Songbird by Fleetwood Mac…Song #19/250: Reader’s Choice Tribute

Christine McVie

As many of you might know, singer/songwriter/musician Christine McVie passed away this week. McVie was best known for her role in one of the world’s most successful rock bands of all time, Fleetwood Mac. In that band, Christine McVie was the keyboardist and co-lead singer along with Stevie Nicks. She was also the songwriter behind many of the band’s biggest hits, such as “Don’t Stop”, “You Make Loving Fun” *(which was written about an affair she was having with the band’s lighting director at the time of the Rumours tour), “Little Lies”, “Songbird” and many others. As a member of Fleetwood Mac, McVie has won several Grammy Awards; she has been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and was presented with the Ivor Novello Lifetime Achievement Award for her songwriting.

From an early age, Christine McVie was drawn to The Arts. Her mother was a medium who told fortunes and conducted astrology sessions for money. Her grandfather was an organist at Westminster Abbey. McVie played piano and received training in its classical form. As a child, she attended the Moseley School of Art in Birmingham to study sculpture, with the thought that she would become an art teacher. While still a young teen, McVie was introduced to the music of Fats Domino by her older brother, John. This was McVie’s introduction to The Blues, which became a form of music that was integrated into everything she wrote and/or played throughout her career to come. While at the Moseley School, McVie joined several local bands, including one fronted by her friend, Spencer Davis. With Davis, she gained experience at singing in front of an audience, but more importantly, he encouraged her to write and perform her own songs. Once this seed was planted, Christine McVie grew into a young woman who possessed confidence in her own abilities and who believed that her material had every bit as much right to be heard as anything by the young men she surrounded herself with.

Christine McVie prior to joining Fleetwood Mac.

Upon graduating, she moved to London and worked for a while as a window dresser, alongside fellow Moseley School alumnus Colin Birch, who was designer Karl Lagerfeld’s official window dresser. While in London, she joined a new band called Chicken Shack. This band had a few minor hits in the UK. As part of a burgeoning Blues/Rock scene at the time, Chicken Shack toured with another up and coming band called Fleetwood Mac. At the time, Fleetwood Mac was fronted by Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, along with several others. Eventually, Christine McVie (known as Christine Perfect back then) met and fell in love with John McVie. When Fleetwood Mac’s keyboardist quit the band, she was asked to join as back up singer and keyboard player. She agreed, partly because she liked being a musician and playing live, but more because it gave her the best opportunity to spend time with John McVie. Eventually, the band moved from London to Los Angeles. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were recruited to join the band, and Fleetwood Mac became the band that we all came to know and love.

Fleetwood Mac during the recording of the Rumours album. From the left: Lindsey Buckingham, Christine McVie, Mick Fleetwood, Stevie Nicks and John McVie.

Unbeknownst to most fans at the time, there was a lot of internal friction present all throughout the making of the Rumours album and tour. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham, who had been a couple, split up in a very acrimonious and public manner. In a more quiet and private way, Christine separated from her husband, John. Yet the band carried on and made some of Rock’s greatest music. Despite all of the bitter feelings that existed between members of the band, they always maintained their professionalism when it came to the music. Even though many of the songs they performed were written about each other, the band as a whole always came together and played the music for all it was worth and gave audiences everything they had. Through it all, Christine McVie was always viewed as a steadying influence. Her understated performing style contrasted well with Stevie Nicks’ flamboyance. Her calm centre contrasted with the volatility inherent within Lindsey Buckingham who, when angered, channeled his emotions through a violent style of guitar playing. Despite all of the ups and downs experienced by Fleetwood Mac, McVie stayed with the band until1998 when she announced her retirement. This life change coincided with the death of her father, whom she dearly loved and admired. In the time since she retired, Christine McVie had played with the band at a few reunion concerts. She also had released a couple of solo albums and had embarked on a tour with former bandmate Lindsey Buckingham as a musical duo. With her recent death, fans, peers and music critics alike have all been reassessing her career and have been kind in their evaluations. It takes a special type of person to possess the strength of character and the personal belief in oneself to willingly accept the role as the “glue” person in any group situation, but that’s who Christine McVie became during her time in Fleetwood Mac. Many have compared her to George Harrison, in that her talent was integral to the success of her band, but more often than not, recognition was given to other, more showy bandmates. Her calm demeanor and rock-solid countenance are being compared favourably to Harrison as well. Whatever the case, Christine McVie lived a long and productive life and has left a legacy of success that puts her in the same class with the best of those who have followed The Arts with their hearts. It is likely that it will take her death for many to realize what we have all lost.

Christine McVie at her piano.

I will close this post with a few words about today’s song, “Songbird”. This song was written by McVie during the recording sessions for the Rumours album in Los Angeles. The song was written near midnight one night when the rest of the band had finished recording and had left the studio. McVie has stated that she wrote the lyrics in less than an hour and wanted to lay down some tracks immediately so as to not lose any aspect of the song by waiting until morning. Unfortunately, the engineers had gone home, too. So Christine McVie stayed awake all night, playing the song over and over again until someone showed up in the morning to help with recording. When the rest of the band heard “Songbird” for the first time the next day, it was immediately decided that it was a song that Christine McVie was meant to sing alone and not with the rest of the band. So, going forward, “Songbird” became the song that often closed Fleetwood Mac concerts. When playing it, Christine McVie would sit at a piano at centre stage. Lindsey Buckingham would sit in the shadows and strum his guitar softly while McVie sat in the spotlight and sang. It was her song and her moment.

Rest in peace, Songbird.

The link to the video for the song “Songbird” by Fleetwood Mac, as sung by Christine McVie, can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

The link to the official obituary for Christine McVie can be found here.

The link to the official website for Fleetwood Mac can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this blog post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Tomorrow’s Top 40: Christmas Edition

In this edition of Tomorrow’s Top 40, I am going to take a look at some of the many new Christmas releases that are flooding the marketplace at the moment. With the tremendous success experienced by Mariah Carey a few decades ago with “All I Want For Christmas Is You”, the market for the next great original Holiday song is wide open. It seems to me that almost everyone who’s anyone has jumped into the Holiday music scene with a new album this season. For me, what sets a Holiday album apart is when an artist or band includes songs that go beyond the usual Christmas suspects heard ad nauseam in shopping malls, on our car radio, in restaurants and so on as November winds down and December gears up. So, with that in mind, here are ten new Holiday releases that are all hoping to be the one to put you in that festive mood. Enjoy.

Happiness (Is Christmas) by Kristin Chenoweth

Kristin Chenoweth is well known from her work on a variety of Broadway musicals such as Wicked. Needless to say, the lady can sing and has charm to boot. This Christmas album is filled with many original tunes that are sung with the dramatic flair of a seasoned professional singer who appears to be having the time of her life. I am not sure that there is a Carey-calibre hit on this album but that is ok. Happiness (Is Christmas) is packed with energy and sounds like a Broadway cast recording which should appeal to many listeners who are seeking something different from the usual Holiday fare like Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. If you are a Kristin Chenoweth fan during the non-Holiday portion of the year, then you’ll be a fan of this album, too. Here is “Happiness (Is Christmas)?Christmas Time Is Here”. ***There is no lyrics video for this song as of yet.

The Season by Steve Perry

That Steve Perry, former lead singer of the 1980s rock band Journey, has one of the best sets of pipes of any male singer around, is a hill that I am willing to die on. So, imagine my delight when I found out that he had re-emerged onto the music scene with a new Christmas album entitled The Season. However, the press release that accompanied this album spoke of Perry’s yearning to sing some “timeless classics” which is a code for singing the usual Christmas fare. There are no new songs written by Mr. Perry on this album. Instead, we have a stripped down, jazzed up, smoking-jacket-by-the-fire style of singing by Perry of Holiday standards such as Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”. If you think that an album of Steve Perry channeling his best Michael Bublé is your cup of tea, then you will like this album. I predict that fans of the band Journey will not. Here is “Silver Bells”. ***The lyric video is here.

Happy Holidays by Billy Idol

It was Billy Idol’s 67th birthday yesterday (as I type these words). One of the things that I always liked about Billy Idol is that he never seemed to take himself too seriously on stage. He always seemed to be in on the joke and, as such, he was a great entertainer all throughout his career. This was especially true once the big hits dried up in the 80s and 90s and he became more of a nostalgia act. It takes a certain type of singer to successfully transition from stadium rocker to Vegas-style lounge act, but Billy Idol has managed to make it seem effortless. His hit music always had great sound quality. Part of the reason for this was because of his deep singing voice. The combination of a rich singing voice and his comfort with being a lounge singer means that Billy Idol, unlike Steve Perry above, seems perfectly suited to croon out the “timeless classic” Christmas songs that we all know. Happy Holidays is a great album to listen to, especially if you visualize him curling his upper lip into a sneer with each mention of Santa. Here is “White Christmas”. ***The lyrics video is here. This video makes me laugh.

A Very Backstreet Christmas by The Backstreet Boys

When I think of the boy band craze of the 1980s and 90s, I remember a lot of singing that featured harmonies and a lot of choreographed dancing. Even though I cannot see the members of the Backstreet Boys while listening to this album to know if they are dancing or not, the harmonies certainly remain and shine through. This may sound like an obvious statement to make, but even though these guys are singing “timeless classic” tunes that we all are familiar with, they are doing so in a way that makes this album sound just like any other Backstreet Boys album. This is the very first Christmas album that they have released in the thirty years that they have been singing as a group. But, believe me when I tell you that their style of singing makes each song on this album instantly recognizable as a Backstreet Boys song, even if they are covering a song like “Last Christmas”, for instance. If you are a Backstreet Boys fan then you will love A Very Backstreet Christmas. Here is their cover of “Last Christmas”. ***The lyrics video is here.

Everybody Knows It’s Christmas by Chris Isaak

Mr. “Wicked Games” himself, Chris Isaak delivers a Christmas album that features almost all original music. On the standards such as “O Holy Night”, one could easily mistake him for Elvis, such is the rich timbre of his voice. Many of the original tunes on this album were written by Isaak and strike more of a rockabilly tone. His entry into the Carey-calibre derby is a song entitled “Almost Christmas”, which takes us through an afternoon of frantic Christmas shopping on December 24th. This song is whimsical and will make you smile. I am sure it will become a popular new entry into the modern day Christmas seasonal canon for years to come. All in all, Chris Isaak has delivered an album that is fresh and filled with great energy and superb singing. Don’t wait until Christmas Eve to download this terrific Christmas album. Here is “Almost Christmas”. ***There is no lyrics video for this song yet.

Pickin’ On Christmas by Davis Causey and Jay Smith

Pickin’ On Christmas is an instrumental Bluegrass Christmas album. For those of you who are not familiar with Davis Causey, he is a Bluegrass performer who has been making music for over sixty years! He was a session player extraordinaire for much of that time and over the course of his career has backed up a bevy of stars such as Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson, Bonnie Raitt and many more. The story behind this album is that it began two decades ago as a project that was never meant to be an album. Instead, Causey, along with his friend, Jay Smith, recorded these songs and created cds as gifts for their friends. Causey and Smith were good friends for many years, so when Smith passed away recently, Causey was asked how he would remember his friend. He answered by playing some of the tunes that they had recorded together. It was decided to make those informal gift cds into a polished professional record. The result is Pickin’ On Christmas. If you are fine with instrumental music then this album would be a great addition to your own collection of Holiday music. The musicianship on display is at a high level. Their take on these “timeless classics” is lovely and is done in a way that makes these familiar tunes uniquely their own. Excellent album. For what it is worth, it is my favourite album on this entire list. Here is “The Little Drummer Boy”. ***Remember, this is an instrumental album so there is no lyrics video for this song.

A Family Christmas by Andrea, Matteo and Virginia Bocelli

In order to appreciate what this album adds to the Holiday music canon, I want you to imagine what it must have been like to grow up in a family where your father is an internationally famous tenor. When I imagine this scenario in my mind, I see images of growing up in a home filled with music and warmth. If that is what you see then we will both enjoy this Bocelli Family Christmas album. Matteo Bocelli is Andrea’s son and Virginia Bocelli is his daughter. Needless to say, the musical apple has not fallen far from the tree. Both Matteo (who is twenty years old) and Virginia (who is entering her teens) possess beautiful singing voices, just like their father. There seems to be an easy rapport between them all as they sing their way through the “timeless classics”, and somehow they manage to cover familiar musical ground in a manner that demonstrates the affection that they have for one another. If you are a fan of Tenor-style singing, then this album is a must-have for your collection. The music is simply gorgeous. Here is “The Greatest Gift”. ***The lyrics video is here. ***Both videos are excellent. Well worth checking out.

Santa Baby by Alicia Keys

I have been an Alicia Keys fan right from the release of her very first single, “Falling”, way back in the 1990s. Over the course of her career, she has sold over 66 million records. Santa Baby is her very first album of Christmas music. Of all the performers seeking to replicate Mariah Carey’s success, Alicia Keys stands the best chance simply because her original Christmas song, “December Back 2 June”, sounds the most like a Mariah Carey song. It is soulful, jazzy, bluesy and filled with soaring moments that seem to thrill listeners. Not only does this song sound like a song that Mariah Carey could be singing, but Alicia Keys even followed Carey’s writing formula by creating the lyrics and recording the song in the middle of the summer, just as Mariah Carey did for her hit song. While it remains to be seen if “December Back 2 June” reaches the same dizzying heights that “All I Want For Christmas Is You” did back in the day, don’t be surprised if it does. This song strikes me as one that was written with being a hit in mind. If you give it a listen and like it then the rest of the album will sit well with you, too. Here is “December Back 2 June”. ***Lyrics version is here.

Louis Armstrong Wishes You a Cool Yule by Louis Armstrong

The music industry is known for many things but one of the most suspect ones is the “posthumous release”. Many artists sign contracts with record labels that promise the label x-number of albums during a certain period of time. However, real life being what it is, sometimes an artist dies before fulfilling their contractual obligations. When that happens, record labels will often insist on having the terms of the contract met, which is why after an artist dies we often see the release of “Greatest Hits” albums and/or albums that were recorded live somewhere. The downside of this for the artist is that the artist has no control over what is released in their name. As a result, sometimes a record label will release an album of outtakes, b-sides and rarities that the artists would never have released if they had been alive. So, I always view posthumous releases with a wary eye. With Louis Armstrong Wishes You a Cool Yule I needn’t have worried. This album is a collection of Holiday recordings from over the course of his career. It includes duets with Ella Fitzgerald and a spoken word rendition by Satchmo, himself, of “The Night Before Christmas”. In short, as posthumous releases go, Louis Armstrong Wishes You a Cool Yule defies convention and is actually wonderful in all regards. It would make an excellent soundtrack to a Holiday dinner I would imagine. Here is “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as read by Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. ***The lyrics version is here.

A Neil Diamond Christmas by Neil Diamond

Our tenth and final Christmas album under review is A Neil Diamond Christmas by the man, himself, Neil Diamond. Over the course of his career, Neil Diamond has released four albums of Christmas music. This latest album cherry picks from those four albums to create an album that is not quite a “Greatest Hits” album but one that purports to be Neil’s favourite songs from those four albums. Needless to say, the music is very orchestral, soaring often on the strength of Diamond’s rich voice. In the same way that the Backstreet Boys Christmas album still sounded like a Backstreet Boys album even though they were covering familiar holiday songs, Neil Diamond’s Christmas album sounds like a Neil Diamond album, too. If you are a fan of the man, then you will enjoy this album of his favourite Christmas classics. Here is “The Christmas Song” from this album. ***There is no lyrics version for this song.

I hope that you enjoyed this post and that you were able to find something from this list that might find its way into your home during the holiday season. If not, then I know that there is no shortage of “timeless classics” playing everywhere you go. One way or another, may your holidays be filled with joy and love and, of course, with good music, too.

***As an editorial note, this is the final Tomorrow’s Top 40 post for 2022. For the next few Thursdays, I am going to use this space to talk about the stories behind some of those very same “timeless classic” songs that make up the soundtrack to our holidays. See you all then. Take care. Thanks for tuning in and reading my words. I appreciate your presence here on my blog. Bye for now. Happy Holidays.

The links to the official websites for Kristin Chenoweth, Steve Perry, Billy Idol, the Backstreet Boys, Davis Causey, Alicia Keys, Chris Isaak, Andrea Bocelli, Louis Armstrong and Neil Diamond can be found by clicking on their names above.

***As always, all original content contained within this blog post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Fame by Irene Cara from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, Fame…Song #24/250: The Stars of Stage and Screen

One of the great truisms of being an educator is that the students under your care are all unique individuals. They enter into your classroom with varied life experiences, states of intellectual readiness and physical health, minds and hearts filled with hopes and dreams that are theirs alone and, of course, you have those who don’t want to be there at all and would rather still be tucked safely and warmly in their beds. As a teacher, I always built my programme around the fact that I shouldn’t expect all of my students to learn the curriculum in the exact same manner nor at the exact same speed. I had to find ways to help each child to be successful on their own terms. So, each school year, I tasked myself with creating 20-30 individualized academic programmes of instruction and ran them in a collective social setting. What made this easier for me is that, in reality, in any classroom setting the majority of the students fall into a fairly broad band of academic achievement that roughly translates to being in “the middle”. These would be the students who traditionally earned “B”s and “C”s on their report card. While there would be slight variations between these students, most were successful most of the time and were on course to successfully meet the requirements for that particular grade level. At the opposite end of those students who were in “the middle” were those students who struggled mightily and those students at the top end who excelled. While educators often spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about how to help those students who are struggling, that will not be the topic of today’s post. Instead, for a change, we are going to focus on the needs of those kids who excel.

Photo of a young Scarlett Johansson when she was a student at the Professional Children's School in New York City.
Actress Scarlett Johansson when she was enrolled at the Professional Children’s School in NYC.

Despite how it may seem, it isn’t always easy to be an academic rock star in a regular classroom setting. One of the main reasons for that is simply boredom. When you possess tremendous skills and knowledge, it can become frustrating to always have to be waiting for your peers to catch up to where you got to a long time ago. In the public school system where I was a teacher, students who excelled at a tremendous rate could be tested for academic giftedness. If the testing process revealed that a student was, in fact, functioning at a gifted level then, a whole host of additional programming options could, in theory, be made available to that child. In other countries, there are whole schools established with the sole mandate of helping children who have displayed giftedness in The Arts or in Athletics, for example. Today’s post begins at one such school in the US called The Professional Children’s School. This school was established in New York City in 1914. It was run for the benefit of children who worked professionally in some facet of the entertainment industry in New York. A quick look at the names of some of those who have graduated from the PCS is to read a veritable Who’s-Who of the entertainment world. Professional Children’s School alumni include Yo-Yo Ma, Beverly Sills, Marvin Hamlisch, Buddy Rich, Vanessa Carlton, Milton Berle, Peggy Lipton, Lorna Luft, Macaulay Culkin, Carrie Fisher, Elliott Gould, Scarlett Johansson and many, many more, including a young singer and dancer named Irene Cara.

Head shot of actress Irene Cara smiling.
Irene Cara.

Irene Cara was enrolled in the Children’s Professional School in the 1970s. While a student there (and then later upon graduation), Cara earned roles in many Broadway plays and musicals and had some small supporting roles in soap operas and television serials. In 1979, Cara showed up to try out as an extra for a new movie that was inspired by the musical, A Chorus Line. This movie was centred upon a group of young people in a school for the arts who were all trying to break into the world of show business. When Cara performed her audition for a role as an extra, the producers were blown away by her singing voice and by her onscreen presence. In fact, the producers of Fame ended up creating an entirely new character for the movie named Coco Hernandez and gave the role to Irene Cara. Not only that, they had Cara sing the title track to the movie. The song called “Fame….I’m Gonna Live Forever” announced Irene Cara’s arrival as a star! The movie, Fame, became a huge box office hit. Cara won the first of her two Academy Awards for Best Song. She would win her second Oscar shortly thereafter for the song, “Flashdance…What a Feeling!”. Not long after Fame ended its theatrical run, word came out that the story being told in the movie was going to be continued in a television series. Many of the original movie cast signed on to reprise their roles on the small screen. Many assumed that Irene Cara would do so as well, but she declined that opportunity and her role was given to a new actress. Cara justified her decision to turn her back on the role of Coco Hernandez by saying that she believed that many other movie roles awaited her in Hollywood and that she didn’t want to become typecast as Coco just as her career was beginning.

The television version of Fame enjoyed a few seasons of success on network TV before being canceled. Meanwhile, Irene Cara had teamed up with music producer Giorgio Moroder to write the hit song, “Flashdance…What a Feeling!” for the movie of the same name that starred Jennifer Beals as a wannabe dancer searching for her big break. Around the same time, Cara starred in a sequel to the television mini-series, Roots called Roots: the Next Generation. Irene Cara received a Golden Globes nomination for her role as author Alex Haley’s grandmother in this continuing saga. As the 1980s reached their midway point, Irene Cara was one of the brightest names in the entire world of the entertainment industry. And then, it all went away for her.

Movie poster for Fame.Top half shows the word, FAME in lights. The bottom half of the poster shows students rehearsing on a stage.

Another one of life’s truisms is that history is told by the victors and not the vanquished. It is difficult for me to say with any certainty exactly what happened to cause the downfall of Irene Cara’s career but some facts are known and I will share them with you now. As Irene Cara became a bigger and bigger star, she began to receive career advice from other people who were stars in the world of music and television. Those people were becoming concerned about how Irene Cara was being managed by her management team. Specifically, they advised Cara to have independent lawyers look into the terms of her management contract because they felt she was being denied royalties to her music that were rightfully hers. With hit songs such as “Fame” and “Flashdance” under her belt, Irene Cara should have been earning enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle. But, the fact was that she was continuing to live paycheque to paycheque. So, Irene Cara hired new lawyers and soon launched a lawsuit against her own management team in an attempt to recoup lost royalties she felt she was owed. Because Cara had little money of her own to begin with, her management team countered with a succession of lawsuits that essentially bankrupted Cara. The lawsuits dragged on for over a decade. By the time the dust settled, Cara had won a settlement of 1.5 million dollars. Not long after the decision of the court was issued, her management team declared bankruptcy itself. This caused Cara to have to begin new lawsuits aimed at recouping a fraction of that settlement, with her as a creditor. All throughout the time she was engaged in her legal battles, Cara began finding it harder and harder to get work in the entertainment industry. She claimed that her management team had placed her name on a blacklist that prohibited others from hiring her. Her former management team denied this and countered her claim by stating that Irene Cara had always had a reputation for being difficult to work with, and on top of that had become addicted to cocaine and was, in fact, the author of her own misfortune, and that it all had nothing to do with them. What the real story is, I cannot say but, the reality was that toward the end of her career, Irene Cara’s only source of income was from doing voice-over work for commercials and for animated movies. As many of you may know, Irene Cara passed away recently at age 63. The exact cause of her death is unknown.

Facade of The Professional Children's School in New York City. Banners with the school name hang down over the sidewalk.
The Professional Children’s School in NYC.

One of the things that I learned from being a teacher was that ensuring the academic success of my students was only one part of my role in their lives. The physical, social and emotional health of my students was of equal importance and required just as much attention from me as did all of the ABCs and 1-2-3s of the world. I have often felt sorry for young performers such as Irene Cara, Macaulay Culkin, Michael Jackson and others who achieved great fame at a very early age. It must be tough to bear the weight of the responsibility for million dollar entertainment franchises when you are still so young that you don’t even really know who you are as a person yet. One of the goals of The Professional Children’s School was to provide counseling services for their students to help them deal with the pressure that comes from being so famous at such a young age. That such services are necessary speaks to the cutthroat nature of the world in which Irene Cara found herself as she left her teens and entered her twenties. To protect such children from ruthless promoters was one of the reasons that The Professional Children’s School was started over a century ago and why it still exists today. At the end of the day, it can’t be easy to be gifted with such talent. Somewhere along the way, balance becomes equally as important as ambition and intellect and creativity and talent. Irene Cara’s story stands as a cautionary tale, not only for those with exceptional talent but also, for those who surround them. It is important to strive for greatness, for sure but, it is also important to love and be loved for that is the true path to happiness.

The link to the video for the song “Fame…I’m Gonna Live Forever” by Irene Cara from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film Fame can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

The link to the video for the song, “Flashdance…What a Feeling” by Irene Cara from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film Flashdance can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the film Fame can be found here.

The link to the official website for Irene Cara can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Professional Children’s School can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this blog post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

The Unicorn by The Irish Rovers…Song #24: The Great Canadian Road Trip

A dear friend of mine who is a Teacher-Librarian at a nearby school to where I live recently wrote an impassioned blog post about the importance of reading aloud to children. She spoke about some of her favourite chapter books and how they were brought to life for her as a young girl because of the way her teachers read to her and her classmates. Her post *(which you can read here) seems like an obvious thing for a teacher to preach, but as she said, with the arrival of COVID-19 and the increased use of facial masks, along with a younger generation of teachers who, themselves, have grown up using technology to read their words, rather than books, she had noted a marked decrease in the number of classrooms in her school where being read to aloud was a regular part of a student’s day.

Her post struck a chord with me because when I was teaching, reading aloud to my students was my absolute favourite part of my day! I am an introverted person most of the time so reading great literature aloud gave me permission to tap into my theatrical side. I loved the cadence of wonderfully written language. I enjoyed reading “in character” by altering my voice and adopting accents and so on. But, most of all, I found great pleasure in inviting children into the magical world of stories. Helping to ignite a passion for reading is one of the most satisfying aspects of my job as a teacher. Not only is reading a crucial life skill but the ability to use your imagination, to be a problem-solver and to develop an appreciation for characters and cultures different from your own all play out in stories…especially, in stories read aloud by someone you trust.

The front cover of the book, "Where The Sidewalk Ends" by poet Shel Silverstein.

In June of 2018, as the date of my retirement approached, I tasked myself with the job of clearing out my classroom so that the incoming teacher wouldn’t have to deal with piles of resources that he or she may not have wanted. Among the resources to be cleared out were almost 2000 books. Over the course of my thirty year career, I had accumulated a vast in-class library of fiction and non-fiction books. I had them organized by subject in bins on shelves all around our classroom where they could be accessed by my students. As the end of that final school year approached, I was lucky to have another teacher come along and ask about what I intended to do with my classroom library. I ended up giving it all to her. The day she came to take them away, we discovered that I had seventy-two bins of books. Somehow she managed to get them all into a truck. I hope that some or all of those books turned out to be useful to her and that she is sharing them with her students even as I type these words. However, before this lady came to take my books away, I went through my own collection and pulled out thirty books that were important to me for various reasons….one book for each year that I was a classroom teacher. Those books I took home. Each time I look at them I am reminded of what it felt like to be involved in the journey that each child took when they walked through our classroom door and what a privilege it was to be their teacher. One of those thirty special books was a book of poetry for children called Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein.

A photograph of a copy of the page from "Where The Sidewalk Ends" that contains his poem, "The Unicorn".
At once a children’s poem and also a hit song for The Irish Rovers.

The poetry of Shel Silverstein was silly and subversive at the same time. It dealt with topics that young children could relate to such as fear of the dark, the perils of laziness, dealing with parents and/or siblings and much, much more. The language used by Silverstein was sometimes simple and many times lyrical. I used this book (and several of his other books of poetry) with every group of students I ever taught from the very first year I bought this book (Year #3 of my career), all the way to that very last class in 2018. By the time I took that book home with me in the summer sunshine, it was threadbare and falling apart from overuse…as all loved books should be. But something magical lay buried within the pages of this book. It was there in all those classrooms over the years. It was there before I ever bought the book. It lies there now for you to discover should you ever care to look for yourselves. The treasure buried within the pages of this great book is a hit song! It is true! On pages 76 and 77 of “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is a poem called The Unicorn. This poem was written by Shel Silverstein as a commentary on religion and inclusion and silliness. It concerns the biblical story of Noah’s Ark and how he created a floating zoo and how the unicorns were invited in but were too busy playing games to see the danger all around them from the rising flood waters (which explains why children can never see a real unicorn in the wild anymore says Silverstein). This poem would have remained strictly a moralistic tale for children if not for the fact that a group of Irish immigrants to Canada chose it as a song for their debut album. That group became the Irish Rovers and their version of “The Unicorn” went all the way to #1 in Canada, selling over 8 million records in all, making it the biggest hit song in their whole career.

Four members of the Irish Rovers in a row holding an accordion, an acoustic guitar, nothing and an acoustic guitar.
The Irish Rovers in the early days.

The Irish Rovers got their name from an old song called The Irish Rover , which chronicles the journey taken by a ship back in the days of exploration and discovery. It is a fantastical tale of adventure and ruin and has been a popular drinking song in Ireland for generations. The Irish Rovers band was formed in the 1960s in Toronto when a man named Will Millar met another man named Jimmy Ferguson and the two spent the evening singing and drinking and singing some more. Millar introduced Ferguson to his brothers George, Joe and Ian who, in turn, were joined by an accordion player named John Reynolds. Together, the boys in the band became one of the driving forces behind making Irish/Celtic music popular in Canada and around the world. The Irish Rovers eventually became Canadian citizens at the behest of then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, who then proclaimed them to be official Canadian ambassadors of music and sent them off to tour around the world under the banner of the Canadian red maple leaf flag. The Irish Rovers launched their career with “The Unicorn”, but they had plenty of other hits, including “Wasn’t That a Party?!”, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”, “Finnegan’s Wake” and “Black Velvet Band”. Not only did the Irish Rovers have a number of hit songs, but they were also television stars in Canada. The Irish Rovers hosted several iterations of the same variety show over the course of two decades. The shows would be set in a pub-like locale and would see the band play several tunes, along with a few celebrity guests who would show up, from time to time. One of my favourite university memories was getting to go to a live taping of an episode of “Party With The Rovers” in 1983.

Lead singer of The Irish Rovers, Will Millar and the band's former manager, Les Weinstein, arm in arm, holding glasses of beer.
A recent photo of Will Millar of The Irish Rovers and Les Weinstein, the band’s former manager and father of my roommate in university, Lisa Weinstein.

During my first year of university I lived in a student apartment complex in Toronto called Neill-Wycik College. My building was twenty-three stories tall and consisted of apartment units that housed four, five or six students at a time. Each unit had a common kitchen/living room area, two shared bathrooms and a bedroom for each student. In my first year, I was part of a six-person unit. There were three guys and three girls living together in what became a sort of family set-up. Being new to such a big city, it was helpful to have a group of people to explore the city with and to learn how to develop consistent cooking, cleaning and studying routines. One of the girls I lived with was a young lady named Lisa Weinstein. Lisa was taking the same Radio and Television Broadcasting course that I was. But, for the sake of this story, what is most important to note about Lisa was that her father was a man named Les Weinstein. Mr. Weinstein was an executive with a fledgling Canadian record label named Nettwerk Records. Nettwerk Records began by signing and promoting bands such as Skinny Puppy and The Grapes of Wrath. They would eventually gain fame by signing and developing a young female singer from Halifax named Sarah McLachlan. One of the other bands that was managed by Mr. Weinstein at Nettwerk Records was The Irish Rovers. So, when they were filming for their new series, Lisa asked us, as her roommates, if we wanted to attend a taping. We readily agreed and off we went. As mentioned, the set was designed to look like an Irish pub. Instead of sitting behind the cameras in bleachers, where many shows place their audience, we were seated at round tables meant to resemble how tables would be set in a real pub. Because of this, the audience was on camera as much as the singers were. One of the rules we were given before taping began was that there could never be an empty beer glass seen on a table. So, between each take, crew members would wander around and refill every glass! My glass was refilled four or five times, at least! I can’t quite remember to be sure. The members of the band drank with us drink for drink. By the time the show ended with a boozy rendition of “The Black Velvet Band” with guest star, Tommy Makem, I can barely remember applauding and stumbling home. But I do remember how personable the Irish Rovers all were and that It was a fun evening. If Lisa had asked, I am sure we would have all gone back again and again to the tapings.

Five mugs of ice cold beer being held aloft.
Here’s to you all!!!

It is funny how life is sometimes. Men from Ireland formed a band in Canada named after an Irish sea shanty. They had a hit song with a children’s poem from a book that I valued more than most in my own classroom library. But, before ever becoming a teacher, I drank beers with the band on the set of their show simply because I had the great good fortune to be roommates with their manager’s daughter. Although it may be a good story, it is one that I never shared with my students because I didn’t feel as though a story about their teacher getting hammered on free beer with the Irish Rovers was a suitable tale to tell. But, let me tell you, every time I opened that book in class and saw that poem I remembered. I remembered every moment of it all. And furthermore, unlike every other Shel Silverstein poem in that book, “The Unicorn” was one I couldn’t just read….it was one I had to sing.

The link to the video for the song “The Unicorn” by The Irish Rovers can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

The link to the official website for The Irish Rovers can be found here.

The link to the video for the original Irish song, “The Irish Rover” as performed by The Dubliners and The Pogues can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

The studio in which the “Party With The Rovers” show was filmed was in Don Mills, Ontario. The official website for Don Mills, Ontario can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Fanfare Rondeau by Jean-Joseph Mouret…Composition #22/50: Keepin’ It Classy

The dashing composer Jean-Joseph Mouret

“Fanfare Rondeau” was composed by Jean-Joseph Mouret as part of his Suite De Symphonies in 1729 which makes this composition almost three hundred years old! It is certainly one of the oldest pieces of music that I have ever commented on in a post format such as this. In addition to that, “Fanfare Rondeau” is the only composition of Mouret’s to still be played today with any regularity. Thus, not only is this the oldest work to appear in any music series of mine, it also makes Jean-Joseph Mouret the original one-hit wonder! Like all of the music featured in Keepin’ It Classy, “Fanfare Rondeau” is a piece of music that you will recognize from the opening notes. In fact, although this composition was well-received at the time of its creation, it has become even more popular today because of its association with a famous TV show. So let’s take a closer look at this noteworthy composition and the man who created it. Here is the story of “Fanfare Rondeau” by Jean-Joseph Mouret.

During his lifetime, Jean-Joseph Mouret was quite a famous and popular composer. As a young man, he was noted for his quick wit, stylish disposition and the ease with which he moved in the social circles of the French nobility. While barely into his twenties, Mouret fell under the protective patronage of Anne, the Duchess of Maine. Anne was originally a member of the House of Bourbon, which was a powerful political family in aristocratic circles in France. In a marriage of political convenience, she became married to Louis-Auguste, the illegitimate son of King Louis XIV. The Duchess of Maine used her influential position to promote French culture and the Arts. She became known for the banquets she held and for the musical performances she commissioned. For the position of Surintendant de la Musique, she selected the young Jean-Joseph Mouret. He quickly fell into his role as a valued member of the Duchess of Maine’s royal court and created hundreds of compositions in her honour that became the featured music played during her feasts. Consequently, Mouret enjoyed much favour among the aristocracy and was able to live a life of relative luxury for a man who had no royal bloodline of his own.

(Agen) Portrait de Marie-Anne de Bourbon, princesse de Conti 1690-91- François de Troy – Musée des Beaux-Arts d’Agen

Because the vast majority of the music he created was never performed outside of the royal ballrooms of the Duke and Duchess of Maine, Mouret’s work never became popular in the larger, more commercial sense. In fact, the only time Jean-Joseph Mouret ventured beyond the protective confines of the royal household, his efforts met with disastrous results. At that time in France, the Catholic Church was a powerful presence in the political landscape. Consequently, religious observances were strictly adhered to by most everyone. For example, during the period known as Lent, all opera houses in Paris closed their doors out of respect for the Catholic Church. However, not everyone in France was Catholic, and it was felt that The Arts should continue during Lent as long as they were such that all performances had thematic aspects that respected the religious tone of the times. Thus, a series of public concerts were organized that became known as Concerts Spirituel. These concerts were originally organized by someone else but soon the series fell into financial ruin. In his position of Surintendant de la Musique in the royal court, Jean-Joseph Mouret was asked to come in and take over the leadership of these secular concerts. Mouret was delighted to have been approached and saw this as an opportunity to expand his influence beyond the walls of the royal palace. However, it turned out that the members of the nobility had sworn their allegiance to the Catholic Church, and they refused to follow their favourite composer into the public world of Parisian music. Not long after agreeing to head the Concerts Spirituel series, Mouret was forced to declare bankruptcy. It was a shameful and humiliating moment for Mouret. Afterwards, he was forced to return to his duties at the behest of the Duchess of Maine having had any political or career ambitions stripped from him leaving him effectively neutered in the eyes of those in the royal court. For the remainder of his life, he composed music for the Duchess and her friends…and never again for anyone else.

As mentioned, there is only one piece of Mouret’s entire musical catalogue that has survived the passage of time and that is a piece of music entitled “Fanfare Rondeau”. As you may know, a fanfare is a piece of music that is often played when someone of importance is being welcomed into a place where a crowd has gathered. In Mouret’s case, his “Fanfare Rondeau” was commissioned to announce the arrival of the Duke and Duchess of Maine into the royal ballroom. In musical terms, a rondeau is a segment of music that is part of a sequence of structured movements called musical forms. Back during the Baroque Period of classical music, the use of the standardized musical form compositional structure was common practice. In that common structure, the rondeau was considered to be the first segment of the musical form (which often consisted of three to four parts). Thus, in his Suites de Symphonies, the rondeau was the introductory segment of the symphony and because it was being used to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Maine into the ballroom, the rondeau was also considered to be a fanfare, thus the piece became known as “Fanfare Rondeau”.

This composition was very popular when it debuted. It became the standard introductory fanfare used to welcome royal visitors into any royal court in France thereafter. But what ensured the continued relevance of “Fanfare Rondeau” no longer has anything to do with the shiny people of the noble class. Instead, what made this composition so well known and popular today was its selection as the opening theme for the PBS television series, Masterpiece Theater. The producers of Masterpiece Theater wanted to bring a sense of the importance of art and culture into the living rooms of regular Americans by showcasing some of the finest theatrical plays and movies available. In order to give their programmes a regal air, the producers selected “Fanfare Rondeau” as their show’s opening theme. Masterpiece Theater has been one of the flagship shows on the entire PBS network, and as such, the playing of “Fanfare Rondeau” has come to represent PBS, as a whole, in the eyes of the world. Although Jean-Joseph Mouret has long since passed away, his ability to capture the essence of upper class refinement in music has granted him a sense of immortality that finally extends his name beyond the walls of the royal palace of the Duke and Duchess of Maine in France. The proof that the name of Jean-Joseph Mouret lives on will be seen in the fact that you will know his music the second it begins. His “Fanfare Rondeau” has become synonymous with classiness and refinement. Undoubtedly, this would make Mouret proud.

The link to the video for the composition “Fanfare Rondeau” by Jean-Joseph Mouret can be found here.

The link to the video for the playing of the opening theme to Masterpiece Theatre on PBS can be found here.

The link to the official website for Jean-Joseph Mouret can be found here.

The link to the world’s greatest classical music station…Classical FM 103.1…broadcasting out of my hometown of Cobourg, Ontario, Canada can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this blog post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Good Vibrations by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch…Song #18/250: Reader’s Choice

One of the most successful and heavily promoted music groups of the 1980s was a boy band known as New Kids on the Block. They had a string of hits such as “Hanging Tough”, “You Got It (The Right Stuff)”, “I’ll Be Loving You Forever”, “Cover Girl” and many more. The five original members of NKOTB all hailed from the Boston area (which will become important as this story rolls along). One of those original guys in the band was named Donnie Wahlberg. He had a younger brother named Mark. This is where the story of today’s post begins.

The Wahlberg brothers grew up in Dorchester, Massachusetts, which is a suburb of Boston. Dorchester used to be a city unto itself but was incorporated into the municipality of Boston proper. Initially, Dorchester was a mainly white community founded by Puritans who arrived from England and Ireland centuries ago. However, after amalgamation, Dorchester saw an influx of immigrants arrive, making it one of the most diverse cities along America’s eastern seaboard today. Like many in the Boston area, the Wahlbergs identified with Irish heritage (which at the time for a teenage boy like Mark Wahlberg meant white culture). You don’t have to look very hard in Boston to find indicators of Irish culture. (The Boston Celtic basketball team, bands such as The Dropkick Murphys…my favourite faux Irish band, etc…, are everywhere you go.) So, when Donnie Wahlberg suddenly became a huge music star with New Kids on the Block, it gave his little brother, Mark, a larger sense of self-importance than most boys his age have earned the right to have. With his ego large, young Mark Wahlberg turned to crime. Specifically, he was charged with several violent, racially-motivated crimes against Black and Asian families who had recently moved into the Dorchester area. In fact, one assault was so serious that Mark Wahlberg was charged with attempted murder (which ended up being plea-bargained down to felony assault, for which Wahlberg served time in jail as a young man).

Mary Mark and the Funky Bunch. Note the “Irish” green.

After having completed his sentence, Mark Wahlberg faced an uncertain future. The one thing he had going for him was that he was handsome and strong…and he had a brother who was a music star. Mark worked with Donnie and with his brother’s management team to see if he had the talent to follow in his brother’s footsteps. As it turned out, Mark Wahlberg wanted to try rapping (after seeing the success of Vanilla Ice). With the help of Donnie and some DJs who were skilled in the emerging art of sampling, Mark Wahlberg organized them all into a band that went by the name Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Their first album was called Music for the People. The first single was called “Good Vibrations”. This song went all the way to #1 on the charts and stayed in the Top 40 for almost a full year! The highlight of the song for many was the combination of some stellar piano playing, Mark Wahlberg’s rapping and the soaring vocal sample taken from a lady named Loleatta Holloway (who was given a co-songwriting credit because of the sample, even though she never recorded a single note for the song). Despite the fact that this song reached the top of the charts, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were never able to replicate its success, and so “Good Vibrations” can really be considered their only true hit.

Mark Wahlberg’s iconic Calvin Klein ad. He is 21 years old in this photo.

While the song certainly possesses a funked up groove, it was really the accompanying music video that took Mark Wahlberg straight to the top. In the video for “Good Vibrations”, Wahlberg appears shirtless for most of it. At the time, Mark Wahlberg possessed a physique that was toned and chiseled. His body and his tough guy image that he projected set many hearts a flutter. Sex appeal has long been known to sell merchandise and this was certainly the case with Marky Mark. As a result of the overwhelmingly positive reception his six pack abs received as a result of this video, Wahlberg was signed to be a Calvin Klein underwear model. In the end, he became as famous for appearing in his underwear on billboards (alone or with model Kate Moss) as he ever did as a singer. Many others wondered how they could get themselves into the same physical shape that he managed to do and so he was approached to put together exercise videos. The story of his fitness regimes is more important than many casual fans realize and impacted his career for years thereafter.

Mark Wahlberg and “Irish” Micky Ward at the premiere of the movie, The Fighter.

When Mark and Donnie Wahlberg were putting together the music for “Good Vibrations”, there existed a famous boxer from nearby Lowell, Massachusetts, called “Irish” Micky Ward. Ward fought several times for the Lightweight title and is most known for a trilogy of matches against Montreal’s own Arturo “Thunder” Gatti. Ward won the initial match against Gatti while losing the rematch and tie breaker. However, many who watch boxing will tell you that those three matches were among the best boxing matches of all time, and that both boxers earned their sterling reputations in the ring during those bouts against the other. In fact, two of those three matches ended up being ranked as “The Fight of the Year” by Ring Magazine. So, when the Irish-influenced kid, Mark Wahlberg, decided that he needed training in the art of boxing for his video for “Good Vibrations”, he turned to “Irish” Micky Ward. It was because of Ward’s training that Wahlberg developed his chiseled physique and authentic boxing moves. But there is more to the story than that. As many of you know, Mark Wahlberg left the music business and went into acting after his modeling days came to an end. He gained fame in movies such as Boogie Nights, The Perfect Storm and Planet of the Apes. My daughters know him best from a series of movies called Daddy’s Home (with Will Ferrell). But the movie that Wahlberg is most closely associated with was a movie that earned him many awards and nominations called The Fighter. This movie is the biopic based on the life of boxer “Irish” Micky Ward. In fact, there are many Irish connections at play here…Canada’s favourite faux-Irish band, The Mahones *(who were profiled last week in a post that you can read here) contributed a song to the soundtrack of The Fighter called “Paint the Town Red”. It is the band’s biggest hit. As well, Boston’s own The Dropkick Murphys’ most successful album was called The Warrior’s Code. The title track was a song dedicated to “Irish” Micky Ward, who also graces the album’s front cover. *(You can watch that video here).

Mark Wahlberg, like so many of us, is certainly a product of his environment. He grew up Irish-proud and immigrant-phobic but, over time, he has become able to embrace the positive side of his cultural roots without doing so by downgrading the right to cultural pride by groups who differ from himself. Not knowing the man personally, I cannot say for sure whether that is truly the person he has become or whether it is because of his understanding of how to project an image in the public spotlight. But what I can say for sure is that he has managed to create several onscreen characters that the people in my family like, and in particular, he has created one funky song that really appeals to my wife. So, I dedicate this post to my beautiful wife, Keri. I hope that it brings a smile to your face and a skip to your step. Thanks for being the driving force in our home for bringing the music of boy bands to the forefront. I know that you had New Kids on the Block posters on your bedroom walls growing up so this is something that makes you a product of your environment as well. As boy band songs go, “Good Vibrations” is one that even I can listen to and appreciate. Thanks for being you, dear.

***As a reminder, I take requests. Any genre. Any era. Send me your song/artist/band suggestions and I will do whatever I can to bring those stories to life in a post just like this one. Feel free to leave your requests in the comment box below. Thanks.

The link to the video for the song “Good Vibrations” by Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

The official website for Mark Wahlberg can be found here.

The trailer for the movie, The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Tomorrow’s Top 40: First Aid Kit, Lido Pimiento, Soweto Gospel Choir and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

Welcome to another edition of Tomorrow’s Top 40. These artists that I am about to highlight all have recently released new material that is noteworthy in one regard or another. I encourage you to give each artist your attention because, as you know, these songs that you are hearing today could all potentially be tomorrow’s Top 40. So, let’s goooooooo!

Palomino by First Aid Kit

Johanna and Klara Soderberg of First Aid Kit. Both sisters are singing at a microphone and each are playing a guitar, too.
Johanna and Klara Soderberg of First Aid Kit.

I have written in the past about what life was like during the early stages of the COVID pandemic and how I used some of that time in lockdown as a way to discover new artists and bands. While I have spoken mostly about bands such as Idles and Fontaine DC, a third group that caught my attention and held it was First Aid Kit. This duo is composed of Swedish sisters, Johanna and Klara Soderberg. I first discovered them when they released their amazing cover of “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush *(before it became a monster hit for Bush via the TV show, Stranger Things, when it seemed as though every artist was covering that song. You can watch that video here). Because I watched that video, the YouTube algorithms took me to more of their work. It was all equally interesting. They did a second amazing cover…this time for “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. The thing about that video is that they performed the song live at a Royal Gala concert with Paul Simon in attendance. Well, when the song ended, Simon jumped to his feet and gave a standing ovation. What made that noteworthy was that he had broken royal protocol by doing so before the Swedish King had risen. I guess it was a bit of a diplomatic incident. *(You can watch that video here). The third video of theirs that I saw was an original song by them called “Emmylou”. This song was written about the legendary singer, Emmylou Harris. First Aid Kit performed it for her and did such a good job that it brought Harris to tears. *(You can watch that performance here).

For fifteen years now, Johanna and Klara Soderberg have been perfecting their musical craft. They harmonize beautifully. Their voices are strong and clear. Their respect for those pioneers who have paved the way for their own success is clearly shown. Now, they have a new album of original music called Palomino. From that album, the first single is called “A Feeling That Never Came”. First Aid Kit is easily one of my favourite discoveries of the last five years. Give them a listen and they might just become the same for you as well. Their latest song, “A Feeling That Never Came”, can be heard here. ***The lyrics version is here.

Miss Colombia by Lido Pimienta

Lido Pimiento faces the camera. She is wearing a pointed tiara-like crown. She is wearing colourful feather boas and a pink gown.
Lido Pimienta

Lido Pimienta is a Colombian-born singer/artist/activist who has lived in Canada for the past decade or so. She came into the national spotlight in 2016 when she released an album of original music called La Papessa which went on to be declared the Album of the Year in Canada and which helped her to win the Polaris Prize. Much of her music revolves around ethnicity and gender issues. Her latest release is called Miss Colombia. The album title stems from an infamous incident from a few years ago when the Miss World Pageant crown was mistakenly awarded to the contestant from Colombia by host Steve Harvey, only to have it taken away moments later when it was revealed that Harvey had misread the card he was given and had announced the wrong contestant’s country. That moment brought deep embarrassment to Steve Harvey, but it also brought deep anger to the country of Colombia and to many Colombians who were watching, such as Lido Pimienta. Her anger stemmed from the disrespect she felt on the world stage from being someone from Colombia. Pimienta stated that the country’s legacy of being colonized, along with its association with drug cartels has caused all Colombians to bear a mark of shame wherever they travel in the world and that she has never felt at home regardless of where she has lived.

The first song from her new album is sung entirely in Spanish and it sounds amazing! The video is worth watching because of the striking visuals involved and because of the story it tells. The song is called “Eso Que Tu Haces” which translates into “That Thing That You Do”. The story behind the song is of Colombian slaves seeking freedom. The video is set in a village called San Basilio de Palenque, which was the first “free town” for slaves seeking their freedom in Colombia. The dancers who appear in this video perform a series of modern and traditional dances that relate directly to the story of emancipation from slavery in Colombia. The music is excellent and the visuals are extraordinary. Lido Pimienta is definitely her own person, but if you need a comparable performer to measure her against, then someone with the artist pedigree of Bjork comes to mind. “Eso Que Tu Haces” is an incredible song that is well worth checking out. That it is sung entirely in Spanish didn’t affect my enjoyment in the least. Well worth checking out…which you can do here.

***Sorry, there isn’t an English lyrics version for this song…which is kind of the point of it all when it comes to Pimienta’s assertion that she and all Colombians should be accepted for who they are. Enjoy.

Hope by The Soweto Gospel Choir.

Ten members of the Soweto Gospel Choir sing in unison, each with their left arm raised toward the sky.
The Soweto Gospel Choir

If you know your history at all then you will be aware that Soweto is a city in South Africa and that it was one of the hotspots when it came to ending Apartheid in that country several decades ago. The Soweto Gospel Choir have been in existence for many years and have earned an international reputation for the beauty of their harmonies and the passion with which they sing and the pride with which they represent African culture. Over the years, The Soweto Gospel Choir have won numerous Grammy Awards for Best Traditional World Music Album. They have also toured with super stars such as Robert Plant and Peter Gabriel (who co-wrote a song of theirs that was included in the WALL-E soundtrack, which was nominated for an Academy Award).

Their latest album, Hope, is their first in four years. It is filled with covers of songs from the US Civil Rights movement, along with original music from the era of resistance to Apartheid in their home country of South Africa. On Hope, they cover Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder and Hugh Masekela, among others. The Soweto Gospel Choir was originally sponsored by Reverend Desmond Tutu. They carry on his legacy by promoting a programme called the 46664 Campaign which, again if you know your history, was Nelson Mandela’s identification number while in prison. The first single is called “Stand Up”, which is an original song inspired by the best Gospel/Soul songs of the Civil Rights Movement from the US. That a choir from Africa can so accurately capture the spirit of resiliency and hope that the US Civil Rights marchers exuded just shows how universal the experience of racial oppression actually is and how connected Africans and African-Americans actually are. “Stand Up” is more than just a song, it is an anthem. I can picture this song winning awards before the coming year is through. You can listen to it here. ***There is no lyrics version of this song but a link to a print version of the lyrics to “Stand Up” is here.

Live in Cleveland ‘77 by Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes

Southside Johnny and Steven Van Zandt sing together at one microphone. Two horn players stand behind them, to their left.One has a trombone and the other has a saxophone.
Southside Johnny and “Miami” Steven Van Zandt and some of the Jukes.

In the early 1970s, Asbury, New Jersey was one of the hotbeds of rock n’ roll music in America. A young man named Bruce Springsteen was launching his career by playing epic sets in bars all up and down the Jersey shore. But he was not the only one doing so. At the time, there were other acts that were ripping it up as well. One of the most famous was a band called Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. The “Johnny” in question was a man named John Lyon. The use of a horn section that helped create a sound that encompassed Blues, Soul, as well as elements of the Beatles style of rock n’ roll was characteristic of a sound that came to be known as the Jersey Sound. The songs that Southside Johnny sang often dealt with the lives of working class people who found themselves in positions where they were underdogs. Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes put on live performances that rivaled the epic sets that their compatriot, Bruce Springsteen, became known for. Jon Bon Jovi is credited with stating that it was Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes who directly inspired him to become a singer.

As was the case with many bands, there was a lot of cross-pollination between bands in the Asbury scene in the 1970s. In fact, Bruce Springsteen regularly wrote songs for Southside Johnny to sing while guitarist Steve Van Zandt actually was a member of The Jukes until Springsteen went big. He was called “Miami Steve” back then. In any case, like many bands, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes had dreams of finding success beyond the borders of the Jersey shore. So, it was with much appreciation that they discovered their early tunes were being played on a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio. In gratitude for such support, the band traveled there and put on a couple of shows that were recorded live. At one of the shows, the band was supported by the legendary Ronnie Spector. She covered a hot tune at the time, “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” by a rising New York singer named Billy Joel. *(You can listen to that song here). Live in Cleveland ‘77 captures Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes in their prime. After listening to this album, it is easy to understand why Southside Johnny is considered an equal to Bruce Springsteen by many who were there at the time. If you have never heard this band before then, buckle up! They were truly something back in ‘77!

The link to the official website for First Aid Kit can be found here.

The link to the official website for Lido Pimienta can be found here.

The link to the website for The Soweto Gospel Choir can be found here.

The link to the official website for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Slow Ride by Foghat from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, Dazed and Confused…Song #23/250: The Stars of Stage and Screen

At the time of writing this post, I have two daughters who are both in their teenage years. All throughout their lives, they have been encouraged to ask my wife and I about anything that is on their minds. We have always believed that having open communication channels is important between parents and children. We want our girls to feel comfortable talking with us. I believe that they are comfortable talking to us because they are always asking us questions. “Where did you and Dad meet?” “Where did you go on your first date with your first boyfriend/girlfriend?” “What jobs did you have when you were a teenager?” And on and on it goes. Their questions always seem to match their own experiences at the time. But one of the questions that I have the most trouble answering is one of the most basic of them all…”What was high school like for you, Dad?”

The fact of the matter is that I can’t remember all that much about my high school years in specific terms. What I do remember is the more general feeling of doing not much of anything at all. I hung around a lot with my friends. That was really it. I sat for hours in school hallways with my back against a locker as kids copied my homework and we talked about what was on TV the previous night or who was having a party soon. I went downtown on Friday nights and hung around the main street in town with the other kids, leaning against telephone poles or else sitting on the stone fence that fronted St. Paul’s Church, listening to the sounds of Trooper and April Wine blasting from car stereos as guys drove round and round in a loop through town. Sometimes, if we were feeling adventurous, we would travel to the mall and play video games at the arcade, stopping for a burger before heading home. But, truth be told, nothing out of the ordinary happened at all during my high school years. In fact, if anything, the feeling I had was that I was like a puzzle piece that didn’t quite fit. So, for me, high school was a time spent preparing to leave Glace Bay. To answer my daughters’ question, what I remember most about my highschool years was simply putting in time in the belief that there was something better somewhere else. I had no real idea at the time what that “something better” might be but I knew for sure that it wasn’t going to be found there in Glace Bay.

There have been a lot of movies made about life as a teenager. However, there have been very few that seemed able to replicate that feeling of nothingness that I experienced as a teen. None of us went on secret spy missions. No one found treasure. None of my classmates were secretly vampires or monsters who revealed themselves when the moon was full. There were no UFOs or celebrity encounters or riots or anything. There were drugs for some, alcohol for others, fights for a few and sex for many but none of that for me. I abstained from it all, not because I felt above it, but more because I was simply too introverted and nerdy to be invited to partake or to force my way in. So, I hung out. I was a friendly nerd among jocks and cool kids and tough guys and fashionista girls. That was high school for me. One of the very few movies I have ever seen that captured what that sort of high school experience was like was Dazed and Confused.

Milla Jovovich was just one of many young stars who got their start in Dazed and Confused.

Dazed and Confused was directed by Richard Linklater. It was his first feature film. Dazed and Confused was set in the 1970s in a small nameless Texas town on the last day of high school. It starred a bevy of young actors who would go on to become big stars such as Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey, Renée Zellweger, Adam Goldberg and a host of others. The storyline revolved around one teen…the captain of the football team…who has been recruited to play at a prestigious college, which makes the whole town feel a sense of pride as they take his accomplishment as reflecting on them all. As part of his recruitment, he is asked to sign a pledge of good conduct by the end of his high school year. This pledge includes a promise to completely abstain from drugs and alcohol. So, as Johnny football hero deals with the peer pressure from his town and ponders whether or not to sign away his freedom to live as he pleases in return to gridiron glory, the rest of his graduating class prepares for their last day in the safety net that high school provides. They all know that when tomorrow comes, they will no longer be high school kids but will, in fact, be part of the real world. Dazed and Confused follows this band of jocks, cool kids, misfits, stoners and lovers during the entirety of those final twenty-four hours, as each faces the prospect that the future is there now, knocking at the proverbial door. There is not a lot to the plot of this movie, just as there was not a lot to the real life experience of being in high school for me. These kids hang around a lot and talk a lot. They start the day at school and end the day at a party in a park. They drink. They do drugs. They fight. They make out. But, most of all, they simply are who they are, all together, one last time. The movie has a really great soundtrack that is filled with many of the top classic rock tunes of the 1970s. The reason I chose “Slow Ride” by Foghat as the song for this post is because that song is the soundtrack to the closing scene in the film. In that scene we learn what Johnny football hero has decided to do, as he drives away with a few of his closest friends down a road that leads off into the future. I won’t spoil the ending for you if you haven’t seen the film, but the choice of a song like “Slow Ride” was purposeful by director Linklater and speaks to the nature of life being a journey, rather than a destination.

A very young Matthew McConaughey in character.

Even if you haven’t seen Dazed and Confused for yourself, you may be aware of the famous catch phrase uttered by Matthew McConaughey’s character. McConaughey plays a character who has graduated a few years prior and has chosen to still keep hanging around the high school scene as if he has never left and gotten on with life. He spends the movie doling out advice about the real world that he feels is wisdom. At one point, he says, “Alright! Alright! Alright!” in his slight Texan drawl that McConaughey has become famous for. That catch phrase has been associated with him throughout the remainder of his career. He even ended his acceptance speech with it when he won the Best Actor Oscar for the movie Dallas Buyers Club. That iconic line came from Dazed and Confused. ***FYI, if you haven’t heard this speech, it is one of the better Oscar speeches ever given. McConaughey did a super job. You can watch and listen to it here.

If my two daughters end up reading this post, then I am sorry that your Dad wasn’t a more exciting person when I was your age. But the truth is that, unlike the movies, in my real high school experiences, I never once snorted cocaine off of the stomach of a bikini-clad Paris Hilton lookalike while poolside, nor did I battle aliens or develop a computer programme that almost started a nuclear war or build a robot sex slave in my basement. What I did was watch a lot of television. I hung out with friends doing nothing in particular. I listened to tunes on my headphones in the dark after everyone else had gone to bed. I vacationed with my family. I was a nerd. I was liked by many but loved by no one. I got through it all. And so will you. Real life isn’t often like it is portrayed in the movies…unless it is like it is portrayed in a movie like Dazed and Confused.

The link to the video for the song “Slow Ride” by Foghat from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the film Dazed and Confused can be found here. ***The lyrics version is here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the film Dazed and Confused can be found here.

***As always, all original content found within this blog post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

The Canadian Railroad Trilogy by Gordon Lightfoot…Song #23/250: The Great Canadian Road Trip

As 1967 drew near, many plans were set into motion to mark the occasion of Canada’s 100th anniversary of becoming an independent country. For my family, we embarked on a cross-Canada tour that involved the three of us taking the train from Sydney, Nova Scotia, traveling all the way westward to Vancouver, British Columbia, and then driving back home in our family car that my father had shipped out to Vancouver on the train along with us. At the time of our trip, I was only three years old so I was not privy to any of the planning that had gone into organizing such a journey. However, with the hindsight of history to guide me, I know that my mom and dad were commemorating Canada’s centennial by traversing this great land using one of the most ambitious engineering projects ever: the creation of the Canadian National Railroad. Our history books like to wax nostalgic about the creation of the railroad being one of the great acts of national unification. All that I knew at the time was that being on a train for over ten days seemed like fun to me. Some of the earliest memories in my life are of the train stopping in the Rockies and me looking at how big the mountains seemed and how cool and fresh the air felt. From Stanley Park in Vancouver, to the endless wheat fields of the Prairies, the Big Nickel in Sudbury, Expo 67 in Montreal, the Parliament buildings in Ottawa and finally, back across the Maritimes to Cape Breton Island once again. We were home in this great land we call Canada.

Canadian singer, Gordon Lightfoot.
Gordon Lightfoot.

Our national broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the CBC) had planned a year long series of broadcasts that were aimed at telling “our story” as a country. To start it all off, the CBC contacted singer Gordon Lightfoot and asked him to compose a song about Canada. Lightfoot was not just a great singer and songwriter but he was a natural storyteller. So, when Gord put pen to paper, he opted to tell the story of the making of the railroad that ran from east to west. He called his song “The Canadian Railroad Trilogy”. The song debuted on January 1st, 1967. It was well received by many in Canada and has gone on to become one of Gordon Lightfoot’s signature songs in a catalogue filled with hits. Lightfoot created the structure for the song based upon a US song called “The Civil War Trilogy” that was originally sung there by The Limelighters. In Gord’s song, there are slow parts and speedier parts. This cadence was meant to resemble the chug-chug-chugging of a steam locomotive, which would have been the sort of train in use back when the railroad was built in the 1800s. For many who enjoy this song, The Canadian Railroad Trilogy stands as a testament to a moment in time when our nation was united and strong. For that reason, the song evoked a sense of national pride whenever it was played.

About fifty Chinese labourers posing by a segment of railroad track that they had built as part of the original Canadian National Railroad.
Chinese “navvies” who worked on the building of the Canadian National Railroad. Many lost their lives due to the dangerous nature of their work and to poor safety standards at the time.

But as we are becoming more aware, the telling of history is a fickle thing. Gordon Lightfoot deserves credit for dedicating a large portion of “The Canadian Railroad Trilogy” to the navvies (or the immigrant Chinese workers), whose labour helped build each length of track. It was dangerous, back-breaking work and many Chinese labourers lost their lives completing the “national dream”. The navvies were paid less than English-speaking workers and they were required to perform the most dangerous tasks (such as blasting through the Rocky Mountains to make tunnels). It is generally acknowledged that 3-4 Chinese workers died for every mile of track created. Knowing the vastness of Canadian geography as we do, the death toll among Chinese workers stretches into the tens of thousands. In gratitude for the heroic nature of their work, the Chinese labourers were fired en masse once the last spike was driven in Craigellachie, British Columbia and were forced to find their own transportation back to wherever they were going to live next. Those workers were always considered expendable. But, at least, their existence was acknowledged by Gordon Lightfoot in his song, so there is that, I suppose.

But, the same can’t be said for the Indigenous Peoples of this land. The history of Canada is replete with example after example of Indigenous Peoples being on the short end of national expansionism. I want you to stop and think back to a time just prior to the arrival of European explorers such as Jacques Cartier, Giovanni Caboto and Samuel de Champlain. In those pre-contact times, the whole of the land that is now considered to be Canada was actually populated by Indigenous nations. These Nations existed from sea to sea to sea. Each Nation had its own customs and governance. All existed with the foundational thought that they were not above nature and animal life but were as one with it. Bison and beavers thrived at this time. The idea of taking what you need but no more, was a guiding principle that allowed the various Indigenous Peoples to survive for thousands of years. And then came the Europeans.

About fifty workers watch as a rich white man in a beard and tip hat hammers in the final spike to complete the building of the Canadian National Railroad at Craigellachie, British Columbia.
The “Last Spike” being driven at Craigellachie, British Columbia.

Say what you want about European settlers, but the actual facts from History show that they viewed this new land as theirs for the taking. The Indigenous Peoples were merely an obstacle to be overcome, either by negotiated treaty or by force. Even those negotiated treaties were very one-sided, with the settlers getting the best land and access to resources, while the Indigenous Peoples were shunted off to the side…of the land that they had lived on successfully for an eternity. One of the most lethal instruments of colonization of Indigenous lands was the Canadian National Railroad. Its creation was the political excuse used to appropriate Indigenous lands, especially across the Prairies and into British Columbia. It was the political excuse used to send troops into the Prairies so as to “safeguard” the work of railroad building and to help acquire additional territory along the way. It was opposition to the railroad, and more specifically, to the appropriation of Indigenous land that caused Louis Riel to take his famous stands at The Red River Valley (in what is now Manitoba) and later at Batoche (in what is now Saskatchewan), for which he paid the ultimate price with his life by being sentenced to death for treason. Much of what happened to Louis Riel and the Metis Peoples reverberated into Quebec and was the start of French nationalism there. The politics of the railroad entering British Columbia helped convince those settlers to officially enter into Confederation as the westernmost province in Canada. It goes on and on. The creation of the Canadian National Railroad has become synonymous with Canadian history, in general.

And so it was back in 1967, as the words of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” played out to great acclaim, my parents were inspired to recreate that journey and relive the national dream, creating memories to last a lifetime for themselves and their young son. The beauty and the vastness of the land is a memory that I retain to this day. As a toddler, I had no idea of the politics of railroad building, of the sacrifices made by so many underpaid Chinese labourers, nor of the devastating impact of the railroad on the lives of Indigenous Peoples ever since it went across this land. But I do know now. While it may not be for me to insist that those of you who read this rise up in anger and in protest, I think it is my place to insist that we, as the descendants of those who colonized this land, do our part to understand the true nature of its history. When we do, it forces us to regard the railroad as much more than a feat of engineering worth celebrating in song. I imagine that the “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” must be a difficult song for Indigenous Peoples to have to listen to. I apologize in advance for any hurt that this post causes. As we make our way through the songs listed as being part of this Great Canadian Road Trip of mine, we should always be aware of the history of this land and what our role has been in shaping it as it exists today. It is, quite literally, the very least we can do.

The link to the video for the song “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” by Gordon Lightfoot can be found here. ***Lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the official website for Gordon Lightfoot can be found here.

The link to the official website for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission can be found here. *(As you may know, this Commission reported mainly on the impact of the residential school system but, in doing so, it touched on many aspects of the impact of colonization upon the Indigenous Peoples of this land such as land appropriation, forced cultural assimilation, The Indian Act and much, much more). Its report and recommendations should be required reading for all who live in this country called Canada, imo).

The link to an article from the Globe and Mail newspaper about the use of the railroad as a tool of colonization and why, in reply, so many Indigenous protests involve railroad blockades can be found here.

The link to the official website for the town of Craigellachie, British Columbia can be found here. *(Craigellachie was the original terminus of the Canadian National Railroad. It was where the “last spike” was driven).

**As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

Entrance of the Gladiators by Julius Fucik…Composition #21/50: Keepin’ It Classy

Photo of Czech composer Julius Fucik in military uniform.
Composer of the Entrance of the Gladiators, Julius Fucik.

Julius Fučik was born in Prague in the Czech Republic in 1876 when that part of the world was still considered part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was born into a creative family. His brother was a musician and an opera singer and his nephew was a journalist and author who, as it turned out, was killed by order of Adolf Hitler in the 1930s when he was consolidating power and eliminating his political opponents. Julius Fučik grew up to be a composer who specialized in military marches. But, more specifically than that, Fučik was someone who helped revolutionize the very idea of orchestral compositions because he was enamoured with brass and woodwind instruments.

Sheet music for the composition: "Entrance of the Gladiators" by Julius Fucik

At the turn of the century, the vast majority of classical compositions were written for piano or strings or softer woodwind instruments such as the flute or the oboe. Fučik believed in the power and vibrancy of brass. Thus, he wrote many of his earliest compositions for trumpet, trombone and tuba. When he first debuted his brass-oriented works, audiences were taken aback at the forcefulness of it all! His compositions were loud and to some, even strident in tone. After his initial works were aired, it was suggested to Fučik that instead of performing for seated audiences, his compositions were better suited for military marches. With that in mind, Fučik joined the Austro-Hungarian military and soon rose through the ranks and became a military composer. From that point onward, his compositions were all written with the idea that they would be played during military parades (when the soldiers would exhibit their marching skills in a series of highly choreographed marching routines) or else as a way of inspiring troops before entering into actual battle. Of all the military marches that Julius Fučik composed during his lifetime, none was more famous or popular than the march entitled, “Entrance of the Gladiators”.

“Entrance of the Gladiators” has gone on to become one of the most recognizable tunes ever written in the history of recorded music. Even most children today know this song when it is played. However, the reason that “Entrance of the Gladiators” became so popular differs from the reason for its initial composition in a way that would horrify Julius Fučik if he were alive today. Over a century ago, making brass instruments the centrepiece of a classical composition was a novel idea. As mentioned already, Julius Fučik was one of the earliest composers to go this route. So, when he created “Entrance of the Gladiators”, he wanted to show off his skills a little, thus he incorporated a section within the piece that allowed him to demonstrate the capability of brass instruments to navigate the chromatic scales in music. Chromatic scales are musical notes that are situated at regular, consistent intervals from each other. An example would be when you sing do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do…the notes rise at regular intervals and fall back at those same intervals if you reverse the scales. Anyway, Julius Fučik decided to demonstrate how flexible brass instruments could be by having them play the chromatic scales forward and backward as the core component of “Entrance of the Gladiators”. When he debuted this composition, it was very well received and Fučik was rewarded with a military promotion as a result of his creative thinking.

Three people in the circus ring: the ringmaster in a red coat and top hat, a man in a checker box suit doin a somersault and a lady in a yellow dress with black folks dots.
Thunder and Blazes is typically played as a way of introducing clowns when it is their turn to enter the centre circus ring.

However, not long after Fučik debuted his march, a Canadian composer named Louis-Philippe Laurendeau took the composition, increased its tempo slightly and created an altered version called “Thunder and Blazes” that has gone on to become popular the world over. Laurendeau’s version of “Entrance of the Gladiators” is the standard tune that is played at circuses, especially when the clowns are set to arrive in the centre ring. Whether or not Laurendeau intended to make a political statement by comparing soldiers and war to clowns and a circus is something that has never been made clear. But, the truth of the matter is that he took a military march and turned it into a child’s delight. “Entrance of the Gladiators” is a piece of music that you will know immediately when it starts to play. Chances are great that by the time you are finished listening to it, you will not be thinking of war and of conquest, but instead will be smiling and thinking of clowns. I don’t know about you but I prefer my music to inspire happy thoughts as opposed to hurtful, hateful ones, so from my perspective, Laurendeau has done a good thing here. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below.

The link to the video for the composition “Entrance of the Gladiators” by Julius Fučik can be found here.

The link to the official website for Julius Fučik can be found here.

The link to the official website for Louis-Philippe Laurendeau can be found here.

The link to classical music station, Classical 103.1, located in my hometown of Cobourg, Ontario can be found here.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022