Ten More Covers! Ten More Covers!

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When I wrote my “What Ten Covers Matter To You” piece on Cover Me, I chose from an initial list of more than 30.  But there were more that felt left out, so here are another ten covers, making this a collection of Ten Covers That Are Meaningful To Me, But Not As Meaningful As The First List.

Again, alphabetically by title:

Hannah Becker—Baby, I Love You (Aretha Franklin cover)

I ended the first piece with an appreciation of my wife’s voice, and I’m starting this one with my daughter (my son will get his due shortly).  It was clear, very early, that Hannah could sing, and sing quite well.  Similar to her mother, she had a beautiful, pure voice.  In high school, she took singing lessons at a local music school, Lagond, that focused on teaching students the art of performance.  Hannah started working with a teacher, Amy, who believed that she could unearth a soul singer from our very white suburban daughter with the pretty voice.  Turned out, she was right.

Like many organizations, there was a little clubbiness about the Lagond students and their families, many of whom had children who had performed together over the years.  Hannah was a new student, who really didn’t know many of the others, but nevertheless was invited to perform at a benefit for the school.  The other performers were excellent, and mostly known to the audience of parents, faculty and staff.  Then, Hannah came out and sang her version of Aretha Franklin’s “Baby, I Love You,” and shocked the audience.  I later overheard someone remarking at how good “Aretha Girl” was, and wondering where she came from.  I don’t have video of that performance, but I do have it of her at a subsequent school showcase, where she again blew away the audience.

After leaving Lagond, Hannah seems to have moved away from the soul belting style, and back toward, which you can see here, with her college a capella group.

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Recycle Bin

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The problem is that I want to write about something other than politics here, but the current part-time resident of the White House has so dominated the discourse that it is hard for me to think about discussing anything else. I did live up to my promise to actually write about music here, with two music heavy posts, although one was admittedly pretty political.

Because I have nothing else, but I don’t want to leave this blog empty for too long, I’m going to do another roundup of my writing on other sites.

Cover Me is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and they asked all of their writers to contribute a piece discussing 10 cover songs that were meaningful to us.  You can check out my contribution here, and I recommend poking around the site to read the other writers’ pieces (and the many other great articles posted there).

At Star Maker Machine, I wrote a second “In Memoriam” piece focusing on a few “Overshadowed Losses” from 2016:  Fred Tomlinson, Dave Swarbrick, Pete Zorn, Gilli Smyth, and Bernie Worrell.  For our “Change” theme, politics intruded again, when a discussion of The Fleshtones’ 80’s garage rocker “The World Has Changed” veered off into a reflection on my fear, apparently justified, about the change that was about to come on Inauguration Day, and a long excerpt from President Obama’s excellent farewell speech.

The next three posts that I contributed to SMM were coincidentally television-based.  Maybe not coincidentally, because I seem to watch more TV these days than listen to music.  The first two were for the “Small Town” theme–the first was about David Letterman’s “Small Town News” segment, and how it reflected the changes in the show as it moved from NBC at 12:30 to CBS at 11:30 and Dave matured.  The second discussed the powerful, enigmatic “Devil Town” sequence from the final episode of Friday Night Light’s amazing first season.  My most recent post, for the “Pour” theme, focused on “Sugar, Sugar,” from The Archie Show, with digressions about my teen tour to Europe in 1978 and the nature of friendship in the Facebook era.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the two musical performances that I attended since the end of the year.  The first was a benefit for our local high school performing arts boosters.  Both of my children were active performers in their high school days, and this fundraiser, started after they graduated, has been fun–an evening of performances by students and graduates, a hard rocking band of teachers, and short sets from bands made up mostly of local parents (including a number of my friends). Also, we usually get a set from Dominic Chianese, best known as “Uncle Junior” from The Sopranos, but who has had a long career as a folksinger (some of his grandchildren have attended our district’s schools).  My daughter Hannah, home for the holidays from Barcelona, joined us, and when the benefit’s organizer saw her, asked if Hannah was interested in singing with her band, which closed the show.  Without blinking an eye, Hannah agreed, chose a song, watched a video of the band playing it, and killed it on stage (with the band’s singer and her high school chorus teacher singing backup).

The second was an intense, powerful show by The Drive-By Truckers with my son at a packed Webster Hall in New York.  One of the best Truckers shows I’ve seen, with, not surprisingly, a political tinge, considering their most recent album.

 

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Playlist For A Bad Day (And One For A Good Day)

I didn’t watch the inauguration.  I knew that it would make me ill to see such an unworthy, unqualified person become president of our already great nation (which, of course, has room for improvement, but not in the ways indicated by our new president).  I knew that I would be able to read about what happened without having to hear the new president’s arrogance or watch his preening, and I did (American carnage?  Really?)

Instead, throughout the day, I posted songs on my personal Facebook feed with lyrics, or in most cases, admittedly, just titles, that somehow struck me as appropriate for the day.  Not much thought went into the list–as something popped into my head, I found the video, and posted it.  Here they are:

The Mountain Goats–“This Year”

Most of the lyrics aren’t really relevant, but the chorus is: “I’m going to make it through this year/If it kills me.”

Steve Earle–“The Revolution Starts Now”

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My Favorite Music of 2016 (plus)

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It struck me this year that my music listening habits have really changed over time.  I’m still not interested in streaming services, because although I understand that they give access to broad swaths of music, I still prefer to own and not rent.  And I’ve gradually moved away from buying CDs (although I still buy some) to downloads.  I rarely listen to albums all the way through anymore, something which I had done regularly since high school.  Back when I was commuting, I had my stuffed iPod Classic set on random, and listened on both legs of the trip to and from the office, but now, the iPod is mostly used to distract me from how much I don’t enjoy going to the gym.  The other thing, interesting to me, at least, is that when I worked for other people, I pretty much always had music playing in my office, usually WFUV.  Now, even though I work for myself, I don’t often feel the need to play music while I sit at my desk.

Meanwhile, despite the fact that I write about music here, there and elsewhere, I find that increasingly I’ve never heard of most of the albums that make year-end “best ofs.”  I’m at the point in my life that what is popular doesn’t interest me, what interests me isn’t popular, and there is just too much music, and too little time (and money), for me to search out every great album.  I’m not happy about that, because I know that it limits my exposure to good music, but it is reality.

Which is why this article is titled “My Favorite Music of 2016” and not the “Best Music of 2016.”  It is a list of what I liked, based on what I have heard, and frankly it gnaws at me a bit that I know that there is a ton of great stuff out there that I’ve completely missed.  So, here we go:

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Year End Cleanup

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Richard Thompson: Time To Ring Some Changes
[purchase]

I started Another Old Guy back in March intending to mostly write about music, but somewhere it began to veer off to include lots of politics.  While I intend to keep writing about politics and other things in 2017, I will try to write more often in general, and more often about music in particular.

Before I get there, though, I wanted to close the books on my music writing for 2016.

I didn’t get around to writing any more Cover Me features after my Hem piece, although I did contribute to  a Q&A about the Muppets, and to the year-end “Best Covers” compilation.  And my article about covers of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” turned out to be the second most popular on the site in 2016.  For 2017, I’m thinking about writing a piece about Sting and one about The Mavericks.

This year, the number of my contributions to Star Maker Machine have dipped, but since the last roundup, I posted the following:

Harvest/Fall–a piece about Guy Clark’s “Homegrown Tomatoes” and my family’s garden;

My First Album–about Cat Stevens’ Tea For The Tillerman (which now sadly makes me think of the president-elect’s nominee for Secretary of State);

Politics–days after the election, I wrote about the  David Bowie/Pat Metheny collaboration, “This Is Not America,” from the soundtrack of The Falcon And The Snowman, quoting liberally (pun intended) from Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, which embodied what I thought was America;

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I’m Princeton Famous!!

I’m a proud member of the Princeton class of 1982.  My class was chock full of very gifted writers, a number of whom have forged successful careers from their talents.  I thought about linking to some of their work, but was afraid of leaving someone out, so I decided not to.  I chose to limit my writing in college to classwork and my senior thesis, marching band shows and a couple of radio commercials.

So, I was very excited when the Princeton Alumni Weekly interviewed my for a feature about my various amateur blogging efforts, kicking off a series on alumni bloggers.  You can read it here.

I’ve been mentioned in the PAW a few times over the years, mostly in the class notes, but back in 1981, I was part of a joke party, the Antarctica Liberation Front, which ran for student government as a combination protest/work of performance art.  I inexplicably was elected, and my friend Phil wrote an article which opened by describing my anguished wandering around the campus in the dark bemoaning the foolishness of the electorate.  It turned out to be good practice for the night of November 8, 2016.

The video above is Men Without Hats’ song “Antarctica.”  Yes, they had more than one song.

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What The Hell Does It Mean?

[Support Jill Sobule’s My Song Is My Weapon project]

My wife cried herself to sleep last Tuesday, woke up crying, and left for work on Wednesday in tears.  My son found himself at work on Wednesday, watching Hillary Clinton’s concession speech, sobbing.  I’m seething.  America had the chance to elect a compassionate, intelligent, hard working person who had devoted her life to public service and improving the lives of the American people, and instead elected a bully whose campaign was fueled by every base hatred possible, who had no articulated plans to govern, and who had devoted his life to his own personal aggrandizement, usually at the expense of those less powerful.

It made me wonder how this great country could elect someone whose apparent view of appropriate behavior is the exact opposite of how I was raised and how I raised my children.  I know that he is a liar, a bully, a sexual predator and a man who had no compunctions mocking a person with a disability, the parents of an American serviceman who died in action, and women who fail to meet his personal standards of beauty, but whether or not the candidate himself is actually a racist, homophobic, antisemitic, misogynistic, white supremacist, that’s the rhetoric that he used to fire up his supporters. And I’m not at all mollified by the fact that Clinton actually got more votes, or that so few eligible voters actually voted.  In fact, that troubles me even more, because victory was in our grasp. Based on the popular vote as I write this, an additional 120,000 Clinton votes in Florida, 68,000 votes in Pennsylvania, 12,000 votes in Michigan and 27,000 votes in Wisconsin would have resulted in the election of the first woman president, 307-231.

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