Music and Musings of Marshal McKitrick

The Brand New Cosmic Hokey Pokey

What if the Hokey Pokey Really is What It’s All About?

Dena and I have spirit-sized many songs over time, some of them secular and some old time gospel tunes. One of my favorites is one we’ve played with our Souls Journey collective at local kiirtan gatherings. At that time, we called it the New Thought Hokey Pokey in honor of some of the spiritual gathering places we played at.

In this case, the new version was inspired by a funny bumper sticker I had seen, “What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it’s all about?” This question seemed to raise various thought provoking ponderings on the nature of existence. Therefore, the old version of the song just seemed to be begging for revision a la’ the tool of spirit-sizing. It seemed to be a great opportunity to invite everyone’s Inner Child out to dance and sing.

Will the Real Hokey Pokey, please stand up…

According to Wikipedia, the origins of the original song start with a British folk dance, with variants attested as early as 1826. The song and accompanying dance peaked in popularity as a music hall song and novelty dance in the mid-1940s in Britain and Ireland. Also, it’s even claimed that a number of variations of the song and the dance go back to the 17th century. In 1953, Ray Anthony’s big band recording of the song turned it into a nationwide sensation.

In case you haven’t heard this song, here’s the Ray Anthony version. I think this is the same 45 record that was played in my house back in my childhood days.

Apparently, there have been copyright issues around who wrote the Hokey Pokey. According to a New York Times article, some of those issues arose in the UK during World War II between a band leader and a music publisher. Meanwhile, during the mid to late 40’s in the U.S., there was a copyright dispute between two different groups of musicians who played for resorts in different parts of the country. In this case, the lawsuit was settled out of court in a manner that granted both sets of authors shared ownership.

The Brand New Cosmic Hokey Pokey

Recently, I was preparing for an upcoming Sunday morning gig at a local Science of Mind church. I’d been informed that the topic of the day was Laughter as a Spiritual Practice. In my musical research, I was struggling with what song to choose that would bring about spontaneous laughter from the folks listening. As I sat there with our Souls Journey version of the song mentioned earlier, I contemplated that infamous bumper sticker question. And, voila, I started playing guitar and singing the first new verse. Thus, another moment of Divine inspiration had arrived with me as its recipient!

To wrap up, I call this version The Brand New Cosmic Hokey Pokey. I’ve shared it with a few friends over the phone and in person and, so far, it seems to land in that sweet spot between recognition and the metaphysical funny bone. Click below to hear a simple recording of the song.

  I’m also including the new lyrics here for your perusal. Enjoy the tune!

The Brand New Cosmic Hokey Pokey

Written by Larry LaPrise and Robert Degen/
Additional music and lyrics by Marshal & Dena McKitrick

What if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s really all about?
What if that Hokey Pokey took away all of my worries and doubt?
Could be the Cosmic punch line inspires me to wanna’ jump and shout (Hey!)
What if the Hokey Pokey turns out to be just what it’s all about?

You put your chakras in, you take your chakras out
You put your chakras in and you shake ‘em all about
Do the hokey pokey as you turn your soul around, that’s what it’s all about

You put your aura in, you take your aura out
You put your aura in and you shake it all about
Do the hokey pokey as you turn your soul around, that’s what it’s all about

What if the Hokey Pokey is what it’s really all about?
What if that Hokey Pokey brought the light shining right out of the clouds?
Could be the greatest secret living in the ever present now
What if the Hokey Pokey turns out to be the sacred Holy Cow?

You put your past lives in, you take your past lives out
You put your past lives in and you shake ‘em all about
Do the hokey pokey as you turn your soul around, that’s what it’s all about

You put your Inner Critic in, you take your Inner Critic out
You put your Inner Critic in and you shake it all about
Do the hokey pokey as you turn your soul around, that’s what it’s all about

You do the brand new Cosmic Hokey Pokey, do the brand new Cosmic Hokey Pokey
Do the brand new Hokey Pokey, that’s what it’s all about…

[Note: Extra words for choruses: True Self/ karma/ dogma/ shadows, etc. – also, invite audience suggestions]

Laurel and Hardy Dance to Santana

Laurel and Hardy Dance to Santana

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.

Yodeling Ragtime

Laurel and HardyNext, 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.”

Source -TimOBrien.net

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
Dark feathers
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
Tenderly cradles
The left behind remains
In its green blades

An offering
In remembrance of life
And its sudden ending
Followed by unknown grace

Song Spotlight: While My Guitar Gently Weeps by George Harrison

while my guitar gently weepsThis week, I’m writing about one of my all time favorite George Harrison songs, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” It’s been covered by various artists and in different contexts over the years since being recorded and released on The Beatles’ White Album in 1968.

It’s All in the Arrangement

Recently, I watched an animated film called Kubo and the Two Strings. During the end credits, I heard a cool and surprising version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I was reminded once again that the beauty and power of a song can be reframed simply by changing the instrumentation. Or, in other words, it’s all in the arrangement.

The song goes in an easterly direction with a combination of shamisen (Japanese lute), shakuhachi (Japanese flute), koto (Japanese harp), and taiko drums. Also included in the song’s arrangement is a strong vocal by Regina Spekto. There is also the almost obligatory orchestral section usually used for film scoring, along with choral voicings. Here’s what I found on YouTube. I invite you to give it a listen and see how it moves you.

 

The Esher Demos

As the story goes, Harrison began writing the music and some lyrics for “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” during The Beatles visit to India in early 1968. He completed writing the lyrics at his mother’s house after returning back to the UK. Afterwards, a demo version of the song was recorded by The Beatles at Harrison’s bungalow in Esher, Surrey. There is a general opinion that a number of other demos were recorded in that same session. And that most of them were re-recorded and completed to appear on The Beatles White Album.

The Love album – While My Guitar Gently Weeps

In November 2006, an album of remixed and re-mastered Beatles music, Love, was released. It was co-produced by Sir George Martin and his son, Giles Martin. The album was tied in with a new Cirque Du Soleil show in Las Vegas. This version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” blended George’s vocal and guitar from the Esher demos with a new orchestral arrangement written by producer George Martin.

Martin says he was petrified doing it, but George’s widow Olivia came to the recording session for the strings and loved it when she heard it played. “It’s pretty significant,” said Martin. “It’s the very last score ever to be written for a Beatles song.” His son Giles said, “That’s the only added music in the show, that new string arrangement by my Dad.”
Source: thoughtco.com

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDLBBn9n6yw

Also, this version of the song included a verse from Harrison that was not included in The White Album.

I look from the wings at the play you are staging
While my guitar gently weeps
As I’m sitting here doing nothing but aging
Still my guitar gently weeps

Jake Shimabukuro’s Weeping Ukelele

Here’s further proof of the power of musical arrangement. Of course, musical virtuosity is also a large factor in the case of Jake Shimabukuro’s sweet version of Harrison’s classic tune. A native from Honolulu, Hawai’i, Jake became an international phenomenon after someone posted his take of the tune on YouTube and it went viral.

“At the time, I didn’t even know what YouTube was,” Jake laughs. “Nobody did, especially in Hawai’i. But, I had some friends who were going to college on the mainland and they sent me a link to the video. By the time I saw it, it already had millions of views. My name wasn’t even on it then. All it said was ‘Asian guy shreds on ukelele’ or something like that… It was a big turning point for me.”  Source: jakeshimabukuro.com

What I found interesting about the Jake connection is that Harrison loved playing the uke. He grew up in the 1940’s listening to the music of Lancashire comedian, George Formby, and developed an enthusiasm for ukulele that would last the rest of his life. There are stories from his family and friends about George passing out ukeleles to folks after dinner for some music and relaxation. He even played ukulele on a track from his final album, Brainwashed, that was released after his death in 2001.

Live in Japan

Now, let’s bring it back full circle to George Harrison’s own live version of “While My Guitar gently weeps.” In 1991, Harrison was convinced by his close friend, Eric Clapton, to tour Japan with him. The album was recorded during his and Clapton’s joint Japanese tour in December 1991, and it contains a selection of Harrison’s hits as a solo artist alongside some of his best-known Beatles songs. The experience proved to be an enjoyable one for George.

In July 1992, he released a live double album, Live in Japan. It was his last album to be released before his death in 2001. Sounds like he and Eric thoroughly enjoyed themselves tearing it up on the guitar solo section. And, it was fitting that they played it together on stage for the gig. After all, years earlier George had asked Eric to come into the Apple studio to record that famously wailing lead guitar solo. Thank you, George and Eric!

 

Local Artist Spotlight: Jon Merriman

It’s time to shine the friendly Meadowlark spotlight on one of my favorite local Sacramento artists. This week, I present to you the one and only, Jon Merriman.

Jon Merriman Trio

Jon MerrimanI met Jon way back in the mid 1980’s through another good friend and musician, Christian Heilman. At the time, Christian was playing drums with Jon and Richard Siegl on electric bass in the Jon Merriman Trio (JMT). I recall the JMT playing in small, intimate venues around the Sacramento area. I have fond memories of listening to the trio back in the day. They put on quite a satisfying show playing Jon Merriman originals with verve and joyful abandon. Here’s a photo of Jon from the JMT era (or shortly after)

When the Rain Stands Still

After the trio broke up in the late 80’s, Jon moved on as a solo act. He put his focus into his unique playing approach to instrumental jazz guitar (see the bio page on his website). Since 1995, he has released three albums. The first one was all original tunes; the second one was mostly originals; and the third album was covers of some his favorite tunes. You can find two of his albums, When the Rain Stands Still and, Solitary Man, on CD Baby. All of Jon’s albums are released under his in house record label, Genwa Records. Here’s the title tune from his first album, When the Rain Stands Still.

Over the years, I’ve had the persistent idea of adding lyrics to some of Jon’s melodies, so more folks can enjoy his sense of melody and composition. Also, this would transform Jon’s tunes into full songs that I can play and sing. We met last year for a songwriting brainstorming session. Now, I have yet another musical project to work on in my retirement years. My hope is that at least one of those co-written tunes will make it onto a future album of mine. And, speaking of musical collaborating, Jon did play guitar on three tracks of my Older and Wiser album. His graceful guitar voice will also appear on my new album, In a Circle.

Growing Up in Nebraska

In May 2015, Jon put his own time and money into presenting himself in a solo showcase at the Harris Center in Folsom, CA. I knew this was a big deal for him, so I had to be there in support. He titled it, Music of the ‘60s. Dena and I attended the concert and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. I was happy for him to see a great turnout of friends, neighbors, and family.

Here’s what Sacramento.Eventful.com had to say about Jon’s showcase:

If you think a solo, instrumental guitar concert is the most boring thing you’ve ever heard of, this is the concert to change your mind! Upbeat and lively and full of the great pop songs of the 1960s, Jon Merriman and his guitar take on the golden age of pop music. From the early British invasion to the great American bands of that day, Jon brings back all the sounds of the most exciting musical time in recent history.

Jon Merriman - contemporaryJon also shared anecdotes from his days of growing up in Nebraska during the ’60s. Apparently, his boyhood town was one of the last ones to get on the state’s power grid with access to electricity and modern lighting. Even though the media choices were limited at that time in Nebraska, he was still able to hear and see The Beatles on radio and t.v. It seems that had a huge impact on his musical journey.

Your Tuesday Morning Guitar Song

About six years ago, Jon began producing guitar music videos and they’re all published on his very own YouTube channel, Genwaworldwide. Most recently, he began a new series of YouTube videos called Your Tuesday Morning Guitar Song (YTMGS). In this series, Jon brings into play his earlier experience as a college radio broadcaster and blends it in with his friendly way of sharing his passion about music. I invite you to check it out!

Also, to show that Jon is not just a one-trick pony, he currently provides live music for a monthly Sacramento event, Soul Talks.  And, before I forget to mention it, Jon also has years of experience in running sound for live shows in the greater Sacramento area like the annual Earth Day celebration in Southside Park.

Finally, to complete today’s Local Artist Spotlight with a flourish, here’s Volume 3 of YTMGS in which Jon does his solo acoustic guitar thing on a big 80’s hit, Take On Me, from A-Ha. Keep making it real, Jon. Enjoy!  [For more information about this local artist, go to http://www.jonmerriman.com]

Riding the Rails: A Train Ride to the Bay

Train Ride

train-rideLast 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.

Slowing Down

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?

WILD SPRING

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

Artist Spotlight: Noel Paul Stookey

Noel Sings

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.

Going Solo

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!

One and Many - Congregation of Finches

Life Purpose

Making a Difference

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.

Dogwood in SpringALTAR 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

Demos in the Studio

Studio Update

Making demosDemos

I worked with Ed in the studio last weekend to create some booking demo songs. All the demos were taken from songs that will appear on my forthcoming album, In a Circle. Also, the songs consist of two tracks with me singing and playing guitar. After working to build up these songs over the last three years with various guest artists playing different instruments, it felt strange to hear these tunes without the drums, bass, etc. So, these demos are my “Unplugged” tunes, if you will. Here’s the demo version of Familiar Strangers:

Mixing Continues…

Five of the twelve songs have now been mixed for the album by Ed and I. These songs have taken extra attention, due to the process of getting a good blend from the blended drum kit mics. Hopefully, I’m looking forward to the mixing process going faster, as we move on to other songs with no drum kit and even fewer tracks. At this point, I’m hoping to have all the mixing done by the end of April. Mix those tracks! Here’s the latest mix for Gaia’s Voice:

Artist Spotlight: The New Basement Tapes

Turning Lyrics into Songs

Last week, I watched “The Lost Tapes: The Basement Tapes Continue” documentary with a good friend. This documentary was released in late 2014, along with an album titled “Lost on the River” by the New Basement Tapes. The New Basement Tapes is an intriguing collection of great musicians: Elvis Costello, Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), and Taylor Goldsmith (Dawes).

The whole album project was based on a box of unpublished Bob Dylan lyrics that he wrote in the mid 60’s and didn’t make into songs or record. All of the lyrics were uncovered by Dylan’s archivists. Later, producer T Bone Burnett got permission from Dylan to have a group of musicians to complete what Bob had started.

Music in the Basement

As the history goes, after Dylan had a motorcycle accident in the mid 60’s, he just wanted to get away for awhile from his growing popularity as an artist. So he headed to upstate New York and retired in a state of semi-seclusion. In early ’67, Dylan invited a group of mostly Canadian musicians to join him in playing some music. They had played with Dylan as the backup band for his first U.S. “electric” tour in ’65.

So, Bob and “the band” wound up recording a series of demo’s in the basement of a house in Woodstock. This all took place a couple of years before the famous Woodstock music festival. By the fall of ‘67, the sessions with Bob and the other musicians had ended. The music they had created together was never intended to be an album.

However, after some folks got a hold of the tapes and began to bootleg it for distribution, Dylan decided to make it official album. The album was released as The Basement Tapes in ‘75. Within a year of making the demos with Bob, the same group of musicians had released their first album, Music from Big Pink. Their first album was also recorded in Woodstock, NY and they decided to stick with their humble name and became known as The Band. Apparently, the rediscovered lyrics were written by Dylan during this same time period. Hence, that led to the tie in of The New Basement Tapes.

Lost on the River

Even though the producers of the Lost Tapes documentary chose to have actors playing Bob and The Band filmed from a distance with a grainy effect, it doesn’t detract from the creative power of the music created by The New Basement Tapes group. The project explores the process of songwriting via the various players. All of them were given the same set of Dylan lyrics and directed to make them into songs.

So, what unfolds in the film shows the band bringing what they’ve written to the album “potluck” and trying out various arrangements with each other. It all took place over two weeks in a studio at Capitol Records tower in Los Angeles. My personal favorite of the songs was created and sung by Rhiannon Giddens. It’s called Lost on the River and is a beautifully, haunting tune. Check it out here. “I got lost on the river, but I did not drown…”

Spring is Here!

Spring is Here!

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.

repeat - spring poem

Celebrating Spring Equinox

Spring cherry blossomsLast 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.

Earth Drums

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

Art Imitates Life

Art Imitates Life

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the concept of art imitating life. Oscar Wilde wrote that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life”. In musical terms, I think of it as music mirroring life. I’ve heard songs in my life that reminded me of personal experiences I’ve had with others. Like, the experience of talking with someone I’m close to and then, suddenly, getting a sense the conversation has happened once before. I tend to have this happen in the middle of a big, dramatic dialogue unfolding between myself and another person.

I’ve Heard That Tear Stained Monologue…

One of my favorite folk songwriter artists is John Hartford. Some years back, he wrote an interesting song with a long, odd sounding title. In fact, the song title is I’ve Heard that Tear Stained Monologue You Do There by the Door Before You Go. This song recently popped up in my vast mental jukebox and played for a few days. Here’s a version that was recorded by Mason Williams and includes some tasty fiddle and lead guitar picking. Mason and John were both colleagues back in the late 60’s on the classic Smothers Brothers TV show. Hope you enjoy the tune!

10 Movies I Enjoyed in 2016

 1. Arrival (Sci-Fi) Nice blend of 2001:Space Odyssey and Contact. Interesting exploration of an alien, non-human language, interfacing with human/alien interaction.

 2. Fences (Drama) Powerful story about parenting, disappointment, and getting on with life. Echoes of Death of a Salesman through the lens of black culture.

 3. Doctor Strange ((Fantasy/Action) Well done interpretation of an old Marvel comic book series. Bit of a 60’s throwback mixed with mysticism.

 4. Zootopia (Animated) Great story with engaging characters and plenty of witty dialogue. Animated movies just get better and better.

 5. Sing Street (Drama/Music) Intriguing tale of youth expressing themselves via music in 80’s Dublin. Insightful look into the creative process of songwriting.

 6. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Fantasy) Here’s one for the Harry Potter fans of the world who enjoy spending time in the Wizarding world. Solid story line with the promise of a new series.

 7. Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Drama/Adventure) Good interplay between the old man and the boy. Think of it as reluctant mentor meets angry, curious young man, as they survive out in the wilds of New Zealand.

 8. Rogue One (Sci-Fi) First Star Wars standalone movie with more to come. Story had interesting, likable characters. Helps make up for the last three bad Star Wars movies.

 9. The Jungle Book (Fantasy/Adventure) Cool blend of the old school Disney animated version and live action. Bill Murray as the voice of Baloo the bear is perfect.

10. The Man Who Knew Infinity (Drama) Young Indian mathematical genius meets and works with old professor on WW1 era English college campus. Smartly executed depiction of culture clash. Inspiring connection between the Divine and human intellect.