The Manhattan Project--2016 A to Z Theme

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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lyrical Larry

      My guest today is Larry Cavanaugh, who is Blogging from A to Z on his music blog DisConnected.  He also writes on a more politically oriented blog called Back in the USSR.

       So far Larry is the only blogger I have actually met in person, an event which I wrote about here.  At this time I learned about Larry's talent for writing song lyrics and later I was fortunate to obtain several of his self-published books of lyrics.  After having read this talented man's lyrics I asked him if I could introduce this side of him to my readers.   And now I'd like you to meet Larry Cavanaugh.

    
Can you start out by telling a bit about yourself?

Larry Cavanaugh at age 20

        Born in the Sixties, product of the Seventies. A high school English teacher sparked my interest in writing and introduced me to my favorite musician, Todd Rundgren (more on that below). Entered college as an English major, succumbed to the pressure to find work and graduated with an Accounting major and a writing minor. Continued to write while working on a CPA certificate, travelled the world as an auditor, fell in love and fell out of love a few times, kept writing, got tired of traveling, relocated to Arizona, had one last romance and threw in the towel. Am an avid music collector, and still work in accounting and listen to Todd Rundgren.



How and when did you get started songwriting?

          As a kid, I was always writing stories. They started out as crudely drawn comic books with my friend Chris providing the finishing art, and by junior high they were mostly science fiction and fantasy (a reflection of what I was reading at the time). In high school, I encounter Tom Williams, an English teacher who taught me that even though most of my friends were not achieving academically, it did not make me less their friend to perform at my best in class, helped me grow up, and inspired me to write my first poem


         He brought into class an album entitled Ra by a band called Utopia, and played the eighteen minute song “Singring And The Glass Guitar (An Electrified Fairy Tale).” The point of this exercise was to show the class that a short story (the assignment) could take many forms. I loved this album, and went out and purchased it that weekend, beginning a love affair with the music of Todd Rundgren that continues to this day. While I ended up writing a short story in the traditional sense (I was having trouble getting the fantasy lyrics to work), I started writing song lyrics pretty much as fast as I could churn them out.

Where do you find your inspiration?


A more recent photo of
Larry Cavanaugh

            Interesting question, and I’m not sure I really know. I think I need strong emotions to inspire me. My writing has dropped off precipitously the last decade, which coincidentally began with the ending of a romantic relationship that had been on-and-off for some fifteen years, and I was very much in love with the lady. When I started writing as a teen, I was “in love” every other week (like most teenagers have a tendency to think), so the words came easily. I was also passionate about other things, so I tried my hand at protest songs, songs about finding your path in life, etc. I lost two people close to me in my thirties, and there were a lot of songs that came from the grief that asked questions about what it (life) all means.


         Interestingly enough, depressed moods do not inspire me to write (not that I get depressed all that often).     It really seems to be emotions born of passion (love, anger, jealousy) that fuel my fire, so to speak.     Maybe I’ve had it too good the last decade…


Do you have an idea in your head of how you'd like a song to sound and what styles do you prefer?

          Sometimes, yes-the melody will come to me and the words will just flow. Sometimes a line will occur to me and I’ll build the rest of the lyric around it. The styles are usually classic rock, ranging from ersatz Springsteen to arena rock, with a lot of Rundgren influences thrown in (big surprise there, huh?). As much as I like progressive rock, you really need to be more of a musician for that. I will often have progressive ideas, but since lyrics are secondary, there’s nothing to anchor those ideas in my mind. Most of the lyrics you’ve read have a melody that I still remember, for some as many as thirty years later.

Have any of your lyrics ever been actually put to music and recorded or performed?

          Only three have been recorded (to my knowledge), two in demo form and one was the flip side of an indie 45 release by a Philly band back in the 80’s. That’s the only one that I am sure of that has been performed live. Finding musicians to collaborate with has always been somewhat harder than I’d expected.

In your thinking, what is the difference between lyrics and poetry.

            Poetry has some fairly rigid rules around structure. Sure there is free form poetry, but usually the expectation is there for a certain rhyme pattern, and certain metre. You can get away with a little more with a song lyric-you can cheat on rhymes easier, and squeeze in extra syllables in a line since the singer will just make it fit to the music. Try that with a poem and it will often throw the reader off.

          Of course, that’s my opinion-there are a lot of poets out there who would disagree, I’m sure.


         When I started writing, I had fantasies of making a living at songwriting. Sadly, there’s not much of a market for poetry, and most poets that see their work in print are self-published. Nothing wrong with that (I did it with the lyric collections), but hard to pay the rent that way.


         Now if some aspiring young musician were to turn just one song lyric into a hit…

Can we obtain any of your lyric books and how would we go about it?

Well, I have a few left. I guess one could e-mail me at lmcava@yahoo.com with the subject line LYRIC BOOK and we’d work something out. If there was enough interest, I’d see about getting additional copies printed.

What are your writing plans for the future?

Lately, it’s been mostly checks. I’ve gotten quite good at it.

Can we see an example of one of your lyrics?

          I wrote this when my younger sister was dying of cancer. She was one of my best friends, and this was a dark time for me. It was hard to see any sense, or order, in life when one of the best people I knew was dying (she died two months later at age 34) from a disease that I can only characterize as evil.      
                  I SEE HEAVEN



I saw a man with a sign that read ‘God Is Dead’
As I pondered this, I scratched my head
Guess he had a point-how else do you explain AIDS?
Then I thought and I thought and I thought some more
Thought so much ‘till my brain got sore
Had the man lost his faith? Maybe he was just afraid.


Cause if you look closely you can see God’s hand
In a flower’s bloom, in every blade of grass
In the light of a full moon-in every sun rise
I see heaven when I look in your eyes


Heard a lady on the subway screaming “Where is God?”
As I listened to her, I found it odd
But with cancer in the world, who am I to debate?
Then I got to my knees and I prayed for a sign
But I got no answer or else I was blind
I was scared for a moment-afraid we were too late


Then I heard a bird’s song in the morning light
And knew that God was near day or night
Every rainbow is a sign of His grace
I see heaven when I look at your face


(acoustic guitar break with harmonica)


And if you search hard enough you will see the signs
Of the miracles that God has left behind
In every wonder of beauty He placed His clues
I see heaven when I look at you


Copyright 1998 by Laurence M. Cavanaugh


*************
          People like to say “God has a plan.” I don’t believe that. Yet, I do believe that there is something we can learn from everything. Her suffering and death taught me to live life a day at a time. As clichéd as that sounds, you really should enjoy what you’re doing today, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. I wrote this for Mary Anne, who is still missed more than a decade later, and for Eileen, who was a pretty important part of my life at the time.

        This is intended to be played folksy/bluesy, with an acoustic guitar, accompanied by a harmonica.




      Thank you Larry for taking some time to share your lyrical talents with us today.  Be sure to stop by to say hello to Larry at DiscConnected.    And if you're looking for something deeper and more controversial visit his other blog Back in the USSR.   Either way be sure to let him know you learned about his blogs here on Tossing It Out.




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37 comments:

  1. Interesting individual with a very good taste in music. Nice interview.

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  2. What a great introduction to somebody lots of us wouldn't otherwise have met! Thank you.

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  3. Thanks for sharing Larry and his music with us. Happy Thursday! :o)

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  4. Thanks for the interview Lee a most interesting person and those words he wrote at the end was awesome.

    Yvonne.

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  5. Cavanaughs rock!
    I don't write out of depression either, Larry.

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  6. sounds like a great man, and for a moment I thought he was related to Alex!

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  7. Nice interview! If I could write lyrics, I would be telling everyone. Writing the lyrics has always seemed way cooler to me than actually being able to sing.


    Dafeenah

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  8. Siv -- And Larry really does know about the music scene. Just take a look at some of his A to Z entries.

    Amie -- Larry has kept a pretty low profile, but his blogs deserve some more readers.

    Seams -- Thanks for stopping by today.

    BZ -- Appreciate your reading this.

    Yvonne -- You and Larry have something in common.

    Alex -- You guys must be related somewhere along the line!

    Dezmond -- He may be a distant cousin. I wonder if either of them has done the genealogical research to find out?

    Dafeenah -- They are both neat talents and dependent on one another.

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  9. Good to meet you Lyrical Larry. Best wishes for your music.

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  10. Another interesting post and an education I would not have received had I not found you, Lee. Thank you for that and for introducing us to Larry.

    Larry, your lyrics are beautiful. Thank you!

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  11. Really nice interview. I think as a kid many writers aspire to be songwriters.

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  12. @Dafeenah
    I agree. I think writing the song and coming up with a melody is definitely the hard part.

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  13. I love this post, being a poet who also write songs.
    I chose to list the lyrics to my hubby's and my song in today's post.

    http://fredasvoice.blogspot.com/2011/04/l-is-for-lyrics.html

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  14. Stephen -- Larry is a nice guy too. Make sure you drop by to visit him.

    San -- Glad you got back into the blogging world!

    D. Heath -- Songwriting and other writing pretty well go hand in hand since it's all writing. Often a song is like flash fiction put into verse and adding music.

    Fredamans -- I will have to check it out!

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  15. Larry sure is a fascinating fellow. I liked that line about travelling the world as an auditor. Auditors can be versatile!

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  16. Great interview, Lee. Interesting guy --Larry. I am a little sad that love and he haven't made a match.
    I guess the romantic in me.

    MM the Queen of English
    http://queenofenglish.wordpress.com/this-is-a-new-page/

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  17. Great interview. Loved the lyrics. =D

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  18. Lisa -- I've been missing you! Yes, Larry can come up with some clever things.

    Queen -- I'm kind of sad too, but love can come when least expected. Larry does have a great passion for his music though and that's pretty neat.

    RaShelle-- Glad that you stopped by today.

    Kierah-- So good to hear from you! Larry has a lot of very beautiful lyrics that he has written.

    Lee

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  19. Awesomely excellent post, Lee - it gave me goosebumps towards the end.

    I'll be popping over to check out Larry's sites, per your recommendation.

    And...thanks so much for including my blog in your rounds. I have really enjoyed your comments.

    Happy thoughts, Jenny

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  20. My post is up and is all about me today ... L for Laura.

    http://mom2nick.typepad.com/heres_whats_new/2011/04/l-is-for-laura-.html

    Thanks for looking.
    Laura T.

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  21. Ah, c'mon, I KNOW Larry, man, and he ain't ALL THAT.

    OK, I jest. Actually, Alex is right, "Cavanaughs Rock!" (Hate to admit it, but it's twue.)

    I was so relieved when I came across this line in Larry's song lyrics:

    "Every rainbow is a sign of His grace"

    Because otherwise I was going to raise a big stink about the rainbow on the wall behind Larry in that first photograph and start accusing him of alternative lifestyle choices (not that there's anything wrong with that).

    [L.C.'s gonna kill me when he sees me later today. Pray for me, People!]

    In all seriousness, L.C. really is one of "the good guys", and the dude is also a real good lyricist. I've read most of his lyric books, and the poem/song he submitted here isn't even close to being one of my favorites.

    One last thing (maybe I ain't got no authority or right to disclose this but...) I learned last night, straight from the Larry's mouth, that he is thinking of soon abandoning his political blog BACK IN THE USSR due to lack of readership. This is one of my very favorite blogs that I “Follow”! In fact, as I told Larry: “Yours is the second best political blog out there!” (see, I have a political blog too. ;o)

    I told Larry that if he MUST abandon one blog, he should abandon the music one instead. But he don’t listen to nuttin’ I say anyway.

    PEOPLES! Start “Following” and commenting on BACK IN THE USSR before we lose a very entertaining “Constitutionalist” blog. There aren’t enough of them out there now and we can’t afford to lose the few that we have.

    Go! Read! Comment! (Be Funny!… or at least be “Right”.)

    ~ D-FensDogg
    ‘Loyal American Underground’

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  22. will definitely have to check his blog out

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  23. I have to agree with McCarthy...this guy sounds like a bum!

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  24. For the record-my girlfriend took that picture in her dorm room.

    She got back in touch recently and sent me that picture...it was humbling....now there's less hair and more stomach-not a fair trade.

    No rainbows on my wall...not that there's anything wrong with that.

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  25. Jenny -- Wish I could visit everyone's blog everyday but you know how that goes. By all means definitely check out Larry's blogs--both of them.

    Laura -- I'll check it out.

    StMc-- If Larry abandons any of his blogs I hold you personally responsible. You're the guy that starting all this business about abandoning blogs. You're saying you're just going to walk away. Where're you going? Somewhere over the rainbow?

    becca -- I hope you not only check out Larry's blogs, but keep going back.

    Larry -- Thanks for being the subject of my post today! And I'll bet when that photo was taken rainbows had a whole different meaning.

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  26. Thanks for the interview, I love getting different perspectives. He said that he doesn't really write when depressed. I'm the opposite, I write more when I'm depressed ... which leads to depressing reads for others. When things are good I don't feel the need to write, I'm too busy enjoying life and having fun.

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  27. What an nice interview and those lyrics that he wrote for his sister are moving.

    I especially like his humor and hope that he'll continue doing well writing those checks, lol.

    The Madlab Post

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  28. I really enjoyed reading this interview and loved how he shared those pictures of himself! I hope some of those cheques he writes have his name in the receiver line.

    And the song....wow! Wishing you had an embedded video of Larry paying his song....just saying!

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  29. GREAT interview.

    we can learn from our experiences , agree his point of view in the end,

    beautiful L take.
    Happy Friday.

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  30. Well Larry sounds like an interesting man indeed!
    Love Di ♥

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  31. Lee-

    Thanks for doing the piece of me-I am honored.

    You sure have a lot of lady readers. Take note, any of you single ladies-he's single, has a job and is not gay, no matter how many rainbow jokes that Stephen T. McCarthy makes!

    Thanks to everyone for the kind comments.

    I must confess to being lax on visiting blogs this past week (a lot of work-still there as I type this). I knew that would be a challenge for this blogfest.

    So while I probably do not comment on your blogs as often as I should due to time constraints, I do read many of them and find a lot of interest.

    A lot of writing talent in this group.

    LC

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  32. Great interview, as always....
    This April experiment has introduced me to some pretty interesting people.

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  33. Spenc -- when it comes to songs and poetry I too have a greater tendency to write when I'm depressed.

    Nicole -- I find Larry to be a very pleasant guy.

    Lynn -- I would like to hear some recorded version of his songs as well.

    Jingle -- Thank you so much!

    Diana -- He does seem to have a lot of interests and a broad knowledge of music.

    Larry -- Thank you for being here today. Does work let up after tax day? There are a lot of blogs that need to be visited.

    Andrew -- Thanks. Yes I too have found so many great blogs and there are so many I haven't made it to yet.

    Lee

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  34. Well lots of the names in this post are new to me. I loved the song lyrics. Very good :O)

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  35. What a great interview. I love to hear about people's other talents, like your juggling. It's nice that he continues to write lyrics, despite not selling them. He writes from the heart.

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