary, variable, fluctuating

Monday, July 6, 2015

Double Rainbow
Ravi Shankar

Speeding, without destination, after dark
torrents have poured & been returned
at home, the skies above mirror my mood,

windshield wipers knifing through sheets,
back roads slick with pooling, when a shard
of cloudlessness opens. Pulling over, cutting

the ignition, I unstitch myself from the humid
seat, still fuming, to greet a full spectrum
of color arcing past the treetops in lockstep

with its fainter inverse. Archer's bow, hem
of the sun god's coat, bridge between worlds,
reconciliation & pardon. They don't last.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Immigrant Picnic
Gregory Djanikian   

It's the Fourth of July, the flags 

are painting the town, 

the plastic forks and knives 

are laid out like a parade. 

And I'm grilling, I've got my apron, 

I've got potato salad, macaroni, relish, 

I've got a hat shaped   

like the state of Pennsylvania. 

I ask my father what's his pleasure 

and he says, "Hot dog, medium rare," 

and then, "Hamburger, sure,   

what's the big difference,"   

as if he's really asking. 

I put on hamburgers and hot dogs,   

slice up the sour pickles and Bermudas, 

uncap the condiments. The paper napkins   

are fluttering away like lost messages. 

"You're running around," my mother says,   

"like a chicken with its head loose." 

"Ma," I say, "you mean cut off, 

loose and cut off   being as far apart   

as, say, son and daughter." 

She gives me a quizzical look as though   

I've been caught in some impropriety. 

"I love you and your sister just the same," she says, 

"Sure," my grandmother pipes in, 

"you're both our children, so why worry?" 

That's not the point I begin telling them, 

and I'm comparing words to fish now,   

like the ones in the sea at Port Said,   

or like birds among the date palms by the Nile, 

unrepentantly elusive, wild.   

"Sonia," my father says to my mother, 

"what the hell is he talking about?" 

"He's on a ball," my mother says. 


"That's roll!" I say, throwing up my hands, 

"as in hot dog, hamburger, dinner roll...." 

"And what about roll out the barrels?" my mother asks, 

and my father claps his hands, "Why sure," he says, 

"let's have some fun," and launches   

into a polka, twirling my mother   

around and around like the happiest top,   

and my uncle is shaking his head, saying 

"You could grow nuts listening to us,"   

and I'm thinking of pistachios in the Sinai 

burgeoning without end,   

pecans in the South, the jumbled 

flavor of them suddenly in my mouth, 

wordless, confusing, 

crowding out everything else. 

Friday, July 3, 2015


                   Daddy Why Are You Crying                   
Walt Sample

Daddy I have to pee 
How much farther will it be 
Where are you taking me 
Daddy why are you crying 

Mommy said they sent you away
For a law you disobeyed
I’d knew you come back one day
Daddy why are you crying

Her boyfriend said you were bad
Called you a deadbeat Dad
I knew you’d be back I’m so glad
Daddy why are you crying

I have so much to tell you
Cake is still my favorite food
Will things be like they used to
Daddy why are you crying

Am I still your little princess
Remember my bright red dress
Thanks for loving me you’re the best
Daddy why are you crying

Daddy I have to pee
How much farther will it be
Where are you taking me
Daddy why are you crying

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