I’ve sung, played and danced badly all my life. Some of my earliest memories include the old upright in my grandmother’s hallway, my uncle’s mandolin and the whiny bluegrass he sang…”Blue moon of Kentucky….” Singing, first in the youth choir at church, then in the adult choir, the high school chorus and playing in the concert band, the college band and a brief stint as a discordant sax playing rock star.
Participating in a men’s quartet singing “Just Have a Little Talk With Jesus,” my thin baritone joining in at the Fifth Sunday Night Sing. My Uncle James making a not so joyful noise unto the Lord, my cousins and I trapped in the cab of the old flatbed truck as we moved hay bales or corn to the songs he sang. I’ll say this, he sang praise tunes with great gusto and vigor, but if notes were water molecules, he couldn’t have found one while standing in the ocean. It didn’t stop him from trying.
I guess what I’m trying to say, on this fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock and the death of Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda, music has played prominently in my life…if not a backdrop for my life, a bookmark. “Don Miller, A Rock Opera.”
Dancing in the privacy of my room to the songs played on WLS, Chicago. Beach Music at The Cellar as a young adult. A cute redhead, and Eddie Floyd singing “Knock on Wood” as I danced badly with her at a rural jook joint outside Newberry. We danced badly around a divorce later. Not all bookmarks lead to soothing anodynes. Some are like sleeping in a patch of prickly pear cactus.
Doing the horizontal rumba for the first time in the backseat of an old Ford while Lou Christy sang “Rhapsody in the Rain”. Humm. That earlier relationship didn’t end well either, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with the music.
The movie Easy Rider was an eye-opener and for me heralded a change…although it might have taken forty years for the change to occur. I’ve only recently embraced my hippie self. I was a rhythm and blues, beach music, soul music kind of guy…probably still am but sitting at a drive-in with the cute redhead who became ex-wife number one, I became mesmerized, not by the film but by the soundtrack. Later, I would add the complete Woodstock to my album collection…wonder what happened to those bookmarks, the albums not the ex-wife.
I walked today as I do nearly every day, my playlist playing in my earbuds, just like every day. Today there was a little dance step to my walk as I thought about Peter Fonda. I decided to dial up my Easy Rider playlist that includes three different versions of “The Weight”. One can never get too much of a good song.
I think I scared a local woman smoking an early morning cigarette on her front porch as I belted out “Born to be Wild”. I flushed a pair of mourning doves, mourning my off keyed version of “A Little Help From My Friends” while doing my best Joe Cocker impersonation on the double lane. “Don’t Bogart that joint my friend….” Fun memories bookmarked in my mind.
Some of the bookmarks haunt me but even those trigger warm memories. Ghost stories of friends now gone. My coconspirators in crime the summers of ’68 and ’69 are both gone to the great cosmic rock concert that is the afterlife. I miss them almost as much as my lost youth of the same time period.
I wrote about a haunted pink iPod in an earlier blog from a couple of years ago. A former love now dead gave me the Crosby, Stills and Nash album that featured the song “Southern Cross.” It’s a song about a long boat trip taken by a man trying to heal his wounds after a bad divorce…what is a good divorce?
We were both wounded, and the song spoke to us as we tried to console each other in ways men and women have been consoling each other for all recorded time, I guess. After she died, I put the song on my playlist and for some reason, no matter how many times I changed the playlists, the lament was always there…haunting me along with her.
“When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
You understand now why you came this way
‘Cause the truth you might be runnin’ from is so small
But it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day”
We were never truly in love, more like friends with benefits, but she is still one of the bookmarks that haunts me. The old iPod is long since been retired but she is a bookmark, like Easy Rider soundtrack or an old Gospel tune that triggers warm memories in my book of life.
“So I’m sailing for tomorrow, my dreams are a dyin’
And my love is an anchor tied to you, tied with a silver chain
I have my ship and all her flags are a-flyin’
She is all I have left and music is her name”
Music is her name and I call to it often. For the complete song…
Quotes and video are from the song “Southern Cross” and the album Daylight Again by Crosby, Stills, and Nash.
Don Miller writes badly about many subjects, both fictional and only somewhat embellished. For more, go to his author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM
The featured image is of Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, and Dennis Hopper. It is from a movie review https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/review/easy-rider-review-movie-1969-1221117