Just a week or so ago, I was in Marietta, Georgia, a place I know very well, and for the first time in many years, I found myself taking a long walk there and found myself in The Marietta National Cemetary. Established in 1866, it is the resting place of 18,742 United States Soldiers who gave their lives for our country. It is odd, in the 30 plus years that I have been visiting Marietta, I have driven past and marveled at this beautiful cemetery countless times. But it wasn't up until recently that I entered and paid my respects.
While I was looking at the graves' names and dates, I wondered what these brave soldiers would think of the country they died to protect if they were alive today. I believe that most would be shocked into disbelief. I can only imagine the sadness and anger they might feel to see how corrupt and barbaric our once great nation has become, to see how morally low and spiritually bankrupt we have fallen.
This is not the America I was brought up in, nor is it the America I was brought up to be proud of. I wish I had an answer or something to shed just a glimmer of hope to anyone reading this, but in all honesty, I don't. I realize I am not the first, nor is this emotion unprecedented or unshared. But for the first time in my life, I feel entirely broken-hearted and lost as an American.
A FAREWELL TO A KING
Today, January 7, 2021, marks one year to the day when the world lost one of the most gifted drummers in rock music history with the passing of Neil Peart, drummer and lyricist for RUSH.
Rock and Roll comes in many forms, and it is unfair and impossible to label any musician as the “best” at what instrument they play. However, I feel everyone would agree that there are a handful of musicians whose prowess and skill on their instrument places them high above many others, regardless if you like their music or not. Neil Peart was unquestionably one of those musicians.
He performed with a style, energy and sound that was completely his own. Neil’s playing had a melodic sense and intricacy about it which gave it a unique voice which sang in it’s own way. A voice that complimented and joined Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson in a perfect musical union. Neil was also a highly educated, gifted lyricist and author, writing all the bands lyrics.
I first heard RUSH in 1976 and was knocked out cold. I immediately became a fan for life. I first saw them perform in 1977 at The Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia on “The Farewell To Kings” tour. Cheap Trick was the support act touring on their second album “In Color.” The performances by both bands that night impacted me for life.
Today I am listening to my favorite RUSH album, “A Farewell To Kings” - in honor of a fallen king.
I believe that being outside and at one with nature restores my energy, soothes my soul, helps ground my spirit, and allows me to be closer to the universe and my creator.
I have always been a child of the water and longed to be near the ocean. It was not until these last few years that I developed a deep love for being alone in the forest or on a secluded hiking trail. If you had told me just ten years ago that I would come to love hiking and jogging as I do now, I would have asked to have whatever it was that you were drinking. I hope to hike a lot more in the coming year in my home state of Georgia and other places across the country. These photos were taken during my last walk around my wooded park of 2020, just before New Year's Eve.
I have many plans, hopes, and dreams for 2021, plans alone in the woods communicating with my creator and plans out in the world, making a difference, making music, and living my life. I wish the same for you. Thank you for being part of my journey.
Time is furiously fast and fleeting. So many moments, chances, choices and people fleet in and out of our lives before we even fully understand the impact they have. May the new year bring you understanding, patience, peace, good health and hope.
All my life I have had a melancholy and sad love affair with New Years Eve. This beautiful melody and lyric by Barry Manilow and Marty Panzer has been my favorite New Years Eve song since I first heard it back in 1977. It tugs at my heart stronger with each passing year. Enjoy and have a safe and wonderful New Years Eve.
I have many conflicting emotions caught up inside me on this Christmas Day. Although all situations are different, I can safely assume that everyone reading this feels the same. Our country and the world appear to be in a dangerous state of moral, spiritual, racial, economic, and political decline, the likes that most alive today have never seen. Like a lot of you, I have lost many people, a great deal of money, and most of my work. I won’t lie. I am frightened, but I am choosing to stay positive.
This is the last Christmas of my 50’s, and although it has not been perfect, I will not let the fear of the future defeat me. The sun is shining, there is no cloud in the sky, and there is a crisp Christmas chill in the air. All of my family are alive and well. I am healthy and in good voice with many songs left to sing. So I encourage all of you today to do your best to beat down the negativity, the anger, and the fear. I know it can be very hard. Pick up a large torch of gratitude. Carry it proudly and high. Let it light your way into the coming year with a full heart. May it ignite your courage to believe, work for a better life, and a better world.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays
I am sitting here, not believing that we are already halfway through November. It has been a year that no one on this planet who lived through it will ever forget. Thanksgiving is coming up, and I am quickly reminded of all and who, for which I am grateful. I will save that e-mail for another day because today I want to update you on my Live Streaming, or should I say lack thereof, as of late. But in case you are wondering, yes, I am very grateful for Live Streaming.
Being able to live stream on Facebook over this past spring and summer was a new, sometimes stressful, but invigorating learning experience. It allowed me to connect with and sing and play for some people who never get a chance to see me perform live, for whatever reason. That alone, to me, was a priceless perk for the streaming format. It was great to connect live with people I rarely get to sing to and communicate with. I was also able to make many new fans and friends from around the globe. That was a huge benefit. Another massive plus for me was that through my friends' and listeners' kind generosity, I made enough money to get me through the initial few months of being isolated and put entirely out of work by Covid. I cannot exaggerate nearly how important that was and how grateful I am to all of my friends and listeners who have helped me out. As we all know, the music industry has been severely crippled, almost destroyed. Many thousands upon thousands of people in the industry, aside from entertainers, are still out of work. Again, I feel grateful to have a platform to express myself, make some money, and reach those who care about me and my music.
While nearly all of my paying concerts with A1A, Abba Mania, and myself were canceled, postponed, or rescheduled for 2021, I did have a handful left in September and October. Those shows and several unexpected life events left me with little to no time to prepare for my weekly Facebook Live Events. You would not believe how much time goes into these shows behind the scene. Heck, if I had known that from the beginning, I might not have scheduled so many. It got to be a full-time job relatively quickly. But lucky for me, a job that I enjoyed immensely.
I have had many people get in touch with me stating how very much they miss my weekly Facebook Live events on Saturday night and wanting to know when I would resume them. Well, now that October (my favorite month) is over, I still find myself with a very full plate. Since November 2, I have been in the studio working on my next album. I will be returning home on November 23. So looking at things, the earliest I could get back to Live Streaming would be in December.
As everyone is undoubtedly aware, COVID-19 is increasing, and the music industry is still in a horrible and unpredictable state. As for my current status, I do not have a paying gig with myself, A1A, or ABBA MANIA until next June - which means no income. I am far from alone, of course. Facebook has also changed their streaming policies making it more difficult to stream, play cover tunes, and earn money. I am still looking into that, but I am also looking into other services that are more helpful to the artist. Services like Patreon and Disctopia are two that I am looking into. I am also looking into Periscope, Instagram Live, YouTube Live, and Zoom. I would love to have the opinion and thoughts of you, the listener, and the fan. I am all ears. Please let me know your views, opinions, and suggestions based on your past experience with my Facebook Live Events. I hope to be singing again for you come Christmas time.
Thank you again for being part of my dream,
Back on July 27, 2020, in the middle of our Covid summer, I released my first single in 7 years, 'Hug Inside An Envelope.' Yes, it has been seven years since my last official release. To let you know what was going on during those seven years could probably fill four self-help books. So let's just say that I have been "busy." To be completely honest, I had no plans to release anything at all. That is until I was approached by a lyric writing friend of mine in London, England. Her name is Rosalind Winton, and we met via the Internet a few years ago. She told me some time ago that she would like to work with me one day. Well, this past spring, she contacted me to inform me that she believes she finally had a project on which we could collaborate. I will not say anything else about it, for I want Rosalind to tell you how all this came about in her own words. So Ladies and Gentlemen, Mrs. Rosalind Winton.
THE MAKING OF 'HUG INSIDE AN ENVELOPE'
One morning in 2018, David, my husband told me that he had been listening to an interview with a lady who had written a letter of support to a friend who was in a bad place. The friend spread the word and the lady ended up sending hundreds of handwritten letters to people who needed a kind word.
David told me that at the end of the interview, the lady said... "It's a hug in an envelope". David told me that, because he knew I was always on the lookout for great lyrical hook lines, and this certainly had my attention.
When I thought about that line, I thought about why someone would be sending a letter, especially in this day and age. Also, there's the telephone, so I had to think of a reason why a phone call couldn't be made. I then had the idea of writing it in a way to depict that a lot of time had passed and a letter was the only way of contacting the recipient.
Once I had the concept, the lyric came to me pretty easily, but it was originally written as a love song. I had words like 'dear', 'love' etc in it. Then, at one point, I sat back and just looked at the lyric on the screen in front of me and as I read it, I realised I could tweak it slightly, so that it could be more relatable. I took out all the lovey words and altered it accordingly. It then became a lyric conducive to any relationship and any circumstance. I was happier with that, it felt better.
I then thought about who of my composer friends I should send it to and I decided to send it to Robert Benson. I've known Robert a long while and he has put great music to a few of my lyrics and I felt he would be right for this one.
Robert liked the lyric and once he had composed the music, he sent me a demo, which I absolutely loved.
I then took the song into a professional recording studio and had the music arranged and produced professionally, so now it sounded like a 'real song'. Towards the end of the session, the producer mentioned that he thought something was missing, so he asked me if I would play percussion on the song. I didn't have to be asked twice. I played the tambourine on the bridge and shaker on the last chorus. That was an amazing experience, I loved it. Now to find a vocalist.
My original idea was to find someone local to me here in the UK, that I could take into the studio and give an experience to. I put the word out and a few people contacted me, but when I sent them the song, they either couldn't connect to it, or found it difficult to sing, or said it just wasn't right for them. So I gave up on that idea and looked to my professional singer friends.
I thought about my friend Jeff who is in the US. I have known him a good few years now and it has always been an ambition of mine to work with him. I sent him the song, he loved it and agreed to record the vocal. Once Jeff had recorded the vocal, he told me he loved it so much, he would like to release it as a single. Of course, I said. "Yes".
The whole process, from when David gave me the idea, to now has been quite a while. There were gaps of many months between all the aspects of producing the song, but it was well worth the wait. From the moment David told me about it, I had a great feeling about it and that is why I never gave up on it.
I would like to thank Jeff so much for putting such a great vocal to the song, it's perfect. I hope everyone who hears it, loves it as much as we do.
ROSALIND WINTON - LYRICIST
Rosalind Winton has been writing poetry and song lyrics most of her life. She has produced and published a book POETIC WONDERS, which contains poems written by herself and five other authors that she gathered together for the project. Very recently, she wrote a song with her collaborator AJ Clarke called ONE DAY SOON, which is a song for our time and raised much needed funds for the NHS during the COVID-19 crisis. Rosalind has written for unsigned artists, musical theatre projects and original school plays. She has also won awards (Merit and Outstanding) for two of her songs, both in 2001 at different music festivals.
You can find Rosalind on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/rosalind.winton
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I want to thank everyone who attended my Facebook Live event on September 25 to honor The Partridge Family's 50th Anniversary. I especially want to thank Sharron Liddle and all of my new friends on The David Cassidy Group of Great Britain, for it was initially planned as a show that was just for them. Thus my 2:00 PM EST start time. But then the 50th Anniversary of The Partridge Family popped up, and we opened it to the world.
I have wanted to do a show like this for decades, and it delighted me to no end to execute it on such a special occasion. It was a great day of celebration in England and The United States, and there was a lot of celebration on and offline being enjoyed by so many people. Sharron Liddle did a fantastic job pulling together all that she did for a full day of Great Britain celebration in honor of The Partridge's. I also would personally like to thank Pauline Tombs, Andrea Dominianni, and Susan Samantha Cox for all of their help in promoting my show. I had a fantastic time and look forward to doing another tribute performance to David Cassidy in the future. Thanks again to everyone who tuned in!
Imagine if you will a little green frog on a log. This log is settled deep within a colorful, beautiful swamp, and the sky above is serene, bright and blue, fluffy white clouds drifting through the sky on there way to nowhere. I realize that swamps are rarely described as colorful and beautiful, but this is Hollywood folks, and anything goes. The little green frog is sitting upright on this log, and he is playing the banjo. Yes, a banjo. You don't see too many frogs playing banjos these days. Oh, and he sings too. Hey, as I said, this is Hollywood folks. The camera drifts across the swamp lazily, making its way in for a close up of the frog in question. You hear two simple chords plucked accurately and smoothly come out of the distance - and you are hooked. Hollywood history is made, and the song that you will hear over the next three and a half minutes of your life, give or take a few seconds, will be in your heart forever.
Of course, the song in question is "Rainbow Connection," and our little green friend is the one and only Kermit The Frog from Muppets's fame. The Muppets were the brainchild of the late and brilliant Jim Henson. There has been nothing like The Muppets before or since, and they are an extraordinary part of American entertainment history. The magic of the Muppets is so great that they grow to feel like real people almost from the first time you see them. I have adored them since I was a small boy, and I still do.
So with a little history out of the way, let us go back to the frog. A frog on a log with a banjo and a peculiar singing voice is not much more than that unless he has a song. Enter the iconic songwriter Paul Williams and musical composer Kenny Ascher.
Paul Williams was a massive star throughout the 1970s. His songwriting genius paved the way for him to be almost everywhere throughout that decade and to do just about whatever he wanted to do. He achieved fame quickly at the start of the decade by penning some of the most beautiful songs ever written. "We've Only Just Begun," I Won't Last A Day Without You," "Rainy Days and Mondays," as sung by The Carpenters, and two early 70's hits by Three Dog Night, "An Old Fashioned Love Song," and "Family of Man," secured his place in history as a brilliant and very gifted songwriter. He wrote many other successful and popular songs that still stand the test of time. "Evergreen," "With One More Look At You," "You and Me Against The World, "Where Do I Go From Here, "Ordinary Fool," and, of course, "Rainbow Connection."
As we all know, there is more than one color in a rainbow, and sometimes it takes two. To add the necessary color to his lyrics, Paul Williams enlisted musical composer and arranger Mr. Kenny Ascher. Mr. Ascher's credits and accomplishments are a lot like Pauls's. There are just way too many to mention here. But to name a few, Kenny has worked with John Lennon, Meat Loaf, Barbara Streisand, Todd Rundgren, and of course, Kermit The Frog and the Muppets. The beautiful melody and simplistic chord changes with which Kenny graced Paul's sentimental lyrics gave birth to a song that will forever be in the hearts of those who take the time to listen.
"Rainbow Connection" was extremely successful and has gone on to become an American Standard. The great Johnny Mathis recorded the song on his album, "Isn't It Romantic - The Standards Album," which came out in 2005. Johnny is only one of the dozens of other successful artists who have recorded their version since it was initially released in 1979. Willie Nelson, The Carpenters, Kenny Loggins, Judy Collins, Sarah McLachlan, Jim Brickman, and Jason Mraz are a small number of legendary musicians who have given us their own version of "Rainbow Connection." On April 25, 2020, Kermit released a new performance of the song (recorded by Matt Vogel) on social media to lift spirits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Allmusic," an online music database, described "Rainbow Connection" "as an "unlikely radio hit ... which Kermit the Frog sings with all the dreamy wistfulness of a short, green Judy Garland." They went on to add that "'Rainbow Connection' serves the same purpose in "The Muppet Movie" that "Over The Rainbow" served in "The Wizard of Oz," with nearly equal effectiveness: an opening establishment of the characters' driving urge for something more in life." Others have similarly referred to "Rainbow Connection" as the film's "I Want" song."
Rainbow Connection has been very close to my heart since I first heard it many years ago back in May of 1979. Oddly enough, I have only performed it a handful of times throughout my career. I have a strange habit of keeping the songs that touch me the most kind of at bay. Being an entertainer all my life, I have discovered first hand that if you play some songs countless times, they can fade in importance in your heart and become just another song you sing at work. Rainbow Connection is a song that I would never let that happen too, so I have rarely performed it.
In the late spring of 2020, I started doing Facebook Live streaming performances to earn some money and keep in touch with my audience. I had several ongoing requests for Rainbow Connection and quickly discovered that I would not be able to skirt the issue. So I learned it and performed it one time. It was challenging to get through emotionally, but I was glad that I did. As Paul Williams's 80th birthday started approaching, I decided to record my version in tribute to a man who gave the world some of it's most beautiful songs. I hope that you enjoy my heartfelt rendition of this timeless classic.
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"Ramblings From Jeff" - is a dedicated personal blog page within JeffPike.com written and posted by Jeff Pike.