Our interviewee in this story, 57 years old, is a self-described “aging hippie and music junkie.” Recovering from substance abuse over the course of some seven years, he has found new serenity and joy, thanks to the grounding and centering power of certain music.
Although he grew up listening to musicians like Bob Dylan, James Taylor, Carly Simon, and Joni Mitchell, he says he has been drawn lately to lesser known contemporary women singer-songwriters such as Molly Venter and Cheryl Wheeler.
For him, they are more nurturing than many male composer–more honest and open with their emotions. A vivid example for him is Cheryl Wheeler’s “ARROW”–a bittersweet song about the risks of falling in love:
“I wish I could feel my heartbeat rise and gaze into some gentle warm excited eyes, and give myself as truly as an arrow flies in windless skies.”
Together with his younger brother, our man has built a bridge to a constituency of female folk-rock musicians and their audience. In 2012 he started what has now become an annual event in his state–“a festival of music, of the women, by the women, and for everyone.” All net proceeds benefit the state Epilepsy Foundation.
Another kind of bridge for him, carrying both personal and inter-generational layers of memory, is The Kennedys’ song “HALF A MILLION MILES”. He recalls attending a performance where he found himself “bawling like a baby, sitting in the audience, crying, out of a feeling of effusive joy, peace, and togetherness.”
This song, by the husband-and-wife duo Pete and Maura Kennedy, is a rich mix of autobiographical resonance and rock ‘n’ roll history. It turns out that after they initially met in Austin, Texas, they decided for their first date to each drive 500 miles and meet at Buddy Holly’s grave in Lubbock! And you may know, Holly–a pioneer of rock–perished together with Ritchie Valens and J.P. Richardson in a plane crash, Feb. 3, 1959. This was when our interviewee was barely two years old.
Follow the words below the video:
It was a rainy night in Texas, river was running high
Anyone with any sense was inside staying dry
The rain came down like hammered gold and rendered all things new
Like a Colorado overflow down Congress Avenue
Round, round, ten traveling years
Is a mighty long, long while
When the long road stretches out ahead
A half a million miles.
In a funky rock and roll bar
A man and a woman sat
While the rain poured down with the dim, deep sound
But they paid no mind to that
They talked about the old songs
They wrote one that was new
They sang it to Roy Orbison and Ricky Nelson too
When the sun come up next morning
On the sinners and the saved
A pickup headed down the road toward Buddy Holly’s grave
In the lonesome town of Lubbock, where Buddy’s bones did lay
Their hearts were cut with diamonds on that strange and fateful day