Searching for the Song Gods within

28 Feb

My friend since 1980

I picked up a guitar for the first time Columbus Weekend 1970 when I was 14.  At Thanksgiving my Aunt Pat gave me my first guitar… a Harmony Classic.  She’d done her research and figured it had the most pleasing sound.  She didn’t like the tinny sound of a steel string and she loved the folk songs of Peter, Paul and Mary.  I’ve played a Classical guitar ever since.  My fingers get all crowded on a regular guitar and the sound just isn’t right.
And it was Aunt Pat who gave me one of the best pieces of advice I ever got about music, when she heard me trying to sound like Barbra Streisand.  Stop trying to sound like everyone else and sing with your own voice!
My original guitar got stolen in a Boston bus station on my way back to boarding school a few years later and I played a 3/4 Silvertone Sears guitar for years after that. I never had to polish my own boots in Army Basic Training because my fellow recruits would rather have me sing and play than polish boots.  Ah, the power of music!
And in 1980 a woman I barely knew gave me the beauty I still play today.  As she put it, “My dad bought me this and I’ll never play the guitar like you, so you should have it”.  I don’t remember her name but I think of her often and wish her well every time I pick up my lady.

My Lady's Provenance

I taught myself to play by asking friends one chord at a time, buying chord and song books, listening to the folk songs, perseverance and just plain stubbornness!  I played when my fingers were tore up, when friends and family left the room (’cause I’d play the same thing over and over again just to get it set into myself), when I thought I had no friends in the world from moving town to town and school to school and even at night so I could hear the right way to play the chords.  I’d even make up chords ’cause they sounded good.
I’ve taught guitar lessons to a bunch of kids and have seen some of them to go on and make music for a living.   A wonderfully personal, and satisfying example of playing it forward!

Over 30 years together... almost like a married couple

And through it all, I’ve written… sometimes song, sometimes poetry and sometimes just the thoughts that later became song or poetry… what I call saving phrases.  There have been times when I can’t grab guitar and pen fast enough to set down what the muses send me and then times when the connection has been broken and far away.

Human, Wood, Rainbow, Feather and Song

 Over the years I think I’ve begun to figure out the demands of the Song Gods… part of it is giving up personal control and releasing the wildness of the Song Dog within me.  One has no hope of control when words require release… sleep and deadlines be damned!  Luckily, one of my personal touchstones is my old wooden and string friend of more than 30 years.  She’s finally taught me to let my heart dance like a feather  And it’s from that place songs emerge!

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