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Joseph E Bird

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songwriting

Sing me a song of what it could be.

If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.
Then quit.
No use being a damn fool about it. – W.C. Fields

One of the good times. Matt Thomas accompanying me on the harmonica playing the Ray Lamontagne song, Devil’s in the Jukebox.

It was fun while it lasted.

I’ve spent more than a year pretending to be a musician. It started out with a few covers at the open mic of the local coffee shop. That first time was a disaster and I vowed that not only would I never sing again, but I also swore I wouldn’t even show my face at the coffee shop. But I was at it again the following week.

Yes, it got a little easier after that first time, but as soon as I started to feel comfortable with the whole performing thing, the bombs would follow. But I persevered.

I went to other open mics. I made friends, many of them fantastic singers and songwriters who were nothing but encouraging. They still are and I’m so blessed to have them as friends.

I performed short sets at festivals and other events. And I have written a few songs, words and music. I made progress, for sure.

I knew I didn’t have a great voice, but neither does Bob Dylan. I had hopes that maybe my songwriting would be engaging. Meh. Maybe the covers that I did would provide some level of entertainment. Not so much. I tend to perform songs of artists I like – Wilco, Avett Brothers, Foo Fighters – but are pretty much unknown to my audience. And when I do a Dylan song, it’s always an obscure choice.

One of my new music friends will admit he’s not the most accomplished guitar player but he is enormously entertaining. He bellows old country standards and writes clever songs. And he always has fun, which is contagious. Everybody loves him.

While my expectations were realistic and modest, my musical career has reached the point where the disappointment in my accomplishments has overcome the joy of playing music. As Mr. Fields advised, no use being a damn fool about it.

I find myself taking that advice in other areas of my life, but that’s another story.

For now, I’m going to refocus on writing. No more novels, which can be just as disappointing as music, despite critical acclaim. But I have several ideas for writing about music based on my new awareness of singing, songwriting, and the guts it takes to put yourself out there. Hopefully interesting to my faithful readers, and a little more satisfying for me.

Carnival Dreams – The Song

I recently published Carnival Dreams, my collection of short stories, poems, and songs. The book title is also the title of a song I wrote. Friend and colleague, Warren Iulg, wrote the music and recently recorded it. Have a listen.

tomorrow

this is one of the stories in my book, carnival dreams, available at Amazon, and the trunk of my car.


tomorrow will come

tomorrow will come, and i’ll sing an old song
and think of the day, that the words came along
i didn’t know then, that song was my last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast

tomorrow will come, and i’ll look toward the sun
and remember the spring, when i went for a run
i didn’t know then, that it was my last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast.

so remember the day, of all that was good
when youth was forever, we’d play when we would
remember the day, of life with no fears
tomorrow is coming, and with it the tears

tomorrow will come, and i’ll think of my friend
and read all the words, that he took time to send
i didn’t know then, that they were his last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast

tomorrow will come, and i’ll hear her sweet voice
and laugh at her jokes, her spirit rejoice
i didn’t know then, that her smile was her last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast

so remember the day, of our one last good time
when I touched your face, and your hand held mine
remember the day, and when we would dance
for tomorrow is coming, leave nothing to chance


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

melancholy morning

it’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there.

Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can’t even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don’t even hear the murmur of a prayer
It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there

Songwriter Lesson:

take a look at the second line of that verse.
it’s too long. the rhythm is off. it’s grammatically incorrect.
and he has to drag it out to make it work.
so what.
he’s just telling the story. the way it is.

will the circle be unbroken

I just finished watching a 16-hour documentary, Ken Burns’ Country Music.

I didn’t want it to end.

My music of choice has been rock and roll. Rhythm and blues. Funk. Soul. Classical. Americana. Roots. Never country. Almost never.

There was my Dwight Yoakam period. Guitars, Cadillacs, and Hillbilly Music. He was so country and old-school, he was hip.

Not long after that, Johnny Cash teamed up with Rick Rubin and produced American Recordings. Cash was old, the production bare, stripped down to Cash’s raspy, but still strong voice singing Nine Inch Nails and gospel and old folk songs. One of my favorite albums of all time.

I knew a little about Hank Williams. Hear that lonesome whippoorwill, he sounds too blue to fly. Williams died in Oak Hill, West Virginia.

Kathy Mattea was born just a few miles from where I was.

And somehow I knew that the music I listen to now, The Avett Brothers, Tyler Childers, Parker Milsap, has its roots in country music.

And then there’s this whole songwriting thing I’ve been tinkering with.

So when I heard about the Ken Burns film, I knew I was going to watch it from beginning to end.

And here’s the thing. Yes, it’s about music. There are beautiful voices, virtuoso instrumental performances, showmanship and charisma. But also performers who wouldn’t make the first cut in today’s made-for-tv singing competitions. Modest talent. Three chords and the truth. The truth being what it’s really all about. Triumph and joy, but more often struggle and heartbreak. Stories set to music. No achy-breaky heart. More like Roseanne Cash singing I Still Miss Someone at her father’s memorial.

If you’re a writer, you’ll find inspiration in the film. If you’re a songwriter, you should be required to watch it. It features some of the best songwriters ever.

I’m so lonesome I could cry. – Hank Williams

I’d trade all my tomorrows, for one single yesterday. – Kris Kristoferson

I’m crazy for trying, crazy for crying,
and I’m crazy for loving you. – Willie Nelson

Go rest high on that mountain
Son, your work on earth is done.
Go to heaven a-shoutin’
Love for the Father and the Son. – Vince Gill

I think I may be the only who saw it. Every time I try to start a conversation about it, seems like no one else has watched it.

Have you? If not, you can still watch the entire film online. Click the link below.

https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/country-music/

carnival dreams

you said you’d be pleased
to walk by my side
to breathe the night air
maybe go for a ride

so we walk down the shore
toward the music and light
with your hand in mine
feeling good, feeling right

then we stop for a drink
sipping cola on ice
and watch the wheel roll
and a toss of the dice

the carousel goes ’round
with the kids holding tight
never wanting to fall
but knowing they might.

*

and we’re walking the midway
the music is playing
and I’m wishing tomorrow
that you would be staying

my time here with you
is not what it seems
everything that I hope for
is a carnival dream

*

the smell of food fills the air
and it’s prodding my hunger
and your laugh fills my ear
makes me wish I was younger

i’d ask you to stay
to let go of tomorrow
let’s chart our own course
we’ll beg, steal, or borrow.

but our time is just this
cotton candy this eve
a quick kiss goodnight
and then you will leave

i’ll awake all alone
in the morning’s first light
and remember our time
in the carnival night

*

and we’re walking the midway
the music is playing
and I’m wishing tomorrow
that you would be staying

but my time here with you
is not what it seems
everything that I hope for
is a carnival dream


copyright 2018, joseph e bird
.

First Aid Kit

Here’s how these things work in the ultra-connected world of blogging.

A couple of weeks ago I posted an audio video of my cousin’s 1968 recording of his song Heather Girl. Across the pond, fellow runner and music lover Saoirse listened to Heather Girl and asked if I had ever heard First Aid Kit.  Good timing on her question. Yesterday they were on CBS This Morning.

Thanks, Saoirse.

tomorrow will come

sid-on-porch-for-web

tomorrow will come, and i’ll sing an old song
and think of the day, that the words came along
i didn’t know then, that song was my last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast

tomorrow will come, and i’ll look toward the sun
and remember the spring, when i went for a run
i didn’t know then, that it was my last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast.

so remember the day, of all that was good
when youth was forever, we’d play when we would
remember the day, of life with no fears
tomorrow is coming, and with it the tears

.

tomorrow will come, and i’ll think of my friend
and read all the words, that he took time to send
i didn’t know then, that they were his last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast

tomorrow will come, and i’ll hear her sweet voice
and laugh at her jokes, her spirit rejoice
i didn’t know then, that her smile was her last
i didn’t know then, that time flies so fast

so remember the day, of our one last good time
when I touched your face, and your hand held mine
remember the day, and when we would dance
for tomorrow is coming, leave nothing to chance


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

on the brink

talk that is shocking with mocking and hawking
they say what they will, and neither one’s balking
cross over this line, i ain’t gonna blink
so much to lose, with war on the brink

minds that know all and know all to be
tell us what’s best, ‘cause we just can not see
your way is right, and there’s no other way
my voice must be silenced, i can’t even pray

.

so sing me a song
of the girl with the smile
whose laugh will stay with me
and linger a while

sing me a song
of our walk on the shore
i’ll think of her touch
and worry no more

.

fear that is chilling with a spirit unwilling
to stand for what’s right, and stop all the killing
the innocent too, will fall to their fate
because even the good, they must desecrate

hate that is righteous and noble and pure
just ‘cause you say it, does not reassure
love is a concept you can’t comprehend
and meek is a virtue that you won’t condescend

.

so sing me a song
of the girl with the smile
whose laugh will stay with me
and linger a while

sing me a song
of our walk on the shore
i’ll think of her touch
and worry no more


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

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