Sunday, January 14, 2018

Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown


 This old hymn was one of the first songs that Great Grandma Doney taught to my Grandpa King when he was just a little boy. It remained a favorite all his life. My Grandpa was a praying man and I have no doubt at all that there will be some stars in my grandpa's crown. He'll get at least part of one for me.  I introduced my own son to the song when he was little.

Here's one of my favorite folk singers, Burl Ives singing "Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown?"

Tom King

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

That's How the Yodel Was Born - Riders in the Sky

So, have you ever wondered how Cowboys ever got into yodeling?  It's not the sort of musical style that one would expect to find out in the Wild Wild West. So far as we know, yodeling is only common in the Swiss Alps - a rather long way from the plains of Texas. 

Let us offer an alternative explanation. Here are Riders in the Sky with the story of how the Cowboy Yodel was born - a song guaranteed to make even the toughest CowBOYS cringe.

It's a great story and it explains everything!

Tom King

Friday, January 5, 2018

The Dutchman - Makem & Clancy

This song always makes me tear up. I've tried singing it and it always gives me trouble. This beautiful song is here delivered by two of Ireland's finest singers from two of Ireland's finest musical families.  The Dutchman was written by Michael Peter Smith, who was a nice discovery through this song. You may not know Michael but you may have heard some of his songs. Look him up. He's really good. Get yourself a hankie first.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Fare Thee Well - Makem and Clancy and The Leaving of Liverpool

Makem and Clancys - Generation 1

I love this song. It's one of my favorite Irish folk songs and best of all it's sung by two members of my favorite Irish music families - the Makems and the Clancys. I've actually seen both these guys and their dads performing at the North Texas Irish Festival. First I got to see the Clancy Brothers, then Tommy Makem performing solo. Then I got to see Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy performing together. After them, I got to see the younger Clancys performing together and the Makem Brothers performing as a group.

Since we've lost Tommy Makem and all the the elder Clancy Brothers, Tom, Liam and Paddy, it's nice to know their voices live on in their sons. I could listen to those guys all day, especially singing those ballads like "The Leavin' of Liverpool" and "The Parting Glass".

For this post I've included Rory Makem and Donal Clancy singing "The Leavin' of Liverpool" and The original Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem singing "The Parting Glass".  I am so happy the sons have carried on their fathers' musical tradition. Maybe if I can find an Irish festival up here in Washington State, maybe I can see the tradition live on.

Here's Rory and Donal:

And here's Tommy Makem, Liam, Tom and Paddy Clancy

Love these lovely Irish voices. What I would give to jam with them.

Tom King

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

All That I Want - The Weepies

The Weepies
This little song showed up in a JC Penney's commercial some years ago and I looked up the fok singing it. I liked it so much I bought it for 99 cents on the Internet. The song is an odd little Christmasy song by an indie group from Seattle called "The Weepies". It was this song that showed me what a powerful tool the Internet was. These guys did a song they liked. They put it up online and sang it in little venues around Seattle without the permission of any big record companies. An advertiser stumbled on it and they made some money on it and found some new fans including me!

I love the Internet. It's technological capabilities are breaking down the stranglehold that big companies have on music, books, and even movies and television. The Internet provides a platform for creative people to publish their work without having to get the approval of some stodgy old gatekeeper. If you think you've written the next "Hunt for Red October" or "Harry Potter", then you can just write it up, publish it yourself on Amazon and with a little hard work and marketing you can have yourself a hit. You can sing your songs and sell them online. You can even record your music in your living room with a modicum of equipment and produce your own CDs with printed labels or sell your music online as Mp3s.

So without further ado, here's the little song that taught me why the Internet is actually a good thing for real people and conversely, why big digital, record companies, movie companies and book publishers would rather the government control it. It makes keeping small upstart competitors from messing with their markets because it's easier to bribe 10 or 20 FCC staffers than it is to make 10 million customers happy.

So, I give you, The Weepies performing "All That I Want" live.

This song reminds me of another Christmas tradition up here in Washington State. If you ever watched Sleepless in Seattle, you got a peek at the community of houseboat dwellers along Puget Sound. Every year a bunch of folk load guitars and singers into kayaks and canoes and paddle among the houseboats singing Christmas carols. I just think that's inordinately cool. This would be a good song for that. The words talk about "carols on the water". Maybe that's what they were talking about.

Here's the recorded version if you want the Mp3 for your I-pod.

© 2017 by Tom King

Sunday, December 24, 2017

I Like Life - Scrooge

Every Christmas Eve for many years we've watched "Scrooge", the Albert Finney musical version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  This 1860 story is credited with changing how Christmas is celebrated in England. Prior to Dickens' story of the redemption of a totally unlovable old miser by the spirits of Christmas, Christmas had become a season of debauchery with little of the spirit of the Christmas story in it. Some of the trappings of the old semi-pagan holiday remain, but remarkably transformed. In the United States, the story of old Ebenezer resonated with Americans too.

Charles Dickens was an amazing storyteller. He'd have made quite a living as a Hollywood screenwriter. The dialogue is snappy. The timing is perfection itself and the special effects in the story could have been designed for film. 

In the United States, the Christmas holiday was little more than an extra Sunday and a day off for Civil War soldiers. It was President Ulysses S. Grant who gave Christmas the nudge it needed to make it what it is today. It was Grant who pushed to make Christmas an official national holiday. The Clement Moore's poem and then the New York Times got into the act. Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

With the New York Time's tacit endorsement of Santa Claus, the secularization of Christmas began to move forward. In reaction to what a lot of the churches felt was a bad trend, Christians began to press back by emphasizing the Nativity and the whole "peace on Earth good will toward men" spirit of Christmas. The result has been a national celebration that's one part fairy tale, one part religious observance and one part extended party.

This song expresses my own militant attitude toward Christmas. I like life and the Scrooges of the world may make of that whatever they wish. We have a time of year when people at least try to be nice to one another.  That said, here's "I Like Life" from 1970's "Scrooge".

This is Scrooge AFTER visiting with the three spirits.  Earlier he sings "I Hate Life". Before we go I'd like to included my other favorite song from this movie. Tom Jenkins the soup man leads a crowd singing "Thank You Very Much". Scrooge joins in not realizing that what they are thanking Scrooge for is dropping dead. It's a lovely song. Later after he recovers himself and is redeemed, he reprises this song in a more positive vein.

Merry Christmas and as Tiny Tim so aptly put it, "God bless us every one."

Merry Christmas - Tom

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Riu Riu Chiu - The Monkees

I found this lovely little number by the Monkees last Christmas and put it on my Mp3.  It's a beautiful old Spanish Carol done acapella by the boys. They all have quite lovely voices and the harmonies in this carol are beautiful. I'd never heard this carol before. It was wonderful discovering a carol so beautiful that I'd never heard before.  Here's Riu Riu Chiu as done by the Monkees in what could be called an early music video. Actually, one of the Monkees, Michael Naismith was one of the first producers of modern music videos.

If anyone has any suggestions for little known carols, drop me a note. I'd like to discover a new carol this Christmas. The older the better....