Archive for August 24th, 2009

The WORST Songs Ever!

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Earlier today, my music-loving pastor asked me – as a guy who plays tunes for a living, as opposed to for my own enjoyment – which songs I’d be happy to never play again. After reflecting on that question for a few hours, I’ve decided that my “List of the Least” would have to fall into 3 categories:

1. Ubiquitous melodies. Joy To The World (“Jeremiah was a bullfrog…”), Tie A Yellow Ribbon, and Feelings (“Woah-oh-oh…”) were so overplayed for so long that – whatever their merits – I just got sick to death of playing them. Even truly beautiful songs like Unchained Melody (the Righteous Brothers hit featured in Ghost) can and have been worn out, simply from excessive use.

2. Over-dramatic tunes. Lushly produced, hyper-emotional songs (pretty much anything by Whitney Houston, Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, and Barry Manilow) get really old, really fast. And so did New York, New York (about 30 years ago, and ever since.) The fact is, all these hits are much more showcases for the vocal chops and technique of their singers than they are great songs. I think it’s instructive that the 2 best known purveyors of New York, New York (Liza Minnelli and Frank Sinatra) are both Academy Award-winning actors. Given one of these talents, a 36-piece orchestra, and enough reverb, even Itsy Bitsy Spider could be a show-stopper.

3. Just plain lame songs. “In the desert, you can’t remember your name, ’cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.” (Aah – where should I even begin with this one?) This excerpt from the ’70s hit Horse With No Name tortures its syntax, uses double negatives, and displays a total logic lobotomy – all to set up a rhyme that doesn’t rhyme!

But my vote for the Worst Lyrics Ever is this verse from another ’70s classic, Put Your Hand In The Hand Of The Man. “Every time I look into the Holy Book, I wanna tremble / When I read about the part where the Carpenter cleared the temple / ‘Cause the buyers and the sellers were no different fellers than what I profess to be / And it causes me pain to know I’m not the man that I should be.”

This song was a huge hit. And we who made its composers rich deserved more than them (not) rhyming “tremble” with “temple.” Secondly, last I heard, Joseph was the carpenter, Jesus was a rabbi (teacher.) Next, the buyers and the sellers were only “no different fellers” if you like the idea of attending worship services where the Eucharist is brought to you by Pepsi-Cola. And finally, the composers set up the verse to end with a rhyme for the word “be.” They had an alphabet full of options to work with, including “me,” “see,” and every adverb ending in -ly. So which of the dozens of possibilities did they choose to rhyme with “be?” Why – be, of course! (At least it actually did rhyme, though I suspect Cole Porter rolled over in his grave a few times.)

But now that I’ve given you my non-hit parade, I would ask you to please remember that – if you hire me – you can feel free to request any of these songs you wish. (And Ring My Bell. And Torn Between Two Lovers, To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before, and… )

“Follow My Path”

Monday, August 24th, 2009

I “got away from it all” this past weekend at one of the growing number of religious retreats organized and led by the lay members of congregations. For Protestants, “The Walk To Emmaus” is a popular program of this type, while Catholics may attend similar sessions called ACTS (for Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service). What these and other such spiritual getaways have in common are a peer-run opportunity for reflection and renewal. (Lev Shalom, which is Hebrew for “heart peace,” has a related goal, but is led by rabbis).

Over a period of 60+ hours, veterans of previous weekends who were otherwise ordinary husbands and fathers like me (the ladies go to separate gatherings) shared their insights and testimonies with us new guys – who are known as “retreatants” or “pilgrims,” depending on the program. All of the stories touched me, but none more than the farmer who told of the joy he found as a small boy, riding on the tractor with his dad. Ultimately the day came when his father made the first few circuits of a field, then moved to one side and invited his son to sit behind the wheel. The son asked “What should I do?” And the patient father pointed at the rows already sown and replied, “Just follow my path.”

Those four words had an immediate and tangible impact on the crowd, dads and Believers (or at least Seekers), all. Ironically, in the discussion that followed, I got the impression that our presenter may not have realized their profundity. To him, he was just quoting what his own dad had said.

But the truth is, our children, students, and those who work for us do follow our paths, learning by our example. The challenge for us is to be sure that the lessons we teach are good, and are the ones we intended. And for that, we have examples of our own to guide us. The Torah, Bible, Koran, and Tao each offer lessons in following our Father’s path. (in fact – one common translation of “Tao” is: “path.”)

Weekend retreats “out of town” aren’t required for re-dedication. But – sometimes – the best way to find the right path is to get off the beaten one. I am so glad that I did.