My Sweet Honeydew

Thank you to everyone who has continued to visit my blog even though I have written no fresh posts in the past three months.

After this fallow period of non-blogging, today I am happy to be writing a new post.

As faithful readers may remember, for the past year and a half I’ve been focused on recording, fixing, mixing, and releasing decent versions of songs with significant amounts of input, collaboration and expertise from pianist/engineer Doug Hammer.

“My Sweet Honeydew” — featured in the player at the top of this post — is part of a new crop of original songs I’ll be sharing in 2022.

Image by sandid from Pixabay

Some of these songs attempt to make sense out of the tipping point which human civilization — along with the rest of the extraordinary web of life here on planet earth — is now experiencing due to our overconsumption of fossil fuels during the past 150 years or so.

“My Sweet Honeydew” highlights the gratitude I attempt to practice every day despite horrible news such as the accelerating extinction of plant and animal species; the increasing frequency and severity of fires, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes; and the political unrest/discord which these events stir up!

I am very grateful to live in the United States of America and specifically in Massachusetts, which is currently led by a rare Republican governor who believes in science and who continues to respect the ever-evolving recommendations of public health experts during our ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

Because of these two geographical blessings, I have so far been spared most of the anguish and shortages and panic and destruction that so many other beings on planet earth are already experiencing.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

Deep breath in.

Deep breath out.

But I am aware that this could change — and possibly much faster than most of us who currently have access to food and clean water and shelter and electricity and computers and the internet would like to think is possible…

That’s because I’ve been reading a book called DEEP ADAPTATION with a small group of friends.

So far it’s been a very sobering experience — as you may know if you have already read it.

Another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Image by Hilary Clark from Pixabay

I’ll probably write more about DEEP ADAPTATION in future blog posts.

Please let me know in the comments section if you have already read it — and what YOU make of it…

Yet another deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

I have a few resolutions for 2022.

One is to continue to decrease the impact of my life on all of the ecosystems which support our lives here on planet earth.

Image by Hajnalka Mahler from Pixabay

Another is to write shorter blog posts.

And a third is to remain curious (if that is possible) rather than terrified or furious or disheartened or disgusted about everything that continues to unfold here in these not-very-United-States.

One more deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

You are always welcome to visit my website — where you can find many songs (and learn more about my musical life here on planet earth if you are curious).

You can also find me singing — with Doug Hammer playing his Schimmel grand piano — on SpotifyPandoraApple Music and other digital music platforms.

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay 

And if you are hungry for more music, you are welcome to click here and listen to a sweet version of the jazz standard “Skylark” by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael which I recorded with Doug Hammer on a bunch of different digital music platforms.

I earn only a fraction of a cent any time someone plays one of my recordings on a digital music service — but they all add up.

Thank you to the wonderful photographers and graphic artists at Pixabay.

And thank YOU for reading yet another one of my blog posts!

Image by Bernadette Wurzinger from Pixabay 

I welcome your comments below if you are moved to leave one.

Perhaps 2022 will be better than 2021.

We shall see…

One final deep breath in.

And deep breath out.

Skylark…

Skylark…

As our president speaks on the radio about his recent decision to kill an Iranian general (and others) in Iraq, I thought I might share a post about love and melody and music…

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John Herndon Mercer was born on November 18, 1909 in Savannah, Georgia.

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From the 1930s to the 1960s he co-wrote a slew of hit songs including “Jeepers Creepers,” “Hooray For Hollywood,” “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road),” “Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home,” “I’m Old Fashioned,” “Moon River,” “On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe,” “Too Marvelous For Words,” “Accentuate The Positive,” “That Old Black Magic,” “Blues In The Night,” “In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening,” “Autumn Leaves,” and “Skylark.”

Mercer was nominated for 19 Academy Awards — winning four Oscars for best original song — and had two successful shows on Broadway.

He was also a popular recording artist AND co-founded Capitol Records!

“Skylark” was published in 1941 — when Europe was engulfed in WWII but the USA had not yet entered the fight…

The song had a long creative gestation.

According to Wikipedia, the composer Hoagy Carmichael was inspired to write the melody for what became “Skylark” by an improvisation which his old friend Bix Beiderbecke — a jazz cornet player — had once played.

Bix’s music and too-short life had already inspired a novel called YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN which Hoagy was hoping to adapt into a Broadway show (and which a decade later provided the source material for a movie of the same name starring Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall, Doris Day and Hoagy Carmichael…)

Apparently the Broadway production never gelled, and after that Hoagy shared the melody with Johnny in hopes that he might write lyrics for it.

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Different books report different versions of how long it took Johnny to write the lyrics for “Skylark.”

Most agree, however, that it was a long period of time — several months to a year — and that Hoagy had kind of forgotten that Johnny was working on lyrics for it (or at least Hoagy had stopped checking in with Johnny to ask him if he had made any progress…)

Around this time Johnny had started an on-again, off-again love affair with Judy Garland.

He was 31 years old (and married…and upset because his father had recently died) and she — fresh off her success as Dorothy in THE WIZARD OF OZ — was 19 years old.

Many writers have speculated about which of Mercer’s lyrics were inspired by his love for Judy — and “Skylark” is one of the contenders.

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Here is Judy in an MGM publicity photo from 1943 — when she was 21 years old.

Beautiful and funny and gifted and smart and hard-working and … inspirational.

Another thing which inspired Johnny was the natural world.

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His family had a summer home outside Savannah on a hill overlooking an estuary — and he spent his summers as a child fishing, swimming, sailing, picking berries, and lying very still.

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He wrote in an unpublished autobiography, “The roads were still unpaved, made of crushed oyster shell, and…they wound their way under the trees covered with Spanish moss…”

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“It was a sweet indolent background for a boy to grow up in…and as we drove out to our place in the country there (were) vistas of marsh grass and long stretches of salt water.”

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“It was 12 miles from Savannah, but it might as well have been 100…”

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“Out on (our) starlit veranda, I would lie on a hammock and — lulled by the night sounds, the cricket sounds… my eyelids would grow heavy (and I would fall sleep) — safe in the buzz of grown up talk and laughter (and) the sounds of far-off singing…”

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I started reading about Johnny Mercer when fellow singer Bobbi Carrey and pianist Doug Hammer and I put together a program of his songs that we performed at Scullers Jazz Club here in Boston.

We also were fortunate enough to perform this program of songs on Spring Island — one of the multitude of barrier islands which run along the Georgia and Carolina coast.

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Spring Island was once one of the largest cotton plantations in the southern United States.

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And echoes of plantation life remain on the island…

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Spring Island is now half wildlife sanctuary and half retirement community for folks who are very wealthy — some of whom love music enough that they would fly me and Bobbi and Doug down to perform in their lovely club house.

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Although he enjoyed living in New York and California, Johnny returned home to Georgia on a regular basis — usually via a long train trip since he did not like to fly.

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He savored the slower pace of life in his hometown as well as the beauty all around.

Having traveled to Spring Island, I have a much more vivid sense of Johnny Mercer’s roots…

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A song like “Skylark” or “Moon River” makes sense in a different way now that I have seen and smelled and tasted and heard the environment where he grew up.

Spring-Island

Full of streams…

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And birds…

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And mist…

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And blossoms…

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And swamps…

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And big old trees…

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And ocean…

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And flowers…

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And light…

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And sky…

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Thank you to Bix Beiderbecke and Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer for creating such a lovely song.

And to Doug Hammer for his spectacular piano playing as well as his super-competent engineering skills.

And to Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons for most of the images in this post.

And to YOU for reading and listening to this blog post!

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