Monday, September 28, 2009

Gil Scott Heron - King of Mortal Conscience

What can I say about this man? The very thought of him is enough to make me feel a certain zeal for mankind, for being able to claim him as ours, somehow. He's the flawed, fallible hero who sinks to depths others have yet to accept –– if only to rise above them and relay his findings. And his story is our country's collective, sometimes forgotten, and all-too-often ignored one.

This gifted, educated man might have been told by his surroundings and experiences that he's not meant to be the one who will embrace the ghetto, but he adopted and held it like his own child. He took the responsibility others would have resisted. He'd denounce its weaknesses while he lived them. He became addicted to its drugs, but this is a man I would excuse even the greatest weakness because he is honest. A king of conscience who has lived in such a raw state of acute consciousness, it is understandable he'd require some level of escape. Because he's always so present and aware.

I have nothing at all to do with the experiences he's put forth in his music, but Gil Scott Heron is my hero.

And he's still definitely got it. I was lucky to see GSH perform for my birthday this year. Here he is in San Francisco. He was his witty, inspiring self and the entire audience was smitten and mesmerized. It felt like good company. This video was shot on my small digital camera, and I couldn't help but dance –– so it doesn't do the experience justice. But he sounds great, so enjoy :-)

The Shrimp & The Big Day

The inspiration
Wedding day 
The look that inspired my recent wedding was inevitably that of Jean Shrimpton. I had bought the film "Privilege" years ago - and in it, discovered my 'wedding look'. It was one of Jean's dresses, a perfect, simple, strikingly beautiful long-sleeved mini her character wears in a party scene.
Look I was originally going for from 'Privilege'
When my actual wedding day approached, I came across this other look of hers in a photo (shown above) and was struck - yet again. I worked it out in my own way. Seems I would have been inspired by The Shrimp on my big day no matter what, and regardless!

And here is a little video I made, sort of to capture the mood I was going for on our simple wedding day - and in our life together so far. Without footage of our own, I used some people I like. Enjoy :-)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Wisdom, Beyond Their Years

Some songs (and performers) transcend others to live eternally in a place of wondrous depth, capturing the essence of the human experience in such a way that one might expect the lyrics to have been conceived by someone decades older. But youth, in some instances, holds greater wisdom.

"Dream On" was released by Aerosmith when Steven Tyler was 25 years old. So he presumably wrote the song, as they are his lyrics, before the 25th year of his life. In it, he sounds weathered. His voice carries immense weight and pathos and the lyrics could belong to a man nearing the end of his journey. This was the first hit for a band that would perform for decades, and many of their lyrics would get progressively lighter. "Dream On" never ceases to impress. It's epic and flawless in its wisdom.
"Both Sides Now" was released in 1968, shortly after Joni Mitchell wrote it. She, too, was 25 years old. She explains at first, by using the image of clouds, that she has seen clouds from both sides, now. From below, she has seen them looking puffy and attractive, only to find they can also grow sinister and rain on her parade. Later they might be seen from above, as she'll fly over the clouds in a plane. She ends the beautiful tune with having seen life from both sides now, finding out that, "I really don't know life at all." And nothing holds more wisdom than that sentiment.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Retro Active Feeling: Airport Music

Certain songs, when I hear them, create this vague notion in my mind that "this is 'airport music.'" Sort of like 'elevator music' (a concept I wish I could have actually experienced - love muzak! - when it existed, in elevators.) But I had to ponder where this notion came from.

First, here are examples of songs that give me this feeling, and make me think of airports and traveling. At the moment, this mood seems solely Carpenters-ccentric (for good reason - and I'll elaborate, below) but I may add to the list soon.

For travelers today, and for quite some time now, the journey is no longer an exciting jaunt. Rather, it is a practicality - akin to a dreary and mundane chore. Arriving is the sole reward. And we can only hope to do so in relative comfort. There is no romance in shuffling through security lines. The allure of traveling as sport or luxury has been minimized by the years of public trepidation, for countless valid reasons. Our collective culture of traveling has grown wise and weary. And many generations, including mine, barely had a glimpse of how it was a thing to be admired. The concept of "jet-setting" is a relic, put to rest by the realities of our lives and our world.

Perhaps the songs that give me this cloudy and impressionistic feeling I refer to as 'airport music' are merely ones recorded in the period when the concept of traveling - airports, planes and all - was considered most luxurious, but still attainable. And the performers recording those songs carried that feeling with them in their daily lives. Certainly The Carpenters did - as they were known for their endless travels, taking them frequently as far as Japan and Australia in a time when young people from California, like themselves, were not as apt to do so.

* * * * * * * * * *
That these sounds from the 70's evoke such a particular feeling for me might also be more personal. As a child in the 80's, simply going to an airport offered excitement. It felt magical just to be in a place that suggested the possibility of traveling far away. And maybe the residue of the experiences of those who traveled in the 70's still remained within the confines of those airports.

For the official video of this song, Richard and Karen are actually shown traveling & mocking their lonely, jet-set lifestyle.