Thursday, June 29, 2017

something about her was familiar

Watching Bobbie Gentry perform "Ode to Billy Joe" on You Tube, accompanying herself on some kind of small guitar, made me think about singer-songwriters in general.

In the 1960s in America, the traveling, performing singer-songwriter with his acoustic guitar was, like, a phenomenon.  For adults, it was some new fad, or style, which they noticed.

Since I was really little at the time, it just seemed like normal life to me.  Something that was "everyday," which you automatically accepted:  a man or woman with long hair, maybe sandals, blue jeans...playing their guitar and singing you a song they wrote.  (And other songs, as well.)

There was a simplicity and straightforwardness about the act of someone bringing their guitar -- acoustic, so no need to bother about where to plug it in, or to haul amps around -- and offering you some music. 

It was like an insistence on something beautiful and kind and true in the world.  Some of the singer-songwriters played sitting down; some played standing up.  Outdoors; indoors; in a cafĂ©; on a stage; school; church; nightclub; subway platform; picnic; music festival; on TV.

As a grade-schooler, I think I noticed singer-songwriters -- someone performing "Amazing Grace" and "You've Got A Friend" at church camp... and I thought (or felt), "So this is what life is.  Works for me!"

Last night, considering singer-songwriters, I spontaneously came up with this list:

Gordon Lightfoot

Joni Mitchell

Harry Chapin
Bobbie Gentry
Bob Dylan
Jim Croce

Richie Havens

Stevie Nicks.

Going on Google and finding on a site called "L.A. Weekly" a list of "top 20" singer-songwriters...  their list included three from my list:  Joni Mitchell, Gordon Lightfoot, and Dylan.  Their list added in, among others --

Hank Williams, David Bowie, Johnny Cash, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Robert Johnson, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, Dolly Parton, Townes Van Zandt, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Paul Simon. ...

We're blessed with so much wonderful music ("so this is life -- works for me!") the euphoria of it is, that there's so much, you don't run out!

"Everybody's talkin' 'bout a sharp-dressed man."

"Big wheel keep on turnin' -- Proud Mary keep on burnin'..."

"I walked out this morning and I wrote down this song, I just can't remember who to send it to."

.......... "SO THIS IS LIFE.



Last summer I was watching a documentary called Greenwich Village:  Music That Defined a Generation.  In it there's a clip of Harry Chapin performing a song he wrote titled, "Taxi."  I had not heard it in decades, and yet it sounded so familiar from a long time ago -- in particular, that specific performance of it. 

Maybe I heard it on The Tonight Show where the Free Encyclopedia says Chapin "debuted" the song.

Similar to Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billy Joe," it's intense, kind of sad with a happy background.  Maybe not sad -- maybe -- thoughtful with a sense of inevitable lost or missed chances.  Also similar to the Gentry hit in that it uses a load of strings -- violins (maybe a cello, too)....

It was raining hard in 'Frisco

I needed one more fare to make my night

A lady up ahead waved to flag me down

She got in at the light

Oh where you going to, my lady blue
It's a shame you ruined your gown in the rain
She just looked out the window
She said, Sixteen Parkside Lane

Something about her was familiar
I could swear I'd seen her face before
But she said, I'm sure you're mistaken
And she didn't say anything more

It took a while, but she looked in the mirror
And she glanced at the license for my name
A smile seemed to come to her slowly
It was a sad smile, just the same

And she said, How are you Harry
I said, How are you Sue
Through the too many miles
And the too little smiles
I still remember you...

_________ And it goes on from there.
You can get the live performance if you type in

Harry Chapin live, Taxi


You Tube Comments

Jochum Scott
----------- magnificent

Tom N
------------------ She said "Harry......keep the change"

Big Al One
--------------- I stuffed the bill in my shirt.

------------- my generation rocks

Ted Norton
------------- the staging of the parts just stuns me.  I imagine the whole thing taking place on a big stage.  The strings (is it one viola and a cello?  I really don't know) sends chills down my spine. ...

Don Benevento
-------------- You 100 percent correct

McGuire 4u1
----------- What a talent ... his brother Tom is also ... this guy is just awesome.  Still hurts that he is gone...

Peter Gerstenzaug
------------- He was a very good man.

Detroit Marauder
------------ Back in the 80s I worked as a bartender.  I used to play this song for last call.

It was my way of urging my customers to get a cab, but of course my brilliant idea back fired.  Instead of calling cabs the customers ordered more booze and they would sing this song word for word at the top of their lungs...  It became a tradition...  I love this song, but I hated staying late to clean up.


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