“And I Say Rock On!”

“Uh, rock on!” – the Mighty Van Halen

Amazon.com: Mingki Van Halen Classic Rock Star Band Poster - 18 × 24 Inch:  Posters & Prints

I like lists. I’m always a sucker for a good top 10 list or a top 20 or top 50 or an every (fill in the artist) song worst to first list (I’m looking at you “Rolling Stone”). I also don’t feel that one post in tribute to the late Eddie Van Halen was near enough, so here comes my own favorite Van Halen songs list with one caveat: this list will only include my favorite 80’s Van Halen songs.

Whoa. Settle down. Crazy, right? Take the iconic “Van Halen I” (a 1978 release) and to a lesser extent “Van Halen II” (released in 1979) out of the equation as well as anything released post 1989, and you get a totally different look.

So many tough decisions on what to include and what to leave out. After a good couple of hours of politicking (flip-flopping and vacillating) between songs, here are my top 11 favorite 80’s Van Halen songs.

Why 11? Well, 5+1+5+0 = 11. That’s the best I can do.

I present you – “Sincerely the 80’s Standing on Top of the Top 11 List:” (a 90’s Van Halen reference and a song that didn’t qualify, I know… cut me some slack)

#11

“Hot for Teacher” album: 1984

Favorite lyric: “I think of all the education that I missed. But then my homework was never quite like this.”

This song was so different. A drum solo to start the song? Oddly cool. Thank you Alex Van Halen. Of course the video is iconic. Once again, thank you Alex Van Halen for your lack of rhythm during the dance sequences in the video. Eddie’s solo while walking on top of the tables in the library made me want to visit the school library just to see if there were any guitar students doing the same thing. Alas, there never were.

#10

“Where Have All the Good Times Gone?” album: Diver Down (1982)

Favorite Lyric: “Daddy didn’t need no little toys. Mommy didn’t need no little boys.”

A nod to my first Van Halen cassette when I was 11 or 12. This is the first Van Halen I knew – a group with an album of five cover songs out of 12 total songs. I didn’t know this was a cover song when I first heard it. I knew nothing of Ray Davies or The Kinks or their version. I wasn’t that musically knowledgeable yet and there was no internet either. I just thought it was a cool song. And it is… even if it’s not a Van Halen original. Sorry Roy Orbison and the VH cover of “(Oh) Pretty Woman.” You just missed this list.

#9

“Summer Nights” album: 5150 (1986)

Favorite lyric: “Summer nights and my radio. Well that’s all we need, baby, don’t cha know?”

I heard this was originally intended to be a David Lee Roth song before he departed Van Halen, and that there might be a demo somewhere with his vocals. I’d love to hear it, but nonetheless, Dave’s loss is Sammy’s gain, and I absolutely think Sammy crushed it. My buddy Barry and I agreed that this was probably the most underrated song on the 5150 album. This was an instant classic to us and was played relentlessly during the summer between our 9th and 10th grade school years.

#8

“I’ll Wait” album: 1984

Favorite lyric: “Are you for real, it’s so hard to tell from just a magazine. Yeah, you just smile and the picture sells. Look what that does to me.”

In my mind, the first true Van Halen rock ballad, synthesizers and all. The song was a collaboration between Eddie Van Halen and Michael McDonald. As an outspoken critic of the heavy synth sound that was beginning to dominate the airwaves in the 80’s, David Lee Roth was against even including this song on the album. Per usual, Eddie wanted it on the album and so it was, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

#7

“And the Cradle Will Rock” album: Women and Children First (1980)

Favorite lyric: “And so an early age he hits the street ‘n winds up tired with who he meets, and he’s unemployed. His folks are overjoyed”

This song wasn’t even on their setlist when I saw them on their “A Different Kind of Truth” tour in 2012. It was my lone disappointment with their setlist. Released in 1980, it’s the first song to incorporate Eddie on a keyboard and the first song I remember mocking all of you (now us) old, know-nothing parents when Dave asks “Have you seen Junior’s grades?” Well, too bad, because the cradle will rock! And this video is awkwardly awesome.

#6

“Best of Both Worlds” album: 5150 (1986)

Favorite lyric: “Just tune in to what this place has got to offer, ’cause we may never be here again.”

This world and a sort of spirituality lie beneath a lot of the Sammy material including this sweet little tune from… brace yourselves… my favorite 80’s Van Halen album, “5150.” Yes, blasphemy I know to dare put a Sammy-led album ahead of any Dave album… especially 1984! Sorry, not sorry. Go make your own list. The list is the best of both worlds!

#5

“Love Walks In” album: 5150 (1986)

Favorite lyric: “Contact is all it takes. To change your life to lose your place in time.”

Look it’s no secret that post-Dave Van Halen had A LOT of songs with the word “love” in the title. In fact, it’s easy to get “Love Walks In” confused with “Why Can’t This Be Love,” or “When It’s Love,” or “Can’t Stop Loving You,” or “Don’t Tell Me (What Love Can Do).” I mean, you get the picture. So, if I’m going to choose my favorite “love” song to add, it would be this one that hit #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was one of four top top 20 hits from the aforementioned fabulous “5150” album.

#4

“Panama” album: 1984

Favorite lyric: “Hot shoe, burnin’ down the avenue. Model citizen, zero discipline.”

That was me back in 1984 – model citizen, zero discipline! Ok, so not really, but I remember listening to this song and originally thinking “I can’t understand a word Dave is singing except ‘Panama’ and something about ‘in the turn.'” Thank you lyrics websites all these years later for allowing me to correctly sing all of the right words in perfect pitch.

#3

“Dreams” album: 5150 (1986)

Favorite lyric: “And in the end on dreams we will depend. ‘Cause that’s what love is made of.”

Who’s out there screaming: “what??!!” Lol. If you’re all Dave and no Sammy then this list continues to disappoint you. I have equal appreciation for both lead singers though I do lean DLR. But I have to give Sammy his due and this song as well. From the synth intro to the tempo of the song to Sammy’s vocals to Eddie’s solo, this would be my favorite Sammy-era Van Halen song. Just the short Eddie solo from 4:04 to the 4:17 mark conjures up the air guitarist in me.

#2

“Jump” album: 1984

Favorite lyric: “And I know, baby, just how you feel. You got to roll with the punches and get to what’s real.”

Possibly the most iconic keyboard intro of all-time. They play it before the jump ball at basketball games. Sure it’s one of the most played 80’s songs ever, but for good reason I tell you! If this song comes on the radio, I rarely turn it. It never gets old to me. The video features Dave at his jumpiest. So flexible. I’m the anti-Dave when it comes to flexibility… even back when I was 13.

I don’t know who created this of Eddie, but go ahead and jump!

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Honorable mention goes to: “Mean Street,” “Everybody Wants Some,” and “When It’s Love.”

And at…

#1

“Unchained” album: Fair Warning (1981)

Favorite lyric: “Non-stop talker, what a rocker! Blue-eyed murder in a size five dress.”

No real surprise to many I’d say, but I didn’t even know about this song until sometime post 1983 or 84 once I started back-tracking and listening to older Van Halen albums. So I’m not sure when I first heard this song, but I guarantee you when I did I was in as much awe of it as I am to this day. It has everything – a badass intro, Dave screaming, a cool chorus, Eddie’s short solo at the 1:49 mark, Dave’s playful banter… hey, hey, hey, one break coming up!

There you have it. My always subject to change top 11 favorite Van Halen songs from just the 80’s. As always, thanks for checking in.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“When It’s Love…”

“Hey, it lasts forever.” – Van Halen

Whose Guitar? A History Of The Most Famous Guitars & Guitarists
EVH 1955-2020

The last time I wrote a post featuring my favorite band of all-time was 2018 when I wrote about messy relationships. Now, two plus years later, I find myself paying tribute once again while reflecting upon the life and death of the great musical virtuoso, Edward Lodewijk Van Halen.

Passing away at the age of 65 from cancer, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting and reading what others have been saying and writing about this talented man. It’s left me with questions though like why does it matter so much? To clarify, why does it matter so much to someone like me (and the thousands of others) who wasn’t family or a friend or even an acquaintance? Why does his life and legacy mean so much to so many people who knew him only as a legendary guitar player for one of the best rock bands of all-time? Did we learn anything from him besides imitating his finger-tapping techniques, his pick slides, or his use of the whammy bar?

I don’t think Eddie’s life matters so much because he was a great guitar player or because of those 15-30 second bursts of fingertip magic. It’s really because of how those riffs and melodies and lyrics and how that collective sound of Van Halen music made us feel. His music penetrated many of us to our very core. Eddie’s talent transcended music in the same way that Michael Jordan’s artistry transcended basketball. You didn’t have to know anything about basketball to know that you were witnessing a rare form of greatness with Jordan. Just the same, you didn’t need to understand scales or chords or guitar types to know you were witnessing another form of artistic greatness when Eddie Van Halen held that musical axe in his hands. The sounds had meaning whether we understood it on a technical level or whether it just somehow made sense. The music he created caused us to act, sometimes reflect, or sometimes it just made us more aware of the moment we were in. And that’s what the best music does – it causes you to feel something.

Eddie was the pride of many as the son of Dutch and Indonesian immigrants. Knowing very little English when the family located to Pasadena, CA in 1962, the Van Halen brothers lived an American success story. Eddie was bullied as a child because of his mixed-race appearance, because of his low socio-economic status, and because he sounded different and wasn’t fluent in English. So instead of becoming bitter and angry, bullied child pours his time into music thanks to the love of music his parents possessed. Bullied child then becomes a guitar maestro and along with his brother Alex banging away on the skins form a few different variations of Van Halen until the they come across a young Jewish teen named David Lee Roth in 1972 who was nearly the vocal version of Eddie’s guitar riffs. It was Roth who suggested they change the name of their band from Mammoth to Van Halen in 1974.

Of course, many are familiar with the variations of Van Halen through the years – with David Lee Roth on vocals until 1985, then with Sammy Hagar until 1996, back to Dave briefly in 1996, then Gary Cherone from 1996 to 1999. Back to Sammy from ’03 to ’05, and then finally back to Dave in 2006. And oh yeah, bassist Michael Anthony being replaced by Eddie’s son Wolfgang Van Halen in 2006 just added to the dysfunction of the Van Halen band family. But families are messy and one could argue that family dysfunction is just another normal when it comes to any kind of family definition.

My first taste of Van Halen was as a pre-teen when I lived in Seminole, Oklahoma. My first Van Halen tape was actually 1982’s “Diver Down.” I knew very little of VH I, II, Fair Warning, or Women and Children First albums. I purchased the “Diver Down” cassette as part of one of those Columbia House 6 tapes for 1 penny promotions that suckered you into paying full price for four more over the next year or two. So for the longest time, the only Van Halen music I owned was “Diver Down,” which was the album that was rushed and included five covers out of the 12 songs. Vintage Van Halen it was not, but nonetheless, 12 year old Kyle was still hooked by the Van Halen sound even if I knew very little of the glorious riches I was to hear in the coming days, weeks, and years.

For my claim to Van Halen being my all-time favorite band, I only saw them perform live one measly time. That stat alone will probably disqualify me from being some sort of super fan like a few of my friends that have seen Van Halen 10’s of 20’s of times, own VH memorabilia, and know every lyric to every David Lee Roth fronted Van Halen song. For whatever reason – timing, finances, location, etc., I never saw the original four play together, and like I mentioned, was only able to see the band one time – on their 2012 “Different Kind of Truth” tour. David Lee Roth was back in as lead singer, but young Wolfgang Van Halen was playing bass instead of Michael Anthony. So like everyone since pre-1985, I was left with viewing 3/4 of the original Van Halen lineup. Even though the war will always rage of Dave vs. Sammy, everyone knows that the heart of Van Halen was truly Eddie and to some extent his underrated big brother, Alex.

I paid $150 for a ticket to that concert in 2012. Kool and the Gang (another band I love) opened for Van Halen that night at the BOK Center in Tulsa, and I still have a few videos stored away including this one of Eddie and a partial portion of his legendary solo “Eruption.”

“You look at every face in a crowd. Some shine and some keep you guessin.'”

In 1988, Van Halen’s second album with lead singer Sammy Hagar called “OU812” was released. The album wasn’t as good as 1986’s “5150,” which completed the transformation from hard rock Van Halen into pop rock superstardom, but Eddie said in an interview one time that the band was more comfortable with each other by this time and the album came out easier than “5150” did.

By this time, Eddie Van Halen had been married to actress Valerie Bertinelli for about seven years and had downshifted slightly from a balls-out, wailing gunslinger to a more refined and controlled master of his craft. If he needed to shred, he just need open that box back up, but by the mid to late 80’s, Van Halen had morphed into a more well-rounded Billboard hit-making machine thanks largely to Eddie’s creativeness as well as the stronger vocal chops by frontman Sammy Hagar who had replaced David Lee Roth in 1985. The keyboard sound of the 80’s resonated through many a Van Halen lick while Eddie still managed to find time to showcase his guitar talent.

“Waiting for someone to come into focus. Teach you your final love lesson”

I chose this video not because it’s my all-time favorite Van Halen song (it’s not even in my top 10), nor is it a favorite Eddie solo of mine. I basically chose it because of the message the song conveys and the fact that it showcases a wide range of Eddie’s immense talent. Sure, there’s a nice guitar riff per usual Eddie, but there’s also the beautiful keyboard arrangement he performs, as well as his complimentary backing vocals, which are typically credited more to bassist Michael Anthony. Nonetheless, Eddie’s voice always blended nicely with Michael Anthony’s and together they helped create the Van Halen backing vocals, another key component in their timeless music.

Growing up, this song was always just this rock ballad to me about finding your soulmate and the lifelong love that would accompany it. However, just watching the video again for the first time in 30+ years, reading the lyrics, and thinking about the bigger picture in life, this song is much more. In a way, the music of Eddie Van Halen is love. It’s his love that he gifted to generations of fans around the world.

Many of us that longed for a reunion of the original four members plus Sammy for one big Van Halen tour were pissed that Eddie never seemed to acquiesce to the idea. And mind you if Eddie wanted it to happen, it would have happened. We thought ‘quit being selfish! Get it together Eddie, and give the fans what they want!’ Well, in hindsight, Eddie was anything but selfish. He gave us his soul. He gave us his heart and he gave us his love until he had nothing left.

So, I’ll ask again – did we learn anything from Edward Van Halen? If anything, I would say Eddie’s music reminds us to give, to share, to love, and to never take for granted the artistic talent that surrounds us everyday. Because when it’s love that you’re giving, when it’s Eddie’s love and Eddie’s gift to the world, it will definitely last forever.

Hitting #1 on the Mainstream Rock charts, #5 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, and music that will last forever, here is “When It’s Love”…

R.I.P. Eddie, and thank you.

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“I Know That I Must Do What’s Right”

“As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti.” – Toto

Toto in 1982

Today’s short video-laden post is a tribute to a song and some of the most peculiar, fun-to-sing lyrics in 80’s music lore. If you were ever to ask me to name my favorite lyric of the 80’s, the one above would surely be in my top two or three. I just figure if you can somehow manage to incorporate “Kilimanjaro,” “Olympus,” and “Serengeti” into one line of a song (a Billboard #1 hit at that), then props to you for one of the most original lines in pop music history no matter if the rest of the band likes it or not.

While doing research for this post, I also stumbled across the “Toto Forever” project created by (I presume a big Toto fan) a man named Max Siedentopf in 2019.

See the source image

Siedentopf created a solar powered display somewhere in the Namib Desert which extends along the coastal plain of western Namibia. The setup had Toto’s “Africa” playing on repeat. I have no idea if the song is still playing on repeat or the display even still exists with all of the sand storms that blow in the Namib Desert, but just the thought of stumbling upon this piece of artwork in the middle of a desert in Africa makes me almost want to travel there to find it. You know, if travel to other continents was still a thing amidst this 2020 pandemic.

“She’s coming in, 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation.”

Of course, I always thought I’d save this song and use it after a trip to Africa a’la Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell from about four years ago…

So predictable though, right? Instead I decided to write about the song after my sister sent me the following video of my cute nephew and niece and their “Africa” interpretive dance. I’ve already posted about my nephew Keller in a previous Halloween post from two years ago, but I knew when my sister sent me this video that it constituted another post featuring him along with a dancing assist from his younger sister, Sylvie.

“Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say, “Hurry boy, it’s waiting there for you”

“I bless the rains down in Africa
Gonna take some time to do the things we never had (ooh, ooh)”

This song almost didn’t make it onto Toto’s 1982 album “Toto IV.” If you believe Wiki, this was the last song added to the album, but ironically remains Toto’s only #1 hit. Written by band members David Paich and Jeff Porcaro, it was the band’s third single from the album and peaked at #1 for one week back in February of 1983. The famous line featuring “Olympus” and “Kilimanjaro,” and “Serengeti” was just a “goofy” placeholder according to Porcaro and bandmate Steve Lukather. 

Regardless, the lyric will be forever etched in my brain as well as my other 80’s fans across the world and even to those who may have accidentally stumbled across the Toto Forever project in the Namib Desert. Here is the video directed by Steve Barron about a man’s love for the continent of “Africa.” Co-writer and initial creator of the song David Paich plays the researcher in the library…

If you just haven’t had enough “Africa” in this post already, then you can check out Weezer’s version from 2018 when a fan vote caused the alternative band to perform their own cover of Toto’s classic. It reached #51 on the Hot 100 chart, but #1 on the Billboard Alternative songs chart becoming the band’s first #1 since its’ 2008 hit “Pork and Beans.” As an added 80’s bonus, the video features 80’s legend Weird Al Yankovic…

Thanks for checking in!

sincerely,

the 80’s

Ahh, you know I wasn’t going to let this post finish up without my own rendition of my nephew’s dance did you (with an assist in the foreground to my wife)? It’s not near as cute, but it still was a lot of fun!

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“Do You Remember the 21st Night of September?”

“Love was changin’ the minds of pretenders.” – Earth, Wind, & Fire

For Earth, Wind & Fire, there's always 'September'

I don’t think I ever realized that lead singer Maurice White was singing “the 21st night of September” in Earth, Wind, & Fire’s iconic song “September.” Apparently he is, and now I know. And now you know if you didn’t already.

I started this post three days prior on September 18th – my mom’s 74th birthday. I started writing this just hours after visiting her and my dad at their assisted living facility in Rogers, Arkansas. I brought her some birthday cake and flowers and a card and some funny stories to lighten the mood for 30 minutes. If you’ve read any past posts then you know my dad is 80 and not in great shape physically and not quite 100% mentally sharp either. On the other hand, my mom is in good physical shape, but she’s suffering from dementia and that. is. the. worst.

“The bell was ringing, aha. Our souls were singing. Do you remember? Never a cloudy day.

She doesn’t remember. Well, maybe she remembers some, but all of her days are cloudy now. It’s a brain cloud that refuses to let go its’ ugly grip and let the sun in. Whatever is stuck in there from the past remains in there for the time being. Names and faces of family and some longtime friends still reside in her brain. There are a few stories in there as well. She tries to hide her memory shortcomings by not saying much. I bet she remembers very little of these past three years since I moved them here from Norman, Oklahoma, and it’s sad. It’s heartbreaking. It’s frustrating. Dementia is fucking awful.

And my poor dad who has to witness the fits of anger, the uncontrollable crying, and the repetitive questions minute after minute, hour after hour, twenty-four hours a day. It must be exhausting, and I know from my conversations with him that it is. I can hear it in his voice every time we speak on the phone. I can see it in his eyes the few times we’ve actually been together since the pandemic starting shutting things down.

COVID prevents me from going over whenever I want, which just adds to the hardship. It was only recently that I was even allowed to visit which helps a little, but I can’t really do anything. I can schedule a 45 minute appointment to visit them in a common area within the facility on one of three days every week. I have to tell my mom five or ten times that ‘yes, I’ve seen their apartment, and no, I can’t go up and see it until it’s safer.’ I can see the confusion on her face. I think masks and COVID are a new thing everyday. I can also travel and meet them at doctor appointments, but the point is that it has been a hard time on all of us since everything went crazy in mid-March.

“Ba de ya – say do you remember
Ba de ya – dancing in September
Ba de ya – golden dreams were shiny days”

I know this isn’t an 80’s song, but it’s upbeat and fun, and hell this would be the most depressing post of all-time if I decided on Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years,” or Echo and the Bunnymen with “The Killing Moon,” or how about Chicago’s “Look Away.” My goal is not to make you think about dementia and then want to kill yourself. My only goal is to release some of the pent up pain within which maybe some of you can relate to. I can put a pretty, happy bow at the end of a post. I can’t do the same thing in real life.

My sympathies to those of you that have already travelled my road, are just starting the journey, or are somewhere in between like me. There cannot be many worse things I can think of than slowly losing your mind, but on the list is definitely those caretakers that have to helplessly watch it occur.

So free your mind for the next three minutes and thirty-five seconds. Enjoy the funky 70’s clothing, the late 70’s psychedelic graphics and a song that features some nonsensical lyrics like “Ba de ya” and “ba duda, ba duda, ba duda ba duda.” Enjoy the cooler temps if you’re in a part of the world like I am where fall is starting to show its’ loveliness, and just reflect on some golden dreams and shiny days of past Septembers as you groove to this November 1978 release that made it to #1 on the R&B charts and #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 – “September.”

Thanks for reading and let’s find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Mom and I, birthday time September 1978 or 79.
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“Step Inside. Walk This Way”

You and me babe. Hey! Hey!” – Def Leppard

Sometimes these little combinations of letters that form words can be insufficient.  I wish I could adequately describe how I see you.  At this stage of life, you’re more beautiful than ever.  Of course, I see you right now – bashfully shaking your head in objection, asking why I would say that, trying to deflect the compliment, thinking of all the things you haven’t done right.  But you represent a beautiful portrayal for a life, for my life.  You’re an unwavering soul of God’s love poured out into this world.  Perfect?  None of us fit that description, but your imperfection is what makes life with you so worthwhile.   

Time can feel like a rapid descent down a children’s slide.  While some only focus on the rapidly approaching destination, you enjoy the ride – hands raised and free.  You live in the moment, and I love that about you.  For over 20 years that I have known you, you never miss an opportunity to say I love you or an opportunity to say something nice to someone.  You never miss an opportunity to impart some words of comfort, to show empathy, or even to instruct others.  You go out of your way and you love unselfishly hard.  You are unapologetically affectionate.  You hurt just as hard too.  You feel.  Your emotions tag along on the surface and match your intensity.   

Slide, slide, slippity-slide.

But you have this wonderful smile.  A perfect smile.  It’s a smile that says I’m happy; that says I see you.  A smile that says you make me happy and one that says welcome.  You have these ocean blue eyes that I’m convinced can see into souls.  They may not like what they see, but they look for the best in people.  Those same eyes also pierce hearts and reflect everyday beauty.   

You have passion.  Passion for your husband and daughter.  Passion for your friends and family.  Just being you is enough.  It may not feel like it sometimes.  Your occasional feelings of unworthiness and unbelonging are deceptive lies.  I see your contributions to marriage, to parenthood, to friendship, to family, to society and I appreciate them as do others. 

You’re strange and quirky and cool and nerdy.  You’re fashionable and sexy, fun and adventurous.  You have your mom’s servant spirit and your dad’s boldness.  You love your Jesus and He loves you.  Thank you for your heart and your eyes and your smile and your soul.  Words are not always sufficient at timeline points in our lives, but I know one thing – you are.     

“Listen! red light, yellow light, green-a-light go! Crazy little woman in a one man show”

Now, my wife is well aware of my affinity for 80’s music and I’ve won her over on quite a bit of the stuff I listened to growing up including this English rock band formed in 1977. We’ve seen them twice in concert over the years including two years ago in Denver. So, to celebrate my crazy little woman, here is one our favorites – Def Leppard’s 1987 #2 hit on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 – “Pour Some Sugar on Me”

And here is the 2018 sing-along version with my wife and I on the field at Coors Field in Denver, CO on a beautiful July evening.

Happy birthday to my wife!

sincerely,

the 80’s

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“Lately I’ve Been Running on Faith”

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“What else is a poor boy to do?” – Eric Clapton

C.S. Lewis wrote in his book “Mere Christianity” that “faith is the ability to hold onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” Changing moods may be the theme of 2020. I know my moods have swung from pure joy to head-shaking grief. From anger and fear and disgust to love and grace and empathy. And like any normal person, those moods can change from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day.

Mere Christianity” is one of my all-time favorite books. I’ll pick it up from time to time and just a read a chapter or two. I’d highly recommend it if you’ve never read it before and especially if you’re struggling or have ever struggled spiritually. Recently, I was drawn into chapters 11 & 12 again, which are both on the topic of faith.

Faith requires energy and intentionality and effort. It’s a constant battle, and the battle, to quote Mr. Lewis again, “is between faith and reason on one side, and emotion and imagination on the other.” Lewis even makes a point that it takes energy and effort to have faith as an atheist (of which he was one for part of his life); to remain true to your beliefs as an atheist against signs and wonders and historical facts that Christians point to in their case for Christianity.

“Lately I’ve been talking in my sleep. I can’t imagine what I’d have to say.”

For someone that has over 100 posts on this site, it’s hard for me to imagine that I have much to say, but maybe I do. Granted some of my posts are fluff pieces or just reiterations of stories from the past, but I’m also not going to knock my persistence or my ability to churn out pieces especially when I didn’t feel like writing. There are certainly those times I’m banging away at the keyboard that help me grow as an individual like the recent six-part Summer Mixtape Revisited series which was intended to amplify the struggles, thoughts, and aspirations of our fellow black brothers and sisters.

Of course there are times when my faith is tested or when it feels like it is in neutral – lacking that energy and intentionality I mentioned earlier. Shame creeps in asking why I don’t have more faith. It is those times that I am thankful for my wife and my family and my friends and my God. It’s them who brings that light into the darkness, is the sign on the road, or just the inspiration to draw from. For that I am extremely thankful.

I’m sure I’m not alone in running on faith during this time. Hell, it takes faith just to go to the grocery store during Covid 2020, and I know that it’s going to continue to take effort and time and focus to refill that faith tank as we approach the last quarter of the year. I hope you have something or someone that helps refill your faith tank during this time be it friends or faith or maybe it’s just a song by Eric Clapton. God knows we all need it.

“Then we’d go running on faith. All of our dreams would come true. And our world will be right when love comes over me and you.”

Unless you’re a big Eric Clapton fan, not many will realize this song was released in November of 1989 off of his “Journeyman” album. For me (and probably countless others), it entered my consciousness in 1992 when Eric Clapton appeared on MTV and subsequently released his “Eric Clapton Unplugged” album. That album sold over 26 million worldwide and earned Clapton six Grammy awards including Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year (Tears in Heaven), Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Rock Male Vocal Performance and Best Rock Song. The dude killed it with this album further solidifying himself as one of the greatest musicians of all time.

I remember being a sophomore in college in 1991 as my friend Trey, holding an Eric Clapton poster in his hands, stared directly into my old VHS camcorder while emphatically announcing “Clapton is a god!” From the MTV unplugged early days circa 1992, here is that guitar slaying god running on faith then, and most surely in 2020 as well.

Thanks for reading, and our world may never be perfect, but it’s always much better when love comes over me and you.

sincerely,

the 80’s

Reading from The Good Book, Christmas time early 80’s.
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“Feeding on Your Hungry Eyes”

“I bet you’re not so civilized.” – Patty Smyth (Scandal)

Scandal Feat. Patty Smyth: The Warrior (Video 1984) - IMDb

Warning:  A post for “old people.”  Seriously.  When you start reading this you’re going to say ‘he was right,’ and then think to yourself ‘how old is this guy?’  But chances are if you’re reading this then you’re right in the perfect wheelhouse age-wise, or maybe you just accidentally stumbled across it going down an internet rabbit-hole.  Hold that animal theme, and here’s why:

I have a recent fascination with birds (see I told you – old people post dead ahead).  Over the last month, I have purchased four bird feeders.  I have purchased numerous amounts of feed.  I’ve studied different types of seed and feeders – colors, designs, materials.  I’ve read articles about bird feeders and food, and downloaded apps (two of them) onto my iPhone to help identify birds.  One app has a feature like Shazam (the app that listens to a song and identifies the name and artist) and will identify the bird by listening to it sing/chirp.  Tell me that’s not cool!  I dare you.  So this is where you’re free to join my wife and daughter and yell “bird nerd!”  Well, I for one am about to crack open a beer and tell Alexa to play “Freebird.”  So go right ahead reader – scoff if you must.

But I tell you this – bird watching is relaxing.  It’s peaceful.  It’s fascinating.  We have blue jays and cardinals and mourning doves, and thrashers and sparrows and a whole city of wrens that come visit.  They have their own unique sounds and hierarchy and movements.  We have four hummingbird feeders as well just for good measure.  Those four help feed one very happy hummer who’s going to be the size of a Turdus migratorius when it’s time to migrate further south for the winter.  Oh, and that’s just a fancy way (or is it? Turdus?) of saying American Robin.

“Oh, who’s the hunter, who’s the game.  I feel the beat call your name.” 

Well every good bird story is not without its’ antagonist(s).  And in

I felt someone watching me. Looked up from my computer and saw a ...

this case, there are a few to this story.  It’s the occasional feral cat creeping through the bushes and pouncing on an unsuspecting blue jay for a late afternoon snack.  Sometimes it’s the neighborhood raccoon under cover of night stealing the apparently delicious black oil sunflower seeds I set out.  I see you raccoon.  I have a security camera.

Mostly though it’s the band of four-legged, furry-tailed punks (you punks stay off my lawn!) that have no manners nor respect for property.  They are sometimes referred to as “cute” and “clever.”  But you know what?  They’re neither.  They’re sneaky little devils traipsing across the top of my fence leisurely like acrobats practicing on high wires.  They rob the birds of the food I paid for.  Hey you little scavengers, I didn’t buy you food!

And it’s those little furry beasts that led me to Walmart to purchase my very first official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle.  So, yes, I sit out on my back porch mornings and evenings just waiting for those little gremlins to come crawling over the fence in search of the delicious black oil sunflower seeds so I can pop them like little Ralphie shooting Black Bart in “A Christmas Story.”       Red Ryder Christmas Story Quotes. QuotesGram | 1 Quotes

 

They like to leap from the fence onto our “bird condo” (below left) that my wife purchased a few years ago.  I call it a condo, because look how big it is!  It’s where the larger birds go to feast.  I even had to chase a cat out of there one day who was just hanging out sunning himself.  I learned that we placed our bird condo too close to the fence, but it’s not moving anytime soon.  I cemented that post into the ground so that sucker is not going anywhere.  We also provide housing as you can see below right.

So to recap:  I like birds.  I watch them eat and fly and frolic in the yard.  I listen to them communicate and I observe as they land on the feeders I’ve laid out for them, and watch them feast on the seed I’ve provided.    

The squirrels are my sworn enemy.  Bunch of little Johnny Ringo’s with tails running around taking what they please.  Well, squirrels, I’m your Huckleberry.  

kkshootemup

“Shooting at the walls of heartache bang, bang.  I am the warrior.”

Sure, if this website was sincerelythe90s, I would probably be featuring the Squirrel Nut Zippers band instead.  But, it’s the glorious 80’s and this post was a good reason for me to feature one of my all-time favorite 80’s songs.

If you like videos that resemble strange apocalyptic ballets then maybe this is right in your lane.  It’s a bizarre video sure, but Patty Smyth rocks despite all the weird clothes and paint on her face.  A couple of interesting facts about Smyth that most 80’s music lovers know:  1. Smyth is married to former tennis great/badboy John McEnroe since 1997.  2. She earned an invite to be the lead singer of Van Halen by Eddie Van Halen himself after David Lee Roth’s departure.

Patty Smyth Regrets Turning Down Offer To Join Van Halen

She turned Eddie and the band down (regretfully).  But this song featured today remains one of the quintessential 80’s classics.  Released 36 years ago this month and peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, it is Scandal featuring Patty Smyth with “The Warrior.”

“Yes, I am the warrior.  And victory is mine…” (squirrels)

sincerely the 80’s

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“Seventeen Has Turned 35”

“I’m surprised that we’re still living.” – John Mellencamp

The Most Important Songs From John Mellencamp - I Love Classic Rock

This particular lyric has always stood out to me, and has been one of my favorite John Mellencamp lyrics.  It’s a nostalgic line at its’ core.  For many, myself included, the lyric and the song invokes memories of days gone by and how quickly those days turn into weeks, months, and years.  It’s simple and pure.  There’s another similar line in the song that says “the winter days they last forever, and the weekends went by so quick.”  True when you’re 17, but when you’re older it’s easier to amend that to the years went by so quick.

I think the line stood out to me in particular because I would turn 17 just five months after the release of this song in October of 1987.  John Mellencamp had just turned 36 by the time this song was released as a single (he was 35 though when the album “The Lonesome Jubilee” was released).  John was one of those artists that was a little older before he really broke into mainstream success.  It was 1982’s “American Fool” album when he was already 31 that turned him a household name as John “Cougar” with the hit singles “Hurts So Good” and “Jack and Diane.”

I always wondered what I would be like at 35.  Would I be surprised that I was still living?  Would I have a wife and kids?  Would I think back on my high school years like John was when he wrote this song?  Hell, 17 has turned 35 has turned 49.  I’m not surprised that I’m still living, but I could have never imagined that I would be living in Arkansas sitting on my back porch on a Saturday morning waxing nostalgia on a strange little contraption called a laptop computer to “post” on an equally fascinating thing called a “website.”  That’s the point.  We never know where we’re going to end up or how things will turn out.

“That’s when a sport was a sport, and groovin’ was groovin’.  And dancin’ meant everything.  We were young and we were improvin’.”

Sure the chorus is little dated with the line “and groovin’ was groovin’.”  You can tell John was from a different era as his school days would have consisted of the 60’s and early 70’s, and he loved his sports and his dances.  I was definitely into sports, but I was never much for school dances.  It was the fear of looking like a complete fool that held me back.  That and the fact that, you know, you had to talk to girls (insert scared emoji face right here).  That’s dumb sure, but it wasn’t for insecure teenagers everywhere, and I know I wasn’t alone in that category.

So I didn’t attend any school dances save my senior prom in 1989.  That’s pretty amazing actually.  Not one school dance until then.  Funny thing is since high school I’ve taken dance lessons with my wife (twice), been to numerous weddings, birthdays, clubs, bars, etc. where I’ve been a dancing machine!  Ok, so not really a machine, but I did dance.

“One night me with my big mouth.  A couple guys had to put me in my place.  When I see those guys these days we just laugh and say do you remember when?”

I never got into any fights growing up in the 80’s either.  The one time I was in one I didn’t actually know that’s what it was supposed to be.  It was early 80’s.  I was probably in 5th or 6th grade, and I was in elementary school at Northwood Elementary in Seminole, Oklahoma.  For some reason I thought it would be funny to tell the kid behind me in class to shut up every time he asked me a question about an assignment we were currently working on.  Apparently he didn’t think that was too funny and as I was on my way walking home (I lived right across the street from the school), he called my name to come see him over by this small little storage building on the school property.  So I went over there where he proceeded to grab me and then tried to pull me backwards and make me trip over his leg.  I stumbled over his leg but didn’t fall and decided to just keep on going right across the street into my house.  That was it.  We were friends after that.  I never told him to shut up again.

“If we’ve done any wrong, I hope that we’re forgiven.”

Another line that should always ring true as we mature and reflect back on the memories of life.  As for Mr. Mellencamp, well he’s gone from 17 to 35 to quickly approaching 69.  He’s still pumping out music and is always pretty vocal about his politics.  As for what the future holds for him or for us, well, we just don’t know.  But what we’ll always have are the memories.

“Outside the club “Cherry Bomb,” our hearts were really pumpin'”

Cherry Bomb, John Mellencamp playing the autoharp (With images ...

John received a lot of hate mail for this particular video after its release in 1987, and only because it features a young black male and white female dancing together.  Just goes to show you that people were stupid in 1987 too.  My favorite thing in this video (besides John’s suspenders) is John rocking the autoharp on a beach that is nowhere near his home of Indiana.  Just something funny about that scene.  With a title based upon John’s teenage club hangout in the basement of a church called “The Last Exit Teen Club,” here is the pride of Seymour, Indiana with “Cherry Bomb…”

Say yeah yeah yeah.  Say yeah yeah yeah

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

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The Summer Mixtape Interviews Recap

I’d be remiss if I didn’t reflect on the past three weeks and the incredible conversations I had with the six talented and well-spoken artists leading to the previous six posts.  I have over three and half hours of recorded phone conversations that produced thousands of words used on this little blog.

First and foremost, my sincerest and heartfelt thanks can never be enough but nonetheless are being extended to Bijoux Pighee, SeanFresh, Jeremiah “BAANG” Pickett, Dazzmin Murry, Kabrelyn “Brie” Boyce, and Lawrence Jamal.

None of this would have been possible without their complete honesty, openness, and full cooperation.  Not once did they “pull any punches” nor take any easy roads with their thoughts or words.  But I didn’t expect them to, and that in itself should speak volumes about the type of individuals they are.  It should give rise to hope for future generations, not only black and minority populations, but also to future white generations.  These are talented individuals with good hearts and a passion for what they do and what they say.

75 Maya Angelou Quotes On Love, Life, Courage And Women

I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to read some or all of the previous six posts labeled “The Summer Mixtape Revisited.”  I didn’t write a single word.  All I had to do was listen, transcribe and edit because the interviews wrote themselves.  This was indeed a labor of love for me during a tumultuous time in our history, and I will be forever grateful to those that helped turn a little spark of a concept into a flame.

Personally, I want to continue to encourage each of them to grind away at their professions and towards their goals, because I believe in each of them, and I believe they have beautiful futures ahead.  And I would also continue to encourage each of them to speak in the truth, love, and grace that each one of them so generously extended to me as I stammered my way through a difficult topic.  But it’s through those words and that dialogue that we can find commonalities and truths in which we can stand on together.

My thanks also to Bike Rack Brewing Co., and the creation of the Bike Rack Records label.  Without that creation, I would have never had the chance to meet and learn about (and from) these artists.

Sincerely the 80’s has been a labor of love for over four years, and has really been about my memories, feelings, and a dedication of sorts to friends and family all while weaving in my musical appreciations and fascinations with certain songs, lyrics, and artists (particularly those of 80’s origin).  I’ve also felt the heavy weight at times to produce something a little more meaningful, something more insightful, and I feel like maybe I took some steps in that direction with these interviews.

It was the protests and demonstrations following the horrific deaths of Breonna Taylor and of George Floyd most notably that this idea was laid on my heart by an unwavering and unbreakable power from above.  The timing just happened to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape  upon which these artists performed.  The anniversary gave me an opportunity and an opening to reach back out to these six, but I don’t think it was by happenstance.  I believe God orchestrated this piece long before the idea bore into my soul.

Rosa Parks Day 2018: Inspirational Quotes & Sayings - Second Nexus

I had spoken to each of them either in person or over the phone one year ago to discuss their careers and their music on the Mixtape EP.  I have seen each of them perform on a stage before a live audience at least once in person, and I’ve also been able to follow their careers via social media as well.  But this time, and for these conversations, the opportunity was there to discuss not only the past year in their industry and the changes COVID-19 was inflicting, but to also take a much deeper dive into more important issues that are and have affected basic humanity at its’ core for hundreds of years.

During each interview there were always numerous thoughts and words that struck me.  Those were the ones I would narrow down later during my editing process while shaking my head in amazement,  agreement, and silently thinking “that’s good right there.”  I would later impose that particular quote on top of the photo of the artist, and the beginning of each post was born.  And speaking of photos, the photographs (all supplied by the artists) were amazing, and proper photo credits were attributed to all of the powerful images used throughout the six parts.  (If you’re a fan of photography, you shouldn’t hesitate to follow the photographers as well – names and links below)

What I was hoping to accomplish was:  1) to promote and amplify intelligent black voices that represent our future.  2) I also wanted to show that white people and black people of different ages, backgrounds, thoughts, and ideas could dialogue about difficult issues.  And selfishly, 3) I wanted to address a personal fear of having difficult conversations with those of different backgrounds so I could grow to be a better person.  Did we solve the world’s problems?  No, but this broken world will never be fully healed.  Were the conversations comfortable and easy?  No.  Did I ramble too much at times through the interviews and/or not ask the right questions?  Of course.  But once again, thank God for grace.  Finally, did I grow as a human being?  How could I have not.

I would ask you dear reader to keep in mind that if you decide to embark on tough conversations, and it is going to involve the topic of racism, then please remember racism is not a new topic.  It was mentioned over and over throughout these interviews.

Also please be aware enough to know that it is not a black person’s job to teach you about racism.  It’s your job to learn about it.  Learn about slavery and abolition and about Harriet Tubman and Dred Scott.   Teach yourself about the Freedom Riders, the Greenwood District, and the Civil Rights Movement.  Learn who Emmett Till was and Rosa Parks, and who Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were and what they stood for.  Study “redlining,” and “the Jim Crow laws,” and the Black Panthers.  You should know the stories of Rodney King, and about the recent deaths of Rayshard Brooks and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd (among many others).

Do the work.  Open your heart and ears and your mind, and enter the conversation with sincerity, humility and humbleness and you might be pleased with what transpires in and from you.  I was.

Quote For Strong Women 1000 Images About A Strong Woman On ...

Thank you for reading, spending some time getting to know these amazing artists, and remember to take some Maya Angelou with you into whatever difficulties lie ahead in life, and rise like air.

sincerely,

the 80’s

 

The Summer Mixtape Revisited series photographers:
Joshua Asante
Dominique Benedict
Dacori Jones
Alex Kennedy
Bailey Melancon
Mike Morris
Dazzmin Murry
Milson Phoenix
Sydney Rasche
Jake Ruth
Cameraman Stan
Christian West
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The Summer Mixtape Revisited Part 6: Lawrence Jamal

lawrence jamal 01photo creds:  Bailey Melancon

(This is the final installment of a six-piece series on the one-year anniversary of the release of the Bike Rack Records’ Summer Mixtape in 2019 (sponsored by Bike Rack Brewing).  This interview features Dallas-based musician and rapper Lawrence Jamal.) 

The move from NWA to Big D…

I’ve done a lot in the past year.  Man, I can’t believe it’s been a year!  I had long hair at the time (last summer).  I’ve been to another country.  I’ve been stranded in another country because I lost my passport and I didn’t have access to my banking information.  I dropped a single, and then started working on an album, and then COVID hit.  I moved to Dallas for employment opportunities where I’m planting roots with my little brother in a major city and planning to release an album.  The major cities make things a little more accessible and makes for more opportunities to do business.  Northwest Arkansas is home, but it just doesn’t have those connections yet. 

Dallas is a great place to go corporate, make connections, and build resources, and when the world opens back up, then (I’ll) execute on what I’ve been working on.  The reason I’m working so hard on this album is so that I can put a solid product in my hands and then I can go focus on something else.  I don’t want to be torn when it’s time to do the next thing.  The COVID summer break is coming to an end.  

The Hot 16…

“The Hot 16” is a series I’ve been doing to keep content in front of people.  To break it down in hip-hop, there’s no rules to music, but there are 16 bars to each verse.  I just branded it in a way to make it seem exclusive but really it’s not.  There’s been a lot of “Hot 16 challenges” but the way I make it look, I make it look like a broadcast from a radio station.  I want it to be like a broadcast because what’s going to happen is as I evolve as a person and as an artist, the content itself will evolve in quality and I’ll have more money to invest in the future for production.  I’m looking forward to where this goes from grass roots.      

Carrying on right now…

The way I see it – I’m carrying on as if nothing has happened.  It’s been all about the music.  What you have to understand right now what’s happening in the world is almost normal especially for people of color if that makes sense.  There are a lot of people calling minorities in general and letting them know that ‘I love you’ and ‘I support you,’ and we see what’s going on and I do receive that, but the reality is that people have been dealing with this for years. 

You gotta understand I was frisk searched by a cop when I was 18 in a parking lot next to a park, and was so scared I almost fainted.  I’ve been slammed up against a car by the police because I answered a question when he asked me if I had anything to drink and I said I had one beer and I asked him if he had any, and he slammed me up against the car – this big swole up former Marine.   

I learned to respect authority, but I can’t allow those events and watching George Floyd have a knee to his neck til he dies.  That brought a lot of emotions that I don’t think a lot of people are ready to deal with that we need to talk about and that we are talking about – anger, betrayal, confusion, sadness.   

Being in the ATL recently…

I was in Atlanta four days after Rayshard Brooks was killed and I was riding in a car listening to one of the hottest radio stations in Atlanta 107.9 , and it was almost like I was in the mix.  It was different being in Atlanta, because Atlanta is predominantly black.  You get to see it from a different lens.  We’re almost in our own little bubbles across the world.  

I was at an Atlanta church playing (a show), and I had lunch with the pastor and we talked about Christian hip-hop and what that means, and it’s not what it seems.  I’m too real.  I’m not about being fake today.  We’ll see what happens.  My message is not changing.  I’m still going to be positive.  You’re not going to have to bleep out any of my words right now.  I’m good.  I’ve got to find other ways to build the kingdom.  I don’t know if my music lives up to that if you feel me?  It’s hard to manufacture that.   I’m taking care of my heart and keeping my heart healthy and everything else will flow from it. 

photo creds:  Bailey Melancon

Breaking down the walls…

What I see as a black man is the white evangelical church tearing each other apart because they’re not responding the way one person says is necessary.  It’s a lot.  I feel weird going to the church I came up in.  I don’t even want to be around certain environments right now. 

So all this going on, I called a minister I know and I asked him how should I be thinking about all of this because I need wisdom, and he said that on the other side of this what people are going to be looking for is that example and that changed man.  That black man that kept his head up and kept his integrity up because there is a lot of people putting in their afro pick right now with their fist high.   

I’m hoping to break down the four walls.  Don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t want to entertain church people the rest of my life.  I don’t want to put on display how righteous I am because I know it’s ‘bs,’ and I’m not relatable at that point.  People can call me whatever but I’m just trying to reach people.  SoEverything Freedom” is still a mission.  It’s still a label.  But the way I see it, and the name of my album coming out August 1st is called “Don’t Play This at Church,” because I don’t want people to think I’m giving them another church album because I’m putting things in there that shouldn’t be played at church. 

Unification…

We have to hang onto unity, because unity commands blessing. So, we have to stay unified across colors, across borders.  It’s not about black or white.  It’s about the human race at this point.  I’ve experienced it, but ultimately I’m hopeful there will be change, but I’m also not excited to jump on the bandwagon on social media posts either. 

I’m actually moved by the support that the black community is getting from the outside.  I think the reason I’m so torn about people being at each other’s throats about not being anti-racist enough is not to give any of my friends a pat on the back like you did enough, but I think I really get to see people’s hearts through all this.  I get to see people that are about bringing a change in their community.  It’s almost like seeing a child walk and then run.  I guess what I’m saying is I’m encouraged to see how much support has been put together just through people unifying because if we can unify about this than anything is possible. 

Revisit Lawrence’s single “No Time Soon” from the 2019 Bike Rack Records Summer Mixtape EP and follow him on Spotify.

Check out his “Hot 16” series and connect with Lawrence on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter

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