C’mon now – everybody’s doing it!! (heck, WE even did it a few decades ago!)
I just finished reading Randy Rainbow’s memoir PLAYING WITH MYSELF – and it’s pretty much what you might expect: about as saucy and irreverent as he is. No huge revelations, nothing too surprising about his story; essentially he works his ass off to create his YouTube musical commentaries and is having the time of his life doing so.
I confess I got a lot more from reading Paul Evans’ HAPPY-GO-LUCKY ME – in part because Paul has had a longer and much more dimensional career, and also because we’ve had the pleasure of working with him and being friends for over 40 years.
There are any number of coaches out there who can guide an author on how (and WHY! ) to construct, edit, publish and promote their books. And I believe that while not everyone needs to tell their story in printed form, ALL of our stories are valid and worth the telling. Though it’s none of my business, I badger a few friends on a regular basis to get crackin’ on their memoirs – mainly because I want to re-savor their adventures, but also because, as my grandpa (and Hank Williams!) always said, “none of us are gettin’ out of this alive!” Let “the world discover” your story while you’re still here to set the record straight!
When it comes to trust, I’ll almost always choose dogs over people. We recently watched an episode of the Netflix series DOGS, and I found myself judging Alana, the young military woman who had rescued a beautiful homeless puppy while based in Iraq. Her support system moved heaven and earth to bring Jet🐾 home to Boise, ID for her, before her latest deployment was over. Everyone involved gave their all, especially Tara, the woman who fostered Jet back in the States. It was heartbreaking to see Alana ultimately return Jet back to Tara, his foster mom, but I also found myself thinking, “what’s wrong with Alana that she can’t handle Jet, after ALL these people went to such lengths to bring him back home for her?”
Granted, Alana is a single woman in her 20s who had never had a dog before, and a lot had happened to both Alana AND Jet while they’d been separated. Jet had grown into a much larger dog, and after being held in quarantine and moved halfway around the world, whatever bond they had originally had was broken – on both sides. Neither Jet nor Alana were the same people they’d been when they’d met, and they just didn’t trust one another!
And then I began to feel guilty, as I realized that we’d had a very similar experience just a few years ago. In May 2019 we rescued a pair of beautiful mini-schnauzers but the chemistry had been “off” pretty much from the get-go, and they’d never bonded with us OR our other pups – so after 10 days we chose to return them to their foster mom! We were inconsolable, but Elke & Dana never relaxed around us, and we could never relax around them. They wound up being adopted by a different family and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Sometimes it’s nobody’s fault – it just is.
As a Baby Boomer kid, I remember The March Of Dimes https://www.marchofdimes.org as my first exposure to charities. I was handed a collection card at school, and expected to fill it by begging dimes from my parents and their friends, or even (gasp!) contributing my own meager allowance! Even during the Great Depression, every “buddy” was expected to at least have a DIME to spare, right?https://youtu.be/nLZTdhY1GVE
The thing is, I’ve always had a thing about money. While I didn’t think our family was “poor”, I knew that we didn’t have a lot of “extra” – certainly not enough to go splashing money willy-nilly into other people’s hands. And by the late 1950s, most kids my age had been vaccinated and polio was no longer the scourge it had been when the March Of Dimes charity was started by FDR in 1938. Ella Fitzgerald, Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe and even Elvis still made appearances in support, but they had a LOT more dimes than I did! – and besides, I had better things to do with MY dimes, like saving for a piano! https://marilyn801.wordpress.com/2019/05/30/i-love-a-piano/
I don’t like to think of myself as stingy. I’ve donated blood. I donate books to the library and assorted items to Goodwill. I volunteer my time and energy to worthy causes. However, my reticence to make hard cold cash contributions has persisted my entire life, and even increased in recent years; for one thing, I’ve noticed malfeasance on the part of some charities and seen various “Matildas” take-the-money-and-run-Venezuela. For another, I’ve become aware of ulterior motives creeping into and polluting original causes; internet scams, email entreaties, GoFund Me campaigns and even mainstream media reporting on the horrors of war all muddy the waters of what constitutes giving. When gifts-in-kind aren’t accepted, but only MONEY welcomed… well, that raises a red flag for me about the nature of the actual charity.
And I abhor being shamed. That just doesn’t work for me. I think being bullied into making a contribution is appalling and the opposite of sincere generosity.
So what exactly IS our responsibility? I like the idea that charity is kindness and compassion – both qualities that have a lot more to do with maintaining a state of heart and mind than making financial donations. My responsibility comes down to owning my own actions – or inactions. There are so many ways to delude and blame others for our lives – so many ways to be distracted and irresponsible. Being honest with myself and the world is the most charitable thing I can do.
My original plan had been to head directly to NYC where I would make music for a living. But Hartford High wouldn’t give me a diploma, even though I’d accumulated the required 16 credits. And I couldn’t stand the idea of spending another year there, and I didn’t have the nerve to begin my career as a high school dropout. So I applied to the only college that was still accepting applications in March, and wound up living at home and attending classes at the Hartford branch of UConn my freshman year. Which was a blessing in disguise, as I was about as ready to live by myselfin Greenwich Village at age 16 as I was to fly to the moon.
Long before UConn became a basketball powerhouse, it was an agricultural school https://uconn.edu/about-us/history/ – and when I attended, virtually all music majors studied to become teachers. Serious students with professional aspirations opted for conservatories like Oberlin, Eastman & Juilliard, though there were a few exceptions; Marco & Ernie Calouri were gifted French horn players at UConn during my tenure, and they both joined the US military bands upon graduation. There were probably a few others who pursued something other than a Music Ed. degree at that time, but I don’t recall who, or where they ended up.
My first winter in NYC, the Calouri brothers asked me to help them get tickets to the NY Brass Conference for Scholarships, a weekend hosted by music publisher Charles Colin. The following year Dr. Colin hired me to extract parts to some compositions that had been commissioned for several large brass ensembles, and I got a real idea of the calibre of musicianship in the NYC freelance scene. Of course, there were legendary performers, teachers & honorees like Clark Terry, William Vacchiano, Manny Klein, Don Butterfield and Art Farmer – as well as headlining celebrities like Bill Watrous, Doc Severinson and Marvin Stamm – but there were also so many incredible rank & file players whose skills were astonishing! To hear a group of 20 to 30 of these guys all sightreading a new piece was mindblowing to me – I’d sure never seen anything like that at UConn!
After the conference was over, I got to attend some “rehearsal” bands that got together to play for the love of it, and to keep their chops up. Wayne Andre along with Alan Raph led an octet of trombonists whose sound was pure heaven! Much like the Los Angeles counterpart, Hoyt’s Garage https://alankaplan.hearnow.com/secrets-of-hoyts-garage – which shaped and encouraged musical excellence among Hollywood session players.
It can be difficult to find such ensemble perfection these days – and not just because of these past two years of the pandemic. I think my generation was spoiled by our culture; by a public education system that valued music enough to make it a required part of the curriculum from kindergarten through high school. By commercial radio stations that programmed all types of music simultaneously, to appeal to listeners of all ages, so that Louis Armstrong’s HELLO DOLLY was on the top of the Billboard popular charts the same week as folk, rock, surfer songs, Motown and The Beatles! By TV variety shows that featured all genres of music, from classical to dance to pop and beyond. And by respect for the amount of individual effort that went into continually refining and raising the standards of professional musicianship.
I remember when I finally got to live my heart’s desire and work in the recording studios. And how older musicians would tell me how I’d “missed it”, because for them it had been SO good in the 1950s and 1960s; everyone had been working all the time, everybody was busy with records and jingles and film scores, and I’d just been born too late! I’d MISSED the heyday of the music business!
But I hadn’t. I’d seen and heard and been there when it was glorious; when music was rapturous and took my breath away; when superbly skilled musicians worked miracles, outdoing one another with inventive ideas and exquisite performances. To me, that was as good as it gets.
The older I get, the more I understand THE GODFATHER. I first watched the film by myself after moving to NYC in 1972 and still shudder recalling my visceral reaction to certain scenes. The Corleones had no compunction about imposing their brutal “justice” on anyone or anything that stood in their way.
Since then I’ve noticed as life became less “friendly”, with fewer instances of kindness and compassion, especially in the corporate world. As technology progresses, people feel more connected while in reality living at more of a distance. This somehow seems to make previously unsociable behavior more accepted among many.
A couple months ago I got a notice from google that a website in Russia was illegally hosting almost 50 of my recordings online, without permission or payment – available for free to anyone and everyone to stream or download. When I went there to check it out, I noticed that the quality of the recordings was substandard (i.e. worse than most mp3s), but I know there are many people who literally can’t hear the difference, and to whom it wouldn’t matter even if they did; the most important thing to them is that the music is FREE!? I did some more snooping around the site and found that a couple dozen of my musical colleagues had much of their recorded catalog similarly posted for free on this website as well.
Initially I felt panic – and then anger! Who are these Russian thieves to steal our music and then give it away for free to people all over the world? This practice breaks international copyright law, for starters; at the very least it’s bad karma! And with the political situation being what it is now, it isn’t as if our government is going to jump to aid creators, as was done with napster 20 years ago! No one is going to dare threaten Russia to defend our rights at the moment!? They’re too busy trying to avoid World War III these days!
I don’t know the solution to this conundrum; I’m frustrated at the injustice inherent in the situation but don’t want to work myself up into a lather over a problem that has no apparent solution. After much consideration, I’ve decided to allow this to remain unresolved, to acknowledge that it exists; it’s an unpleasant fact of life. And it’s not “just business” – to me, it’s also personal.
Sometime in the mid-1970s I was in discussions for a record deal; Ray Passman had heard my demo tapes and played them for his neighbor Irv Kratka, who owned InnerCity Records (altho he was much better known for having originated the MusicMinusOne label). When Mr. Kratka insisted on owning the copyrights to my songs, I said no. Even though I had been promised that Bob Dorough would produce my album.
Sad to say, up to that point I had never heard of Bob Dorough. No one played any of his music for me, and I was too distracted to research and find him myself. Until, decades later, when I did! Then… wowie-zowie! What songs!!
I introduced myself after one of his gigs at The Jazz Bakery in L.A., and asked him to write the liner notes to my upcoming jazz CD release. Then I called him until he agreed to do so. Bob’s liner notes to FUTURE STREET are, like him, cooler-than-cool! I can’t imagine anything better; this guy Dorough really GETS me!!
“Marilyn Harris is, in my opinion, on a fast express track to Future Street, where it’s at, to a beat so sweet and bittersweet, you’ll want to go there too. Here she gives us a varietal songbook that covers every aspect of life and love, surrounding herself with a pack of talented cats that bounce us along on a breezy ride to satisfaction and completion. Ms. Harris has been around the block and now, as a singing songwriter, and driving a mean piano, she zooms through your neighborhood, sweeping out the care, the blues, and other debris and leaving you with a feeling of – WHUZZAT? Besides the listed players, she has the inestimable company of arranger/producer/engineer Mark Wolfram, who also does a zippy vocal duet with Marilyn. She also has, as guest vocalist, the great Mark Winkler, an already arrived Future Street cat, who co-wrote five of the songs with her. Ah, the songs! Aside from one brilliant “standard,” she wrote them all (there is one other collaboration in the set.) So, drop the needle, as we used to say, on this baby: sit back and relax – fasten your seatbelts. Play it in the car! Play it in the bar! Play it anywhere. We’re gonna take you there…to Future Street!
There it is. Play it agin! – Bob Dorough, on the cusp of the new year – 2004…“
When it came time to record the next album, Bob agreed to singing a duet with me, much to eternal my delight! And NOW “I’ve Got Everything I Need” !!! (his most perfect song, IMO!)
I’ve loved your records since they were released in the 1970s, and I never stopped. As a singer-songwriter-pianist myself, I could appreciate everything you three brought to the party – and my husband and I have made a habit of bringing your music along on road trips, to sing along with on the drive.
Unfortunately, with the pandemic, there haven’t been as many of those outings over the past couple years. And I personally didn’t feel much like singing lately – which turned into a case of “use it or lose it” downward spiral; I didn’t enjoy singing because I no longer had the vocal chops I used to have, which led to not singing much at all.
And we kept listening, in awe-filled appreciation, to those gorgeous sonorities, arrangements and production! Together the three of you created enduring musical magic that brings joy to so many! Last week you helped me find my voice again! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
I’ve personally received many emails re. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine from friends over the past couple weeks, with admonishments that I MUST check out THIS video, or read THAT long-winded article – and always with the guilt-generating expectation that I have to DO something about this horrible situation. This strikes me as more than a little hysterical and reminds me of a children’s story. As it’s been around for at least a couple centuries, there are several versions of “The Little Red Hen” AKA “Chicken Little” – from the more violent to the supposedly-more-suitable for children-happy-ending.
We’ve all been over-subjected to media spin – more in the past five or six years than ever before. As of 2017 it even has its own name; Alternative Facts (Otherwise known as complete and utter BS)
Today I was moved to respond to the latest email entreaty to panic about matters that are above-my-pay-grade and writing my reply helped clarify my own thoughts thus:
I completely understand your skepticism re. how the media reports the news, and how various governments, our own included, attempt to skew public opinion in matters of war, as well as info about vaccines, pandemics, the economy, etc. The talking heads have all demonstrated beyond a doubt that they can be unreliable, they can be “bought” – and that no one’s hands are completely clean. So I mostly trust my own guts – which tell me that most so-called experts are untrustworthy. My visceral take is revulsion for virtually all of them.
That said, I’m not sure how much it actually avails us to ascribe BLAME to guilty parties in this particular shit-show. Since I’m only really responsible for my own choices and behaviors, I recognize more and more that I have ZERO control over what other people think, say, and do. So more and more, I’m letting it go. In my experience, time spent paying attention to theorists, pundits and politicians is time wasted – it only makes me upset and angry. And I can generate enough of that drama without their input.
I look to find enjoyment in every day, remembering that I’m sharing my life with a wonderful, thoughtful, kind and loving man (and our brilliant dog!) I’m fortunate to be in virtual-touch with most of my other loved ones all over the globe, and residing in beautiful surroundings. Why should I spin my wheels over crap that’s out of my control? I work to keep my head OUT of that toilet since I know what’s in there!