THE QUIET SIREN

No one goes unscathed in life.

There is a certain experiential brutality somewhere along the way. For some, there is no end to the arduous complexities of struggle. For others there are mercurial up and downs.We imagine some do escape, but if we really knew….no one does.

So what do we do? There’s plenty of, “well why don’t they just” to go around. We only have guesses at what people endure unless we walk with them. We can’t walk with everyone and we’re overwhelmed by the massive avalanche of need.

Everything we see and hear tells us that we should be comfortable, because we deserve it, and quite frankly, we just don’t want to deal with someone else’s drama. But we have a reckoning with that strong man in us. Are we doing enough ….are we doing too little? There’s a tension there, so to ease our stress, we ask convenience to draw up the statutes on how we handle our benevolence …it’s easier that way…and we engrave that on our resolve. Usually, prayer has little to do with it, and God gets pushed out of the mix. Our strictures are in place and we imagine God should be good with them…even without a consultation.

There’s a litany of explanations for non-action. I love this quote by Publilius Syrus, a Syrian slave who was educated by his Italian master..and then freed. He wrote…”Every vice has its excuse ready.”

When we allow ourselves to become numb to our quiet siren…that still small voice…I think we lose some depth of our soul. I am not saying we should walk around feeling guilty all day. There is much good being done in this world, and of course, we tend to align ourselves with those things as well. Even though we’ve had nothing to do with them, It just makes us feel so much better about ourselves.

Anne Frank said It gloriously. “No one becomes poor by giving.” Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss what to us feels discomfited….a thoughtfulness I sense in this current cultural milieu, is far off ….adrift.

”Non nobis solum nati sumus”

(not for ourselves are we born)

THE TOUCHSTONE

I know I’m an emotional guy, but why was I so sad on hearing the news of the passing of Michel Legrand? I couldn’t stop the tears as I tried explaining my connection with him to Pam.

I first heard him at the Dakota Theater in Bismarck. I was watching The Thomas Crown Affair and was introduced to “The Windmills Of Your Mind” It seemed as it was written just for me. I watched little of the movie, but listened intently to his score. It touched me…deeply. His creativity spoke life into my understanding of prosody and word painting. His lyrics knew me…and each twist and turn of his beautifully angular melody breathed a tender poignancy.

I had an opportunity to meet Michel when I was working In Los Angeles. A musician friend who knew him well, told me he could arrange a meeting. Many times I’ve been approached by acquaintances, asking as a favor, to introduce them to an artist or musician of public significance. That’s a line I simply don’t cross. It’s an imposition and feels wooden, infelicitous. I wanted to meet him…but I decided against it, and it never happened.

I’m moved by many creative offerings, whether music, poetry, art or dance. But there are few “touchstone” moments. Mr. LeGrand was honored with three Oscars and wrote other important award winning songs and scores. I was 19…..This one won my heart.

LOVE THAT WON’T LET GO

I guess on your anniversary, you’re supposed to write something about how wonderful life has been with your partner in crime. Life truly has been a great adventure. It has not been without its difficulties, not without its challenges, not without it’s disappointments and not without its setbacks…but what good thing isn’t?

The day of our wedding, we made a meaningfully intentional decision that involved perseverance, teamwork and pushing through the mire of conflict. Love finds it’s way out of the bowels of contention, eased by mercy, forgiveness, surrender and coming to realize the unimaginable gift God has presented us.

Pam is my champion, confidante and a most highly venerated mother and grandmother. She is the Matriarch, revered by her children, a mentor to her grandchildren , and the cord that ties our families together. We all understand it, and are blessed in the settled peace she brings to us all. She is a friend to her friends, and continually vests herself by pouring encouragement into their lives.

Pam has a wisdom that has cost her a great deal. Conversely that same attribute has protected her and watched over her. She is well acquainted with suffering and is a balm to many who struggle.

This is a very special day to me….Not because of the number of years…but for the beauty of the one with whom I celebrate.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

This is a love that won’t let go.

THAT RELIGIOUS WORD

Religion:

a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

As I was having a casual conversation with a good friend of mine the other day, he piped up..”I’m just not the religious type.” What?….We weren’t talking about anything particularly religious, just a friendly conversation about something innocuous related to local government, so I don’t really know what prompted him to make that statement or how we got from point A to point religion all of a sudden. I guess I got a taste of my own medicine…like when other people have to talk to me, Mr. ADHD and I leave them with that “deer in the headlights” look as I’m switching subjects and off on a totally abstract line of thought. (come back, Greg, we’re still here on planet earth, where did you go?)

Well, I thought about what he said, and it got my head to churning buttered “what abouts” as I pondered that word. What follows is my scattered summation so far.

THAT RELIGIOUS WORD

Religion’s not dying

it’s growing like weeds

For everyone now

has their doctrine and creeds

Each of us point

to one God or another

Whether ourselves

or with deity’s rudder

If power is might

and sagacity law

I guess we’re like God

in the wake of it all

If this fallacy spun

in time is our truth

These strongholds like trees

will have withering roots

Take each word of the Word

and capture each thought

from the book of the ages

where wisdom is taught

Whether love, or in justice,

or in gospel muse

We espouse our beliefs

through our own world view

Look to the Cross

where weakness was power

God’s prudence seemed foolish

In those darkest of hours

Not by might or by strength

but My Spirit that led

To the carnage in hell

and the demise of our death

We all live together

here on the earth

Christians are not only

the ones who have worth

We all need each other

Each one of us matters

So sound out the call

Amid cruel hateful chatter

No soul on tHis earth

controls color of skin

Nor where they are born

or giftedness given

In the bedlam of life

Does suffering matter

Do we cling to our comfort

And hope things get better

While you’re climbing your way

by getting things done

You might temper your zeal

and climb down just for once

Take time for your children

Take time with your friends

Or in twenty some years

You will wish that you had

DON’T LET THE OLD MAN IN

Our prayers change as we grow older. They change as Life’s river twists and turn, and slowly we’re flung up on the banks of the mainstream where the erosion of our flesh sets in.

I can’t hear as well as I once did. When I’m sitting in a group I try to talk, but I’m really not hearing what others are saying. I mis-hear or talk over someone who is in the middle of their thought…and I’m corrected with a chuckle or rolling of the eyes more times than not. It’s not mean spirited, but eventually for them….tiresome. So now…I just stay out of the mix. I feel isolated….momentarily alone. As for the studio and producing…no more…the page has long turned.

People are kind to me.

As a result of total blindness for a period of months earlier in my life… and macular degeneration,I’m what you call..”partially sighted.” It’s becoming more difficult to play my cello in a group because it requires that I read a chart…and I can’t blow my music up any larger. Maxed out.

I feel like a straggler, cut off from the herd, and the happiness I once had being in the orchestra with my buddies, is now quickly fading ….I know I’m going to have to let go. Life is a series of letting go.

It sounds like a forlorn lament of one hopeless…but here’s the catch. God has work for me to do…and He gives me the ability to do it. I’m joyfully pressing ahead and writing more then ever. I was born for this season. I’m not the best or worst…I don’t keep score…I just create and try to improve ….and these physical conditions are just a bump in the road homeward. For me…and for all my winter friends …THAT’S some Good News!!!

Toby Keith helped me along the way with his latest song. Don’t Let The Old Man In. Listen, and be encouraged. Cheers!!! ❤️

NASHVILLE SESSION SINGERS (Way Beyond Grateful)

The holidays are a great time to celebrate stuff. So while we’re in a celebratory spirit, i’d like to honor some folks. In my world, the studio is a hot bed of creativity, energy, exacting expectation and great pressure to perform. There are some amazing people who have been a constant in my career for most of my adult life. I’m talking specifically about the studio session singers and instrumentalists in Nashville. Although this blog concerns our session singers, I will be writing about our Nashville instrumental musicians in an upcoming post as well (this will include drummers… just a little studio humor).😮

I bumped into Shelley and John Jennings today. She’s a consummate session singer here in town with artistry of tremendous swath. She works with similarly -gifted singers here in Nashville. If I started naming each one, this blog would go on far too long. But seeing her today was a catalyst of great emotion for me, and I needed to write through my feelings.

Every time I see one of these singers, I just want to cry because I’m so unbelievably grateful to them. So often in this town, talent is taken for granted. Some don’t realize the quality of musician with whom they’re working. People just assume that this is how it is everywhere. Well it isn’t. The competition is fierce, and only the cream rises to the top. Conversely, there is a tremendous spirit of camaraderie among the established singers.

Here’s their life from my perspective. Often they’re singing demos, jingles, choral sessions or live gigs from 10 in the morning till 9 at night. They are asked to scream their heads off all day long, and with full throttle emotion. Sometimes they’re asked to read charts that make no sense at all. There have been instances in a choral session where the client asked the singers to make up their own parts. Wacko stuff. Within the body of singers, there are those who actually act as arrangers and producers to move things along. They get no credit for that.

They have to put up with producers, I’ll confess, like me who say “that was perfect, let’s do it again.” They’re thinking, well if it was perfect, why are we doing it again. That is an obsessive paranoidal compulsion that I have gone to the confessional booth to ask for forgiveness and absolution many times….and I’m not even Catholic. (Trust me… I’m only touching the tip of the iceberg of all the missteps I’ve made with singers)

They have to put up with the mercurial nature of clients, artists, producers, arrangers as well as the recording and publishing companies. Sometimes they’re really busy and sometimes it’s dead. It’s certainly not an easy life.

I got a note of thanks the other day from Evie…my sweet sis. She told me how beautiful the choir sounded on a song we recorded 30 years ago. Those voices are the voices of whom I’m speaking. It wasn’t my voice. I just mix the salad….and put the right ingredients together. When you’ve written a song…they sing it back to you…and your musical dreams are realized… it’s stunning…..that’s what they do on daily basis.

So I celebrate you. I celebrate you because in every session you come with a smile, regardless of the struggles you’re going through or how you feel physically. You give your best even in the most mundane situations. You answer the call, you are professional and exacting with each note, phrase and breath.

I just wanna hug each of you over and over and over again. Thank you SO much for all you’ve done for me. I am way beyond grateful.

PAM’S BIRTHDAY

I woke her up this morning, sang happy birthday to her and kissed her. She really likes that. We both do.(i’m not much of a singer, but she doesn’t seem to mind)

I love this picture of Pam when she was little. It speaks so much about her. She is a tender, loving and very caring woman….but to be sure…she is strong, and a leader. She is the consummate champion, counselor, encourager, and understands what it is to persevere. I never get tired of posting things about her.

Her love for me, like her faith, is unshakable. She is a mindful partner, thinker, and we love our conversations of life, theology and philosophy.

No better wife, friend, mother or grandma….Just ask her kids. So Pam….Hope this day is fabulous for you!!!! It is for me, because it’s another chance to tell my friends how I feel about you. Cheers, baby!!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! 🎈🎂 ❤️