The quality of the recording is a bit dodgy, but this is magnificent. The YouTube poster says it was recorded in December 1969. Some of those wounds were still pretty fresh in December 1969 — and when Harry Belafonte sings about “my old friend Martin,” he’s not just reciting lyrics; he’s remembering a beloved friend, taken much too soon.
It is beyond incomprehensible to me that I have never posted a Sandy Denny video here. She was the lead singer for Fairport Convention, but perhaps more importantly, she wrote “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” which has to be one of the three greatest songs ever to come out of the ’60s folk revival. (“Both Sides Now” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” are, of course, the other two. And yes, I know “Both Sides” isn’t technically folk, but I bet there’s not a folkie alive who couldn’t sing every word of it by heart. If there is, I call No True Scotsman.)
Anyway. Sandy Denny. Gone way too soon, but her work remains to bless us all. Enjoy.
There has never been anything even remotely folk about Leon Russell, but after spending nine years in Oklahoma, I came to appreciate him every bit as much as I do my beloved folkies, and I was so lost in my tears — for him, for Leonard Cohen, for an election that went horribly, horribly wrong — that I completely failed to acknowledge his passing and honor him and his work here.
The first time I saw Leon Russell in concert, I was slogging my way through the second draft of my novel, trying to whip several hundred blog posts into something resembling a cohesive narrative, feeling certain something was missing but completely baffled as to what that something might be.
On a gentle April evening in 2012, he walked onto the stage at the Brady Theater, that long, white hair and beard making him look for all the world like some kind of shaman who’d wandered in from another era, and two thoughts floated through my mind.
I want to photograph him.
This novel needs a lot more mysticism.
I never got to photograph Leon Russell. But my first impression of him is etched indelibly on my mind, and its echoes influenced the entire direction of my book, and maybe that’s better than a picture.
Maybe tonight, the Master of Space and Time is having Irish coffee with the bean sidhe in the warmth of a kitchen in a high-desert town that never existed but always will.
As the fanfic writers would say: Headcanon accepted.
I had to post this after seeing the list of Grammy nominees this week and discovering that Judy Collins and Ari Hest were on it for their recent album, Silver Skies Blue.
It delights me to no end that my beloved folkies refuse to slow down or retire. They just keep singing and writing and reinventing themselves and discovering new talent and making political statements and just generally being awesome into their 70s and beyond.
Maybe it’s the way people treated each other in the months leading up to it, or the way they’ve behaved in the weeks since.
Maybe it’s the weather.
Maybe it’s the usual seasonal depression settling over me.
Maybe it’s some combination of the above.
Whatever the reason, I haven’t had much enthusiasm for the holidays this year, and I really considered leaving my Christmas tree in its box in the garage and letting December go by more or less unacknowledged.
I considered it. But that tree is aluminum, straight out of the late 1950s, and it’s got a color wheel to light it up and a set of matte-finish red and green ornaments to hang on it, and for the first time since I bought it, I have a living room full of furniture that goes with it. How could I possibly pass up a chance to see how that Marshmallow sofa looks with a real mid-century aluminum Christmas tree glittering beside it?
And if I’m going to take myself back to the era immediately preceding my own existence, shouldn’t I have period-appropriate music to listen to while I assemble the color wheel?
Yes. Yes, I should.
So I downloaded the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, set my iPhone inside a coffee mug to amplify the sound, and let Vince Guaraldi soothe my frazzled nerves and erase all the grown-up worries and fears and frustrations from my mind.
“Christmastime Is Here” is one of those songs I took for granted for years. It wasn’t the sort of Christmas song you’d hear at church or sing in school or hear on the radio stations that switch their format to “all Christmas, all the time” during December. But it was always part of Christmas, and the older I get, the more I appreciate the way it strikes a balance between grownup melancholy and childlike wonder.
This year, finding that balance has been more difficult than usual, and I’m grateful for Guaraldi’s help finding it as I settle into a replica of a rocking chair that predates the Peanuts gang’s first animated special by several years, sip a cup of peppermint cocoa, and listen to piano and triangle and children’s voices mingle with the hum of the motor on the color wheel turning gently behind the tree.