Friday, July 30, 2010

BP Protest song: God’s Counting on Me, God’s Counting on You by Pete Seeger

“The oil spill makes me wish for the first time that Superman actually existed. It would take him approximately 10 minutes to plug it up and another 30 minutes to clean it up the spill . . . sigh . . .”
-my facebook status during the second week of the oil spill in the Gulf.

One of the most disheartening sites in recent memory was flying into Panama Beach, Florida and seeing oil floating on the top of the water. At first, there was a sense of disbelief and then a sinking feeling of horror.  Diana’s cousin was getting married down there.  In all the excitement, I almost forgot about the whole oil spill until walking on the beach and seeing tar balls collecting on the sand.

It’s hard for me to know how to feel about all of this. Being angry at BP, politicians and whoever else we can blame this catastrophe on really doesn’t get us anywhere. Where do we look for guidance? Yesterday I found some answers in a man who has acted as the consciences of America for generations, Pete Seeger.

Pete Seeger is 91 years old and one of the most influential American musicians.  Without him there would we wouldn’t have Bob Dylan, Springsteen, the conscience of rock music and the spirit of hip-hop. Continuing the tradition of Woodie Guthrie, Seeger is a cultural treasure carrying on  some of our most important songs like “We Shall Overcome” . . .

 . . . and composing some of the most powerful songs like “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”

What does this old man have to tell us about the oil spill? Simply that we can get through this if we join together.

There’s some political shading in this song,  “drill baby drill turns to spill baby spill."  But it's more humorous then critical and “it’s time to turn things around trickle up, not trickle down,” isn’t so much political but a call to all of us to change our way of thinking.

Like “We Shall Overcome” this is a song for the people, and it warms my heart how Seeger teaches the song to the audience as he performs.  Sometimes we forget that protest music isn’t so much about anger but calling people to change and there’s no better way than to encourage people to change through optimism: “Don’t give up, don’t give in, working together we all can win.”

The chorus ends with the statement, “hoping we’ll all pull through” and if after 91 years, Seeger is still believes in all of us, than who am I to become disheartened?

My favorite part of this song is the last verse: “when we sing with younger folks, we can never give up hope.” It’s so true. Sharing music, songs and life with young people rejuvenates you like nothing else and maybe that’s why Seeger is still active in his 90s. 

I don't know if we're all to blame for this disaster but as Seeger suggest we all have a role in the solution.  When Seeger opens the songs singing "God's counting on me, God's counting on you,"  he's not talking so much about God but about us counting on each other.   If we come together and face our problems not with anger but with hope we will pull through.

Thanks for the hope Pete.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

California Girls (Gurls) by The Beach Boys (Katy Perry)

“California Girls” by The Beach Boys is an important benchmark for the band providing a glimpse into the genius they would reveal the next year in 1966 with their album Pet Sounds. This song may not have featured the most progressive of lyrics but demonstrated a wide array of tone colors and a remarkable musical depth that inspired band like the Beatles to think outside of the box.

“California Gurls” is a song recorded by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg inspired by Jay-Z’s tribute to New York, “Empire State Of Mind.” Released in late May of this year, this song has gone on to become one of the most popular songs of this summer. Katy’s song is a throwback musically and lyrically with 1980s influenced synthesized sounds and cultural references (“Daisy-Dukes”?!? How old do you have to be to get that reference?). Oh, and the music video features Perry transforming her swim suit into a whip cream canon giving the illusions of lactating whip cream out of her mammary glands . . . yeah. . . not so hot.

One of my friends suggested I look at the Katy Perry song but I couldn't help but think about The Beach Boys song that basically has the same name. Does it make sense to compare songs that were recorded 44 years apart? They are from completely different times with completely different musical sensibilities but they do share a spiritual connection.

Both of these songs are tributes to the California from different perspectives. The Beach Boys claim they have traveled the world and while all these other girls they have met are great they don’t match California girls. Katy takes the perspective of an insider talking about how great her girls are and how they will “melt your Popsicle” (man, I don’t even know where to take this one).

What’s stands out to me after listening to these two songs is how progressive the Beach Boys were in their production of their song. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Katy Perry (one of my earlier posts was about “Hot N Cold”), but my God, really listen to what The Beach Boys were doing.

They open “California Girls” with a slow guitar sparkling like the reflection of a sunrise in the ocean. Through the first verse, the Beach Boys add layers of instruments but it’s the second verse where the music gets blown wide open. It’s like someone coming around a corner and suddenly seeing a beach full of people partying and surfing in the sun. The back-up singing, the saxophones, the shining vibraphone and the booming percussion create a Cathedral of soun.

Pointing this out is not a knock against Katy Perry. She has again demonstrated her ability to create catchy tunes, perfect to dance too, exuding her quirky and infectious personality through her vocal performance.

For me, "California Gurls" doesn't quite work for me, some of it is the weird imagery from the video, but most of it comes from comparing it The Beach Boys song which I can't help with song titles so similar.

If you love Katy's song, party on!!  More power to you, every summer needs a song to dance to and Katy's given us a great one.  I'll be here listening to music that's older than I am wondering how The Beach Boys captured the innocence and wonder of summer in music . . . disturbed by the imagery of a girl angrily shooting whip cream out of her bikini top.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Stupid iphone Commercials!!!

I thought I was done with crying in front of the television.

It took time to accept the fact that a television commercial could make me tear up but I put a box of kleenix by the television and worked through it. Then I saw this commercial:

Really Apple?!?   I can't take it any more. It’s just a simple phone conversation. When she says “you know that things we’ve been working on a while,” we know something special is coming and we experience their emotion through the woman’s look as she speaks and she responds to the man’s reaction. As the commercial goes to the Apple logo we find out that they are going to be parents.

Making us feel the emotions before knowing the situations that is behind it draws us in to the world, and when we find out the news we rejoice as well and Kingsley starts to cry.

I love a good commercial and most of the time commercials that are really awesome more are humorous like the now classic Betty White Snickers commercial.

The focus on humor in commercials is so prevalent that I was caught off guard by Apple’s Facetime ad campaign.

Now most of the time I watch television shows played back on my DVR and I fast forward through the commercials. So it was only by chance that I heard the unmistakable voice of Louis Armstrong and watched one of the beautiful studies on the power of human interaction.

This commercials shows a variety on contexts which Facetime would be nice. The first uses the commercial shows aren’t extraordinary situations, a dad saying goodnight or two girls trying to chose what to wear.

Then we see a woman having a sonogram sharing that experience with the father who is in the military and we instantly feel the sacrifice this family making and how hard this must be for this couple to be apart. Their expressions as they are able to connect with each other are amazing.

If that doesn’t get to you, the next scene when they speak to each other in sign language will.  Near tears, they sign to each other, “I love you” and oh my god . . . I’m tearing up right now just thinking about the commercial.

If Apple keeps making these ads I'm going to be a mess every time I watch television.  These commercials are beautiful, touching and poignant contemplation on what it means to share life with the people you love.  This is the most noble goal of technology and I'm thankful to apple for reminding all of us how powerful a smile can be.

NO!! I just saw this new one:

. . . Diana, I'm out of kleenix. . .

Friday, July 23, 2010

Baby by Justin Bieber

It’s rare that I experience I piece of music without any preconceptions. Most of the time when I listen to new music I know the artist and/or know something about the song.  Also most of the time I listen to the song, but I don’t really experience it.

Don’t get me wrong, listening to a song is an active and vital way to interact with music but it’s a different when you perform a song or dance to it. This is why dancing to “Baby” this week was one of the of the greatest musical experiences I’ve had in recent memory.

Let me explain.

For the past two weeks I’ve taken an Orff level 1 class at Vadercook College of Music in Chicago. Carl Orff was a composer who helped develop an approach to teaching music to children that revolutionized music education bringing the natural way children play, create and interact with music into the classroom.

Motion is a big part of Orff’s approach which I'm not great at.  During the movement part of the Orff class I felt self-conscious, insecure and a little silly dancing around the room creating different shapes and waving scarves around (this is a sarcastic analysis of the role of movement if Orff curriculum, there's a lot more going on here).

Part way through the our motion session last Wednesday when we were learning folk dances something started happening. I noticed that I was picking up the dance steps quickly and that I was pretty good at this. Then I started having fun and not caring about the way I looked to the people around.

As we neared the end of the session, the instructor told us we were going to do the same folk dance we had just practiced to traditional music to some different music. As the music started, I heard gentle guitar plucks and the vocalization of a young singer and before I knew it we started dancing. The folk dance started with the group in a large circle so when the group started going you had to dance or get run over.

I didn't have time to think about the song, all I could do was dance to it staying completely in the moment.   Before I knew it an uncontrollable smile came upon my face and as I lost myself moving to the music.

After the dance was over, someone identified the song as “Baby” by Justin Bieber.  No, I haven’t been under a rock, I know who Justin Bieber is, I just haven’t listened to any of his music. I’ve heard plenty about him and I’m really glad that I didn’t know it was him before I started dancing or else I wouldn’t have enjoyed the music filled with the negativity I've heard about his music.

I don't know what the fuss is all about.  “Baby” is a perfectly fine pop song. It’s nicely crafted. There’s not a lot of frills or anything musically revolutionary but it’s fun and my experience dancing to it was unforgettable. Sometimes it's more than the music that makes a song important to us.  Sometimes it's the way we experience it that makes it meaningful and dancing to "Baby" made this song unforgettable for me.

Driving home from class I was so excited about the idea of teaching movement and dancing to my students next year. There are many reasons to teach dancing. I could write a dissertation on the educational benefits of movement activities but it wasn’t until last Wednesday I realized how much fun folk dancing could be and how much I want to help my students attain the feeling pure joy that came from experiencing music through dance.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Why you should be proud to love Twilight: Eclipse

As I’ve been seeing people in the last couple days the normal “what have you been up to?” question has come up and I answer with one of the most significant events of last weekend: “I saw The Twilight Saga: Eclipse with my wife.”

I’ve been getting one of two responses, the standard “Twilight is crap and people who enjoy the books and the movies are idiots for liking them (even though I haven’t read the books or seen the movies myself)” or more interestingly a sheepish acknowledgment that they had seen the film and in general enjoyed the experience.  It’s this latter response that I want to address.

I’m not really going to get into too much what I thought about the film but in general I liked it. The overall Twilight storyline continues to maintain my interest. The back-stories of the vampires were great, I loved the guy who was a confederate soldier and Dakota Fanning as the Darth Vader vampire was really fun. While the dialogue was often sub-par, the portrayal of teenagers trying to figure out romance was pretty dead on. If you think that Bella isn’t a realistic character you haven’t spent a lot of time around teenagers.

Is this the best film of the year? Of course not, am I interested to see the next film? yeah, but strangely I find myself almost afraid to admit this to people I talk to, much like the people who are afraid to relate to me that they have seen the film too.

Whether or not we enjoy a piece of art doesn’t always have to do with objective analysis of the quality of a work.  The fact that our enjoyment of art isn’t something that is objective is one thing that makes the way we feel about art so meaningful and special.

For example, I really dislike the Black Eyed Peas song “I Gotta Feeling.”

This song is not very interesting to me, there’s little to no depth in it as a pop song and the really catchy hook in this song is used to death.   When I’m at a wedding and this song comes on and everyone gets up and dances and is loving the song, who is the one that is missing out? I am. I would be much happier if I liked this song.

My aversion of "I Gotta Feeling" is my loss.  In the same breath if you love something and someone else around you doesn’t it’s their loss. They are the one who is missing out and it doesn’t matter what they say at the end of their day, there life is less full of joy because there is one thing out there that they dislike.

Be proud of what you love and if someone decides to bash something you like just let them say their fill and move on with your life.  Don't try to fight them or convert them.  You can't reason with someone who is being unreasonable.  Remember people who respond to your excitement with negativity are simply jealous and bitter because they feel left out of all the fun that you are having.

Experience art that you love and love the art you experience.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison

In 1967, radio stations banned “Brown Eyed Girl” from airplay on radio stations. Yes, one of the most beloved pop songs in our culture, a seemingly innocuous celebration of life and a quintessential “feel good” song was taken off the radio.

Why? Because the line “making love in the green grass” from the second verse was too explicit so it was overdubbed with a line from the first verse “laughin' and a-runnin', hey hey.”

As silly as that seems to us, it could have been a worse. When it was first being recorded Van Morrison sang this song as a “Brown Skinned Girl." In the 1960s there were many states that still had laws outlawing miscegenation (interracial marriage). That would have gone over REALLY well. Producers convinced Van Morrison to change it to “Brown Eyed Girl” inadvertently creating universal appeal to this song as most of the people on this planet have brown eyes.

What makes “Brown Eyed Girl” such a popular and meaningful song isn’t the once offensive reference in the second verse or even the fact that this song is about a girl that is characterized by a superficial feature. “Brown Eyed Girl” is a song that describes the great memory of sharing a song with someone that you love through a songs that we all can’t help but love.

The light and syncopated bass line creates a simple and relaxed groove. On top of this the guitar simply dances. After playing the opening, the guitar weaves and hops between the melody playfully outlining the chords expressing the feeling of freedom and joy that Van Morrison describes in the lyrics. If there were no singing in the song at all you would know exactly what this song was about.

It always gets to me when Van Morrison sings in the second verse “so hard to find my way, now that I’m on my own.” There’s a tint of frustration in his voice but he lets go when the chorus comes and he’s able to sing like he remembers in his memory.

The “Shalala” part is nonsensical but unapologetically joyful. When you sing along to this part you can’t help but smile allowing you to immediately understand what Van Morrison is singing about. Through this immediate connection to the music, we profoundly understand what is at the soul of this song.

Every time I listen to this song I can’t help but sing along. I know exactly what Van Morrison is singing about and because of his song reminds how great it is to share not only music but life with the people we love.

The only difference is I still have my brown eyed girl in my life.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Luckiest by Ben Folds Five

Last Monday, Diana and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary. As we've been entering our third year in marriage I can’t help but feel lucky that I have found Diana and have her in my life.

“The Luckiest” by Ben Folds Five is about this wonder of luck. Though this song initially songs like adult contemporary schmaltz, the profoundly intimate, revealing and honest lyrics elevate this song to a much higher level.

This song doesn’t feature great poetry or literary devices. Instead the words are stilted and stammering. However. this is exactly the reasons this song is so powerful. There is nothing harder than describing one’s feelings and the meandering thoughts perfectly reflect how we actually feel about love.

This song isn't about idealized love as Ben Folds sings in the first verse about not knowing where he was the day before he met his love.  All he know is that I get to see her every day and I feel lucky for that.  Ben Folds goes on to wonder if he was born at a different time and saw his love as a child, it’s an interesting thought. Would he make the same connection? It’s a question without an answer as he realizes that knowing one pair of eyes is what’s truly important.

The final verse is about a wife passing away a couple days after her husband. Folds acknowledges that this may be a strange way to express his love but he knows how that wife feels because he feels that way to and so do I.

What does it really mean to be lucky?

"Luck" is something that happens out of chance. More than that being “lucky” means that you did nothing to influences the outcome and because of this you did nothing to deserve this "gift."

Why do I get to find someone like Diana when there are so many lonely people out there who have work much harder than I to find that special someone? There’s no logic in that.

All I can do is make this “luck,” this “gift” mean something. I may not have done anything before meeting Diana to deserve her as a partner in my life but I’m going to take care of her and be the best man I can be for her.  This way when I die and I can tell whatever force put Diana in my life about the amazing life we shared together and he will be proud to have given me this gift.

 "I know that I am the luckiest."

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot/Johnny Cash

"I just don't get it."

As much as we try to figure out the events of our lives sometimes we just have to admit to ourselves that there are things beyond our understanding.  We question the logic of life when things don't go our way and the feeling of helplessness, accepting what we can not make sense of is one of the hardest things in life.

Gordon Lightfoot's 1971 unforgettable hit "If You Could Read My Mind" is about this moment. 

I recently came to this song through Johnny Cash's cover:

On February 26th, 2010 seven years after his death, Johnny Cash released his last album, American VI: Ain’t No Grove. Like the five previous albums produced by Rick Rubin, this was a simply produced album combining popular hits along with Cash’s own compositions. The most popular of these song was “Hurt,” a cover of a Nine Inch Nails song (which I discussed in this earlier post) was on the previous album American IV: The Man Comes Around. While Cash’s own compositions on this album are stunning and unforgettable, his interpretations of other songs are truly remarkable.

There is something unforgiving and dark about this song. Here is a man trying to explain how he feels initially relating himself to a trapped ghost then in the second verse a fallen hero. Even when there’s hope in the third verse and he admits how his queen that brings “all the good things out in me.” He admits, “let’s be real, I never thought I could act this way.” Then he gives up.

And I got to say that I just don’t get it.
I don’t’ know where we went wrong,
But the feeling’s gone and I just can’t get it back.

Lightfoot displays incredible song writing craft and he builds tension towards the end of each rising in melody and speeding up the rhythm of the words. The setting of the words reflects the natural pulse of the words. The way the words against the constant pulse of the guitar that just tears at your heart.

Now Lightfoot’s performance is great, but Cash takes it to another level. Slowing down the tempo and singing with his battered baritone, Cash doesn’t so much sing but emotes straight from the dark corners of his heart.

Cash's voice carefully and deliberately steps through each note. No, his voice is not as agile as it was when he was younger but it’s the slight strain, the struggle, the shake in his voice transforms this song from a reflection of a pain to the actual event of a heart breaking.

When Cash sings “I just don’t get it,” you believe he truly doesn’t.

Admitting this to ourselves is one of the most painful and helpless things we can do.  And no, listening to Cash fall apart doesn't make us feel better when we just don't get life.  That's not the point of sad music.  Sad music helps us feel better about the pain in our lives, it reminds us that we are not alone in our struggles and that as hard as our moments in our lives are, just like this song, eventually it will be over.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Choir (television show BBC America)

Once upon a time summer was a time when television channels simply put on reruns. Getting wise to the actual viewing habits of viewers many channels, especially cable networks have started having new seasons of shows start during the summer as well as premiere new show altogether. One of the greatest from this summer television season is The Choir.

The Choir is a labeled by some as a “reality show” but it is much more a true documentary. BBC packaged this award-winning series for American audiences this summer and this week premiered the first episode of this 13 episode season on BBC America (Wednesdays at 10pm).

BBC America is one of the best television channels on cable. It’s not just Dr. Who episodes people. The Graham Norton Show is hilarious, I love Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmare and BBC World News America is regularly puts America’s news programs to shame with their unbiased converge of world wide events and their high level of journalist integrity.

Here’s the set up. Gareth Malone a 30 year old choir director is convinced that he can start a high school choir and get them ready for the “choir Olympics in China.” He chooses Northolt High School to continue his mission to bring music to everyone and provide a choral experience that he believes should be universal.

The first episode showed Gareth auditioning students and teaching them “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” to record an audition recording to see if they could make it to this choir competition in China.

Gareth Malone actually knows what he’s talking about. While Diana and I don’t agree with everything he is doing as a choir director it is clear that he knows what he is the real deal.  At the first rehearsal, the choir sounds awful and the recording that make at the end of the episode does not sound like something from Glee. It’s still rough but it shows remarkable progress and this shows commitment to showing us the true reality of what it means to make music is eye-opening and inspiring.

So many times, this show could have went for cheap laughs and cheap drama. There was a portion of the episode where Gareth listens to students audition and the show could have gone the humorous American Idol auditions route but the refused to. Gareth’s response made us see the courage in what they were doing even if they weren't very good.

Singing in a choir is one of the amazing things you can do in your life and I wish that all of you can understand what it means. The Choir captures a small part of this. This show is about the love not only of music but also of being human and sharing the beauty of life together. 

If you've been in a choir, you'll love this show and if you haven't it will open your eyes to one of the greatest experience you can have in life and make you wish you could be in a choir.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Buffy Shows Her Love

Buffy has always been ecstatic to see Diana when she gets home from work.

However, Buffy has never responded to me this way when I get home. Usually she’ll step out of her crate, stretch and yawn, realize that it’s me and go back to sleep.

At first when Buffy wouldn’t seem to care that I got home it kind of hurt my feelings but then I realized that my relationship with Buffy is different than Diana’s and Buffy expresses her feelings for me in different ways. Anyways I’m not a fan of Buffy licking my face.

It’s in the little things. Whenever I go to the bathroom and close the door, she is sitting right outside the door waiting for me. I don’t think it’s so much that Buffy has separation anxiety, it’s that she just wants to keep track of me.

 Once Buffy is done with her mid-morning, noon and mid-afternoon nap (she sleeps a lot) Buffy gets this “I want to play” look in her eyes. She follows me around with or without a toy and looks up to me with a look that I can only describe as a “puppy-crush.”

Then there’s bedtime. Usually I go to bed before Diana does. Buffy usually starts circling the bed wanting to come up. I scoop her up and put her on top of the covers and we fall asleep together.

When Diana gets into bed she takes Buffy off her bed and put her in her dog bed in our bedroom seeing how Buffy is usually curled up in the area that Diana sleeps in.

 Buffy and I have always taken naps together since she was a little puppy. She’s always been more comfortable napping with me than Diana. I guess our thing the same way that Diana gets greeted when she gets home.

Sleeping is a time when we are at our most venerable and sharing that with someone else is an expression of trust, comfort and love. Even though Buffy may not be deliberating trying to tell me how she fells about me when she falls asleep next to me, feeling her cuddle up and release the tension in her body speaks volumes to me.

We all express love in different ways. Sometimes we need to work to show our love in ways that other people can understand but at the same time we also need to make an effort to understand the way that people express their love naturally.

Buffy has shown me that love isn’t always licks on the face or the wag of a tail, but can simply be a look in an eye or a relaxed release of breath in the still of the night.

Did I mention that Buffy also loves grass?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Ashokan Farewell from Ken Burns’ The Civil War

"Gen. McClellan was such a wuss. seriously. WORST CIVIL WAR GENERAL EVER!!!"
-Facebook Status update June 24th

As I was watching Ken Burns’ epic documentary The Civil War, I got so enraptured in the drama of the conflict I had to post the a Facbook status update about the McClellan, a Northern general.

McClellan had the resources and the troops but with a lack of confidence and spirit needlessly prolong the war.  Like at the Battle of Antietam, when McClellan with troops outnumbering the Confederate troops failed to launch counterattacks. Why was I getting so frustrated with McClellan? I realized it was because I thought of him as being on my team, the winning team, the North. After finishing the The Civil War, I realized how wrong I was to feel this way.

My understanding of this conflict from my exposure during middle school was that the North didn’t want slavery the South were bad guys who did.  So the North fought them, freed the slaves and the South lost, the end. Ken Burns revealed a lot more to this story.

The South succeeded and the way the North got them back was by invading their land. Lincoln refused to let the war be about slavery and the Emancipation Proclamation was very much a political move. He stated at one time that if he could win the war and not free the slaves he would. There were no good guys or bad guys in this war, only Americans.

At the end of it all the person that I most admired was not Lincoln but General Lee. While his military strategy beating the odds over and over is impressive it was the way that he served his troops which is the most touching.  Lee constantly advocated for the welfare for his troops and after his loss in Gettysburg he rode out amongst his men and apologized to his troops taking blame for devastating loss.

The most powerful part of Ken Burns masterpiece is how he helps us understand on a human level what happened. No one can truly comprehend the over 600,000 American deaths in this war. Burns reveals the struggles through individuals like Sullivan Ballou with his beautiful and heart breaking letter to his wife.

Accompanied by "Ashokan Farewell," the theme composed for this series, this letter expresses love and passion that we all share as Americans and reminds us that the tragedy of death is not simply a loss of life but the pain felt by the people who loved the one who has passed.

The Civil War will change the way you view America and will make you question what it means to be American.  Yes, it's nine episodes that adds up to more than 10 hours but watching this documentary is an engaging and unforgettable experience.    

Monday, July 5, 2010

True by Spandau Ballet

“True” by Spandau Ballet entered my life when I was in middle school and my brother became obsessed with this song. I’m not really sure why my brother thought this song was so cool. This ballad laced with synthesizers that perfecting exemplifies the cleaned-up new wave image of the early 1980s seems kind of lame on first listen. It sounds adult contemporary, has an almost “soap opera-level” of emotions in the sings. Check when the sing looks straight into the cameras and sings “but now I come again.” (3:40).

Well, actually the entire video is kind of hilarious. I would say that I love video in an ironic “wow, this is so unintentionally, hilariously awful” kind of way but that’s not how I feel about this song. Let’s look beyond the surface here, strip away the dated the musical landscape and you’ll be surprised at what you find.

In this 2009, performance, Spandau Ballet strips this song down to its core with minimal instrumentation to show us all what is at the heart of “True.”

Tony Hadley sings with less bravado and more intimacy reminiscent of George Michael as tries to emote how he feels. This man has traveled the world and still can’t quite put into words what is special. The line “this is the sound of my soul” is referring to the way that the music is describing something that he can’t say put into words “why’d I find it hard to write the next line.” What is truly “true” is the feeling that in the simple contour of the refrain lacking words but full of emotion.

It is never made clear what Spandau knows is true.  Is he confessing his love or is he telling someone that he trusts her despite rumors of infidelity or is it something about himself? You don’t know and that’s one things that’s cool about this song. The music creates an emotion we all share and relate to without tying it down to a situation.  We place that feeling into the an event or person in our own lives and it because personal, meaningful and true.

“True” is everything I love about music. It’s optimistic, life-affirming and embraces the mystery and magic that is music. You can tell that Spandau Ballet loves understands music when Tony sings “listening to Marvin all night long,” reffering to Marvin Gaye. I don’t think I could listen to Spandau Ballet all night long, but every so often I listen to “True” and I can’t help but love every moment of this song.

I know this much is true.

Friday, July 2, 2010

No Surrender by Bruce Springsteen feat. Brian Fallon (The Gaslight Anthem)

In 2009, The Gaslight Anthem played the Hard Rock Calling Festival in Hyde Park, London. During their set, Bruce Springsteen supported his fellow New Jersey musicians by performing “The ’59 Sound” with The Gaslight Anthem.

This gracious gesture brought excitement and attention The Gaslight Anthem and an amazing musical energy to this song. Bruce didn’t steal the spotlight but instead played as a member of the band providing an exciting guitar solo and a great vocal counterpoint to Brian Fallon, lead singer of The Gaslight Anthem.

Later that evening during Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band’s set Fallon returned the favor and performed “No Surrender” with Bruce.

Bruce looked like he was having the time of his life when he performed with The Gaslight Anthem, while Fallon looked absolutely giddy singing with Bruce. As much as it must have been a dream come true to have Bruce sing “The ’59 Sound,” singing with the E Street Band must have been on a whole other level.

Growing up in a house not far from where Springsteen grew up, Fallon identified with Springsteen as he describes in this clip.

Stripped of his guitar, Fallon starts the performance standing in the band clapping looking like a kid amongst these rock legends. As he joins Bruce for the chorus, we get a sense that something special is happening here. Then when Brian takes over the second verse it becomes clear why he is up there.

If I didn’t know that who was singing you could convince me that the guy singing the second verse was older than Bruce. There is something so mature, weathered and passionate in his voice. The pure expression that Brian injects into that second verse is spectacular. He strains for notes while soaring through them all at the same time sounding like a person who not only knows the words but has lived them.

There could not be a more fitting song for these two musicians to sing together. “No Surrender” is about the power of music and the bonds it creates between people. This performances uniting generations exemplifies this . . . I mean just look at how much fun Brian and Bruce are having up there, that's what it's all about.