Friday, August 18, 2017

I Can Only Imagine


This song has a special place in my heart. It was one of my son Micah's favorite song. We played it at his memorial service. As a parent there's probably nothing worse that can happen to you than for you to lose a child. This song was Micah's gift to us. I can't listen to it without weeping openly. After his death, I had to be strong for my wife who was devastated when Micah passed away. Mom's are not equipped to outlive their children.

I used to put the CD of this song and several others that were his favorites on the CD player in the car and drive around and have myself a good cry and sing this song at the top of my lungs. I still do it, though nowadays it's with my mp3 player while I'm out on a good long walk away from people. It has a cleansing effect - kind of like scrubbing your soul. 
Here's Mercyme's "I Can Only Imagine."




I've got another one of Micah's songs for next week.  Stay tuned.

Tom King

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Homeless


This little man did as much to end Apartheid as some activist groups. It's a little known fact that neither the government of South Africa, nor the African National Congress, the UN and half a dozen anti-apartheid groups wanted Paul Simon to do the Graceland Tour.  But the naysayers needn't have worried. Simon's incredible musical collaboration with some of Africa's finest musicians did probably more to discredit apartheid and helped unite Africans across the continent than anything done by any two liberal advocacy groups or government agencies.

I love this amazing music. Paul Simon introduced some marvelous musicians to the world, not the least of which included the likes of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Hugh Masekala, and Miriam Makeba. He really took a beating from anti-apartheid people and from the South African government. They were all wrong as was the cultural boycott that Simon was accused of violating. He was even accused of "exploiting African musicians."  The truth was, he paid the musicians triple and didn't take any money for himself.  Here was a case of good guys versus a good guy. How is it that people who put on the mantle of saviors of the downtrodden are so often selfish, power hungry, narrow-minded twits?

Here is "Homeless", a piece that showcases the talents of the inimitable Ladysmith Black Mambazo (who by the way started out as a church choir).


This clip includes commentary on the genesis of this particular song and the close relationship that developed between Simon and the African musicians during the tour.








And there's a lot more where that came from.

Tom King

Saturday, August 12, 2017

This World is Not My Home





Del even made an album with the boys. She later said she
knew what if felt like to be a leper afterward.
Today's song has a bit of a back story. The music is by Del Delker, longtime singer for HMS Richards Jr.'s Voice of Prophecy radio program, and the Wedgwood Folk Trio, an Adventist gospel group from the 60's. Elder Richards loved the boys of Wedgwood and took them along on some evangelistic meetings with VOP and they sang with Del Delker. Elder Richards felt that Wedgwood reached young people in a special way and good old Elder Richards was all about bringing as many people young and old as possible into the church to meet Jesus. IAMAonline described it this way:

Del and Wedgwood gather for a
reunion photo years after Del's fall
from grace for singing with them.
  • In 1966, H.M.S. Richards, Jr., heard Wedgwood perform and approached them about singing at evangelistic meetings he was holding in Texas on behalf of the Voice of Prophecy. Richards had a special interest in trying to connect with the young people of the church and saw the trio, with its music and informal comments between numbers as a way to reach that group.
    Their success in Texas led to another invitation from Richards to work with him at a second VOP evangelistic series in Hinsdale, Illinois. Richards noted their effectiveness in reaching young people and asked them to join with him and Del Delker that summer during their tours to camp meetings on behalf of the VOP. By the end of August 1967, travel with the VOP, combined with other appointments, totaled eighty thousand miles. It had been an exhausting, yet exhilarating eight months.
  • When summer ended, The Wedgwood Trio was nationally known in Adventist circles and hugely popular with young people. The reception accorded the group by older Adventists, however, was somewhat mixed. Conservative church members and ministers were convinced the trio constituted an endorsement for current popular music that would lead the youth away from, not into, the church.
  • The reaction was visceral, surfacing more than any other time during their travels with Richards and Delker that summer. After one introductory performance in an evening meeting at a Mid-western camp meeting, Richards was angrily confronted by the conference official in charge of music for the meetings. At the end of a discussion that continued into the early morning hours, Richards was told the trio would not be allowed to perform at the youth meetings the next day. 
  • This action, the most extreme that summer, was a blow to the trio as well as Delker and Richards. All during those travels they had to deal with objections over the music, the group's attire (matching double-breasted blue blazers with ties and gray slacks), Vollmer's naturally blond hair (thought to be bleached), and the "girls" who accompanied them (Hoyle's wife and Richards' wife and daughter).
    In spite of the criticisms, both Richards and Delker later talked about how they had personally enjoyed working with the trio and the positive impact it had had on the young people that summer during their travels in thirteen states and two provinces in Canada.
Here's the one of the horrible songs that caused all the trouble.
 

Appropriately enough one of the songs they performed was "This World is Not My Home". I would imagine that song came to mean something to Del and the boys.

Tom


Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Hukilau Song

Haoles at a Hukilau

Okay, I'm going to admit a secret here. I really dig Don Ho! I don't care if he's a Hawaiian lounge lizard or whatever his detractors may call him. I like his music. My daughter and I once sang a medley of Pearly Shells and Happy Trails (the Roy Rogers theme song) for a church banquet. Don's music is imminently singable and all you need in the way of an instrument is a ukelele. Don and Iz Kamakawiwo╩╗ole are two of my favorite island music singers. Ho sings a bit like Elvis did in his movie, Blue Hawaii. Or perhaps Elvis sang like Don Ho. It's kind of a chicken or the egg thing. 

For some reason I like the Hukilau song. Maybe I'm an island party animal at heart. Who knows? Here's Don with the Hukilau song.


 How many times can you sing "Huki!"  Don got in ten of them on that last line....


Tom

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Being a Pirate (is all fun and games)

I am here to tell you that being a pirate is a dangerous business. I know. When I was 10, I was a swashbuckling buccaneer - fearless, dangerous with a sword and ruthless. My brother and I tied our flag to the top of the swingset and strung an old sheet from the crossbar so that it would belly out when the winds came. Texas has a lot of wind, so of course we were often taking in sail, shortening sail and setting sail. As a pirate in a North Central Texas backyard, we didn't have a lot of plundering opportunities, though we somehow found ourselves in a lot of sword fights. I'm here to tell you that wooden swords hurt when your kid brother lands a lucky shot to your knuckles and if he refuses to fall down dead when you shoot him with your trusty pirate pistol, well, there's not a lot else you can do but climb up the mast and set sail again.

It was a grand life it was (except for all the X-rays, the Mercurochrome, which stung like the blazes and which the ship's doctor (my Mom) insisted upon. The bandages were kind of cool, though. They contributed to your piratical look I must say.

This little song is popular in Irish pubs and Renaissance fairs and often badly sung by people with eye patches and fake peg legs who'd never get away with singing in public if the song wasn't funny. But it is a funny song and so I put it on my mP3 player to remind me of my sea-faring youth.....

Here's one of the better sounding versions of this song on Youtube with a cobbled together video featuring shots from Pirates of the Caribbean.






See what I mean about piracy? Not a great career choice my young friends. Take it from one who knows!

Aaaaaaargh!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Ballin' the Jack

The first time I heard this song was in a Danny Kaye movie musical, "On the Riviera", but I think the definitive version is in the little known and highly under-appreciated Gene Wilder/Gilda Radner movie, "Haunted Honeymoon". It's a little dance number called "Ballin' the Jack". I don't know what that means, but Gilda Radner and Dom Deluise (in drag) demonstrate it if you want to see how it's done. Deluise was hilarious in this clip and Gilda kept up with him every step of the way.

If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. It's hilarious. Sheila and I watch it every Halloween. It's one of our favorites and it's become a holiday tradition. We also watch John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara in The Quiet Man every Saint Patrick's Day, Christopher Reeve and Roseanna Arquette in The Aviator every Thanksgiving and Albert Finney's fantastic musical version of Scrooge at Christmas. There are other holiday movies for other holidays that we watch, but I digress.

Here's Gilda and Dom with Ballin' the Jack.



Now didn't that look like all kinds of fun?

Tom

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Where I'm Bound



Take Three was an Adventist singing group with a folksy kind of sound. I heard a Christian radio guy compare them to Peter, Paul & Mary and they do have that kind of soft harmony, guitar and vocals sound. This is obviously taken from an old recording. You can still find their music if you do a little searching.  Bonnie Casey, the group's lead singer, still has the original recordings and sell CD versions of the original vinyl LPs.  You can buy the CDs here at this link.

Like The Wedgwood Trio, Bonnie and the gang took some heat from the traditional-hymns-only wing of the church and sadly disbanded and went their own way. The music is still lovely. Where I'm Bound is one of my favorites. Someone made this video with the music behind some lovely nature pictures. I wish the group had gone on to produce more music. They were certainly headed in a direction that I liked.


 

It's a pity they didn't produce more music than they did. 

Tom

Friday, July 21, 2017

Right Field



I heard this song and realized it was my baseball theme song. I was the nerdy skinny kid with glasses who always got picked last.  Like the guy in the song, I made it my practice to ask to play right field. That way it was my choice to go out there and pick dandelions. I even had one of those "ball dropped right in my glove" moments once. It was my personal equivalent of Willy Mays' famous over-the-shoulder catch.

Here's Peter, Paul & Mary with "Right Field".





It's an eerily accurate depiction of the plight of guys like me in elementary school. I love Paul Stookey's sense of humor. He's a really lovely guy.

Tom

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Center Field

Willy Mays' over-the-shoulder catch - the man could play center field.


Truth be known I always played right field and I have a song for that one too, but this one is probably my favorite baseball song of all time. The inimitable John Fogerty's classic "Center Field" has some wonderful baseball lines like this one....

A roundin' third and headin' for home,
It's a brown-eyed handsome man.
Even someone with relatively sad baseball playing skills like me can dream. I did improve somewhat with age, but then my knees started going and I gained weight, so I never really achieved baseball glory, but I do like the sport. It's very American in that it's a series of personal contests between pitcher and batter with a break between. American football is like that too. There's a reason we never warmed to "football" the way everyone else in the world did. We need to see the little individual victories - the pass caught, the home run hit, the slam dunk. In soccer, you get a bunch of guys running around kicking a ball for two hours and the final score might wind up being 2 to 0. That's just downright unAmerican.

Here's Fogerty singing about the great American sport and a nice video of vintage film from America's great baseball history.


 
Didn't that make you want to just dig up your old baseball glove and go throw a few with some kid you've got laying around the house playing video games?


Tom

Monday, July 17, 2017

Looking Out My Back Door



I've always been fond of porches. This Creedence Clearwater Revival song is kind of my "sittin' on the back porch" theme song.  Meanwhile, I "...got to sit down, take a rest on the porch." Now what happens next is somewhat ambiguous. It could be a straightforward reverie or something more chemically induced, but I prefer to think of the tambourines and elephants bit as a daydream. So here's CCR front man, John Fogarty, live with some back porch music for a Monday morning....





Now wasn't that fun?

Tom 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

You Done Stomped on My Heart



Here's one from the inimitable Mason Williams of "Classical Gas" fame.  We used to sit around on the boat dock and sing this when some gal had stomped on our hearts. Only John Denver could deliver a line as great as "You know you just sorta, stomped on my aorta" with a straight face.

I thought this time out, I'd throw out one of those "she done you wrong" songs as a kind of throwback to my days of being dumped with stunning regularity by a stable of attractive women (including the one I married who also dumped me but felt so sorry for me she couldn't make it stick).

It was a tossup choosing between "Stomped" or "Homemade Dummy" the folk version of Louis Armstrong's "Dumb Dumb Dummy".  I need to make a video of that one because I can't find the campfire version anywhere.


Here's John singing Mason's monumentally pitiful "You Done Stomped on My Heart."




Friday, July 7, 2017

Down in the River to Pray



I first heard this song in the movie, "O Brother Where Art Thou."  I liked it so much, having seen my fair share of outdoor baptisms, I put it in our Youth Sabbath School Songbook. The kids liked this oldtime style gospel song too. Who said our young people only like rock n' roll?  This song has all sorts of room for harmony and some gentle percussion, it's a lovely song to sing at a baptism or a campfire worship.  

Here's Alison Krauss with "Down in the River to Pray".




Tom King - 2017











Wednesday, July 5, 2017

In the Jailhouse Now

I got a real kick out of the movie "Brother Where Art Thou", especially the old time Appalachian country music. This one could have been my Daddy's theme song when he was young and stupid. I love the yodeling. Next time I'll post the song about how the Cowboy Yodel Was Born.

A whole bunch of folks in the country music and bluegrass singin' business contributed to the amazing batch of songs that made this weird little Cohen Brothers movie memorable. This was the rock n' roll music of the depression era South and it feels very familiar to me. This is the stuff my kinfolk used to sing on the back porch in the cool of a summer evening.

Here's the clip from the movie where they sing "He's in the Jailhouse Now.":











Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ready for the Storm


I don't think Dougie Maclean meant for this to be a Christian song, but if you think of the lighthouse as Jesus, this song comes into sharp focus. I particularly like this live version done with a choir for backup. I love the rainstorm opening put together by the choir. It's lovely and kinda breath-taking. Then the choir joins him later in the song and makes it awesome.

In this day and age I am seeing things happening around me that the old preachers warned us about when I was a kid going to evangelistic meetings. Now it's all happening before my eyes. I have walked for 46 years with Jesus. I am ready for the storm and I am not afraid.

Here's Dougie and the Perthshire Amber choir in my favorite version of Ready for the Storm.

















Friday, June 30, 2017

The Man of the Hour is Taking His Final Bow



Someone once belittled this song as being from Pearl Jam's "Daddy Issues" period. Me thinks the critic doth protest too much. We all have to come to terms with who our Fathers are. Mine ran off on my Mom us when I was five, was an alcoholic, then a convict, then finally a recovering alcoholic. He was shot and killed in 1987 by my stepmother - ironically the one he left my Mom for. It tore our family apart. 

For all his flaws and failings, I loved my Dad, though. But for most of my life, I stayed at arm's length. Dad tried to close the gap one summer when I worked for him setting foundations and laying brick. Dad even tried to apologize to me for his colorful past in front of an AA meeting. The gesture meant a lot to me. A former rodeo cowboy and fisherman, Dad was something of a character. People liked him. And like a lot of colorful characters, Dad died too young.

I'm not a big Pearl Jam fan, but this song speaks to me. I heard it first during the credits to the film Big Fish which was a film about a son with father issues and how he resolved them by accepting his Dad as he was. I think I may have closed the gap with my own sons, though maybe not as well as I would have liked. It was just in time with the middle boy. He died at age 28 and I failed to revive him. Fathers should not outlive their sons. I hope we got everything said between us. For some reasons our last few weeks together were a series of heart-to-heart talks. I miss him. The eldest is also far away so that we have to communicate in writing.

Daughters are another matter for fathers. My own daughter is more comfortable around me to say the least. She is all prepared to take over bossing me around if my wife ever falls down on the job. She calls a couple of times a year to give me a lecture. I was actually hoping my grandkids would like me, but I fear my branch of the King genetic line is fixing to become extinct. And I was already ready for them too.

Here's Pearl Jam with "Man of the Hour".




Happy belated Father's Day to anyone I missed.  Hug your kids. They need you whether they know it or not.

Tom

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Caledonia is Callin' Me



...and I'm goin' home.


This lovely little ballad captures my mood sometimes living out here on the left coast 3000 miles away from Texas, my own, my native land. Dougie Maclean has a habit of writing songs I like. I think I'll post another of his for Sabbath. It wasn't exactly intended to be a Christian song, but Dougie captured another Christian theme quite inadvertently. The Scots have a gift for that, given their long and turbulent Christian history. Whatever the Lairds were up to, the crofters and the workmen of Scotland were drawn to the infinite. I think it may be the hills and the skies.

Anyway, here's Dougie Maclean with "Caledonia":




Monday, June 26, 2017

I Will



This is an old Beatles song as done by bluegrass sensation, Alison Krauss, who has won more Grammy awards (27 wins, 41 nominations) than any other female singer in any genre and who ranks tied for second overall. This song was written by Paul McCartney, though Lennon-McCartney gets credit on the album cover, though it contains several signature McCartney marks. It was released on the album "The Beatles", the one with the green apple on the record.

This live version is nice, though the one on her album has a more prominent banjo line that I like much better. In fact, I think I'll include a link to it and to Paul McCartney's own recording (sans Beatles). 

This song gets me. It's got a permanent place on my love songs playlist.  Here's Alison live:


Here's the better version with the nice strong banjo line:


And here is Sir Paul all by his lonesome with his left-handed acoustic guitar with a very nice version of his song, "I Will".






I love that signature McCartney high note in there. This song expresses the longing for that one special person that makes your life complete. Here rattling down toward the end of my life, I realize what an awful hole it would make to lose that person and how much I have to trust in God to make it come out all right end the end.

Tom



Friday, June 23, 2017

Come and Go With Me to My Father's Big House




Okay, Audio Adrenaline is not solemn worship music. It's a bunch of hyper guys singing songs about Jesus and they do get a bit rowdy. I've included the studio version which keeps the song between the ditches a little better than it does when the boys are over-stimulated by being before a crowd.

That said, we stole this song and sang it for Sabbath School at Tyler. The kids loved it and my guitar playing youths began taking it to, shall we say, more energetic levels.  For an old guy like me the song gets me woke up on Sabbath morning so I can make it through the sermon without snoring. Hey, I'm old. It happens.  The pastor used to use all those white heads doing the Sabbath sermon head bob as his cue to wind it up and get everyone off to potluck before he lost half his congregation to the sandman.

Anyway, here's the studio version of a song that seems to be based on an old camp meeting song we used to do when I was a kid - "Come and Go With Me, To My Father's House".  We used to put that kind of enthusiasm into the original when we were kids.



Once in a while it's good to do an old-fashioned gospel song that makes you want to shout for joy. This song is one of those!









My Generation

The Zimmers recreate the Beatles iconic Abby Road photo.

This week I got deep into a federal grant and didn't post any new songs. This is my secular song for the week. It's by a lovely group of senior citizens. The thing was first done about ten years ago. The group is called The Zimmers. Their lead singer here is 90 years old. He's since passed on and more boomers have filled in the lower ranks. They had a run on both Britain's Got Talent and America's Got Talent and people really love them.  It's appropriate that their first number is The Who's "Talkin' 'bout My Generation".

These guys are really fun and the song is on my mp3 player don't ya' know!


And THAT my friend was the world's oldest Rock Band. They are collectively 3000 years old between them. I find that inspiring and encouraging.

Just sayin',

Tom King

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Miracle

Micah

It's another Sabbath and it's kind of lonely up here in Washington. I miss my Tyler Church. This song is dear to me. It was written by my sons Matt and Micah and sung by my daughter, Meghan, her friend Lexa Arante, and my son Matthew singing and on guitar and accompanied by Scott Houghton and Dunn Arante at the Tyler SDA church. Micah was already gone by then. I remember how nervous he would have been up front. He used to visibly tremble when he got up front to sing. What was amazing was how willing he was to get up front and tell a story or do something. His children's stories were epic.  Matt wrote the tune, but the lyrics were Micah's.



Here's "The Miracle is Me."



Thursday, June 15, 2017

A Singing Frog




Okay, one of my favorite songs is sung by a banjo-playing puppet frog and I am not ashamed!  It's been done by other better singers like Kenny Loggins, Sarah McLachlan, Willie Nelson and Weezer, but my favorite by far is by Kermit the Frog as gently voiced by Jim Henson. A banjo playing frog singing on a lily pad in the middle of a swamp just appeals to me for some reason.

Here it is:


If you'd like to explore some other versions, here you are.  First up - Kenny Loggins:



Here's Sarah McLachlan's version:




And Willie Nelson's (next to Kermit, I like Willie's):



Here's Judy Collins' version:



Here's a version by (believe it or not) The Carpenters:




Here's Paul Williams. He wrote the original song. He gets all chatty before he sings it, but it's worth hearing if only to listen to the guy that wrote it.


And finally this sweet little version by Weezer and Hayley Williams



It's just a sweet little love song about yearning for peace and love and connectedness.  Seems a lot of people like that idea.

Tom KIng

Monday, June 12, 2017

Unfriended



I actually got unfriended by someone the other day. It's actually not that unusual for me. I tend to be on the outspoken side of the conversational spectrum and there are some folks who cannot bear to be contradicted. It's not just politics. I've lost both hard left and hard right "friends" who apparently were only friends so long as I did not bring up any good points when I disagreed with them.

My musical tastes are distinctly unserious, though I can blubber along over a sad love song with the best of them. Of course one of my favorites, "I've Got Tears in My Ears From Lying on My Back, Crying My Heart Out Over You" probably crosses over several musical genres in a way unlikely to draw it any Grammy or CMA awards.

One of my favorite unserious, yet at the same time strangely poignant musicians, is the inimitable Garrison Keillor, star to the long-running radio show, A Prairie Home Companion. That Keillor makes a living with a live radio show is a testament to both his talent and mule-headedness in this era of on-demand videos and Mp3 players.

This Keillor song addresses the issue I brought up in the first paragraph of this weblog - unfriending. In true Garrison Keillor fashion, the song gently sticks a pin in the over-inflated self-importance of the Facebook Generation.  I liked it so much that I put it on my Mp3 player!


Here's another version (he changes them almost every performance.  This is the funniest one and the one that I have on my Mp3 player.



The last one is my favorite version.




Saturday, June 10, 2017

God and Dog




Our Daisy
This song makes me cry every time. I tried to sing it for church one time and it made me tear up. The woman who wrote it, Wendy Francisco is the wife of the Don Francisco who wrote "He's Alive".  She has in this brief song, captured what all of us, who have dogs as family members, feel about our canine family members.

She even turned this song into a children's book which also makes me cry. We lost our little gift from God dog, Daisy, last year which makes it worse when I listen to this song. She was everything this song talks about. Even the way we found her was something of a miracle. It was more like she found us. She was well behaved. Instantly house-broken, she had no bad habits to speak of and she came at a time when we needed her, even though we didn't know we did.

I firmly believe dogs also serve God like furry little angels and I pray that God returns my Daisy to us in the New Earth. I can hardly imagine heaven without her tagging alongside us everywhere we go.

I figure if God can resurrect something as complicated as a human being, our kind Father in Heaven won't mind giving us back the dogs that loved us and stuck by us through good times and bad. Someone once told me dogs couldn't be saved because they don't have souls. I don't think that's an issue. Daisy was knit to our souls in her short time here. I suspect that God will allow us to bring her along on our eternal journey. Why wouldn't He? 

Here's Wendy Francisco's version of her song, "God and Dog"




Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I AM an Ape Man

This is such an odd little song. First time I heard it, I hearkened back to my youth when I used to climb the trees every morning and wake the neighbors doing my Tarzan yell! I was a weird little kid back then. This is also the opening theme to Robin Williams' singular film, "Club Paradise" which I really liked, the critics notwithstanding.

I've always been fascinated by Tarzan. He's a hero figure and kind of a lonely guy living there among the apes. It's hard not to become one of the apes if you ever grow up to have any power over others, especially when the apes used to push you around when you were little. The great temptation is, as another song I posted earlier put it, to be "sittin' around in some junglescape, dumb as an ape doin' nothing."  I admit it. The whole jungle thing appeals to me.

So here are The Kinks with a live version of their classic, "Ape Man".



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Somewhere Over the Rainbow What a Wonderful World



I first heard this song in a gentle Adam Sandler/Jodie Foster movie, set in Hawaii, called 50 First Dates.  The artist singing this unusual mashup version of a pair of pop tunes was a gentle giant of a man Hawaiian song-writer Israel "Iz" Kamakawiwo'ole. The song is a plain unadorned medley of what I think are the masterpiece songs of two other singers - Judy Garland and Louis Armstrong. The only accompaniment is Iz strumming gently on his ukulele.


Iz kind of mangles the lyrics if you're a music purists. If you're an old folkie like me, however, Iz shows us the folk music process, drawing from the song the bits he likes in the order that, to him, best says what he wants it to say. The result is a gentle musical idyll that takes you to the beach by a campfire with stars overhead and invokes an appreciation for the wonderful world God has made and the world that is to come some day, over the rainbow.


Iz did a lot of sweet music over his short life. He, like his father, died young. I look forward to seeing Iz again in the New World, healed of his infirmities and forever young. For Israel Kamakawiwo'ole was a Christian I discovered. He embraced Christianity while very much maintaining his connection with his Hawaiian heritage.  His music is peaceful and lovely; something we need in this hard old world sometimes.

Tom

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Whip Crack Away!




When I was a young man I had a terrible crush on Doris Day. This song is from my favorite Doris Day musical - Calamity Jane. Now I know that Calamity Jane looked nothing like Doris Day and her relationship with Bill Hickok was more rumor than fact. Hickok, if you'll remember, died ignominiously at the card table, shot in the back of the head while holding two pair - aces and eights. Calam probably had a crush on Hickok though. She was buried next to him at the tender age of 51. She pretty much drank herself to death.

The musical, however, cleans up the story, saves the best bits and gives us some great scenes and terrific songs. This particular one always cheers me up.



Deadwood and its inhabitants were probably a pretty nasty group of hooligans. Doris and the gang make the place look like a downright Western version of Disneyland.  And I like it and I don't care what PC police might say about it.

Tom

...




Saturday, June 3, 2017

All God's Critters...



This one has to be one of the most joyous gospel songs ever. Irish groups in particular have embraced this happy song, written by New Hampshire Yankee folksinger, Bill Staines. I introduced this to my Sabbath School classes and it quickly became a favorite. We added animal sounds at the end of some lines and it turned quickly into one of those songs where the deacons came and peeked in the back door to see what sort of wild music was going on in there with the young people.

Two of my favorite Irish folksingers, Liam Clancy and Tommy Makem perform this version and you can see how much fun and joy the song gives them. It's an infectious kind of joy.  Here is: "All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir":




My daughter and some of the kids from my old Primary and Youth Sabbath School classes recently recorded this song for me with a whole lot of laughter and fun. She sent me the recording. It's now sits proudly on my MP3 playlist of both Christian and eclectic music. This is a song any guitar-playing song service praise band leader needs to know.  Click here for the lyrics and chords.

Tom King


Thursday, June 1, 2017

Benson, Arizona - Theme to Dark Star



Okay back to the odd we go. There was an odd little Sci-Fi movie made in 1974 during the pre Star Wars era by John Carpenter, who later made some really disturbing horror and sci-fi movies. This low-budget gem is a quirky mess, but the opening theme song is unique. It's a C&W space sailor's lament about a love lost to the theory of relativity.  He left home a few years back and left his girl behind. Now he's still a young man and back on Earth, she's an old lady and there's no going back. Meanwhile the crew of the spaceship Dark Star is going a little nuts blowing up planets and talking to their dead captain and a self-destructive bomb. I included a clip of the whole opening sequence. Best Sci-Fi Country Western song ever.






Weird I know.

Tom

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Terrified

Katherine McPhee and Zachary Levi


This song is by one of my new favorite singers. Zachary Levi you'll recognize if you ever watched the TV series "Chuck". He played Chuck Bartowski the amped up nerd spy. He also did the voice of Flynn Ryder in Tangled and I already posted his duet with Mandy Moore from Tangled. I think one of the reasons I like Levi is because he's openly a Christian and tends to take roles as decent people. This song describes my youthful approach to romance. I was quite frankly "Terrified".




I love these kinds of duets. My Sweet Baboo used to sing duets with me just around the house. We'd just spontaneously break out in song all of a sudden. It was nice and I liked it very much. Sometimes it still happens over a sinkful of dishes. This song is very close to my "life as a musical" approach to living. This song is one of those that "get me".  As a kid, I always doubted whether I was good enough for anybody else to love.  I worried that even God might have trouble liking an awkward, nerdy, self-absorbed kid like me sometimes. Songs like this make me believe two people can "get" each other like that, even though they are afraid that they can't.

Tom




Saturday, May 27, 2017

All My Trials - My Theme Song


The first time I was ever asked to perform a song for church was the Spring of 1972 at the Weslaco, Texas SDA Church when I was at Valley Grande Academy.  I had just learned a nice chord progression for All My Trials, the old spiritual and had mastered simple finger-picking.  I was so terrified to perform up front that my voice was shaking. Afterward, people complimented me on my "emotional" and "heart-felt" delivery. 

Forty years later, I sang the last song I ever performed solo in church at Tyler SDA Church in Tyler, Texas.
Oddly enough it was the same song. I'd just learned a new chord progression and had written some verses for it. Over four decades, I had learned the limitations of my voice, so I did a kind of whisper sing and encouraged the congregation to join in on the chorus. As the song went on (my wife says I did too many verses), the congregation gradually picked up in volume and we had a nice little sing-along going, which helped me get through without embarrassing myself totally.

Here is that last performance. Zaida Arante sent me the video. All My Trials, therefore, bookended my church singing career. I'm just glad I got through it without weeping publicly. This was just a few weeks before we left Texas, possibly forever. Given the state of the world right now, all our trials most likely will "...soon be over."






© 2017 by Tom King

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Mary Ellen Carter

This wonderful song about the indomitable spirit of sailor men is one of my favorites. the brief video interview with a sailor at the beginning of the clip tells how the song literally saved his life when his own ship sank.  Stan Rogers, a marvelous Canadian folksinger and songwriter, based this song on a true story about a ship whose drunken officers managed to sink her. Sailors, however, often have a powerful relationship with the ships upon which they serve. As the Mary Ellen Carter sank, they swore they'd raise her up again. Despite a profound lack of interest by the owners and insurers and as unlikely as it might have been, five of the ship's crewmembers banded together and salvaged and refloated the ship.

This song is not only inspiring to all of us to whom "adversity has dealt the final blow", but the song is actually credited with saving the life of one shipwrecked sailor who sang it to keep himself going a whole long night until the Coast Guard found him floating in the sea clinging to the wreckage. The sailor attended Stan's very last concert and was able to shake his hand and thank him.

The song celebrates the human spirit that overcomes adversity. Sadly, we lost Stan Rogers far too soon. On June 2, 1983, Rogers was headed home from the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas. A fire started in the restroom on Air Canada flight 797. It was forced to land in the Greater Cincinatti Airport. Rogers was one of 23 people who died of smoke inhalation. He was only 33. We can only imagine what songs he might have given us had he lived on.

Here's Stan singing the Mary Ellen Carter:
 






Here's a version by another pair of my favorite singers, Liam Clancy, one of the last survivors of the inimitable Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.  It was my privilege to hear the Clancy Brothers in one of their last performances before Tom died. I got to hear Liam in a reunion tour paired up with Tommy Makem. This is Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy singing The Mary Ellen Carter with Liam taking the lead in capturing the Irish seafaring soul.



So to you to whom adversity has dealt the final blow,
With smilin' bastards lyin' to ya' everywhere ya' go,
Turn to, and put out all your strength of arm and heart and brain
And, like the Mary Ellen Carter, rise again!”

c 2017 by Tom King









Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Cool, Clear Water - A Song That Makes You Thirsty




Continuing along the contrasting voice theme, there's this little gem originally done by Sons of the Pioneers when Roy Rogers was with them. I love that version, but this version with Joni Mitchell teamed up with Willie Nelson is special. I don't think I've ever been disappointed with a duet by anyone with Willie Nelson.  Here's the Joni Mitchell / Willie Nelson version AND the Sons of the Pioneers rather different version with the smooth Western cowboy blend that they were famous for.

First: Joni and Willie



Next:  The Sons of the Pioneer



And here's a nice version by Riders in the Sky (we'll here another song by them later on)



I love the way everyone has their own take on the song.  I may just come up with my own version someday. If so, I will append it here.

2017 by Tom King


Monday, May 22, 2017

Perhaps Love Is Like...



One of the things I like in music is really interesting duets. One of my favorites is this love song sung by two guys with very contrasting styles. Operatic tenor Placido Domingo and John Denver team up to ask what love is like. It's a lovely song and says things I believe. Love is just a resting place, a shelter from the storm, It invites you to come closer. It wants to keep you warm. And in those times of trouble when you are most alone, the memories of love will bring you home. That just takes my breath away.

Here's the country mouse and city mouse teaming up together with Perhaps Love:

Saturday, May 20, 2017

...He Lifted Me Up



The first time I ever heard this song, it was my daughter and a friend who sang it. It made me want to get up and shout, "Hallelujah!" Instead of embarrassing my offspring, however, I instead got up to try to take a video of it with my cell phone camera. I only got part of it since I missed the beginning. They haven't got together since then to do the song for me, so I could get the whole thing on video.  So I'll have to settle for the original.

The relentlessly happy song talks about Jesus setting our feet on solid rock. For me, the song says something about my own life. The storms of life have repeatedly threatened to sweep me away, but throughout all that experience, it has been His great love that has kept me anchored to the Rock.

The song was originally sung by Southern gospel group, The Martins. It was their first number 1 hit on the gospel charts and they do it well.  Here's their version of Out of His Great Love:



Thursday, May 18, 2017

I See the Light



I'm a sucker for Disney flicks. They're really the only really decent musicals still being made these days. As you may know, if you've followed this blog from the first, I am a strong proponent of life as a musical. I think we should just break out singing whenever the moment is right. I used to sing with my wife when we first started going together. I highly recommend it.

All that said, this is one of my favorite break-out-singing-about-your-true-love songs. It's particularly great because it's one of those duets you can sing at the top of your lungs and get all that emotion our and project it to the sky. Tangled is the wonderful retelling of the Rapunzel story with one of my favorite actors, Zach Levi, one of those rare openly Christian actors in Hollywood and star of one of my favorite TV series, Chuck.

This one makes me cry. It says what it was like when I finally met the love of my life.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

I'm My Own Grandparent - A Tragic Story of Misdirected Mountain Romance

In case you need further confusion, here's the family tree chart!


I love this song for it's fascinating take on Appalachian dating customs.  You have to listen to this song very carefully on you'll get lost. The thing is, it could actually happen legally. In fact, as I've examined the places where my own family tree branches up into the European aristocracy, I find that some of the branches at the top do tend to grow together. In fact I have one multiple great grandmother whose maternal and paternal grandmothers were the same woman, but that's another story altogether and no longer legal in the United States. The unique thing about this song is that no one violates any U.S. laws in this song.

A lot of old-time bluegrass and country singers have picked up this song, originally written by Dwight Latham and Moe Jaffe.  Their group, the Jesters, did it in 1947 after it was first performed by country humor duo, Lonzo and Oscar. Lonzo and Oscar were a kind of 40s version of the 50s duo Homer and Jethro. A lot of famous people took a run at the song. Guy Lombardo and his trio did it in 1948, followed by Phil Harris (who later was the voice of Baloo the Bear in Disney's Jungle Book), Jo Stafford who reversed the sexes and made her her own grandmaw, Kimball Coburn (whoever that is),  Jon Mark and Alun Davies in the 60s as well as Willie Nelson, Grandpa Jones and the inimitable Ray Stevens. The Muppets even took a swing at the song.  Others, too numerous to enumerate, also took a whack at the song and there was even a Robert Heinlein science fiction short story, All You Zombies in which the deed was done with considerably greater genetic and legal ambiguity by a hermaphrodite time traveler. Tom Arnold even did a version of the story in his movie The Stupids.

Here is the Lonzo and Oscar version from a 50s country TV show my grandmother likely watched religiously.


And wouldn't you know it? The whole thing got started thanks to an anecdote told by American humorist extraordinaire, Mark Twain. Click the links above if you want to hear the other versions of this classic bit of American humor. It's not so popular among the Europe nobility, for some reason. Apparently, the royals don't see what's so danged funny about it.

2017 by Tom King


Sunday, May 14, 2017

August Winds - Another Song About Boats



As you may have guessed, I'm a big fan of boats. This song is a folksy one by Sting that was part of an album that explores his Celtic roots. Sting has somehow turned into a respectable looking older guy, for an old rocker. He's certainly aged better than a lot of his contemporaries. This is a beautiful song about the comings and goings of fishing boats and fishermen. I love this music. It captures the spirit of people that feel familiar to me. Some of my ancestors lived on Scottish islands and in coastal cities of Scotland and Ireland. There were likely fishermen among them. I don't exactly believe in racial memory, but I think some of the traces of a deeply ingrained culture are passed along from generation to generation. It would explain why I'm drawn to the water. I love boats and I like fishing and fishing paraphernalia, even though my sympathies are entirely with the fish. I like to fish, but not so much actually catching them. There's a rhythm to casting the bait and reeling it in. I throw most fish back, although I would someday like to hook a tuna. 

Here's Sting doing an acoustic set with August Winds.     - Tom




Saturday, May 13, 2017

Sweeping Up to Glory

Wedgwood when it was a quartet and had facial hair.

Lily of the Valley by Adventist folk trio, Wedgwood, is the one I want played at my funeral. It's such an upbeat and hopeful song as so many bluegrass or old time Gospels often time are not. This song retains some of the bouncy character of the Irish music that was such a huge influence on mountain music in the United States. Not everyone in my church quite understood Wedgwood at the time. It was the 60s and a lot of us who liked the Wedgwood Trio, dressed kind of hippie-like and were viewed with suspicious.

It got so bad that the president of Pacific Union College wrote them a letter saying they didn't meet "standards" after a performance by the group at PUC. The president also wrote letters (this was before email) to other Adventist college presidents telling them they shouldn't book the group. Loma Linda students greeted a concert by the group enthusiastically, but not so their elders. The group broke up finally, but thankfully reunited and repeated the Loma Linda University concert almost 30 years later in a concert dubbed the "Forgiveness Tour". The university president after his predecessor had panned them so badly years before issued an apology.

Me? I loved the songs and the music of Wedgwood (trio or otherwise)
. I judge gospel music by whether it lifts me up or not. The music of the Wedgwood Trio does precisely that. The fact that the venerable radio evangelist HMS Richards Sr. liked them back in the day and that SDA singing staple Del Delker actually performed with them only confirms my opinion that these guys were singing God's kind of music.

Here's Lily of the Valley by The Wedgwood Trio.


Thursday, May 11, 2017

If I Had a Boat (Again)


Drawing by Corrie Chiswell

I stumbled upon this song, If I Had a Boat by Lyle Lovett, about the same time I discovered The Superman Song and the odd works of Robert Earl Keen whom you will meet later. Lyle Lovett is a strange little man who was, even more strangely, married for a time to actress Julia Roberts. The demands of careers ended the marriage after two years, but the two remain friends, however that works. I like this song because it combines two of my favorite things - boats and horses. It also mentions Roy Rogers, Tonto and the Lone Ranger and posits what it would be like to be lightning, which makes this song doubly unique. As you will soon become aware, I like songs which are unique - even odd if truth be known.

I spent two years of my life starting and running an equestrian program for emotionally disturbed youth and kids with disabilities. I spent 5 to 7 hours a day riding and caring for 20 oatburners. I taught fifty some-odd kids how to feed them, brush them, saddle them and ride them.  I also learned a bit of the farrier's art (hoof maintenance on that job.  The most valuable lesson I learned from trimming horse's hooves was that if you pick up a horse's foot and start trimming the hoof, after a time the horse decides you are such a nice guy for doing this that you won't mind them leaning a quarter ton or so of their horsey selves against your back. It says something about something, I'm not sure what - possibly dependency. I'm not sure. This is why professional farriers are such big burly guys, though, and possibly why my knees are in the shape they are currently in.

I took a Red Cross Aquatic School course to become a canoeing instructor back when I was a younger man and working summers at Lone Star Camp.
It confirmed me in my other passion of all things "boat". By the time I was 54 I owned a catamaran, six canoes, and a motorboat. Then life took a wrong turn and I lost them all and my transportation to get to an actual lake.

I miss my horses and my boats. I dream about horses and boats, but, for now, I don't get to enjoy either. Perhaps God wants me to long for heaven where I can spend an eternity building boats that will carry me, my dogs and my horses (and the wife if she wants to go) out on the ocean. 

All that said, here's Lyle Lovett and the oddly beautiful "If I Had a Boat".    - Tom





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Supe Had a Straight Job and So Did I


I loved The Superman Song the first time I heard it. Some songs grow on you. This one didn't have to. I mean, how can you go wrong with a song about a comic book character sung by a Canadian group called "Crash Test Dummies"?  I think I liked the song because I empathize with Clark Kent's plight in the song. Throughout our careers, both of us wanted to shuck all the do-gooding and go swinging off through the jungle scooping up unsuspecting women, running with scissors, swimming less than an hour after eating, and breaking chalk. It's a great song, and I'd further add that if you don't like this song and you grew up in the 50s or 60s, you're a commie! It's that simple.

Enjoy!  If you go to Peggo.co (not com) they'll even let you turn the vid into an mp3 and you can put it on your phone's music list.  Not that I would do such a thing. I mean I'm not a real pirate. I just play one on Facebook!  Here's The Superman Song.

Tom

Monday, May 8, 2017

The First Song I Ever Learned


"Hello big boy."
I was two years old when Tennessee Ernie Ford appeared on the Dinah Shore program and sang his #1 hit song, an old folk tune called Sixteen Tons (below). The song's about a career coal miner. I must have heard it a lot on Mama's radio, because it was one of the first songs I ever remember singing.....that and a politically incorrect Pat Boone number called Speedy Gonzales.  My sister tells me my Dad used to play guitar and sing that song. I don't really remember that. I was vaguely aware he played guitar, but I don't remember what songs he sang.

For some reason Sixteen Tons was one of the best selling records of the 50s, giving even old Elvis a run for his money in total sales. Ernie Ford did a lot of Grande Old Opry and even did a turn on I Love Lucy as her country cousin. Lucy tries to scare him back to the country by dressing up as a wicked city woman with the usual disastrous results - Cousin Ernie liked it. In the episode, he delivers the classic line, "Vamp me!" to a black-wigged, slinky dressed Lucy and it was off to the races. 

Ford had a wonderful bass voice. When I was two I was rather less than a bass, but I still remember singing the first verse and chorus and still can sing it after all this time. As a toddler I was to also pick up "Jesus Loves Me" and "Dare to be a Daniel", but for some reason Sixteen Tons was to be my life's first soundtrack music. As it turns out, at the age of 63, I can identify with the line, "St. Peter don't you call me cause I can't go. I owe my soul to the company store."

If you do a search of Youtube, you'll also find a version where Ernie sings his signature song with Go-Go dancers and perkier music. How they talked him into that, I'll never know. But then the TV show, "Hollywood Palace" was never known to be a sophisticated venue anyway. Here's Tennessee Ernie Ford and Sixteen Tons.  - Tom King