Music Monday – My Father the Singer, Songwriter

Next Saturday June 17th would be my father’s birthday. I don’t remember him. I was two years old when he died, but I think of him often, a lot more so as I’ve grown older. It seems he’s never far from my thoughts. Over the years I heard a lot about him. Of course he was loved by his family and he exemplified love as a devoted son, brother and uncle. People said he was kind-hearted with a great sense of humor.

Richard Delmont Lines (1924-1955)

Described as tall, good-looking, broad-shouldered and physically strong he was also blessed with musical talent. It was said he was a gifted singer, well versed at playing guitar and a songwriter.

My dad, like his nine other siblings who lived into adulthood, had a rough life growing up. Coming from a broken home, they struggled through the years of the depression. At a very young age they often had to fend for themselves… just to eat. And on occasion some found themselves at odds with the law.

In talking about those days and their tough, undisciplined childhood an uncle described one of his brothers as “one rough character, eleven years old and packing a thirty-eight revolver.” That young boy, through his own determination, overcame those beginnings, and even before the war, was well on the road to turning his life around. He would go on to honorably serve his country as a combat soldier. He was one of the most respected, admired and finest men I’ve ever known.
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Music Monday – Flanders Fields

It was the early days of World War I in the Second Battle near the town of Ypres. A 22-year old Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed, from the explosion of a German artillery shell. He died 102 years ago tomorrow, May 2, 1915.

Ypres a small, ancient Belgian town saw some of the most intense and sustained battles during the war. Helmer was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as his friend, doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.

John McCrea

The son of Scottish immigrants, for McCrea, medicine, the Army and poetry were family traditions.

As the brigade doctor, McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis. Later that evening, in his grief, for his lost friend, he began the draft for the poem In Flanders Field.

Written from the perspective of the dead it speaks of their sacrifice and serves as their wish for the living, that they press on. It became one of the most notable poems of its era and has attained iconic status in Canada.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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Music Monday – A Fine Sight to See

It was a year ago this past week while on the first leg of my long anticipated Around the USA road trip. I was cruising along Interstate 40, eastbound at 80 miles an hour approaching Winslow, Arizona.

It was nearly 11:00 at night. I’d left Las Vegas 5 hours earlier and had a long trip ahead. Other than a few stops for naps I was determined to make it to Huntsville, Alabama, still 21 hours away, for my first layover to visit family.

Weeks earlier I’d researched the routing, and possible sightseeing stops. Now, nearing the first possibility at a spot in Winslow’s downtown corridor, I was having second thoughts. After all it was late and I found myself unsure I wanted to delay my momentum so early in the trip. Would it be worth the bother?

A check of my GPS indicated it was just a mile or so off the Interstate. Had it been five miles I probably wouldn’t have stopped. Turned out it was just too close to pass by.

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Music Monday – A Brand New Day


Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner was born in October of 1951 and grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. Following work as a bus conductor, a construction laborer, and a tax officer, he attended a teachers college and in the mid 1970s taught elementary school children. During weekends, evenings and breaks from teaching Gordon would play in jazz bands. While performing he’d wear a black and yellow sweater with hooped stripes. Some thought the sweater made him look like a bee. Soon he would be nicknamed “Sting”.

The rest — as they say — is history. An international sensation he’s received sixteen Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe, an Emmy Award, and several Oscar nominations. He is a member of both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Sting is one of my favorites.

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Music Monday – Christmas in the Trenches

It is good that war is so terrible, lest we become too fond of it.
~~ General Robert E. Lee ~~

Time for another Music Monday and since this is the holiday season this latest installment will be all about… what else?  Christmas!

Even in the depths of bitter war Christmas can bring its indelible influence and for a short time, peace on earth, goodwill toward men can rise above the carnage.  Probably no better example is the legendary Christmas Truce of 1914.  It was a brief pause in a violent and desperate fight between British and German soldiers on the Western Front during what was called by earlier generations the Great War…  more commonly known today as World War One.

This true event made world-wide news and was later memorialized in a ballad as seen through the eyes of a fictional British officer Francis Tolliver.  The song was written by American folk singer and story-teller John McCutcheon.  My favorite version is performed by the Scottish-Canadian tenor John McDermott. Continue reading

Music Monday – Feel My Love

MusicIt’s break time. Time for a respite from all the opinion, perspective, the politics, questions and issues of life. Time, just to relax… to reflect. What better way to do that, than through music? Let’s call it “Music Monday!

Music has always been a big part of my life and in so many ways. Anyone who knows me well… knows that.

I grew up on the rock music of the 60’s and 70’s but, as I’ve “matured” I’ve grown to have an eclectic taste in music. I enjoy most everything ranging from Sinatra to The Doobie Brothers to Diana Krall to Delbert McClinton, Acoustic Alchemy, Tim McGraw, Enya, and everything in-between. (I know… “Delbert Who?”) The list is a mile long and what I choose to listen to, probably just like you, depends on my mood at the time. Rock, Country, Jazz, Blues etc. etc. Bring it on! Thank God for iTunes and iPods. I mean really… who needs music radio?

Someone said, music is an expression of the human condition… the reflection of a soul. It is Art! For me, much like film, music can bring us relief and escape from the struggles of the world, even if just for a few moments. Music is my muse and I love it. I can’t imagine my world without it.

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Dashing Through the Dough or Rethinking Christmas

It was two weeks ago today, the morning of November 3rd.  Walking through a Walmart and what did I hear?  The all-too familiar strains of …

Just hear those sleigh bells jingling,

Ring ting tingling too

Come on, it’s lovely weather

For a sleigh ride together with you

That’s right… sing along with me!  It was the song  Sleigh Ride.  Christmas music a full 52 days before the blessed day.  And it’s been running non-stop ever since at the world’s largest retailer!  People tell me they heard it in other stores the same week as well.  Here at my local Starbucks — as I write this — you’ll hear an occasional Christmas song, that’s all.  Much better than wall-to-wall Walmart.

Now we’ll be hearing two months of Christmas music.  Last year I noted it was still playing in stores well beyond January 1st.  And what for?

A Walmart Christmas

To celebrate the birth of Christ?  I don’t think so….  Obviously it’s for the proverbial almighty dollar.  The only ring ting tingling dancin’ in the retailer’s heads is the ka-ching of their cash registers.  While a tingling feeling fondles the back of their neck with the thought of big profits and hopes for a banner shopping season!  Retailers, wanting to spread the good cheer, dear reader want you — Walmart shoppers et al — to begin thinking of the holidays and start the spending early.  As if we need reminded of any of it. Continue reading