Lives of Quiet Desperation

September 6, 2017 § Leave a comment

I recently had breakfast with a fellow songwriter, and among other things, we discussed collaborating and songwriting legend Jimmy Webb. As our conversation progressed, we discussed Webb’s masterpiece “Wichita Lineman,” a song that Webb says was uncompleted with he gave it to Glen Campbell for consideration. After Campbell recorded his now iconic version of the song, it remained “unfinished.”

Our conversation about how Webb could write such a song about what is basically an everyday job got us to thinking about trying to do something along the same lines. That song is still a work in progress, but that effort got me thinking about trying to write some lyrics that point in a related direction, to people who don’t stand out and lives that haven’t turned out as hoped.

So far, I have a couple of songs that fit that theme, with a third in progress. While a lot of my songs are personal and are written from a first-person perspective, all of these are written from the point of view of someone else looking in.

I don’t know yet if I will share all three songs when the third is finished, though I suspect I will if I think they’re all halfway decent. In the meantime, here is the first such effort.

Dark Moon Rising

Johnny sits in the dark
And thinks about the things he’s missed
Everything he’s never done
And every girl he’s never kissed
Johnny’s thinking ’bout packing up
Packing it in, and heading south
His courage slips with every sip
From the glass he holds there in his fist

Dark moon rising, storm on the horizon
Emotions like a lightning strike
Flash and then they’re gone, but there’s no moving on
Nothing better coming down the pike

Johnny looks at the ring
On the table from the glass in his hand
Wonders where the mistake was made
Why things didn’t go the way he planned
Did he want it too much, not enough
Or was it simply bad luck?
He doesn’t move with the fortunate few
But with the unlucky damned

Johnny thought he had the answers
Until fate finally took him to task
Pride can be an awful thing
If you don’t know which questions to ask

Johnny sits it the dark
And thinks about the choices made
In his drink-filtered memory
He thinks about the debts he hasn’t paid
Wonders what it’s like to feel on top
To feel ahead, to know success
A poor old sod, he seeks another god
To whom he should have prayed

Dark moon rising, storm on the horizon
Emotions like a lightning strike
Flash and then they’re gone, but there’s no moving on
Nothing better coming down the pike

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

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Not Going Gentle Into That Good Night

August 28, 2017 § Leave a comment

First off, my apologies to Dylan Thomas. On the other hand, since today’s entry deals with getting older and resisting getting old, it seems appropriate.

As an older songwriter who now qualifies for AARP and discounted coffee at Denny’s, I sometimes struggle with feeling relevant in my writing and in my life. There are times when I would like to slow things down a bit or maybe just pick up and go, but the fact that I am more prolific lyrically than an almost any other time in my life tells me that maybe I still have things to say.

I sometimes wonder whether more successful songwriters and musicians struggle with these feeling as they get older. Do they ask themselves if the creative fires still burn, or are they content to simply go out and play the hits night after night.

Having never had a hit or written a hit song myself, it isn’t a question I can answer. I’d like to think, though, that I would resist the temptation that Rod Stewart has apparently had to remake one of his hits with a new backing group. The notion of a 72-year old re-recording (let alone singing) “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy” is, quite frankly, something that may well give me nightmares at some point.

On the other hand, I suppose Sir Rod is also channeling his inner Dylan Thomas. Deciding to re-record one of his biggest (and most criticized) hits is decidedly not going gentle “into that good night” and probably qualifies as raging “against the dying of the light.” It is in that spirit that today’s entry, a straightforward rocker, was written.

I Ain’t Dead Yet

When you look at me, tell me what do you see
Some broken down old man?
I may not move quite as fast as I used to
But I’m going just as fast as I can

These days, I stop to smell the roses
I stop to read the signs
I may not be the sharpest tool in the box
But I can read between the lines

I never claimed to be a know-it-all
Once in a while, I forget
But buddy, I’m here to tell you I ain’t dead yet

I know you’re thinking that I’ve had my day
And I should step aside
Well, who went and left you in charge of everything
Has somebody gone and died?

I know you think that I have lost a step
And maybe that is true
But I’ve still got a lot more fight in me
And you’ll find it out before I’m through

I know that you think you have the edge
But I’m prepared to take that bet
“Cause buddy, I’m here to tell you I ain’t dead yet

(guitar and/or harmonica solo)

I ain’t leaving; I’m still breathing
Feel I still got something to prove
I’m not giving in to age
Time can’t catch me if I stay on the move

Just because I’m older, doesn’t mean I’m done
I’ve still got a lot to say
Maybe you think that I should step aside
But I won’t let time get in the way

I may have a few more aches and pains
And I might move a little slow
But when it comes time for action
You’d best believe I’ll be ready to go

If you dare to take me for granted
That’s a choice you’re gonna regret
So buddy, get out of my way; I ain’t dead yet

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Time For A Little Fun, Perhaps

August 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

My wife (and arranger) occasionally says I should write some funny songs. Although I have a sense of humor (admittedly a strange one), humorous songs don’t come easily to me. I’ve tried the occasional parody song, and it always seems forced, and many of my other attempts to write a funny song seemed a bit flat to me.

Undaunted, I’ve decided to try again, sort of. This time, I decided to start with what could be seen as either a serious or a funny situation and see where the muse took me. I tried hard not to force the humor and allow it to come out if it was going to.

If you like the occasional adult beverage (as I do), no doubt you have crossed a line or had one (or two) too many at least once in your life. I decided to use that as my starting point and see where things went from there. What I ended up with is a rollicking blues-rock number that envisions a piano or an electric guitar or maybe both. Please tell me what you think.

One Drink And I’m Done

Ordered myself a tall drink
It went down smooth and I began to think
Maybe another one wouldn’t do any harm

So I drank a second and then a third
Started to hang onto every word
Till the person I was hanging on sounded the alarm

That night, I learned my lesson
Alcohol and me shouldn’t be messin’
It’s like shooting myself with a loaded gun
Some can drink down a double
And not get themselves into trouble
But even if it’s all in good fun
One drink and I’m done

Police came, their guns ready
I tried to stay cool and hold myself steady
But everybody’s fingers were pointing at me

The evening was fast becoming a blur
And everybody said I should be locked up in stir
When I finally passed out, the question was decided for me

(16-bar Instrumental Solo)

Now, I’m sitting here in jail
Hoping that somebody’s gonna post my bail
If I get out today
I’m headed straight to AA

Well, I went to a meeting and then I went home
An old drinking buddy called me on the phone
This is what I told him before he even started to speak

That night, I learned my lesson
Alcohol and me shouldn’t be messin’
It’s like shooting myself with a loaded gun
Some can drink down a double
And not get themselves into trouble
But even if it’s all in good fun
One drink and I’m done

No more for me
One drink and I’m done
The truth set me free
One drink and I’m done

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Music In Times Like These

August 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Every so often, America goes through a turbulent period in its history. In fact, this country was founded out of turbulence. The initial big bang, of course, was the American Revolution, followed by a fight for survival during the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I, World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. Now, I guess we can add Charlottesville to the list.

If the level of turbulence in this country could not be felt before, it most assuredly can now. Turbulence is often violent, ugly, and messy, but does not mean it is completely a bad thing. Turbulence also brings change. Sometimes we resist it, but in the end we come around, occasionally because of a change of heart but more often out of necessity or some survival instinct.

Music is often at the forefront of such times in our history. Our national anthem (originally a poem, which may explain some of the difficulty many of us have in singing it) originated during a battle in the War of 1812. The lyrics for Battle Hymn of the Republic were written at the start of the Civil War. Over There was written during World War I.

In addition to songs such as those, music has a long tradition of supplying protest songs during turbulent times. Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come; Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ In The Wind; and Peter, Paul and Mary’s version of If I Had A Hammer (co-written more than a decade earlier by Pete Seeger) came out of the Civil Rights movement.

The Vietnam War also spawned numerous songs of protest and calls for change. I Ain’t Marching No More by Phil Ochs, I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag by Country Joe and The Fish, and Edwin Starr’s War are but a few examples.

Any time there has been turbulence in this country and a call for change by a large segment of the population, music has been one of the avenues through which that call is spread. I do not expect it to be any different as we enter what may become the second iteration of the Civil Rights movement.

Although there have been any number of incidents over the last few years that could have served as the spark to ignite such a movement, I suspect the events this past weekend in Charlottesville may well turn out to be the fulcrum point that begins to shift momentum for a new Civil Rights movement.

I have no doubt those terrifying (and for me sickening) events in Charlottesville will spur and inspire the writing of a whole new generation of protest songs. Some of my conservative friends won’t get it and will continue to draw false comparisons between the alt-right, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and those who confront them, just as some have drawn false comparisons between George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (both slave owners) and Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, etc. (slavery supporters and traitors).

I cannot educate them or convince them that they are wrong; it takes too much energy. I have no doubt, however, that music will eventually help to sway opinion and bring about change, just as it always has.

My meager entry (posted below) was inspired (perhaps spurred is a better choice) by the events of Charlottesville, although the first two lines were written prior to that. I have no doubt more eloquent and stronger voices will follow.

Land Of Plenty (Never Enough)

Can’t turn our backs on what we’d rather not see
That’s simply hiding, it isn’t living free
We have to be the change we want, you and me

So many angry voices, so full of hate
Shouting ’bout how they want to make us all great
What about the ones left behind? Do they wait?

In this land of plenty
There never seems enough to go around
It seems we’ve run the whole damn thing
Into the ground

Full moon rising, not surprising
It seems we’ve all gone mad
In the absence of understanding
We long for what we never really had

The sun comes up and the smoke still hasn’t cleared
Looks like it’s even worse than we feared
Will we look back, remember where we were when love disappeared?

In this land of plenty
There never seems enough to go around
It seems we’ve run the whole damn thing
Into the ground

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Same As It Ever Was?

August 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

First off, apologies to Talking Heads for borrowing a line from one of their songs to use as the title of today’s entry. Yet, it somehow seems appropriate.

In this entry, I’m doing something I haven’t done before in this blog, I am repeating/reposting lyrics I first posted several months ago. I’m doing so not because I think they are the best lyrics I’ve ever written but because, sadly, they seem just as fitting today as they were when I wrote them nine months ago.

I preface this by saying I am not much good as a fighter. I love to argue – from a distance – but face to face confrontation often leaves me flustered, frustrated, and unable to adequately communicate what I think and feel. Because of that and because of a shyness it took me decades to get past, I have always (I think) been a better written than oral communicator.

The lyrical entry I am reposting today was initially written in the wake of Donald Trump’s election as 45th President of the United States. In that initial post I stated that the lyrics were written in such a way as to try to “transcend mere politics.” In the wake of the events in Charlottesville, there is no longer anything “mere” about the political landscape or the climate resulting from it.

In the lyrics, I wonder whether I can reach across the divide. Seeing where our country seems to be headed, the answer is no.

Across The Divide

There’s a distance grown between us
When it started, I don’t know
Somewhere along the way, we grew apart
Now I stand here at the crossroads
I’m not sure which way to go
Only know I must protect my heart

Now, I find myself on the other side
Wondering, can I reach across the divide

I guess I never really knew you
Or who you were inside
From where I stand, that cuts the other way
We took it all for granted
Assumed each felt the same
Now it seems we’ve nothing left to say

Caught in the light of day, there’s nowhere to hide
Wondering, can I reach across the divide

It’s clear that we don’t think or feel the same
No longer sure of common ground
Ready and willing to assign the blame
What we once shared – tossed aside without a sound

The future is uncertain
The past, not what it seemed
I’m left to wonder what was ever real
Somewhere along the way
We started chasing different dreams
Now we’re hurt and wondering how to heal

Feels like I’m trying to swim against the tide
Wondering, can I reach across the divide

Feels like I’m trying to swim against the tide
Wondering, can I reach across the divide

© 2017 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Finally Finished? Maybe?

August 9, 2017 § Leave a comment

I don’t normally revise lyrics much when I write. I am more of a spontaneous writer in that I write what comes to mind and tend to stick with that. If I do revise a lyric, it is usually only a word or two. There is the occasional exception, but even those don’t usually stretch out more than a day or two before I call it finished.

Now, though, I have a song I have been agonizing over, off and on, since I finished the initial draft three weeks ago and posted it here. (The first revision, posted a few days ago, can be found here.) I believe the lyrics to be some of my best (which may or may not be saying much), but I feel an itch to make them great or at least really good.

So, I go back and forth, tweaking a word here, a phrase there, trying to get to the point where I am 100% happy with the song. (Does that ever really happen?) I don’t know if I am there yet, but this version may be as close as I get. Or not. Please let me know what you think, especially as this version compares with the two previously posted.

Music Saved My Soul

The music was my shelter
From angry voices coming down the hall
Found safety in those records
Every they played, I’d heed their call

Black circles spinning ’round
At 45 or 33 and a third
Kept me from losing faith
I found my church in the songs I heard

In my darkness, the music found me
I let those sweet sounds surround me
Lift me up, keep me warm
Those voices sheltered me from every storm
My gospel readings came from every track
Of every record I had in my stack
And though it could never make me whole
I know the music saved my soul

From Sinatra to The Beatles
And every song in-between
I found salvation in every note
The music washed me clean

A cheap hi-fi was my altar
I knelt before that heavenly sound
My bedroom was my church
And that turntable was sacred ground

Baptized in music’s fire
Those records healed as they went ’round and around
I felt the spirit move me
Every time I heard their sound

In my darkness, the music found me
I let those sweet sounds surround me
Lift me up, keep me warm
Those voices sheltered me from every storm
My gospel readings came from every track
Of every record I had in my stack
And though it could never make me whole
I know the music saved my soul

I know the music saved my soul

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.

Work in Progress or Finished Product?

August 6, 2017 § 1 Comment

A few days ago, I posted an entry offering up lyrics inspired by events from my childhood. For the most part, I was pleased with what I had come up with. However, there were a few lines that didn’t quite fit and did not seem to resonate with the rest of the song.

I went back and made an initial revision, which improves things somewhat. However, I still wasn’t completely satisfied with the end result. So, I took yet another stab at polishing up the lyrics.  (Even as I began writing this entry, I made yet one more change.) I don’t know yet if this will end up being the final product, but I do think it is improved over the original version. I hope you agree.

Music Saved My Soul

The music was my shelter
From angry voices coming down the hall
Angelic, those records
Every time they played, I’d heed their call

Black circles spinning ’round
At 45 or 33 and a third
Kept me from losing hope
I found my church in the notes I heard

In my darkness, the music found me
I let those sweet sounds surround me
Lift me up, keep me warm
Those voices sheltered me from every storm
My gospel readings came from every track
Of every album I had in my stack
And while it could never make me whole
I know the music saved my soul

From Sinatra to The Beatles
And every song in between
I found salvation in every note
The music washed me clean

A cheap hi-fi was my altar
I knelt before that heavenly sound
My bedroom was my church
That turntable was sacred ground

Those discs were hypnotizing
Healing me as they went ’round and around
I was lifted up by angels
Every time I heard their sound

In my darkness, the music found me
I let those sweet sounds surround me
Lift me up, keep me warm
Those voices sheltered me from every storm
My gospel readings came from every track
Of every album I had in my stack
And while it could never make me whole
I know the music saved my soul

Maybe music couldn’t make me whole
But I know it damn sure saved my soul

© 2018 Walt Huntsman. All rights reserved.