Not so little Stevie

Before I got a CD burner a year or so ago, I used to make mixed cassette tapes from my albums and CDs. I made one of Stevie Wonder songs that did not appear on a Stevie album for my friend Donna George (who unfortunately died of cancer a couple years ago.) Think I’ll make a mixed Stevie CD soon. After all, he is 55 today. “Gee, 55, gee, double nickel,” as the bingo caller in Charlotte, NC used to say when I lived down there in 1977.

Stevie’s new album, A Time to Love, which has been on my Amazon wish list for over a year, was finally released on May 3. Since his 1995 album Conversation Peace, he’s put out a 2-CD live set, a 2-CD greatest hits, a 4-CD box set, a couple songs on the Bamboozled soundtrack, and a single-CD greatest hits. He also produced a tribute album to himself called Conception. So this is his first CD filled with new material in a decade.

According to Yahoo, Stevie “also appears on” 463 albums, as producer, or performer on vocals, keyboard or harmonica. He worked with Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Jermaine Jackson, Whitney Houston, and many others. He also appears on the Rent cast album. Some of the selections I’ll put together will be from a series of tribute and/or benefit albums, such as Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, Inner City Blues (Marvin Gaye), Gershwin’s World, Nobody’s Child (Romanian Relief), and America: A Tribute to Heroes, which shows his sense of musical history as well as his heart.

*****
Speaking of heart, my brother-in-law John Powell would have been 45 tomorrow. He died three years ago of colon cancer. He was one of the greatest boosters of my relationship with Carol with our various ups and downs before we got married. I’m only sorry he never got to meet his niece Lydia.

Citizen Zhang

Jinshui Zhang, one of my co-workers, became a U.S. citizen last month. He was one of 63 people from 36 countries to become naturalized. He was from the People’s Republic of China.

The event was held in the Federal Building, a former post office right across the street from our office. While I went to the building often in its previous incarnation, I’ve rarely been there recently. One goes through a metal detector not unlike the ones at the airport. The security personnel are not as humorless as the airport workers, and they accepted my work ID, which the airport almost never does.

The ceremony was scheduled for 8:30 a.m., but at that hour, there was a long line of people waiting in line to get their paperwork checked. This process took over a half hour. I was told that they used to have fewer people naturalized at more frequent intervals, but now have more people but less frequently as a result of 9/11/2001 concerns. How this helps security screening, I don’t know.

There was a big sign at the entrance to the building prohibiting cameras, but apparently the ban doesn’t apply to this particular event, so folks were able to run across the street and retrieve their photographic equipment without missing anything.

An officer from Homeland Security was cheerfully goofy in explaining what was going to happen. I got the sense that he had other duties in his job that weren’t nearly so pleasant.

The ceremony itself started at 9:30, with the judge giving his well wishes, etc. He introduced the representatives from the League of Women Voters, who were, by that point, actually out in the hall waiting to give out materials to encourage the new citizens to vote (something native-born citizens could do well to do better at). He also introduced four ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution (more on them some other time), who gave out flags, pins and other paraphernalia.

A lawyer sang a couple patriotic songs, the latter, God Bless America, with the assembled crowd. He wasn’t bad, for a lawyer.

Then the swearing-in took place. The folks running the show, the judge, the court clerk, and especially the Homeland Security officer, were very effusive in their care of the new Americans.

Everyone in the office knew that Jinshui studied hard to take the written test. I noted to one of my co-workers that I doubted that most native-born Americans could pass it. Try it yourself.

Congratulations, Jinshui!

Add Some Music to Your Day

One of the (faux) reasons I started a blog was because there were folks in the blogiverse that were doing a CD exchange. The list below, which represent an album I gave out at my 50th birthday a couple years ago, wouldn’t have made the cut as it was then constituted, had I been participating in the exchange, for reasons explained below. Still it is, as I wrote at the time, “a list of songs that, for a variety of reasons, resonate to a particular time, place and/or emotion over the years.” So, I might well have offered it in a modified form. I had included liner notes; these are not them, except for the stuff in quotes.

Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home) – the Impalas: one of my father’s 45s. But I would have dumped it in favor of the much more obscure “45 Men in a Telephone Booth” by the Top Hatters in a heartbeat. I had ordered a Cadence Records compilation specifically for this purpose in January, but it did not show up until April, well after my birthday.

Roger Ramjet- TV cartoon theme: pretty obvious. Don’t know if it would still be included, if only because its abrasive quality doesn’t help establish a mood.

Quintet: “My mother took us to West Side Story, the first “grown up” movie I remember seeing. I didn’t know one could have several simultaneous melodies at the same time.”

Drive My Car – Fab Four: Lots of people have a certain antipathy for this first song on the British Rubber Soul album. I don’t know if it’s because it’s NOT “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, the first song on the American version of the record, or because it has a weird chord progression. I like it BECAUSE of its complicated chord changes. Sting butchered this song on a bootleg someone gave me.

Take Me For A Little While- Vanilla Fudge: “Carrying groceries for Mom. One afternoon, I was home listening to the album. Mom came home. I retrieved groceries, and found the stereo off. The crescendo made her think the record player was broken.”

Worried Man/Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This Way: Carol & I went to see Woody Guthrie’s American Song at Capital Rep, when this brace of songs came up. Both of them were in my father’s repertoire when he sang around Binghamton when I was growing up. This was a year or two after my father died, and I just lost it.
But as for the compilation, if I were doing it now: the song is TOO LONG, and has TOO MUCH TALK. Every other song I’d lived with for a number of years. This was too much an emotional choice of the moment.

Spider-Man cartoon TV theme: my favorite comic book character.

Feel Flows -Beach Boys: freshman year in college. Probably influenced by its inclusion in the movie Almost Famous

Gone Away – Roberta Flack: “When romance went sour, I developed a quartet of songs to play: Sweet Bitter Love (QoS), this, My First Night Alone Without You (Jane Olivor), and Stay with Me (Lorraine Ellison). Sometimes added Remove This Doubt (Supremes).” QoS means Queen of Soul.

Fantasy – Earth, Wind, and Fire: Schenectady Arts Council, 1978. “The choreographer needed a partner to help teach the elementary kids some dances, and I got sucker.., volunteered to do that.”

Naïve Melody – Talking Heads: “The ’83 show was one of the best concerts I ever saw. This song is about rediscovery on the way to Cooperstown.”

23rd Psalm -Bobby McFerrin: My then choir director Eric Strand “transcribed this song, and choir members Bob, Tim & I sang at church. Eric gave me the high part, which I did almost entirely in falsetto. Someone came up to a church member, expressing concern that a ‘gay guy’ was singing in church.”

Harvest Moon -Neil Young: “About lost love. Also, about the only Neil song my ex-office mate [the Hoffinator] could stand”.

Lullabye-Billy Joel: “The melancholy of the song (and the back story) parallels my melancholy about the state of my old hometown” [Binghamton].

Church-Lyle Lovett: “When four of us [librarians] were in tight office quarters, with very distinct likes (and especially dislikes), Lyle passed muster with all of us. Closing act of a great Newport Folk Festival at SPAC.”

JEOPARDY! – “an NBC daytime game that I used to watch with my Aunt Deana. “

Now That I Found You – Alison Krauss: “One of my wife’s two favorite artists; oddly, both of them have last names beginning with KRA. We saw AK at the Palace [Theater in Albany] in 2002.”

At Last-Etta James: “One of five great songs on the Rain Man soundtrack. Oh yeah, Carol & I danced to it at our wedding.”

So, I would have changed the first song, dumped the second and fifth cuts, but keep the rest pretty much as is. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, especially the Free Flow to Church run.

See what you missed out on, bloggers?

Media Overkill (hubris)

Gee, it’s STILL bugging me, this “Runaway Bride” thing.

It’s not that I care why Jennifer what’s-her-name ran away, whether her fiancé still loves her, or whether they’ll marry (but apparently People magazine thinks their readers will, based on last week’s cover story).

I DO care that the media attention has been so wacky, in the Jacko/Scott& Laci tradition. Some of the so-called news networks, including the one apparently named after a canine, were practically convicting the fiancé of murder for his delay in taking a polygraph before she turned up. Jon Stewart skewered them on the Daily Show last week.

(And I DO care that she unfortunately found it necessary to pick a Hispanic man, along with a white woman as her assailant. Reminds me, just a bit, of Susan Smith or Chuck Stuart.
The ease of the accusation – “it was one of THEM” – is a bit frightening.)

(My wife gave me some good advice the other day: if I ever want to go through an airport inconspicuously, I shouldn’t wear an orange towel on my head. I’ll keep that in mind.)

And still on the subject of news: OK, I’ve watched American Idol from time to time. But the reason I watched the “ABC Prime Time exclusive” on former contestant Corey Clark outing Paula Abdul as his lover last Wednesday was to figure out the newsworthy rationale for running the program. After viewing the whole hour, I still don’t know. Clark also appeared on Good Morning America that morning AND the next morning, which I thankfully missed. With Peter Jennings fighting cancer, perhaps the network has taken leave of its journalistic senses. But I did enjoy Kelly Ripa ripping into Clark on her show (with Reege) the next morning.

Oh, and I STILL don’t know why Paris @#$%^&*! Hilton is famous.

I’ve ranted. I feel better now. Thanks.

I’m listening to the newly re-formed (or reformed) Cream. They sound great.

Fan Mail

I got an e-mail from one of my oldest friends who wrote:
“I don’t understand blogs. Are they to be viewed as online diaries?
”I can’t imagine anyone giving a s*** or taking the time to read about anything I had to say.
”I find it all hubristic.”

To which I wrote:
“You may be right.”

Actually, writing this blog has been very helpful to me already. It’s allowed me focus better. Since I’m tired a lot, the blog has become, dare I say it, my daily meditation.

Oh, no! I had the ghost of 1970s Bill Cosby lurking in my head. “Be careful or you might learn something” he used to say on Fat Albert. I don’t want to be that parental about it, but I am trying to provide a site where if you’re not absolutely riveted by Lydia stories (but you WOULD be if you knew her- she’s also VERY charming), you can click on a hyperlink and find out a little about Mother’s Day, e.g.

Tomorrow: Hubris! Or as Jack Nicholson once said in a movie, “You want the hubris? You can’t handle the hubris!”