Archive for the ‘1968 – 1979’ Category

After lead guitarist Mick Ronson left David Bowie’s Spiders From Mars backing band in 1973, Bowie recorded most of the guitars himself for his DIAMOND DOGS (1974) album, which included the classic track “Rebel, Rebel”. One night several years later, Bowie was in a London hotel room trying to get some sleep around 11 or 12 at night. Above him he heard someone repeatedly trying to play the riff to “Rebel, Rebel” on electric guitar – and very badly. “Who the hell is doing this at this time of night?” he thought. Bowie marched upstairs to show the person how to play the damn thing. He banged on the door. When it opened he saw John McEnroe — the tennis great, who was in London playing at Wimbledon. Bowie told him: “Come on down and have a drink, just don’t bring your guitar . .”

Personal story time . . .

My brother, Bob, has often pointed out how I have a great ability to remember all kinds of useless information. A unique benefit of my good memory is how I can remember countless songs including the year the song was released, plus the year and even time of the year I spent listening to the song. From the time I was 3 and received my first small record player, to now in my forties, I have compiled thousands and thousands of songs in my chronological musical-memory-bank, but really more in my heart and soul. Give me a movie or a book and any retention is gone almost before I am finished. But with music it never leaves me. I love great songwriting – rock, alternative, pop, heavy metal, and even some country – and I relate all of my favorite songs to a specific time period or event in my life. It is how I can so easily remember. It’s my continuous soundtrack. I can tell you what songs I listened to before going to afternoon kindergarten when I was 5. I can tell you what albums I received for Christmas in 1983. I can tell you what songs were out when I graduated from high school. And when I met my wife. And lost my dad. And what I spent time listening to on event-less nights in 2006. The list goes on and on and on.

A couple of weeks ago I came across a CD I had not listened to for years. I must have passed over it a thousand times during my evening routine. Every night around 10:00 I jump on the treadmill to get a little exercise. I normally pick out music to crank up in my headphones as I walk. Late evening is my time of the day to re-energize and be creative. It is when I do my best thinking and my place in the world is most clear to me. I imagine new ideas and things I would love to do. I have a pretty large collection of old and new music – albums, tapes and CD’s along with an IPOD. What I choose largely depends on what kind of mood I am in – whatever is going to ‘fire me up.’ This time though something made me pick differently.

Popping in the CD, I began my typical mile walk. After a few minutes, the opening melodies of the familiar 2nd track started and instantaneously musical déjà vu struck me. Soon tears welled up in my eyes and then streamed down my face as I continued to walk. It was Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” My thoughts flashed back to an extremely anxious day – July 23, 2001 – the surreal day when I had an unexpected and immediate surgery and was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 33.This was the song my wife and I listened to on the drive to the hospital, which was the start of a very long journey.

The classic Bob Marley & the Wailers LEGEND CD had been my wife’s suggestion. Honestly I was not a true Bob Marley fan but his central message of “everything’s gonna be alright” alone made it a good choice. Plus, the CD reminded us of the vacation we had taken just a couple months earlier to Turks & Caicos Islands in the Caribbean. We had wished we were back on a beach relaxing right about then.

My surprisingly emotional reaction to hearing ‘No Woman, No Cry’ again was no longer one of anxiety and fear that I long associated with the year 2001 and having cancer. It was more a sense of relief combined with almost disbelief and joy that it has been so long since then. Somehow from the trying months of painful surgery, radiation, getting sick every night, losing 50 pounds and the dreadful anxiety/panic attacks, almost 14 years have passed.

As a person who remembers largely every song I have ever listened to, I find it very interesting I had buried this song deep in my memory bank. Probably the same reason I did not touch or look at Snyder’s hard pretzels for 10 years — which was what I ate most throughout my radiation treatments. Music, and songs specifically, has always been a colorful accent to everything I experience in life, both good and bad. Music is my place to celebrate all I love in this world and my escape and defense mechanism against everything I find wrong with it. I now realize what a huge part music also played in the healing process for me. During the most difficult times, music acts almost as a tangible extension of faith — helping provide strength, determination, positive energy and hope. But more often music is simply a beautiful distraction. Thank God for the powerful gift of music and all the songwriters and musicians who bring it to life.

Bob Marley died at the young age of 36. Just recently I learned it was from cancer. There has been controversy over who actually wrote “No Woman, No Cry.” For a long time songwriting credit was given to Vincent Ford, a friend of Marley, who ran a soup kitchen in a ghetto of Kingston, Jamaica. Claims were made that Marley assigned credit to Ford in order to avoid contractual commitments and also help provide financial assistance to his friend – the royalties paid to Ford were used for the continued running and survival of the soup kitchen. A court eventually ruled in favor of Marley’s estate which now has full control of the song.

Regardless of who penned the song, Marley was the one able to perfectly capture and communicate a message of hope through the music he left behind. The classic reggae song he made famous will always serve as a reminder to me – to not let the world rush me and lose sight of what is truly most important. To not take anything for granted. To be thankful. To never give up. And to sometimes step out of my natural introverted self and try to pass on a little bit of hope to whoever may need it. Because the only thing any of us can really control is our ability to hope. To hope that no matter the circumstances, or even the outcome, that ‘everything’s gonna be alright.’ Alleluia. And Irie Blue.

What song has made a difference in your life?

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I was first exposed to Judy Collins’ recording of this song released in 1968, but the song was actually written by Joni Mitchell, who released her own classic version of the song on her Clouds album in 1969. I can recall sitting on my Mom’s lap when I was only 2 or 3 years old and being absolutely mesmerized by the beautiful melodies and vocals of this song. My mom says she would often turn on music when I was crying because it immediately made me stop  — I would just listen intently to the music. This is my first real memory and beginning of the soundtrack to my life.  I guess that would make it song # 1 on ‘The List’.