Category Archives: music

The Sound of Silence and a Prayer: An Evening at an Art Garfunkel Concert


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Yesterday was an eventful day. I’ll tell you details over the next few days but last night we had the privilege of being able to see Art Garfunkel in concert. 

I admit it. I am a child of the 1960s and 1970s and I am not ashamed. When I look at my life which includes 36 years of military service, multiple deployments, two of which were combat deployments I am still basically a anti-war 1960s and 1970s person. Likewise, I believe that in terms of speaking out for the poor, the disenfranchised, the weak, the sick, the elderly, those wounded in war, that all of us have a responsibility as citizens to do our best to alleviate the conditions that do harm to the least, the lost, and the lonely. 

One of the songs that was a part of my life back then was The Sound of Silence. It is as hauntingly relevant, maybe more today, than when it was first written and performed by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. As he sang it last night I closed my eyes and listened with tears flowing down my cheeks. I imagined the young Simon and Garfunkel singing it and me listening to it on the LP and on my 8 track cassette tape. 

In the age of Trump and Imperial Evangicslism those words are prophetic and etched in my mind especially after my tour in Iraq which changed my life in so many ways. 

Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping, Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain, Still remains, Within the sound of silence

After Iraq I came to know the darkness, and in my most desperate times, the darkness became an old friend, one that I continue to converse with, especially at night and in my dreams and nightmares. I had a particularly violent one of those Saturday night and early yesterday morning. I’ll write about it later in the week. 

In restless dreams I walked alone, Narrow streets of cobblestone 

‘Neath the halo of a street lamp, I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light, That split the night

And touched the sound of silence

My dreams, even the good ones are restless and in them I am alone and I have visions that are often not for the faint of heart. 

And in the naked light I saw, Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking, People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share, And no one dared

Disturb the sound of silence

Before Iraq I did little to disturb the sound of silence, but after Iraq, in the despair, depression, and discombobulating of PTSD, I found that I must speak, or perhaps perish. 

Fools, said I, you do not know, Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you, Take my arms that I might reach you

But my words, like silent raindrops fell, 

And echoed in the wells of silence

I have found that many people are content to talk without speaking, hear without listening, write songs that voices never share, because they are all too willing not to disturb the sound of silence.

And the people bowed and prayed, To the neon god they made

And the sign flashed out its warning, In the words that it was forming

And the sign said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, And tenement halls

And whispered in the sounds of silence

And the people in the churches bow and pray, to the inauthentic god they made, a god that they fashioned in their image, one that on occasion might resemble that of the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran, but which is far removed from an conception of truth. 

Garfunkel sang a couple of songs and after that concluding with a variation the nighttime prayer that I learned as a child, one that I actually find more comforting than the one I learned, and one that I pray will take me through each night. 

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

Guide me safely through the night,

Wake me with the morning light.

I am glad that we got the chance to see this amazing American troubadour; to hear his songs, and listen to his stories and poems. He is a treasure. So until tomorrow. 

Peace,

Padre Steve+ 

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Christmas Goes Pop: A Holiday Music Buffet

Friends of Padre Steve’s Word,

Once again I delve into the vault of Christmas Past and post yet another collection of Christmas music from various Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country artists that I enjoy. I hope that you will as well.

I grew up in the 1960’s 1970’s and went to college in the 1980s. As such my musical taste reflects much of the Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country crossovers of the era. So here are some of those artists performing some of their Christmas music. I have also included some more contemporary artists whose music I enjoy. Some are religious in nature and some not. While some are just fun to listen to there are others that speak to the sadness and melancholy that some people feel this time of year. As I have grown older I have come to appreciate non-religious Christmas or holiday music, especially that which touches the deepest emotions and longings that I feel, just as much as I do the traditional hymns of Advent and Christmas. I find it interesting as I have mentioned before that so many of the performers are people who would not be welcome in any church because of their faith, or lack of, their politics, or their sexual preference. But I digress…

I have posted over sixty songs here and they are no particular order, and I hope that you enjoy them.  My wish is that you enjoy the Christmas or whatever holiday you are celebrating; after all the key is to enjoy life and hopefully love as well this holiday season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

 

 

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Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas: A Haunting Song of Hope

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

There are some songs at Christmas that despite their relative newness as compared to ancient carols seem to strike a chord that resonates deep in the hearts of people. One of those for me, and probably many others is the song Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. The music was written by Ralph Blane and the lyrics by Hugh Martin for the musical Meet Me in St Louis and first performed by Judy Garland in that film. In the movie Garland’s character sings the song to her younger sister after their father announces plans to move from their home of St Louis to New York for a job.

The lyrics for the musical were changed because Garland’s director Vincent Minnelli and co-star Tom Drake felt that Martin’s original lyrics which began with “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas, it could be your last. Next year we may all be living in the past” were too depressing. The lyrics were changed to “let your heart be light, Next year all our troubles will be out of sight” in response to their request. The words sung in the musical by Judy Garland have a haunting but very real feel for people who face uncertainty at Christmas, as such they were very meaningful to the US military personnel who heard them at the front in the Second World War.

As originally produced they reflect a hope for a better future as opposed to a carefree present. As such they are probably much more appropriate to our current time than in the mid-1950s when Frank Sinatra recorded a modified version of the song for his album A Jolly Christmas.

Sinatra asked Martin to “jolly up” the line “we’ll have to muddle through somehow” and Martin changed it to “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.”

When Frank Sinatra recorded the song in 1957 it too became a hit and the focus on present happiness rather than a hope for a better future fit the times in which it was recorded. Sinatra’s version also notes that “faithful friends gather near to us once more” instead of “will be near to us once more.”

The song was re-written by Martin a number of times including a “Christian” version which included the words “if the Lord allows” instead of “if the fates allow.” Though I am a Christian I think that change was kind of lame, but then if there are a few dollars to be made off religious people who otherwise won’t listen to a song why not?

The song is one is one of the most recorded Christmas songs ever written and can be heard being sung by artists as diverse as Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Rod Steward, the Carpenters, Kelly Clarkson, John Denver with the Muppets, the Pretenders, Olivia Newton John, Kenny Loggins, and even Twisted Sister.

The song as recorded by Judy Garland is actually my favorite, though I also love the Sinatra version. Somehow “muddling through somehow” seems to be more appropriate in my experience.

So enjoy these versions of a song that has touched the hearts of hundreds of millions of people since it was first recorded. May it be an inspiration in these uncertain times of a hope for a better future. Maybe that makes it a better Advent song, but I digress….

For me it is kind of a sad song, but mixed with hope…and I always try to live in hope.

Here’s to muddling through somehow…

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Rhythm and Blues for Christmas: A Holiday Music Treasury

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

As I wrote yesterday, I love Christmas and holiday music. Yesterday I did a piece that had a lot of my Rock and Roll era favorites, and today one about my R&B favorites.

American Christmas music has been enriched by the influence of Jazz, Blues, Gospel and what came to be known as Rhythm and Blues in the 1940.  I have always loved R & B and some of the most memorable songs about Christmas come from the African American experience and the R & B genre.

R&B as it became known was what record labels marketed music by African American artists. It became popular with White Americans as well with audiences in Europe and the musical influence was felt in the early days of Rock and Roll as Elvis Presley’s musical style incorporated many facets of this rich tradition. R&B Christmas music incorporated a good amount of the faith found in African American churches of the time as well as the reality of life including discrimination, segregation, Jim Crow, violence, poverty, brokenness and loneliness.

A couple of years ago I decided to look up some of those great songs by the great R&B artists. Now while I was familiar with many of these artists, for me their Christmas songs were new and refreshing, despite in many cases being recorded before I was born. Some of course were new versions of songs already made popular by people like Bing Crosby or other crooners. But here are some of those great songs, as well as some of the lyrics. I hope that you enjoy them as much as I do. The songs are in no particular order, and I do hope you enjoy them all.


 

Marvin Gaye’s “I Want to Come Home for Christmas”  is a song that those who can’t be home for Christmas, in this case that of a Vietnam Prisoner of War set in 1972. It is a song that anyone who has served in a combat zone at Christmas can understand.


But for a song that I think speaks of the human meaning of the season; something that anyone, of any faith or simply anyone who just want’s to be a good human being can understand it is The Jackson 5’s Give Love on Christmas Day”   I like it because love is something that any of us can give to someone else if we want.

People making lists

Hiding special gifts

Taking time to be kind to one and all

It’s that time of year

When good friends are dear

And you wish you could give more

Than just presents from a store

Why don’t you give love on Christmas day

Oh, even the man who has everything

Would be so happy if you would bring

Him love on Christmas day

No greater gift is there than love

People you don’t know

Smile and nod hello

Everywhere there’s an air of Christmas joy

It’s that once a year

When the world’s sincere

And you’d like to find a way

To show the things that words can’t say.

Why don’t you give love on Christmas day

Oh, the man on the street and the couple upstairs

Who need to know there’s someone who cares

Give love on Christmas day.

No greater gift is there than love

What the world needs is love

Yes, the world needs your love.

Why don’t you give love on Christmas day

Every little child on Santa’s knee

Has room for your love underneath his tree

Give love on Christmas day

No greater gift is there than love

What the world needs is love

Yes, the world needs your love.

Give love, oh give love on Christmas day

Every Tom, Dick, and Harry, every Susie too

Needs love every bit as much as you

Give love on Christmas day

So with that message I wish you the best in these days leading up to Christmas. Until tomorrow my friends…

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Rock and Roll at Christmastide

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

For today something a bit less serious, some classic Christmas and holiday songs performed by various Rock and Roll artists and groups.

I realize that it is not Christmas yet, and in fact it is still the season of Advent but I have to admit that I love the holiday season, especially the music. But I am a child of the 1960s and 1970s, so I have certain preferences in in music and Christmas music comes in many forms and genres. Over the next couple of weeks I will be doing a number of articles like this which have no purpose but to share a little joy through music. I plan on doing one focusing on the great R & B legends, one with Country artists, and a couple dealing with the stories of White Christmas and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, as well as the many different versions of both.

These holiday season I hope that no matter what holiday you celebrate that you do it with a joyful heart, even if it is Festivus.

So here are some great songs put out by some great artists and groups over the years, they are in no particular order. Some are traditional Christmas hymns while others are popular Christmas songs without a particularly religious bent, and many are sung by artists who are not practicing Christians, some of whom would be condemned to hell by many conservative Christians. Maybe that speaks to the power of the holiday, and the hope that it brings to so many people.

I hope you enjoy them and the other musical essays that I post,

Peace

Padre Steve+

Elton John, Step into Christmas

Elvis Presley, Blue Christmas

Paul McCartney and Wings, Having a Wonderful Christmastime

Freddy Mercury and Queen, Thank God it’s Christmas

The Bangles, Hazy Shade of Winter

The Beach Boys, Little Saint Nick

Billy Idol, Jingle Bell Rock

The Carpenters, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Jose Feliciano, Feliz Navidad

Chicago, O Come All Ye Faithful

Gary Glitter, Another Rock and Roll Christmas

George Harrison, Dong, Dong, Ding Dong

Herman’s Hermit’s O Holy Night

Chuck Berry, Run, Run Rudolph

Mariah Carey, All I Want for Christmas is You

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Christmas All over Again

Blondie, We Three Kings

Rod Stewart, Let it Snow

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Little Drummer Boy

Twisted Sister, White Christmas

Bruce Springsteen, Baby Please Come Home

Stevie Nicks, Silent Night

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Another Hot Summer Night: Music for the Heat

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I has been hot here in the Virginia Tidewater lately and no it is not a dry heat. In addition to soaring temps we have been sitting in a rich tropical air mass for the last few weeks. In other words is is humid as all get out and the humid makes it feel a lot hotter than it actually is. A couple of weeks ago a friend sent me a picture of his backyard weather station that had a temperature of over 100 degrees but a heat index of 130 degrees. The Weather Channel had the heat index at a mere 114 that day.

We we get this kind of weather I am reminded of the great line in immortal Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles spoken by Taggart (Slim Pickens) sidekick Lyle (Burton Gilliam) to his railroad work crew:

“Come on, boys! The way you’re lollygaggin’ around here with them picks and them shovels, you’d think it was a hundert an’ twenty degrees. Can’t be more than a hundert an’ fourteen.” 

But I digress. Since I love music why not a few songs about the heat, the hot, and the fire? I am sure that there are plenty more but these are the ones that came to mind this afternoon. I hope that you enjoy.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Don’t Give up on Us Baby: Love Songs for Valentine’s Day

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I have spent many Valentine’s Days away from my wife Judy over the course of my military career. Tonight though, for the third time in a row time. I will be with her. Three years ago I was stationed away from her and holding the duty pager for the hospital where I served as the Director of Pastoral Care. I added up the time between when I was mobilized from the Army Reserve in 1996 to support the Bosnia Operation until when I returned from Camp Lejeune in August of 2013 and I figured at we had been apart 10 of 17 years due to military assignments. I am glad I am hopefully won’t have to spend months or years away from her again as I enter the twilight years of my career.

In all of these times I have loved music. I remember dating Judy and every week bring in new LP albums or pop 45 singles on vinyl back in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Most of the songs were popular on the radio and I would hear them on American Top 40.

I find that music expresses love in ways that I find difficult to do on my own. Perhaps this is because of the fact that I am a historian and not a poet or artist. Here are 25 of my favorites of all time. They are songs that express the emotions of love, love embraced and love requited the joy of love and the agony of losing it.

These are songs that men and women express the feelings of those who have loved, lost and longed for love. They are songs of men and women who sometimes are geographically far away but still close and others that can be sitting next to each other but be as far from each other emotionally and even spiritually as Earth is from the furthest star system in the galaxy.

I think that in my life that many speak to the relationship that I have with the woman that I have loved since the day that I met her back in the late summer of 1978.

It is interested because a number of years later Barry Manilow wrote a song called The Summer of 78 which expresses much of what I felt and still feel about her.

It was one of those summer’s
lasting forever
making the winter wait
a summer of music and passion
the summer of ’78
you appeared like the summer
sudden and perfect
and not a day too late
I swear there was music when I found you
that summer of ’78
it seem we floated through the days

and nights were always filled with stars
and it seemed every song they played on the radio
was ours
it was one of those summer’s
only for lovers
touched by the hand of faith
and now when the winter’s are long
I remember the summer of ’78

I think any compilation of love songs has to begin with Barry Manilow’s “Weekend in New England”  I think for me, as a career military man who has spent many years away from my wife, sometimes in harm’s way the questions asked in the song resonate. “When will our eyes meet?” “When can I touch you?” “When will this long journey end and when will I hold you again?” have particular meaning and they are part of the longing that I have.

The Carpenter’s breakthrough hit “Close to You” written by Burt Bacharach is a song that is fitting for the love that many young lovers feel when they first meet. I remember when we first started dating I could hardly stand to be away from Judy. The song is more one of infatuation than actual love, but I think unless we first have that infatuation that love often remains dormant.

Bread’s classic mellow ballad “If” is a song that expresses an almost eternal nature to love. Jim Croce’s hit “I’ll Just Have to Say I Love You in a Song” is one that expresses how badly the words often come out when we try to communicate with the one that we love. There are so many times the words that I have said have not come across how I meant them. So much of a relationship that is based on how we communicate that care and love for each other, the lament that “every time I’d try to tell you, the words just came out wrong” can be true for many of us.

England Dan (Dan Seals and John Ford Coley) “I’d Really Love to See You Tonight” Sometimes when we love someone we somehow lose contact, or maybe have grown apart emotionally. The song begins with small talk on a phone call and is the words of someone who wants very badly to be together again with the one that he misses.

In a similar vein to “I’d really love to See You Tonight” but perhaps even more heart wrenching is Paul Davis’ “I Go Crazy” because the woman that he loves is now with someone else and he sings “when I look in your eyes I still go crazy. That old flame comes alive, it starts burning inside…”

All couples sometimes have arguments and sometimes those arguments lead to complete silence and even the break up of a relationship. Sir Cliff Richard’s “We Don’t Talk Anymore” is one of those songs where one partner blames the other for the breakup and boldly states that he isn’t losing sleep over the end of the relationship. Not a very good way to go, but a very real feeling for many people in the Lonely Heart’s Club.

Olivia Newton John and Cliff Richard’s duet “Suddenly”  is a song that is a 180 out from We Don’t Talk Anymore. This song is one that speaks of a deep love and admiration for each of the two people in the relationship that they are willing to do anything and go anywhere to be with one another.

The Dr. Hook hit “Years from Now” is one that always manages to bring a tear to my eye. It came out about a year after Judy and I started dating and even though it is now well over 30 years since I first heard it I imagined the future, now we are deep into it and I feel the same way. One verse says “I know this world that we live in can be hard, Now and then and it will be again, Many times we’ve been down, Still love has kept us together the flame never dies, When I look in your eyes the future I see.” Since we have gone through many difficult times it is a song that is intensely personal and one that I almost feel that I could have written the lyrics.

David Soul riding high on his success in Starsky and Hutch released “Don’t Give up on Us Baby”  in 1977. It hit number one in both the US and UK and was his one big hit. It is a song of a man trying to convince a woman that they have a relationship that is more than just one night. “Don’t give up on us, baby, We’re still worth one more try, I know we put a last one by, Just for a rainy evening, When maybe stars are few, Don’t give up on us, I know, We can still come through.” I find the Chicago ballad If You Leave Me Now evokes similar feelings.

Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch” is a song that means a great deal to both Judy and I. The words are somehow haunting and healing. One verse and the chorus really get to me. “Romance and all its strategy leaves me battlin’ with my pride, But through the insecurity some tenderness survives, I’m just another writer, still trapped within my truth, A hesitant prize fighter, still trapped within my youth. And sometimes when we touch, the honesty’s too much, And I have to close my eyes and hide, I wanna hold you till I die, till we both break down and cry, I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides.”

Van Morrison wrote “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”  in 1989. Recorded and released by Rod Stewart in 1993 it is a song that originally was written as a prayer by Morrison. It is sung at many weddings and it a song that I will stop and listen to whenever I hear it.

The Australian duo Air Supply is known for their mellow love songs and one of them“Two Less Lonely People in the World”  is one that I like. Sometimes I think that had I not met Judy that I never would have married. I am quite the introvert and often a loner that prefers the adventure of being independent and adventurous and does not like to be tied down. When my father retired from the Navy in 1974 I thought that my life was over, because we were going to remain in one place. Judy had spent most of her life in one city but I took her away from that because throughout my life I have been afflicted with this wanderlust and spirit of adventure. That being said the fact that we are together means that even though we are often apart that there are still “two less lonely people in the world tonight.”

Meat Loaf’s “I Would do Anything for Love” from his 1993 Bat Out of Hell Album is one of the big world wide rock power ballads of the past two decades. The focus is probably more on the physical relationship that some of the other songs in this list but it has a resonance because the physical is also a big part of why we fall in love with each other. “As long as the planets are turning, As long as the stars are burning, As long dreams are coming true, You’d better believe it, that I would do, Anything for love, And I’l be there until the final act, I would do anything for love, and I’ll take a vow and seal a pact…”

Elton John’s “Your Song” is a tender ballad of a musician who has little to give his love except a song.

One of the tenderest duets for Valentine’s Day comes from Lionel Richie and Diana Ross, the hit Endless Love  was written for the movie of the same name. The Bee Gee’s Disco era smash How Deep is Your Love  is another tender song of devotion to a love as is Al Green’s classic Let’s Stay Together.

Chicago’s “Hard to Say I’m Sorry” is a song that hits hard at a situation that many couples that love each other find themselves. That is when for whatever reason they find that they need to be away from each other, but the key is that they find their way back.

REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight this Feeling” is actually quite good because it is a song that sees a relationship go from a friendship to something more, something that sometimes scares the people involved because somehow we often think that we don’t want to “ruin the friendship.” I really think that any relationship that is meant to be has to begin with friendship and the words in the song “What started out as friendship, Has grown stronger. I only wish I had the strength to let it show” is a reality for so many people.

Anne Murray released a song called Daydream Believer   that had been recorded years before by the Monkees, but in 1980 it became one of my favorites as my relationship with Judy began to really develop

Bonnie Tyler’s “It’s a Heartache” has been recorded and been a hit for Juice Newton and Rod Stewart as well as Tyler. It is a song that speaks of the pain of a broken relationship when one of the people involved is more dependent on the other person than that person is committed to them, and sometimes when we fall for someone we are in over our heads, as Fleetwood Mac’s Over My Head so bluntly states.

Juice Newton’s “Angel of the Morning” is a song that describes the breakup of what may be an illicit love affair. Since a lot of people become involved in such relationships it is a powerful reminder of the pain associated with the end of those relationships. A similar theme is part of Laura Branigan’s “How am I Supposed to Live Without You”  though it seems that this song is not about an illicit relationship but the betrayal felt by a person who finds that the one that they love is leaving them. Her song Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?  tells the story of a woman wondering if her love will still love her.

I find a lot of commonality with Journey’s power ballad “Faithfully.”  Written about the love of a couple, one of whom spends his life on the road as a musician and rediscovers his love for his bride. I think that it is a song that any man or woman in the military, or for that matter any other profession that spends much time away from home can relate as is Elton John’s I Guess that’s Why they Call it the Blues.

The tender ballad by Kiss “Beth” is a song that I think expresses how many people deal with the tension between what they love and who they love. The song is about a man who promises to come home as soon as he is done playing music with his band and keeps calling back until finally he admits that he will not be coming home that night.

Blondie’s Heart of Glass  is another song that talks about misplaced love and how many relationships appear to be real but then end with at least one partner hurting and wondering what happened. The Tide is High  is Judy’s ringtone on my iPhone, it is about a girl who won’t give up on her love and Dreaming  is another song of dreams of love as is Fleetwood Mac’s Say You Love Me.

The Swedish super group Abba had numerous songs dealing love, hope, love lost and love found.  “One of Us”  is song about a relationship where one partner thinks that they can do better only to find out that they were wrong. The chorus “One of us is crying, One of us is lying, In her lonely bed, Staring at the ceiling, Wishing she was somewhere else instead, One of us is lonely, One of us is only, Waiting for a call, Sorry for herself, feeling stupid feeling small, Wishing she had never left at all….” finds an echo in many of the people that I meet. Their lesser known song, Our Last Summer  tells the story of a woman remembering her last summer in Paris with a former lover. Knowing Me Knowing You  tells the story of a breakup as does The Winner Takes it All. 

In the late 1970s and early 1980s Kenny Rogers released a number of songs suitable for the Valentine’s Day. She Believes in Me  is wonderful because it talks of an experience that many young lovers know that of having someone who believes in them and their dreams, even when they wonder. You Decorated My Life  talks about the difference a love makes in life, while Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer a duet he sang with singer songwriter Kim Carnes talks about the hazards of falling in love with a dreamer, or a person like me, and love can be difficult even when we give the best that we have, as the Eagles noted in The Best of My Love.

 

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Finally there is a song that from the first time I heard it has been a song that speaks to me about my love for Judy. It is a song that like Dr Hook’s Years from Now, is a reminder of how far we have come and how much we have been through; that song is Kenny Rogers’ “Through the Years”  which was released in 1982, a year before we were married.

So to all of my readers, enjoy the music and have a happy Valentine’s Day.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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