At Passover, we sing this song called "Dayenu" and basically it is about being consciously aware that any one of the great miracles God had performed during the Israelite departure from Egypt and the wicked Pharaoh would have been more than enough and impressive in its own right and yet He continued to do more and more. Any single act would have been sufficient --- it would have been enough...this is what the Hebrew word "dayenu" means.
I have come to my own dayenu point in my music:
For the fact that I am able to make it go from an idea to out of my head at all...dayenu. For the ability to translate that idea through the medium of a musical instrument... dayenu. For being able to sing what I hear...dayenu. For being able to hear harmonies and melodies...dayenu. For the appreciation of song...dayenu. For the chance to share it with the people via Reverbnation...dayenu. That being available, people would take the time to stop and listen to it at all...dayenu. That anyone else can appreciate it at all...dayenu. For never having to sell my soul just to have the music heard...dayenu!
Not much to say here except I have after much too long discovered Nick Drake. Nick...Nick....where have you been my entire life? If I could only choose one artist to admire, aspire to, wish to meet in Heaven someday...it is hands down you. God willing I will meet you in Heaven and hang out and jam. For some reason I think we would get along well...same spirit really. Thank you for sharing your music. My life is so much better for it because I know there are and have been others in this physical world who are like me...on the inside... where it matters most. We have the same heart...
My biggest regret with this recording is that at the last minute I decided to switch my original lyric. Originally it was (and is): I burst upon the scene inside, the bar is smokey and I'm high.
When the guy came to record it I kept thinking about my grandmother and what I was going to tell her about that line. How was I going to explain it to her? I come from a large extended family and there are lots of little ones behind me that I have an influence on whether I want to or not. I had smoked pot and I wrote about it...was I really sure that publicly making such a statement through my lyrics was a wise thing to do? How vulnerable did I want to be? How honest? What kind of image and reputation would such an admission create...and was that something I really wanted to say?
So, at the last minute I changed my mind and denied myself. I cheated myself and the audience by not being authentically true to the art in the lyric, mood, and statement. Instead I sang: I burst upon the scene inside, the bar is smokey all the time. I know...I know. It pisses me off to this day that I did that...but I learned something very important about myself and the kind of artist I want to be. I want to be real. I want to be honest. I want to be vulnerable artistically because that is what is raw truth.
What's the deal with the ending? Well, live and learn in this business. When I hired this guy to come record Curtis and I in my living room for $65.00, he showed up with his stuff, spoke very little and went home and faded every single song we recorded on the master track saying this was the "industry standard." When we heard it, we were furious! This song had a definite ending as did several others --- most notably "Meditation Morning" whose entire ending of the monks chanting in the key of D was eliminated completely. This song ended definitely with the sound of glass breaking. It too has been completely eliminated because of this man's sole decision to fade the master track. It sucks and I cringe every time I hear it because I know what it should be.
Of course. I hear a lot of things in this song that aren't there --- most notably the horn section during the break...but oh, this song rocks in full glory in my head! Next time I will know better and be much more involved in the production process. At the time, I kept thinking "Isn't it enough that I wrote the song? Sang the song? Sought out a so called professional recording person and come up with the money? Now I have to learn production too?" But the answer for me anyway has been "yes" to all of those questions. I also had to learn to play guitar myself after Curtis quit just so I could keep expressing myself musically. I know why lots of people quit...they keep coming to the end of themselves and their ability...but I'm not quitting. I refuse to quit. Now, I know that I need to be in the production booth when the time comes if I want my music to be my music and not someone else's interpretation of my music. What can they know of my music if they don't hear what I hear? How could any real musician hear a song with a definite ending and decide it should be faded at the end because of an industry standard? If that is the case, then industry standard by dammed! I would rather remain unknown and true to the music than be molded by some standard and compromised artistically. Yes, that is how I feel about it.
How can I begin to say what this woman has meant to me and my hopes to live my dreams --- whatever they are. I am struck by her authenticity, her honesty, her sheer talent. She made me realize that I cannot compromise the truth for any perceived audience approval. The lyrics have to be true to be received. I have to stay true to be received...thanks, Amy. I thought I'd write you this letter...cause that is me...I'm gonna put it in the blog, put it in the blog.
I have for a long time pursued a dream. I am and still do pursue many dreams but singing and music is what I was created to do. It came out of me with a whoosh and floods my mind with visions that do not make sense to my rational self. I am a writer first and foremost. Long before I played with music, I played with words. Are they not the most powerful things? They can cause so much destruction. They can heal so many wounds... The collection of songs on the Simple Pleasures CD are my firstfruits. There were originally eleven songs on the collection but three had issues of various sorts. One had a potential copyright issue that I chose to avoid altogether. The other two just weren't what I considered "good enough." (Although admittedly, I am my own worst critic!) Even "Not Cruel" is so far from what I would consider to be presentable but lyrically speaking, it is one of my best works and in that sense, very complete. For a while there, Curtis and I were blessed to play several times with Kevin Doyle (Bobby Doyle of Blood, Sweat & Tears son). His drumming took the music to a whole new level. Tequila Derby was on fire and Not Cruel became a catchy groove. Ah what I wouldn't give for a horn section! But these are down the road. The collection is special because it is basically SoulePhix, unplugged. For real musicality, there really is no beating that.
Have you ever met someone that you know you have absolutely no business being with or around but something about that person just draws you...like a moth to a flame. You know you will get burned by loving them. You know their kiss will sear your lips. So you have them and they take you and leave you in ashes never to know you've transmuted their flame and taken their power for yourself...because they did not know they burned a phoenix.
When I create music, it comes from within. It is a melody that plays or words I hear in my ears. I write it down or sing a bit into a mic to record the thought...if I don't get it down, it goes away. Sometimes, it will return but lots of times it doesn't return. If I ignore its sound consistently, it (whatever it is) gets offended and can become silent and ignore me...and sings to me no more. Then after awhile, it returns to sing again in my spiritual ears --- waiting to see if I will respond to it and add my voice to its song.
This song started out as an ode to one of my favorite African American poets, Gwendolyn Brooks. She wrote a poem called "We real cool." The last two lines say "We jazz June. We die soon." So, that was the real inspiration. The song proved to be a challenge though; as for weeks, I just couldn't hear past the intro. Frustrated, I set the project aside and weeks later ended up at the gulf coast meeting my folks there for a weekend holiday. A huge family fight ensued in which nearly all of us left early in separate cars. I took a walk and sat by the water and boom...I heard the rest of the song playing in my head with crystal clarity. Because of the terrible fight and what it took to birth this song, I changed the title from "Ode to Gwedolyn" to "Lamentations." In spite of the change in direction the song took, I find it still manages to preserve the essential spirit of what I see in the original poem...a stark commentary on the people in the world around us and how inwardly sad it makes us feel to watch them fall.
I was fortunate enough years ago to meet a talented Nicaraguan brother and sister duo, who called themselves, Chacuatol. To this day their talent, songs and words inspire me. One summer, Ricardo (or Rich-heart as I call him) stopped by from driving his ice cream truck and I sang him a few lines from my latest composition. When I finished I asked him anxiously what he thought. He said to me, "I think you are really, really talented but more important than what I think, is what you think of the music you created. Trust yourself. Trust your own musical ear...if it sounds good to you, it is good. So, tell me, what do you think of the song you wrote?" "I think... it's a hit." He smiled and laughed, "I think it's a hit, too!"
I guess by now I should have quit. How long is it reasonable to pursue a vision? At what point does one decide to stop believing in what they themselves cannot explain or rationalize? I saw something on the inside and I continue to believe. Do dreams and visions know about time? Do they get anxious like people... I am undeterred. Like a patient gardener, I tenderly plant seeds. When I am gone, they will surely bloom. What about you?