This Is Me--2024 A to Z Theme

My A to Z Themes in the past have covered a range of topics and for 2024 the theme is a personal retrospective that I call "I Coulda Been" which is in reference to my job and career arc over my lifetime. I'll be looking at all sorts of occupations that I have done or could have done. Maybe you've done some of these too!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Prelude to a Postlude

       A few months back while exploring my vinyl collection I rediscovered an album by an obscure group named Thorinshield.  It's an album I used to enjoy listening to but then forgot until my rediscovery.  One song in particular has been haunting me.  I used it as part of my April A to Z series on my memoir blog Wrote By Rote.  I include it here:

          Coming Friday August 1st!!

         I think "Prelude to a Postlude" is a lovely song, but my song pick for the next Battle of the Bands post is one that I think is absolutely beautiful--or perhaps the word is heavenly.   The song fits in the category of jazz, but I don't necessarily think of it as a particularly jazzy tune.  Be here on Friday to take a listen and vote on your favorite of the two versions I have to offer in this next contest.

          What songs have you rediscovered years after first having heard them?   Do you enjoy melancholy songs?   I haven't offered many clues on my upcoming song picks, but would you want to venture a guess based on the information I've given?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The State of Edjucashun inn Amerika (w/ BOTB results)

Abandoned School
Abandoned School (Photo credit: Atelier Teee)

        Recently I was on the internet making some motel reservations and while doing so I read through the reviews on the travel sites I visited.  I was amused by some of the grammar and spelling errors in these reviews.  After reading some of the funnier ones to my daughter, she wondered why some of these people didn't bother to read back over what they'd written to correct errors.  My suggestion was that it probably didn't matter because this was probably the way they wrote and they wouldn't even notice the writing errors they had made.

        I suppose that some of the poor writing could be attributed to people having written their reviews on their phones or whatever devices people use in lieu of actual typing on a keyboard.  I think that a lot of people actually have truly bad grammar and spelling skills and these reviews reflect that level of poor education.  Whatever the case, I wonder about the education of today's young people.  Do we fault the schools?  The parents?  The culture?  The kids?   And now Common Core is being instituted in schools throughout the United States.   I wonder if they'll include "Text speak" as part of the language program.

        At least teach kids how to spell...

Battle of the Bands Results:  The Banjo Song

        Speaking of spelling, there was some annoyance about the spelling out of the word "banjo" in the song used in my most recent Battle, "The Banjo Song".  The spelling out of words in songs is quite common so I was surprised that some of the voters did not like this song gimmick.  It's mostly a novelty idea from the standpoint of songwriting.   Spelling words in songs does not particularly annoy me though I'm not overly fond of ditties such as the folk song "Bingo" or the "Lollipop Song" that I used to hear my sister sing.  "Lollipop" was a reworking of the George M Cohan song "Harrigan".

          The bottom line is that not many of the voters in this contest even liked "The Banjo Song".  Not only did they not like the song, many did not like the artists whose versions were presented.  Tough contest.  Neil Young won by default I would say.  A few--myself included--are Neil Young fans.  I'm an avid Neil Young fan.  But I also enjoyed the version by The Big 3.  As many of you know, I like a wide spectrum of music and often go against the grain of the more common tastes of the majority of the population.  What can I say? There's no accounting for taste sometimes.

          My vote went to Neil Young.  Of course.  And even if I had voted otherwise, Neil Young would have won handily.

         The final tally:

    Neil Young and Crazy Horse 15 votes

     Big 3       4 votes

     My next Battle of the Bands pairing will take a real turn.  It's an incredibly beautiful tune first done by a jazz artist.   Be here on August 1st to vote on the next Battle.

      Do you think modern media has had an adverse effect on language?   Are many kids today coming out of the educational system knowing less than kids in the past?   Should we be concerned about Common Core?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Battle of the Bands: The Banjo Song (Oh! Susannah)

Battle of the Bands!!!!

       I may be on summer vacation but the Battle of the Bands goes on.   This is the blogging event first kicked off by our blogging friends at Far Away Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends.  You'll want to visit their Battles after you finish with mine and check out the links listed at the bottom of this page.  You can even mount your own Battle--if you do then let us know in the comments so we can vote on yours.

         Here's how the Battle works:   Listen to the song clips in the blog post and then in the comment section vote on the one you like the best.   When you vote please tell us why you voted the way you did.  Long explanations are always welcomed.   After a week or so I'll tally the votes and announce them in an upcoming blog post.   Please do vote though so your favorite choice can be counted.

The Banjo Song

        In my previous Battle I presented versions of the song "Oh! Susannah" by Stephen Foster, one of America's greatest songwriters.   "Oh! Susannah" is one of the most recorded songs in the United States and one that most everybody has heard in one form or another.  Singer/songwriter Tim Rose wrote "The Banjo Song" based on the lyrics of Foster's song but there's little in common beyond that.  The Battle presented here pits two very different takes on "The Banjo Song" against each other.

The Big Three "The Banjo Song"  (1963)

          Get ready for some crazy connections with this song.   First of all if the female singer looks a bit familiar it's because it's "Mama" Cass Elliot before she was a "Mama" in the Mamas and the Papas.  "The Banjo Song" is actually Tim Rose's composition using the lyrics of Foster's original "Oh! Susannah", but the two songs are very dissimilar.   However there is a "shocking" similarity between Rose's song and a much bigger hit that came along later.   Listening to "The Banjo Song" you will undoubtedly think of the song "Venus" first recorded by Shocking Blue and later in 1986 by Bananarama.   Dutch songwriter Robbie van Leeuwen was inspired by "The Banjo Song" but Tim Rose never pursued a plagiarism suit.   Maybe it was different enough for Rose or perhaps he was flattered by the imitation.   Listen to "The Banjo Song"--isn't "Venus" essentially the same song with new lyrics and a more rocking instrumental arrangement?  No matter what, they're both pretty decent songs.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse   "Oh Susannah" (2012)

        On the liner notes of Neil Young's Americana album this song is listed as "Oh Susanna" but really it's Tim Rose's "The Banjo Song".    Maybe they figured "Oh Susannah" was more marketable, it being one of the all-time American hit songs.   Young & his band really rock this one out giving a passing salute to Stephen Foster's classic.  By the way, the depression era footage depicted in the video is pretty strange if you want to check it out.  

Time to Vote!

         You probably have a strong preference between these two.    Even if you don't like the song at all, there must be one version you'd rather listen to over the other.  Which one is it?   Tell us now and tell us why.   Whatever you do, please vote on one of them.

After You Vote Here Check Out These Battles

 Here are some other bloggers who may or may not be participating in the Battle of the Bands.  Please visit their sites to vote on their battles:

         Faraway Series
         Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends
         Your Daily Dose

        Do you think any of the songwriters mentioned in this post "stole" from the other or would you call it something else?   Do you think Tim Rose would have had a justifiable legal case concerning the song "Venus"?    

Friday, July 11, 2014

Songs of Summer

Songs of Summer Blogfest:
Hosted by:
Armchair Squid, Suze, and Cygnus
On Friday July 11, post your top five favorite summer songs – and why. 

       The summer of 1966 was the summer that I most inextricably relate to certain songs.  The season that I most associate with songs is winter.   Aside from the seasonal songs of Christmas, I probably think of specific songs and music in general in relation to winter for the obvious reason that I tend to be indoors listening to music more and when I was younger I'd make up record lists of what I hoped to find under the tree on Christmas morning.  The songs of summer is a trickier one for me.

       By 1966 I had become a fairly hardcore music fan.  The summer of that year was when my family moved to Tennessee.   Shortly after having arrived in Blount County Tennessee I found the local top 40 AM station WNOX and kept track of the songs of that summer.  Here are a few that were in continuous rotation over the summer of new beginnings for me:

          Do you remember any of these hits?   Whatever happened to that Napoleon guy who sang "They're Coming to Take Me Away"?     Any songs that you particularly associate with summer?

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

I'm Mister Popular!

Samson (Photo credit: Stuck in Customs)

       Recently I got an email with a subject line that read:

Robert, you're standing out as someone folks remember. See who 
remembers you.
         I couldn't help but be a little curious since I had always felt like a bit of a nonentity in school. Back when I had a decent paycheck rolling in every two weeks, I was willing to spend the $36 a year or whatever it was they charged to be able to find out about old classmates.   I actually had some email conversations with a few.  It was kind of fun catching up with people I essentially didn't know.

        Anyway, I was a bit anxious to find out who all had remembered me from the eight schools that I had attended from kindergarten to my graduation from college.   Who could these people be?  I had to know so I quickly opened the email to find the following:

Isn't it nice to know you haven't been forgotten?
1 person said they remembered you.
find out who remembers you »

Someone from the class of 1969 remembered you

Upgrade to see who
         Ya know?  I don't think I'll upgrade and I'm not even going to start back on my basic membership.   One stinkin' person.  I should pay to find out who?    Besides, it's probably like my sister or someone like that.  I guess she still remembers me.   

Battle of the Bands results:  

     This most recent contest was my wackiest ever.  The voting outcome was far different than what I had expected and in the end even I voted differently than I thought I would.  

        If Al Jolson's rendition of "Oh! Susanna" had been part of the contest then it would have been the winner with a total of 13 or 14 votes (there was one wishy-washy Jolson vote that could go either way).  I too would pick Jolson's traditional treatment of Stephen Foster's classic American song--I'm a big fan of Al Jolson.

       However if I stick with my own rules then my vote goes to Yamboo.   I was actually going into this contest with the Byrds as my favorite pick, but then Yamboo started growing on me and I switched sides--good-bye 70's, hello 90's techno-pop.   I think many were drawn into the infectious sound of Yamboo.  Yes, the girls won this round with 12 votes to the 8 votes collected by the Byrds.

        The next contest on July 15th will be perhaps stranger than this one was, but probably less confusing.  The next Battle is a continuation of the "Oh! Susanna" saga with a turn in a peculiar direction with some interesting connections to another song that became a very big hit in the 60's and later in the 80's.  Please return to vote on my next Battle.

          Have you ever joined    Do you keep up with your old schoolmates?    How popular were you in high school?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Battle of the Bands: Oh! Susanna (+ #IWSG)

         Since the posting day for the Insecure Writer's Support Group kind of coincides with  my Battle of the Bands schedule, I'm combining the two.   Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh for hosting #IWSG every month.  Be sure to visit his site for more information.
Getting Paid for the Work      

          Talk about insecurity!   Stephen Collins Foster wrote some of America's biggest hit songs and is now known as "the Father of American Music", yet he saw little money from his efforts and died penniless in a charity ward in New York City in 1864.   People knew his name, but his fame didn't pay the bills.   It's nice to be remembered in history, but getting a good paycheck while one is alive would be nice.    

What are your ultimate writing goals?    Do you write for the money, the recognition, or personal fulfillment?

Battle of the Bands:  Oh! Susanna

       It's the 1st of the month and that means another Battle of the Bands is here.  This is the twice monthly event that is brought to you by the fine bloggers at A Far Away Series and Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends.  Be sure to visit both of their sites and vote on their battles.   Other possible participants are listed at the bottom of this post.  If you'd like to do a Battle of your own let us know in the comments so we can come to vote on yours.

         This battle is the first of a two parter that I think you'll find rather interesting.  The installment that will appear on July 15th is one that might surprise you and will hopefully entertain you.   But first the Battle at hand...

Al Jolson  "Oh Susanna" (1939)

          Now we recognize the racism of the concept of minstrel shows, but it was a highly popular form of American entertainment from the 1840's and into the mid-20th century.  Al Jolson became famous with his blackface performances of popular songs.  I offer the first clip only for perspective to give you an opportunity of hearing the way the popular song "Oh! Susanna" was traditionally performed.

          Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864) was the first great American songwriter.  Trained in classical music he took an interest in the music he heard played in the black community and wrote a number of songs in that style.  Many of his songs were taken by touring minstrel shows and were published under the names of the performers.  

           Foster wrote "Oh! Susanna" in 1847 and it became a national sensation which in turn gave the composer a good bit of fame.   Please don't vote on the Jolson version as I would prefer the battle be between the more modern versions that follow.  But since it's a short clip I encourage you to give the great Al Jolson a listen.  He was a huge star in the first half of the 20th century.

The Byrds "Oh! Susannah" (1965)

         The folk rock group The Byrds recorded their version of this song for their second album.  They certainly give it a sound of that time.

Yambo  "Oh Suzanna" (1999?)

         Not sure what to say about this group.  From the information I found on them they are a Euro-pop girl dance group from Germany.  They changed the song lyrics to fit what they do, but the melody is the same.  Just goes to show the timelessness of the popular song from over 150 years ago.  This version to me is strange, but strangely compelling.  Give it a shot.  I've chosen the live action video version since the studio version had a pretty boring video.

Now for the Vote

         Now it's time for you to pick your favorite version of  "Oh! Susanna".    Let us know your preference in the comment section and tell us why you chose that version.   I'll announce the winner next Wednesday.

 Here are some other bloggers who may or may not be participating in the Battle of the Bands.  Please visit their sites to vote on their battles:

         Faraway Series
         Ferret-Faced Fascist Friends
         Your Daily Dose

         Did you used to sing "Oh! Susanna" in school?   Have you ever seen any Al Jolson films?    Do you enjoy Europop?