Who’s driving this life, anyway?

Lyrics should amplify the emotional impact of the music. Or is it the other way round?

As I’m gearing up for a major life change (leaving a home I love in northern Wisconsin to move to Phoenix, Arizona for the sake of my family) some music on a long trip reminded me that I’m not always doing my best. I skated through school. Straight As, but still, I skated. I could have done so much more with my time and resources, but being just a little above whoever was in 2nd place was good enough — because all I cared about was being 1st, not about being best.

Most people think I’m wildly productive, writing book after book, managing 3 family businesses, and still having time for friends and family.

What I see most days is a person who won’t do the work to lose weight and eat healthier, turns in about 1/4 of the art he could be producing, and is a little too quick to call it a day and watch TV.

In Mark Knopfler’s Speedway At Nazareth from Sailing to Philadelphia he sounds like a man who blames everyone but himself, losing race after race for an entire season because, for instance, “She went around without a warning” and as anyone knows “the Brickyard’s there to crucify anyone”. He points out that “we were robbed at Belle Isle” and lost another because “my motor let go”.

Near the end, one last excuse about how “we burned up at the lake” and then, the last line puts it all in perspective:

But at the Speedway At Nazareth I made no mistake

Not a whiner making excuses, but a guy who knows whose job it is to win the race, and who sometimes can’t look that truth in the face.

Until one single win gives him the courage to admit who’s driving this life.

On the same stretch of road I revisted John Cougar Mellencamp’s Scarecrow. I’d forgotten what a great album it is.

Minutes To Memories is the rambling commentary on life of an old man on the bus, as recorded by the young man singing. The last lines of the chorus sound at first like a curmudgeon’s denigration of a younger generation:

You are the future
So suck it up and tough it out
And be the best you can

It may sound like Don Henley singing “get over it!” but, really, is there another way to live? What we do today, what we do every day, is our future, ours and that of everyone our life touches.

Is there another option when things go sideways but to suck it up and tough it out?

Is there ever a time, a place, a circumstance to not “be the best you can”?

I Know Why He Acts This Way

Found some old notes I’d written about my favorite Jude Cole album. Twelve years ago, actually. Much has changed. Like, now I’m happy. Also, I’ve seen Madison.

  • Speed of Life — only one I’ve heard on the radio. Great tune, fascinating mental imagery. I have a live version recorded in some radio studio, too.
  • Believe In Me — “I may not make a million dollars, but a million dollars won’t make me.” He sure knows how to write. Simple tune with wonderful lyrics.
  • Move if You’re Going — not my favorite music, but it’s about getting on with your life after tragedy. I listen for the lyrics.
  • Lowlife — not what it sounds like. He writes lots of musical prayers. I sing ’em real loud.
  • Joe — oh so scary song about a perfectly normal guy; except he’s having an affair with his neighbor’s wife while he beats his own; wishes his kids would just leave him alone, and ends with him sitting in the basement holding a Purple Heart and a loaded gun. I’m almost crying writing this; at my lowest times, this song really really helped me not to end it all, and I don’t know how or why. Kiefer Sutherland, who loaned Jude his guitar to record his very first album with, does some of the vocals. Listen with headphones in a dark room. It’s a deeply moving song for me.
  • Sheila Don’t Remember — he really doesn’t understand why this girl he had a one-night-stand with doesn’t even remember him. I’ve looked for something deeper, but I haven’t found it.
  • Take The Reins — when you let others control your life, your heart, your mind, you’re in trouble. Take it back, ’cause no matter how hard it is, it can’t hurt the way it does right now
  • Madison — I have no idea what this is about, but it sounds like a ‘never going back’ tune. I was born in Wisconsin, but I’ve never even seen Madison.
  • Hole at the top of the World — another sad song about a dead marriage. For a happily married guy, he sure nails the feelings.
  • Heaven’s Last Attempt — a gentle but powerful song about how the right kind of love might save your life. Or, might not.

To Know Someone is Listening: Guest Post by Ross Durand

One of the many singer/songwriters I’ve met during February Album Writing Month, Ross is part of a smaller group I’ve collaborated with. I’ll rummage up Man in the Mirror to show you what a great singer does with my lyrics. For now, Ross shares something every songwriter loves. Continue reading “To Know Someone is Listening: Guest Post by Ross Durand”

Rachel Flowers: Emerson, No Lake, Little Palmer

Guitarist Jim Earp sent a link to this video of Rachel Flowers performing Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression on a Hammond C3 organ.

Ten minutes in my head exploded. (It’s 14 minutes long.) Continue reading “Rachel Flowers: Emerson, No Lake, Little Palmer”

Mama Don’t Take My Kodachrome and Leave Your Boy So Far From Home

Some songs are obviously made for headphones. Anything by Pink Floyd. Some classical and jazz.

Paul Simon’s Kodachrome isn’t so obvious, but I just heard a different song from the one I’ve been listening to for lo these many years. Continue reading “Mama Don’t Take My Kodachrome and Leave Your Boy So Far From Home”

USSS: Ross Durand

takes a lot of songwriting confidence to take on the challenge of writing an entire song for each line in Bob Dylan’s Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. Takes a lotta songwriting chops to pull it off.

This year it looks like Ross Durand is going to finish this seriously ambitious and musically satisfying project. Continue reading “USSS: Ross Durand”