Songs And Stories

'Wear Your Love Like Heaven'

“Wear Your Love Like Heaven.” The single by British singer-songwriter Donovan reached number 23 on the Billboard pop chart in November 1967. What did it mean, you ask? Well, while the words were typically obscure for that artist and, especially, for that era, “wear your love like heaven” meant, essentially, “be nice” and “don’t be afraid to show it.”

My father, in his later years, used to say, “People just aren’t very nice anymore.” He died in 1989. Imagine how he’d feel about that now.

A couple of weeks before my father died, I met and talked to Donovan. I had arranged to meet him after a concert he gave in Cleveland, to interview him for a magazine article. Though he has never really stopped performing and writing songs (never for very long, anyway), his biggest successes came in the mid- to late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

When Donovan played that concert in Cleveland in the late ‘80s, it had been a long time since he’d performed here.

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 2, Posted 10:15 AM, 02.02.2015

Full Circles

This 1969 Moby Grape song has been playing in my head a lot lately. It starts with the words “Changes, circles spinning. Can’t tell the ending from the beginning.” Many other popular songs carry the same message—like Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” and “Circle of Life” from “The Lion King”—because while the experience is one that’s common to most of us, it’s also still sort of a phenomenon: the realization that a lot of our important occasions repeat in different (or, sometimes, the same) ways; that some significant life-cycle events eventually come “full-circle.”

During all the years I worked full-time as a rock musician, I had to work various day jobs to be able to afford my so-called “full-time” music career. Those jobs always involved food—cooking in restaurants and for catering companies, in a hospital kitchen, and other culinary institutions. My favorite of those jobs was at Rocco’s Market in Coventry Village in the middle and late 1970s. Rocco’s was a gourmet deli and produce shop in the structure that had housed the garage for the former apartment building that became CoventryYard (the space now inhabited by the Grog Shop and the Inn on Coventry).

Read Full Story
Volume 8, Issue 1, Posted 11:38 AM, 01.05.2015

A bit of history, alive and singing

You’ve never heard of one of the most important people in history. Probably. A tiny percentage of the people who read this article will recognize the name Jackie Washington (though some of those might be thinking of one of the two other semi-famous Jackie Washingtons). The Jackie Washington I’m talking about is performing at Nighttown on Nov. 11, which I find amazing, because he's historic, and because it is such a rare appearance.

Here’s why, in a ridiculously simplified overview, I think Jackie Washington is historically significant: The late-'50s and early-to-mid-'60s folk music scene encompassed the Folk Revival and the original singer-songwriter movements. Following the Kingston Trio’s million-selling single “Tom Dooley,” on Capital Records, which took everyone by surprise in 1958, all of the other labels signed a few folk artists, hoping to cash in on what they determined was a folk music fad.

Read Full Story
Volume 7, Issue 11, Posted 6:43 PM, 10.30.2014

Elvis and the Russians vs. the New Math

Two things happened to me in school in October 1957 that altered the course of my life. They were different, unrelated things, until they came together several years later.

First, I should say that every teacher I had, all the way through Coventry Elementary School, had been born around the turn of that century, 1900, and most, probably, in the 1890s. You know Western movies and cowboy TV shows? That was the 1890s. Just for a reference point; and just for some background.

Here’s more background: 1957 was the peak of the first wave of rock music, with hit records by rock pioneers including Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Fats Domino, Ricky Nelson, the Coasters and others.

Read Full Story
Volume 7, Issue 10, Posted 11:53 AM, 09.30.2014

What I did and didn't learn at Heights High

I told my father that when I grew up, I wanted to get a job thinking. He said, “Good luck.” But, really, that’s what my jobs as a writer and a musician are—thinking. The writing and performing parts come last, after a lot of thinking.

That conversation with my father took place 50 years ago this month, in September 1964. It was a sunny Sunday following my first week of high school, at Heights High, and I started out with some vague notion of trying a little harder that year to stop being such a terrible student.

I sat down in my room to read a chapter in my history textbook, about which I was then supposed to write a paper. I read the chapter and then started on the paper, by which I mean I started thinking about it. But my eyes fell on a magazine I’d recently purchased called Hootenanny, about folk music and musicians.

Read Full Story
Volume 7, Issue 9, Posted 10:23 AM, 08.29.2014

20 songs about death adds up to one fun afternoon

Last summer, my folk group, Long Road, played a small number of concerts, on occasions that included the National Senior Games and the grand opening of Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. It appeared that a pattern was forming, and I couldn’t help but wonder where we would go from there and where we would play this summer.  I got my answer: Lake View Cemetery.

It seems like a natural next step—not that I feel ready to take that next step in real life. But show biz is another thing.

Among the beautiful and historic cemetery’s many wonderful features, it offers a summer concert series, now in its second year. The free concerts will be held on certain Sunday afternoons from 4 to 6 p.m. near the James A. Garfield Monument.

Read Full Story
Volume 7, Issue 7, Posted 6:38 PM, 07.01.2014

Pop music legend to play Cleveland Heights

When I was in 10th grade at Heights High in 1964, I took a trip to New York City. While I was there, I went to the famous Café au Go Go to hear this band I’d heard about, the Blues Project. I thought it was going to be an acoustic group because the one member I’d heard before—Danny Kalb—had appeared a year or so earlier on a compilation album, also called "The Blues Project," which featured several young, white acoustic blues artists.

When the band appeared on stage, I was shocked—and disappointed—to see that it was a rock band. But when they started playing, right from the very first note, I was completely mesmerized and enthralled.

Read Full Story
Volume 7, Issue 6, Posted 3:25 PM, 06.02.2014