My friend, Sam, is an astronaut. He's been up several times. When I write him now he doesn't write back. Last time I saw him was in the late '60's in an ice cream joint in Tampa. He told me he was going to Hollywood to be a "movie star." He didn't say anything about acting. He was going to be a "movie star." I guess things didn't work out.
All the gold these dreams are made of- cocaine and plastic pave the streets. Heartache and heartbreak show on faces. A small price to pay for a life so sweet.
Fly me to Hollywood tonight. Hail me a rainbow for the ride.
This town's not big enough to scare me. I've spent a lot of time here in my dreams. All the pretty faces that I've looked at- a product of some fool's hopes and schemes.
In 1955 my real question was, "What is an Elvis Presley?"
Of course the answer just made the question all the bigger. He's a hillbilly singer from Memphis. He sorta' sings the blues. He has sideburns and walks down the street wearing black lace shirts and pink pants.
When you combine high levels of talent with charisma and mystique, you change the world.
Clive Davis and Rick Rubin and the folks who eventually brought down the music business thought that they could manufacture that stuff. Those boys were trying to bottle lightning.
When I'm fashionable, I'm fabulous. Problem is Haley's comet comes around more often. Oscar knew that he was hip. He was always on. Every now and again he would screw up and go out of fashion. At least I stay out of the pokey! ( Pun intended).
Well, it seems to me that the media in our culture has just figured out after two days of good news, really good news, that the market is ripe.
Golden ages of love and music and art have always flourished after the major wars. Now, the USA has figured out perpetual war for the benefit of Halliburton, GE, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the boys.
Now, looky here. Those four grumps on the wrong end of the bench find themselves holding the bag. The affordable care act is, in fact, law and legacy. Anybody in this country can marry the person that they love. Well, assuming that the person loves them.
After one of the bleakest weeks in our sad history, love is back in style. Do your part, dear friends. Get out there and love. Love hard. Love sweet.
So the champ needs a little help. Tomorrow we're having a benefit for my pal, Steve Connelly. There will be a concert at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa beginning at 4:00 pm with lots of bands that Steve has been involved with over the years.
There will be musical equipment, t-shirts, art and all kinds of goodies for sale and for auction. We're trying to raise twenty thousand bucks on a GoFund page towards his medical expenses, too.
If you know Steve, that just means that you're already involved. If you don't... well, you're not from around here, are you?
My pal, Steve, is a guitar god, a wizard in the recording studio. More importantly, he's the best guy in the world. We're cosmically connected. I've told you that story before.
He was diagnosed a year ago with hepatitis c and needs a liver transplant. During this stressful time the ceiling of his recording studio collapsed leaving him with no way to work.
Oh, everything will be okay. That is my attitude because of my relationship with Steve. My zen credentials have soared. The kindness in this world always astounds me and this experience has deepened my faith.
All the gold these dreams are made of. What do you do when you recognize that sadness and drama have become your comfort zones? Well, you can start by reminding yourself that rock'n'roll is your source of joy and that it's available twenty four hours a day.
Considering that I haven't been working much, I think I'm doing okay. Pretty good, in fact. There's nothing stopping me from playing on a street corner downtown. If it rains I can come home and play naked in the yard.
Even my detractors acknowledge my self awareness.
Give us peace on earth and end this dreadful, dreadful war.
I'm only just beginning to understand what hit me. I'm referring to the last sixty eight years which have flown by while I was distracted with the bright lights and loud noises.
None of it matters but the love. I've wasted so very much time on guilt, anger, greed, vanity, jealousy and ambition. Pure art is pure love. It has taken me this much time on the planet to recognize that true beauty comes from honest devotion.
Suddenly I'm aware of just where those beautiful melodies hide, the ones to melt the stars. All I have to do is to remember to smile. Love tags along.
Sometimes I believe that we find patterns and "plans" because we can't face the tragedies all around us. Hungry children, abandoned pets and victims of natural disasters are the news. Perpetual war isn't even a story. We just need the statistics.
Hate crimes, domestic terrorism? Fashionable.
These times bring to mind for me the era of assassinations in this country, losing the Kennedys and Dr. King. Hope.
Say so long to landlines, checkbooks, chivalry and illegal marijuana. We've still got guns, Lexus lanes, state lottos and payola. We still spew hydrocarbons, tolerate tax havens for billionaires, allow a shameful infant mortality rate and pay big bucks to see the Rolling Stones. We're almost out of pay phones, matchbooks, pennies and post office boxes. Oh yeah, guns- we still have guns. Did I mention that?
Maybe a small silver lining for never having been successful in the music business is that it's almost impossible to go out of fashion.
When I played cowboys and indians, I always wanted to be the indian. I wanted to be the sidekick, the bass player, the straight man. Yeah, I know. Be careful what you wish for.
So I tell anyone who will listen that I'm happy with my "career," that I'm glad she's gone, that I have no regrets. If I will lie to them to convince myself, what else will I do. It begins with lonely and maybe it ends there, too.
The little blonde in my fourth grade class. By the end of the sixth grade I had ridden my bike by her house thousands of times. Oh, I haven't forgotten her name. I just don't want to embarrass her. I would probably ride by her house tomorrow but she lives in another town now.
Ask my therapists, they'll tell you. I will tell anybody anything. I'm not bragging. It's just the way I'm wired. What I can't do is tell you about anyone else. My stories are all about the ones I've loved. The ones I love. Maybe that's why I sing about rain, angels, lust, heartbeats.
When you don't have family around it's all about the neighbors. How have I been so lucky? Seems that I always end up with the nicest folks in the world all around me. You don't suppose that I'm using up all the good luck, leaving people all over the planet with bad ones, do you?
Not to beat a dead horse, here I raise my glass to Helwan, but I have told you recently that I have been trying to read Autobiography Of A Yogi since I was twelve or thirteen years old. Finally it is all falling into place for me. I am beginning to make sense of the universe in terms of wrestling. So everything, and I mean everything, in the news can be traced more or less to Gorgeous George.
Would ISIS be the ultimate bad guy here, or what? Fighting here on the world stage anybody who will climb into the middle east ring with them. They're on the bill opposing Iraq and Syria but the U.S.A. in star spangled trunks keeps hopping into the ring to bash them in the noggin' with a folding chair.
Crusty old John McCain, way too old to fight, himself, keeps calling for a real match. You know, lights out, Baghdad death match- loser leaves town. We got the clean cut hero who we have to keep defending. Who knows where he's really from. Wink, wink.
Now, suddenly we've got a clown with a bad wig, a sissy... heck, we've got a dame! A mean one, too. The real Russian guy keeps taking off his shirt and posing for selfies on horseback. He's working on a Nazi act in case the Russian thing doesn't scare you.
The Koch brothers stand in the corner and keep throwing money and razors into the ring so that we all know just who the villains really are. The bad guys, if they're good bad guys, always have managers ringside.
Now I can yell and carry on as though this fight wasn't fixed, as if the bad guys weren't all in this thing together for their own concern. That, or I can get on with my real life where love and rock'n'roll and banana pudding matter. It's really hard to disengage here. I'll try.
Yeah I'm beginning to notice the patterns. Nothing new. I just have more reason to pay attention.
Beautiful faces, handsome profiles morph into kindly expressions. Clever becomes almost shallow. Wisdom shows up. There was never gonna be an "old" Elvis. On the other hand we might have had an "old" John Lennon. Love seemed to change him and then he was gone.
It's all sped up with dogs and cats. I guess my animal pals have taught me about as much about life as any of my friends. Jamaica and Angel share life with me at levels that challenge me every day. It's all about the love.
Funny thing is- I would probably do it again pretty much the same way. Oh, I suppose that I would spend more time with the ones I've loved. When they're gone, they're gone. My pal, Ed Brown, always said, "Youth has no concept of mortality." He was right, of course.
It seems that I haven't loved very well and I'm sorry about that. I surely have loved hard, though. Maybe I thought that would make up for it.
Every now and then I've played the music that was popular. Of course that's been when fashion blew it my way for short bursts. I've sung what's in my heart and I've done it from my soul.
I would like to tell you about everything I've seen, everything I've felt. Sometimes it seems like I remember every breath.
We rolled the Econoline van right through Attapulgus, Georgia. End over end and sideways. Then it caught fire. As we began to throw the equipment out onto the ground it began to rain. As the sun came up, while we were comparing scrapes and bruises, the sheriff showed up.
"What's the problem, girls?" he drawled, doing an almost perfect Dodge commercial act.
Then it got bad as he took us to the Attapulgus jail for the paperwork.
Well, sir, those folks in town eventually took to us. A van showed up from home to get us to Birmingham just in time for the nights' show. Then we avoided a brawl with a nasty little segment of our audience by leaving the stage in the middle of our set.
Oh, the beautiful things that I see. The colors, the swirls. And the music that I hear! It's always there. Sometimes I go for long stretches without listening. Yesterday I played Moondog's wonderful "Paris" on the radio and the reaction stunned me. Some beauty transcends all boundaries.
It must have been 1970. Harry and I were exploring Manhattan in the way that hillbillies do. There, in the middle of a busy intersection, stood a blind street musician in viking garb with long, flowing silver hair. He was singing, chanting and playing assorted pipes and drums.
I had never heard of Moondog. I'll never forget him.
Oh, the rain. Why do they write all the sad songs about the rain? Well, except for "Singing In The Rain." I suppose all the songs are sad if you're listening with a broken heart. You can make up your mind not to gamble with your heart again. I don't recommend it.
All of my concepts of kindness and genius and happiness seem to be in a state of flux. If "happiness" is the goal, good luck to you. Peace of mind, on the other hand, is always right there.
Take off your clothes. Put some Little Richard and Fats Domino on the turntable. Make up some green Kool Aid. Make sure that you're sharing this with some folks you love and, remember, you should love them all.
Maybe I'm the type who has to be reminded that the glass is half full from time to time. I was spoiled and I'm always the first to admit it. I was spoiled mostly with love, though, and that's a good thing. A really good thing.
It's already been a long trip now and I've had the best friends, worked with the kindest and brightest folks, learned from the best bosses and the most special teachers in the world and shared love with the most patient, sweet and wonderful women who ever graced the planet.
Timing put me in the middle of the road when rock'n'roll blasted down Western culture's highway and changed everything. Forever.
If you ever catch me whining here, give me a thump. I'm the luckiest man alive and I know it. Love just as hard as you can. Nothing else matters much.
Sitting here thinking about never having seen Ronny Howard onscreen with Terry Bradshaw. Coincidence? Ever wonder why Johnny Cash never had Mr. Ed on his summer replacement series as a guest? Here's a hint:
Hello, I'm Johnny Cash.
Hello, I'm Mr. Ed.
Hmmm. I'm not really one of those conspiracy nuts but what about the things that they don't want us to know. I'm not even sure who they are.
You know how all that footage shows up on You Tube of Mick Jagger dancing and prancing with David Bowie? Tina Turner? You don't remember seeing Mick hopping around with Don Knotts, do ya?
Playing the music that I love on the radio reminds me of just how much this stuff has shaped my life. I never play music at home. The only time my radio is on is when I'm in the car. That's not often.
Now I'm back in the third grade playing "My Baby Left Me" for my schoolmates, trying to explain Elvis Presley. I'm dragging my little box of 45's down to the playground to spin Little Richard and Nervous Norvus for the other kids. There will only be one or two who want to hear it. That's on a good night.
By high school and the British invasion I had the attention of my peers. For awhile.
My lifelong career has followed the same uncrowded highway. Actually more of a two lane country road. I saw myself described in the All Music Guide, "A cult artist in the best sense of the word."
Hey, I'm not trying to be perverse here. Sometimes I just have to answer that call and share the beauty of it all. It's all tied up with the love and the secrets of the universe. There's no secret handshake. Not that they've shown me. When Mr. Rodney introduced me to Tiny Tim, we recognized our reflections in the soul mirror. I don't know Bob Dylan. I've never seen him. I do understand the connection that he describes with Tim.
Sometimes I think I oughta' take my box of 45's to the middle east for spell.
Everybody hurts. It's one of the few things that we all really share. Everything's local, you know. Some neighbors are just closer than others. I'm a geographer. The very concept of lines in the sand determining who owns what land is ludicrous to me. Don't forget that most of our wars are fought over such tripe. Hey! Somebody twenty years ago died defending this cloth with stars and stripes and moons. Now, in order to prove that you believe in the right god and your government officials, you should send your boy off to die, too. My cynicism does not apply to the soldiers. They were the original collateral damage.
There's a humdinger of a future coming. My selfish questions all have to do with how much of it I will live to see. The more interesting questions are answered by computer models. The scientists are wiser than ever. Unfortunately they're not in charge here. Oh, we'll call them in when it looks like a Dwayne Johnson movie wherever you look.
Money? It's just green paper. Greed? Now there's the evil. Love? Should be the antidote but the greedy ones think they can buy it with money. Hang on.
There's a certain arrogance involved with the concept of forgiving. Seems to me that the one doing the forgiving has concluded that he was "right" and that he, in his magnanimity, is willing to allow the guilty party a pass.
In reality, in the middle of the swirling atoms, there usually is no good guy and bad guy. We just see things differently, clash and lash out. We hurt and say mean things because we've been hurt.
If we're going to have a revolution of love we better learn to love ourselves. The ones out there who can't take care of themselves need us, too. There is something terribly wrong with any culture with homeless people going hungry and folks doing without medical care while we throw away tons of food in dumpsters daily and have empty hospital beds.
If a man of color, a homeless Jew, walked through the streets and talked about love and socialism in this country- why, they'd crucify him!
Computers show up in my dreams. Do you suppose that buggy whips and spats showed up in Grandma's? Who do you suppose invented high heels? How did he convince anybody to wear them?
What about the necktie? Who was the first snooty maitre d to suggest, "You won't be able to dine with these folks until you come back with a ribbon tied 'round your neck"?
How come Goofy has to wear pants and Pluto doesn't? How did I end up in Goofy's camp?
I can understand the concept of a salesman, an individual who can convince me to buy a Buick or a Hoover upright. How on earth, though, can anyone trick another person into supporting war? "We need to bring peace and security to this area. We will flatten the countryside with bombs. That will be a start. For the time being they hate us for our freedom but after that they'll welcome us as liberators."
Who on earth finds these nuts, these liars? More importantly, who on earth elects them?
The real work is ahead of me. Everything I've written, every story I've told, every note I've sung- it's all been my schooling. I may be a slow learner, a late bloomer, but I'm ready to roll. Shake and rattle, too. If nobody buys it? Hey, I'm used to that. I want to wake up the gods and melt the stars.
Art and love and rock'n'roll. Who knew I was ambitious!