“Fools” said I, “You do not know”

I published my last post on July 6th. Soon after that I went on vacation and I told myself that I wouldn’t write for that whole week but that I’d get back to it soon after that, it’s been over a month. It’s not writer´s block, it’s laziness, the thing that this blog was meant to help me overcome. I wanted this blog to force me to write and for a couple of months it did just that, but the moment I took a break getting back into the habit has proven quite difficult. So I thought that, given the nature of this blog, the best way to get back to writing was to find a fitting soundtrack for my laziness. And I can’t imagine a better one…

“Hello darkness, my old friend. I’ve come to talk with you again”

The Sound of Silence is a downer, that’s how my brother defined it one day when we were talking about music back in the day. He’s right, it’s a downer. Then again… so are Tears in Heaven, While My Guitar Gentle Weeps or It’s All Over Now Baby Blue. So the fact that it’s a downer has never been an issue. I think the song’s great, and while I wouldn’t play it at a party I love listening to it on my own, which happens to be my favorite way of listening to music. The Sound of Silence, or The Sounds of Silence as it was originally called, is a great song, my favorite of Simon and Garfunkel… one that when it’s not been recently overplayed has that goose bump feeling to it every time. Maybe that’s why I’m going with a different version today, it’s best not to overplay the original.

“Because a vision softly creeping, left its seeds while I was sleeping”

I came across Carmen McRae’s version during the final credits of a worthless short film. Maybe I should be thankful because after discovering this version it’s the one I’ve listened to the most in the last 2 or 3 years, but the short film was truly awful. I like her deep voice and love the changes in rhythm she introduces into the song.  Every time I play it in front of my girlfriend I always get the same remark: “It’s good, but I like the original better”. Much like my brother, she’s right, the original is better.  Then again… so are Bob Dylan’s original versions of All Along the Watchtower, Mr. Tambourine Man or Like a Rolling Stone and that didn’t prevent Jimi Hendrix, The Byrds and The Rolling Stones from making pretty great covers. So, again, that’s not an issue. Carmen McRae’s cover is a great take on the original, and I highly recommend it as a way to “detox yourself” from the overplayed original. Something I’d recommend doing with a bunch of other songs as well, Hotel California, Stairway to Heaven and Satisfaction come to mind… (Any good substitutes for those?)

“In restless dreams I walked alone. Narrow streets of cobblestone”

I’m not sure I can pin-point significant memories which come to mind when I listen to the song. I friend and I did get asked during a joint verbal exam to explain what we interpreted from the sentence “Silence worries me”… and obviously we paraphrased a lot of the song’s lyrics in our answer. I once remember downloading a live version of the song which featured Bob Dylan… and obviously considered that my favorite version for a good year or two. During a short stint working in Latin America I remember my co-coworker having it as his ring tone… and obviously whistled the tune every time he received a call. I know none of those are particularly fond memories, but it’s only because it’s a song that’s often been around me and which I think I’ve heard too many times to be able associate with something truly personal or unique. I’m the one being a bit of a downer now. Pity.

“And in the naked light I saw. Ten thousand people, maybe more. People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening.”

I hope that whoever’s made it this far gives this version a chance, no matter how much you like or dislike the original. My blog post can be your equivalent of the shitty short film I had to suffer through. For me, who knows, maybe if I break out of my laziness it’ll become the song I uniquely and significantly remember for doing just that. I hope so.

“No one dare. Disturb… the sound of silence”

Seen the arrow on the doorpost

“And I know no one can sing the blues, like Blind Willie McTell” – Bob Dylan, Blind Willie McTell

9 months is a short time. It’s not an under appreciation of child-birth, it’s just my thought for the day. Today my brother got on a plane, which tempted me to play John Denver’s Leaving on a Jetplane but I withheld. We’d been living in the same city (five minutes away from each other) for the last 9 months, but today he headed off to live somewhere else. It’s been the first time since I was in college that we’ve been living in the same city and it has been a lot of fun, but like I said, 9 months is a short time.

“I traveled through East Texas. Where many martyrs fell”

We have the same nose. Voice too. A lot of similar mannerisms. And we both love Bob Dylan. People say we’re very similar to each other, which is probably true, but at the same time I think we’re becoming more and more different over time. Which is great, don’t get me wrong. I’m a fucking fool and he’d be a saint if only he believed they existed.

“Smell that sweet magnolia blooming”

My brother’s a special guy. He’s a great brother, the best actually (as cliché as that might sound), but above that he’s a special guy. If I took out all the great things he’s done for me I’d argue I’ve never met anybody like him. If you ever bump into him, get to know him. He’s a special guy.

“He’s dressed up like a squire. Bootlegged whiskey in his hand”

Around 2005 he spent 6 months in China and came back with a suitcase full of burned CDs and DVDs. I looked though the CDs and he’d clearly been hitting Dylan hard. As you can see special and smart, sorry ladies, he’s not single. When I say listening to Bob Dylan hard, I mean he’d been listening to a bunch of live concerts, bootlegs and everything he could get his hands on. Blind Willie McTell had been the priced jewel from his efforts. He came back thrilled of having discovered this song that Dylan wrote about a blues man who lived during the first half of the nineteen hundreds. It’s a great song… really, it’s a shame he’s not single.

“But power and greed and corruptible seed, seem to be all that there is”

I’m taller. Actually we’re the same height, but I always look about a foot taller in pictures, so I’m taller. Funnier is still up for grabs. Taste in movies, me. Looks, up for grabs. Everything else… his. No doubt about it. So far I haven’t written much about one my grandfathers (I only mentioned him briefly in a previous post), but for the purpose of this post I’ll say that until he died he was the most honorable person in my life. A father of nine, a loving husband and an incredible grandfather, when he passed away we all had our wind knocked out of us. I cried like a baby, as did everybody else. It was hard to envision being without somebody who gathered so many good qualities.

“Them charcoal gypsy maidens, can strut their feathers well”

Now we’re a big family, and my grandfather influenced all of us in one way or another… but if you ask me who reflects his personality and good nature the most, it’s my brother. I used to think nobody had inherited my grandfather’s good nature, just a little of this and a little of that, but now I’m convinced it’s my brother who reminds me the most of my grandfather. Hardly ever a bad thought, if he has one hardly ever will it become a bad gesture, and if it does he’s always the first to realize it. I can’t say that of a lot of people. I’m grateful we shared the last 9 months because I think I’ve gotten to know him even better than I did before. I enjoyed my brother the brother as much as I always, with the added perk of discovering more about my brother the special guy, the one I was talking about before. I hope I get to live 5 minutes (or 10) away from him at some other point during my life. 9 months is a short time.

“And I know no one can sing the blues, like Blind Willie McTell”

Female spirit of independence

A couple of years ago I traveled to Guinea-Bissau for work. I knew a little bit about the country before going since some of the work I was doing was related to projects being implemented in the capital of Bissau and two other regions of the country. I loved it, although I would still say I know very little about it.

A year before going I can confess that didn’t know anything about it, other than it was in West Africa and that they spoke Portuguese. To my disappointment the second of my “well documented facts” was really only half-true since even though Portuguese is the official language most people speak creole or in some case the language of their specific ethnic group (of which there are plenty of…)

My first contact with (good) African music goes back to when I was 19 or 20, and it was thanks to my uncle who I talked about briefly in another post when I mentioned he got me hooked on Neil Young thanks to the album Harvest. He’s probably the most wide-spread music fan I know. He likes music from all over the world, has a huge collection on his computer and is always trying out new artists from all sorts of genders. To his benefit I must say he’s got pretty good taste.

So it was him who some random weekend introduced me to few well-known artists which I’d never heard of, such as Habib Koité and Amadou et Mariam, both from Mali, or Youssou N’Dour from Senegal. They were all pretty good. It wasn’t my favorite genre, but definitely music worth exploring and great for branching out every now and then.

When my work lead me to learn a little more about Guinea-Bissau I wondered if any good artists had ever come out of there. I had not fucking clue. I think I even asked my uncle, he had no fucking clue. I later learned that Guinea-Bissau, mostly because it’s extremely poor, is a country that is often overlooked, and it’s very hard for elements of its culture to be showcased at the international level. Music being a clear example.

Although to my surprise, after a little research I found out that in the last 50 years (or so) there have been a few artists which have made it out of Guinea-Bissau and have been recognized internationally. One of those is the band Super Mama Djombo, which I discovered after watching a documentary on medical evacuations taking place in Guinea-Bissau. The film was well made, it did a good job shedding light on the severe health situation in the country while at the same time integrating cultural aspects like local dancing and, most of all, music. One of the songs in the soundtrack was titled Baliera, which even though in the movie it’s performed by a young artist I tracked it back to Super Mama Djombo, the original composers and a band whose story is very interesting.

The band was formed in the mid-sixties when most of the members were kids at a boy-scout camp, later growing up to record their first album in the seventies. Their name, the ‘Mama Djombo’ part, is that of a female spirit that was popular among the beliefs of independence fighters at the time. Guinea-Bissau gained independence in 1974 and the band grew in popularity while becoming politically active. After a very successful career, extraordinary by Guinea-Bissau standards, the group separated in 1986… but reunited in 2008 to release a new album called Ar Puro. The song Baliera is from that album and it’s pretty damn good. I recommend giving it a chance, push through the first 10 seconds (which sound like any random African song) and see if you like this electric folky-rythmic, at one point jazzy, tune… recorded in Iceland, but straight out of Guinea-Bissau.

I couldn’t find the lyrics and I don’t speak creole. So no lyrics in this post, hopefully a song you like:

Trying to please to the calling

“Well, it’s a marvelous night for a Moondance. With the stars up above in your eyes” Van Morrison, Moondance

A few months ago I asked my girlfriend a very simple question: How many men (ex-boyfriends, admirers, flings, friends…) have told you that the song Brown Eyed Girl Reminds them of you?

“A fantabulous night to make romance, ‘Neath the cover of October skies”

She laughed, digressed a little bit saying she liked the song and then kind of insinuated that a few might have. I’m sure they have, she’s a pretty girl with dark eyes. I didn’t get the number, but my guess would be no less than 3. I can’t blame them really, Van Morrison released an incredible song with the overall message being “you’re my brown eyed girl”, what else needs to be said? Somebody should try to measure the amount of sex that Van Morrison has brought to this world, perhaps only rivaled by the amount induced by Leonard Cohen. Aren’t people at MIT looking into this? Undoubtedly there’s a significant group of guys out there who should send out a collective ‘thank you’ to Van Morrison. I’m definitely one of them, but not because of Brown Eyed Girl.

“And all the leaves on the trees are falling, To the sound of the breezes that blow”

I have never, never, never used the Brown Eyed Girl line and I think every woman should roll their eyes if they ever heard it used on them, but then again who am I to judge. I’d probably love it if somebody told me I remind them of Neil Diamond’s Solitary Man, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird or the Highwaymen’s Highwayman. So let’s just all say thank you, thank the artists in question and, most importantly… enjoy the sex or at least get a kick out of somebody rolling their eyes at us. Hopefully it’s the first, but the latter can be fun too.

“And when you come my heart will be waiting. To make sure that you’re never alone”

I know I need to thank Van Morrison, but in my case for Moondance. It’s been my favorite/go-to romantic song for years, as well as my favorite Van Morrison song in general. I first heard it as a teenager in the 90’s when my father bought one of his greatest hits CD that featured Moondance (third track). Although I didn’t start to really like him until several years later, when I began driving and I picked up that same CD to listen to in the car. I remember at the time I was using my grandfather’s car which he wasn’t using anymore. It was 20 years old at the time and it’s still running today, it’s as boxy a car as cars get… and for some reason it has a CD player my grandfather decided to have installed. Inside that shitty car without power steering I discovered how good Van Morrison was, and in the upcoming years discovered the seductive powers of Moondance. I don’t think I’ve used those seductive powers much to my advantage, but I definitely discovered they were there. Ripe for the picking, pro bono courtesy of Van Morrison. Well, not really pro bono at the time, but for the moderate price of 15 bucks.

“Can I just have one a’ more Moondance with you, my love. Can I just make some more romance with a-you, my love”

Thoughtful, impassioned, they easily open their minds

“Through the eyes of a child this world is truly divine” – The Tulips, Summer Song

After a horrible winter season and a stretch of cold and rainy days that has lasted well into May, I’m glad to say… it’s about summer. At least in my city. It’s usually my least favorite season, but not this year, this year… it’s about summer.

“All the kids, they want today, the world’s problems to go away, it’s about summer”

My grandmother passed away in April of 2012. She had 9 children, 7 sons/daughters-in-law and 8 grandchildren who looked up to her and loved her to death, she was unique. It’s been a little over two years and I still miss having her in my life, but as much as I miss her I also like being able to remember her so well. She was giving, loving and caring, but also fun, witty and passionate, for all that I’m fortunate to have spent 26 years of my life so close to her.

Around 2008 she began to get pretty sick, slowly at first, but it got progressively worse until she was pretty ill the last couple of years of her life. She had several surgeries in her track record, but most noticeably her memory began to fade. It was tough seeing a person who had been so energetic, who had raised 9 children, who liked to go mushroom picking on weekends, who loved going for walks or who kept the plants in her terrace in tip-top shape, have to spend most of her day in a sofa, a wheelchair or in a bed. However, as sad as the overall situation was when you were with her you kind of forgot about all that. My favorite days back then were those when I’d be able to pay my grandparents a visit, stay for lunch and just hang around with them in the living room until they inevitably dozed off for a nap.

“All the neighborhood catch the love. All wanna get along, in the summer.”

Which brings me to mention my grandfather (excluded from the 9+7+8 listed above because he was in a league of his own). As much as my whole family loved and cared for my grandmother, we were always blown away by how my grandfather dealt with her illness. He lived those years caring for her, putting his own health at risk and never losing faith (which he had a lot of) that she could get better. He was outstanding. Everyone in my family did everything they could to help out, but what we did can’t compare to what he did on a daily basis. I’m sure I’ll write a post (or twenty) about my grandfather, so for now I’ll just say that he was outstanding.

“All the kids, they want today. Look ya in the eye and say its ok. It’s about summer.”

In 2011 I saw the movie The Music Never Stopped, which tells the story of a father who reconnects with his son when he’s informed that he’s been in an accident and has developed a brain tumor that prevents him from forming new memories. The movie is decent (not great) but I really liked the premise of the story, which is that the father begins reconnecting with his son through music. Through his favorite songs the son’s able to remember things from his past and the father’s able to interact with him. It sounded a little familiar….

When my grandmother was in the hospital she’d have days where she could hardly be bothered to talk, yet whenever we’d sing her a song from back in the day she’d liven up. Even though she couldn’t remember why she was in the hospital or what they were doing to her, she’d all of a sudden remember the lyrics to a song and sing along, it was incredible. As I was watching the film I couldn’t help but make the link. We sang her a bunch if different songs, songs she’d listened to for years throughout her life, but for some reason for this post I wanted to take a song from the movie. The movie soundtrack is great and it includes artists such as The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles and a bunch of others. However, the song that stuck with me after the movie was from a hardly-known band called The Tulips. I barely know anything about them, all I read online was that they formed in the 60’s, that their lead singer died electrocuted and that the group dissolved soon after that. That’s it. I doubt I’ll ever hear much about The Tulips, but their song Summer Song I’ll fish out every now and as usual I’m sure it’ll put me in a good mood.

“It’s about summer”

In the pouring rain…

“Penny Lane there is a barber showing photographs. Of every head he’s had the pleasure to have known” – The Beatles, Penny Lane

Why was she humming Penny Lane? I’ve wondered that a few times. It’s not a bad song, but hardly one of The Beatles’ best. It is catchy, I guess that could’ve been it. Although maybe there’s another reason, one I’m not sure I’ll ever find out.

“In Penny Lane there is a fireman with an hourglass, and in his pocket is a portrait of the Queen.”

I worked with her for two years, the second of which sharing a desk while we typed away on our piece of shit laptops. Hipsters would’ve loved them; I thought they were pieces of shit. It was a great working relationship, we discussed the projects we were involved in, we stopped every now and then to chat about… well, anything really… and we had fun joking around. Our jobs weren’t very stimulating, but we had great times. So I wonder, where did Penny Lane come from?

“Behind the shelter in the middle of a roundabout..”

We talked about music occasionally, we both loved the classics: in her case Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky… in mine Dylan, Cohen, Waits, Joplin, Van Morrison, Lennon, Baez, Petty, Harrison, McCartney, Jagger, Richards, Fogerty, Townshend, etc. (just a much better list in general). Yet we still managed to find a lot of common ground, and talking about music was commons practice during our last months working together. Even so I never asked her, why Penny Lane?

“On the corner is a banker with a motorcar. The little children laugh at him behind his back”

I can’t remember exactly when it first happened, but my guess is that it was around the fall of 2012. It was just a random day at work and for some reason she began to hum Penny LaneNa, na-na-na, na-na-na-na-na-na… I love The Beatles, so I nodded along as I typed on my computer (I may have even made a poor attempt at whistling the melody, that sounds like something I would’ve done). The song struck me as an odd choice for her, but for some reason she got into the habit of humming the song fairly often during the next few months. The most I recall saying is something along the lines of “Oh, Penny Lane, nice song”, but that was it. After she began going back to it pretty often I began to wonder, why Penny Lane?

“Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes”

Did she just hum it for kicks? Did she like the catchy melody? Did she listen to it growing up? Did it have some romantic meaning? Had she made love to it? Had she seen McCartney play it live? Has she actually been to Penny Lane? I’ve often wondered… I probably should have asked her at the time, but it’s one of things where I’ve become more curious over time, a little bit more every time she hummed it. One option would be to ask her now, because as I mentioned before, my current girlfriend used to be my co-worker (I’ll let you put two and two together…). I know I’ll definitely be tempted to next time I hear her humming it, but I kind of like the option of just wondering… why Penny Lane?

“There, beneath the blue, suburban skies”

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling

“As long as I gaze on, Waterloo Sunset, I am in paradise.” – The Kinks, Waterloo Sunset

After talking about Streets of London just two days ago, I began remembering a trip I took to London in 2007. The trip cost me a friendship, but clearly not one that was worth having. So in retrospect, I gained the memory of a broken friendship to the tune of The Kink’s Waterloo Sunset, in exchange for a poor friendship… let’s call it a win. Although a close one, he was a good friend for a while.

“People so busy, make me feel dizzy, taxi light shines so bright”

He was my age, but his girlfriend was 2 years younger. She came to study at the same university as us when she turned 18, a nice girl. They made for a horrible couple, but they were nice people. For a year all three of us were at the same university at the same time, so I became friends with her as well. He even called me up during a semester he was abroad because she was going through a stage of depression and wanted to see if I knew of anybody who could help. Like I said, we were good friends.

But I am so lazy, don’t want to wander, I stay at home at night”

2007 came along. I was finishing university, he was already working and she had just left to study in London her third year of college. I didn’t have too many classes and had flexibility to travel every now and then, so one day we were talking and agreed that I’d go visit her. All fine and dandy. I book the flight, get ready for the trip and get a call from her the day before saying that perhaps it’s better if I don’t stay with her because my buddy, the “he”, thinks it’s not a good idea. Lovely…

But Terry and Julie, cross over the river, where they feel safe and sound”

So having been fucked over by not one, but two of my friends (because let’s face it, when your partner’s being a dick, sometimes it’s best to tell them “stop being a dick, he’s just sleeping on the couch”), I called up a good friend I had in Bournemouth. I asked him if I could catch a bus and stay with him for a few days instead. On a day’s notice he said “sure, no problem” and I spent a few days visiting Bournemouth and getting plastered with his friends. That actually was lovely.

“Millions of people, swarming like flies ’round, Waterloo underground”

– 7 years later: I don’t know what’s become of him. I get the occasional email from her. They’re not together… and I just spoke to my buddy from Bournemouth last week even though we’re an ocean apart.

– My thoughts today: I was happy with the girlfriend I had at the time. They both knew that. All I wanted was a couch to crash. To visit a friend. And to visit London. After that, salvaging that friendship would have been a waste of time. I think.

“But Terry and Julie, cross over the river, where they feel safe and sound”

The funny thing is my friend, the “she” this time, felt so bad she insisted on getting together in London before I left for Bournemouth. I agreed, so I went to pick her up at her apartment. Which was conveniently located, at Waterloo Station.

“Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night “

I’ll show you something, to make you change your mind

“Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London” – Ralph McTell, Streets of London

I could have picked around 50 songs to help me shape a memory of my father, but Streets of London had to be my first choice. The song is by British folk singer Ralph McTell who, in all honesty, I don’t know anything about. I’d struggle in trying to name three songs of his and would ultimately end up failing. Although I do know Streets of London pretty much by heart, and it’s a damn good song. The song is basically asking people who complain how they’re able to do so with so many people around them who are worse off, so I like the lyrics as well as the melody.

“Have you seen the old man in the closed down market,
Kicking up the paper with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride, hand held loosely at his side,
Yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news.”

I mentioned my father before in the post where I linked Bob Dylan’s My Back Pages and he’s bound to come up more often. He’s someone I should thank regularly for the musical influence he had on me, thanks to him there was always good music playing around the house or on our family road trips. He liked folk music, classic rock, jazz, blues and a bunch of other good genres, plus he was always buying new records and CD’s so it wasn’t the same albums playing over and over again. He still loves music today and (most of the time) has a pretty good taste for it. Streets of London was his discovery and, as I mentioned before, it’s a damn good song.

“So how can you tell me, you’re lonely
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London, 
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.”

The reason I immediately link this song to my father as soon as I hear the first few chords dates back to about six years. It’s at this point that I should mention that my father, as well as being an avid listener of good music is a self-taught guitar and piano player. He’s not a very good musician, but a musician none the less… and the only one in the family. So six years ago he picked up the score to Streets of London from a random songbook and the usual learning process began to take its natural course:

After a week…

– “Hey, come listen to this song on the piano. It’s sounding pretty good, right?”. It was not.

A few weeks later…

– “Come over, I think I’ve got it down pretty well”. He did not.

This usually goes on for about a month then he moves on to a different song, but with Streets of London it lasted more like six months. It was a struggle, for all of us. He still plays it every now and then and truth be told, if the original is a damn good song, my father’s cover on the piano is damn good too. Don’t worry, I’ve linked the original below.

“Have you seen the old girl who walks the streets of London,
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking, she just keeps right on walking,
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.”

 

She was someone I should know

“Well, I was born to have adventure. So I just followed up the steps” – Frank Zappa, Camarillo Brillo

I’m sorry for the misleading title, but this post had nothing to do with any girl. It’s just that my favorite line from Frank Zappa’s Camarillo Brillo is “She said she was a Magic Mama, and she could throw a mean Tarot. And carried on without a comma, that she was someone I should know and that’s the song that’s gonna help me out today.

I must warn that I don’t really like Frank Zappa a whole lot, maybe it’s that he’s a little too bizarre for my taste or maybe it’s because he mocked Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, who knows. However, I really like his song Camarillo Brillo. It’s a something that could have been played by somebody like Iggy Pop, or maybe even The Rolling Stones, and it would and have become an instant hit. It’s a great a song and it’s also pretty funny, something I don’t really look for in songs, Boy Named Sue not withstanding.

“She had a snake for a pet and an amulet, and she was breeding a dwarf, but she wasn’t done yet”

It was a friend who introduced me to Frank Zappa when I spent a year abroad. We were good buddies from back home so we spent a lot of time together, specially at the beginning of the year. I tried to influence him towards country music, with quite a bit of success thanks to one of my favorite albums: Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson: VH1 Storytellers. Undoubtedly my favorite unplugged album along with Eric Clapton’s Unplugged. He tried to influence me towards Frank Zappa… but failed miserably. Although I did end up loving Camarillo Brillo, I’ll give him that.

“She ruled the Toads of the Short Forest, and every newt in Idaho

As I mentioned in my post Girls’ faces formed the forward path, I went on a long hiking trip by myself when I was in college, about 2 years after my year abroad. After my first day of hiking I met a guy whose name was Xavi, in his 40’s. He was also hiking by himself so we got to talking a little bit, because even though we didn’t hike together we ended up sleeping in the same hostels the next three days. In all honesty, he was a bit intense and occasionally the thought of him please shutting the fuck up did pop into my mind. Although overall he seemed like a nice guy and the spirit of the hike was to get along with whomever I met, so we did go out for drinks a couple of those nights. I took a liking to good old Xavi.

“She stripped away her rancid poncho, and laid out naked by the door”

 Xavi told me that he was an artist; he painted paintings, murals and did a little sculpting. He explained some of the work that he’d done, mentioned some famous artists he’d interacted with professionally and even told me a little bit about his future projects. Modesty wasn’t his forte. At one point during our last drinks he mentioned that as an artist he’d often been compared to a musician, one who’s name was on the tip of his tongue but couldn’t remember at that moment. He tried to get me to help him out… “he’s a vocalist”, “very obscure”, “he has a cult following”… my best guess was Tom Waits but that wasn’t it. The next day after the hike we met at the same hostel, we were beat so we didn’t go out. He got up early the next morning so I didn’t get to day goodbye. When I woke up I saw he’d left a carbon drawing of a church we’d passed along the hike on top of my backpack, the inscription read: “It was Frank Zappa!!”

So as I said before, I took a liking to good old Xavi…

What have I got?

If I were given the chance to see any female artist perform live, living or dead, I wouldn’t hesitate at all, Nina Simone. It would have been great to see Janis Joplin, I would’ve loved to see Joan Baez in her prime, seeing Patty Smith again would be cool… but above all Nina Simone. It’s the mixture of talent with attitude that I think would’ve made seeing her perform in person (preferably in a small venue) an incredible experience.

“Ain’t got no love, ain’t got no name”

She’s not somebody I remember listening to when I was growing up, I just kind of stumbled onto her on my own after hearing her songs in movies and television shows. A commonly referenced movie scene is at the end of Before Sunset when Julie Delpy does an imitation of her for Ethan Hawke and plays the song Just in Time. Most Nina Simone fans know this scene, and I’m sure most share my take that it’s the best scene in the movie, hands down. I also recall hearing the song Sinnerman (one of my favorites) in an episode of Scrubs. From there I went on to buy a few of her albums and she’s became one of my favorite artists. She’s one of the greats, no doubt about it.

“I got my mouth, I got my smile. I got my tongue, I got my chin. I got my neck, I got my boobs”

I like almost all of her songs, many aren’t even hers, but she was so talented she could take pretty much any song and just run with in. She’s covered Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne… George Harrison’s Here Comes the SunMr. Bojangles (which Dylan popularized, but is not his). You have to be a beast to cover these songs and get away with it, but then again her talent was special, saying she was a beast might not even begin to do her justice.

I’ve got life, I’ve got my freedom

So Nina Simone is someone I’ve listen to regularly and who I never get bored of. She’s great for setting the mood in a room with other people and works just as well to listen to alone. I always say that only a handful or artists are really good companions for when you want to lie down listen to music and drink by yourself… Nina Simone is the founder and honorary lifetime president of that club. Ain’t Got No, I Got Life is one of the reasons why…

“And I’m gonna keep it”