Category Archives: Music

Let Me Tell Your Story

StoryTelling2

By GORDON GLANTZ

“Our lives are to be used and thus to be lived as fully as possible, and truly it seems that we are never so alive as when we concern ourselves with other people.”

– Harry Chapin

GORDONVILLE — I hit a T intersection this week.

And it turned out to be the intersection of Truth.

To the left – my usual way to turn – I had the Silly Putty that is the daily folly of your president (not mine) and more mass shootings du jour.

To the right – the path of least resistance (i.e. decrying political correctness) — there were the likes Facebook banning this and that but not that or this, and the slippery slope we are now skiing down at warp speed.

I also had the U-Turn — Mother’s Day. I was already off and running with a list of all-time greatest movie moms that would have left me on life support (i.e. would have nearly killed me to include moms from movies I otherwise loathe – “The Sound of Music” and “Forest Gump.).

Instead, I decided to carve out a new path – and plow straight ahead – by hanging out a shingle in the Town Square.

It reads: Let me tell your stories.

This epiphany happened after I delivered a few extra copies of The Times Herald from a few Sundays back to the Plymouth Meeting home of Nick DiDomenico, the nearly 100-year-old World War II veteran featured in last Sunday’s paper.

DiDomenico thanked me – up and down and inside and out – for telling his personal story of survival, which I can’t believe went untold when it was right under our noses all these years.

I found myself thanking him back.

Why? Because I was truly grateful to have the chance to tell it.

Writers write, and story tellers tell stories. I may not be able to do a lot of things well – just ask my wife – but I have those skills down cold.

Telling stories can be a tricky business, though. I have been at it long enough to know that they need to be told in not only the right place and time, but in the right context.

What struck me about my conversation with DiDomenico, who still has a handshake that could break your fingers, was that his fascinating story of survival in the South Pacific was one he really didn’t have much interest in telling when his train pulled back into town after his tour of duty.

At the time, he was just grateful to be home, and to go on with his life.

But that was in 1946, when he came home after being an atomic bomb away from having to go in with a backpack and bayonet in hand and fight the Japanese on their turf.

Now a widower of a more than three decades, and about to become a centenarian, he felt a sudden need to tell his story. There was a sense of satisfaction that it had be done.

As we chatted, while waiting for his Meals on Wheels to arrive, you could sense a burden had lifted off his chest.

He was still answering phone calls on his throwback phone with a “What do you want?” instead of “hello,” but had more of a sense of humor about it.

At nearly 100 – there will be a celebration at the Greater Plymouth Community Center when it becomes official in August – it was almost like he was a new man.

At 54, so was I.

Like the lead character in the 1941 film “Sullivan’s Travels,” who realizes he was put on earth to make comedy movies, it affirmed my long-held suspicion about what I was put on earth to do.

Whether it is songs or human interest features, my purpose is to tell stories.

Your stories.

You need not be anyone of major importance – or self-importance — to have your story told.

I have no real interest in the tales of kings and queens, let alone those who think they are via some bizarre birthright.

As we find out from DiDomenico, the most compelling stories come from people who don’t think their stories are worth telling.

Well, guess what? They are.

If DiDomenico’s story slipped through the cracks for so many years, it makes me wonder how many more are out there.

We may have people in our community who fought for Civil Rights, valiantly served in the Vietnam War (or protested against it at equal risk and bravery) or countless other compelling stories.

If you are not sure, let me decide.

If you are not one to toot your own horn, or if you are reading this and know of someone with an intriguing story to be told, you know where I am.

At the intersection of Truth.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on May 12.

The Witch Hunt of Kate Smith

kate-smith-1

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE — There are some true American heroes that, for one reason or another, don’t quite receive their just place in in the history books.

A few who come to mind are Thomas Paine, Susan B. Anthony and Woody Guthrie.

Another is Paul Robeson, a true Renaissance man if there ever was one.

As a black man born in 1898, he seemed to either break down barriers – or get around them – with an uncommon ease and grace for his time when mutual respect between races, and ethnic groups, barely existed.

One of the first blacks to attend Rutgers, he endured physical punishment from prospective teammates to earn a place on the football team.

Robeson was also on the debating team, honing skills that would serve him well with a lifetime of political activism that later got him blacklisted during the McCarthy era.

Although he earned a law degree from Columbia, Robeson became a successful stage actor and singer, leaving behind a long discography while engaging in social activism.

Why do I bring up Robeson, other than because he should not be forgotten by time?

Because one of his recordings was a song titled “That’s Why Darkies Were Born.”

The lyrics of this song, written by Lew Brown and Ray Henderson, are beyond offensive and blatantly racist.

But Robeson still recorded the song, which would seem to be an off choice for someone of such steadfast conviction about who and what he was.

However, research reveals the song was meant as a satirical jab at racists (one of the writers, Brown, was Jewish and likely keenly aware of prejudice).

In that context, it is a poke right through the eyes of their white hoods of the many out-in-the-open Klan members of the time period.

The Marx Bros. also referenced the song in the movie “Duck Soup.”

And Kate Smith recorded it as well in 1931 (the same year as Robeson).

Although it was recorded as recently as 1970 by satirical song master Randy Newman, who once wrote and sang how “short people have no reason to live” to make a point, it seems that only Smith will be punished.

Since Smith has been dead for 33 years, there is no way to know if she was performing the song for reasons other than that of Robeson or Newman.

But unlike them, she has been posthumously singled out and put on trial like a Salem witch – without a chance to defend herself or her motives – as both the hometown Flyers and New York Yankees, a team so reluctant to sign black players that they reportedly passed on Willie Mays, have taken steps to make sure the singer of “God Bless America” is vanquished from history.

Truth be told, the Flyers winning the Stanley Cup in 1974 – and again in 1975 – was a highlight of my wayward youth. The whole Kate Smith thing – the playing of “God Bless America” and her showing up in person before Game 6 of the finals in 1974 to belt out the song – was a bit silly to me (and I was the ripe old age of nine).

The fact that the Flyers erected a statue of her was embarrassing, but taking it down – now – is beyond mortifying.

Left in the place of where the statue once stood, we have yet another downright blatant case of political correctness run amok.

In the final analysis, this is more about what is or isn’t fair when dealing with what I regard as the most valued possession any person has, that being their legacy.

Yes, Smith also sang “Pickaninny Heaven,” another song – one she dedicated to children in a black orphanage to “cheer them up” — with offensive lyrics (watermelons and such) that was yanked off YouTube (and yet we can still watch the alleged cinematic masterpiece, “Birth of a Nation,” whenever we want).

These ignominious events caused me to research Smith a bit more, and I found nothing – as in zero – that the woman held any racist views.

After World War II, in terms of social and political stances, she was a non-entity.

At worst, she was a product of her time. More than likely, as time passed, she was embarrassed by the poor song choices made for her to sing.

And, in her prime years, keeping pace with the hit parade was a grind. You had to keep cranking out song after song, or someone else would take the same song and have a hit with it instead.

Considering artists don’t have much say or control today, they certainly didn’t back then.

Smith’s parents scoffed at her career aspirations and wanted her to become a nurse, but she chose a career as a singer. It was make it or break it. If someone said “sing this, it will be a hit,” she sang it.

That’s not an excuse, and maybe she could have risen above it all, but there are more egregious acts that are overlooked.

Charles Lindbergh and Henry Ford, for example, were vehement anti-Semites and Nazi sympathizers who opposed our entry in World War II.

No statues of Lindbergh are being torn down, and plenty of people – myself included – drive Fords.

Walt Disney was purported to be a bigot, and yet people – of all creeds – pour into his resorts.

Andrew Jackson was responsible for heinous policies against Native Americans, and yet he remains on the $20 bill.

Many of the founding fathers – including George Washington and Thomas Jefferson – owned slaves.

Their legacies remain untarnished.

But not that of Kate Smith.

Sounds like fodder for a song – one that a man with the character of Paul Robeson would have been proud to sing.

This column originally ran in The Times Herald on April 28, 2019.

 

Music Is In The Blood

My Chem

By GORDON GLANTZ

GORDONVILLE –– Sometimes it seems that there are two types of people in this world, and I don’t mean those who believe windmills cause cancer and those who know better.

It’s those who get Bruce Springsteen and those who don’t.

And I did everything in my power to have my own flesh and blood “get it,” but my turn at the plate ended while working a full count — and fouling off a few pitches for the sake of drama — before striking out, big-time.

The result? Sofia, now 12 going 21, is too set in her music-loving ways to open her heart and mind – let alone her headphone-covered ears – to the Boss.

The best chance at indoctrination came in September of 2016, when we took her to her first Springsteen concert at Lincoln Financial Field.

It was a moment I had dreamed about, except that everything that could have gone wrong did (in spite of a killer set list).

What would be the 33rd time I saw Springsteen live, and the first for Sofia, was also the first I left one of his shows early (fortunately, all we missed was a rendition of “Shout” and “Jersey Girl” in the final encore).

We got out of the packed parking lot quickly, too, but I am still carrying a heavy burden of guilt that missing a traffic jam can’t erase.

The guilt is religious in nature, even though I’m not a religious person.

I have experienced spirituality, with Springsteen concerts topping the list.

I have many converts to the Cult of Springsteen on my resume – including the wife — with concerts being the quickest route to saving souls.

With the one that mattered most, that of my Sofia, I failed.

She entered the show in question ambivalent and left miserable.

Hot and miserable.

The myth known as global warming was in full force, sending Sofia and her mommy to the first aid area several times to cool down (I still insist that if Chris Christie wasn’t one section over, there may have been some breathable air for the rest of us).

It’s almost like she still has PTSD from the experience – I guess dehydration will do that to a kid – and she shrieks at the sound of almost any Springsteen song for more than one chord progression (for non-music peeps, that’s not long).

The mission of mercy was nothing new.

For her own good, Sofia has been dragged to see a lot of other vintage acts.

That list includes Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, Natalie Merchant, America, Gordon Lightfoot, Loretta Lynn, The Eagles and Paul McCartney.

Other than McCartney (the Beatles are universal) – and maybe Mellencamp – she was not too impressed.

Then again, I was not impressed when forced against my will as a kid to sit through some shows that made me just about break out into hives.

There is a light at the end of this tunnel.

Sofia may not be interested in Springsteen or Dylan live – or fully understand why I cried like a baby when Tom Petty died — but the bands she now lives and breathes are making her just as passionate about her own thing.

I can work with that.

Just the other day, when a split second of a Britney Spears song accidentally came on, she changed the car radio to the Springsteen-only station (E Street Radio) on Sirius Radio.

“Even this (the Springsteen song, which I believe was a live version of “Dancing In The Dark”) is better than that (the Spears song),” she said, before quickly grabbing a CD from her meticulously alphabetized CD wallet that looks more like a suitcase that a stewardess would insist be placed in the overhead compartment of an airplane.

So, there is hope.

A lot of it, actually.

It is noteworthy that Sofia even recognizes Britney Spears, whose peak popularity predated her 2007 birth, and that she also knew instantly it was Springsteen she changed the channel to in her haste to escape Spears.

The bigger victory is that my little girl is as passionate about music as I was at the same age.

The apple doesn’t fall from the tree, even if when it tries to be a peach.

The only difference is that she knows every word of every song by My Chemical Romance and Twenty One Pilots, which I have been drafted to taking her to see in Atlantic City this summer, the way I once knew every word of every song by The Doors or The Cars.

She knows the life stories of the band members and, just like her father who never really grew up, searches for deeper meanings of the songs in a way that will also drive into trying her hand at writing her own.

While she swears she has not yet left Taylor Swift and Sabrina Carpenter in the dust, it is evident Sofia has moved on to a more alternative genre the way I did to Classic Rock from AM radio at her age.

“The only truth is music,” said beat writer Jack Kerouac.

My baby – and she’ll always be my baby (even at 12 going on 21) – knows the truth.

And the truth – whether you get Bruce Springsteen or not (or not yet) – can set you free.

 

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

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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.