Archive for the ‘song’ Category

Spring in my Step

May 3, 2020

Spring rolled down into the blue ridge today

blastin all our covid cares away;

she rolled in like a queen

with corona crown of royal green.

Spring

I be strollin’ now out in the sunshine

glad to leave them Febs ’n March behind

out walkin on the greenway trail

these bloomin’ good vibes cannot fail

cuz aint no covid ’strictions now gonna crimp my gait

no not today my April blues were worth the wait.

With my pocket miracle transistor radio

I be striding in sunshine and sayin’ hello.

 

But lemme tell you ‘bout this tune that really makes me lose

them covid crimps and those wintry blues:

the wonder of wonders is that Motown sound

bustin outa deep dark Detroit as I walk around

keepin’ perfect time with my springtime stride;

Yea! now it’s time to take a ride!

down memory lane with my lifeline bride

cuz she was surely My Girl back in the day;

yet she’s my lifetime woman still today,

and though she be now in ICU as a nurse

her love strolls beside me just like at first.

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCcNcHx2DpY

 

Glass half-Full

Prine’s Paradise Demise

April 14, 2020

My old friend Terry, fellow baby boomer, called me the other day; he had a few things on his mind concerning the state of the world and so forth.

One very recent development that my friend was wondering about was the death of singer/songwriter John Prine. Terry was not so much surprised or alarmed at the death of the low-profile, though legendary, songwriter, because death happens to each one of us eventually anyway.

What perplexed my old singing buddy was how the obituary had captured the attention of the mainstream media.

“Mainstream media”. . . I hesitate to use that term, because, in our lifetime, the popular understanding of that term has changed.

When we growing up in the 1950’s-60’s etc. . .the mainstream media was thought to be, generally, the big three TV networks—CBS, NBC, ABC, along with the big heavyweights in print, the Times, the Post, the Journal etcetera etcetera.

As our lifetime got played out, the internet eventually eclipsed those old-school news sources. Replacing the former “mainstream media”, along came the heavyhitters that we all know today: Google, Facebook, etc etc, accompanied by a select few quasi-traditional TV networks—CNN, MSNBC, Fox, and of course the big kid on the blog for wonky elites, progressives and Democrats—NPR.

So last week, suddenly John Prine tributes were all over NPR et al with wide-eared wonder at the obscure songwriter’s profundity and prolific legacy, even though ole John had never hit the big time.

The biggies pretty much ignored the singer while he was alive; but when he died, several of them were, for a few days, all about John Prine this and John Prine that.

My friend Terry was perplexed why there would be so much media stir about Prine when they had previously not paid much attention to him. In other words, what’s the big deal about John Prine dieing?

I was wondering the same. Over the last few days, I have pondered what could be the explanation for this development, and I have figured it out.

My theory is this:

John Prine was prophetic. His song, Paradise, represents a profound foretelling of an isolated event that became—because of Prine’s song—a symbol of our present worldwide irresponsible destruction of the natural world.

To employ an academic description: the industrial destruction of one specific site—Paradise, Kentucky— is a microcosm; it  represents on a small scale what later happened (and had been already happening) in a worldwide plundering of natural resources at the terrible expense of our naturally beautiful planet.

What intensified the significance of the Muhlenberg County destruction was this fact: “Mr. Peabody’s coal train (that) hauled it away” was rapaciously extracting vast shovel-fulls of COAL, which has become the #1 villain on the Unwanted List of climate change alarmists.

SmokIndust

Last week, in the wake of John Prine’s demise, many progressive commentators in the NPR et al vein of mainstream media suddenly realized—because of their youthful listening to Prine—the prophetic significance of this one song. So they began to talk it up.

As far as the song goes . . . it is a historic, lamenting composition. . . in my opinion one of the great songs of the American folk legacy.

You are invited to listen to my rendering of the tune:

     http://www.micahrowland.com/carey/PrineParadise.mp3

 

King of Soul

The Underground

March 19, 2020

Half a century before the Russians mustered enough rebellion to  depose the Czar, a deep current of discontent had begun oozing up from somewhere deep down in those thawing Russian steppes.

Since that era, we have come to call what that discontent represents: The Underground.

Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevksy caught and early wind of it. In his 1864 novel, Notes from the Underground, Dostoevsky identified and fictionalized an uncomfortable alienation that (he noticed) was mounting up among certain attentive and sensitive citizens of that restive country.

This alienation has, since then, become a characteristic of modern life.

In our day and time, Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson points out that Dostoevsky and other writers (most notably Friedrich Nietzsche) detected this early alienation and wrote extensively about it.

There was, you see,  a deep, dark void in the European soul.

It was there. . . deep down in there, somewhere in the metamorphizing life of the 1800’s . . .  a sense that something was missing . . . something important, something—it must be something— essential.

Where some spiritual or soulful entity had, through many ages, carried European civilization along a certain path of cultural development, now there was nothing.

“Nihilism” is a word that was brought in to identify that void.

In our day and time, Jordan Peterson explains the development of nihilism—how it is related to the lapse  the Church, which had formerly evolved as a religious matrix around which the framework of European civilization and culture had manifested across almost two millennia of time.

Dr. Peterson attributes the identifying of this nihilism primarily to those two 19th-century writers, Dostoevsky and Nietzsche. In his lectures, Dr. Peterson often mentions that these two prescient thinkers predicted—or one could almost say “prophecied”—the horrible carnage of our 20th-century wars.  Our two modernized hyper-mechanized destructive wars broke out as modern men desperately strove—through futile attempts at communist and fascist totalitarianism—to establish a meaningful State, or Society.

Instead of—let’s just say— the Church. Comprenez-vous?

Denizens of “the Underground” are those misplaced souls who have searched elsewhere—apart from the Society or Culture at large—for their own meaning or identity.  Even further than that, they will likely work collectively with other fellow travelers, striving for some collective opus that enables us—if not now, in the future— to live and thrive together.

When I was a young man, I composed a song about some of these deep urges toward meaning and liberty.

Underground Railroad Rides Again

I have empathy for the Undergrounders of this world, although some of them have, from time to time, carried their discontents too far, beyond the rightful constraints of decently civilized life. The Weather Underground of the 1960’s, for instance,  crossed that line of acceptable protest when they began making home-bombs,  one of which enabled one Undergrounder to blow up himself and his whole dam NYC apartment building, in spring of 1970.

But hey! Life goes on, in spite of all the abuse and injustices people pile on one another. In spite of all our myriad societal dysfunctions. The world persists in its predictable revolutions, whether you approve the changes or not.  Nations change. Seasons come and go. Our winters of discontent always as mellow out as . . .

a new wind, a fair breeze, and this year’s equinox a day early!

Now in 2020 A.D., about midday on this first spring day, 19  March, I was strolling along our local greenway, here in our little town of the Blue Ridge, observing obligatory social distancing protocols mandated by the COVID-19. When my walk began, the weather was dreary, misty and chilly. But as I neared the turnaround point of my 3-mile path, the sun was peeping out from behind the clouds, the air turned amazingly warm and dry, and suddenly! spring has sprung!

‘T’was then I encountered an Underground of different sort:

Molehills

This springtime sprung-up version of the Underground has been popping up with alarming regularity for a very long time. . . far longer than we homo sapiens have been struggling to find meaningful identity in our civilizations.

As I beheld these silly-pilly little dirt mounds, I disclosed the discovery to myself . . .  (as they say on the video spy dramas) what we have here is mole!

King of Soul

A World-class Sacred Mountain

February 4, 2020

About 27 centuries ago, the Jewish prophet Isaiah urged his people to live righteously, according to the laws that God had delivered earlier to the prophet, Moses.

By his use of predictive prophecy, Isaiah reinforced his exhortations toward the necessity  of holy living. As his biblical message has been brought down to us through history–even to this day–actual fulfillments of Isaiah’s predictions lent credence to the legitimacy of his message.

Consider this prediction:

“And it shall be at the end of days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be firmly established at the top of the mountains, and it shall be raised above the hills, and all the nations shall stream to it.”

This prophecy of Isaiah has been fulfilled repeatedly for many centuries, and continues to be actualized every day of our 21st-century life.

In a steady stream of faces and pilgrims of all types, people from all over the world visit “the mountain of the Lord’s house” in Jerusalem.

Every day.

IsPlaza

In this large flat area, Jews from all over the world congregate to pray at their open-air synagogue, the Kotel, which is an ancient wall that retains the side of the mountain where their temple had stood in ancient times.

Christians also visit this site in great numbers. We  are welcomed every day by the Jewish people. Most Christians stroll through, gathering faithful inspiration, on their way to their own holy site nearby, in the Christian quarter of the Old City . . .

IsHSscene

where Christ was crucified almost 2000 years ago, and laid in a sepulchre, before rising from the dead on the third day after his death.

In my photo below. . .

IsPlaza1

. . .  notice the long ramp that connects the ground-level plaza to a higher location at the top of the wall. Through this stairway, the Muslims allow some visitors access, at certain times of the day, to their holy site, al-Haram al-Sharif, which happens to be the same location as the ancient Jewish temple. The Muslim shrine there, built in 692 c.e., is  known by us Christians as the Dome of the Rock. Believers of all three faiths— Jewish, Muslim and Christian— believe Abraham was led by the Eternal One up onto that high spot with his son.

In that world-famous episode, God revealed his will about ritual sacrifice; the Lord Himself provided an animal for Abraham to offer instead of his son. Muslims believe that the son was Ishmael. Jews and Christians believe it was Isaac. Whatever you believe about it, suffice it to say that the Eternal One thereby clarified once and for all: his call for sacrifice did not include any human victim.

A Christian rendering of that event is painted on a wall inside the nearby Christian Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

IsSepcIsac

This clarification from God about the offering of sacrifice took place on the mountain–called Mt. Moriah by Jews–and called al-Haram al-Sharif  by Muslims.

In our day and time, some visitors are more fortunate in the timing of their pilgrimage. At certain times of the day,  the Islamic-administered mountaintop is opened to visitors from other faiths. Christians and others may walk up the wooden-covered stairway to gain a limited access to the sacred mountaintop. Up there, they are allowed a brief access to Islam’s third-holiest site. They can amble for a while, to get a closer view of Al Aqsa and the Dome of the Rock. They can also stroll around and get a panoramic view of Jerusalem, from Mt. Scopus, toward the northeast, to Mt. Zion at the westward view.

After a brief time, they will be conducted away, back to their own quarters, by Islamic devotees, so that the followers of Mohammed may express their devotion to Allah among an exclusive gathering of the faithful.

Infidels who do not subscribe to Mohammed’s revelation are thus asked at the appointed  times to leave the mountaintop, al-Haram al-Sharif. This practice is more restrictive than what is allowed by  the Jews and Christians below.

Muslims arrive on the sacred height by other entrances, from the Muslim quarter. After being summoned by several muezzin callers who chant their calls through loudly amplified minaret towers, the Mohammedan faithful enter those two holy structures to pray.

All of this carefully controlled sharing of the sacred mountain takes place every day in Jerusalem. Thanks be to ____ that this happens peacefully.

And this Christian says, may it always be so! until ____ visits the place in a more persuasive way, and perhaps aligns us all on the same page.

Pray, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Back down at the lower plaza level, the Israeli administrators of this dividedly sacred mountain have posted a sign that acknowledges the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy so long ago.

IsIsaiah2

If you enjoying listening to music, you may appreciate hearing a song about this mountain. My friend David wrote and recorded it many years ago, with a little help from our friends, Danny, Donna and Jenny:

Aliyah Yerushalayim

Glass half-Full

Winter Daydream

December 4, 2019

Having grown up in Louisiana, I moved to the Blue Ridge mountains while in my mid-20’s.

Ever since that time—the late 1970’s—I have lived, married, parented and grown steadily older in an Appalachian culture.

Truthfully though, the two cities I have lived in reflect a post-Appalachian culture.

Ole long-bearded Zeb with overalls—you don’t notice him so much anymore; he’s probably running a landscape business to service the manicured lawns of well-heeled snowbirds.  And barefoot Ellymae in threadbare calico on the front porch—she’s more likely now to be monitoring the  gas-pumps from behind a convenience store checkout.

To some extent, mountain culture has become homogenized with the dominant American obsession with superficial style and commercialism.

But not totally.

One thing that is nevertheless still quite different  from living down the mountain is the temperature. We typically see a 7-12 degree lower thermo up here.

We actually have four seasons here!

In the Deep South . . . not so much.

When this southern boy first arrived in the high country, I cultivated some romantic notions about the cold weather. I suppose this is because—in spite of the painful nipping in fingers and toes —it was such a refreshing experience after growing up in twenty-four blistering deep south summers.

The immanent—and in some ways, dreaded— arrival of our 2019-20 winter comes as no surprise.

WinterComin

This morning I woke up remembering an old song that I had written and recorded, many years ago, shortly after becoming a mountain man myself. The song is, on one level, about the coming of winter.

On another level, it is about a very noticeable shift in our American culture that has happened in my 68-year lifetime—single parenthood.

I am not one of them. But being a man married, thankfully, for forty years, and a grandfather. . . now provokes rumination about the many challenges  young parents must face in this age of temporary partnerships.

We have many more single parents in 2019 than we did back in the 1950’s-60’s when I was growing up. My old song that crept into my imagination this morning presents a romanticized image of a single mother as she contemplates past and future. In her foreground is the upcoming winter outside her window on a cold, crisp early-winter day.

Since memory of  the song seems to have popped out of nowhere this morning in my awakening dream-state, I thought sharing it with you might be something to do.

      Portrait of a Lady

Glass half-Full

Update: A day in the Life

September 12, 2019

I read a tweet today oh boy

  about a cocky man with a rant parade.

And though the news was really bad

  well I just had to laugh one more time.

I saw the comment thread online.

He blew our minds out with a rant:

  he hadn’t noticed that the Climate Changed.

A crowd of people seethed and stared

  they’d seen the bee ess before

Nobody was really sure if it was from the 1% core.

I saw a video oh boy

  the 1%ers have just scored some more;

A crowd of trollers  were abhorred;

  but I just stole some looks,

  having once read books.

We’d love to lead you o. . . . n.

  SgtPeprs

I woke up, gotta outa bed,

  found a mem, inside my head,

  made my way downstairs and tweeted it,

  and twittering, knew I was a twit.

I made this up, but grabbed my phone;

I posted face,  still felt alone,

Found my way upstairs and caught a streaming;

  somebody spoke and I went into a dreaming, ohhhhhh……

   etcetera etcetera, etcetera, you’ve read the news

I read the web today oh boy:

  four million holes inside our atmosphere.

And though the holes were rather small,

  they had to stop them all.

  Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the global ball.

We’d love to lead you o. . . . on.

           https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCbZ15JpxPg   

Glass Chimera

Felix’s Fortress Forté

August 4, 2019

While tuned into radio WDAV a day or two ago . . .

listening to Felix Mendelssohn’s 5th Symphony,

we suddenly discerned a developing  melodic surprise:

gentle strains of a classic religious tune, A Mighty Fortress is Our God . . .  drifting into the 3rd movement of the music.

Twenty-three minutes into this performance,

Orchestra

those first melodic snippets of Luther’s famous hymn—I heard, venturing in discreetly, during the slow Andante phase of Mendelssohn’s 1832 orchestral composition.  By the end of the piece, however, the understated entrance of that well-known melody had morphed into being the very core of the symphony’s dynamic, forceful conclusion.

This gentle arrival of a familiar melody that incrementally develops into a forcefully conclusive forté—this is a composer’s technique found in several classical music masterpieces. . . most notably Beethoven’s (last) 9th Symphony, and a favorite American piece of mine, Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring.

In the case of Ludwig van Beethoven’s use of  a developing melodic theme that overpowers all other musical elements, Ludwig used his own emphatic original tune to fortify a potent message of popular 18th-century zeitgeistuniversal brotherhood. The words that Beethoven chose to accompany his theme had been composed by Friedrich Schiller, a primary 18th-century poet of the Romantic period in our western history.

In the similar case of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the composer employs a traditional religious melody—the “Shaker” theme, Simple Gifts, as a musical fulcrum for propelling the idea of mere simplicity into a commendable lifestyle.

The emphasis on simplicity is a powerful motivating factor in American history. The Puritans. for instance, who landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620, were fleeing an oppressive European religious straightjacket culture; they wanted to simplify their worship of God and to enable the practice of glorifying our Creator in community life.

Like Felix Mendelssohn, a great composer whose family heritage was Jewish,  20th-century composer Aaron Copland chose to utilize a well-established Christian melody as the basis for  fortifying a powerful musical masterpiece.

In other trends of this earthly life . . . in the realm of, let’s say, political compositions—as compared to musical ones—recently I read a book that represents a similar dynamic of compositional accomplishment. David Horowitz’s timely book, Dark Agenda brings to light a contemporary American Christian culture that is under attack from secularizing—yeah, even aggressively anti-religious—zealots.

Perhaps we simple-minded Christians of this era–as well as those more complex Reformed believers whose reforms originated with Martin Luther five centuries ago–will find fortifying encouragement and strong inspiration in these classically-inclined masterpieces:

~~ Felix Mendelsson’s 5th Symphony

~~ Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring,

     oh, and btw. . . honorable mention . . .

~~ Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th Symphony

King of Soul

Baby Boomers’ Labor Lament

February 5, 2019

Here’s a little ditty of a rhyme to be sung to the tune of . . .

Oh Home on the Range,

a song from back in the days of Davy Crockett, Howdy Doody, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans . . .

Oh give me a loan

so I can buy a home

where our kids and their friends can play,

where seldom is heard

a contentious word

and the mortgage is paid before my dying day.

Oh give me a job

so I won’t have to rob

from  Pete to pay Paul,

and so I’ll pay no interest on the cards;

and never shall we fall

on  bad times at all,

And I won’t have to work too damn hard.

BuildingUp

Oh give me job security

by the time I reach maturity

so our competence is not made obsolete,

and the skills we were taught

don’t get replaced by a bot;

and my dignity doesn’t just lapse in defeat.

Oh give me a timely upgrade

so my life’s work doesn’t fade

on the trash heap of obsolescence.

Oh please let me try

to outsmart the AI,

so my time’s not spent out in the dread convalescence.

King of Soul

Dr. King remembered

January 21, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,  that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

Dr. King remembered

January 18, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,  that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever you call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop