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About Me

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I love my grown children, miss all the dogs I ever had, and I cry at the drop of a hat, I believe in true love, destiny, fairness, and compassion. If I could be anywhere right now, it would be the ocean. My favorite city is New York, but I am always longing for London and craving more time in Copenhagen. I'm drawn to desolate places, deserted buildings, and unknown byways. I don't care how society perceives me as long as my gut tells me that what I'm doing is right. I am interested in paranormal things, spiritual things, historical things, and things that glow at night. I like to drink, I smoke when I write, I can't stand small talk, and despite my quick temper, I would rather kiss than fight. I'm selfish with my writing time, a spendthrift with my love. My heart has been broken so many times that it's held together with super glue and duct tape. The upside is that, next time, I won't be tempted to give away what I no longer have to give. But I will let you buy me a Pink Squirrel.


Not that there's any weight to it...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Let me get one thing straight. I am not a fan of country music...per se. That might seem odd since I grew up with it ringing in my ears. My father is a pedal steel player, who now lives in Georgia, and still plays gigs on the weekends with his country gospel band. Growing up, he was always strumming Chet Atkins and Hank Williams tunes on his flattop guitar (a black Fender acoustic with a red pickguard) around the house, occasionally lapsing into Johnny Cash, whom he professed not to like, but it was the 60s and hard to get away from "A Boy Named Sue" and "Folsom Prison Blues". But for the duration of his tenure with our family (he left when I was in the sixth grade to start a new family with a bouffant-sporting woman called Priscilla, I remember thinking that my father was a great musician, yet, at the same time, feeling a decided lack of appreciation for the music he chose to play. That didn't stop me from singing with his bands later on. I performed with several of them at summer fairs and the like after he and I reconnected when I was in my early twenties. But although I gave my all to the counry standards Dad and the other guys in the band hammered out for the pleasure of their country-fried audiences, I never felt what you could call a true affinity with the music. That was reserved for the music that came from my mother's side of the family. My Black grandfather was a singer of extraordinary range, possessing a classic "soul" baritone that triggered something deep and unnameable inside of me whenever I heard it. When, at the age of eighteen, I started looking around for a band of my own, it was that soul/blues sensibility that characterized my vocal style and which drove me to seek out band mates that could transpose that sensibility into the more current, New Wave-flavored songs that were popular at the time. they say...the apple never falls far from the tree. And although Father's Day has already come and gone, I'd like to dedicate this post to my father and the music he still loves and plays. Hence...the following list of the five country artists who, for me, transcend the genre and, against all odds, somehow manage to give me chills.

Born Hiram King Williams in Mount Olive, Alabama on 17 September, 1923, the man known to the world as Hank Williams had his first number one hit at the age of 24. At the age of 29, he was dead, the victim of a non-stop regimine of alcohol, morphine, and painkillers. In between he wrote and recorded songs like "Honky Tonk Woman", "Your Cheatin' Heart", and "I'm So Lonesome, I Could Cry." Arguably the most important and influential country artist to ever pluck a guitar string, Hank Williams embodied what country music is supposed to be about...i.e. heartache, love gone wrong, and that never-ending pain that can never be cured, but can sometimes be quenched by the right chord progression. His tumultuous life is the stuff of country legend, but it is his death that I've always found to be almost quintessential country. After an ice storm kept him from appearing at a scheduled concert in West Virginia on New Year's Eve, 1953, Williams hired a college student called Charles Carr to take him to Canton, Ohio where he had a concert scheduled for New year's Day. Along the way, they stopped in Knoxville, Tennessee because Williams was feeling a little ill from the combination of chloral hydrate and booze he'd been imbibing on the drive. The doctor gave him a shot of B12 mixed with morphine. A few hours later, Carr and Williams stopped at an all-night diner in Bristol, Virginia where Carr asked Williams if he wanted something to eat. The singer replied in the negative. Carr drove on, stopping at a gas station, at which point he realized that Williams was dead...surrounded by empty beer cans and unfinished song lyrics. See what I mean? Country at its core.

If you've ever seen the 1982 movie "Coal Miner's Daughter", you know all about Loretta Lynn's hardscrabble early life in Butchers Hollow, Kentucky and her long, determined road to fortune and iconhood. As classic country stars go, Loretta Lynn is without a doubt the real deal, even if it did recently come to light that she shaved three years off her age when she first began giving interviews in the early days of her fame. So, she was fifteen, not thirteen when she married Oliver "Doo" Lynn and started reaping the song-inspiring benfits of being married to a philandering, controlling redneck. So what? It's the music that matters, and Lynn has given the world plenty of that. From 1966's "You Ain't Woman Enough To Take My Man" to 2009's Jack White-produced "I Miss Being Misses Tonight" (a melancholy recollection of her late husband), Lynn's songs are as straightforward as it gets. She feels it, thinks it, writes it, and sings it. Influences? Her own life. That's how the real country stars do it. And in my opinion, there isn't a single female country artist today who doesn't owe Loretta Lynn a great big tear-stained bunch of roses in gratitude for helping to pave the way.

If the country world owes Loretta Lynn a great big thank you, they owe an even bigger one to Patsy Cline, the woman who inspired and befriend Lynn in her early days as an artist and put her own, inimitable stamp on the genre. Born Virgina Hensley in Winchester, Virginia in 1932, Cline attributed her distinctive, throaty contralto voice to a case of rheumatic fever she contracted when she was thirteen, saying that when she woke up in the hospital, she had "a booming voice like Kate Smith." However she came by her voice, Cline's renderings of songs like "Crazy" and "I Fall To Pieces" are the standard bearers of soulful country styling. But the best thing about Cline, in my opinion, is not her voice, but the fact that her personality was so at odds with it. Who wouldn't adore a woman who sings like Patsy Cline and can hold her liquor whilst decked out in a white turban and a leopard-print sweater? Cline was one hot ticket...even in her manner of death. Weeks before she was killed in a plane crash in Tennessee in 1963, she began giving away personal items to friends and family, telling them that she had a feeling of impending doom. Having survived two car wrecks, she felt that "the next one would be either a charm or it'll kill me." Unfortunately, it turned out to be the latter when her plane crashed in a forest 90 miles outside of Nashville on the night of March 5. Her music and legacy remain, however. Especially her music. I mean, how many times have you heard another artist cover "Crazy", including Willie Nelson, the man who wrote it? No matter how many times that is, I'd wager that anyone who thinks of the song automatically thinks of the woman who first recorded it and made it her own...Miss Patsy Cline.

When actor John Ritter died unexpectedly on 11 September, 2003, it was a sad occasion for television fans, many of whom, like me, had grown up watching Ritter on shows like "The Waltons" and "Three's Company". But what was even sadder was that news of Ritter's death was all but buried by the news of another death...i.e. Johnny Cash's, who passed away the next day. Talk about unfortunate timing! Cash's death at the age of 71 came only four months after the death of his wife, June Carter Cash, who succumbed to lung cancer at the same age. People said that Cash died of a broken heart. I wouldn't bet against it. The love story between Cash and his second wife, June is one of the great epic tales of country music. And Cash was one of those artists whose fans came from all across the board, and who loved him not just because of his music, but because of what he represented. And just what was that? Well, the man came from nowhere, with nothing but his guitar and his songs, and somehow managed to parlay those two simple attributes into a career that spanned decades and transcended genre...all without changing a single thing about himself. He was what he was. A musician, a bad husband, a drunk, a loving father, a better husband, a hero, a man in black, an icon, and an inspiration. (He was also a refrigerator salesman at one time, but we all have to pay the bills, right?) Bottom line, Johnny Cash was the sort of artist who can never truly die because his songs have become so deeply embedded in popular consciousness that it's as though he's still here, still performing, and still reminding us that it's possible to be yourself in an industry where too many artists try too hard to be what they think people want them to be.

Say what you will about Dolly Parton. That she looks cartoonish in her endless array of wigs and layers of make-up, that she's just as famous for her huge tits as she is for her music, that she sounds like a chirpy little bird when she sings. None of that changes the fact that the woman has written some of the most widely covered songs in the last few decades, including "I Will Always Love You", "Jolene", and "Coat Of Many Colors". And when it comes to being an original, no one has anything on Dolly Parton. Asked where she came up with her unabashedly gaudy fashion sense, she replied that she and her mother were running errands back in her hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee when she happened to spot a woman decked out in dyed blonde hair, red lipstick, and femme fatale attire. She asked her mother who the woman was, and her mother told her that the woman was "the town whore." Right then and there, Dolly said, she decided that when she grew up she wanted to look just like that. The difference was that Dolly could sing and write songs, and the rest of it just came with the territory. It just proves my philosophy. Dress however you want, look whatever way you want to look. If you can back it up with talent and/or brains, the rest of the world can go to hell. Dolly Parton's much too nice a person to think along those lines, of course, but it's still true. After launching her singing career, she ventured into film (remember 9 to 5?), and then established her very own theme park, which draws thousands of visitors every year. Is there nothing she can't do? But what I love most about Miss Dolly Parton is that she has been married to the same guy for decades and, for all her stage swagger and red lipstick, she's never been the subject of gossip mills. Why? Because no one messes with Dolly Parton. Even if she does have a chirpy little voice.

Til next time. Skol! xoxoxxoxoxoxxoxoxo

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