I love this YouTube video mashup as Laurel and Hardy dance to Santana’s catchy tune, Oye Como Va. When I’m taking life way too seriously, I can watch this to put a smile on my face and feel light-hearted.
When I watched it for the first time, I was dubious that it would work. However, the combination of Stan and Ollie’s graceful dancing and prancing about with the latin percussion, bubbly organ and fluid Santana guitar licks is sheer joy. I view this as two old friends letting their little boys have fun moving to the music. If you haven’t seen this before, have fun! If you’ve seen it already, just let it roll and dance along.
Next, for all you cowboy music fans, here’s the original film clip from that same Laurel and Hardy film, Way Out West. The film was released in 1937. The music for the clip features T. Marvin Hatley with The Avalon Boys. And, the yodeling cowboy is none other than Chill Wills, a character actor who appeared in many western movies and T.V. shows from the 1930’s up through the 1970’s.
The Avalon Boys was formed by Wills and he also provided the bass singing voice for Stan Laurel in this film. As I researched further, I discovered that this film scene is an odd pastiche. Here’s a group of cowboys singing and yodeling out a ragtime show tune written by an African American composer in the early 1900’s with dancing provided by an early Hollywood comedy duo. So, it turns out that this one is clearly a different kind of cultural mashup than the 21st century Santana version.
Take your partner and you hold her, lightly enfold her
A little bolder, just work your shoulder
Snap your fingers one and all in the hall at the ball that’s all, some ball
John Leubrie Hill, the black George M. Cohan
The song that Stan and Ollie are dancing to in the original film clip was written by John Leubrie Hill, an early African American stage performer and songwriter from Memphis, Tennessee. According to accounts, Mr. Hill was one of the most successful ragtime songwriters in the business. Published and promoted by Jerome H. Remick & Co., he wrote both music and lyrics, which described the dance that Laurel and Hardy do. Meanwhile, individual performers began to interpolate his songs into their vaudeville acts and Broadway appearances.
“In the early 1900’s, he was sometimes referred to as the “black George M. Cohan.” In collaboration first with Alex Rogers and later with J. Rosamond Johnson, Hill wrote songs and entire plays for the touring African American theater and tent shows of his day, working with top performers like Bert Williams. In 1913, Hill produced and starred in the successful Harlem show My Friend From Kentucky, which included At The Ball, That’s All. Broadway impresario, Florenz Ziegfeld, purchased the rights to the song for his next review, and it eventually made it into a 1937 Laurel and Hardy film called Way Out West. J. Leubrie Hill died in 1916.”
Poetry Spotlight: Cradled in Grace
I wrote this poem after walking in downtown Sacramento and observing a bird sitting in the grass near the sidewalk. At first glance, I thought it was alive and then realized it was dead. The contrast inspired me to reflect on the mystery of life and death and what comes after.
CRADLED IN GRACE
Written by Marshal Jon McKitrick January 6, 2003
The grackle sits
Upright and still
On the grass
As I walk by
With flecks of gold
I expect it
To startle and fly
Or at least
To walk away from me
In shy fear
I stop and look more closely
Realizing the bird is dead
No spark left in the body
With no special ceremony
Or ritual attended
Its life force has made
One giant flutter of wings
Back to Infinite Source
I appear to be the only witness
To the way the grass
The left behind remains
In its green blades
In remembrance of life
And its sudden ending
Followed by unknown grace
Last weekend, I took a train ride over to the San Francisco Bay Area. It was my first train ride in Northern California. I was headed towards my final destination of Jack London Square in Oakland to meet with a friend and look for an outdoor workshop location. I could feel the excited spirit of my little boy that lives inside of me. He was curious and happy to see the world from a different point of view.
First, the train passed over the Yolo Causeway, gliding over all the wide water on its way to Davis. Next, I enjoyed the view of open fields and waterways passing through the Suisun-Fairfield area. Afterwards, the train ran below Interstates 680 and 780, as it crossed the Carquinez Strait on the way to Martinez.
From there, the train ran along the San Pablo Bay, as I gazed out over the water towards the San Francisco Bay Bridge on the way to Richmond. Finally, the train moved through an urban landscape of warehouses, fences, clusters of homeless tents, and lots of creative graffiti.
Looking out the window of the Capitol Corridor train, I was reminded about the beauty of slowing down enough to notice the real scenery of America and its inhabitants, both humans and the creatures of the natural world. Also, I realized it’s a version of time travel experienced by moving across the landscape in an older way taken by my parents and other ancestors. Somehow, I connected with something greater than me that’s unnoticed as I’m driving down the freeway in a passenger car.
A Song for Riding the Rails
An old familiar song played on my mental jukebox, as I was riding the rails. It was the perfect musical companion for my trip. The song was City of New Orleans, written by Steve Goodman. In 1972, Arlo Guthrie learned it from Steve in the back of the Quiet Night in Chicago. Of course, over the years, it’s become one of Arlo’s best known tunes after Alice’s Restaurant.
Here’s Steve Goodman, himself, singing it. I got a good chuckle out of Steve’s quip about having a dream that he had to lip synch the song on American Bandstand. Enjoy this version by the original songwriter.
Poetry Spotlight: Wild Spring
During my earlier years of working for the State of California, I used to ride my bicycle from the South Land Park area to downtown Sacramento and back home. The following poem was inspired one Spring, as I was pedaling past the zoo located in William Land Park.
At this point in my life of retirement, I frequently take long walks through our neighborhood and that same zoo is along my route. Sometimes, I still tap into the “contained wildness” mentioned in the poem. Have you been in touch with the kernel of your soul recently?
Copyright 1994 Marshal Jon McKitrick
I pedal upon the tamed pavement
As I pass along the fence of contained wildness
There are times when I pass beyond the gate of that fence
And enter into the deep center of my self
Looking and searching for a part of me
That is deeper and more pungent than tiger droppings
on zoo floor cages
Seeking that kernel of my soul that is higher and rarer
Than threads of spider web on a cool spring breeze
When I am not in touch with that sweet and sour smell of wisdom
I fear that in going there I will remain on the fringe
Living out my days as a savage with no one to talk with
And share my sorrow and joy
But for today, I smell the spring- tilled earth
And I am reminded and touched by the essence of life
That never goes away for long
One and many – Noel Paul Stookey was one third of the very popular folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary (PP&M) back in the 60’s. From what I’ve read, the trio decided to use Noel’s middle name, Paul, for a stronger group name. Their albums and album covers are part of my grade school musical memories and I remember listening to them back in the day. As I recall, Peter, Paul and Mary was one of my sister’s favorite music groups. Also, I thought they were cool, especially with Peter and Paul sporting their goatee beards and looking like beatniks out of the 50’s. More than that, I really enjoyed their vocal harmonies and the bold songs they chose to sing. Furthermore, Paul (or Noel’s) quiet confidence in his singing and guitar playing made quite an impression on me.
When I reviewed the history of PP&M, I was reminded that they disbanded in 1970 to work as solo artists. Oddly enough, that’s the same year The Beatles broke up before pursuing their individual musical careers. Noel released his debut solo album, titled Paul and…, in 1971. His album included an original tune, The Wedding Song (There is Love) which remains a popular choice for performance at weddings. I, myself, have played that song for at least at one wedding. As it turns out, Peter, Paul and Mary did get back together for a summer reunion tour in 1978. And, they continued to sing and record together until the late 2000’s when Mary died from chemotherapy complications.
As It Was, In the Beginning…
Recently, I heard Noel sing a gently prodding political parody song, Impeachable, on YouTube. I hadn’t followed his musical career for many years. So, I began to wonder what he’s been up to all this time. After a bit of Internet digging, I found out that Noel has kept busy with songwriting, singing, and recording. He currently lives in Maine and built a recording studio and started his own record label. He even performs live with Peter occasionally. If you’re curious, his website is noelpaulstookey.com.
One and Many
One of Noel’s most recent albums was released in 2012. It’s titled, One and Many, and is chock full of some great tunes. Noel shows off his guitar chops on one song called, Jean Claude. I was so enthralled with the cool bell tone riff on it that it stuck in mind for several days. However, my favorite overall tune on this album is the title song, One and Many. I love the chord progression and the call-response chorus with the audience is an instant folk classic. I’m grateful to be reminded that some things (or people) in life just keep getting better. Thank you, Noel, for all the great music you have created and shared with us in your life’s journey!
Poetry Spotlight: Finches
Last spring on one of my long walks in our neighborhood, I came upon a large tree with many finches perching, flitting back and forth, and calling out. I was inspired to write about my experience which Dena then crafted into a Daily Napkin post. This spring, I observed that same large tree being removed by a tree crew. Recently, on another long walk through our neighborhood, I heard and observed another flock of finches in a different large tree not far from the one that was removed. I decided it was a good time to share the writing this week. Hail to the birds of springtime!
Life Purpose… I was very idealistic as a teenager. For better or worse, I grew up in the 60’s which was a very tumultuous and exciting time for all who were there for it. As informed by the youth culture of the day, I really dug into and clung to the idea of making a difference in the world. Of course, I had a lot of company in that. In fact, I had the company of a whole generation. So, in my adolescence, I really thought the solution was in changing the world. As I entered my early twenties, I broadened my scope of view. I was guided to join a spiritual organization that challenged me to think about changing myself AND the world. From that point on, life got very interesting for me.
Along my life’s journey, music has been my constant companion. Music has been with me from my childhood with church hymns and singing in the choir to sharing songs with other men in various circles to singing with my wife in sacred ceremonial space. Most of all, music has given me a life purpose, as well as the gift of inspiring and blessing others with powerful and positive vibrations.
Why Have You Come Here?
Dena and I met back in the early 2000’s at a place called Spiritual Life Center. That group had a theme song that was sung every Sunday. It’s called Love, Serve, Remember. Here are the lyrics:
Why have we come to Earth, do you remember?
Why have we taken birth, why have we come?
To love, serve, and remember
To love, serve, and remember…
One of my great friends (whom I also met at Spiritual Life Center) wrote a cool song in this same vein called, You Have Come Here for a Reason. I recorded it last year and it will appear on my In a Circle album. Here’s the latest mix of it. Enjoy!
Poetry Spotlight: Altar of Spring
I wrote this during my years of working a day job. Parking under the freeway south of downtown Sacramento I would then walk about a mile to my State office building. I was blessed to walk alongside a city park with plenty of trees and birds. Spring time remains my favorite time for walking outdoors.
ALTAR OF SPRING
Written by Marshal Jon McKitrick March 13, 2002
Passing a garden bower
In my hurry to get to work
I remember Spring
Amidst the machinery
And woes of the world
As I walk through
Sacred grove of tall trees in the park
The praises of morning birds in great joy
Reach my ears
Wandering once more
By the annual carpet
Of white-purple star flowers
I am blessed by their sweetness
Nodding in the morning breeze
And it seems to me
That we are all moving slowly
Upon the altar of Spring
I’m grateful that Spring is here. Yay! I have come to enjoy Spring as my favorite season. For me, it’s the blossoming of new hope and possibilities. I am always amazed at the beauty and bold vitality of new flowers, as the squirrels celebrate up in the tree branches. Every year, I marvel at the magnolia tree in our back yard that goes from fuzzy buds early in the year to its white-pink blooms in springtime.
Celebrating Spring Equinox
Last weekend, Dena and I made our monthly jaunt down to Piccolo Past ures. We sat in the labyrinth with our good friend, Karene, and others to celebrate the Spring Equinox. In ceremony, we welcomed in the spirit and energies of Spring. I heard the mourning doves “coo-cooing” in the trees, as the resident peacocks roamed around the grounds.
In the circle, I sang a classic Malvina Reynolds tune, God Bless the Grass. If you don’t know this powerful song, here it is. “God bless the grass that’s gentle and low,
Its roots they are deep and its will is to grow.”
Poetry Spotlight: Earth Drums
I wrote this poem almost 20 years ago. I was traveling back home after experiencing a sacred masculine initiation via the New Warrior Training Adventure. As strange as it may sound, I really was tuned into the Earth’s heartbeat. Thus, I was inspired to compose the following.
Written by Marshal McKitrick/ Copyright 1998
Behind the hum of machinery
Underneath the cold, hard concrete
I can hear the deep heartbeat of Earth
Drumming and droning
Its strength and power
When I sit still and focus
I hear the droning and drumming
In my heart chamber
Echoing in subterranean caverns
My heart is connected to Earth’s heart
Core to core, we are connected
By that ancient energy of life
Life that keeps moving
Through the needles on the cedar
And the song of the brook on the hillside
Life that can’t be completely hidden
By a restaurant in the airport terminal
Or jazz music on the car radio
It’s there, beating on past midnight
And into tomorrow
Earth will not wait for me to catch up
And pay attention
I must choose to listen