Welcome to Big Old Goofy World . . . a place where I can share my thoughts, hopes, and dreams about this rock that we live on and call home.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Beyond the 49th Parallel

First of all, I cannot play an instrument despite my best attempts over the years.  Second of all, I cannot carry a tune and sing terribly--ask my family or any of the congregations that I have served over the years.  Despite this musical disability, I love music.  Music has always been a big part of my life and it is a love that both the wife and I have instilled in our children.

One of the most cherished gifts I ever received from my parents as a child was a transistor radio.  That radio went everywhere I went.  Music was always spewing out of it.  It was my nightly companion as I would hide it under my pillow, turn it up just enough to hear through the pillow, and fall to sleep listening to the local deejays from nearby Colorado Springs.  Only problem was I went through a lot of batteries as I never remembered to turn it off.  But music filled my ears, my mind, and was a companion that was always there.  I listened to just about everything and still have a love for just about every type of music--except, and this is my prejudice, rap.  Just can't get into rap.

I think that it was music, more than anything, that probably got me through the teen and young adult years.  Thankfully in my junior year of high school my youngest uncle (only two years older than me) introduced me to a whole new world of music--what would become the sound track of my life.  He introduced me to a variety of groups--from Derek and the Dominoes (Eric Clapton) to Manassas (Stephen Stills) to the Yardbirds to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young--to the Woodstock generation of music and beyond.  He corrupted me for life and made it wonderful!  It is the music the wife calls "donker, donker" music.

One of the amazing things that I have discovered as I have gotten older is that a lot of the artists that I have always enjoyed are from north of the 49th Parallel--north of the border--that they are Canadians.  Shoot, like any good tunnel visioned American I just assumed that they were all good ol' Americans born and raised right here in the US of A.  Just like rock and roll music!  How vain of me to assume this . . . if it were not for the Canadian invasion I would not have some of my favorite musical memories.

For example, there is Joni Mitchell.  I loved and still love Joni Mitchell.  I even got to see her once in concert during my senior year in high school--for all of one song.  Joni was notorious for her stage fright and rarely made it though a concert without getting too sick to perform.  The concert I attended she made it through one song before it was called off . . . she sang Help Me . . . it was wonderful!  Just wish she had sung more.

Bet you didn't realize that Jone Mitchell wrote that one.  For those who would like something a little more "modern" here is a song that seems to be being covered more and more these days--also written by her:

Another influential singer--even today--is Neil Young.  Neil Young by himself, with Stephen Stills in Buffalo Springfield, with CSNY, and Crazy Horse--the man was and continues to be a musical prodigy.  Whatever form I heard him in I still flashback to those wonderful years.   One of my favorite songs:

The individual that turned me on to the fact that there was a lot of great music coming from north of the border was k.d. lang.  From her start in country music to her big band sound to her jump over into rock music she has a voice that tells a story whenever she sings.  It was her album The 49th Parallel--an album of songs from Canadian singers and songwriters--that really opened up my eyes and ears.  Here she sings Leonard Cohen, just listen:

And then Neil Young:
One of my favorites that I caught just as she was starting out--unbeknownest to me as being Canadian--was Sarah McLachlan.  She burst onto the scene with her cover of The River by Joni Mitchell and is now seen on lots of commercials on the boob tube.  A wonderful voice, a wonderful performer:

Then as the kids began to get older they turned me onto another singer that they enjoyed, but did not know was Canadian--Alanis Morrissette.  Her first major selling album of angry songs--way before Taylor Swift ever started dissing her exes--was a big hit in our house.  I really enjoyed her role as God in the movie Dogma.

But not everything musical that came from Canada was individual--there were also groups.  One of the first groups that hit my ears was Bachman Turner Overdrive--which I got to see in college.  By then they were affectionately known as Bachman Turner Overweight--they enjoyed the good life.
There was Rush.

And then, one of my favorites--now heard singing the theme song from Big Bang Theory--is the crazy lyrical group Barenaked Ladies.  I could get lost in their lyrics for hours trying to make heads or tails of their songs.

Probably my favorite Canadian group is the Cowboy Junkies.  From day one when I stumbled across them I have loved their haunting melodies and songs.  I love their cover of Patsy Cline's After Midnight.  

 Well, that is probably enough musical bombardment for one sitting.  I can forgive Canada for all of the cold weather it sends south of the border into Montana every winter because it more than makes up for it with its wonderful music.  I doubt if I have even begun to scratch the surface of the musical offerings from north of the 49th Parallel.  Who are some of your favorites?  Who do you think I should listen to?  Let me know . . . in the meantime . . . enjoy!

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