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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Olivia Newton John

My teenage summers were filled with the Beach Boys and Chicago and Elton John and Billy Joel (maybe with a little Peter Frampton and Boston thrown in). But if you ask me to remember one iconic song, it was Hopelessly Devoted to You from the movie Grease. I've seen the movie many, many times, and I love its  innocent 50's nature, along with so many songs that just made you want to dance.

But among them all, this ballad by Olivia Newton John stood out. The way she moved, the way she belted out the lyrics with that sad / smiling face; it just stopped the film for me. I watched the entire movie again last night after learning that she had passed away, and it was as good as the first time.

RIP Olivia. You will be missed, but long remembered.

Monday, July 18, 2022


I have a bit of an obsession about Memphis and Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley, but I've never been to either. Can't really explain it, but I want to go there. I will one day, but in the meantime, there are two songs I listen to over and over that keep me close.

The first is Paul Simon's brilliant Graceland. It's just a perfect song, with a fast-paced beat and excellent lyrics that make you want to hop on a plane.

The second is not quite as well known, but just as good. A few years ago I went to a Mary Chapin Carpenter concert (if you don't know her music, it's worth looking up). The warm-up act was Marc Cohn, a singer songwriter best known for his iconic song Walking in Memphis. Some of my favorite lyrics of all time.

Happy Monday!

Monday, July 11, 2022

What's a theremin?

Back in the early 1900's, a Russian physicist named Leon Theremin invented a musical instrument based on proximity sensors. In layman's terms, this means that the instrument is played without any physical contact. The performer on a theremin moves her hands between two metal antennas, which pick up the movement and turn it into sound waves. This is what it looks like:

I came across this instrument fairly randomly, and discovered a performance by Carolina Eyck, who specializes in the theremin. The first time I saw it, and didn't know what the instrument was, I started looking for the strings. But there weren't any! 

Here is her rendition of the Queen of the Night aria from Mozart's Magic FluteA very different kind of music, but quite pleasant to hear.

Happy Monday.

Monday, July 4, 2022

The 4th of July (Jersey shore version)

There are so many pieces of music celebrating our 4th of July holiday. They tend to be, not surprisingly, different versions of patriotic music. Bruce Springsteen has a different way of looking at this holiday. One of his classic songs, and one of my favorites, is 4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy). It has brilliant lyrics (consider, from the very opening, "the fireworks are hailing over Little Eden tonight") and a level of soft intensity that just makes you stop and listen. 

The song is from The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle, Springsteen's second album. It features Danny Federici, the organist of the E Street Band, on the accordion. This version is particularly poignant because it is a performance from just before Federici's death in 2008. If you watch all the way to the end, you'll see a bit of a tribute to him.


Happy 4th of July (to my American friends). 

Happy Monday to everyone else.

For those of you really interested, "Little Eden" refers to Mrs. Jay’s Beer Garden, a biker bar found in Asbury Park, New Jersey (on the Jersey shore). In 1974, it was converted into The Stone Pony, a now legendary music club where Bruce Springsteen played some of his first concerts.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Last Music Monday at Google

I've decided to leave you with a lovely version of one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written, Beethoven's Ode to Joy. Watch what happens in this square in Sabadell, Spain when the little girl drops a coin into the musician's hat. (Note: this is actually a TV commercial for a Spanish bank, but the performance is quite special, and what is a flash mob anyway but the reactions of the spectators?) 

I hope the music leaves you with a smile, as it does for me and as it did for this commenter:

I have watched this video many times; it always lifts my spirits.  When I get to the point that I'm feeling as though everything is hopeless, I come to watch this; I see the joy on the faces of everyone from every apparent walk of life - and especially the excitement on the faces of the children in the crowd. I wonder how many of those children will remember this for perhaps the rest of their lives, and may look to music to be the path they take in life.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Monday music - heavy metal edition

There's a really good band called Disturbed that is quite successful in the heavy metal genre.  You may already know of them, but I did not. It turns out that over the past 20+ years they have released 7 albums, 5 of which debuted consecutively at number one on the Billboard 200 albums list. Only two other bands have ever done this - Metallica and the Dave Matthews Band.

In 2015 Disturbed released the album Immortalized, the 5th of their 5 consecutive number ones.This album included a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's The Sounds of Silence (originally released in 1964). Interestingly, the Disturbed version uses the singular name "The Sound of Silence." If you want a lot of detail on that subject, see this article.

Disturbed performed the song live on Conan O'Brien's late night show in March 2016, accompanied by a beautiful sounding group of backing musicians. David Draiman's rendition of this song is a brilliant example of how a lead singer and a band can perform so well even when they venture outside their traditional style.