Tupac and the Foo Fighters

As I go about my daily tasks, or turn on the television, I often wonder at the extent to which the music of my youth, my life, has become the soundtrack of commercials and elevators. I think I have written about this before but currently there is a whole crop of commercials that is using music that informed my younger days.

Of course every generation has a catalogue of music that is defining for them. Now we, the baby boomers, are the target audience for so many things because the world of big business assumes that we are the ones with the money. So it makes sense to use the music that speaks to us but it is still weird to hear it bastardized and monetized in a these ways.

I went to see the movie All Eyez on Me several years back; a biopic about Tupac Shakur. I went alone, as I often do. I found it interesting as a musician as I did not know all that much about the history of rap and the east-west competition with Big. I did not know that Tupac was an extraordinary musical engineer, doing his own mixes and orchestrating all of his stuff himself. That is big talent in my book.

Most startling about this experience was how many people were astounded that I went to see the movie at all. I am a sixty something white woman and apparently I didn’t fit the stereotype of who should go see, let alone enjoy, this movie. While the movie may not have been the best or most accurate, it was an interesting window into a subculture and a form of music that I was not all that familiar with.

My best friend is a lover of punky stuff. And while we feel the same way about music, and find some intersections, generally we do not listen to the same kind of music. She was talking music with her granddaughter who was amazed that my friend wanted to see the Foo Fighters in person. What? Grandma wants to see the Foo Fighters?

Her grandma is definitely not my grandma. Old is not as old as it used to be. But my grandma taught me the single most important of my life – never judge a book (person) by its cover. This is what she lived by, and how we all should live; rappers, punkers, folkies, classical audiophiles and jazz lovers all walking hand in hand. Sam Cooke got it right: what a wonderful world that would be.

The Day the Music Died

Music is what sustains me, what has always sustained me. Music is about memory and wishes and hopes and dreams. What was the soundtrack of most of my  days is now elevator and television commercial music.  It makes me feel annoyed, and somehow disrespected, some days; the music was so very good and carrying so much intention.

I know there is excellent music out there now, but it seems harder to find. My baby brother helps to send me to some of it. Some of it I find by accident. Some of it my bandmates find and share.

I am closest to the God of my understanding when I am making music. I am closest to my truest self when I am making music. I have always had a voice but in these last few years I have found my best and truest voice. And now…there is nobody to make music with during this weird time of social isolation. I miss it deeply. As a singer my most precious moments are blending my voice with the voices of others, in the amazing sound it creates when people sing in harmonious joy. Having found my bandmates is a gift beyond telling. So as a singer it is not my best to sing in isolation but I do it anyway. Belting away at the piano with just the chords as my accompaniment; I never learned to play anything other than classical music correctly.

As a musician, and someone deeply affected by music, the last years have also brought many sorrows. So many of those greats who created that soundtrack have fallen. Dr. John, Paul Barrere, Hugh Masekela, Cecil Taylor, Yvonne Staples, Charles Neville, Aretha Franklin, Marty Balin, Leon Redbone, Ginger Baker, Butch Trucks, Al Jarreau, James Cotton, Chuck Berry, J Geils, Greg Allman, Rosalie Sorrels, Glen Campbell, Tom Petty, Fats Domino, Della Reese, Kenny Rogers, Bill Withers and now John Prine. This is just in the last three years and it is very, very incomplete.

People refer to the Day the Music Died as the day the plane carrying Richie Valens and others went down. I feel as if my music is dying out slowly and inexorably. And each death brings me closer to my own. But I have music to make yet, and I am still standing…and still singing.

I Remember

 

So here goes with another movie. The other night I went to see Bohemian Rhapsody. And I know that Rami Malik got some not so nice and pretty snarky reviews. Some were downright nasty. I, however, thought he was amazing. He utterly channeled Freddie Mercury and held the audience’s attention as if he were the real person. I imagine it is hard enough to play a fictional character, but to re-create a real person must be unbelievably difficult. And he made it look easy, the acting part. Being Freddie Mercury could never have been easy, in the movie or in life.

Of course the music was wonderful, and nostalgic, but that wasn’t what struck me most. Don’t get me wrong, as a musician, the story of any iconic musician is fascinating to me. What struck me hardest was the evocative power of the film to bring me back to those terrible early days of the epidemic. The dark days when the virus was an unknown and nobody understood what it was let alone what to do about it, how to treat it.

Watching even the fictional story of a man dying of AIDS brought to mind all those I lost and all those we as a country, as a culture, lost. And it brought to mind the fear and ignorance, intolerance and distrust with which victims were treated. I remember people sick and dying with no human touch because of irrational and baseless fear. I remember the sorrow I felt and the helplessness, all I could do was hug the ones I knew.

And remembering what that fear and ignorance did to hundreds or thousands made me think of what fear and ignorance are doing to us now. If only there was a cure. But it was a wonderful cinema experience despite all that.

 

 

Solo ~ Just Means Singing Alone

In the last few years I have done a lot of traveling alone. Now when it is during the week and I have a briefcase, people just look at me as another business traveler. And since I don’t really go anywhere interesting, I generally sit at a table with a book to eat my dinner.  When I travel for myself, everything is different.

First, no briefcase. Second, dressed as my true self – generally funkier than my 50 or so year work armor. Yes, I said armor, I have worn suits, or at least dress pants and tops for most of my adult life.  Except when I first began and judges did not allow female attorneys to wear pants in court. As I spent more and more time in and out of jails, with clients, it became necessary to be sure my armor was pants in case of a lockdown. I also thought of professional garb, and heels, as armor as I chose to be a gladiator in a man’s world.  Figure it out.

Anyway third, I don’t need receipts. Fourth, I sit at the bar.  Dressing as myself and sitting at the bar are ways of making myself more open to opportunities, to life.  They are ways of becoming more vulnerable.  But what is funny about all this is that people are always astounded that I, a woman of a certain age, silver hair and all, am traveling alone.

I am currently on my second weekend trip the impetus for which was simply an art exhibition I wanted to see. The first to Oklahoma City where I had a most splendid adventure and now to Asheville where I will do the same. Why are people surprised? I have no idea but I have fun with it and people often buy me coffee or dessert or whatever in their amazement of my solo-ness. Strange.

It gives me great pleasure to just do the things that please me, art, music, food.  Today I surprised a busker by singing harmony to his not so talented melody as I went by.  Today I had a long talk with a homeless man about feet on a bench on a quaint street.  Today I had latte and a warm fresh croissant in a lovely bakery in mid morning with my book.  Today I visited a wonderful bookstore and my favorite chocolate shop. Tonight I will go hear bluegrass for dinner.  What a wonderful day.  Would it be nice to share it with a like minded partner, sure. But solo is just fine with me. Be amazed.

Passions and Passion

After 14 years in Florida there is one thing that strikes me almost every day. And it is a silly thing.  You can’t get cold water from the tap.  The water is always tepid, even when it is relatively cold.  Now northerners don’t laugh, I said relatively cold.

And in an odd way, the part of Florida I live in is kind of tepid too.   There is great beauty, in the ocean, the waterways, the sunsets, the sky, the flowers.  But it is a lazy kind of place, it is not busy.  It is a place where people move slowly, especially in the summer.  It is a place of simple pleasures and , to be honest, many things I am not interested in to varying degrees.

I am very lucky, I have been able to find and indulge my passions here; somewhat.  While my access to live music of some of the kinds I enjoy is very limited, I have found wonderful people to make music with. I have to admit, it took ten years or so.  I have been able to work on writing, although consistency is still a bitch.  I have been able to teach, which I dearly love.  And so, I have my passions, despite my tepid water.

But I have now learned that it is possible to have passions, but no passion.   And so it is.  The indulging of my passions is sometimes serious work here in this tepid place.  I travel, I invite people for meals, I support the symphony society, and so on and so forth.  But I can’t drop in to a place with folk music, I can’t walk to a market or see musicians on the street.  I can’t even go to Trader Joe’s without a significant drive.

[tweetshare tweet=”All that being said, there are trade offs everywhere you go.  And the good news is that at least some of your passions go with you anywhere you go.  Now if only there was some passion to go with those passions.” username=”@trienahm”]