Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Born For Broadway.

Steve Schalchlin, Tony Goldwyn.
When Jimmy told me that the benefit he would be doing last night would be hosted by Tony Goldwyn, I was, like, all in. I just think he's one of the most interesting actors alive. And he can sing! So, in the holding pen for all the performers after the show, I made Jim shoot this one. The tie I'm wearing is called an Endangered Species tie, and it was in a gift bag at another Christopher Reeve Foundation fundraiser Jim directed back in L.A. (There were a bunch of gift bags left over, so we went around taking the ties out of them.)

Christine Andreas, the great Broadway star, Jim Brochu, director Marcia Milgrim Dodge, and Sarah Galli,
who produces the evening in honor of her brother, who is quadriplegic. 
 Jim and Christine sang "I Remember It Well," with a few lyric changes to recall Chris and Dana Reeve. They're both gone now, sadly. Tony mentioned, in the prepared remarks, that when Chris and Dana began their foundation to study nerve damage to the spine, the field was all but empty. It was just assumed that there was no way to "fix" the spinal cord. But research has proven otherwise -- and their their foundation that has funded so much this research.

Members of the cast. Can you name them?
 Jim and Christine, btw, left not a dry eye in the house.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Robin Gibb.

When I was a kid, it was totally -- and I mean TOTALLY -- uncool to like the Bee Gees. Long before their disco days, they were considered to be Beatles-Lite. Their unapologetically sentimental love songs were for, you know, girls! So, of course, I LOVED them. Especially this song, from one of my favorite records of all time. I probably went through three of these:

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Donna Summer, Freddie Mercury and Musicians.

A straight friend of mine, online, sent me a link to Freddie Mercury and Queen singing at Live Aid, said he put it on, dimmed the lights and just played it loud. At the same time, I read Bob Lefsetz latest newsletter about how "the musicians" knew how good Donna Summer was. He writes:
They're testifying online about "I Feel Love", the Donna Summer hit from 1977. So I decided to play it. And instantly realized this sounds just as modern today as it did when it was cut, that this is the sound filling the Sahara Tent at Coachella, making the little kids go wild while their parents stand still in front of stultified rock acts on the main stage.
Yup, we've got a white concert business and media marginalizing the exploding EDM scene, ignoring music that has a direct lineage to the hits of twenty five years ago.
But the musicians know.
Doing a little research, I found out that Bronski Beat covered "I Feel Love" in 1984, that everybody from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Madonna to Blue Man Group have done the song.
In other words, the musicians know.
But too much of the audience did not.
The musicians know.

So did the gays. The club scene of the late 70s is reviled these days because it was a non-stop party that got reckless, as people get, who are liberated from a life time of imprisonment.

Remember that first season of "Survivor" when the contestants got their first big meal as a reward challenge? I think it was, like, hot dogs and other crap. That night, they puked their guts out, making themselves sick. But food! They hadn't had food in ages! And drink! Beer! Cokes!

Watch people, even non-starving people, around a free food buffet. I remember working on the SS Galileo, and at the 4pm dessert fix, people would pile their plates high, as if eating a full meal. But instead of steak vegetables, it's lemon meringue pie and cookies.

That's how it felt back then, once I left east Texas. Free at last. And the buffet in front of me was irresistible.

A buffet that included music. And I remember when Donna Summer was the best singer, and most cutting edge leader of music in the world. And yes, as a musician, I generally hated disco. H.A.T.E.D. I.T.

But Donna. She could rock. But she didn't get her due. Not really. Because disco sucks, remember? Is she in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? If not, and she died not there, then what's the point of a Hall of Fame? (I just googled it: She was not inducted this year, and the Hall of Fame has issued an apology.)

As for Freddie Mercury, the truth is, as I joked to my friend, I was more interested in what Brian May was playing. Pick up a guitar in front of me and I'll fall in love with you immediately. Real Musicians (ahem) don't really care about front men. They're just there to distract the fans and look good on the magazine covers. I remember Dwight Franklin -- the late lamented guitarist from the Golden Triangle in southeast Texas -- once said to me, in class at Buna High, "What does Robert Plant do anyway? He just sings and blows the harmonica. Big deal."

Musicians are weird.

But musicians know when someone's good. And Donna was good. That's why the electronic music the kids are listening to now is all Donna based. She was the Beatles for ten minutes.

(Jim met her once out in California through friends. When he walked into her house, she was under the sink fixing something.)

Oh, but back to Freddie Mercury, musicians don't know everything. Brian May without Freddie is, well, "just" a guitar player.

Sometimes you just need a gay man in your life.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Obama's Evolution.

The wisest response, I've heard, to Obama's endorsement of gay marriage is that many people who currently are victims of both psychological and physical abuse at home were just told by their president that they have an ally and friend.

Yesterday was the 17th anniversary of the death of Bill Clayton, who I wrote about in New World Waking.

These voices usually go unheard because they are hidden behind a wall of violence, where silence equals death.

I come from a conservative Christian family, and though I was terrified to tell them my Horrible Secret, they've never treated Jimmy with anything but total respect and full acceptance. 

I try to steer clear of politics these days, because I feel like we can't really know anything. But what I do know is that words matter.

Oh, and that my friend, Richard Skipper's picture was on the Fox News graphic. He gets everywhere.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

In The Bonus Round, You Never Stop Learning.

This week, I challenged myself to write a new choral anthem for the upcoming Ascension Day services on May 17. I went online to the Episcopal liturgical calendar and tried to find something that would inspire a song.

(I don't think I've ever just pictured a choir and tried to write for them. Instead, my process has been to just write a basic song at the piano, and then do an arrangement of that song. This was more like painting with music, repeating the same phrase over and over again, almost like a chant.)

I found my lyric theme in the Psalm -- which is not too surprising, given the fact that the book of Psalms is, essentially, a song book. There in Psalm 93 is a phrase about how the waters lift up the voice of God. IOW, that if you look all around you, you can't help but be in awe of nature. David was writing that these things ARE the voice of God.

So, putting it into first person, I took that fragment and started with a simple melody, repeated it, harmonized it, flipped it around, changed keys a few times, and ended on a big pretty note. Nothing Beethoven wouldn't have done. Very short. Simple. An anthem to be enveloped into the service itself.

So, we'll rehearse it on Sunday and perform it on Thursday, May 17 at Christ Church in Bay Ridge.

(Reader, if you are musical and would like a pdf of the song just to look at -- or if you have a choir and you want to try to teach it to them, write me a note and I'll send it to you. Soon, I'll post it at my Watchfire site.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Out of The Silence. A School Bullying Project.

I'm very excited to announce a new project, Out of the The Silence, that was conceived during my concert in Olympia. I was approached by a well known calligrapher named Sally Penley who told me she was very moved by the evening, especially Gabi's Song and other stories about GLBT kids who were bullied. So, she put together an idea for a traveling exhibition featuring great calligraphers making works of art out of both my lyrics and the words of kids who were victims of violence.
So, now they're raising the money for the project through Kickstarter. I would encourage you, reader, to go to the site's page and help us put this together. It's very exciting, and I'm honored to have inspired this kind of passion. 

Thursday, May 03, 2012

I'm Singing Sunday night for St. Clement's Cabaret

Come out and support the wonderful work of St. Clement's Episcopal Church. I'll be singing, along with a whole list of wonderful performers.