Besides Beethoven: The 4 other unlikely people I have pictures of decorating my bedroom wall

 My intern at work, asked me today what I was listening to over lunch.  She was polite enough to ask, unlike other co-workers who roll their eyes and give me a puzzled look when I plug in my MP3 player and put it on random.  Any one passing my desk could potentially hear anything ranging from Bluegrass such as “Pig In a Pen” or “Take an Old Cold Tater and Wait” or Glenn Miller and the Big Bands, Irish Jigs & Reels, the absolute best Classical pieces, Oldies, Heavy Metal like Rob Zombie  & Ozzy or even the surprise Lady Gaga song.  It just depends on my mood.

I would say my taste in music is eclectic, but to say that is so cliché and I hate cliché.  But it is false to say that I appreciate all kinds of music because actually I’m really picky.  My country music has to sound a certain (traditional) way; I have to have the right amount of piano (not too much) in my classical music, etc. etc. etc.

My list of favorite singers, artists and bands, could go on and on, but I’d like to highlight four of my favorite story-teller singers that so often get overlooked when they aren’t/weren’t played on the radio. 

Harry Chapin~~~Arlo Guthrie~~~

Lyle Lovett~~~Michael Nesmith

This kind of music seems to be what is soothing to me these days.    And also what caught the ear of my intern as I previously mentioned.    She was sitting across the room scanning documents.  I thought my music was only low enough for me to hear, but I mis-judged that.  Her bewilderment as I repeated the Harry Chapin lyrics for her was as if she had actually just heard me playing some gang-banger, cop-shooting rap song.  (gee whiz, it’s a good thing she didn’t hear the “Sniper” song…. You look up that one yourself if you’re curuious).

He barely made the sweeping curve that lead into the steepest grade
And he missed the thankful passing bus at 90 miles an hour
And he said God, make it a dream
As he rode his last ride down
And he said God make it a dream
As he rode his last ride down.
And he sideswiped 19 neat parked cars
Clipped off 13 telephone poles
Hit 2 houses, bruised 8 trees
And blue-crossed 7 people
It was then he lost his head,
Not to mention an arm or two before he stopped
And he smeared for 400 yards
Along the hill that leads into Scranton, Pennsylvania
All those thirty thousand pounds of bananas

So my mom’s got great taste in music and a lot of what I like stems from what I grew up listening to.  I remember when I was in my crib leaning over the side to click the button on the 8-track player.  I think it was just the sound of it clicking and seeing a new number light up that tickled my toddler mind.  Something more stayed in there though because when I started compiling a CD for my mom’s birthday so many songs came back to me.  My sister suggested a  Harry Chapin montage.  Naturally the only song I knew (or thought I knew) was “The Dance Band on the Titanic”, but as I sampled more songs on I realized how many had been tucked away in the filing cabinets of my brain.  “Six String Orchestra”, “Circle”, “Bluesman”, “30,000 Pounds of Bananas”!!!!

Harry’s cool too because he has a cello in the band and that’s my second favorite instrument next to the banjo. 

See Harry answering questions about his songs (and check out other performances too)

Mom also got me interested in Arlo Guthrie too.  I’ve seen him in concert 3 times the last 5 years.  I almost drove up to Lake Superior this year to make it a 4th time, but I couldn’t get off of work. =(   It’s just as fascinating to hear him tell a story on stage as it is to sing.  What is appropriate for me to say here……maybe….I think he’s far out.

Arlo is commonly known for “Alice’s Restaurant” or his more famous father, Woody Guthrie.  (Side note, I still specifically remember learning to sing “This Land is Your Land” in grade school in Mrs. Archie’s music class at the old Maple Grove Elementary School.  I think what made me remember it is the vision that my brain saw while singing it.  I saw the words on the paper in the book, but my mind was seeing a pastel pallet of colors and dust and sparkles)  But Arlo is much more than his father’s son.  He’s a classy hippie and even plays with the symphony !

My favorite songs are “City of New Orleans” and “Rock Island Line” (gotta love a guy who sings to my heart with train songs), “Rambin’ Round”, “Strangest Dream”, “I Ain’t Marching Anymore”, “Guabi Guabi”, “Buffalo Skinners” “Grocery Store Blues” “I’m Changing My Name to Fannie Mae”

I’ve been feeling sort of nostalgic these days.  Can a thirty-something person even be nostalgic?  Have there been enough years to classify it as such?  It started, I suppose, when I found my teenage and high school papers. Then when the Monkees came back to Milwaukee two weekends ago, and I realized I hadn’t seen them in concert in 24 years.  Saying that alone made me feel old! 

I think I started listening to the Monkees because of mom as well.  She at least aided me when I acquired her records when I was a child.  It also could have been the TV show marathons on Nickelodeon.  I remember the one birthday in particular when I got my own first record.  Mom made it into a treasure hunt with clues, that eventually lead me to the stereo where I found the wrapped up LP.  They (minus Mike) were also my first concert experience.  Aug 27, 1987 at the Marcus Ampatheater, and our seats were way in the back.  I’m not going to bring up the story of how I got the free tickets and Pool It, their latest record because that incident caused a mini family feud for a while…. and sometimes I’m not quite over it. 

Michael Nesmith of the Monkees definitely makes my list.  Even independent of the Monkees, I love to listen to Mike’s songs.  He has such a soothing voice that I would listen to anything he sang so it’s hard to pick out just a few of my favorite songs, but if I had to make a list of songs that I think “Michigan Blackhawk” “My Share of the Sidewalk”, “Papa Gene’s Blues” “All the Kings Horses” “Nine Times Blue” “You Told Me” “Daily Nightly”  “Auntie’s Municipal Court” (Peter said Mike sure had a way of naming songs that had nothing to do with them)  And the list just keeps going on and on.  I wish I could name some news songs, older songs or hits that just keep on coming for you, but my package hasn’t arrived in the mail yet 😉  You really have to read his lyrics to understand sometimes.  Not so much in this instance, but my favorite stanza comes from the first song I mentioned.  “Up to the sunlit mountains, down by the silver sea
Well the tale is told from memory of a finely woven symphony
Forever heard without a word to disturb its melody”

Lyle Lovett began to intrigue me in the 90’s.  He doesn’t fit into just one genre of music, but I found him through the country music scene.  Except for one double CD set he put out called Step Inside This House, Lyle has recorded all of his own music and had very few co-writers.  I think that is very impressive. 

He and Harry Chapin have those clever lyrics where you have to stop and wonder if you really heard what he just said.  They have a vocabulary of lyrics that you wouldn’t think to find in songs. 

Again it’s hard to list my favorites, when there are so few that I dislike. “If I Had a Boat” “Church” “If I Were the Man You Wanted” “I Will Rise Up/Ain’t No More Caine” “Up in Indiana”

All these guys are exactly the type that make you wish that you could sit down with a guitar and make the same kind of magic.  So if you really want to be entertained pick an artist, pop in a CD and enjoy. And if you need any advice about which songs are worth a listen, I’d be happy to make up a list for you.

4 thoughts on “Besides Beethoven: The 4 other unlikely people I have pictures of decorating my bedroom wall

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