We lost John Prine

Posted in History, Music, Uncategorized with tags , on April 8, 2020 by macmystery
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John Prine

There is absolutely nothing I can write in this space that will do my subject justice.

The world lost John Prine tonight.

I don’t have a plan for this, I’m just going to get a lot of thoughts down. I am heartbroken.

At this point, he had been ill two weeks or so. He and his wife, Fiona, had caught the coronavirus. She recovered. John, a two-time cancer survivor, did not.

I can’t tell you exactly when I discovered his music. I would tell you it was sometime during my teen years in the late 1980s. I was aware and a fan of Bonnie Raitt. And of course to be a fan of Bonnie Raitt means you had to have heard Angel From Montgomery, one of John’s best songs.

Grandpa Was A Carpenter made an appearance on the second Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Will The Circle Be Unbroken album. I had seen him on Austin City Limits. My hero, Bruce Springsteen, had appeared on Jesus, The Missing Years.

I’m not sure which of those happened first. It doesn’t matter. Once you realized how good he was, you were hooked. There aren’t many songwriters in this world that Kris Kristofferson and Bob Dylan revere. John Prine was one.

My current favorite, Jason Isbell, revered Prine.

“Well a question ain’t really a question if you know the answer, too.”

I was lucky enough to see Prine twice. The first time at the Peace Center in Greenville. Old Crow Medicine Show opened. My ex-wife and I saw him with my friends Chris and Bridget. He was at his best. He sang all the songs I really loved. You can see your favorite artists a handful of times and never be lucky enough to see a show like we saw that night.

The second time, Jason Isbell opened for him in Savannah. My friend Justin had seen Isbell but not Prine. I had seen Prine, of course, but it was my first Isbell show. I was really late getting off work, then we were sidetracked between Bluffton and Savannah by a huge wreck. By the time we got there, I got to hear four Jason Isbell songs. But Jjustin got to hear the whole Prine set. And I’m certain he’s thankful.

His songs were filled with honesty and a dry wit and somehow, they always seemed familiar. And generous.

I wrote just the other day that John’s 1971 self-titled debut was the greatest debut album ever. Fight me. The track listing reads like a greatest hits package. But it wasn’t. Just a perfect record.

Sam Stone. Spanish Pipedream. Illegal Smile. Hello In There. Paradise. Donald and Lydia. Angel From Montgomery. Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven Anymore.

Damn.

Over the next couple of days, we’re going to hear a lot of artists, a lot of writers, a lot of fans talk about how great John Prine was. I’m glad that he got to hear a little of this toward the end of his life.

While Prine was content to make great music in the shadows of the big record labels, it’s only right that at thend he got the Grammys and the Americana awards he deserved. And it’s good there were artists like Isbell, who revered John and sought him out and made him their friend. I hope there was something satisfying in it for John.

I am devastated. John Prine was an artist. Not a family member or a friend. But on so many lonely nights or long car trips, he was one of the people there talking to me. And I will forever cherish what he had to say.

The world is a slightly less good place than it was a few hours ago.

 

Dylan drops 17-minute ballad about JFK assassination

Posted in History, Music, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2020 by macmystery

Nine Inch Nails pulled off a surprise album drop Thursday. If you’re into them, that’s a pretty big deal.

To me, this was much bigger news. Bob Dylan released his first original work in 8 years on Friday, a sparse, rambling 17-minute ballad about the JFK assassination entitled “Murder Most Foul.”

It may not be what your in to, but I’d suggest listening at lease once.

Album of the Day (March 22, 2020) — Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2020 by macmystery
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Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits (1980)

With the bars closed for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus outbreak and Kenny Rogers passing away Friday night at age 81, I figured it was a good a time as any to spend a lot of time writing and listening to music. One result is my album of the day.

I might do one of these everyday. I might not. Who knows?

Bu the album for today … I guess it’s Sunday, March 22 … is Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits.

Released on Sept. 23, 1980 (Bruce Springsteen’s birthday), this Liberty release is the top-selling Country greatest hits compilation of all-time, edging Garth Brooks’ The Hits with 22 million records sold.

The first of numerous Rogers’ greatest hits packages, this one actually contained three new tracks on the 12-track album.

A song-by-song look at Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits:

1. The Gambler – This is the first hit song ever written by Don Schlitz, penned in 1976 when he was 23. That’s saying something. Initially, he could get no one to record it, so he released it as a single himself. It reached No. 65 on the charts. Shel Silverstein loved the song, convincing Bobby Bare to record it. Johnny Cash recorded it, as well. But it wasn’t until it was recorded by Rogers in 1978 that it had an impact. Released on the album of the same name, it became the first of 24 No. 1 country songs penned by Schlitz. Other Schlitz classics include 40-Hour Week (Alabama), When You Say Nothing At All (Keith Whitley, Alison Krauss), On The Other Hand (Randy Travis) and Forever And Ever Amen (Randy Travis). Of course, the song sparked the successful series of “The Gambler” TV movies starring Rogers and launching his acting career.

2. Lady – One of three songs recorded specifically for this album, it’s the biggest solo hit of Rogers’ career. Lionel Richie, then of the Commodores, wrote the song specifically for Rogers. It would spend six straight weeks at No. 1 in the fall/winter of 1980. It was only knocked out of the top spot the final week of December by John Lennon’s Just Like Starting Over. Lennon had been shot and killed Dec. 8 in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Lady was No. 3 on the Billboard chart for the year and No. 10 for the decade of the 1980s. It is No. 60 on Billboard’s All-Time Hot 100 chart.

3. Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer w/Kim Carnes – Carnes, like Rogers, was an alum of folk group The New Christy Minstrels.

4. Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town w/The First Edition – A story song about an impotent, disabled Vietnam veteran who endures his wife leaving home every night to meet other men in town. Written by Mel Tillis.

5. She Believes in Me – Having been truly in love in my life and having lost, this song, for whatever reason resonates with me. It doesn’t matter who you are, in some fashion, to have a relationship, a love that lasts, you are sacrificing somehow. You are somehow settling, somehow disappointed, even those who think they aren’t. And it’s when you and your partner are happy making the sacrifices that you make for each other that something special can happen.

6. Coward of the County – Another story song, this one has not held up for me. I still find myself singing along, but the basic theme of the story is Tommy’s love Becky is raped by the Gatlin boys … and there were three of them. Tommy proves he’s a man by mustering up the courage to single-handedly whip the Gatlin Boys, thus making up for his life of being a “coward.” Except my problem is, what the hell does that do for Becky? She’s still violated and hurt and angry … and giving them a good ass-beating solves none of that. Maybe the world has grown up a little since this song came out.

7. Lucille – Rogers’ first solo country hit from 1977, it reached No. 1 on the Country charts and No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

8. You Decorated My Life

9. Reuben James w/The First Edition – Rogers would say he liked two kinds of songs, love songs and story songs that had social relevance. This is the latter. From Rogers’ First Edition days, he sings of an old black sharecropper, Reuben James, who stepped up and raised the white son of the “gossip of Madison County” who died in childbirth. The song’s narrator is obviously the now-adult child and is singing James’ praises.

10. Love the World Away – The second of three new releases on this album, this song was also released on the hugely popular Urban Cowboy soundtrack. It was a top-5 tune on the country charts and a top-20 song on the pop charts.

11. Every Time Two Fools Collide w/Dottie West – one of a handful of highly successful duets with country darling Dottie West.

12. Long Arm of the Law – The third new release on the album, though not a chart hit, this song remains popular with Rogers fans.

I do

Posted in Uncategorized on February 7, 2020 by macmystery

You cage me

trap me

hold me

pin me down

building walls of glass You try to keep me

You cut off my air and hope I will sing

You shut out the lights and expect me to paint

You never understand why I shatter your walls

I never explain why I stay

but I do

You can’t have it both ways

Posted in History, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 20, 2020 by macmystery
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Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” — Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you spent second one bitching about Colin Kaepernick or any NFL player kneeling, yet you’re posting quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on your Facebook profile today, you’re full of shit.

And if you don’t understand why, you’re ignorant, too.

I’m sorry, that’s blunt. That’s not the most painful statement, though.

The most painful statement is that most who quote King once a year while opposing what he stood for the other 364 days know exactly what they are doing. And why they are doing it. And I don’t have to spell it out.

I would suggest today giving King’s Letter From A Birmingham Jail a read today. It’s truly one of the single-most important American writings in our history.

It’s something that shouldn’t be reserved for King’s birthday, but something we should be familiar with year round. But quite frankly, I’m sure it makes white people, particularly white Christians, uncomfortable. Particularly when you apply his premise to the current situation in our nation.

But reading, being conscious of and addressing King’s concerns contained within would make us all better people, better Americans and, most decidedly, better Christians.

 

 

Sporting another team’s colors

Posted in Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2020 by macmystery
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A Patrick Mahomes/Kansas City Chiefs T-shirt passed on to me by my friend Francie Szarek.

When you get deep into the NFL playoffs, or the playoffs in any sport, most folks’ teams are no longer in the mix.

Some people just kind of roll with it, enjoying the games. Some people have a betting interest.

And then I think there are a lot of fans that kind of pick favorites for the rest of the way. Sometimes because there’s a team they like a little that’s not their team, sometimes because of a particular player or players (I root for the teams that have the most Clemson guys on the roster), and then some are simply rooting AGAINST teams they can’t stand (see the Patriots).

Today, I’m wearing a Kansas City Chiefs/Patrick Mahomes T-shirt passed onto me to wear by my friend Francie Szarek. I think she’d admit she lives in a Pittsburgh Steelers household, but her husband’s Steelers are out and as a Kansas native, she’s all in on the Chiefs.

I was already pulling for the Chiefs. My Cowboys haven’t been in the NFC Championship in 20 years. And the Chiefs knocked the Houston Texans, my second favorite team, out last week. With three Clemson players on the roster, that makes them my favorite the rest of the way.

But wearing another team’s colors, gear etc., … do people do that? I can’t remember the last time I did it. Maybe Georgia Tech T-shirts in the 1980s? But I was a kid, and that happens.

Among my adult friends, any of them wearing another team’s stuff are an indication sex is or was happening. Obviously, today, I am an exception.

Do any other adults out there wear another team’s stuff?

Sweet Caroline!

Posted in Family, Sports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2020 by macmystery
Caroline

My niece Caroline is ready to step to the free-throw line.

Bah bah nah. That’s what come’s after Sweet Caroline, no?

If there’s any confusion, this  is most assuredly not about that popular Neil Diamond ditty. While I’ll admit it’s catchy, when you listen to the words, the song is actually quite creepy.

It is even more so when you consider it was allegedly written about a quite underage — barely even teenage — Caroline Kennedy. Think about that next time you’re singing along during the seventh-inning stretch at a shitty Boston Red Sox game.

Nope. This epic blog post is about Caroline, my niece, named after my mother, Carole.

Caroline is my sister Michele’s only child, born roughly a half a year after my own daughter, Ella. Unlike Ella, who is quite small, Caroline is big. Quite big.

I don’t mean this in a bad way. But she takes after her father in the fact that she’s tall. Quite tall. And getting taller.

At the ripe age of 11, she has already surpassed her mother in shoe size. I’m sure Michele welcomes this. It means she’ll no longer worry about Caroline stealing her shoes.

Problem is, it means she’ll be buying a lot more shoes. And the growing is far from over.

Caroline isn’t just big in stature, she has a big voice and it’s impossible not to notice she’s in the room. And issues with her ear she’s had since birth mean she’s sometimes unintentionally loud.

And my nickname for her? Lovingly, it’s Big Head.

But her size betrays her. When you’re with her, you feel like you’re in the room with another adult. It’s easy to forget, she’s only 11. Sometimes it’s tough to not be hard on her. Her size, unfairly, honestly changes your expectations.

But she’s a good kid. And something else she has that’s big — her heart.

Caroline has been playing church league basketball for a couple years now. I’ve managed to attend several games when in town.

Her coaches have tried to take advantage of her size — who wouldn’t. They want her to go to a spot, turn, and ask for the ball. When she gets it, they want her to turn and shoot. No dribble. Simply post up. There’s no one in her league who can contest her.

All this makes sense. The results? A few points — the games are low-scoring and her shooting has been suspect. And a lot of rebounds.

But not so many wins.

In fact, until last week … zero wins. Some close calls, but no bananas.

Basketball-wise, Caroline has some things to work on. I have told her a couple of times, the best thing she could do to improve is play as much basketball as possible.

There is a conflict, unfortunately. The things her coach asks her to do aren’t wrong. They are the things that give the team the best chance to win.

But she needs to improve her shooting, dribbling, passing, … and the mental aspects. And she won’t get better at those things if all she does is post up, catch the ball, turn and shoot. She can only get better at those things by doing them. She needs to play ball, a lot of it, and against kids her size, where she’s forced to do those things.

During this offseason, she made a decision to get more serious about basketball. A huge Clemson fan, she has made it her goal to play for the Tigers.

A realistic goal? Who knows. But she’s playing with a purpose.

She has actually gone and talked to the people who would be her coaches at the junior high and high school level about what she can best do to be ready to play for them.

Last week, I got the texts from my sister that I usually get during Caroline’s games. Except this time, they ended differently.

Trailing 5-4 late in the 4th quarter — with both buckets belonging to Caroline — a late score from the coach’s daughter gave her team a long-elusive 6-5 win.

Caroline finished with 4 points on 2-for-3 shooting with 11 rebounds and zero fouls.

“It feels good,” she texted me after her first win. “I played like I had a goal in life.”

I reminded her that her goal was good, but to be careful to enjoy the moment and have fun, even if the goal doesn’t work out.

“I know and I did but I still want to work on my goal.”

score

This week, Caroline and her team did it again. She scored 6 points — all on putbacks —  and her team won 8-4.

A winning streak. Who’d have thought it?

There’s really no point to all of this except that I love her. And some things seem to be breaking her way.

And there is no one happier for her than me. She, and her mama, deserve it.