Oops!

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Yeah, I know yesterday was Thursday.  I just got a little ahead of myself and posted my planned Friday post accidentally.  (Yes, sometimes I plan these things in advance.  Not often, but once in a while I think ahead instead of flying by the seat of my pants like I usually do.  Look where it gets me: Posting about “Le Freak” Friday when it’s really Thursday.  That’s it! No more planning for me!)

So to make up for messing up the calendar ever so slightly, here’s a little repentant Elton John for y’all.  It might be a little too sad and sorry, but it is one of my favorite musical apologies.

“Philadelphia Freedom”

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Years ago, I heard that Elton John and Bernie Taupin wrote this song as an homage to Billie Jean King and her professional tennis team, the Philadelphia Freedoms.  Of course, Taupin’s lyrics have no connection to anything even remotely related to tennis.  I watch a lot of tennis, and I never hear anyone talk about freedom, or “peace of mind my daddy never had.”  Complaints about line calls, sure, but no one ever says “I used to be a heart beating for someone, but the times have changed.  The less I say the more my work gets done.”

Really, these are some of the most nonsensical lyrics I’ve ever heard.  The song seems to be both patriotic and isolationist.  It’s an anthem for a nebulous, undefined cause.   It’s not about sports, but it’s also not about love or politics.  Or anything else for that matter.  What this song is ultimately about is left open to interpretation.  Of course, with a hook like this, who cares what it’s about.

I’ve always found it to be a song about, well, freedom.  The lyrics don’t really make any thematic or subjective choices; it’s all left up to the listener: “If you choose to, you can live your life alone.  Some people choose the city, some others choose the good old family home.”  Both John and King publicly came out of the closet late in life, so I suppose the lyrics could also be read as a message of tolerance for sexual orientation.  I’ve always felt light and happy when I hear this song, like some burden I didn’t know I was carrying had been lifted.  Like the lights were turned on, and I could suddenly see all the paths open to me.  This is one of those songs that inspires me.  I’m not really sure what I feel inspired to do, but I grin and sing along anyway.

I guess I could use a little poorly defined inspiration right about now.  Anything that makes me feel a little happier is a good thing right now.  “Philadelphia freedom, I love you, yes I do.”

Happy Monday!

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First of all, I would like to wish a Happy Passover to any Jewish readers I might have out there.  (I  learned what little I know about Jewish holidays and observances from reading the All of a Kind Family series of books as a child.  They were awesome, and I highly recommend them.)

Second, today is the birthday of not one, but two great musical voices.  Aretha Franklin was born in 1942, and Elton John was born in 1947 (making them a year younger than my father and the same age as my mother, respectively).  Truly, that qualifies today as one of the happiest Mondays ever–at least for music fans.  While both singers are distinctive and different, Aretha and Elton are both incredibly talented and influential, and I adore them both.  They don’t really need any commentary or editorializing, so just enjoy the clips I chose.  These might not be the best known of their hits, but they’re two of my personal favorites.

(I would’ve used a good live clip of this, but I didn’t like any of the ones I found.)

(It’s kind of cool watching all those dancers get funky around him.)

December 8th

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Guns suck.  With all the recent horrible mass shootings, with the murder-suicide committed by Jovan Belcher just a few days ago, you think more people would be talking about doing more to control access to these monstrosities.  But instead, sales are up.  That does not reassure me.  It’s been 32 years since a madman gunned John Lennon down on the sidewalk in front of his New York brownstone.  32 years, and very little has been done to stop the violence.  I’m pretty sure that somewhere, John is very disappointed in us.

There’s been a lot of songs written in Lennon’s memory (most recently, Bob Dylan’s “Roll On John,” which I couldn’t find for this post).  I remember Elton John chiming in first.

I’ve always had a lot of trouble listening to this song.  Elton was one of John’s good friends, playing with him on Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through the Night.”  “Empty Garden (Hey, Hey, Johnny)” must have been written very soon after Lennon’s death.  And even though it is a bit overwrought and the metaphor a bit strained, it is so tremendously emotional.  Elton isn’t exactly one to hide his emotions, and his grief is palpable here.

Paul Simon reacted in with his typical low-key artistry.  The metaphor of “The Late Great Johnny Ace” is more natural, but no less devastating.  Simon expressed the sudden shock of hearing about the shooting, and the way it brought the city together.

Lennon’s death had such a huge cultural impact that it’s sometimes hard to remember how personal his death was for so many.  John had a lot of friends.  Of course his fellow Beatles remembered him in song.  Paul’s song for him has always been so bittersweet to listen to.  Just a sweet, sad little song remembering his partner for so long.  “And if I say, I really loved you and I’m glad you came along. And you were here today, for you were in my song.”

George Harrison was sad and grieving for his friend, but it seems to me that “All Those Years Ago” was a conscious decision to remember Lennon with joy, although there was a touch of anger there, too.  “But you were the one they backed up to the wall, all those years ago.”  Like Paul, George understood John better than most, understood what he had been through and what he believed.

The person who knew him best was his second wife and soulmate, Yoko Ono.  Her song about John, “Walking on Thin Ice,” is raw and difficult to listen to.  It’s such an intimate experience, it just kind of shreds you to pieces.  “I may cry someday, but the tears will dry whichever way.”

There’s an incredible undercurrent of rage and anger to all these songs.  And there should be.  We shouldn’t sit complacently by and remember John Lennon’s life without acknowledging the violence of his death.  We should all be angry that it’s so easy for anyone to get a gun and kill another person.  So honor John Lennon today and every day by doing something to end this violence.  Demand adequate and effective gun control laws.  Demand better mental health care and education.  Demand support for domestic violence prevention programs.  Make John proud.  Give peace a chance.