Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Sheldon Kopp's Laundry List

At the end of his book, If You Meet Buddha on the Road, Kill Him!, Sheldon Kopp offers ‘A Partial Register of the 927 (or was it 928?) Eternal Truths’, 43 items in total. This list exists elsewhere on the World Wide Web, but still worth reproducing here:

  1. This is it!
  2. There are no hidden meanings.
  3. You can’t get there from here and besides there’s no place else to go.
  4. We are all already dying and we will be dead for a long time.
  5. Nothing lasts.
  6. There is no way of getting all you want.
  7. You can’t have anything unless you let go of it.
  8. You only get to keep what you give away.
  9. There is no particular reason why you lost out on some things.
  10. The world is not necessarily just. Being good often does not pay off and there is no compensation for misfortune.
  11. You have a responsibility to do your best nonetheless.
  12. It is a random universe to which we bring meaning.
  13. You don’t really control anything.
  14. You can’t make anyone love you.
  15. No one is any stronger or any weaker than anyone else.
  16. Everyone is, in his own way, vulnerable.
  17. There are no great men.
  18. If you have a hero look again: you have diminished yourself in some way.
  19. Everyone lies, cheats, pretends (yes, you too, and most certainly I myself).
  20. All evil is potential vitality in need of transformation.
  21. All of you is worth something if you will only own it.
  22. Progress is an illusion.
  23. It can be displaced but never eradicated, as solutions breed new problems.
  24. Yet it to necessary to keep on struggling toward solution.
  25. Childhood is a nightmare.
  26. But it is so very hard to be an on-your-own, take-care-of-yourself-cause-there-is-no-one-else-to-do-it-for-you grown-up.
  27. Each of us is ultimately alone.
  28. The most important things, each man must do for himself.
  29. Love is not enough but it sure helps.
  30. We have only ourselves, and one another. That may not be much, but that’s all there is.
  31. How strange that so often it all seems worth it.
  32. We must live within the ambiguity of partial freedom, partial power, and partial knowledge.
  33. All important decisions must be made on the basis of insufficient data.
  34. Yet we are responsible for everything we do.
  35. No excuses will be accepted.
  36. You can run, but you can’t hide.
  37. It is most important to run out of scapegoats.
  38. We must learn the power of living with our helplessness.
  39. The only victory lies in surrender to oneself.
  40. All significant battles are fought within oneself.
  41. You are free to do whatever you like. You need only face the consequences.
  42. What at do you know … for sure … anyway?
  43. Learn to forgive yourself, again and again and again and again…

Friday, November 6, 2015

Looking Back

 
 
John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman gave the world what is clearly a  great musical achievement. Here is a critique lifted from Music Direct: John Coltrane & Johnny Hartman  (1963-IMPULSE)

" ... Hartman's voice is right there and full-throated; again, I've never heard all the subtleties of his vibrato or all the slight accents in his phrasing. Coltrane's saxophone is in the room. Elvin Jones' drums bang and whisper. (Listen to that brush-wooshing! You get every wisp and sizzle.) Even McCoy Tyner's piano, often hooded in Van Gelder sessions, rings clear. Jimmy Garrison's bass may be a little forward, but it sounds like the pick-up amp, not a recording artifact. This is a gorgeous album, gorgeously mastered and essential."

- Fred Kaplan, The Absolute Sound, June/July 2005, Issue 154

The clarinetist Tony Scott, who trod the same musical path as Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker, once called the number “Lush Life” “the Mount Everest of Jazz soloists.” Thousands have stood at the foot of the mountain but only a couple of dozen ever made it right to the top. Among these few were the singer Johnny Hartman and the John Coltrane Quartet in March 1963 — not just with that song but with other favorites too. The list extends from “They Say It’s Wonderful” which sounds as though it is clad in black silk, to the lyrical “My One And Only Love,” right up to the light-footed rumba “Autumn Serenade,” here are six true masterpieces which will get right under your skin. Just listen to how relaxed and self-assuredly the crooner’s great voice carries the melody, which is then taken up and continued by John Coltrane on his instrument.

Guy Wood; Robert Mellin

The very thought of you makes my heart sing
Like an April breeze on the wings of spring
And you appear in all your splendor
My one and only love

The shadows fall and spread their mystic charms
In the hush of night while you're in my arms
I feel your lips so warm and tender
My one and only love

The touch of your hand is like heaven
A heaven that I've never known
The blush on your cheek whenever I speak
Tells me that you are my own

You fill my eager heart with such desire
Every kiss you give sets my soul on fire
I give myself in sweet surrender
My one and only love


Hearing this music for the first time in San Francisco in the late 70s in that period right before Anita Bryant attacked the gay community and wanted to "Save the Children" in Florida provided warmth and insulation against what was to come down the pike in the form of political persecution, assassination and disease.

A handsome loving man made scrambled eggs and platanos in the morning following a night filled with Mr Hartman's crooning, Mr Coltrane's playing and the man's embrace. It was an event that only enhances the appreciation of this exceptional music. As life progresses and brings with that progress hitherto unknown feelings and experiences, looking back on the person that one once was, affords not only comfort, but new clarity ...

Thursday, October 8, 2015

After the Prom Is Over: Giovanni's Diagnosis

 
 

Quality of Life ~ difficult to define and, at the very least, an elusive phrase. It comes to mind when diagnosed with a terminal disease. It is often used when someone is near the end of the journey.

 I think about it everyday, although I am not sure how long my diagnosis with an aggressive form of prostate cancer will keep me here. I am on a mission to keep at least this end game on a qualitative level.

The current go-to treatment is periodic Lupron injections. It is no day at the beach.  These links will give you an indication of what it’s like.

 

 


 

My oncologist is fond of saying that men diagnosed with prostrate cancer tend to die of something else. I think he may not have had an anti-androgen experience. I am not quite sure what he means. Do we all get hit by buses while experiencing a crying jag? My guess is some of the side effects get to my brethren.

 As I write this I am experiencing my second (or is it, my third?) hot flash of the day.

Very ironic that it is the suppression of androgen and testosterone which leads me to the end of the road. It can be said that hormones have been at the heart of the motivating factors in my life’s journey. I was aware of my homosexual feelings at the tender age of 4. Thank you, Guy Madison: http://www.guymadison.com/images/396_DarkGuy202.jpg

 
My unfortunate incarceration in the arms of Holy Mother Church was a hormonal suppression which didn’t work because the Franciscan Order was not in the habit of dosing Lupron to the brothers. It was combined with the post-adolescent desperation for love which finally ended at the age of 55 or so.


I celebrated my senior prom in 2010 at The Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street when I turned 62. It is now After the Prom when I am safely ensconced in Philadelphia where I was born.
 

Living with incurable prostate cancer hasn’t suppressed the incurable teenager within me--Sometimes not so within. I can now look back on the hormonal adventures which I experienced in many places on two continents. If somewhat lacking in quality, it was a very quantitative life.  There are still a couple of things I want to do~ Now! On to the quality …


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

White Boys Are So Sexy

Having thoroughly enjoyed performing classic material at The Stonewall Inn, this definitely needs to be re-posted in homage to one's own shameless self promotion: Those who inherited the mantles of the 50s teen idols during the Beatle Era 1963-1970 were three very talented young men with a very eclectic approach to music. All three had some connection to Country in varying degrees but could cross the river into more or less soulful territory in varying degrees. All three have a connection to Burt Bacharach’s music in varying degrees. All three endured professionally to varying degrees. [Gene Pitney since this was originally posted in 2005]

During the 60s Gene Pitney, B.J. Thomas and Bobby Vee carried on in spite of Beatlemania or, as some might say, because of it. The adage goes something like: huge record sales for one artist or band are good for everybody in the business. Is that why the 60s are a kind of Renaissance for Popular Music? It probably began in 1956, but the message here is that technological advances coupled with new musical advances gleaned from an artistic reservoir for who knows why gave the World something new that enriched its cultural life. It may be a very long time before something like that happens again. The Beatles and Elvis were indeed pioneers; not without influences from the world around them. That they were catalysts may also be part of that equation.

Pitney, Thomas and Vee have their female counterparts in the likes of Jackie DeShannon and Dusty Springfield. DeShannon and Springfield were given the Wexler-Dowd-Marin treatment: “the sound is Memphis, a pop-country-soul blend that comes about as close as you can get to defining the mainstream in contemporary music.” [Stephen Holden] Only one of the three talented men came close to achieving those heights in a similar artistic endeavour. Column started a section entitled Neglected Masterpieces on the main site, inspired by Rolling Stone’s reviews of days gone by. It might also be called “Unpopular Music,” because it isn’t necessarily populated by commercially viable recordings, or even existent recordings. Dusty in Memphis was a commercial flop, although “Son of a Preacher Man” did manage to make it as a single. However, it is now a classic recording and has afforded the extremely talented, albeit insecure Springfield a bona fide place in the annals of Rock/Pop history. B.J. Thomas, who incidentally did a duet with La Springfield on a TV Show theme no less, has given us a similar opus which was the last recording he did for Scepter Records, Billy Joe Thomas, containing the top twenty hit, “Rock and Roll Lullaby.”



What makes this kind of music essential if not quintessential is that all the elements are there. It’s not Lennon-McCartney or Brian Wilson but it is a great bouillabaisse of the musical sea that is American Pop. The intense search for a review from Rolling Stone was to no avail, but AMG gives us this positive review:

Michael Ofjord, All Music Guide
This 1972 album shows B. J. Thomas in good form, capable of intelligently handling a lyric, especially when given worthy material. One of the highlights of the album and Thomas' career is the hit "Rock and Roll Lullaby," which approximates some heavenly Beach Boys-type harmonies to give a subtle yet powerful reading to the tale of a young unwed mother. Adding some fine touches to the well-thought-out production is Duane Eddy on guitar and the Blossoms [Darlene Love's group] on backup vocals. Another cut worthy of special mention is Jimmy Webb's "A Song for My Brother." Thomas delicately sings about the lost innocence of youth, accompanied only by Webb's classically inspired piano playing. It is an intelligent, evocative song, and both singer and player complement each other perfectly. "The Stories We Can Tell," written by John Sebastian, is also an excellent number given special treatment by Pete Drake's subtle and effective steel guitar. There are a few weak moments on the album, such as the beginning of "Happier Than the Morning Sun," a Stevie Wonder tune that starts off dangerously close to MOR until being paradoxically saved by a Wonder harmonica solo. "Are We Losing Touch" also comes close to schmaltz territory, without much lyrical variation on the obvious theme. However, most of the songs are first-rate and arranged skillfully. Thomas himself has a gift for singing soulfully without apparent effort, swirling around lyrics with emotion yet rarely overstating or becoming excessively dramatic. That talent, along with the high quality of material and musicians presented here, makes for a highly listenable pop album.


These days most of Wonder’s classic material would be considered MOR perhaps. Wonder’s MOR is assuredly more listenable than much that is being produced now. “Rock and Roll Lullaby” takes the listener to a place that tells a story and creates an enduring musical recipe for the discernable palate. Not without additional analogy to handmade pasta, it is delicate yet ultimately satisfying. Thomas’ achievement in no way diminishes the music produced by Pitney and Vee. It actually gives it perspective. Both of those men have unique achievements and a rich history all their own. Billy Joe Thomas is a landmark recording that is worthy of attention even after 30+ years.