I’m not a big fan of country music or bluegrass, but this song has been stuck in my brain since I heard it on Classic Hit Parade a few weeks ago, not only for it’s catchy melody but for the imagery of the lyrics which are an ode to a porch on a summer afternoon. It might also have something to do with the crickets and fireflies which always herald August to me and the waning days of summer when evening shadows fall.
Although the lyrics are lovely, I find myself focusing on the instrumentals the more I listen, but just for fun I’ve set the lyrics to pictures.
My Tennessee Mountain Home was written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973 as a tribute to her childhood memories of growing up in rural Tennessee, but I much prefer Maria Muldaur’s version. Maria Muldaur was an American folk/blues/country singer, best known for her quirky 1973 hit “Midnight at the Oasis.” I remember listening to her in my dorm room and fellow boomers may recognize the album cover. So pour yourself a glass of iced tea or lemonade, pull up a chair and have a listen to the best fiddle/banjo chorus ever.
Here are the lyrics.
Sittin’on the front porch on a summer afternoon In a straight-back chair on two legs leaned against the wall
Watch the kids a-playin’ with june bugs on the string And catch the glowin’firelies when evening shadows fall
ln my Tennessee mountain home Life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh In my Tennessee mountain home Crickets singing in the fields nearby
Honeysuckle vines cling to the fences along the lane Their fragrance makes the summer wind so sweet
And on a distant hilltop an eagle spreads its wings And a songbird on a fence post sings a melody
Instrumental toe-tapping Chorus – makes you want to square dance!
Walkin’ home from church on Sunday with the one you love Just laughin,’ talkin’ makin’ future plans And when the folks ain’t lookin’ you might steal a kiss or two Just sittin’ in the porch swing holdin’ hands
Fun has been in short supply lately due to the pandemic, so it was with some anticipation that I attended a summer theatre production last month – a musical set in the Roaring Twenties. It was my first time in an indoor venue with 500 other people in several years, but we were lucky as we had great seats, mid-way left orchestra, and the three seats in front of us were empty. We put my mother on the aisle, and wore our masks, although many people did not.
The entire season from 2020 was held over until this year. I ordered the tickets way back in February and was lucky to get a cancellation, as people are so desperate for fun after two years of lock-down, that most people held onto their seats. It was really nice to be in a theatre again.
I’ve always been a big fan of the Roaring Twenties decade – Downtown Abbey, Fitzgerald & Company, the hairstyles and fashions of the flappers, but have to admit that other than the Charleston and a few other tunes, I didn’t know much about the music of the era.
The setting was a speakeasy on New Years Eve 1928 and it was two hours of non-stop music, dancing and fun. Here’s the songlist.
I was surprised how many of the songs I recognized (and my mother, being born in 1926, knew them all) but some of them were surprising as I associate them with other decades and singers – like Ray Orbison’s Are you Lonesome Tonight, Guy Lombardo’s Auld Lang Syne and It Had to Be You, which I always thought of as a 50’s crooners song.
The lyrics of some of these songs seem almost quaint by today’s standards – Tea for Two and Ain’t She Sweet for example, with Let’s Do It and Making Whoppee being the most risque. Although after googling Ain’t We Got Fun – see below – perhaps the lyrics (Mr. Stork?) are not so innocent after all, but better suggestive than downright crude.
“Are you tired of smutty lyrics that make the air turn blue” says the opening song on Zoomer Media’s – Your All Time Classic Hit Parade TV show. (My mother watches this on Vision TV Channel 24 on Friday nights at 8:30 – it’s a half hour of pure nostalgia.) Alicia Ault from the show’s trio, The Ault Sisters, played a lead role in the Roaring Twenties musical, although I didn’t realize it until after I read the playbill. The sisters look so much alike it’s hard to tell them apart.
Many of these songs are memorable even if you don’t know what time period they came from. Will the songs from today’s 2020 decade be remembered a hundred years from now? Somehow I doubt it. When you think of all the changes music has gone through over the years, I wonder what they’ll be listening to then? (Hopefully we’ll be listening to a choir of angels.)
The costumes were lovely.
Yes, I know, no photos allowed in the theatre, but I did ask one of the ushers if I could take a picture of this dress. If I ever go to a Roaring Twenties party I want a dress like that, complete with the fringe on the bottom. Her headband was nice too.
The choreography was wonderful, ending with the Charleston,
and a toast to the New Year. I don’t know how they can sing and dance like that and not be out of breath….or in need of a beverage or two.
All in all, it was a swell performance, or in the lingo of the decade, the bees knees, the cat’s pyjamas….well you get the picture! (Here’s a link to more slang from the 1920’s.)
PS. The second Downton Abbey movie – A New Era, also set in 1929, is out for home viewing soon. Has anyone seen it?
“It was fifty years ago today, Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play….”
No – if my memory serves correct, the lyrics are, it was twenty years ago today.
You know you’re getting older when the Beatles are considered senior’s music and many younger people don’t even know who they are. One youngster upon hearing an early Paul McCartney track remarked that he thought the singer would go far. If you haven’t seen the cute British movie, Yesterday, it’s based on the same premise – a world where no one knows the Beatles music. (Aside – British actors must get annoyed when every lead role goes to the lovely Lily James.)
I recently turned old enough that the government is now sending me money – along with an information package that I’m now eligible for free drugs and pneumococcal and shingles vaccines and reminders to get routine tests done so I don’t become a drain on the heath care system someday. I’m right smack in the middle of the baby boomers, and the problem with my generation is that there are so many of us.
I came across this list in a magazine geared to boomers the other day, and yes, we are still a marketing demographic.
Suddenly I’m fifteen again in the kitchen of our old farmhouse waiting for the bus, with the radio tuned to the local FM station. It’s 7:30 and I’m wearing a mini-skirt and trying to grab a few bites of breakfast with the smell of perked coffee in the air. I’m sure my mother sat down and enjoyed a cup when we were all out the door and peace and quiet reigned once more. Maybe she changed the station to some easy-listening music.
The bus stopped frequently as practically every farm had kids and my brother playing lookout at the window could see the flashing lights down the road, thus giving me a few extra minutes to gather my books and fringed suede purse, (all the rage then.) The bus picked up students for six different high schools in town so it was crowded. (Did I mention there were so many of us?) As we were the last ones on we often had to sit three to a seat, and someone from another school would reluctantly move over to make room, but the advantage to being scrunched in like sardines near the front, was close proximity to the bus-driver’s radio and more top ten hits. I got in at least an hour of music a day that way. (A few years later when I was in my senior year, the peak had thinned out and there were empty seats. Now there are only three high schools left.)
Even though we lived in the country, we weren’t country music fans, unless you counted cross over artists like Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers and Crystal Gayle, so the only one I recognize from the country list is Charley Pride – Kiss an Angel Good Morning, but I know every one of the top ten billboard hits.
Of the movie list, I only remember seeing Billy Jack (with my cousin) and Fiddler on the Roof (my mother’s choice), both rather forgettable, other than perhaps one memorable song each. We didn’t have the money or the wheels to go to the show very often. I think Love Story was out that year too, a more popular film for teens, but not all movies were good, then and now.
We might have had better music but would I want to be that age again – no! Too much homework, and not enough money.
Many of my fellow boomers are retiring. My dentist recently retired and when his millennial-aged children took over the practice, the first thing to go was the oldies-but-goodies radio station. During my last checkup I heard Spirit in the Sky for the first time in decades, (possibly not the best soundtrack for a root canal.) Now it’s some variation of that horrible rap music. I turned the radio on the other day and heard this snippet of a lyric, “I held your hair back when you were throwing up.” Now, there’s a romantic visual. Contrast that to “Well, she was just seventeen, and you know what I mean…” Not that all those hits on the list were great though – Knock Three Times on the Ceiling was pure cheese – the same thing could be easily handled today by a text message.
My financial adviser recently retired – I’ve been with him since I was 32 and took an “Investing in the 80’s” evening course he taught at the local community college. We had a meet and greet to introduce me to his much younger replacement, and I swear we both had tears in our eyes reminiscing about old times and 12% interest rates and that $150 dot.com stock I once sold for $10. I only saw him once a year at RRSP time, but he was someone you could count on for wise advice, well except for that one stock whose name escapes me, although it caused much angst at the time. Now I have to start all over again with someone else. The same with my doctor, my accountant, my hairdresser. I’m already on Lawyer Number Three. The previous two died young, and as the replacement is the same age, I’m worried. You see all that expertise and work ethic walk out the door, and it can be unnerving having to adjust to someone new, whatever their age.
That’s the other thing about being in your sixties. People YOUR OWN AGE start to die on you – cousins, work colleagues, the spouses of friends. You start to read the obituaries online. I lost a work colleague last week, a kind soul who always used to call me SISTER, and I felt incredibly sad that I hadn’t gone to visit her, hadn’t even known she was that sick.
I remember the head nurse of chronic care once saying that the key to a successful old age, was being able to adjust to change and loss. No wonder they say, “old age isn’t for sissies” but really what is the alternative? Another approach is accepting the limitations that come with age, not necessarily giving up but pursuing more realistic and meaningful goals. I won’t be backpacking in Europe anytime soon, but I might still become a rich and famous novelist and rent a villa in Tuscany and invite all of my blogging friends…..
It also helps to have a passion in life, a sound mind and good health. It’s hard to enjoy yourself at any age if you are in constant pain or suffering from any of the many indignities of growing older – bad knees, hips, cataracts, etc….many of them fixable, but reminders all the same.
Now that I’m officially “young-old” my mother must be “old-old” although she has never really seemed her age. She has certainly been an inspiration when it comes to aging (she built a new house at 72, took up painting at 87 and has had several solo exhibits) but somehow I doubt if I’ll see her age. I have more of my dad’s genes, hence the need to start taking better care of myself. (You might have noticed there have been no baking blogs lately…..maybe next week)
If there’s one thing that scared me when reading Keep Sharp – Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s new book about building a better brain, it’s that our habits in middle age (good or bad) help determine how we will live our old age. Number one was exercise. Some people were motivated to make positive changes during the pandemic, others waited it out like hibernating-couch-potato-sloths addicted to multiple streaming services. I recently signed up for Netflix – the last Canadian holdout – as I figure it’s going to be another long winter ahead.
If anything I think the pandemic has aged us all to some extent. We stay home more, get more sleep, take afternoon naps, watch more TV, have tea and toast or Meals on Wheels/Door Dash delivered when we’re sick of cooking and fill our days with errands and appointments to minimize exposure……plus scan the flyers for bargains as food costs soar! I’m sure I’ll be taking up bird-watching any day now – seriously, I have three sets of binoculars and this is on my Bucket list for next year. If old age is for the birds, I want to see them!
Apparently albums are back in style again for music connoisseurs, so I’m thinking I might pull some of those old records out of the basement and crank up the stereo (Pioneer with vintage 70’s turntable – make me an offer) and listen to some Carly Simon if “it’s not too late.” Let the Music Play!
PS. A neighbor of mine lived to be a vibrant 105, but she was always young at heart…
One of the few things I miss about work is that the daily commute guaranteed me an hour of music every day, half an hour in the morning to rev up and half an hour after to wind down. As I drove along a rural highway with no stop signs I could set the car to auto-pilot and zone out. Now the only dose of music I get is my on my I-Pod if and when I walk – not a good track record so far this year although I enjoy it if I do. My playlist might be classical, big band, oldies but goodies, 60/70/80’s, country, or musicals but that small dose of music always lifts my spirits. If I’m in the car running errands I don’t even turn the radio on as I don’t like much of what’s played. I have an older model Honda, so no Apple Car Play or Sirius, nor do I Spotify, stream or bark instructions to Alexa at home. I guess I’ve gotten out of the habit of listening to music.
While cleaning out the basement this past winter I came across a stack of old records, which I searched through recently for a copy of Tapestry by Carole King – there was a tribute show at the theater which had sold out. Every teenage girl in the 70’s owned this record, but it must have belonged to my sister with whom I shared a room growing up (although there was a line dividing said room), as no copy was to be found.
Included in this treasure trove of oldies but goodies are three albums dating from the fifties which belonged to my mother.When I say albums, this is what I mean,
leather bound books with sleeves containing individual 78’s. For those of you unfamiliar, 78’s were the old thick breakable records which only held one song. There was an A side and a less popular B side. Looking through them, I remember a few of the songs, but I have no idea if they are worth anything now or even what to do with them.
78’s were eventually replaced by 45’s (smaller versions with one song and a plastic thing which fit the hole in the middle), and 33 LP’s which were the extended play albums with many songs which the boomers may remember growing up. While I’ve been on a few Is-Your-Record-Worth-Anything sites, they all want you to register and list and describe your gems which must be in pristine condition. My memory of these is that they were worn and scratchy even then – they certainly look well-used.
I thought I might listen to a few for old times sake, as I still have one of those Sears Record/Tape/CD combo units in the basement somewhere, but apparently you can ruin the stylus on a 33 record player by playing an old 78. I’m also somewhat ashamed to admit that my Pioneer turntable and speakers from university is down there too. My parents bought it for me in second year as they had bought one for my older sister, but I had 32 hours of classes and labs and was hardly ever in my room other than to sleep and study. The Pioneer set-up cost a pretty penny back then, roughly the same price as tuition I recall. Some years ago I had some interest in it from a younger colleague whose hobby was frequenting record-stores – in retrospect I should have sold it to him, as there it sits in the original boxes taking up space, large speakers and all.
I promised JP, a fellow blogger (link to JP’s blog) that I would report on my basement findings, so here goes. Now I should mention that JP is a jazz/music expert, as well as being a lawyer and a contrarian (his words). The Button Up Your Overcoat song on my recent coat blog, served as the muse for his post on the many recordings of that song from 1929 to the present day. Although I’m not much of a jazz person, I particularly enjoy JP’s dry sense of humor. His posts Dear Queen Elizabeth, in which he writes a letter to the Queen suggesting that he and his Mrs. change places with Harry and Megan, No Fair, in which he once again fails to attend his state fair despite living a few miles away, and the brilliantly written Quitting the Newspaper, a step by step guide to cancelling a subscription, are among the funniest I’ve ever read. As we all need more humor and music in this time of COVID craziness, be sure to check out his blog.
No pressure, JP – I don’t think any of these ancient relics are jazz – except maybe Baubles, Bangles and Beads (Side A) and Somebody Bad Stole Da Wedding Bell (Side B).
Although I’ve never heard of Georgia Gibbs, I vaguely remember this song, so it must have been one of the ones we played a lot, plus it looks quite beat up.
There’s some Gene Autry – Have I Told You Lately That I Love You/Someday You’ll Want Me to Want you, and of course Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/If It Doesn’t Snow on Christmas. These were so popular, they can hardly be worth anything, kind of like Michael Jackson’s Thriller – everyone had them. Many copies means less money, honey.
Then there’s old Bing. Silver Bells/That Christmas Feeling, Silent Night/Adeste Fideles/Oh Come All Ye Faithful, and Dear Hearts and Gentle People/Mule Train, from a movie soundtrack, Chattanoogie Shoeshine Boy/Bibbidi-Bobbii-Bo – was that from Cinderella?
And of course, Bing reminds me of Rosemary Clooney. I always loved her in White Christmas, but the best we can do is This Ole House – something which would have come in handy when I was renovating. Hey There is on the flip side.
Tennessee Waltz, but alas not by the popular Patti Page, but by Jimmie and Leon Short. Long Gone Daddy is on the B side.
Burl Ives – Blue Tail Fly and I’m Going Down the Road and other side Big Rock Candy Mountain, again from a musical Sing Out Sweet Land. I only know Burl Ives from his Christmas classics.
I do remember I’ve Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts, (Fred Heatherton), but my version was from a seedy bar, The Brunswick, which we would occasionally frequent near campus. Beer was 50 cents in the more upscale upstairs and the downstairs entertainment by one of the regular patrons dressed in a long grass skirt, was well – best not described but you can imagine from the lyrics, and this was long before the days of karaoke.
Here’s another one I remember, the alphabet song, A – Your Adorable – Perry Como, When is Sometime on B side.
That’s it for what I recognize. The rest are: Old Shep/My Queen of Prairies, The Life and Death of John Dillinger/Awaiting the Chair (both Wilf Carter), The Cry of the Wild Goose/The Donkey Serenade (Tennessee Ernie), Riders in the Sky/Single Saddle (Vaughn Monroes), Soldiers Joy/Flowers of Edinburg (Don Messier), Anniversary Song (Larry Douglas), Peg of My Heart (Floyd Sherman), Deck of Cards/Somebody Else Not me (Phil Harris), Bouquet of Roses/Texarkana Baby (Eddy Arnold), Cruising Down the River/Sunflower (Russ Morgan). There’s A Bluebird on your Windowsill (Elizabeth Clark). Blue Skirtz Waltz/Charlie was a Boxer (Frankie Yankoose and his Yanks). Many of these are backed by orchestras, and others sound like country and western, but I don’t remember my parents listening to much C&W, well not until Kenny Rogers. My mother has no recollection of any of these. They didn’t have much money in their early married years, so perhaps these were bargain bin finds or one hit wonders. She does remember watching Hit Parade on Saturdays nights, and there is one record that just says Popular Hit Parade – Go On With the Wedding/Lullaby of Birdland and Why Do Fools Fall in Love/Chain Gang, with no singer’s name. I find it odd that none of the records are dated, although many of them were minted in Canada, often Montreal, and certainly there are no album covers to provide clues as they are stored in individual sleeves.
I do remember most of the children’s music, probably because I was not yet in school but in charge of keeping my younger brother entertained. I have a vague memory of these being played on a small portable record player which even a young child could operate. Later when in the 60’s we had a tabletop record player with built-in speakers, and later still one of those big wooden stereo cabinets with an 8 track player.
Horace the Horse was always fun, as it’s all about perspective folks. Poor Horace was sad that he was the last horse on the merry-go-round, but when he turned around, he saw he was actually the first! (link to song)
Pete Petersen’s House, was also a favorite – I remember it as a fast-paced tune. Did You ever See a Lassie, On Top of Old Smokey, Oh Susanna, Clementine – the names alone bring back a flood of memories.
Cue forward to the 60’s and the first album I bought with my own money – Oliver – I wore that record out. Music musicals were big that decade.
We bought 45’s as they were cheaper, and you didn’t get stuck with a bunch of filler songs you didn’t like. Black Velvet Band – Irish Rovers. This Guy’s in Love – Herb Albert. Harper Valley PTA (the lyrics were considered scandalous). Pleasant Valley Sunday – the Monkees. Abraham, Martin and John (my grade 8 teacher was a hippy and music was her poetry).
My parents listened to adult contemporary:
And who can forget the old Christmas albums, Andy Williams and Sing along with Mitch which came on Saturday nights.
Then came the 70’s and the Cadillac of Stereo Systems which was the envy of all my dorm-mates. On Friday nights if we stayed in we might break out any of these, but more likely they were played during the getting-ready-to-go-out part of the evening.
The 70’s decade started with Rod Stewart and ended with disco.
Thriller was probably the last album I bought.
I know these are worth anything, as visit any record store and there are tons of them. We’ll have to wait another 100 years, I guess.
By the mid-80’s tapes and Sony Walkmans were in and yes, they’re still down there too, along with a box of CD’s. The question is what do I do with all this old stuff that nobody wants? I know I could advertise them online but I try to avoid those Kijiji-like sites ever since that poor man got murdered here trying to sell his truck, and now with social distancing and all. So back down to the basement they all go. In the meantime, this post has reminded me that I need to have more music in my life – “Girl put your records on, tell me your favorite song….”
Once upon a time in the golden days of the music world, there were female singers who were known primarily for their songs and their voice. Those were the days my friends. No gyrating around like a porn star in barely-there costumes and thigh-high hooker boots. It was all about the music.
On New Years Day CNN aired a documentary special, Linda Ronstadt – The Sound of My Voice which takes a look back at the forty year career of this music icon, one of the first female rock stars. Here’s the trailer:
While I was not a big fan back when she was popular, I found the documentary interesting for its take on this trailblazing woman who flourished in what was basically a male universe. Although I remember her mostly from her 70’s rock songs, her 80’s American standards phase, and her legendary performance in the operetta The Pirates of Penzance, I found her early folk days in LA during the sixties to be the most interesting. Not yet famous, she toured with the likes of Neil Young, Jackson Browne and Glenn Frye and Don Henley of Eagles fame. By the late 1970’s she was referred to as The First Lady of Rock and voted the Top Female Pop Singer of the decade, appearing six times on the cover of the Rolling Stone.
She arrived in LA at the age of 18, joined a band called the Stone Poneys, and was on her way after their first hit, “Different Drummer” which was written by Mike Nesbitt of The Monkees. I always liked that song, but if you listen to the lyrics, it’s certainly an ode to the early days of women’s lib. The LA music scene was basically a man’s world, but shortly thereafter came an onslaught of popular female singers, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Emmy Lou Harris, Carly Simon and Stevie Nicks. Of course, even back then, good looks and costumes helped with the performance (think Stevie Nicks floating around the stage in her gauzy creations singing Rhiannon), but can you imagine any of them prancing around the stage dressed like a porn star? How about Ella Fitzgerald, Barbara Streisand or Julie Andrews? Linda Ronstadt was a cutie and she wore cute outfits (it’s worth a fashion look back) but she didn’t rely on her looks – her voice was the star. Eventually she got tired of playing in big arenas and the “rock chick” image they packaged her into (including some racy magazine covers she didn’t approve of), and branched out to different genres – country, old classics, light opera and the Mexican music of her childhood.
LR didn’t write her own songs, but she had a knack for picking good ones and could basically sing anything, and while Dolly Parton may have called her the Beyonce of the days, IMO there is no comparison. I am probably one of the few people in the universe who thinks Beyonce is highly over-rated. An okay voice but no good songs to show for it. Strutting around in high boots and black leather at the Superbowl does not a memorable performance make – well maybe for the guys. My Canadian TV station refused to air one of her award show performances (the one with her equally over-rated husband), as it didn’t meet the Canadian Broadcasting Standards for decency on a Sunday night. Maybe we’re prudes up here in Canada.
I used to think Taylor Swift was a classy gal, (good songwriter, not so good voice), but lately even she seems to have succumbed to the racy trend. Is Lady Gaga, ladylike? Would a real lady sit at the piano in her underwear? As for Miley Cyrus, Niki Manaj and all the rest – do they need attention that badly? (It must be difficult to raise daughters and sons, these days if these are their musical idols). While female singers may argue that it’s their choice and they now have the freedom and right to act as they please, is it a choice or is it just what is expected now. Show the most skin possible has become the new norm. Is that how they want to be remembered some day? I recall Prince’s brilliant performance at the Superbowl but Beyonce’s skimpy outfits. Whatever happened to just standing in front of the mic and singing the song in the best voice possible. Oh yea, that’s just for the guys. It’s still a double standard folks.
When is it time to hang it up? Would you still want to be shaking your booty at fifty even if you’re in great shape? Are you listening Madonna? Jennifer Lopez? Shaina Twain? The last one is the most disappointing based on the snippet of her Vegas show I saw during the New Years Eve countdown. Slithering around in a tight leopard skin outfit detracts from the music, unless you’re in a production of Cats, and even then it’s distracting! Sorry ladies, but past a certain age it just gets to be an embarrassment. Whatever happened to growing old gracefully? While you might argue that no one cares if wrinkled old Mick is still prancing around the stage at age 75, the stage moves of the Rolling Stones were never the focus of their show – it was the music. Personally I think Mick should hang it up too, same with Paul McCartney – his voice is gone – I cringe every time I hear him sing as I am comparing it his glory days.
LR seems like a grounded, level headed person. It was interesting to hear her discuss the pitfalls of the business even back then, and why music idols often self destruct. She’s a class act all the way.
Sadly, she has developed a form of Parkinson’s disease and has not sung professionally for the past decade. She may no longer be able to hear the sound of her voice, but we can as her music legacy will live on.
PS. If you missed it, CNN tends to show their specials over again, but it ‘s also available on Amazon and Apple Music. It’s worth viewing if only for the clothes. I do wish shag haircuts would come back in style, but those 80’s perms – never!
PS. In 2013 she published her memoir, Simple Dreams A Musical Memoir (link) which looks like it would be an interesting read for music fans. (1000 words)
They say that being a senior is just like being a teenager again, only you have more money. You have no responsibilities, don’t have to work and can stay up late and party all night, if you wish. While many of the today’s younger seniors may remember Woodstock, you definitely know you’re getting older when a local retirement home holds a Woodstock 50th anniversary night and you agree to go because your neighbor has free tickets and it would be a shame to waste a nice meal. My mother agrees to go with us, although neither of us really remembers Woodstock. My neighbor has more recollection of it, but I feel like I missed the whole hippy era, as at almost 13, I was just a bit too young and by the time I was old enough to peace out, disco had arrived. While I remember much of the music from the era, I was more into the clean-cut Monkees than the Beatles, who had by then morphed into those long haired dudes strolling across Abbey Road. My mother was a forty-something housewife back then who only listened to our music because the radio was on in the morning while we were getting ready for school, but I’m sure the station got changed as soon as we left for the bus.
For those of you younger folk who may be unfamiliar, Woodstock was a famous music festival held on a dairy farm in upstate New York in Aug 1969, which attracted almost half a million young people and which became a symbol of the hippy era. It rained over the three days, people camped and slept outdoors in the mud and listened to music and generally a peaceful groovy time was had by all. Surprisingly there was no violence, considering the size of the crowd, but then the mood was mellow-yellow.
Peace, Love and Fame!
(The couple in this iconic photo of the era, which first appeared on the Woodstock album cover, got married a few years later and are now seventy years old. In a recent interview they said they didn’t even recall the photo being taken because they had just woken up. Here’s a link to more on their story.)
Woodstock had a music lineup of some of the best rock and roll groups of the time. A friend of mine has a copy of the original festival poster, with the band playlist.She was on her way to the show with a group of friends, complete with camping gear, when for reasons she doesn’t remember, they turned around and came back to Canada. Most likely it was due to the negative publicity at the beginning – the drugs, the rain, the traffic, the lack of washroom facilities etc. As she later went on to work in the music industry, she recalls it as one of the regrets of her life. Here’s the playlist.
Of the groups who played, I only remember Creedence Clearwater Revival CCR (Bad Moon Rising), Blood Sweat and Tears (And When I Die), Janis Joplin (Me and Bobby McGee), Jefferson Airplane (White Rabbit, Somebody to Love), Santana (Evil Ways), and Sly and the Family Stone (Hot Fun in the Summer Time). While I recognize some of the others, (Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Jimi Hendrix), I don’t recall what they sang, so Linda over at Walking,Writing,Wit and Whimsy (who has a great Woodstock post), shared this link with me,where you can check out the songs each band played at the venue.https://www.woodstock.com/lineup/ The site also has some great photos and videos, and man do those kids look young, as do the performers. Of course that was in the day when we didn’t trust anyone over thirty.
Many of the musicians who were asked to play, turned it down, (The Doors, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Chicago, The Moody Blues, Simon and Garfunkel) and have expressed regret, including Joni Mitchell, who went on to write this famous song, after seeing the news clips on TV.
I was surprised to read that the music went on so late, but being out in the country there were no noise bylaws, although I’m sure the neighboring towns weren’t too thrilled about the sudden descent of half a million hippies. John Fogerty of CCR, remarked that most of the fans were asleep on the muddy ground by the time they went on at 3am, so he played to one guy way at the back, who was flicking a Bic lighter. (Wikipedia link)
Imagine hosting that kind of party today, half a million people united by music, singing in peace and harmony.
Not likely to happen – there’s too much violence in the world now. The organizers of the 50th anniversary bash ended up cancelling. (Sorry Jay Z and Miley Cyrus, no soggy fields for you, although I’m not sure why you got invited in the first place). There will never be another Woodstock. There was however a smaller anniversary gig held in Bethel Woods, with performances by Arlo Guthrie, John Fogerty and Carlos Santana, who were all there at the first one – what a trip that must have been for them to play again at the same site so many years later.
But back to my Woodstock party….
So maybe it was a good thing the retirement home stepped in to fill the void – keeping the flame alive for all us aging hippies. (I believe they are called hipsters now if Taylor Swift lyrics are correct).
This particular retirement home is a bit of a white elephant, the product of a poorly developed plan hatched by some company in Toronto where the rest of their buildings are located and fully occupied. It opened several years ago, and fewer than 25% of the units are rented. I’m not sure who it’s actually marketed for, as many in this small town could not afford the high prices, most seventy somethings would want more space (the apartments are very small), and the over-eighty crowd who might inhabit such a place, might need some medical help of which there is none available. But I give them A for effort, as they are trying hard to fill it up. One of their marketing ploys is to offer community events and free dinner tickets to anyone who might have expressed even the slightest bit of interest. (My friend went to a yoga class there. They even sent my mother a Christmas gift in the mail – a puzzle of one of her art works). They host monthly theme nights, Roaring Twenties, Casino, Neil Diamond, and while older people in the community might support the events, it seems no one actually wants to live there.
There is a big atrium, like in a fancy hotel, wasted space, but it’s supposed to be a social area. A perfect spot for a sit in or a love-in or at least a free buffet with some folk music.
I have a hard time deciding what to wear, and have to visit the basement and unearth a few old Seventeen magazines to refresh my memory of the clothes of the era. I found the magazines in the attic when my mother moved off the farm. They’re from 1970, the summer I entered high school, when I must have been worried about looking hip, although why I don’t know, as we wore uniforms, other than the first Friday of the month which was Dress Up Day.
Dig those blue tinted shades!
Back then, Seventeen magazine came in the the big twelve-inch size format, like Life and Look magazines. The ads alone were a trip down memory lane. We seemed to be consumed with lightening our hair (Sun-In, Lemon Go Lightly), darkening our tans (Coppertone, Johnson’s Baby Oil, Sea and Ski, Noxzema), and wearing blue eye shadow (Bonne Bell, Yardley, Max Factor).
But back to the fashions, and the all important question, when Jupiter aligns with Mars will you be dressed for it?
You will if you sew your own threads!
That song was far out – Aquarius – by the Fifth Dimension.
In the fashion pages, we wore bell bottoms, embroidered peasant shirts and gauzy skirts, mini skirts, maxi skirts, tie-dye, leather sandals, headbands, love beads, rose or blue tinted granny glasses and anything with fringe.
Model Susan Dey before The Partridge Family and L.A. Law
And don’t forget the flower for your hair, preferably a daisy.
The song San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) was written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas,to promote the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. It also gave birth to the flower-child movement and the phrase flower-power.
At age ten, I remember being annoyed when my first pair of bell bottoms got caught in the spokes of my bike, but later being quite envious of my grade eight teachers mini skirts and especially her long black maxi coat. By high school short skirts were all the rage even in Canada, and my mother, who made our navy uniforms, made them short, but we still rolled them shorter, until the nuns caught you out. By grade eleven she had given in, but it does make me cringe now looking my high school year book that they were that short. I believe the nuns had given up by then too. One year hot pants were in, but not part of the uniform. The nuns would have fainted at that. I had a pair I wore under a matching mini dress. By grade twelve we were allowed to wear navy pants, but nobody did as jeans were in, wide and flared by then.
But back to party prep….(which as I recall was often the best part of a night out).
I found a pink cotton embroidered shirt, last worn fifteen years ago, in the back of a closet, and piled on some beads and bracelets. As luck would have it, I had also found a suede necklace with a peace symbol at an outdoor craft show the weekend before, a bargain at $10.
Finishing touch, some dangling feather earrings. I had a problem with my gold chain headband, as I have bangs and it did not sit quite right. Alas, I did not have any bell bottom blue jeans, faded or otherwise, as in this famous Cat Stevens song, so regular skinny jeans had to do. (How is it that I now own only one pair of jeans, which I admit haven’t been worn in two years, and seemed a bit snug, but isn’t that why yoga pants were invented).
The residents really got into the spirit of the evening. There were prizes for best costumes and I got some great ideas should I decide to resurrect my hippy costume for Halloween. Daisy chain headbands, flowing caftans, ponchos, embroidered jean jackets, with most of the guys looking like cool cats in their bandannas. Obviously, many of these people had lived through the era, and had a better idea than I did. Someone had tie-died some white sheets to hang as a backdrop behind the stage. As my only memory of tie-dye was a blue and white t-shirt which came out uneven, I had no idea it could be so colorful.
Unfortunately, after Bad Moon rising, the musician/guitar player wandered into the wrong decade and stayed there, as I’m sure Tequila Sunrise and Margaritaville were not played at Woodstock. His final nod to the sixties was Love Potion Number Nine, when really it was Diovol I needed, as the food was – well the polite word might be – institutionalized. Can you dig it? No I could not, and this is coming from someone who ate hospital food for years way better than that. Unlike the original Woodstock, no drugs were allowed, well at least no psychedelic ones. Although marijuana is legal now in Canada and they are even trialing it in nursing homes for pain control (don’t get me started), there was none in evidence. Thank God, smoking inside buildings is not allowed.
As parties go, it ended fairly early, but I was tired (one of the disadvantages of getting older is you can stay out all night but you don’t want to), and this hippy-chick was happy to go home to my nice comfy bed and grateful I did not have to sleep out in the mud with half a million other people. While not quite as exciting as the first Woodstock, it was a fun happening. Maybe they can do it again in another fifty years and invite the Rolling Stones – they’ll be 125 and on their final world tour.
PS. In these strange and tumultuous times, maybe we need to be reminded of those famous slogans, “Make Love, Not War” and “Give Peace a Chance.”
PS. Do you remember Woodstock and the hippy era? Do you remember any of the fashions and music?
PS. I think we had much better music back then, a lot of which is still listened to today. I may be showing my age, but I have a dislike for much of the current music scene, especially rap, which I feel is totally lacking in lyrics and melody. I listen to classic rock, oldies but goodies stations, and even the really old classics like Sinatra and the Big Band era. Younger readers, how do you feel about your generation’s music versus the older stuff? Do you think it will have staying power? I read recently that Drake has now surpassed the Beatles record of eleven number one hits in a single year/album, but I could not tell you one single song Drake song, or Beyonce or Justin Beiber for that matter – I guess I have turned into my mother and just change the station!
Here are six pieces of musical nostalgia for your summer playlist, and a list of activities to accompany them – because life should have a soundtrack. As I am a fan of all things vintage they are oldies but goodies, dating from the 50’s to the 70’s. A millennial told me recently that he wished he had been born in 1960 because we had better music, and we did, but I would welcome any newer suggestions.
Old Cape Cod – I love all those old classics from the 50’s and this song paints a picture of a part of the world I would love to visit, being a big fan of Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket novels and Susan Branch’s Martha’s Vineyard books. It was first recorded in 1957 by Patti Page, but I like Bette Midler’s 1972 version as well. Best served with a lobster stew in a restaurant with an ocean view.
You have to be crazy to try this…
Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer. Originally recorded in 1963 by Nat King Cole, this happy summer song is best served with soda, pretzels and beer while reading a book on the beach and wishing summer would always be here.
Indian Lake – another tune from the sixties – 1968 The Cowsills. I remember listening to this (now politically incorrect) song when I was a kid and we would go up to the Grove-on the-Lake to swim on summer Sundays after church. Best served with a snack at the Grove diner after renting a canoe or while camping.
Hot Fun in the Summertime – recorded in 1969 by Sly and the Family Stone shortly after their performance at Woodstock. Best served out in the country sun with a picnic basket or at any outdoor music concert.
In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry – a British rock band debuted this hit in 1970 which became the carefree summer song of the baby boomer generation. Best served with a milkshake or smoothie while driving a jeep along the lake. (Don’t drink and drive!)
photo from poolsuppliescanada.ca
Sunny Afternoon – recorded by The Kinks in 1967 as a protest to the British taxes paid by rich rock stars. Best served while lazing in a swimming pool with an ice cold beer in hand while dreaming of winning the lottery.
Postscript: I suppose I could have called this six summertime hits from the sixties. Notice I said we had better music, not hairstyles or clothing!
The Simply White Dinner is an annual event which originated in Paris twenty-five years ago and has now spread to cities all over the world. The local version of this outdoor picnic has sold out again. Every year this event gets bigger and more extravagant and every year people pay for the privilege of sitting with 300 other guests all wearing white on a summer evening and listen to jazz music while they dine on their own picnic fare. Tickets are $60 per pair, (only pairs as the organizers want an even number of tables), and every year it sells out. And yes, you bring your own food. The $60 charge is only for the ambiance. Bottles of wine (presumably white) are available for purchase, but you must bring your own bottle opener, white picnic basket/bag/cooler, white china, glass ware, real cutlery, (no plastic please), white linen napkins (to wave in the air for the group picture) and centerpiece (perhaps white hydrangeas). You must wear white, and only white, except for footwear. Elegance is encouraged, hats, fascinators, white boas, white gloves etc. They supply the tables and chairs, the white tablecloths and the music. The rest is up to you. The location is top secret until the day before the event, presumably to avoid gawkers (although it might be hard to hide 300 chairs) but is usually somewhere along the waterfront. This year they had a perfect summer evening with a lovely breeze coming off the water, last year it was sultry and sweltering hot. It’s hard to dress chic when the humidity soars to over 40 C.
Now if you are a romantic at heart this sounds very enticing. The event organizers promise a magical evening of outdoor dining, music and dancing under the stars. It does sound wonderful and very Gatsbyish….who wouldn’t want to dress up like Daisy Buchanan?
Except even the local newspaper christened it The Chic Potluck because……where are all the men? The closeup in the paper showed a long table of stylishly dressed women with hats and white flowers or wreaths in their hair, with a few dapper men here and there, coerced into white suits or white golf shirts and white pants by their wives, but they were older, grayer men who may have grown up with John Travolta’s white disco suit in Saturday Night Fever, or perhaps Don Johnson’s pale linen jackets in Miami Vice, or maybe even Humphrey Bogart’s white tuxedo in Casablanca. White is not a color favored by a lot of men, except for the classic white dress shirt which accompanies suits and ties, and I believe even that has fallen out of favor except for funerals and weddings. Women enjoy wearing white, and as Jane Austen famously quoted in Mansfeld Park, “A woman can never be too fine while she is all in white” but I think Jane was probably thinking of younger women. I abandoned white years ago as it can be unflattering to the skin tone of women over fifty. In fact I don’t believe I own a single white item in my wardrobe. I also can’t sit in the direct sun for three hours – would my beige parasol be confiscated at the door?
Informal poll: Female readers would your boyfriend/husband/male significant other be willing to don white (and we’re not talking white t-shirts here), to attend such an event? (Male readers I would like your opinion too). Men might be enticed by the promise of a good meal, but remember you are bringing your own food and it probably won’t be them making or packing the picnic lunch. All of these are perfectly valid reasons to just stay home. Still I am feeling a bit wistful about missing the promise of an enchanting evening. (musical interlude from South Pacific)
The first year they allowed registrants to pre-order a boxed meal of a salad with protein/chicken for $22 (has anyone noticed that the $15 salad has now become $20) but that was soon abandoned, probably for liability reasons. There are suggestions for picnic fare on the website…..appetizers, sandwiches, deserts. The food does not have to be white, but what if it was? If we’re going to have a theme here let’s go all out. How about aged white cheddar with crackers, and white radishes and cauliflower veggies with ranch dip as appetizers. Lobster or lobster rolls, or tuna on French bread. Or that perennial picnic favorite, cold chicken and potato salad with white chocolate mousse or crème brulee for desert? Sounds like a plan, and you don’t have to pay sixty dollars to do it – you can put the money you save towards the lobsters. Just organize a party for your own backyard some soft summer evening. Invite some friends over and serve Prosecco or Pina Coladas. Play old vintage Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin tunes instead of that horrible screechy jazz. You might even cheat and stay out until midnight if your neighbors don’t object, instead of packing it in at ten as the official white party does. (I’m not sure how much dancing under the stars would get done when it doesn’t even get dark here until well after nine, but you might get a good forty-five minutes of twilight twirling in).
Being possessed of an analytical mind, I decided to do the math. 300 tickets X $30 is $9000. Nine thousand dollars to cover the rental of the table and chairs, the tablecloths and the jazz trio and DJ, might still leave some money left over, but as I don’t know anything about event planning, maybe they just break even? They say they do it for the fun, it’s not a charity event. It does seem like a lot of money though for some ambiance. Last year I had tickets for a Local Harvest dinner, where for $30 a person you got an actual meal outdoors at the local farmers market square. Although it was the end of September (timed for the harvest moon) and a coolish night they had heaters and a band played later. (This reasonable price however might have been subsidized by the culinary arts students from the local college learning their trade). The meal itself consisted of artisan bread, potato soup, locally sourced salad greens, a beef and a turkey entree, rustic vegetables and assorted homemade pies for desert. And recently I attended a church dinner where the menu was a starter chopped salad, roast beef, chicken cordon bleu, mashed potatoes, carrots, coleslaw and homemade strawberry trifle for desert. (This meal however might have been subsidized by the church coffers as a thank you to the volunteers). And last June I attended a WW2 swing dance in an airport hangar, with a truly memorable roast beef and chicken buffet with the most scrumptious cheesecake for desert with a choice of lemon, cherry or blueberry toppings, and afterwards an evening of big band music with a 23-person orchestra. Vintage dress was encouraged, some women did, most men did not, although I did see a few who might have been wearing their grandpa’s old uniform. Tickets for that charity event were $75 per person, but as they have increased it to $100 per person this year they must not have made any money. So, it is possible to have both food and ambiance for a price, (and it is possible to get members of the male species out for an evening of dining and dancing if there is a vintage B17 bomber on display to tour).
Perhaps it is a case of country mouse versus city mouse, but if given a choice I think I prefer food over ambiance. Still if Jay Gatsby offered to buy the tickets next year and pack me a picnic basket I might be persuaded to attend.
Quote of the Day: “There was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars. (The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald)
I love music, but I’m not a big fan of poetry. While I have no wish to offend anyone, I find a lot of it depressing, although it is entirely possible that I might be basing my opinion on too much Sylvia Path, having had little exposure to more modern poetry. But then I feel the same way about most abstract art. If I have to spend too much time figuring out what something is supposed to mean, I lose interest. Too many high school English classes spent deconstructing metaphors ruined poetry for me for good. Not that there aren’t perfectly wonderful poems out there. While searching for a quote on winter in my new Bartlett’s Book of Quotations, I came across the poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost. Robert Frost (1874-1963) was an American poet famous for his poems about rural New England, winner of four Pulitzer prizes and poet laureate of Vermont. This poem was published in 1923 when he was living on a farm and horses were still a big part of the countryside and it seems particularly appropriate for this wintry time of year. His other most famous poem is The Road Not Taken. Both are lovely poems but I will spare you the analysis, because that is the part of poetry I hated. A good poem should be able to explain itself.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening
Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” Copyright 1923.
Snowy Woods – 2018
It may be old-fashioned but I like the rhyming of the stanzas, that is an art form which you don’t see much anymore. I remember studying both poems in grade eight as poetry was part of the curriculum. Our teacher was a sixties hippy-child and being only nineteen herself, she wore mini skirts and maxi coats and let us listen to records in class, I Am A Rock (music link) and Sounds of Silence, the music of that generation being a form of poetry in itself. Although I am fairly certain Simon and Garfunkel were not part of the English curriculum, no one told.
I Am A Rock
A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing from my window
To the streets below
On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island
I’ve built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock
I am an island
Don’t talk of love
Well, I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
And I won’t disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died
If I never loved, I never would have cried
I am a rock
I am an island
I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me
I am a rock
I am an island
And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries
Simon and Garfunkel – I Am A Rock – Sounds of Silence copyright 1965
Our young teacher was correct, for what is a song but poetry set to music? I sometimes think that is what is lacking in modern music, often the lyrics are stupid, profane, repetitive or just plain bad. I think that is why I prefer those old classics from Sinatra & Company, the lyrics rhymed. Taylor Swift is a modern musician who uses rhyming effectively. While rap music may have rhyming lyrics it is sorely missing in melody, being able to string stanzas together does not a song make if there is no discernible tune. Check out this 1937 Irving Berlin tune, I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm, for a cheerful rhyming melody about winter. Click here for link to Ella.
The snow is snowing and the wind is blowing
But I can weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
For I’ve got my love to keep me warm
I can’t remember a worse December
Just watch those icicles form!
Oh, what do I care if icicles form?
I’ve got my love to keep me warm
Off with my overcoat, off with my glove
I need no overcoat, I’m burning with love!
My heart’s on fire, the flame grows higher
So I will weather the storm!
What do I care how much it may storm?
I’ve got my love to keep me warm.
Here’s a sadder tune with a Toronto locale from Bruce Cockburn, a Canadian singer/songwriter, with simple but vivid lyrics. (music link)
The Coldest Night of the Year (Bruce Cockburn – copyright 1981)
I was up all night, socializing
Trying to keep the latent depression from crystalizing
Now the sun is lurking just behind the Scarborough horizonAnd you’re not even here
On the coldest night of the year.I took in Yonge Street at a glance
Heard the punkers playing
Watched the bikers dance
Everybody wishing they could go to the south of France
And you’re not even here
On the coldest night of the year
Hey look at me now
See the shape I’m in
It’s taken me so long to catch on to what’s going on
Inside this skin
When two lovers really love there’s nothing there
But this suddenly compact universe
Skin and breath and hair
I watched the all night TV show
In the all night bar
I drove all the people home
I was the one with the car
Now I’m sitting here alone and sleepless
And wondering where you are
And wishing you were here
On the coldest night of the year
Gordon Lightfoot, a songwriter/poet from the sixties was another master at rhyming stanzas, his Song For A Winter’s Night is a Canadian classic.
Song For A Winter’s Night (Gordon Lightfoot – copyright 1967)
The lamp is burning low upon my table top
The snow is softly falling
The air is still in the silence of my room
I hear your voice softly calling
If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you
The smoke is rising in the shadows overhead
My glass is almost empty
I read again between the lines upon the page
The words of love you sent me
If I could know within my heart
That you were lonely too
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
On this winter night with you
The fire is dying now, my lamp is growing dim
The shades of night are lifting
The morning light steals across my window pane
Where webs of snow are drifting
If I could only have you near
To breathe a sigh or two
I would be happy just to hold the hands I love
And to be once again with with you
To be once again with with you
Song For A Winter’s Night – Gordon Lightfoot – click here for music link
There was an article recently in the newspaper about a lecture series and one of the topics was how to write a hit pop song in thirty minutes. A local musician is going to solicit a poem from the audience at random and write a hit tune to that poem on the spot. Sounds intriguing….so I got out my old rhyming dictionary and set to work.
On a winter afternoon
a summer’s day in June
cannot really come too soon
let’s all go to Cancun
Forget the snow
Let’s pack and go
There you have it – my first song. Ok, it needs work…..but it’s clear all the good lyrics are already taken.
Postscript: While the lecture was interesting for a non-musician like me, I was disappointed in the song. Since no one was brave enough to volunteer their own creation, the musician selected a W.B. Yeats poem (the Lake Isle of Innisfree) from a book of poetry someone had brought and sang what sounded like a Gregorian chant. Lacking proper rhyming structure poor old Yeats did not translate well to melody, but perhaps it might have been a hit in 1888?
Postscript: My apologies if the spacing is off in the lyrics sections of this post. There must be something I am doing wrong with WordPress, as it looks fine in Draft form, but they seem to have a mind of their own and swear they Ain’t Misbehavin‘.