Category Archives: Music

Greatest Stories Ever Sung

Harry Chapin Portrait

By GORDON GLANTZ

Despite our many differences, we all have stories to tell.

And story songs — of all genres — have captured my imagination more than short stories, novellas or even those told around a holiday table.

There is a special skill to reeling in and holding a listener with a literal narrative of a beginning, middle and end within a span of minutes.

On Facebook, I created a page – Greatest Stories Ever Sung (“likes” accepted and appreciated). I have long-range plans for a book of the same title.

Here is a Cliff’s Notes look at the Top 10, which is anything but etched in stone:

10) Love Child – Released in late 1968, when music was at an unmatched zenith, this song is told from the perspective of a young woman explaining to her boyfriend her reservations about having intimate relations because she didn’t want to give birth to a “love child” who will endure the same childhood trauma she did. One of the heavyweight writers contracted by Motown, R. Dean Taylor, later had a 1970 hit with a noteworthy story song (Indiana Wants Me).

9) Same Old Lang Syne – From late singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg, this wistful song is set against the backdrop of running into an old flame on Christmas Eve, making it a seasonal staple almost 40 years after its 1980 release. In this semi-true story (the real former flame came forward to confirm as fact, with some fiction, after Fogelberg’s death), they “laugh until they cry” and catch up on old times. As the narrator walks away, the scenic snow turns into rain, which is a poetic turn on the line earlier in the song about the woman’s husband who keeps her “warm and safe and dry.”

8) A Boy Named Sue – In the music word, the equivalence of being knighted was Johnny Cash covering one of your songs. In 1969, humorist Shel Silvestein was so honored when the man in black took this one to No. 2 on the charts (only to be blocked by “Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones). It tells the story of a boy growing up hard and tough because of the ridicule for having a girl’s name given to him by a father he never met – until the final verse, during which he tells his father his plans for naming a son — “I think I’m gonna name him Bill or George! Anything but Sue …”

7) Against The Wind – Bob Seger wrote several story songs, with the theme of comparing and contrasting the past to the present. While “Night Moves” and “Like A Rock” are brilliant turns on the theme, nothing tops the title track from his 1980 album of the same name. The lines “I wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then” may as well translate to “to be or not to be” in Gordonville.

6) Fast Car – I heard this late one night in 1988 and was in the record store the next morning buying what was one of the more seminal debut albums of my time. Here, Chapman paints a brilliant portrait of hope against desperation with a wisdom that exceeded her age at the time (24).

5) Coat of Many Colors – Dolly Parton does not get enough credit as a songwriter, and has repeatedly said that this song (reaching No. 4 on the country charts in 1971) is her all-time favorite. Telling the story of a coat stitched for her by her mother that was mocked by other kids at school, she reveals the lasting value of the garment that others didn’t understand. The impact of this song? A children’s book, a television movie (and sequel) and recognition from the Library of Congress Recording registry.

4) Highway Patrolman – Bruce Springsteen wrote a batch of story songs in 1981 and recorded them at home as demos for the E Street Band to perform. Instead, he turned this collection into the intimate 1982 Nebraska album. Just about any song from it could make the Top 10 list, but this story of a state trooper torn between loyalty to a brother who “ain’t no good” and his job as a lawman is the best of the batch.

3) In Color – Penned and released by country singer Jamey Johnson in 2008, this one tells the story of a young adult man sitting with his grandfather, looking at black and white pictures from the grandfather’s major events — Great Depression, World War II and wedding day. The grandson is told that the grainy black and white pictures don’t do the memories justice because he “should have seen it in color.”

2) Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – The true story of a ship sinking is not the easiest of topics to turn into a song, let alone a successful one, but Gordon Lightfoot turned an article he read about the ship’s fate in a 1975 storm into a 1976 hit. Using a straightforward approach, Lightfoot sends the listener down with the ship in chilling detail.

1) Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin is sort of the Hans Christian Andersen of this sub-genre, writing many wonderful story songs (Taxi, I Wanna Learn a Love Song, etc.), but this is his ultimate masterpiece. I first heard it on Top 40 radio when it reached No. 1 in December of 1974. As a parent now, I know I have valued every second with Sofia as she has grown into a precocious pre-teen, and I partially credit Chapin and this gem for putting – and keeping — me in that mindset. The time flies, and whatever you put in – as Chapin’s narrator learns in this song – comes back to you.

Honorable Mention: Too many to mention.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on March 10, 2019.

For Those About To Rock

Gun Control

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — Welcome all to the return of the infamous “What Is and What Should Never Be” format.

For those who don’t know, or who may have forgotten (shame on you), it is named for the Led Zeppelin song and rolls through several current events and issue (What Is) followed by the opinion (And What Should Never Be).

Ready? Go …

What Is: Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) shook up the Beltway when she suggested – via Twitter, the way we govern these days — that US support for Israel is the direct result of the lobby group AIPAC.

And What Should Never Be: Random slaps on the wrist without deeper all-around understanding. Omar, one of two nationally elected Muslim women, met with swift rebukes from both sides of the aisle – up to and including the nation’s most powerful person, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.Cal.), and your president (not mine), who said (anti-Semitism) “has no place in the US Congress.”

You know what? Even a broken clock is right twice a day (even though detractors of Barack Obama would never admit that). Your president (not mine) is right. Prejudice, if that’s even what it is, has no place in the U.S. Congress.

Then again, it also had no place in Charlottesville and his non-reaction reaction to that American tragedy still dwarfs any prepared statement now.

Omar is actually not wrong, either. IAPAC – like the NRA, Big Pharma and many others – is a powerful lobby, but the root cause here is that the birth of Israel was the net result of the horrors of the Holocaust. Jews and Gentiles (particularly evangelicals) who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (there are plenty of Muslim-only and Christian-only states, too) are willing to write checks to help keep it that way.

Omar should not answer calls to resign or step down from any committees, but she needs to follow up with what she said she would do in her apology, which is to live in the real world and rid herself of tunnel vision.

What Is: “Bruce On Broadway” has been available on Netflix since mid-December.

What Should Never Be: Giving up on something too soon.

Despite being a longtime Springsteen fan, I had a hard time getting into its much-anticipated showing for those of us who couldn’t afford the $700-plus ticket price (not to mention the train fare to New York).

His stories behind the songs, at least early on in the show, were either too similar to those I’ve already heard in past concerts (been to 33 of them) or almost verbatim from his recent autobiography.

Even though my better half gave up on it, I plodded on – first at a pace of about 15 minutes at a time, and then straight through. I’m thrilled I made the commitment.

Right on cue, I was reduced to those kind of tears that only Bruce can make stream down my face by the time the credits rolled.

What Is: Former NASA astronaut (and Navy pilot and engineer) Mark Kelly has accepted his next mission, which will be to attempt to become a US Senator in Arizona.

And What Should Never Be: The status quo. This astronaut/politician pedigree is nothing new to politics (i.e. John Glenn), but Kelly – if he wins the Democratic primary (likely against Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Iraq War veteran) – would bring a marquee name from the Democratic ticket, put his state in play as a vital swing state in 2020 and beyond (this is the seat vacated by the death of longtime Republican John McCain and currently held by the vulnerable former Rep. Martha McSally).

The 54-year-old Kelly, if you recall, is the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, the survivor of a high-profile 2011 mass shooting.

Since that time, the couple has become strong advocates for gun control legislation.

What Is: Speaking of the need for gun control legislation, there was a recent double shooting that hit close to home – well, sort of – at my former hangout of the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

And What Should Never Be: Shrugging it off because it was my former teen hangout in the 1980s, and not yours.

Twentysomething shots were thrown around the parking lot, with one going through the window of a 60-year-woman in her home a quarter-mile away, and leaving two males in the hospital in critical condition.

These incidents — like the teen-on-teen shooting in Havertown this week and the shots thrown like tennis balls into the Lombard-South subway stop downtown — are all too common and random.

Citizens of Norristown’s meanest streets can testify to this harsh reality.

At the Roosevelt Mall — my Roosevelt Mall of fond memories of buying cassettes tapes and waiting in line for concert tickets and kissing girls from the mysterious other side of Roosevelt Boulevard — two men and a woman were arrested at the scene.

Our national common enemy, an assault rifle, was promptly recovered.

Close your eyes and picture anyplace that you once considered a safe haven, and now picture it being a potential combat zone.

The way people act with guns is at the top of the list of real – not manufactured – national emergencies.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of Parkland (an incident and subsequent protest that Springsteen spoke eloquently about in the aforementioned Broadway show). The hard fact is that 1,200 minors have died as the result of gunshot wounds since then.

Right after the Parkland Shooting, 71 percent of Americans told pollsters from NPR/Marist that stricter gun laws were needed. In just one year, that number has plummeted to 51 percent while just 41 percent said it should be a higher priority for Congress (as compared to 51 percent a year ago). The poll revealed a tragic me-first mentality, as higher numbers were worried about a school shooting in their own community. Overall, at 63 percent, women were more concerned than men about the issue.

Maybe, even with some needing gentle rebukes, we are the right track with more women rocking the boat inside the Beltway.

Welcome all to the return of the infamous “What Is and What Should Never Be” format.

For those who don’t know, or who may have forgotten (shame on you), it is named for the Led Zeppelin song and rolls through several current events and issue (What Is) followed by the opinion (And What Should Never Be).

Ready? Go …

What Is: Rep. Ihan Omar (D-Minn.) shook up the Beltway when she suggested – via Twitter, the way we govern these days — that US support for Israel is the direct result of the lobby group AIPAC.

And What Should Never Be: Random slaps on the wrist without deeper all-around understanding. Omar, one of two nationally elected Muslim women, met with swift rebukes from both sides of the aisle – up to and including the nation’s most powerful person, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.Cal.), and your president (not mine), who said (anti-Semitism) “has no place in the US Congress.”

You know what? Even a broken clock is right twice a day (even though detractors of Barack Obama would never admit that). Your president (not mine) is right. Prejudice, if that’s even what it is, has no place in the U.S. Congress.

Then again, it also had no place in Charlottesville and his non-reaction reaction to that American tragedy still dwarfs any prepared statement now.

Omar is actually not wrong, either. IAPAC – like the NRA, Big Pharma and many others – is a powerful lobby, but the root cause here is that the birth of Israel was the net result of the horrors of the Holocaust. Jews and Gentiles (particularly evangelicals) who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (there are plenty of Muslim-only and Christian-only states, too) are willing to write checks to help keep it that way.

Omar should not answer calls to resign or step down from any committees, but she needs to follow up with what she said she would do in her apology, which is to live in the real world and rid herself of tunnel vision.

What Is: “Bruce On Broadway” has been available on Netflix since mid-December.

What Should Never Be: Giving up on something too soon.

Despite being a longtime Springsteen fan, I had a hard time getting into its much-anticipated showing for those of us who couldn’t afford the $700-plus ticket price (not to mention the train fare to New York).

His stories behind the songs, at least early on in the show, were either too similar to those I’ve already heard in past concerts (been to 33 of them) or almost verbatim from his recent autobiography.

Even though my better half gave up on it, I plodded on – first at a pace of about 15 minutes at a time, and then straight through. I’m thrilled I made the commitment.

Right on cue, I was reduced to those kind of tears that only Bruce can make stream down my face by the time the credits rolled.

What Is: Former NASA astronaut (and Navy pilot and engineer) Mark Kelly has accepted his next mission, which will be to attempt to become a US Senator in Arizona.

And What Should Never Be: The status quo. This astronaut/politician pedigree is nothing new to politics (i.e. John Glenn), but Kelly – if he wins the Democratic primary (likely against Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Iraq War veteran) – would bring a marquee name from the Democratic ticket, put his state in play as a vital swing state in 2020 and beyond (this is the seat vacated by the death of longtime Republican John McCain and currently held by the vulnerable former Rep. Martha McSally).

The 54-year-old Kelly, if you recall, is the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, the survivor of a high-profile 2011 mass shooting.

Since that time, the couple has become strong advocates for gun control legislation.

What Is: Speaking of the need for gun control legislation, there was a recent double shooting that hit close to home – well, sort of – at my former hangout of the Roosevelt Mall in Northeast Philadelphia.

And What Should Never Be: Shrugging it off because it was my former teen hangout in the 1980s, and not yours.

Twentysomething shots were thrown around the parking lot, with one going through the window of a 60-year-woman in her home a quarter-mile away, and leaving two males in the hospital in critical condition.

These incidents — like the teen-on-teen shooting in Havertown this week and the shots thrown like tennis balls into the Lombard-South subway stop downtown — are all too common and random.

Citizens of Norristown’s meanest streets can testify to this harsh reality.

At the Roosevelt Mall — my Roosevelt Mall of fond memories of buying cassettes tapes and waiting in line for concert tickets and kissing girls from the mysterious other side of Roosevelt Boulevard — two men and a woman were arrested at the scene.

Our national common enemy, an assault rifle, was promptly recovered.

Close your eyes and picture anyplace that you once considered a safe haven, and now picture it being a potential combat zone.

The way people act with guns is at the top of the list of real – not manufactured – national emergencies.

We just passed the one-year anniversary of Parkland (an incident and subsequent protest that Springsteen spoke eloquently about in the aforementioned Broadway show). The hard fact is that 1,200 minors have died as the result of gunshot wounds since then.

Right after the Parkland Shooting, 71 percent of Americans told pollsters from NPR/Marist that stricter gun laws were needed. In just one year, that number has plummeted to 51 percent while just 41 percent said it should be a higher priority for Congress (as compared to 51 percent a year ago). The poll revealed a tragic me-first mentality, as higher numbers were worried about a school shooting in their own community. Overall, at 63 percent, women were more concerned than men about the issue.

Maybe, even with some needing gentle rebukes, we are the right track with more women rocking the boat inside the Beltway.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald on Feb. 17.

 

Story Behind the Story

murder-mountain

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — So first an explanation. My wife was watching a series on Netflix about Humboldt County’s Murder Mountain. She was already halfway through an episode — and halfway through the series — when it caught my ear.

Her brief explanation, while telling me to shut up so she could listen, and my Google search had me in the ballpark.

Meanwhile, the phrases I was picking up from the real-life people on the screen had a lyrical quality to them. At that point, I start putting them into the notepad on my iPhone and had myself a song pretty quickly.

I was sufficiently mocked for getting a song out of something I only skimmed the surface of, but this is how I got through high school and college, so …

The song, for whatever reason, wrote itself. Those are the best ones. And I thought enough of it to enter it in American Songwriter Magazine’s March/April lyric contest (I got Honorable Mention for another song, Gray Christmas, in November/December but the bastards dissed me in January/February).

Yesterday, I get the following email:

Hi Gordon, 

I’m pleased to inform you that your song “Humboldt County” has received honorable mention in the American Songwriter March/April Lyric Contest. Congratulations! 
Your name, hometown, and song title will be printed in the March/April issue of American Songwriter, as well as posted on our website americansongwriter.com
Congratulations again, and we hope to see  more lyrics from you in the future!
Best, 
Annie

And you will, Annie, despite what my wife says.

To thine own self be true.

And now the song, as inspired by the Netlfix series “Murder Mountain.” I didn’t see it all, but I saw — and heard — enough.

No music yet, but it will be fast-tracked. In my process, the words come first. Expect something in the spirit of Springsteen, Mellencamp and Steve Earle.

Pictured below is the dude whose words got me going …

humboldt2

Humboldt County

Neighbors shoot guns
We don’t even blink
Record is expunged
Let’s have a drink

Come work the land
The land yields grass
Hippies and Rednecks
Who forgot their pasts

Murder Mountain
It stands above the law
Humboldt County
A bridge with no toll

It’s all about the rush
Without going fast
Turned over trucks
Cruise right on past

Up in the Redwoods
Got rain, got snow
Hippies and Rednecks
Forget what they know

Murder Mountain
Let me live my own life
Humboldt County
Don’t violate my rights

Russian roulette
American style
The best you get
High on arrival

Lines in the sand
They kick up dust
Hippies and rednecks
Sucked in, sucked up

Murder Mountain
You keep it dark
Humboldt County
Dogs eat your bark

-Glantz

humboldt1

 

 

 

Celluloid Heroes In Waiting

fleetwood mac

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I have a love-hate relationship with Queen.

Not the Queen, as in Queen Elizabeth.

But with Queen, the rock band suddenly mythologized in a biopic film focused on the life of lead singer Freddie Mercury.

Queen has some of the best songs I ever heard – including “Under Pressure” and “We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions” – but some of the worst, too.

On my list of all-time songs that make me feel like I have Lyme Disease all over again, there are three Queen – yes, three – Queen songs.

And topping that ignominious list (which also includes Queen songs “Bicycle Song” and “Somebody To Love”) is “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which happens to be the title of the movie that was just nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Rami Malek, who has been stellar in every role he has played).

Its critical and box office success has me thinking about other musical acts and artists whose stories would potentially show well on the big screen.

The Beatles and Elvis? Too many to count. Dylan? In 2007, there was a flick called “I’m Not There” with six different actors – including a woman and young black boy – portraying six sides of his public persona. Kind of killed that one for now. Rolling Stones? Eh, maybe, but not yet. It would kind of kill the mystique. Ditto for Led Zeppelin. The Doors? Been there, Oliver Stone done that (with Val Kilmer playing Jim Morrison better than Morrison could have himself). The punk era was covered in “Syd and Nancy.” Johnny Cash? Check.

This doesn’t mean we are without options.

Consider a sampling of five that did make the cut?

1) Fleetwood Mac – Drama, drama, drama. Heck, just the drama around the making of the top-selling “Rumors” album, with the songs all about the members of the band breaking up with each other – Lindsey Buckingham with Stevie Nicks and John and Christine McVie getting divorced, all while Mick Fleetwood lurked in the shadows — would be enough without spreading it out over a period of years. People having to play and sing background vocals about how they should “go their own way” would be worth the price of admission.

2) Carole King – It used to be commonplace for Broadway musicals to successfully transition into feature films. The 1960s alone saw likes of “West Side Story” (1961), “The Sound of Music” (1965) and “Oliver” (1968), but there hasn’t been anything noteworthy since “Chicago” in 2002. For example, “Jersey Boys” (2014) was just average. “Beautiful,” the story about singer-songwriter Carole King is a script with terrific music screaming out to be adapted for the big screen. So adapt it already, will ya?

3) Otis Redding – You may only know him as the “(Sittin’) On The Dock Of The Bay” dude, but there is so much more to his story. For one, his greatest success, the aforementioned No. 1 hit, did not top the charts until after his death in a 1967 plane crash when he was just 26. Although his gospel-inspired singing style inspired many more popular contemporaries, as well as a litany of soul singers to follow, he is only mentioned as an afterthought. A movie delving into his interesting life could bridge that divide. The Georgia native quit school at 15 to help his family by pursuing a music career, and was a married father a month before his 20th birthday. His breakthrough came in 1966, when his version of “Try A Little Tenderness” reached No. 25. As time went on, he began writing a lot of his own material on a beat-up acoustic guitar. The batch of songs included “Respect,” which became Aretha Franklin’s signature anthem. With a gregarious persona, Redding was large in stature (6-1, 220 pounds), athletic and a sharp-dressed man (200 suits, 400 pairs of shoes) who was close to his family and successful entrepreneur. With the right actor in the lead role, this could be a stellar period piece that could introduce more of his lesser known music to the world.

4) Frank Sinatra – Yeah, sure, you are not supposed to mess with the Chairman of the Board. However, he has been dead since I was 30 (1995). That’s a long time ago. The only real dedicated screen time has been a character loosely based on him — Johnny Fontaine in “The Godfather,” which apparently drew an assault by Sinatra on Mario Puzo after the book was published. There have also been a few cheesy movies about the Rat Pack, but that’s about it. Let’s just pick a period of Sinatra’s life — like when he has down and out and came back, or his second run of popular success in the 1960s – and start filming tomorrow.

5) Bruce Springsteen – Don’t sigh, don’t moan and groan. You knew this was coming. It actually goes to the point about Carole King and Broadway, as the curtain just fell on Springsteen’s “Bruce on Broadway” run. The show has since been released on Netflix and, to be honest, was hard to get into at first. A lot of his spiel was verbatim from his autobiography or from stories I have heard him tell before. While the Netflix version picked up momentum toward the middle (we still haven’t reached the end), it occurred to me that his words and music are so visual that that maybe a movie of his life – with some selective narration over it – would be a logical next step to cement the legacy.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Jan. 27, 2019.

Until It’s ‘Better Than Today’

Sanders4

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — I have this song called “Better Than Today.” I rank it high among the hundreds of thousands I have written since the early 1980s – those painful mid-teen years when girls alternated between breaking my heart or not even knowing I existed.

This one, like most since that era, has nothing to with relationships.

In terms of the lyrics, the narrator is a married man who goes wherever the low-wage work takes him, but the drill is wearing thin.

He cashes paychecks and clears as many bills as he can, only to start the process over again. He is willing to eat once a day to ration. He buys a few Christmas gifts but takes no credit, letting them still believe in Santa as he tries to shield them from life’s harsh realities.

The song ends with a “reason to celebrate.” The narrator gets a second job and he’ll be now be working 16 hours a day. Though it’s not necessarily safe, the scenario is still “better than today.”

It wreaks of Bruce Springsteen, maybe as much as any and all previous attempts to reach that Promised Land.

But it was written, sometime in 2015-2016, while cast under the spell of another influence.

That would be Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Yeah, that Bernie Sanders.

That angry old grandpa type spewing the virtues of Democratic Socialism – with “free this” and “free that” – who also talked about American families like those in “Better Than Today” during his campaign.

Sanders’ proposed policies – framed as unrealistic – are already battle-tested in other countries (namely in Northern Europe) that do a lot things better than we do here.

It’s not unpatriotic to say so, either.

It’s blind patriotism, the worst kind there is, to believe it’s better to go into debt because a family member gets seriously ill or because our sons and daughters seek higher education than to admit defeat to Norway or Sweden.

All that doesn’t go away with a bunch flags on Flag Day.

It’s interesting how the first question about Sanders’ proposed policies were about the realistic ways they could be paid for, and yet many of the same people – some turned off by Hillary Clinton, but not necessarily by Sanders – ultimately voted for a candidate who proclaimed that he was going to build a fantastical border wall and have the country on the other side pay for it.

Staunch Democrats tell me to get over it, refusing to let me enumerate the many ways Clinton lost the election and accuse Sanders — an independent who almost always caucuses and votes with the Democrats — of being an interloper who crashed their invitation-only party.

To my eye, Sanders held up a mirror and showed the Democratic party just how un-democratic their flawed process was – with one candidate hand-picked, with super delegates lined up like penguins, to slide through the of 57-primaries/caucuses unchallenged.

Sanders didn’t take a dime of SuperPAC money, instead pushing on with average donations of $27 (I contributed my share, and have the coffee mug and water bottle to show for it). Despite legitimately packed houses, mostly on college campuses, he got almost no coverage of his rallies from the same mainstream media that the current president labels “the enemy of the people.”

The reality is that Clinton, though clearly done dirty by the other side, was not done in by Sanders.

What is easier to believe, and what historians will hopefully acknowledge, is that his challenge should have done anything but make her the weaker candidate she proved to be in the eyes of too many.

Maybe he didn’t campaign for her as vigorously as he could have, but he still left her a GPS route to success.

Example: She should have virtually lived in some the crucial swing states won by Sanders.

Instead, she blew them off.

Polls show Sanders very well might have won the general election, and could be best equipped to do it again in 2020.

While he is not the new “kid” in town anymore, there are other higher hurdles to clear.

While Democratic Socialism really just means capitalism with a few less backs being stabbed and throats getting slit, the word “socialism” is too much of a non-starter in the swayable heartland and bible belt.

I also find it odd that some are lightning quick to point to Sanders’ age (he would be 78 if/when elected) when some of the same people doing the questioning trumpet white-haired Joe Biden, only slightly younger than Sanders but with stale ideas that Generations X, Y and Z are rejecting.

While Sanders is a secular guy, his Jewish heritage probably won’t help much, either (even though it won’t show up in polls, as few will admit it as a primary reason).

Despite the polls, I still see Sanders as a longshot and I am prepared to back the last candidate standing, just like I still backed Hillary Clinton when she limped across the finish line in front of Sanders in 2016.

We still have a lot in common on the left. We couldn’t believe our eyes watching the horror of Charlottesville unfold, and couldn’t believe our ears the way our president responded. We can’t believe we are being governed by Twitter. We can’t believe news time is taken up about payoffs to porn stars.

We can’t believe what tomorrow will bring, other than it will make us more numbed up and dumbed down than the day before, leaving the nation ripe for more of the same.

That just can’t happen.

And the first step is to declare a truce in this Sanders-Clinton spillover effect – the bad blood between moderates and progressives — and see the big picture.

Clinton was the first woman seen as a serious candidate from a major party running for president. She was neck-and-neck with Barack Obama, the first president of color, in the 2007-2008 primaries and lost in 2016 general election (despite taking the popular vote).

Sanders was the first Jewish-American to make a serious bid.

The first female vice presidential candidate was Geraldine Ferraro in 1984. The first Jewish vice presidential candidate was Joe Lieberman in 2000.

Sense a pattern, fellow liberals? All Democrats.

The party of diversity now sees an array of potential candidates from coast to coast and north to south, from fresh-faced to experienced, and from male to female.

The truth is that I’d vote for a gold fish or an amoeba – anything but a Lyme-carrying tick – to bring back sanity.

But nothing has really changed for me in the last few years.

Bernie Sanders still sits at the top my list.

Until further notice.

Until it’s better than today.

This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Jan. 6.

Lyrics to Better Than Today:

Better Than Today

Finally got my paycheck
Cashed it down at Hank’s
When you live on the fringes
Can’t take it to the bank

Coins for the laundromat
Some candy for the kids
Get straight on the rent
Ration what’s in the fridge

And if we can’t make it stretch
Mister, I’ll just eat once a day
Ain’t thinking about tomorrow
Just pray it’s better than today

Winter just around the bend
I can feel it in my bones
Could find work down south
Family can’t go it alone

And we’re not gonna uproot
Jimmy’s already back a grade
Ain’t thinking about the future
Just pray it’s better than today

Sometimes I hear Anna crying
Or just praying softly to a saint
They put you in so many corners
When the break out the war paint

Finally got my paycheck
Christmas toys for the kids
Real man takes no credit
Says Santa left the gifts

Let’s call for my sister
Takin’ Anna for a date
Been keeping a secret
It’s time to celebrate

Yeah, I just got that second job
High risk but it really pays
Ain’t thinking about dying
Just pray it’s better than today

And I’ll be working 16 hours
Sir, there’s 24 in a day
Ain’t thinking about sleeping
Just pray it’s better than today

Hey You, Get Off Of My Lawn

Grumpy

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are a lot of people I like.

You know who you are.

All eight of you.

Everyone else?

Eh, not so much.

I have followed a collision course from my younger self and, right on time, became a grumpy middle-aged man.

A combination of Archie Bunker, Frank Costanza, Fred Flintstone and Andy Sipowicz.

Perhaps, on a good day, a little bit of the great curmudgeon philosophers — Bob Dylan and George Carlin — sprinkled in.

And I guess we can’t forget Sonny Corleone, had he not met his premature fate as a younger hothead.

While you’re getting off my lawn and turning down the Justin Bieber noise, keep the following grievances in mind as I dance around my Festivus pole:

1) This “Merry Christmas” Thing: I do know a lot of people from a lot of backgrounds. Life has been good to me that way. And guess what? I know no one — at all — who ever said you can’t say “Merry Christmas.” As matter of fact, even though the holiday is now past us, say it twice and call me in the morning. There are real societal outrages right outside your window. Why create one that doesn’t exist?

2) Road Work At Rush Hour: A necessary evil. I get it. What I don’t get is creating a backup on a major thoroughfare between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. Unless it’s an emergency, go have breakfast at your local diner. Speaking of which …

3) Male Waiters At Diners: I expect to be waited on by an old-school waitress — not waiter — with a bouffant hairdo who calls me “baby” and “honey” and has a natural instinct to fill up my coffee (and remembers I’m a decaf guy) and pre-butters my toast. I have nothing against male waiters in other dining scenarios — like, say, certain authentic ethnic restaurants (even if they are faking the accent for effect) — but we really don’t need the world spinning off its axis any more than what it already is, do we?

4) Casual Cyclists: I’m all for exercise (especially if I’m not the only doing it), but can’t they stick to the bike path? It’s not like we haven’t made them a few hundred to use. As far as I know, if a cyclist is on the road — even if it’s merely to get to one bike path to another on the other side — they are supposed to obey the same traffic laws as a motorist already stuck behind rush-hour roadwork. The next cyclist I see actually yield the right of way — or actually stop at a stop sign — will be the first. And don’t even get me started on the way they hog the roadway, oblivious to the world, once they are on it.

5) Royal Families: They can do what they want in the UK, but we won the Revolutionary War (in all the history books, if you’d like to check). If there any leaves floating about from the John Adams family tree, no thanks. Same for Roosevelts, Kennedys and Bushes. Suggestions of Michelle Obama running are just as bad as those of Chelsea Clinton. And don’t get me started on Ivanka (my eyes just rolled so hard that I got a detached retina). We are better than thinking certain bloodlines are better than others.

6) Guys Who Aren’t Sports Fans But Pretend They Are: You know the type? They show up at a Super Bowl party asking who is playing and then they ask the line (a real sports fan could care less who does or doesn’t cover the spread). Listen, buddy, if you don’t follow sports, that’s fine. Just be upfront about it. I don’t play the stock market. I don’t hunt or fish. I don’t even know how to play poker. I don’t have a woodshop in my house. If you’re into those things, I won’t insult your intelligence by trying to fake my way through a train-to-nowhere conversation. I’m into sports, so don’t insult mine. This is especially if the game in question is a life-or-death scenario involving a Philadelphia pro team or Temple. Speaking of which …

7) Ersatz Dallas Cowboys And/Or Penn State Fans: If you’re from the Dallas-Ft. Worth metropolitan area, or if you attended Penn State (or one of its 32,492 satellite campuses), fine. I’ll even be nice about it. I’ll let you slide on Penn State if you are Pennsyltuckian, and maybe even on the Cowboys if you are from a place in the country cursed with no pro team and have a weird fetish about blue stars on silver helmets. Otherwise, for your own safety, keep moving. You are morally bankrupt and spiritually corrupt. Side Note: Villanova is a national basketball program that happens to based on the Main Line. Unless you went there, which probably means you are from North Jersey or Connecticut anyway, zip it.

8) Lincoln Was A Republican: Easy there, cowboy. Not quite. We’ll get into this more down the line, but let’s leave this here for now: Lincoln was a progressive, which is what the Republican party was then but the polar opposite of what it is now.  If you have to go back nearly 16 decades — doing a selective hop, skip and jump over a clear role reversal in between — you don’t have much to go on, do you?

9) Self Checkout: When people in our moral conscience to the north — Canada — are refusing this concept of eliminating minimal wage jobs, it’s mirror time for us in the US. So wrong on so many levels, it’s yet another sign of apocalypse.

10) Unwanted Calls: Don’t tell me about a Do Not Call List. Been there, done that. No such thing. We still live with daily calls from weird numbers (i.e. 111-111-1111). Because I’m me, a stubborn curmudgeon, I sometimes call back and turn the tables. The best joys are when I get someone clearly from a foreign country trying to tell me his name is Tom or Joe — or Archie, Frank, Fred or Andy.

This column originally appeared in The Times Herald (www.timesherald.com) on Dec. 30, 2018.

 

 

Soul Saved By ‘Saint’ Sheeran

Sheeran

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — How is this for pretzel logic?

Wildly popular singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran comes from an Irish-Catholic/English-Protestant background, and this lapsed Jew is nominating him for sainthood.

He has performed a miracle.

As soon as Thanksgiving was in the books, Sofia tucked away her Taylor Swift CDs into an alphabetically organized CD wallet and “requested” holiday music be played 25/8 in the car.

And since we are a family thoroughly spoiled by Sirius (commercial-free) radio, we don’t have the patience for any FM channel that may have 12 commercials – and 15 fifteen minutes of babble — between every two songs that we may or may not even want to hear.

Problem is that Sirius spread itself so thin with holiday music channels that my direct bosses, Sofia and her mom, settled on just two: Bad (Channel 3) and Worse (Channel 4).

But, as fate would have it, Hanukkah scheduled itself early this year. By the end of the eight crazy nights, Sofia had been caught up on her Sheeran catalogue.

She was so excited that I was able to put the axis of evil – Bing Crosby, Johnny Mathis and the Ray Conniff Singers – on ice.

This isn’t to say Ed Sheeran has a lofty place in my hierarchy of music, but enough songs run from passable (“Shape Of You”) to pretty darn good (“Castle On The Hill”) and his music is playing a vital role by getting playing time in my car in the holiday season.

I even ran out to buy a second version of his new release when the first vanished between the car seats.

All is right with the world.

Even though my soul was saved by St. Ed Sheeran, I was thinking about those of you who still need to navigate through the rest of the season without losing your mind.

There are some wonderful songs of the season, religious and otherwise, but GPS is needed.

As Norristown icon Hank Cisco would say, “If you want to walk on water, you have to know where the rocks are.”

Here are some of the rocks to get you to the other side:

10) Santa Claus Is Coming To Town – Bruce Springsteen: A nice enough rendition, but it has worn way too thin. It would have been nice if one of the greatest songwriters of all time could have penned his own song of the season. If I can do it (check out “Gray Christmas” at http://www.ingordonville.come), so can my ultimate boss.

9) Hanukkah Song(s) – Adam Sandler: All three versions, with each one funnier than the next, refused to take a holiday that really isn’t that serious too seriously. This is pop culture at its best, with Sandler rattling off – and rhyming – famous, and infamous, Jewish notables. Though comedic, there is a deeper message about breaking down religious barriers without beating anyone over the head.

8) Same Auld Lang Syne — Dan Fogelberg:  The late Fogelberg, who passed away in December of 2007 – and too late to make any of those gone-too-soon lists against the backdrop of somber music – lamented the ironies of life after running into an old flame on Christmas Eve. At the end of the story song, the snow turns into rain. Gets me all verklempt (too emotional to speak) every time.

7) Father Christmas – The Kinks: Not a song you’d go caroling with at your local senior center, but it tells a real tale of poor kids resorting to roughing up a Santa to get the toys that only “the little rich boys” were going to get. A little crass, yeah, but I can dig the intent of songwriter Ray Davies.

6) River – Joni Mitchell: Like the Dan Fogelberg effort above, it’s more a song that paints a picture of the season than preaching about being naughty or nice. In the process, it’s a real nice offering that still resonates.

5) I Believe In Father Christmas Greg Lake: An original song by the lead vocalist of Emerson, Lake and Palmer sends a strong message in a gentle way about the commercialism of Christmas.

4) Christmas On The Block – Alan Mann: This effort from a late Philadelphia singer-songwriter might not be the easiest song to find but it is a beautiful song – especially for those from rowhouse city neighborhoods – that speaks for itself.

3) Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon: The fact that John Lennon was gunned down in cold blood in the holiday season only makes this song all the more powerful. And now, I’m getting all verklempt again.

2) Silent Night – Stevie Nicks: I’m not a Grinch, I’m really not. “Silent Night” truly is a gorgeous song, but it has been brutally mistreated. Stevie Nicks, the high priestess of Gordonville (and pending inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame), flat-out owns it.

1) Little Drummer Boy – Bob Seger: You can keep your Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet. Whenever Bob Seger sings, the vocal cords are secondary. It’s all heart and soul, and this version – with a steady and consistent drumbeat (in a song about a drummer, for crying out loud) — is the perfect match of song with singer.

Honorable Mention: Feliz Navidad (Jose Feliciano); 2000 Miles (Pretenders); Christmas Shoes (NewSong); Christmastime For The Jews (Ronnie Spector); Please Come Home For Christmas (Eagles); Feliz Navidad (Bob Marley); Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Band Aid); Hanukkah Dance (Woody Guthrie); Winterlong (Neil Young); Merry Christmas, Baby (Bruce Springsteen); Wonderful Christmas Time (Paul McCartney); Mistress For Christmas (AC/DC); This Christmas (Donny Hathaway); Christmas In Dixie (Alabama); White Christmas (Otis Redding).

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on Dec. 15.