This song, Unknown Legend, written by Neil Young, was recommended by my brother Philip awhile ago and it’s only right that it came from a sibling of mine because my brothers and sister, their spouses, are the unknown legends in my life; we are apart, but they are with me every day and I call upon them in my mind when I am looking for reserve strength. They are legendary in that they’ve made me desire to always move to higher ground, to be at my best.
We all came together for a portion of the summer in helping our brother Patrick back to his feet, back to living, as he has been ill for the last few years. The time had come for action and we all showed up, we all played our part, we all gave Patrickanother start, a chance to reclaim his life, and it was because of the deep love we share, the blood we keep, the unspoken promises to be each other’s rock through this life. These weeks were some of the most profound in my existence and testament to the power of family.
My brother Patrick, you should know, is also an unknown legend and has turned it around. I’m not sure where he found the strength….perhaps it was religion, the memory of my mother, his awakening to all that he stood to lose or a combination of each in addition to the extraordinary love and support he received from all of us— but he’s back and everyday I am thankful for it, thankful for him certainly, and also thankful for the unrecognized people in life, the unknown legends, who lift and carry us when we need them the most.
The holidays are approaching and I am struggling with ways to celebrate, given the current pandemic conditions. I will miss the easy social interactions, the extensive hugs, the numerous toasts, the indulgent feasts, and the ongoing conversation with family and friends I don’t see that often. Connecting with others is a big part of the festivities and this year it will be greatly reduced if not non-existent.
I chose the song Write a Letter Home by Jackie Greene for this week’s blog because it speaks to the current climate and the way I am feeling at times. “The TV says nothin’, nothin’ to me, and I feel so low in the highest degree.”
It also reminds me how much comfort I find in writing. Jotting my sentiments down on paper has always been a preferred way for me to connect with others. When Jackie sings, “There’s no use for me to sit here and moan. Many a man has been more alone. I might feel better if I write a letter, if I write a letter home,” it urges me to pull out some paper and send a letter to everyone I will miss this year. Maybe you will try it too.
Best wishes for a peaceful and safe Thanksgiving holiday.
My father died in 1966, the year that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his first public speech on the Vietnam War ushering in an era of protests. The year that Cleveland, Ohio saw its first race riot. Actor Ronald Reagan was elected Gov. of California. John Lennon claimed the Beatles had become more popular than Jesus. Gemini 9 completed the second U.S. spacewalk, and Bobbi Gibb was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon.
I was two years old.
The unrest and change that categorized this era has found its way back to the forefront of my mind recently as unsettling world events resurface. My memories are deep and vague, flashes of experience too difficult to grasp in any significant way.
I wrote Flowers in 2006 as a tribute to my father who passed before I had a chance to know him. It speaks to the desire for connection and the difficulty of holding onto memories over time. I often wonder what our relationship would have been like had he lived and how the void has shaped my path.
This version was recorded in 2015 for the NPR Tiny Desk Competition with Andy Bollman (on bass) in the halls of Weston High School (MA) where Peter is a teacher.
I wrote Ghosts awhile back and it has been sitting there waiting for the right time to share and it is now. Initially, it was a tune about the past, the things that haunt, will never go away, the ideas and ruminations that invade your mind, latch on, keep you up at night, weigh on you, slow you down, impede a courageous life. These are ghosts that haunt us all, are part of the fabric of our lives and thereby can be and must be turned into positive. These are the ghosts that, if tamed, can bring us forward; they are lessons learned, the scars that post in our souls and we are made stronger by them if we choose. When I wrote this song, the ghosts had me by the neck, but a lot has changed since then.
My mother always encouraged us to listen to the damaged ones, those who, as she would say, “have been through it,” as she had been. They are emissaries, material ghosts, haunted themselves. She said. “Listen to them.” My mother believed in the ghosts, claimed to have cavorted with them, claimed to have asked for them to leave her, claimed that they did. She knew who they were, knew where they were and learned to hold them at bay.
They’re around. What are you going to do about it?
Hey all. A quick update on Wendy Darling and the Lost Boy, the New Year and all that lies ahead.
We just finished the video for the Tiny Desk Contest held by NPR. It’s our third year of entry and we’re looking forward to the final product, which you’ll see soon. We hired a company started by a former student of mine called Gimmick Studios and held the shoot in his studio which was a very cool structure—a former church renovated into living/working space. We had an incredible experience in the making of it as we were treated professionally by four very young, but extremely competent artists who, having heard our song and what we wanted out of the shoot, made it come alive.
Here are some shots of us recording the video.
This Friday we’re playing at a club in Cambridge called The Rising and, having scoped it out last weekend, we are thrilled at how warm and inviting a place it is to play. We feel both fortunate to have gotten the job, and also very confident that we are perfect for the vibe of the place. It is our hope that we can earn a few places there in Cambridge to play regularly and are working hard to make sure it happens.
What’s true is that it IS HAPPENING. We’re playing in Cambridge at a very great club…can you believe it?
The Rising Bar, Inman Square, Cambridge
We are entirely grateful to all of you who have shown your support by coming out because it makes us work harder and push our goals forward. It matters a lot and while we know that you enjoy the music and that The Rising is a great venue, that you’ll have a great time, we also know that it’s late and a significant drive. We know it and cannot thank you enough.
Do come out. You’ll like the place. We go on at The Rising in Inman Square a little after 10 and are playing until 1:30. Can you believe that? It’s like the real deal.
Well, it’s on. We have our Emerging Artists and are set for this Saturday, April 30 at 7:00Upstairs at the Harvard General Store.
And as the days have passed and in the planning Wendy and I have done, our eyes are becoming wide open to the possibilities that this venue, this event and those beyond it have as a potential for artists, like ourselves to have our work heard and appreciated. In our quest to expand our horizons, we have targeted other larger venues and have found it not entirely easy to break in. It’s not impossible if you have a good product, but we have come to know that it’s going to take some time, patience and dedicated work for our vision to become reality, which it will. This event, we hope, will open some eyes to our work and also the work of two additional local artists, both of whom are very accomplished and further ahead of us in their musical journey.
One is Aidan O’Brien, a young man who I met many, many years ago at an outdoor music festival in Trumansburg, NY called Grass Roots. He was…about 7 and was in the camping area playing a guitar that looked enormous in his little hands, but there he was…for three consecutive days, playing that thing and hugging it like it was his best friend. And, damn it, he was good. Even then. Now, of course, he’s really good, has been in several successful bands and has an entire trove of songs he’s written and covered. Just wait. He’s the real deal. That guitar has never left his side and has proven to be faithful friend.
The other is Mike Kelly. Wendy and I met him at Slater’s Pizzeria and he runs an open mic there on Thursdays, one in which we played early when Wendy Darling and the Lost Boy were just getting started and he was encouraging from the start. A couple of weeks ago when we asked him to play at the Emerging Artist Series, he was on board immediately, telling us that it was a great idea, that he’d be glad to be a part of it. What Wendy and I didn’t quite know then was how accomplished he is. Like Aidan, he’s had an instrument in his hand from the beginning and has, over the course of his young life played with James Montgomery, James Cotton, Johnny A., J. Geils, David, Maxwell, GE Smith, Paula Cole, Trombone Shorty, Joan Osborne, Simon Kirk, Barry Goudreau, The Uptown Horns, and others. He is an excellent song writer and musician in his own right and you’ll love him. (website: www.thebrotherstereo.com).
What are these two doing at the Harvard General Store? Just sharing their music. They, like Wendy and I, just want to play. It’s such a blast, you should know, and it will be a pleasure to play alongside these two for all of you.
Do show up on time and bring as many people with you as possible. We’re trying to fill the place and to fit in as much music as we can. More importantly, Wendy Darling and the Lost Boy are on first; you do not want to miss that…. No way. We are emerging, baby, and want to share our love of what we do with all of you on that night and, hopefully many others.(website: bankeP.wix.com/wendydarling).
See you there.
If you want a sneak preview of what you will see Saturday, check out the video links below.
Some people have asked me about the evolution of the song, “Blue Skies,” how it came about, what inspired it, when it was written. With the advent of our Tiny Desk music video highlighting the song, it seemed like a good time to reflect on these questions and blog it out.
I wrote the first version of the song (formerly called “Nobody Knows About Me”) in 2008 at a time when I was working on songwriting as part of my guitar training with Greg Passler. The song is essentially about some of the deeper parts of myself that are kept hidden or not given a voice. These are the parts that are different, personal, vulnerable (nobody knows about me). The song also expresses an acceptance and even self love (dancing alone cause it feels so good) of these lesser known pieces and deals with the sadness of isolation by seeking out happy people (replacing the tears with your laughing eyes) and good times. In other words, blue skies.
I have written songs as far back as I can remember (using several tape recorders to lay down different tracks) and one thing I have noticed is this. At least for me, the best inspiration comes at times when I am not expecting it, not looking for it, not even trying. It is at these times that a feeling (and it always starts as a feeling as opposed to an idea or thought) begins to tug from deep inside. Most of the time, the emerging emotion gets ignored or pushed away in an attempt to deal with the day to day. However, if it is not acknowledged immediately, it disappears, never to return, at least not in the same way. In the case of “Blue Skies,” the inspiration and the time lined up and I was able to sit down with my guitar and pen and let it come forth.
I was mostly happy with the song right away. It became one of my favorites, actually. So, when Peter and I began playing together and I started pulling out some of my old originals, this was one of the first ones I shared. I was a little worried at first that it would be too slow for us or maybe better played by one person. However, once Peter got a hold of it, he helped bring it to another level. He created a much better groove, added tasteful harmonies in just the right places, and threw in a few lines here and there. He really helped bring the song to life.
Once we had come up with a version of the song that we both liked, we recorded it and I had a listen. I immediately realized that the name, “Nobody Knows About Me,” no longer made sense and renamed the song “Blue Skies.” I am extremely optimistic and excited about the future of Wendy Darling and the Lost Boy. The possibilities are endless, the potential unlimited, and the skies…..well, the skies are definitely blue.
Bob Boilen, Host of NPR’s All Songs Considered and Creator of the Tiny Desk Concert Series has come up with a new idea, The Tiny Desk Contest. For those of you not in the know, the Tiny Desk Concert Series, founded in 2008, is a series of intimate video performances at Bob’s desk. Some more famous musicians who have performed at the NPR headquarters include Cat Steven, Trey Anastasio, Adele, and T-Pain, among others. This year, however, Boilen has decided to open a contest to all musicians across the country in which the winner gets to play a Tiny Desk Concert as well as be flown to Austin, TX to perform at the Lagunitas/ CouchTrippin/ Showcase in March. Sounds like fun, right?!
Since fun is what we’re after, we decided to produce a video and enter the contest. We chose my original song, Flowers, and filmed it in the High School where Peter teaches. Andy joined us on bass and without a lot of time or preparation, this is what we came up with…
There were over 5,000 entrants. Many of them very creative and overflowing with talent (you can check more out at http://tinydeskcontest.npr.org/final). The competition is steep, but even if we don’t win, we had a blast putting it together. As Boilin states in his letter to all entrants, “My favorite part of all this is not any one performance, but the feeling that comes through again and again: that making a video was a creative blast and a memorable time with friends. Everyone seemed to capture the spirit of the contest.”
The winner will be announced on or around February 11th, and I’ll be sure to let you know the result.