New Beginnings

When my workplace held its winter concert back in December of 2019, none of us knew it might well be the last of its kind (certainly for a long time, at least).

As I mentioned in a previous post in this series, the annual winter concert was always the hardest one of our quarterly shows for me to come up with a song idea for, as it tends to be filled with holiday-oriented music (we even have a group of carolers that rehearse together and perform each year at this event).

For this past year’s show, it dawned on me that I actually had a tune of my own that could fit the bill. “New Year’s Eve” seemed an appropriate enough selection for the winter holidays, and I managed to put together a new group to perform it. None of us in the quartet had ever played together before (in fact, the saxophonist and upright bassist were completely new to the “music scene” at our workplace despite both being accomplished players), which added some novelty to the proceedings.

The song is about – while in the midst of heartache – looking ahead hopefully on the brink of a new calendar year and relishing the sense of possibility a fresh start can bring. Seems appropriate right about now.

Like a couple of the other songs featured in this series (“Like the Government” and “Everything is Temporary”) “New Year’s Eve” originally appeared on the album I released in December 1996 (at 24, half my age ago!) entitled Sanity Check and Other Loves Songs. As mentioned before, you have until this Friday, October 9th, to request a free copy of the physical CD if you would like one. Just write to me at the address found on the About page of the blog. Digital versions can be found on most of the popular streaming services.

Here’s to better times ahead for us all. Hope you’ve enjoyed this series, and hope you enjoy “New Year’s Eve”:

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Celebrating the Underdog

Today’s song was super fun to rehearse and perform.

Inspired by Peter, Paul and Mary, hope you enjoy our rendition of “Right Field”:

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post, which will be the final one in this series…

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100th Post!

Thought I would take a moment to acknowledge the milestone of having reached 100 posts on this blog.

Is 100 a lot? That’s all relative, of course. It’s taken me over ten years to get here, so my posting has not been frequent or regular. Rather, my inclination has been to post when I’ve felt I had something meaningful to share, and I’ve always strived for substantive content: i.e., quality over quantity.

In recognition of having amassed 100 of these bloggy things (aka having clicked “Publish” 100 times), I invite you to discover, or perhaps revisit, a dozen of what I consider to be some of the “oldies but goodies” on here:

The Most Effective Antidepressant
An Interview With Billy Joel – March 25, 1996
On Turning Forty
Seven Habits for Highly Unemployed People
Zen Master Training
You Are Protected. No Problems Detected.
Prescription for a Bad Mood
Why Are We Here?
Achieving the Impossible
The Parable of the Hummingbird in the Stairwell
How to Find the Love of Your Life
Nine Takeaways from a Ten-Day Meditation Retreat

Thanks for reading!

Tomorrow I will resume the series of posts (that began here) featuring musical performances at my workplace. Two of those left to go, so stay tuned, and hope you enjoy them. 😊

Eric


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The Truest Words I Ever Wrote

When I was a twenty-year-old undergrad at Penn State, some friends and I took a day trip to nearby (and beautiful) Bald Eagle State Park. I sat down at a picnic table by myself at one point and, after taking in the peaceful scene around me, began drafting a poem.

About a year later, hanging out in my dorm room with my guitar, I put music to those apparently lonely-by-themselves words and – presto! – this song was born.

All these years later, I have to say that those words ring as true as anything I’ve ever written down, spoken, or sung. At least in the world I live in every day, all things are constantly in flux, in motion, ever changing and evolving. By all things, I mean all things: all people, material objects, moods, circumstances, health statuses, relationships, weather, political situations…in this sense every moment is unique.

We never know when it will be the last time we perform a particular task, hear a particular song, spend time in a particular place, taste a particular food, enjoy another particular person’s company…but there will be a last time. It’s just the nature of our reality.

Even if there is a next time for any or all of the above experiences, it will have a different tinge or flavor to it; the moment will be a new one, with every particle or wave comprising it not the same as it was before.

This lesson has been driven home in so many ways this past year. We have watched things change dramatically across the globe.

As one admittedly-miniscule-in-the-scheme-of-things example from my own life: it’s quite possible I will not have the privilege of playing music with, and for, my co-workers ever again. This series of blog posts is in recognition of that possibility, and to honor those experiences and the memories created by them.

Did I savor all of these moments adequately at the time? Am I savoring as many moments of my life as possible now, rather than simply moving through them zombie-like and on autopilot? How often, through the sheer power of our finely honed ability to deny reality, do we take for granted that there will be more opportunities in the future for x, y, or z?

OK, end of lecture. 😊

Hope you enjoy this performance of “Everything is Temporary”…it was fun to have someone else sing this song for once!

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For Harry

Harry Chapin is, in my opinion, one of the most underrated singer/songwriters of his generation. He left us far too young, at age 38, but left behind a body of work and a legacy (as an artist, of course, but also as an activist and philanthropist) that I find endlessly inspiring.

I am thrilled that there is (finally!) a documentary about him coming out two weeks from today, which you can watch the trailer for here.

As you might have guessed, today’s post in this series on musical performances at my workplace features one of Harry’s songs. However, it’s not one of his better-known songs. Nor is it emblematic of his signature style: the long, folk-rock story song. By contrast, this is an unusually short Chapin piece with a sparse arrangement (essentially just acoustic guitar and cello) that evokes a wistful mood while employing some complex chord changes. I selected it because I was looking for a tune I could perform as a duet with Barry, our resident cellist, and we both thought it fit the bill nicely.

One other bit of trivia: this song originally appeared as the final track on Chapin’s second album, which had the eyebrow-raising title of Sniper and other Love Songs. Harry was one of the first musical artists I fell in love with, having been introduced to him at a very young age by a big fan of his that also happened to be my dad. 👨‍👦 When it came time to come up with a title for my own debut album, I settled on Sanity Check and Other Love Songs in homage to Harry, since my album’s centerpiece was also a long story song in the Chapin tradition and had a similarly tongue-in-cheek juxtaposition next to “and other love songs”. 😉

Hope you enjoy our rendition of “Winter Song”. And thank you, Harry, for being such a huge lifelong inspiration! 🙏

P.S. If you are new to Harry’s music and interested in exploring it I highly recommend starting here or here (the latter of which contains “Winter Song”).

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A Song About You…Yes, You!

Today’s song was one that spilled out of me after doing a guided “lovingkindness” meditation.

I posted a solo version of the song on this blog before, which can be found here.

As part of this series of musical performances at my workplace, however, I today offer you this trio version, where I’m accompanied by my friends Paul & Beth.

I hope you take the message of the song to heart:

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If There’s Any Hope for Love at All…

(Please VOTE to make sure there will be!)

Here’s today’s song:

“Walls” (written by Mary Ann Kennedy, Pam Rose & Randy Sharp) 

Some walls are made of stone
Sometimes we build our own
Some walls stand for years, and
Some wash away with tears
 
Some walls are lined with gold where
Some hearts stay safe and cold
Some walls are made from doubt
Holding in and keeping out
 
If there's any hope for love at all...
Some walls must fall
If there's any hope for love at all...
Some walls must fall
 
Some walls are built on pride
Some keep the child inside
Some walls are built in fear that
Love let go will disappear
 
If there's any hope for love at all...
Some walls must fall
If there's any hope for love at all...
Some walls must fall
 
How will you ever know what might be found
Until you let those walls come tumbling down?
 
If there's any hope for love at all...
Some walls must fall
If there's any hope for love at all...
Some walls must fall
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The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, and Me

What do I have in common with the musical luminaries mentioned in the title of this post, you ask?

Well, for one thing, we all have written songs called “I Want You”. Not the most original of titles, to be sure, but hey, I’m in pretty outstanding company. 😄

Here’s mine, as performed by one of the rotating line-ups of my workplace band, The Looming Spectors:

The lyrics are as follows:

This life’s almost killed me
And eventually
If this life don’t, somethin’ else will
But I’m in no hurry
Despite the drudgery
Of day jobs and credit card bills
 
Cause I know I want you
Well I know I want you
 
Now I might not be rich, and
It’s no contradiction:
I’ll provide all that you need.
Your soul could be nourished
And I know I’d flourish
If you would just follow my lead
And say:
 
I know I want you
Well I know I want you
 
Well I know I want you
Yeah I know I want you
 
Now I know trusting is hard to do
As for me I am ready and willing to

See I’ve got this theory
That if you were near me
That you would be happier, too
But we need to test it, and you might have guessed it:
The only thing missing is you
 
Cause I know I want you
Well I know I want you
I know I want you
I know I want you
I know I want you
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A Song About the Bureaucracy of the Heart

Today’s post features a solo performance of a song I wrote back in 1995, while living in Nashville. My opening remarks explain how the idea for it came about.

The studio version, by the way, appears on the CD I released independently in late 1996 called Sanity Check and Other Love Songs, which can be found on iTunes, Spotify, Napster, and other places you find music online.

If you still collect/listen to physical CDs and would like a copy of this rare item(!) – with all of the lyrics, original artwork, etc. – drop me an email at the address listed on the About page no later than Friday, October 9th, 2020, and I’ll send you one (while supplies last). If you want to make a donation (optional) to pay for the shipping costs, especially if you reside outside of the U.S., that can be arranged.

One more thing:

In a post with a song that references the “government of the United States” it seems appropriate to mention that there is AN ELECTION COMING UP, and it’s pretty damn important, so I URGE you to please make it a priority to vote if you are eligible to do so. Don’t let the fact that there’s a pandemic going on stop you. In fact, it’s all the more reason it’s essential to cast your vote.

The New York Times has put together an awesome interactive guide that provides comprehensive information and step-by-step instructions on how to vote based on the state in which you reside, including: how to register, registration deadlines, options for voting by mail or casting an absentee ballot, how to find polling places near you, etc. It’s incredibly simple to use and a wonderful resource, so please make sure you take full advantage of it if you have any uncertainty about any aspect of the process.

Thanks, and hope you enjoy “Like the Government”:

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Livin’ the California Dream

Twenty years ago this November I moved (from Pennsylvania) to California. I consider it to be, easily, one of the best decisions of my life.

Now, though, we are facing record-breaking wildfires that are only increasing in frequency and severity each year, among many other telltale signs of the apocalypse. 😲 No one knows what the future holds: for California, for the United States of America, for the world at large. I have to admit things are not looking good. 😟😢

[insert Serenity Prayer here]

I don’t think we should give up, though (far from it!). We need to tap into our resilience and resourcefulness now more than ever.

I love this quote from Joan Baez that I have shared before on this blog: “Action is the antidote to despair.”

Sometimes the simple act of making, performing, sharing, or otherwise enjoying music can do wonders for combatting despair.

Amy in our musical group at work suggested we do the song I’m sharing today. It was a perfect choice given the band’s personnel at the time: we had two “Mamas” and two “Papas” and even a flutist! Rehearsing and performing this together definitely lifted our spirits, and I hope it does the same for you.

Wherever you may be living as you read this, enjoy “California Dreamin’”:

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