Posts Tagged ‘#death’

“Night” was written in 1980 by a good friend of mine. I have mentioned him before in earlier posts as TR. (Tom Robinson). This is a great song from the past. I loved playing this in our group or as a duo with TR. I love the rhythm and intro motif.

The subject of the lyrics are familiar to me. Driving at night. Getting away. Pondering life and eventual death in the dead of the night are right up my alley!

I recorded the guitar track and wrote the MIDI drum parts to fit the groove and the opening motif. Then I re-recorded the guitar and added bass guitar from computer modules. Then it was time to add vocals and do the mix. I hope you enjoy this gem.

“Night” (C) 1980 Tom Rominson

Night is a ride you just get in a car and go cruisin on. On past the light of the city lights to the cool dark air. Night is a plunge into twinkling depths that can still your mind. Washing your wounds in nature’s rain, her fountains everywhere.

So let the magic continue while you search for an answer within you. And see that swiftly you fly. ‘ ‘Cause we always knew you had to die sometime.

Taking a life is a crime and you know you’re the victim everyday. They gave you a name and a story, not they’re showing you the way. Day is a desert of calendar deadlines, your life an empty phrase. London Bridges falling down, and the rent you got to pay.

But they can’t poison your fantasy in this refuge from insanity. You’ll be here till you kill the lie. And we all know you’re gonna die sometime.

Night is a ride you just get in the car and go cruisin’ on. On past the light of the city lights to the cool dark air. Night is a plunge into twinkling depths that can still your mind. Washing your wounds in nature’s rain, her fountains everywhere.

And when the story is over you will sleep in fields of clover. But your dreams will keep the night-time sky. ‘Cause we always knew you had to die sometime.

“Night” by Tom Robinson

Yesterday I heard that I lost another great friend and musical partner.  My sister called me last night to tell me there had been an accident and she did not have a lot of details, but a great friend of mine died yesterday.  I mentioned Ric Ahlers in my blog posts before.  He was the guitar player/vocalist in the first real band I was in called The Personal Touch.  He co-authored with me one of my favorite songs I called “For Those Who Wait“.  (With music it was titled: “Our Bodies Move“).

Ric was my brother-in-law and was looking for a keyboard player to start a duo to play locally and out on the road.  Though I had only dabbled with piano and was mostly a rhythm guitar singer-songwriter, he gently persuaded me to join him.  Then for about three months he patiently guided me as I learned not only how to play keyboards (not just piano, but all the other sounds keyboard players are responsible for), but also a bunch of popular cover tunes for the first time.  He was way ahead of me as far as knowledge and talent (I try to take my own advice and play with musicians that are better than me!) and had played out before.   We also played our original songs as part of our normal set list.  He had more confidence in me than I did, but I guess that is a familiar story to my blog readers.

We started as a duo and played local clubs.  We had a full sound as we both sang (as well as we could) and I played my 12 string guitar and the keyboards and later programmed drum machines.  He played lead guitar and also controlled a drum machine with an accompaniment triggered by his  bass pedals that played bass and added filler strings and piano chords.  We could play anything from classic standards to Jimi Hendrix tunes and fit into a very small space.

He sat while playing guitar and kicking his bass pedals.  He stood over 6 foot 10!  Some people would come up to shake his hand after a tune and jump back as he stood up to talk to them!!

He was as tall sitting as I was standing and it really surprised people and caught them off guard.  I would have to warn him about low ceiling fans at hotels and lobbies!  We added Ann Ellis as a vocalist and traveled around the county as a trio in his van.  THOSE WERE THE DAYS!

Life is not always easy but Ric was always a gentle giant.  With a heart just as big, he climbed back up if he got knocked down, and carried you on his shoulders if you could not keep going.  He is also family and we will all miss him and are stunned by the sudden loss of a great man in many ways.

 

In many cities and small towns throughout the globe, there are places where the living take comfort by visiting the dead.  Cemeteries provide a common burial place for relatives, ancestors and the unknown traveler.  Many believe these to be sacred grounds, spaces to reconnect and remember those before us.  For some a look ahead to our own mortality.  The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had a line I often think of from one of their songs called “Buy for Me the Rain”.  It looks at this from a slightly different angle; “Gravestones cheer the living, dear, they’re no use to the dead“.  All are valid thoughts and should be respected regardless of your personal views.   

 In my town there is a beautiful cemetery.  My wife and I have gone there for years to walk, watch spring take back the landscape and follow the seasons as winter inevitably returns. I often bring my camera as I cannot deny the beauty. People come there to paint, jog, stroll, get married and seek a type of peace hard to capture in the surrounding city.  The trees, surrounding lakes and flowers keep demanding our return.  Over the years I have taken many pictures and I would like to share a small sample with you.  This is where my mother and younger brother had their ashes placed, so it is a special place for me in so many ways.  While not intending to capture gravestones or monuments, they are a big part of its beauty.  Tourist attractions often include Spring Grove Cemetery for travelers and those not familiar with the city.  Fall is gorgeous there.  Peace can be felt there.  I hope some of these pictures will give you an idea why it draws so many people again and again. 

 

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/retrograde/id962542260

It may take a few times through listening to this one.  A number of my songs might seem quite alien at first.  I hope you let them grow on you.  (OK, that sounded kinda creepy LOL!) This is a textured song where I did all the sequencing and drum programming.  There are no guitars on this song.  Most of this is Atari days using the Proteus 1 tone generator an the RX 15 drum machine.  I also use sounds straight from the keyboard(s) I use as controllers.   In this case it is the Korg Trinity V3.  Other than the vocals, everything is recorded via MIDI and plays back live sounds from the keyboards and tone generators (along with effects and other goodies).   From start to finish this is a dark piece.  Sparse percussion with a rolling sequenced bass line.  You have heard my wife before on “All Night Long” and “What I do at Night” and this is another one of her gems.  The intro and break vocals are from Phyllis Ann, who toured with The Personal Touch and sang on “The Touch” and “Our Bodies Move.”   As the song begins I try to use multiple melody lines in various instrument voicings to lay the chordal structure.  Plucky guitar sounds come from the Korg.  Slow trance – lulling you closer.   Then the message; “Who’s Following You?”.  But the subject quickly settles on the main issue; death.  Too many of us are waiting for that dream.

“It’s Easy to Die” (@) MSK 1990

I wonder, I wonder who

Who, is following you.

It’s easy to die

You just close your eyes.

And then once the dream begins

It will never end. My friend.

Don’t put up a fight

Just follow the light.

It’s not too hard

And once the dream begins

It will never end.

Chorus:

It’s easy to turn

Your life into lies. My friend

And once the dream begins

It will never end.

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. The first birthday since she passed away last December.

I spend a lot of time blaming my mother – and parents in general for my musical interests and open minded philosophy.  They each gave me a lot.  But my parents divorced in a day when that was not accepted or supported.  Six children and single mom.  Everything was a struggle.  During all of the less fortunate times she managed to plug away toward her goals with her gentle influence.  We would do a lot of things other kids would not dream of and she encouraged many of them.  But we never wanted to hear her say to us she was disappointed in us…….  Having her disappointed was the worst punishment imaginable.

There is no way to know how she guided each of us through early years and then through puberty, early teens and inevitably into kids who knew it all.   I am just now putting them together piece by piece, here and there.  When my younger brother Chris got really sick I lived close and visited regularly.  I was his medical power of attorney and took care of his end of life affairs.  Radiation, Chemo, feeding tube, surgeries.  Emergency rooms to ICU to Hospice he never lost his smile and wonder.  He appreciated everything.  At the end I described him as mentally, financially, physically and emotionally exhausted.  It takes resources to fight back and he just did not have enough left at that time.

My mother also found out she had a number of cancers.  She chose not to take the normal treatments. She chose not to have the normal tests.  She chose me to help her with end of life like I did for Christopher.  She did not roll over and play dead if that is what you might be thinking.  She read and stayed up on current events. She exercised and researched better foods and diet.  She got out and enjoyed the change of each season and the change in weather.

Pauline was more interested in making us comfortable and taking care of her extended family than she was in complaining or moping.  She controlled her pain and as it got really bad she wanted to be able to have final word; to be able to think and communicate for fear she would have a stroke or complication and not be able to tell them not to resuscitate her.  She feared being a vegetable more than anything.  She was smart and educated and proud.  That was something she did not want to endure.  She did not.

When I grow up, I want to be just like her.  Birthdays don’t mean much to me – ask my kids – but this one did.  Happy Birthday, mom.

Believe it or not, MTV started off as a media outlet for – VIDEOS!  It was not what it is today.  Music videos were still relatively new and there were not that many out there but they started being produced in numbers once MTV provided an outlet for them. The Chicken or the Egg thing all over again.  I did not own any video equipment, but I was familiar with photography and music, so it was a natural interest for me.  Back then, cable companies were starting to set up monopolies in various cities throughout the US and we were in the Warner Amex territory.  As part of their agreement with the city to provide cable and other services, Warner Amex made some of their equipment and channels available to local citizens. They provided training and allowed non-profit citizens to go through camera and editing training and once completed you could schedule use of their equipment to create content for viewing on their Public Access channels.

I was one of the first (my card was # 000090!!) to sign up for the training classes.  I would borrow their equipment and film bands and live performances, family growing, along with a number of other projects.

My first project was to make a video that introduced the idea and benefits of the Public Access program, (we hoped if we had a complimentary message it would be good for PR and relationships with the people that administered the program, (we were right). and a music video idea we had been working on.  This is by definition low-budget and is dated by equipment and resources available today. But it was a learning experiment and was a lot of fun.  To do a lot of what we did it took a bunch of planning and trial and error.  I had been playing keyboards for a very short time and there are a bunch of mistakes, I was new with the video editing and production, but not this was not bad for the first release.  Usually, I am also the cameraman, but filming my own band required additional operators.  I edited the video from the collection of raw tapes and a live performance of the song.

This video features my younger brother as the narrator and the music is from the duo I was in at the time called, “The Personal Touch.”  The intro theme is a musical piece called “The Big D Jam”.  The video is based on a song the guitar player wrote called “Transaxle“.   We took vague ideas and filmed them all.  Then edited them into something semi-cohesive!  There are a bunch of funny stories that went into the making of Walking Man but I will spare you for now.  The end credits use a song of mine introduced earlier called “The Pleasure Tax“.

As with many of these blasts from the past, there are lots of good memories and a number of painful ones.  Looking at this video again so many years after, I see my youngest brother Chris in his healthy days doing the narrative part introducing the musical video before health problems including throat cancer took their toll.  This is when we thought we would last forever….. there was no end in sight.  We do not last for ever.  For him, the end was so close to the beginning.   We all have our vices, but with legal ones like tobacco and alcohol killing people every day, we all know someone that has been affected by the results. Here is the real message we should be sending; These drugs may not kill you.  You will not lose ten years of your life.  You will survive – and grow old – and suffer – for decades, with a disease that is eating you from the inside out. I am glad I was there to help him a little as he faced the end.  I would have given anything to find another path for him, but he knew where he was going.  It did not stop him and neither could I.

*Please see previous post if you are interested in the story behind why I wrote this song. *

Lost Love”   86 bpm  © MSK 6-2004

We’d been together just a little while

Each day melted into the other.

Daylight through the evenings we danced,

Completely consumed by one another.

As life went on our love got stronger.

My friends thought that it would never last.

I know all things come to an end.

Just didn’t think it would be so fast.

It’s been a long number of years now gone

How many more I don’t really know.

Everyday I try to say good bye,

but For some reason I just can’t let you go.

And he said, ‘son, if ignorance is bliss,

You must be a very happy man’.

Memories of your Lost Love might never go away,

But everyone else you love can.

Father and son, we were never far apart

Through ups and downs, good and the bad

We stood so proud; laughing together.

I’d wait forever but you won’t be back.

When my sister died I found myself crying.

Weeks upon weeks and still to this day

I realize I’m thinking about her

As I’m wiping my tears away.

Son, if ignorance is bliss,

You must be a very happy man.

Memories of your Lost Love might never go away,

But everyone else you know can.

Share what you have, help those in need

Focus on the people around you.

Ask us for help, talk to your friends

You’ll feel so much better when you do.

It’s been a long number of years now gone

How many more I don’t really know.

Everyday I try to say good bye,

But for some reason I just can’t let you go.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

Death is nothing new.  My father died of cancer when I was – well, to be honest, I do not really know. mid-twenties? early thirties?  How can a person be talented enough to write beautiful music and still be so lame when it comes to anything important?  I am not sure, but my family has had to deal with me for a long time.  My parents were divorced for years and I did not know him that well.  At the same time, I felt like I had known him forever.  He was never there through the most difficult times In my life and yet at the same time he never left.  Reading about loss of a loved one on other blogs it is clear many people do not feel that way.  The loss is real, it is crippling, it never ends and there is no comfort for the emptiness, no magic words.

I KNOW that wasteland.  Years later my younger sister died from a freak drowning accident.  I was prepared for the death of my dad (and grandparents, friends and distant family members before him).  I shared his love of life and his regrets during that brief time.   For my sister I had no defense.  I did not dwell on death, but if I considered it, it was almost a guarantee she would outlive me.  Surrounded by close family and friends I just started crying.  Talking, greeting, consoling, hugging, but through it all I cried.  I could not share her love of life or future dreams.  I could not speak to her of death; she was gone.  I thought we had so much more time left.  For days if I saw her picture or heard her name; I cried. Even this far forward I had to mentally prepare to write this intro.

Not long ago, my younger brother had to pay his pleasure tax.  Years of drinking and smoking caught up  and throat cancer started eating away at him.  The funniest and kindest guy you would ever know, he did not want to burden anyone with his problems.  I did the best I could to let him know he was not alone and did not have to go through that by himself.  We spent a lot of time together in those last few months.  As his medical power of attorney, I followed his direction.  I understood his desires and knew his demons.  Some things are still too painful to think about so I don’t.  But I do remember what a great human being he was.  We cried many times together and apart.  These days I smile thinking about him, and how great humanity can be.

Love is another type of loss but for all my education and experience over the years I could not tell you which loss is more devastating.  Family you live with and know all the cool things you learned and shared together.  A loved one you will never be able to learn and share future things with.  Loss of the past or loss of the future.  The wasteland seems to keep spreading out forever.  You will never get through it and nothing can replace it.

In the middle of the wasteland jumping all the way up to the moon seems more likely than getting through to the other side.  But it is the sense of loss that keeps us there.   My father is still with me, telling me “remember the past, but look forward, son.   Don’t blind yourself to the path out, seek it”. Hopefully, you will see that your loved ones are still with you.

This is a fairly recent song.  I happened to be going through my files to build a catalog of songs I have, songs in the works and ones I have co-written for a project.  Looking through papers here and there, rifling through files saved from one form of media to another, I found a set of lyrics entitled “Lost Love”.  I looked at it for a while and started reading the lyrics.  I did not recognize any of it, but it was my handwriting and as you will soon see, it is very personal.  I read them and thought,   I need to do something with this.

I have instruments in almost every room in my house.  A week earlier I had been playing a chord progression that was simple but captured a certain feeling or mood that I liked.  I ran upstairs and got the lyrics I mentioned.  I played the guitar with the lyrics in front of me and started to sound out where the lyrics fit in the progression.

Thinking the music and lyrics fell together beautifully, I went to my studio to lay down a rough version of the song.  I used one microphone and recorded the guitar and melody line.   This is “Lost Love“.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/dark-energy/id962943592

I have been busy lately and responses have been a little slow lately.  Work and projects are always taking up too much time, but it’s always the unexpected that throws you out of whack. While we had history, the recent reports of my mother-in-law’s health continued to decline recently.  She was 93, so we knew there would not be a lot of time left.  The death of family member or loved one is never easy.  As we get older, we travel this path more and more as those we grew up with grew old too.  There are very few friends and same generation family left if you live past 90.  Those alive probably no longer travel easily.

Her request was to have her ashes spread in the river in the same location her late husband’s ashes were released.

My daughter, Alisa, takes care of this blog for me and she lost her grandmother.  All the kids called my mother-in-law Nannan.  Shortly after midnight on Memorial Day 2015, Nannan did not hold on any longer.  This Memorial Day was for her.