Oh, the stories I could tell. Sometimes I embarrass myself rattling off the names of hotshots and rock'n'roll stars, rich folks and politicians as though my proximity to these folks somehow makes me special. I'm always aware that I've just maintained a good spot along the parade route. Life, I think they call it.
The good stories are about Bubba and Ronald Ponce de Leon, Bud Hawkins, Laura Moose, Nubbin Davenport and Warren Novak, Wolfgang Pieker and Eddie Cook, Dale Wilson and Ed Brown. Oh and the dogs and the cats and the rodents.
I've heard music so sweet that I tear up thinking about it. I can summon some of it whenever I want. I've seen famous pieces of art at MOMA but I saw brown fingerpainting when I was six that I've never gotten over.
Love? I have burned through my soul with it. I have no regrets in the world except for ever hurting anyone else.
It's all in the catalog for happiness as I recall. A beautiful pink coat for my mom on page 74. A fancy 12 gauge shotgun for Murray Junior back on 362. That Silvertone solid body on page 280 is the last piece in the puzzle. I'll soon be a rock'n'roll star. Well, I may have to wait a bit for a measure of talent. That's alright. I've got time and patience and dreams.
Well, my darlings, you're showing a little age. I am, too. We're a team, a family unit. Dysfunctional, to be sure, but a loyal and loving crew. Each of us struts like a dictator and each of us shows a neediness that borders on legend.
You girls have gotten me through self-imposed drama that has threatened to run me off the human rails. I will be forever grateful. Oh, I know that you must get tired of, "I love you." It's for me more than it is for you, I suspect.
How lucky can one man be? I know my good fortune. I love you. I love you.
My head is swimming in revolution. Everything positive that I have to say is cliche right now. Check back with me six months after Pope Francis goes home. Sometimes I have to remind myself that everything is perfect.
You learn your lessons when you can, not when you want to. Folks go crazy all the time. You read about it in the paper. You hear about it on cable news. Some of them come back. You don't read much about that.
Don't lock your doors. Don't close your heart. Life's gonna happen. Love without expectations.
The pope and the Fiat and the hat blowing away. I really thought that I was over celebrity worship. They say that he wasn't like this before he got the big job. I think I've lost weight during this visit, mostly cynicism.
The second story seems to be the plight of the eastern European immigrants. The very desperation breaks my heart.
It's nice to know what you want to be when you grow up. I've never had a calling. Well, I mean I've done a lot of things. I've managed offices and I've worked for the government. I was a bartender for one night and I've scooped mud from the bottom of barges. When those smug guys at the yacht club ask, "What do you do?," I seldom answer truthfully. I almost never tell them that I write songs and struggle to save my soul.
Oh, I'm not ashamed of it. I was born to the rock'n'roll. That's that. It's the detail that would end conversation. Once I got around to explaining that I want to help save the world that I know that throats would clear and Top-Siders would shuffle.
Now, however, let's slow-forward to my new business plan. This little, insignificant spec in the universe, Martin Shrekli, has changed everything. His scheme to raise the market price on a sixty two year old drug by some 5000% has awakened a bigger chunk of our culture than anything since the Occupy Wall Street movement. The punk, in a storm of bad timing, made headlines just as Pope Francis was arriving on our shore.
This is my war now. This is our war. I believe to call it a revolution is to violate the fourteenth amendment. Oh well. There won't be any weapons in this revolution, no arms in this war. Our side will fight with truth and with love.
E.O. Wilson, the father of sociobiology, points out that we have the resources to provide for everyone. Not only that but we posses the power and technology to heal this planet and to nourish it. There is no reason for babies to wash up on shores. There is no justification for polar bears to starve.
There are no hedge fund managers who go the the office every morning to make the world a better place. Well, I suppose that the penthouse on the upper east side might make their world a better place. You know what I'm saying.
No fresh-scrubbed graduate goes into pharmaceutical sales to benefit mankind. They want that new Bimmer. The big one.
Why do we put heroin dealers in prison and pay fortunes to arms dealers? Why isn't it shameful to sell products around the world that are manufactured to kill and maim and destroy?
You do realize that the answer to my rhetorical question from any of these lunatics from the military industrial complex is that if we don't, China will. Russia will. We justify our means with double-talk, gobbledygook.
These crooks own our government and most other governments, too. There. The emperor has no clothes.
We have the means to feed and shelter everyone. We possess the technology to provide clean energy. We have enough land to protect all of nature's creatures. We have the medical facilities to heal and comfort the ones who need it and the ability to care for the ones who can't take care of themselves. There are teachers and technology to make quality education available to every member of society.
This joke that we refer to in this country as "politics" has run its course. We have Donald Trump to thank for pointing this out. He's Pat Paulsen on steroids with a bad hairdo and a bankroll to choke a horse.
Charles Koch doesn't need another mill. Mick Jagger doesn't need another villa. Not until there are no hungry children at night.
Tribal politics are over. Quote me. This war may take awhile but love is all you need.
Left to my own devices I tend to hear in mono, dream in color, think in rock'n'roll. When I notice that the New York Times and the Financial Times and Esquire are all on the hunt for authentic I know that we're looking at a trend.
Oh, this isn't new to Generation Y. I suppose that we all need to think that we're different from the ones who came before.
On the white side of the fence, the Carter Family was authentic. Nobody was ever going to pretend to be a hillbilly. Jimmie Rogers and Hank Williams were, too. Dying young enhances your odds. Elvis was authentic until we got into 1956. Then he became the first Elvis impersonator. Good one, too. The Beatles were maybe a little less authentic because of Brian Epstein's heavy hand but we probably would never have seen them without his influence. You get a little too authentic and it's a risky deal.
My favorite rock'n'roll quote is, of course, attributed to the Killer: "Hell, they would've had a fit if they had known she was really only twelve!"
Tiny Tim. There's another one. Of course by the time of the wedding on the Tonight Show we had managed to turn that sweet soul into a parody of himself.
It's funny but the Tonight Show had the power to do that. Little Richard had probably been the poster boy for authenticity in the early days of rock'n'roll. Don't forget that little Bobby Zimmerman had wanted to be Little Richard before he decided he wanted to be Woody Guthrie. That embarrassing, flamboyant pouf shouting, "Shut up!" to Johnny Carson wasn't my Little Richard.
Now I've opened a can of spaghetti, huh? Woody seemed to try his best to be what they wanted. Authenticity just seemed to get in his way. Most of us would probably never have known his name if the aforementioned Bobby Zimmerman hadn't concocted the stage name, Bob Dylan, and set out to steal Woody's act. Supreme talent got him through long enough to become his own eccentric, our eccentric, the voice of a generation.
Sometimes the talent and the authenticity go hand in hand. I'm thinking of Van Morrison and Jimi Hendrix. There are plenty of examples of the talent with no authenticity whatsoever. John Fogarty wasn't born on any bayou.
Most of my personal favorites are the ones way off the authentic scale. No Col. Parker or Brian Epstein was ever gonna touch Nervous Norvus or Bruce Hampton or Screamin' Jay Hawkins.
I'd change my name, get a new hairdo and move to Nashville but I'm too lazy.
What if the rattlesnake sang like the mockingbird? It has taken me all this time, all these years, to understand that the beauty is everywhere. The filters in my brain allow me to hear Little Richard sing when the radio plays in spite of the fact that the din of daily life has the potential to overpower even the Georgia Peach.
Now, suddenly, I am taken with the idea that the landscape is visually layer upon layer of physical beauty. If I choose to dismiss the visual filters between my eyes and my brain, they're all right there. Suddenly the story of Ray Charles and Helen Keller make sense to me in a way that they never have.
Maybe turning off these filters is what Huxley and Leary and Alpert were going on about. Could be what makes the gurus giggle. Should make love a little easier. Wham!
So I live in a culture where nearly half of the population doesn't believe in evolution. The only ones who think that's crazy are the other half. Donald Trump just disavowed climate change in a telephone interview with Joe Scarborough on the television.
You can't love only the ones with whom you agree. Don't you see? That would just make you one of them. Not only that, if you're so sure that you have it all right and they have it all wrong then you have precluded changing your mind about anything in the future. That would seem to make you one of them, too.
You can be discriminating about your taste in music, fashion and art and wine. Love? You better use that stuff up wherever you go. Folks are dying for it out there.
No wonder folks babble about the end times. Those "candidates" begin to preen and squabble and I can't tell if I'm being entertained or frightened to death. These are not my times, buddy, I can tell you that.
Remind me- what does music soothe? Was it the savage beast or the soul? If it weren't for the songs I might not be able to communicate at all. I'll show you socially awkward.
Seems old Pythagoras probably gets too much credit. Ellas McDaniel, or Bo Diddley, will never get enough. My mom took me to the armory in 1956 to see him. Bo Diddley, not Pythagoras. I was fascinated that he wore glasses. I was thrilled every time he sang his own name, too. I still mix up Bo Diddley and Hey, Bo Diddley.
Years later he wanted to produce my band. The fact that we never got around to it probably makes a better story.
When Cary Grant grew old and died it began to dawn on me that mortality wasn't just for somebody else's grandpa. I haven't used up my quota of fun, love, rock'n'roll. The planet doesn't need me but there are a few critters who do. I have a job, too. Boys and girls, I'm here to remind you to love and love hard. My purpose is to make sure that you remember to enjoy every moment.
Just coming in from a Solidarity meeting. Great excuse for my left leaning, big hearted pals to sit around and dream of the meek inheriting the earth. These are not dumb folks. My friends are hard working, fair minded people who want to make the world a better place.
Old hippies like me need to be reminded that the struggle never ends and the battle goes on forever. I've gone a few more laps than most of them. Well, okay- a lot more laps. Don't ever fight with anything other than love. Use what you've got.
Odd, isn't it, how many versions of truth exist? Everybody needs to be right. Nobody wants to be the bad guy. That dark side of the heart is to be denied, if possible. Presidential debates are to remind us of their presence. Rock'n'roll soothes the soul. Let's rock.
Before we left Birmingham when I was six years old, I could walk to the West End Theater two blocks away to see second run movies. My cousin, Jimmy, and I were pretty sure that we would eventually see a naked woman on the big screen. Of course we did but that was a almost a decade later when Brigitte Bardot films washed up on America's shore.
In Tampa I grew up two blocks down from the Palma Ceia Theater. Was I a regular? Let's just say that I sat through The Rose Tattoo seven times in a week. I still have no idea what that movie is about. I'm pretty sure that it's at least a little bit naughty even if there are no naked women.
Everything that I know and believe is shaped a bit by those movie houses with a healthy dose, or unhealthy dose, of Sunday school mixed in.
I do know enough to know that I don't know much. I believe in love. I don't believe in war.
By the time that I began releasing records under my own name I had been in the rock'n'roll trenches for decades. Critics often used the term, late bloomer, in describing my efforts. That was more than twenty years ago.
I'm just beginning to learn my craft. I'm more a slow learner than a late bloomer. Sometimes I stray but I'm always back to this. This is home. This is truth. This is love. Rock'n'roll will outlive me. It outlived Alan Freed and Dick Clark.
Hole in my pocket, hole in my heart. Everybody writes history but the ones with the jack get their's published. Is sand just glass waiting to be converted or vice versa?
Tribes keep us from feeling lonely, I suppose. They provide us with a sense of community. All I ever wanted was to be in the band. Let's face it- I'm a solo act. All the pretty melodies hide behind lonely. All the beautiful poems.
In the end only kindness matters. If I were a man better organized, I could have typed this out years ago and saved all of us a lot of time. Isn't it great to have Germany the good guy in the story. Make love.
When rock'n'roll was new it was all about love. Well, lust and love. I was young then. I was all about love, too. Well, lust and love. Rock'n'roll converted. In the early days it meant money for the mob, some DJ's and Col. Parker. Most of the record guys and radio guys loved the music. Oh, I'm sure that the Chess brothers and Morris Levy would have put out trash if they thought there was an extra buck to be made. Still, it was the rock'n'roll that changed everything and mostly for the better.
I've got my own ideas about when it all changed. Uncharacteristically, I'll keep them to myself. Some of my heroes were involved.
Sunday morning and I wake up with religion on my mind. Everything seems clear, so obvious. Maybe it's all those Facebook quotes:
"Jesus wasn't a Christian. Buddha wasn't a Buddhist. Mohamed wasn't a Muslim. They all taught love."
Maybe it's Edward O. Wilson or Paramahansa Yogananda or Alan Watts. Of course there are shades of Grandma and Teresa and Jimmy Carter and Reverend Simmons and Wolfgang in the mix.
I do know this- there is no jealous god. If a perfect god made man in his image and man destroys the earth with greed and hate, the story doesn't hold up. Believe me I am very much aware of what a childish, immature take this is. Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me." I sit at the children's table. Proudly.
There's no way that man was created with a talleywhacker and woman with a hooha so that we could get into mortal trouble playing with them.
Don't try to explain to me that we have taken the lands of folks with beliefs different from ours because God thought it was a good idea or that we march young people into war after war with God on our side. When innocent children perish in every skirmish, lessons are not being learned. If a god condones any war, anywhere, ever it involves paintball. I promise.
This reads as something of an irreverent, sarcastic rant. I'm aware of that. It's just my style or would be if I had a style. I bring this message from all those folks who stood up for what they knew in their heart and I bring it with all the love I've got in my own heart.
So my pal, Steve Connelly, has a new liver and a new lease on life. We've shared more life than I can describe. He thinks we're connected cosmically. Who am I to question someone I'm connected to cosmically?
Once he let 12 bars go by in the studio with his hands by his side. We agreed that it was the perfect solo. He hadn't played a note. Now that's zen recording.
He's still a genius if a little less delicate. Maybe some of the lessons aren't about loss.
So, I was spoiled with loads of unconditional love. I wish that on everyone. Lately I've been thinking about some of the sources that don't always come to mind when I'm counting my blessings and saying my prayers. The ones with four legs.
Oh, how I miss Goldie and Sparkle. Prince and Puddles, too. The other Prince and Rusty. Luv, Bo, Harry S., Wolfgang. I miss Hugo, Charcoal, Kitty Kelly, Orangie Boy and Mama Kitty and Boo and Kokamo and Cuba. I miss all the guinea pigs and hamsters and goldfish, too. Lord knows how many I'm leaving out. Sage, Suzie, Baby and Tina for example.
Sometimes I wish I believed in heaven.
All of the love you can handle is right down at the closest adoption center. We can't all bring home a Syrian refugee right now. We can all share our hearts with a rescue pet. Love is all you need.
Over a long lifetime I have never felt more the outsider. Funny, nothing seems sad about it this time around. I made a promise to myself that there would be no politics here. I don't have the stomach for the division, the quibbling, the hate.
It would be impossible, however, not to notice that Donald Trump raises hope and pride in the souls of more of my tribe than President Obama. You know, "We gave the colored guy a chance and just look at the mess we're in. We need to get back to some bullying, some firing, some bluster."
Nobody's gonna trick me into hate. It does not make me proud to say that I'm not proud of my country. When the conversation turns to pollution, infant mortality, imperialism, income inequality, health care, violence or racial prejudice I have to leave the table.
Oh, I know that good will prevail. It is just disappointing to me to have little hope that it will be done through government and/or religion. Bad guys now own most of that.
We watched the Soviet Union crumble and collapse. There is no "revolution" against nuclear weapons. There is decay and collapse. This society with homeless folks in front of the hedge fund offices can't be maintained by giving us a new I phone every other year. Not indefinitely.
What do we do in the meantime?
Love. Vote. Listen to rock'n'roll. Love some more.