Thinking About the Past
I’ve been thinking about the past a lot lately. Not dwelling on it, just thinking. It’s been coming up a lot in conversations and in dreams, offering up memories from my time with my husband during my early hippie days and during my time in our folk-rock band, General Eclectic. This jump into the past is unusual for me as I usually live solidly in the present. But I guess I’d better just go along for this ride as I have so many others. I think it may be coming up because I’ve been prepping and practicing for my upcoming show “Tunes and Tales.” I decided to do an all original show with stories mixed in. I have plenty of originals but haven’t ever done only my songs before. It’s been hard to decide where to begin. I know the logical place is to begin at the beginning, but there have been so many beginnings, and that would make for too long a show. So, I’ve decided to stick to the most important themes or my favorite songs.
I’ve written at least one song for each of my serious relationships, two of which lasted twenty years each. You would think there would be a lot of songs in those forty years, but oddly enough, I’ve written more in the last five years with my current lover. There are many reasons why songs about the other men didn’t occur more frequently. I was parenting full-time and non-stop during that time, slipping in music when I could. I also lived a very stressful life with the other two men that wasn’t really conducive to my creativity. I did co-write a lot of songs in those earlier days with my husband but didn’t play an instrument and lost a lot of those along the way. I’m trying to regain them now that I can play strings, but he didn’t write the chords down for all of them, so that makes it much harder for me. I jumped from the world of rock and roll into the world of folk music in the second relationship, learning to play guitar, a little mandolin, a little banjo and mountain dulcimer. I also honed my songwriting skills, going to songwriting workshops and camps and networking with those folks.
It’s been a long and sometimes unexpected musical journey. And, it’s not over yet. Now I’m trying to combine all of the different things that I’ve learned over the years to create something fresh. It’s difficult sometimes to verbalize what I want that to be. I have a wonderful band with musicians that come from different backgrounds, though I’m not sure they’ve had as much diversity in music as I have. I started out playing classical piano and singing classical and sacred music. I’ve also been a back-up singer and learned how to be in the background, strong but unobtrusive. I was raised on jazz, Big Band and blues. I think blues is probably my favorite type of music to sing. I went from there into rock and roll then folk, old time and bluegrass and now back to rock and roll. I don’t want to play straight rock music, though. I want to be able to play my folk acoustic instruments electrified without losing the roots feel, but I want an electric band. There’s the rub. How do I direct the band and communicate to them the need for not only a lower volume, but a different feel? I want to be able to have the subtleties stand out and not be lost in the amplification. And, as a songwriter, I want my lyrics heard.
I've also realized that, the older I get, the more I want to tell stories about my life. And, whew! What a life it's been. I grew up in Connecticut and couldn't wait to leave. I hitchhiked across the country in early 1975, landing in a hippie commune in San Francisco then moved to Santa Cruz to have my first child. I lived with her in a local park before moving her into a VW bus for another cross-country trip and lived in Connecticut for a year and a half. Then we packed up an old Plymouth Valiant for another cross-country move, landing in Washington State then on to Oregon where my second child was born in Portland, Oregon. During that time, my husband and I did street music on weekends. Mount St. Helen's erupted while we were there, puching us on to the coast. In 1982, we packed up again and moved both kids and our cat in our VW bus to upstate New York, where I've been ever since. Just because I've lived here since then, don't assume I gave up traveling. I've been hired to do music in Germany, Switzerland and China. They were totally random opportunities, not anything I sought out. In addition to Canada and Mexico, I have been to all but four states in the U.S., Mississippi, Louisiana, Alaska and Hawaii. It might seem romantic, but it wasn't ever easy. There were many trials and tribulations along the way, making for a stressful, albeit exciting life. Some of my stories are hair-raising, others are poignant and many are just plain unbelievable. Sometimes, even I have a hard time believing I lived through it all.
However, I love travel, I love adventure and I love music. I can’t imagine living without any of them. I am always open to new adventures and am ready to share those stories with anyone who wants to listen. I hear music in everything. I used to bring my children outside to listen and try to count how many different sounds they heard. It didn’t matter if we were in the city or the country. There is a myriad of sounds everywhere we go. I love the detail in those sounds as much as I love the details in visual art. I want to continue to hear those and want to share those details in my own music. In one of his books, Mickey Hart from the Grateful Dead said, “Fill your life with sound.” That’s what I hope to do in as many places as I can until the day I die.
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