Shine A Light: James Taylor

There must be something about 70’s music. Those of us that grew up with it still like it and those that have come since them ,like my children, they like it ! It sure isn’t hard to dip into the well of great music from that era and find some of the jems that got you through those days. Songs that were at your side, thru love and loss, summer and winter. I’m sure there’s a few folk that don’t like James Taylor, but hopefully they are all together on some deserted island paying for the crime of not liking JT ! Maybe that’s a bit harsh, but man its James, Sweet Baby James ! You know, “Fire and Rain”, “Carolina In My Mind”, “Her Town Too”….and the hits and the memories just keep a coming.

There is something special about James Taylor. Check out this video of “Fire And Rain”. From the first chords the crowd knows the song and the trip has begun…..Autumns at college…..the last time kissed her……..good red wine and a fire…….the songs he sang to you…….JT touches a different nerve that almost any other artist of his era, but the catch is you have to carve out time. Kids in bed, glass of red, comfy chair, maybe headphones, slow down and go through those songs. Be patient with them, they are meant to be savored.

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Reading List: Neither Wolf Nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn

Perhaps one of Americas most embarrassing black eyes is , the treatment from  beginning to present, of the American Indian. There is a line in a movie that I thought was really good. “What happened to the Indians was inevitable, how it happened was unconscionable”. Right or wrong, peoples, clans, tribes, and countries have expanded their power and holdings through warfare. To conquer. The ones with the larger forces wins. Its ugly but thats the way its always been. The Europeans did it a little differently. They came in when their numbers were few and lived among and at the hospitality of the host peoples. As the greed grew it got worse. History tells us that essentially the government of the United States didn’t live up to a single treaty. Not one.

Many of us have Indian blood in our veins. If you do, you owe it to yourself and your children to educate yourself in the ways of your people. But even those of us that honor that blood cannot begin to have any idea what it is like to grow up Indian. To be raised on reservations, to be the minority everywhere you go.

To be locked in time. Most non Indian people see Indians as some sort of organic, vision seeking peoples that can talk to every animal in its language! They’ve always been viewed as something other than just human. Sometimes America has hated them, sometimes we have had romanticized versions in our heads. They have families, love, divorce, they work, they don’t work. They doubt, they believe, and so on.

Check out Kent Nerburns book, “Neither Wold Nor Dog”. There are great truths there of a people, of any people. That’s the beauty of truth. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re at. It hits you somewhere deep. I have read and re read this book over several years and find something new as I move through my journey.

Shine A Light: Marvin Gaye

When I was about 16, I went with a friend to Boston. We stayed with my friends older sister and among her records I discovered a Marvin Gaye record called “What’s Going On”. You’ve had those moments, right, where you heard something and were simply blown away, and the feeling stayed with you forever. Thats how finding Marvin was for me. What a record, I mean what a record. Never mind understanding what it meant for a R&B artist to release a record like that in 1971. It still hits hard today. The questions are still compelling.

There’s not enough to say about Marvin Gaye. He was a bridge between black and white for sure. A spiritual man that at the same time battled with his demons but always strived for peace and harmony. Marvin met a tragic end at the hand of his own Father, and the world still moans.

His music lives on and take it from me the “What’s Going On” album  is still listed as one of the all time greats.

Please Release Me

It’s the same old song and dance for me in the middle of winter. My wife hears familiar grumblings from me every year at this time. “we’re living too far north”, “Damn I hate winter”, those kinds of things. I live in Nashville Tennessee.  A place not know for its severe winter blizzards, either in depth or length. When we get 4 inches of snow every 8-10 years, the place shuts down. So while I’m not living in the tropics, I’m aware that latitude 36 isn’t arctic headquarters either.

I guess we all try to make the best of winter in our own ways.

I’m reminded of the Jimmy Buffet tune, “Floridays”

Pale invaders and tanned crusaders
Are worshipping the sun
On the corner of “walk” and “don’t walk”
Somewhere on US 1
I’m back to livin’ Floridays
Blue skies and ultra-violet rays
Lookin’ for better days

So we ride out the winters, relishing those days when the sun shines and we can feel the hints of warmth on our face. Come end of February, Nashville will begin to catch the glimpses of Spring. Old man winter will be on the ropes and his armor will show signs of giving way. Life will poke its wonderful head out of the dirt, smiles will be on the faces of the young and old. I will be back in my element and continuing my distant plans to one day call the tropics home.

So like the line from Fred Neils classic, “Everybodys Talkin’ “, “I’m goin’ where the weather suits my clothes”.

Love

Can anyone really define love? I wouldn’t think so,  maybe love can be described but not defined. For a lot of us it could be simply be that feeling in our stomachs that is like no other.

Tomorrow is Valentines Day. The lovers holiday. As a kid, I remember sitting around the table writing valentines for my classmates for the big exchange. In high school we were able to buy that special someone a rose and have it delivered.

Perhaps it’s the spirit of things. Like the song says, “if everyday could be just like Christmas, what a wonderful world it would be”.  And if we could treat our partners everyday like we treat them on Valentines Day, wouldn’t the world be brimming with love?

As anyone that is married or in long term relationships knows, the road of being together is hard. It’s full of peaks and valleys. There is sunshine and rain, smiles and tears. My marriage is no different, it’s full of everything that makes it tough and beautiful. Sometimes I’m the better part of it, but that is rare. Usually its my wife.  Tamra is the better part of me, and reminds me through her actions,that the world doesn’t revolve around me. That love is giving. She makes me happy that there is a Valentines Day, but more importantly, makes me happy that I have everyday to love her a little better.

Many years ago someone gave me some advice that had been passed down to her. This persons Mother said “Whatever you do to get someone, you have to continue doing the same things to keep them”. I thought that was really good and while I have strayed from that principle in my life and rested on comfort, that sage advice blows through my life now more than ever. So I keep trying, not always achieving, but trying to make every day like Valentines.

VALENTINE

“We’ve got everything we need- I’ve got your two lips and you’ve got mine

And our four lips can be kissing- if you’ll be my valentine

On this moonlit night- you know its only right

That its your heart and mine

Cupid didn’t miss- when I asked him this

Can you stop her heart on a dime

And make her always be my valentine

used by permission Glenn Simmons Music/ 2008

Shine A Light: Sam Baker

What do you look for in music these days? Hot licks, Hot Chicks? Groovin’ bass? Maybe something to just humm along to as you make your way to and from work. Do you only like voices that sound like songbrids? Or do you ever open the box way up and listen, really listen to the stories? Maybe the stories aren’t pretty, maybe they are stories of  life on the fringes. Maybe the voice is ragged, engaging, and leaves deep marks on your soul,  just like life. Maybe the melodies and tracks are hauntingly beautiful. That’s Sam Bakers music.

Sam is not a  household name. You won’t find him jumping around on the American Idol stage, nor is he selling out stadiums. But Sam is an artist and none of the above holds any interest to him. Sam is telling his stories of life thru his lens and is thankful there is a growing number of folks that are interested in taking the time to ride along.

Sams story is amazing, from childhood life in Texas to being one of many victims in a terrorist train exlposion in Peru. He resides in Austin. Check out his music, story and interviews on his site, www.sambakermusic.com. Also the photo is among many really great photographs taken by Rodney Bursiel and you should take time especially if you love photography, to go to his site,  http://www.rodneybursiel.com.

AHH FIRE IS GOOD

I’ve been sitting around campfires with friends for probably over 20 years. I kinda thought I was in the minority, but I’m finding out how wrong I’ve been. People are sitting around fires around the country in big numbers. Playing music, talking of life and spiritual journeys, eating, laughing, just being together.

There is something about fire itself wouldn’t you agree? Something mesmerizing, soothing, and yes something that connects us to the generations that have come before. There is something special about the conversations that are had around campfires with our spouses, with our friends and our children.

The more I talk with other men, the more I find they are a part of a group of guys that meet around a fire regularly. I think it would be really cool to see the campfires with friends huddled around from a birds eye view all across this land.

Do you think it has something to do with the natural gravitation back to the earth? I do. I think we need her, she is our grounding. I prefer my fires more primitive with my feet on the earth, but some prefer having them on the deck and some do a gas fire ! I urge those folks to go primitive on occasion.

It sure isn’t a man thing only. My wife loves to bring a blanket out, maybe a glass of wine, and enjoy the sights and smells of a fire.