To Whitney

I have to write about Whitney. I have to.

I am five years old and I have the clearest memory of being upstairs in our old log cabin. My mom has VH1 on and she yells up the stairs that MY song is on. My song. I run haphazardly down the stairs and Whitney is there, on the screen, with a gigantic floppy bow in her huge hair. She’s singing, “How will I know” and i have this wide leg stanced dance I do that involves turning my torso and snapping both my fingers and head.

Jr. High, The Bodyguard hit, and I don’t think I was allowed to see it(isn’t there a steamy scene between her and Kev?), but I got the soundtrack and listened to it repeatedly on my tape deck. Rewinding, “I will always love you” and requesting it on K101 “For Lovers Only” on a regular basis.

Then all the drugs, and yes, I blame Bobby Brown, all true fans do. Her light dimmed out and she fell victim to cliches and t.v. talk show host jokes, but still, I’d play old Youtube videos of her, flexing her athletic arms, her top lip sweating as she flawlessly belted out that final “AND I,….I, I will always love you,” after that drum pelt and the key change. Killed me. Shivers up and down the arms.

Mid 2000’s she went on a religious quest to Africa to find her lost spirituality. Bobby was there and the videos they showed were of her stumbling and dancing alone, crying, draping herself onto others, clearly under the influence of anything she could find. I felt horribly embarrassed for her, and for me, as I sat alone in my kitchen crying. Her former saxaphone player, one she fired, gave a candid interview remembering Whitney pre-drugs. “What would you say to her now?” they asked and he responded, “I’d play her the song she always requested.” And with that he started Amazing Grace and the show ended. I called my mother feeling I had to process my feelings about Whitney’s decline. Like she was a real friend.

And she was, wasn’t she? Aren’t they all, those artists, those people that sing and dance and perform for us? How do I say this without sounding fanatic or cute? Since I write, and since I grew up being fed music as sustenance, I believe whole heartedly in the power of words and notes to bond you to perfect strangers. Not every musician speaks to me, but the ones that do, the ones that give me chills, or warm me up, or provide me an outlet to mourn my biggest let downs or celebrate my the best parts of life – I know them. Like a friend, they were there, they gave meaning, to the most intimate, unnerving, vulnerable, ecstatic moments of my life.

In 2009, Whitney made her comeback, divorced Bobby Brown and it seemed she was taking Clive Davis’ guidance again. I watched her on the circuit, stopping by Oprah, and felt a ting of hopefulness. Whitney was back. My favorite moment being her stop in Central Park where she sang before thousands, specifically to her mom, “I look to you,” her voice shaky and breaking.

My opinion, as small as it is, is this — God has a special place in his heart for the addict. Those tortured artists with insatiable appetites their body can’t contain. I think he must admire their pursuits to find peace and beauty, even to their death. So with that, I know that Whitney is back in the heart of God, up with the rest of those who ravaged through life and now have rest.

To Whitney.

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The part of the blog where I post observations in the form of a question (the one about Phil Collins)

How much do you totally secretly love Phil Collins?
That’s not an observation, I know. Are any of my observations actually observations? Lame.
You should have observed me singing on the top of my lungs in my car today. Confession: Every time a Phil Collins song comes on I think, “Man, so good.” And I’ve realized that I needed to be more open about my Collins respect, so while drinking beer in the backyard with friends, Peter and Dave, I confessed my adoration and they agreed! So, together, we sang our favorites. Oh come on, say you don’t sing along when good ol’ Phil comes on the soft rock station you have programmed into your radio. No?

Say you don’t feel this mullet…

The best part of youtube videos are the comments underneath,
as in, “im into hardcore and metal and even Iknow i have phill to thank in some ways, real music when it was a simpler time and lets face it…phill collins rules.” Thanks, Freakonetwoonetwo. Put the truth out there!

Who DOESN’T sing along to this song when it’s playing in the grocery store?

And this is the one I sang pretty loud alone. You have to admit it’s better than Sunny and Cher’s version. Common, doesn’t it melt you a wee bit? “Anytime you want to, you can turn me on to, anything you want to, any time at all.”

And remember when Phil Collins was an actor? Yea, I don’t either.

Amy Winehouse

I didn’t follow Amy Winehouse, didn’t listen much to her music, or know much about her, but, I always feel a softness and a sadness for anyone that fights against the darkness of addiction and doesn’t get to win. It never seems fair to me – the way the disease eats up the talented and the tortured without much remorse. I started browsing Winehouse’s songs and came across the one shown below. It’s foolish, but something about her voice, and the words, and all that longing, and the fact that she never made it into the clearing — I nearly burst into tears. An actual burst – one of those surprising kinds that comes from the gut and embarrasses you a bit – but I held it together. I keep playing it though. I hear the words different than the Shirelle’s version – it’s sadder. I always seem to like sadder. Minute 1 and a bit after that — there’s something right there that’s just right.

Update

My life these days is (outside of work)…

yoga (started, goal is to go twice a week)

and writing (but never enough, i’m so lazy when it comes to this)

and netflix (why do i love californication? david duchovny is the hottest 50 year old i don’t know, that’s why.)

and organizing (i went for the first time to the container store – my, oh my, what a wonderful place.)

and drinking water (i’m in a current competition with a friend, we try and drink 75 to 90 oz a day. It’s completely gross and awesome.)

and mandolin lessons (yep, bluegrass, i love you.)

and music (upcoming concerts – mumford & sons, tired pony, hardly strictly bluegrass festival – lucky, lucky me.)

and darling friends.

and that’s about it, for now.

i am needing to add to my list – trips to the beach, night swims, kisses.

love.

Alex…

I saw Chris Thile a few weeks back and it was beyond great.  And he did this song called Alex and I loved it, as did Pam (see Pam Tab).  And since seeing him I’ve been following his band which as been fun and filling my life with fresh music.  But here, you can listen too…

http://www.wnrn.org/?s=The+Punch+Brothers

And the song, the Alex song, that is sweet to the core – is at about 11:45 or so.  But you should, it’s true, listen to the whole program because they’re just too good to skip over.  Just trust me on this one, OK? 

Oh and you can watch the video of one of the songs here: http://www.youtube.com/user/WNRNradio#p/a/u/0/braQeLkJUvE

And if they don’t come up, type in their names and they will, they just will…

Flow gently sweet river, disturb not her dream…

I was listening to music just now – songs played on guitars and mandolines and banjos – and it filled me with something old and familar. Growing up I was surrounded by stringed instruments – mostly guitars (I learned on my father’s beat-up classical)- but there were ukuleles, mandolines, a fiddle, some kind of harped instrument, even a banjo.

The shape of home for me is a mixture of stained glass and bells (collected by my mother), shelves of brown, burgundy and dark blue dusty books, some pinch of San Francisco, a clear blue lake, old cameras, pictures that reak of chemicals created in our garage, Ancient King James’ Bibles and endless music played on records and tape decks – The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins, Paul Simon, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Neil Young, Tracy Chapman, The Cheiftains, Winwood, Clapton, Vivaldi, Bach, Mozart, a gospel song here and there, and the sound of my mother’s voice, and my father’s harmony, and the all those stringed instruments tied together in some equisite memory box I’ll never find again – not fully.

Flow gently sweet river, disturb not her dreams…….

Listening to these two songs just now…