Tag Archives: music


In the hours before we say goodbye to February, 2014– a month in which I have been way too busy for comfort and have posted nothing on this blog– I’ll leave you with this– just to have touched down with this blog, for my own sake. I love this song and I love each of these interpretations of it. I love artists working off each other’s brilliance and making something new with something old or at least older. And I am burning to share more. Which I will do soon.

So here goes– The original. By Ellie Goulding.

And then the Maccabeats own beautiful, brilliant version.

And last but definitely not least, one of my recent favorites, Ashanti Floyd performing Burn.

music. joy. Ashanti Floyd

I’ve been sick. Bad sinus infection, bad, bad cough, asthma and laryngitis– voiceless for days. I whisper. I’m fine, I’m healing. My two girls at home and others have actually taken very good care of me, but nonetheless this particular version of sick, with many hours spent awake and coughing at night, means a lot of time alone. Tired. My sister had a surgery yesterday, her third in less than a year, for a problem which has recurred and which I hope will continue to be benign and which I hope will resolve altogether. Soon. So I have had her on my mind a lot and my wish for her health and longevity, how much I depend on her and want the best for her.

I’ve always loved music; and the music I love reaches in deep — birth, death, time passing, fighting for what is right, the depths of connection to the people I know and love, and the connection to the beautiful, vast, interesting, busy, heartbreaking, good world. I often love people who make music. It’s such a pro-human, pro-living, pro-world thing to do.

Last night as my daughter was going to sleep we (in this new kind of world, instead of reading together) pulled her iTouch over with us as she sat in bed, talking to me. She played me a few songs she’s been listening to and though I often like her taste, they didn’t do it for me at all. When she drifted off I searched on the few words I could remember of the now very popular song, Wake Me Up by Avicii (an artist I had never heard of until I searched the song) and found it immediately. I listened to it two or three times. Then I found this cover which is jaw-dropping joyful, alive, hopeful to listen to and to watch.

Rewrite. My life in music and my old friend I’ve never met. Paul Simon.

I love music.  I think most of us are wired to this language of feeling and memory.  When I was very young my parents had albums of classical music that affected and moved me to unstoppable tears.  I would often ask them not to play that music, because it made me too sad.  Too sad for a five-year old without enough of a venue for the heavy tears I seemed to need to cry.

Later, I discovered my own varied and eclectic musical taste and I chose things I liked and I listened a lot.   Music is  and often the backdrop that allows me to face grief and loss fully and honestly.  But music is often part of the scene when I can really feel that the world is good and that it is good– I mean extraordinarily good– to be alive.  I think I approach each day from the perspective that it is really good to be alive.  But I don’t think I am someone who actually feels that joyful, good-to-be-alive way every day.  Or even most days.

As I see my daughter getting older, facing the struggles of her world– which are big struggles– the struggles of class and race, the struggles of female internalized oppression and the harshness among girls, the struggles to learn and try new things and fit it all in and stay close to us and others and not get discouraged– I have been fighting myself, to be in touch, more and more often with a genuine, hopeful, it’s-great-to-be-alive feeling.  I do it for me and I do it for her.  Listening to music often helps me turn my mind toward the goodness of my life and of the world even with all its harshness and horror.

Paul Simon is one musician of my era, whose work I’ve loved since I was very young.  I was a lot younger and he was a lot younger when I first heard his music.  As I have grown older so has he and so has his work.  His music and something about his Jewish and generous and quirky sensibility all feel like reassuring, old friends to me.

The other day I heard on NPR, a great talk by a pop music critic about some of the critic’s favorite music of 2011.  Among many artists and albums the critic mentioned was a new album of Paul Simon’s– released earlier this year, “So Beautiful or So What”.   I had not heard of it.  (Do people still say “album”? or is that a total anachronism?)  But I digress.

I have always loved Simon’s music and his songwriting;  his interesting, intelligent and sometimes poetic, sometimes narrative, and often funny, lyrics.  His beautiful melodies, easy to sing along with but unpredictable and complex.  I love his voice, acoustic guitar, his use of whistling and every conceivable instrument.  He has done some remarkable collaborations with other singers and musicians.  Listening to his music makes me happy and the very fact of another human being engaged in the endeavor of making the kind of music he does, makes me happy.  Good-to-be-alive kind of happy.

And Paul Simon is definitely a big commercial success but he has eschewed a the of commercialism that seems less and less possible for younger musicians to eschew and still be heard.  He has pursued for more than 40 years, a kind of artistry that stands out our increasingly commercial, logo’d, PR’d, photoshopped, advertised, bought-and-sold world.

I fell in love with the song that was reviewed, called “Rewrite”.  Then I got curious and learned that Paul Simon turned 70 in October.  I must say there is something fabulous about a still-very- talented- popular singer-songwriter at 70.  And something ironic, poignant, and a little close to home–about his singing “Rewrite”.  After all, if we’re honest, don’t we all, especially as we get older, have parts of the story we’d rewrite if we could?

After “Rewrite” are three videos with Paul Simon, literally half his lifetime ago, on the Graceland tour in Zimbabwe, which was recorded and performed in collaboration with an astounding group of African musicians and singers; including Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masakela and Ladysmith Black Mambazo.  The recording and tour were set against the backdrop of a turning point in the world’s history– as freedom fighters were on the brink of ending apartheid in South Africa.

Under African Skies

Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes

Working out with iPod– Kidd Russell

On the first leg, the San Francisco leg of our spring break travel, I went to the YWCA several times with my friend, L.  She has mostly, throughout our long friendship in different cities, been more devoted to regular exercise than I– though I was, for a long time, a very regular two-to-three mile runner.  But a nerve problem in my foot and an infant put an end to that about 10 years ago.  L.’s children are older than my one child is– so for her it has been longer since the demands of parenting have required totally giving up on so many things that one does for oneself and while visiting I thought it would be great to follow her back into exercise.

On our first morning after we arrived, she said she was going to the Y to go to a spinning class and I said I was going with her.  I’d never been to a spinning class.  I’m not in the greatest shape.  When I do things like running or spinning on my own, I come up against a wall of hard feelings– feelings of it being too hard and feelings of it being impossible to go on.  In some ways I’ve understated this; I had very bad asthma as a very young child and sometimes when I’m exercising, that same feeling comes over me– same as when I was young having an asthma attack; “I can’t; I’m going to die.”  This feeling has certainly hindered my ability to get regular exercise that involves pushing past that feeling.

But L. has a wonderful sense of humor and this unstoppable, cascading laugh and with her on the bike next to me, looking over periodically and laughing hysterically about the absurdity of spinning and sweating all together, I found I was able to keep going way past the point I could have done on my own.  Not as long as the best of them but 38 minutes isn’t bad for someone as unexercised as I have been lately.  And I had to admit I kind of loved it.

When I came home I decided I would join a gym– I’ve not had a gym membership in years.  Recently strangers here and there have just begun acting very strangely toward me– it’s the particular sexism directed toward women who are, in someone’s eyes, older.  I rode the bus at rush hour the other morning with my partner and two 30-ish people asked my partner and me if we wanted their seats (we were standing).  I said, “oh no, thanks, I’m fine.”  But it didn’t end there and they must have interrupted our conversation three more times on a 10-block ride to see if we wanted their seats.

When I went to visit three gyms in order to choose one– they did something similar.  They talked in these strange condescending tones.  They asked me slowly if I’d ever belonged to a gym before (yes, yes, I have) and what I liked best about working out.  I laughed out loud and said, “I hate working out.  I hate it.  That’s why I’m so out of shape and why I’m looking to join a gym today.  Does that answer your question?”

Despite these silly, deflating sales pitches, I did join a gym.  I joined the one that was the cheapest, that is around the corner from my daughter’s school, that is walking distance from home– but has metered parking right out front where it is easy to park at most times of day.  I joined the gym with ugly tee shirts and no incentive to browse their “pro shop” and the one that doesn’t have lovely pitchers of water with mint and lemon wedges throughout the gym.  I joined a gym where I go in my sweat clothes and put my backpack down beside the machine and get aerobic exercise for about 40 minutes.  Then I pick up my stuff and go to another area and stretch and then I go home.  I don’t generally shower there, I don’t make friends, I don’t buy things and I don’t do anything except work my body harder than I do sitting at the computer.  I’m loving it.

Since I don’t have L. at my side, laughing– I generally bring my iPod.  I find music with a kind of lightness and a good, happy beat, or a driving soul or disco beat.  I recently found this guy– Kidd Russell– who’s from Chicago and whose song, She Feels Like Home to Me– does feel like home to me and keeps me moving– not quite, but a little like a friend to cheer me on.