Soundtrack of Life

Our lives seem to have soundtracks. Mine does. And different situations have their theme songs. I came of age during the renaissance of rock and roll, and that is still my emotional home. I like a song that says let’s party, dance, get stoned, make love, and fight the power. Soul and funk would be the exact middle of my taste. And I’ve always felt the Beatles were communicating directly with me.
So, I’m like millions of others. But that’s what makes art work, isn’t it, the sensation that the song is specifically about us. It’s my hand John Lennon wants to hold. And yours. And yours
I recently was going through a very difficult work related situation. I’d tell the cosmos—send me a message through the car radio. The gist of it was—pray we don’t get fooled again. Over and over. Let me just say I never ignore a cosmic message via rock and roll.
Now, in this current time of social crisis, I find my own sound track reassuring. I listen to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” for the inspiration it gave me the first time I ever heard it. I’ve kept up with the times enough so that I hear Lady Gaga belting “Born This Way” when I need to stand up for myself. Coming of age in the sixties, love and sex and rebellion have always been entwined in my mind. Romantic love—erotic energy—is almost always opposed to totalitarianism. I was thirteen when I first heard a recording of Gracie Slick singing “Somebody to Love.” Literally every hair on my body stood up. Something…something…was out there calling to me. Turns out, it was freedom.
A few months ago I was thinking idly that if it wasn’t for the blues and soul and funk I don’t know how I could have stayed alive all these years, endured. You can’t really say thank you to something as big as music, but today might be the time to try.
And I found this recently scrawled in my handwriting on the last page of an otherwise blank notebook:

still sweet
even the dumbest
songs of my youth.

Get Up Off Of That Thing

I love James Brown. But I realize I can take a number. This is sort of like saying you like Paris in the spring, or enjoy strawberries covered in chocolate. It’s easy to like great classics of any kind.
But I came to James Brown a bit late. My intro to soul music was the Supremes when I was quite young. I went back to roots a bit more slowly. My life has been plagued by what I’ll call “secondary sources.” That is, I thought the Doors wrote “Whiskey Bar.” I thought Blood Sweat and Tears wrote “God Bless The Child.” I thought T.S. Eliot wrote “Those are pearls that were his eyes.” O.K. I was ignorant. I probably heard Tower of Power sing “I’ll still be diggin on James Brown” before I really knew James Brown.
But that was long ago. I’ve been dancing to James Brown for decades, once very embarrassingly so. Clad in some less than attractive sweats, I was jumping up and down going “shake your money maker” when my young teen daughter poked her head in and recoiled in horror. “I know it’s not worth much,” I had to say, to her continued disgust. “Oh, get out,” I said. And she fled.
So it was a thrill to see the bridge dedicated to James Brown in Steamboat Spring, Colorado.

It is totally nondescript, in this otherwise charming tourist town.


You can read some back story at
And you can get up off of that thing and dance and you’ll feel better.