Songs from GROUNDED

The Singer - A singer needs words to sing. There are so many words. Words need something to say. There is so much yet to be said.

Epigonic Condition - Bob Dylan wrote "Song to Woody" as a tribute to Woody Guthrie. My song alludes to Dylan's song and highlights my condition as an "epigone," an artist who emulates the work of a master. 

At the Carnival - Sometimes when we sink our teeth into the meat of life, all we get is cotton candy. Or, as my wife says, "This song is a story with some teeth."

Ballad of Falling - If we wait long enough, we will get what we want or we will decide we have waited long enough and we need to stop waiting. Caught between these two options, we watch the sky for falling rain.

Farming Girl -  My wife and I have an urban farm, and it demands much hard work. My wife is the hardest worker I know, and I am trying to keep up.

I Try to Leave - When one's situation does not suit, one must either leave or change the situation or change one's attitude.

Heavy With Regrets - It is commonplace for persons looking back on their lives to say, "I have no regrets." I cannot honestly say that.

Fire Without Light - In 1955, Emmett Till was brutally murdered. His death galvanized opposition to the Jim Crow south, partly because his mother bravely chose to leave the casket open during the funeral, to show the world what racism can do. The event in the last verse occurred September 11, 2012.

For Oscar Romero - The Archbishop of El Salvador, after years of defending the poorest of the poor against a corrupt government and military, was assassinated in 1980 while saying Mass. His memory continues to inspire service to the poor and frustration to those who benefit from oppression.

North Country Too - Bob Dylan's hometown of Hibbing, MN was the site of a 1920 lynching. While the Deep South made this form of vigilantism infamous, the North also practiced this form of injustice.

Workers' Lullaby - We look at the moon and forget that its light is sunlight. We look at cities and forget that they exist from labor, past and present.

 

 

SINGING THE NEWS

Song for Ferguson, MO - August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer on a Ferguson Street. Brown, an unarmed young man, was shot six times. The fatal shot entered the top of his head. It was daylight. August 11, 2014, Ezell Ford, an unarmed young man, was shot and killed by police officers. September 14, 2013, Jonathan Ferrell, an unarmed young man, was shot and killed by a police officer. February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin, an unarmed young man, was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain. November 25, 2006, Sean Bell and two friends, all unarmed young men, were shot fifty times by police officers. Bell died, on the morning of his wedding day.

Nine Black Christian People - June 17, 2015, a white young man joined a Bible Study at a black church. During the Study, he fired his .45 caliber handgun into his fellow human beings, killing nine. January 5, 2016, Walter Scott was stopped by a white police officer for driving with a broken brake light. Scott, who was unarmed and black, was shot in the back while running away.

Letter from Mrs. Mamie Till - August 28, 1955, Mamie Till's son, Emmett, was brutally murdered in Mississippi by white men. Mamie requested an open casket, to show the world "what they did to my baby." August 18, 2014, Trayvon Martin's mother publishes in Time magazine an open letter, to comfort the mother of Michael Brown.

Matthew Shepard - October 12, 1998, this gay young man died six days after being beaten unconscious by two young men who left him to die in a Wyoming field, tied to a fence. 

For James Byrd Jr. - June 7, 1998, while walking down a street in his hometown, this forty-nine year old man was accosted by white supremacists who did to him the unthinkable.

Janis, 16 Days Past Jimi - October 4, 1970, Janis Joplin died of an accidental heroin overdose, sixteen days after Jimi Hendrix died from barbituate poisoning.

Ballad of David Bowie Jones - January 10, 2016, David Robert Jones died of liver cancer at age 69, after fifty years of being David Bowie.

Lemonade for Syd Barrett - July 7, 2006, Roger Keith "Syd" Barrett died of natural causes, decades after his brief music career as founder of Pink Floyd. His work continues to influence rock musicians. "Baby Lemonade" is one of his songs. My chorus uses lyrics from three of his songs.

Joe Hill's Dream No. 2 - "I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night" are the opening words of a song made famous by Joan Baez at Woodstock, a song based on Alfred Hayes' poem, in which a conversation ensues between the dead Joe Hill and the poem's persona. But Joe Hill had a dream too. His dream was for all workers to unite in "one big union." That has not happened.

Slanting Light at Sundown - When we lose those we love, the best we can do is remember them. Sometimes, the natural world helps.

Song for Emily - One of my colleagues at the community college told me of his daughter's addiction to heroin. His face, upon telling me this news, inspired this song.

 

poet: songs for bob dylan

Training A Butterfly - Because Dylan's songs require attention to the words, he taught his audience how to settle down and listen, even when his songs mock the audience's reverence for his lyrics. 

Where You Got Those Songs - I did not discover Bob Dylan's music until I left home, and when I did start listening I could not understand how such songs could be written, except from courage.

Bob Dylan's Playboy Interview - His mockery of journalism began early. In his 1965 interview with Nat Hentoff, he answers the question of how be became a rock singer. His answer is a madcap story, which are the words to this song, verbatim.

Ginsberg's Howl, In Pieces - Bob Dylan's friend Alan Ginsberg is best known for his poem "Howl," which is enormously long. So, I broke out a few pieces and sang them.

Gates of Bob Dylan - Once I started listening, his songs became my companions. We lived together, unilaterally.

Booing of Bob Dylan - It is well known that his transition to electric guitar was not appreciated initially by his fans. The documentary "Don't Look Back" shows Dylan troubled by the booing, which, given his typical coolness, is surprising.

Boy From the North Country - I wanted to explore the story of "Girl From the North Country."

For Woodrow Wilson Guthrie - I wanted to honor the one that Dylan honored.

Your Back Pages - His song "My Back Pages" has the cryptic line "I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now." There was an innocent idealism in those early songs that he seemed to intentionally abandon, a wisdom that he dismissed as being old. I mostly prefer those early songs, when he was old.

Not Bob Dylan's Friend - This is true. I'm not. But I tip my hat to his blowing wind.

 

 

painter paints his mind

Boy - We adults were once children. I was once a boy, a particular boy, that I no longer recognize.

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Profit Vs. Community - This opposition explains much of what happens in our society.

Grand Canyon - I have spent many weeks at Grand Canyon National Park, standing on the edge, looking into that immense absence.

Child of War - It is commonplace to say that no one wants war. But it is not true. Some sectors of national economies benefit from war and preparation for war, and some children are raised in families funded by the actuality and possibility of war.

 

Tale of Ben Salmon - I learned of Ben Salmon from a skit performed by the Romero Troupe of Denver. All I know of him I learned from the skit, and all I learned from the skit I put in the song.

Mystery Man, A Ballad - The concept of the messiah in history, and the concept of the messiah's return, raise the possibility of living with the messiah now. 

My Journey - My birth occurred. I live out the consequences of this event.

Cassiopeia - The constellation is upside down half the year. This, according to myth, is her punishment for vanity, for not thinking of the needs of others.

Marine - My friend who loves the ocean and its nudibranchs was formerly a U.S. Marine. Shane maintains a beautiful website promoting ocean conservation via videography, music, and text: macronesia.net.

I Wonder Where You Are - This song is for anyone who wonders about the location of a former friend.

Standing Invitation - Thoughts about old friends sometimes support desires to reunite.

Innocence Stolen By Others - I have the deep sense that people, by their problematic actions, have betrayed me. I take the problems of this world much too personally.

Fall Into Your Arms - There are some safe places.

 

 

Photography by Amy Yackel Adams