Shine A Light: Al Green

Brother Al Green. You know the name and you’d surely remember hits like “L-O-V-E”, “Let’s Stay Together”, and “How Do You Mend A Broken Heart”. Those were huge 70’s smashes and core threads in the soundtrack of many of our lives. But you can’t hold singer and pastor Al Green to the children of the 70’s. My kids love him, parents love him…..His is one of the most unique soulful voices ever. Period !

This You Tube clip of of a recent song called “Lay It Down” and shows Al hasn’t lost any chops. Take a little trip down memory lane or discover Al Green for the first time. He is one of the most naturally soulful dudes ever. Enjoy !

Heritage

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Do you know your ancestory? Many of us are of mixed blood. It seems like when I talk to most people, especially younger people, they really don’t know. I really enjoy meeting a full blood of any race. It fascinates me in a way. No branches, no confusion or conflict in my mind. I am Chinese. I am Swedish. I am Cree. I was at a spiritual retreat this fall and the speaker asked how many generations back people could name their Grandfathers. Most could only go to their Grandfather. One or two cold name Great Grandfather. My former Father in law can trace his Swedish heritage and that of his wife’s so far back it would make your head spin !. I think we lose alot when we don’t know that. Native peoples keep their relatives alive in constant stories, about when he or she did this or that. Handing down beliefs and traditions. Handing down mental and verbal images of that person. Western culture is more inclined to say ” well, he was born here in about 1831 and I think dies about 1888 somewhere out west”. That’s about all you can get. Maybe new technology will help change that. To think that my Grandchildren, Great and Great great Grandchildren can have really good video, pictures, my words in song and blogs to learn about me is fascinating. It’s not that I’m so important or have so much to say, but that we are in the same line. A family continuum. To know where you are going it helps to know where you came from.

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When I was a child the only book I can ever remember reading was a book on Geronimo. For reasons now known to me, I understand why I had a connection. My Maternal side is English/ Chezkloslovakian and my Paternal side is English, and Native American, both Cherokee and Muscogee Creek. I had heard stuff through the years about Creek blood, but it took until I was 21 or so to drag it out of my Grandmother. For you see, when she was growing up people didn’t want to claim their Native heritage. It was considered a very negative thing. I don’t know how they hid it because her family started and ran the Chavers-Kennedy Indian School in Wildfork, Al.

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I think we can tap into our bloods, maybe each of us has DNA characteristics that are closer to one heritage than the next. What do you think about your lineage? Is it important to you? Does it make any difference? Does it ground you or do you take pride in any of it? I have a lot of relatives that just don’t care. A lot that still, here in 2009, dismiss Native blood, despite legal documents proving otherwise. If I wasn’t into this and then tomorrow I woke up and said I’m going to connect with my heritage more, it wouldn’t change my outward life, but I believe it would ground me more.

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Knowing my past helps me know where to go. To me it honors those that came before. It fascinates me. They were just as important as current generations. They lived and struggled. Loved and lost. They were excited and filled with hope for the young ones and saddened when they buried the elders. So the circles keep going, generations come and go, love and life keep right on happening with God on the middle of it all. You may look English, Native American, or Chinese, but you have a line and that line goes forward as well as into the past. I urge you to check that out. It may surprise you and it may shed some light on why you are the way you are.

WITH JC CHAVERS AND WILLIAM FLOMATON AL84dega with pipe

La Familia

Well, here comes the Holidays ! Thanksgiving is still the largest family gathering holiday of the year. So that means that thousands of us will be hitting the road, headed far and wide to share a great meal, shop, watch some football, and yes spend time with  “The Family”.

It’s not so easy for some folk. It can create tension, flare up yearly headaches, and as much as love abounds, it can still be tough. Cramped quarters, that funky Uncle, annoying little cousin, heck having to spend a long car ride with your brother or sister just to get there.  My Sister and Mother volunteered one year at a Soup Kitchen. I’ve talked about it but sadly,  I guess selfishness or laziness has got the better of me.

I guess if we remember that there is no such thing as normal, and everybody makes little sacrifices, then maybe our outlook would be better. And what if we had nowhere to go? No family? Is it easier to gripe? Maybe so. I think it’s important for us to gather, to be with each other, to let our children grow up with the wonderfully wacky sense of extended family.

I’m in for sure. I’ve had several Thanksgivings without my children and this one we will be in my Son’s apartment. It will be special. We will break bread and hear stories about their lives, and laugh and nap, and watch some football. We will remember our ancestors on both sides of our lineage that are represented on the first Thanksgiving.

I hope your Thanksgiving is good, your travel safe and your team wins ! We all have so much to be thankful for and like it or not we all need each other. So go hug that funky Uncle, play a game with a little cousin, and listen to some stories of the lives being led by folk you don’t see that often. You’ll be back home soon, I promise !

Shine A Light : Aloha Jack Johnson

One thing I’ve loved doing for as long as I can remember is turning people on to music that I like and I think maybe they will like as well. I’ve made my parents and my sister cassette tapes and now CDs, for years with music, some that they know and mostly songs or artists they don’t know. Discovering new music is still a big high for me. It’s like Gregg Allman once said about music, that it’s “life’s blood”.

So I thought maybe I’d do some posts each Friday  called “Shine A Light”, that would do exactly that, shine a light on stuff you may or may not have heard. They also may shine a light on folks you’ve forgotten. It’s easier than ever to expand your musical library and find folks through on line sources that you probably couldn’t have 30+ years ago. I’d also love to hear what you are listening to.

The first guy is new to me in the last 7 years or so, but Jack Johnson’s music for me has been like a breath of fresh air. He combines that laid back island vibe, picking up in a strange way where Buffett was years ago. The longer and closer I listened I realized how much he had to say, and how he works his life,and his love for the environment into his music.

It seems from what I’ve read that Jack truly tries to live the Aloha life. If you don’t know his music or some of the causes he is involved with should check him out.

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Hope

My Friend from high school, Richard Harwood heads up the Harwood Institute in D.C. One of his many focuses is traveling the country asking fellow citizens why they aren’t more involved on any level, with the Government that effects their lives. I would think one answer he may hear a lot is that we have lost hope that our efforts count, that our opinions count. We have by and large circled the wagons in our lives. We go to work, come home, maybe church, maybe some type of getaway, camping, running, sailing. Even when we get home we tend to isolate a little. Our decks and outdoor living are in the backs of our houses. We cast a vote, mind our own business, and some of us secretly wish we did things in a better way.

http://www.theharwoodinstitute.org/

We’ve heard alot about the word Hope in the months preceeding the Presidential Election. The great hope! We all know how the media and campaigns likes to tag a word like hope. What a great word to hinge emotions on. Hell, who doesn’t like that word? Hope, yeah I’ll take some of that. It’s like air. Want some? well ,yeah, kinda need it. We need hope. Without it, our lives would be pretty dismal.

We can hope to be better friends, being the friend to make the call and not wait for the call. Better children. Sure, now that I have children, it makes me want to be a better, more loving, thoughtful son to my parents, who gave me so much. Hope to be a better spouse ! That ones touchy with some of us. But I have begun to learn that if I’m a better spouse, I’ll have a better spouse ! Who’d have figured that one?. Then we have the hope for the more etherial things. Contentment, happiness, peace, less illness, less violence. The list goes on forever. Sometimes it’s as simple as hoping for a sunny day. Other times when we’re quiet we’re just hoping to catch a glimpse of understanding of what all of this “life” means.

The Harwood Institute is just encouraging us to remember that we matter. Each one of us, each thought, each deed matters. To do something. Not to sit back and criticize everything. That’s where the rub comes in. Maybe that’s where we as a people get immobilized, for what do we do? Where do we pitch our tent? For that matter who and what do we believe. The more you try to learn the more confused you get. Don’t you?, I sure do. Everyone has an angle, therefore each person will tell it to you as they see it. It seems as if it’s the big shell game and after a while you just throw your hands up, have a beer, and let “those guys” battle it out. Bad choice, sure, but what else can you do. Maybe some people simply have the type of DNA to be involved, leaders, people that want to affect things for everyone. Others don’t share that DNA, that weren’t brought up  that way, and they try to live their lives quietly, raising their children to be good. To be solid. Maybe it takes a little of all of us. Some kind of weird, physic karma thing!

President Obama was a welcomed sight for me. He did offer hope in ways I hope our country would be represented. A more global approach and one that the United States was a part of. A strong, healthy part, but not that everything must be based our ideas. I don’t agree with all he does, but I appreciate the public image, and I guess I will have to start there. There is a saying I heard a while back that says “Hope Never Fails”. That is easy for me to believe. All else will be sorted out through time. I pray you and I will continue to keep hope in our hearts and kind words on our tongues.

Still On The Road

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Walk with me for just a minute. The other day I heard Willie Nelson and Family were playing a show at the famed Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. It was too late for tickets as the show was sold out, like almost all are these days.

I read one time that when Willie started playing with Ray Price in the mid 60’s, that the first run was a string of 99 one nighters. Can you imagine? Nobody does that anymore.  Before all of that, Willie had been in constant motion. Born in Texas but living many places while searching for his dreams to materialize. Landing in Nashville in the 60’s and becoming a pretty powerful songwriter, “Crazy” by Patsy Cline and “Funny How Time Slips Away”, just to name a couple. It wasn’t until his house burned down that he went back to Texas. He just wanted to play music and the crowds there were and are more open to music that doesn’t fit in the box. Thank God for that.

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So anyway, back to the road. Willie is 76 and still on the road over 200 days a year ! When you look at the itinerary , there are still a lot of one nighters. It amazes me the energy it must take. It became a way of life long ago for him as well as his traveling family. I think he just loves to play and works off of the energy of the crowds. The idea of Willie conjures many impressions from people. His voice is an acquired thing and if you are looking for the perfect voice it’s not for you. But if you are looking for a storyteller, a voice that has heart and is totally unique, then give him a chance. In the current state of Country Music, and entertainment in general where you can’t tell one artist from another, his striking individuality is always refreshing. Some people look down on him due to his open use of weed. They say weed lessens someone’s drive, not Willie’s !

This writer has been enjoying Willie’s music since about 1978. It took me a little while, but I did get it and his voice now to me is like an old friend. It’s warm and reassuring. I like Emmylou Harris’ comment “That if America only had one voice it would be Willie’s”. I think he is more comfortable in his skin than most any other entertainer. Beyond a star, superstar, Willie is an honest American icon. His picking ain’t perfect, his look is worn, and his heart has suffered. Kind of like life itself, right ?

You don’t have to go out and buy his records or go to his shows, but a little light on someone who is marching to the drum God gave him, might allow your heart to just say “Ole Willie’s alright with me”. So I wish him well out there on the Worlds highways and biways, bringing his music, his heart and his love. Always giving ! Thanks Willie

Mother’s Day

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I wonder where I’d be without my Mothers love. Surely I’d be in a place that would be very empty. Recently my Mother was visiting from her home in California, and made a comment that kind of surprised me. She said ” I hope I didn’t do too much to screw you kids up”. I kind of laughed, but as a parent I had a feeling I knew what she meant. I told her all I remembered of her parental ways were loving, kindness, forgiveness and encouragement. It’s the truth. She always supported me and told me she was proud of me. Those were strong words especially when there have been many times when I didn’t feel like I was much to be proud of.

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I have learned only a few things after 49 years, especially about parenting. Much of what I’ve grasped was from my Mother, and lately much has been from my Wife. She is the same kind of parent as my Mother is. Full of love, kindness, forgiveness and encouragement. I think that most parents go through raising kids making audible calls at the line of scrimmage. Every situation is different. You try to work on the foundational things early on, but then you have to hope and trust some of it stuck. My Mother trusted me even when I think she knew I wasn’t living up to it. It was a way of nurturing and letting me skin some knees and a heart along the way. We try to do our best, but many times I look back and wish I hadn’t said 90% of what I said. The other 10%, I wished I’d said differently!

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I hope the scars my children have won’t be too deep and that somewhere along the way they’ll understand I was doing the best I knew how to do at the time. Most importantly that they know I love them always and through it all. My children’s parents divorced. That’s me, one of my biggest failures for them. It is a pain that never really stops giving. It’s always present. I missed so much, but they missed more. For that I’m sorry and couldn’t apologize enough to them. We go on. We wake up and go again. I have tried to show them that despite the holes, it doesn’t have to be the worse thing that ever happened to us. That love is bigger, and life has opportunities to make choices that will bring healing and peace.

I’m reminded of the wonderful women in my life, the examples of loving Mothers I’ve witnessed. The hearth of the home. The backbone and open arms. So now for all of you that are thinking the parties of long ago have affected my brain, I know it’s not Mothers Day. But I think there’s no time like the moment to tell the Mothers in my life, that I love them.

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