Icarus’ Favorite Song – Over the Mountain, Across the Sea

22 05 2015

Growing up in Philly “American Bandstand” was in our faces everyday in the 50’s. What we didn’t know was that other cities had their own version of the first American teenage dance show. Philly’s “Bandstand”(the original name of the show) started in 1952 showing short movies of music – precursors to the music videos of today. Milt Grant’s “Record Hop” was the Washington, DC version of AB. Here’s Johnnie and Joe singing their biggest hit on his show…

“Over the Mountain, Across the Sea” was every dreamer boy’s favorite song at the end of the 50’s, Jim Collins the hero of my novel included. It captured the yearning for far away romance. Jim knew little back then about how life was outside the neighborhood. Things are different now that we’re all connected by Smartphone, Androids and tablets.

There’s a 3rd voice on the record. Rex Garvin wrote the song, played the piano(an integral piece of the song’s impact) and was part of the vocal backup. Joe Rivers, the lead vocalist, was his friend and Johnnie Louise Richardson, the female vocalist was the record company owner’s daughter. By the way, J&S Records was owned by Zelma “Zell” Sanders. A woman record company owner was pretty unheard of back then.

The popular wisdom holds that everybody wanted to be one of the dancers on “American Bandstand.” The popular wisdom is wrong. The teenagers of the 50’s and 60’s had mixed feelings about it. Fictionally, some of Jim Collins’ buddies resent the fame those kids got on TV. Truthfully, two of the most popular dancers on “American Bandsatnd”, Eddie Kelly and Bunny Gibson, had to change schools to get away from the bullying and adult narrow mindedness of the time.

Read all about it here…

dcover

http://booklocker.com/books/7143.html





Song #2 from “Songs of Icarus” and the Reason Why…

13 05 2015

dcover

The book can be purchased here…booklocker.com/books/7143.html.

Why did I write a novel set in 1959?
First off it was a great year…”Kind of Blue”, “Mack the Knife”, “Lonely Boy”, “Mr. Blue”, “Mingus Ah Um”, “Come Dance with Me”, “Kansas City”, and “Beyond the Sea” to name a few songs popular that year.
The power of music is that it evokes emotion. Music heard at a specific time and place can make us “Alive Inside” for years after. I’m not talkin’ about “golden oldies” or “oldies but goodies.” The power and magic of music is therapeutic. I hope I’m wrong but I worry that the music of today does not have the soul of the music of the past. I’m not talkin’ “soul music” I’m talkin’ music that speaks to the soul. I listen to Cassandra Wilson’s tribute to Billie Holiday “Coming Forth by Day” and recognize the talent of the singer, the musicians and arrangements but none of it touches me like Billie does. I attribute that to an emphasis on technical production rather than reaching deep within the human psyche for the feeling of “Good Morning, Heartache” or “Strange Fruit” in the way of Lady Day.

billieh

cwbh

What’s missing from today’s music? Artists may be subconsciously relying on technology rather than their own talent and emotional depth.

That’s where Icarus comes in. The meaning of the myth itself has been argued over the centuries. There’s even an Icarus complex in psychology textbooks. Daedalus told Icarus 2 things…don’t fly too high…don’t fly too low. I’d call that middle-of-the-road advice. He didn’t heed the advice and for that I, like many other artists, admire him. Anne Sexton wrote…

To A Friend Whose Work Has Come To Triumph

Consider Icarus, pasting those sticky wings on,
testing that strange little tug at his shoulder blade,
and think of that first flawless moment over the lawn
of the labyrinth. Think of the difference it made!
There below are the trees, as awkward as camels;
and here are the shocked starlings pumping past
and think of innocent Icarus who is doing quite well:
larger than a sail, over the fog and the blast
of the plushy ocean, he goes. Admire his wings!
Feel the fire at his neck and see how casually
he glances up and is caught, wondrously tunneling
into that hot eye. Who cares that feel back to the sea?
See him acclaiming the sun and come plunging down
while his sensible daddy goes straight into town.

Matisse’ Icarus is a puzzling image. Is he flying or falling? I’m not sure it matters in the end. I paraphrase Matisse’ words written on the page across from Icare in “Jazz”…upon graduation young people should fly to get another perception of the world they live in.

Icare

At the end of Chapter 1, Jim Collins, a modern day Icarus, wishes for something he doesn’t have.

SONG #2…





Icarus’ First Song

22 04 2015

The novel “Songs of Icarus” begins with this song.

Chuck Berry’s original lyrics

The People passing by, they would stop and say
Oh my that little colored boy could play

were changed to

The People passing by, they would stop and say
Oh my that little country boy could play

Chess Records wanted the song to play on white radio and in the 50’s there were no songs about “colored” rock stars being played on white radio. So Chuck changed the lyric and sang it like this in 1958…

In that video the audience is all-white. Typical of the times in the South.

Chuck’s longtime friend and piano player was Johnnie Johnson. It is said that he inspired Chuck’s guitar riffs with his piano. The song itself is autobiographical and about Chuck’s musical journey from St. Louis, not New Orleans.

Johnnie Johnson died 10 years ago last week. Here’s his obit from the NYT…

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/14/arts/music/14johnson.html?_r=2&

Jim Collins goes on his own journey in “Songs of Icarus.” It’s much different from Johnny B. Goode’s but without Chuck’s music there would have been no journey at all for Jim.

Here’s Chuck singing his song with some other rock ‘n’ rollers over the years…

BTW an A/R man turned Yoko’s mic off when they played this tune. He has been thanked profusely over the years. Mostly by musicians.

NO MICS WERE TURNED OFF FOR THIS ONE

OR THIS ONE





The Song That Got Away

12 04 2015

As soon as the 40-somethings or younger see a black-and-white TV image you’ll be off to another blog. I don’t blame you. But here’a a tidbit to chew. Before Domenico Modugno sang this song Italian singers stood motionless when singing. He broke the tradition…

Thanks to a friend for sending me the story behind the song inspired by Marc Chagall…

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volare_%28song%29

For me “Volare” is the song that got away because it was one of the songs of Jim Collins in my novel “Songs of Icarus” in an early draft. I was using lyrics of songs as part of the story but when I found out that was going to be legally troublesome I went through the book and removed more than 100 partial song lyrics. Not an easy thing for me but it had to be done to stay away from copyright infringement in the litigious US. If there’s a second edition of “Songs of Icarus” direct mention will be made of the song. Right now Page 212 contains an indirect reference. The book can be found here…

http://booklocker.com/books/7143.html

This week I made a new friend. As usual during the getting-to-know-you I asked, “What do you do?” His answer was, “I am a pilot.” I took a deep breath – “Did you always want to fly?” “Oh yes, from when I was a little boy.” I didn’t tell him about my dreams of writing “Songs of Icarus.”

Repression of the sub-conscious works in strange ways. I think it’s part of being human to want to fly. Why else would there be an Icarus myth. I never consciously knew how big a thing it was with me to fly and I never knowingly wanted to be a pilot, but I did have a recurring dream about flying. One day long ago I was talking to a psychiatrist friend of my ex-wife about my novel. I told him I wanted to be a writer for a long time. His eyes got that look of ohh-I-get-it then he said, “Of course it’s a deferred dream.”

Langston Hughes wrote about them in “Harlem”…

langston hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

In my life “Songs of Icarus” is part of a continuing explosion that will only end when John Donne’s Meditation XVII bell tolls.





Viviendo en tiempo yucatecos a la balneario (Read – Living on Yucatecan time at the beach resort)

4 04 2015

bienvenidos

Welcome! One of Yukalpeten’s best words. I was there yesterday. It’s Semana Santa (Read – Holy Week) in Mexico. For a country as poor as this one I find it comforting to share with the people their love of sea and sand if not their God or gods. As a Taoist I believe in the flow of life – light changing to darkness and darkness changing to light. It’s part of my DNA double helix and most of the time I follow the teachings found in the I Ching – modesty, tolerance, forgiveness, control of the ego and its demands.

Nearby Progreso is more well known on the Gulf of Mexico. Yukalpeten is a place for middle class families to sit in the sun or the shade and enjoy tiempo cualidad (Read – quality time). The state-operated balneario charges 30 pesos (Read – 2 bucks) to get in. Unfortunately only 30 pesos keeps out most of the poor – so many can not afford 30 pesos here.

Hammocks can be really dangerous. Mi novia y su familia (Read -my girlfriend and her family) follow the family tradition of BYOH – Bring Your Own Hamaca – and tie it to the roof.

pasadia

What is not pictured is a Philadelphia-Whitemarsh Rugby Club gringo with creaky knees getting into and out of his hammack. It was a sitcom for the Mexicanos to watch. In my younger days my face would redden from the sun and anger but now it’s laugh and the world laughs with you. Why not with a view like this…

ypbeachview

The mid-afternoon ritual is to sit under the BIENVENIDOS sign eating. Whole fish caught in the morning are cooked in vats of olive oil and served with ceviche and ensalada. A kilo (Read – 2.2 lbs.) of pescado frito (Read – fried fish) costs 160 pesos (Read – a little over $10). Ask any fisherman or anyone else for that matter. Fresh caught fish are as good as it gets with a cerveza fria (Read – cold beer).

The downside – you have to stand in line and wait for the fish to be cooked. It can take a while with so many people to feed. It brought to mind Christ multiplying those baskets of fish. No need for loaves of bread there were enough tortillas for everybody.

The upside – everybody is friendly and chatting while they wait.

20697_1588071771464955_592237207862296440_n

For some reason or other I don’t miss Philly or LA.





The Cruelest Month

2 04 2015

tSeliot_1497765ca

April started yesterday. Why did T. S. Eliot deem it so? Most of us know the opening words of “The Waste Land.” What comes after gives us a clue.

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

And so begins the first part (The Burial of the Dead) of a poetic masterpiece. Have we buried poetry? A friend asked me that question yesterday. Some still write it, but few read it. This is a new age. The hip-hop world has no time for elaborate mysticism. If it’s dirty put it down, bro. Down and dirty.

What was goin’ on with ole Tom when he wrote the 20th century’s most well-known lines? Well for one thing he had been working at the bank and had to get away. The guy had a mental breakdown. Who wouldn’t working with Lloyd’s of London? I know because I worked with some of them back in the day when I was a computer techie. Eliot went to the Albermarle Hotel in the English seaside resort Margate. Tom and I have something in common. I used to watch Russell vs Chamberlain at The White House owned by Red Klotz of the Washington Generals and party at The Gables dance club. My Margate is in New Jersey though.

whmargate

Everyday in Margate TS took a tram, watched the sea and wrote. It was after his time in Margate he changed the poem’s title. Ezra Pound suggested that he do so. It was originally called “He Do the Police in Different Voices” based on a Charles Dickens’ quote. I doubt with that title it ever would have become the most important poem of its time, however Jay Z would have recorded it.

Why “The Waste Land”? Could it have been in reaction to Margate’s Dreamland? Dreamland was the newly given name of the amusement park in Margate. It had been re-modeled after Coney Island in New York in 1920 by John Henry Iles who set up parks all over the world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dreamland_Margate

In 2008 Dreamland caught on fire and became its own wasteland.

firedream

firedream2

It’s scheduled to re-open this year.

Maybe you’d like to mix memory with desire and stir a dull root with spring rain…

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176735





Eavesdropping Cowboy

26 03 2015

merida-yucatanpunto

If you were in Merida’s Zocalo yesterday you may have seen 2 old men sitting in a cafe over morning coffee. As a young man I wondered what those ‘old guys’ had to talk about. These 2 seemed pretty engaged in their conversation. So I listened in.

They were proud of the women in their lives. Both of them hard-working Mexicanas.

They were writers – one non-fiction, the other fiction. They had both been in the US Army. One had spent the better part of his 2 years in Special Services playing basketball, the other spent more than 2 years ‘touring’ Vietnam. Such is the roll of the dice for a soldier.

They talked about movies – Platoon (the real deal when it came to depicting soldiers), Full-metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now. They had different views on American Sniper. One had seen the latest Liam Neeson flick and liked it. What’s become of the ‘Cowboy’ movie? One’s favorite was Tombstone with Val Kilmer – the dialog was how they really talked in the Old West. The other Shane. How could anything be better than Alan Ladd and Brandon De Wilde as seen through the eyes of a 12 year-old(his age when he saw it)? “Come back Shane, come back!”

Books – their own and others. The Kite Runner by Khaled Husseini. Cities of Salt by Abdul Rahman Munif. Those Afghans and Arabs wrote stories with a lotta heart. Sure do miss American novels written with that kind of truth.

How much and how fast the world is changing. One remembered talking to an old, old native American who saw the ‘white man’s wagon trains.’ So much info, so little time to absorb it all. The difference in what it takes to get a PH. D. Used to be you had to know everything in your field and find a hole in the research. Now it’s find a hole and fill it.

Finally, concern for future generations especially their kids and grandkids. Human DNA hasn’t changed but human perception has. Can we comprehend it all? The Conquistadores and the tribes of Mexico and Latin America did some awful things in their time. Same thing is happening today. Most of it is done now as it was done then – in the name of God.

As they parted one of them said, “Congratulations on the book!”

I looked him in the eye and knew our late-in-life friendship would last until the end.

Go here for more of my work…

https://williamsnyderjrpubs.wordpress.com/








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