A Different Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day! I hope everyone is having a riveting, blessed, and safe holiday. This day is often filled with fun times barbecuing with family or hanging out at the lake, but this year it has taken a new meaning for me.

On May 1st my grandpa, John, passed away. He was a Korean War veteran and served many years in the Army and then in the Active Army Reserves. When he retired from the Army he had reached the rank of Command Sergent Major. He was extremely accomplished and I am proud to call him grandpa. I had him to thank for my freedom.

My grandpa was quoted as saying that he had two loves in life: his wife, Helen, and the Army. At the time of his passing my grandparents were married 68 years. The love they had for one another was simply beautiful. When you walked into their home you could just feel the admiration and love they had for each other. It was the air they breathed.

For today’s Memorial Day I am going to think about my grandpa. I miss him more with each passing day, but I know that he is in Heaven with Jesus. He instilled so much in each of his daughters and grandkids. He meant the world to me, but I didn’t realize that till he passed.

So today I have made a playlist of the songs that will always remind me of and honor my Grandpa. Dealing with grief is tough, but the power of music helps sustain me.


1. “Grandpa, Tell Me Bout The Good Ol’ Days”

I began to sing this song when my grandpa was in the hospital. My grandpa loved to tell you stories, anywhere from him and my grandma’s camp outs to the war. In his later years he was a man of many words. I look back now and I often wish that I had listened a little closer to these stories or given him time to tell me more. He told me about the good ol’days and the good ol’days described in this song were instilled in his character. Lovers really fell in love to stay. Promises were something people kept. And Families really bowed their heads to pray. Now thinking back, I’m not sure my grandpa ever left the good ol’days.

2. Endless Love

For Christmas one year, my family put a video together of pictures from my grandparents life. This was the main song of the video and nothing describes their love better. I will always hold this song close to my heart because every time I hear it, it reminds me of my grandma and grandpa. This song gives me hope that true love is still out there and that it does still last. My grandparents are my example.

3. “Battle Hymn of The Republic”

This song has been one of my favorites for many years after I heard Garland’s version. Garland did not sing this song like a hymn, she sang it like a testimony. Now, when I listen to this song it has a new meaning. This song combines God and country. That is what I love about it. I discussed my grandpa’s love for his country earlier, but it was equally evident that my grandpa was a man of God. He loyally attended church service nearly his whole life, but that isn’t necessarily why I know he was Christian. I knew he was a Christian by his actions and looking back, in the way he would say “Love you too.”


My grandpa has been gone for exactly 30 days. He is still fresh on my mind. I often pray that God will tell him hello for me and that I love him. My mom recently told me that every time you see a cardinal that it is a sign from somebody in heaven. I have seen 4 since he has passed. This is the most I can ever remember seeing. Even though he may not physcially be with us anymore, he is talking up a storm.

For me this Memorial day is a tribute and celebration of my grandpa.

Lastly I wanted to write a grand conclusion to this article and find the words that exactly explained my grandpa. I wanted this whole article to be worded perfectly to express who he was to me. That is a lot of pressure for a writer and I don’t think I achieved it. Words are just not enough when you lose someone who is close to you. So I am going to end with what’s on my mind.

I love you Grandpa and I miss you everyday.

Sounds of the 1960’s with Joan Jett

Recently I was lucky enough to walk away with six Joan Jett and the Blackhearts records. One of my favorite vinyl shops, Monkey Feet Music, has just received a lot of 6,000 records. Needless to say when I get paid, I’m making another trip.

FullSizeRenderOne of the albums I picked up was Bad Reputation. After doing research, I found that this album was actually Joan Jett’s self titled solo debut. This album is her first album after leaving The Runaways.

The album’s opener is the Jett classic “Bad Reputation.” This is one of my favorite Jett songs and is a great anthem to sing while driving to work. There is nothing like yelling, “I don’t give a damn about my bad reputation!” right before walking into a dreaded business meeting.

Although what really stood out to me on this album was Jett’s covers of the 1960’s classics “You Don’t Own Me,” “Shout,” and “Woolly Bully” (Technically “Shout” was released in September 1959, but I figured it was close enough). These songs were recorded off the heels of rockabilly, so it is only natural that Jett would pay homage to these founding songs years later.

IMG_2476When listening to anything that Jett touches, you must remember there is rock and roll and then there’s Jett’s version. Her version mixes a punk image with a rhythmic guitar rift and gritty vocals. It’s quite unpredictable.

This is evident on her version of “Shout.” No longer is this a cheery pop song, but it’s a rock anthem of rebellion. I love Jett’s clever rewording of the song, “Take my pants off and shout!” I could easily see myself at a Jett concert or in the comfort of my own home hopping around, beer in hand, screaming these words with or without pants. The same goes for “Woolly Bully.” This song was “dirty” for the time, pushing the limits when it comes to content. Naturally, Jett just piles on all the dirt it needs with a dash of her brand of sex appeal creating a version that definitely wouldn’t be allowed in 1969.

Yet, the true gem out of these tunes is Jett’s cover of “You Don’t Own Me.” This song was originally sung by Lesley Gore who I would consider sweet, wholesome, and just plain cute. Those are some sentiments Jett quickly turns around in her version.

IMG_2477Jett gives this song a completely new persona proving that lyrical content often lies in the hands of the vocalist. No longer was it a sweet girl you felt sorry for, this was a girl you were scared of! She became the girl the boys had to fight for and treat right. Jett played by her own rules and she was not afraid to swing a few punches.

In many ways this album and her 1960’s covers only foreshadows the rest of Jett’s trailblazing career. She was already a bull out of the gates with songs like “Bad Reputation” and “You Don’t Know What You Got,” but it is the little things that remind you of the Jett’s true musical genius and artistry.

For her to go back and cover three 1960’s song on her first effort after the Runaways is brilliance. This shined a light directly on her pure musical talent. It shows Jett’s respect for those who came before her, but it also showed she had a complete style all her own, a style only she is capable of.

It’s safe to say Jett truly loves rock and roll and it’s foundation, but she gives it a new reputation.

Slaying Since The 60’s: Happy Birthday Cher

Today is a musical holiday. They should stop the presses, close the banks, and hold the mail. It is the Prime Minister of Pop, Cher’s Birthday.

I am going to take a gamble that you have probably not heard Cher regarded as the “Prime Minister of Pop.” Often times we hear loads of people saying that Madonna is the “Queen of Pop.” Cher fans argue otherwise, but to be honest, being the queen is beneath Cher.

Let’s take a step back into our English Government Class or lack there of. We all know there is a Queen, but England is no longer a dictatorship. Today the title is held mostly ceremonially with limited powers. The position with all the decision-making is the Prime Minister.

In the case of music, we have a queen of pop based on pedigree, Madonna, then we have the Prime Minister of Pop, Cher, who gets sh*t done. Cher was the original female pop star, garnering 3 number one solo hits in the early 1970’s with countless other charting hits. She had a show with her husband Sonny Bono and when that ended in divorce, she had her own popular variety show. At the same time she quickly became a fashion icon with her over the top costumes and hip length straight black hair. She is even the first lady to ever show her stomach on TV.

Cher didn’t need a shock factor. She didn’t have to roll around and moan in a wedding dress. She used her natural sex appeal and underrated vocals to pave the way for future female pop stars.

Today, in honor of Cher’s legacy, I have created a list of my favorite Cher songs. They are not in any particular order, because it is impossible for me to rank them nor is this list conclusive. They go from obscure to huge hits and from the 1960’s to today.

“Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” (1966)

This is one of Sonny Bono’s greatest pop inventions. “Bang Bang” has now been covered by numerous artists over nearly every genre. It takes love and encapsulates it in a child’s arms showing both the simplicity and intricacy of this emotion. Cher “remixed” this song on her 1987 self titled album. I have included the original here, but here is a link to the other. This remix shows how versatile Cher’s vocals are and also how Cher’s voice has grown over her career.


“Classified 1A” (1971)

This song barely ever sees the light of day, but it is one of Sonny Bono’s greatest musical masterpieces. The song tells the story of a woman being told that her husband has been killed in a war. “Classified 1A” was released in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1971. Cher can stylize with the best divas, but the raw emotion she portrays on this recording is hard to come by. She has always has a way of shooting straight to the heart through her deliverance of ballads and this is one of her best.


“Train of Thought” (1971)

This should have been a huge hit! I don’t know the exact story of this song, but it has all the mechanisms of a number one. It’s one of those songs that just gets my blood flowing.


“By Myself” (1973)

Easily one of Cher’s least successful albums, Bittersweet White Light, is a diamond in the rough. Within this album, she visits the American Song Book that she has expressed much love for. This is one of the best tracks from this album, but her Jolsen Melody and her take on “The Man That Got Away” should not fall on deaf ears.


“Take Me Home” (1979)

This song makes me want to go struttin,’ much like John Travolta in Staying Alive. The beat is infectious and roller skates are a must. Mixed with Cher’s sex appeal, this record is classic. She could take me home any day…..


“We All Sleep Alone” (1987)

As children we are taught to aspire to have a spouse and a family. We are surrounded by images of the nuclear family that never really existed. What they didn’t tell you was that we are all alone in the end. While being a dark and cryptic song to say the least, Cher lives this song as her power house vocals lay across this power ballad.


“Save Up All Your Tears” (1991)

This is the best song to belt in your car when you are mad at someone. Try it.


“The Gunman” (1995)

This is one of Cher’s best vocal performances. Her warm voice shivers down my spine as she speaks of love having no mercy. She again shares her raw emotion from experience. It leaves you thinking and hitting the repeat button over and over again.


“Our Lady of San Francisco” (2000)

This song comes from, Not.com.mercial, the only album Cher wrote nearly every song. She sings of a homeless woman and how she is looked at as garbage on the street. She speaks to humanity and how many times we have become inhumane. Helping people with the basics is dear to Cher’s heart as seen in her acts of kindness in countries like Armenia and the current Flint water crisis. To this day this album, has not been widely released.


“Love One Another” (2001)

Okay, only two more. This song is from Cher’s 2001 release Living Proof. It is a “filler” song, but Cher, nonetheless, gives it her all. I think she might just believe in its message.


“Lie To Me” (2013)

Cher knocks another ballad out of the park. This time she doesn’t quite use those soaring vocals that she is well equipped with, yet she stays in a modest tone. The beauty of this song is all in her conviction. This comes from her latest studio album in 2013 and is the only true ballad on the entire album. I love EDM Cher, but her voice is magnificent stripped down.


“You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me” (2010)

Lastly comes one of Cher’s songs that has helped me out the most in life. Once I hit my adult life, I have found myself kicked down by career, relationship, and life choices just like everyone does. It is always easy to back up into a corner, but you can’t. Cher is a living example that lying down is never an option. I’ve had this song on repeat many times and belted it off-key. It is really the best thing that came out of Burlesque. 

As it is often said with Cher: “After the nuclear holocaust there will be cockroaches and Cher.” Don’t let them ever see the last of you.


As these videos and a proper lesson in music history makes clear, Cher is the first female pop star to call all the shots. She pushed the envelope, but she did not need a shock and awe factor. Her raw talent catapulted her into the icon she is today. She became a legend when there wasn’t a legacy to follow.

Basically, she slays.

So on this day we celebrate Cher’s 35th birthday once more. While I’m lowering my flag to half staff, I’m ok with calling Madonna or one of those other little pop starlets the queen of pop. It’s just an honorary title. Remember, everybody on the tball team gets a trophy.

And while queens have tiara’s, Prime Ministers have headdresses, because you don’t need to see what’s around them while you follow. There is nothing to see. They are paving the way while walking into uncharted territory.

But as always, the wise Cher summarizes her contemporaries perfectly.

Follow this you bitches.

George Strait, Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind: I Guess I’m a Honky Tonk Boy

First let me start by asking forgiveness from all my fellow country music enthusiasts. I have a terrible debt that I must confess.

I’ve barely ever listened to George Strait.

I truly apologize. He has charted 44 number one singles on the Billboard charts and has 60 number ones when counting other charts. He has also sold nearly 100 million records worldwide. To say the least, I’m late to the game.

IMG_2439What better day to educate myself about the King of Country then the eve of his birthday? I have around 4 of his albums in my collection due to my mom buying them for me. She always buys albums for me when she finds them. We are both constant garage-salers and thrift store hoppers.

In one of the piles that my Mom bought me was George Strait’s Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind. Honestly, I didn’t think much of the record. I already had other country favorites and I was really tired of hearing how amazing Strait was, then there is my mom’s endless talk about his butt.

Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind was released in 1984 and quickly shot its way to the top of the Billboard country chart. This album generally comes a little late in country music for my tastes. I don’t listen to much 1980’s country unless it’s The Judds, Reba McEntire, or Dwight Yoakam. I’m more of a 1960’s and 1970’s classic country fan, but yet again, I have been proven wrong.

This album opens with the title track “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind.” To my surprise Strait’s vocals didn’t remain on a stagnant line like I always thought, yet they came full of tear drops and intricate country stylings. This broken heart ballad comes with all the fixens’: pleadin’, reminiscin’, and drinkin.’ It’s the sequel to “By The Time I Get to Phoenix.”

Next is one of my favorites, “Any Old Time.” It comes with a heavy country swing rhythm and some rather fancy fiddlin’. Strait was clearly no longer thinking of Fort Worth.

IMG_2440“Honk Tonk Saturday Night” finishes out side A. This song is another ballad of sorts that echoes Loretta Lynn’s “Honky Tonk Girl.” Strait’s vocals convey the same contentment and loneliness Lynn’s did years before.

Side B starts with “I Should Have Watched That First Step” and “Love Comes From The Other Side of Town.” Both of these songs have classic country themes with a little extra boot scootin’ mixed in. The true highlights of side B though are the last two singles from this album “The Cowboy Rides Away” and “The Fireman.”

“The Cowboy Rides Away” is 80’s country at it’s best, sprinkled with the heritage of the legends before. It’s the confidence in Strait’s voice that catches my attention. Although the song comes from a vulnerable state (a breakup), he finds his confidence in riding away, knowing there will be something else along the path. That mixed with the instrumentation of this song makes this an undeniable hit.

Lastly, we have “The Fireman,” the last single from this album. It’s a close relative to “Any Old Time.” I can imagine a group of couples two steppin’ to this song easily. Strait’s consistent vocals give this song sustainability while showing Strait’s versatile vocal ability.

So as I sit here on the eve of George Strait’s 64th birthday, I find myself musically improvished. I hate the fact that I have not given Strait the time he deserves until now. What I find the most exquisite about Strait is how his voice is always stable. It never seems to give out or lose pitch, but it always conveys a direct fluid emotion.

With the discovery of George Strait, I have realized I am just another honky-tonk boy. You see, honky tonkin’ is a style of living. It’s about hitting the high of highs and the low of lows while maintaining a sound character. That’s what Strait’s voice, the longevity of his career, and his character portrays. When was the last time you saw George Strait in the tabloids?

I now realize I have always been a honky-tonk boy. Now I have a Strait road to travel.

 

Tina Turner Country…Music?

There is barely any debate among music critics and listeners wheather or not Tina Turner is an impeccable artist. She has a style that cannot be replicated and a legacy that is sealed into society’s consciousness. Find me one person that doesn’t know when to shake their head during “Proud Mary” and I’d be shocked.

IMG_2377There is more music that often goes unnoticed from her career between being a solo superstar with the album Private Dancer and her tenure with the Ike and Tina Turner Review. Between the years of 1974, a year before she divorced Ike, and 1984, the year “What’s Love Got To Do With It” went number one, Tina recorded multiple albums to little success.

The first of these albums was Tina Turns The Country On! This album finds Tina at her first solo experiment. When looking at music history and the history of Tina’s style, the choice to release an album of country and western covers does not seem like the obvious next step in her career. Yet this album speaks volumes of where Tina was at in 1974 and also widens her breadth as a vocal artist.

This album comes right at the end of Ike and Tina Turner’s marriage. Their popularity had waned in the 70’s due to Ike’s frequent drug use, which resulted in missed and postponed shows. Tina was beginning to build her nerve through inspiration she had found through Buddhism which was the budding of her independence.

That’s the diamond in the rough when it comes to Tina’s first solo album: independence. For the first time, she was given the most freedom on how she was going to conduct herself as a muscian.

Tina Turns The Country On! is completely…country. Tina knows country because she was brought up in Tennessee, but I don’t think anybody was expecting her to sing it. Each song is a cover of a country hit with a new arrangement and that arrangement was…country.

Tina Turner, the queen of rock and roll R&B, now had twang.

IMG_2378I could see Tina doing a twist off of Ray Charles successes from his early 1960’s country themed albums, but I didn’t expect a performance I would have readily seen on The Wilburn Brothers Show or The Johnny Cash Show. I was expecting a blended mix of early R&B and country, but instead she fit in perfectly right next to Loretta Lynn.

There are three levels of Tina within the album and with each level she becomes more…Tina. I call the first level “Mid-Tina.” This level finds Tina singing with the roughness we have all grown to love, but mixed with smooth twang. We find this on the songs “Bayou Song, “If You Love Me Let Me Know,” and “Don’t Talk Now.”

Next we venture into “Tina Turned Up.” This is the Tina we generally find in her earlier recordings with Ike Turner. These elements are found in songs such as Bob Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” and Hank Snow’s “I’m Moving On.”

Lastly, we have “Tina Turned Down.” In this level, Tina demonstrates her chops for delivering straightforward and easy masterpieces. This level contains all my favorite songs from this album. First she sings a vulnerable and rousing rendition of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night.” Her voice is as smooth and liquid as melted butter. Her performance of this song finds her vocals in their most purest form. It is like they come from a child.

Tina-Album-Tina-Turns-The-Country-On-Promo-02Then there is the hopeful Dolly Parton cover “There’ll Always Be Music.” I could easily see a choir erupting behind Tina at any moment during this recording. Her genuine love of unadulterated music is on complete view. She then closes out the album with “The Love That Light’s Our Way.” This song eludes to the concrete truth that love will always prevail and lead the way, a sentiment that was muddled for Tina at this time. Her vocals in this song will convince anybody, that truth and love always prevails, something she still believed deep down.

This album begins to encapsulate the independent artistry of Tina Turner. It shows that she was not only a musical interpreter that crossed genres, but one that can reach the furthest of human emotions in the same fell swoop. She takes country music, flips it on its head, reconstructs it, and sings it her way, but she was still under a jail cell.

Her later solo efforts were to be completely independent of Ike Turner in all regards. This album shows that all you need sometimes is to let someone shake their own tail-feather and to never restrict someone to be a private dancer. This artistry within Tina was nearly untapped and it was time for the world to hear it.

It was time for Tina to be Tina.