I want to wish you, my readers, the happiest and healthiest in 2012. May those dreams you wish for, come true, and be everything you always imagined. May those dreams you keep to yourself add interest and meaning to your life. May you find things working out in your favor. If I could grant wishes, I would like you to all find satisfaction and contentment in the new year. Laughing and crying make us better people.
Be brave. Be courageous. Be forgiving. First and foremost, of yourself. Show kindness and patience to those closest to you.
Kick up your heels once in a while. The writer Tom Robbins said, in Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, that “taking small excursions when invited out of the blue, is God’s way of having angels ask you to dance.” (I paraphrase)
Let’s worry less. My wish, my resolution, my hope is that we will be inscribed in the Book of Life for another year. I look back asking for forgiveness. I look forward with guarded optimism asking for all good things. I hope the world finally recognizes your genius and mine. I hope we rise to all occasions and notice when angels are inviting us to dance. Happy New Year everyone. HL
One of the greatest big band jazz tunes is Benny Goodman doing one of his signature instrumentals, a variation of the great “Sing, Sing, Sing,” here is Benny and the Band doing “Sing, Sing, With A Swing” which is today’s HarryShots Song of the Day. Enjoy. HL
I found a name in the obits that jumped out at me last week. It took me back to my freshman year in college at the University of Alabama where I was a new freshman pledge in a fraternity.
Long story, short; I was hazed, nearly every day, for the duration of my freshman year in college. Mark E. was the Hazer in Chief. There was Animal House-ish hazing, but plenty worse than that. Mark E. liked to get in my face and shout, up close and personal. He played the part of the drill sergeant in the movie that was my life back when I was a freshman pledge. I was warned repeatedly that If I touched him once, I would be blackballed. He got a kick out of downgrading me in front of everyone. The hazing was both verbal and physical. I duckwalked the halls of my frat house on a regular basis, to his amusement, and that of others (at age 55, I had two total knee replacements). I was paddled, hard, on occasions. There were the usual push-ups. They got pretty imaginative. I provided entertainment to a few upperclass assholes. Most of my pledge brothers were hazed in a slightly amusing, once-in-a-while way. Not me, I got the full metal jacket hazing. This “Brother” (upperclassman), Mark E. was the one who died last week. It was his name that I read in the obituaries of the Birmingham News. It said he was 65.
With the hazing, I suppose that I could have de-pledged and quit the fraternity. I heard that from him, and many others, all the time. I was their whipping boy. It was not just Mark E. who hazed me, but he was the worst.
But I stuck with it. I kept my anger in check and dealt with it all. No one in the fraternity ever intervened on my behalf, or stopped it from happening. A number of upperclass Brothers privately spoke with me, some saying that I should quit for my own good. They said “why take it. Just quit.”
I never waivered, never strongly considered leaving. Also, I never told my family. I didn’t tell anyone. Everyone in the fraternity saw it go on. A handful of my pledge brothers had my back and did what they could to help me through it. I decided that I was in for the long haul and a long haul it was. I was humiliated on a regular basis and I could not fight back. It was ritual hazing 1950s-1960s style. But I endured and hung in there. Should I have stayed, I think yes. Would I put up with it now, not for five minutes. But I was seventeen years old, a freshman in college, and I toughed it out.
At the end of the year, on the night of Initiation into the fraternity, every pledge was secretly voted on by the Brotherhood. As pledges, we were in the basement and were brought upstairs, one at a time, blindfolded. There was a widespread belief that I was going to be blackballed. One down vote by a Brother was all it would take. I had no idea if I would get in or not. The Brothers had hung that over our heads all year.
I was blindfolded by two Brothers who led me up the stairs, one holding onto me under each arm. I was marched into the Chapter Room. Even though I was blindfolded, I could tell the lights were off or very low. I was spoken to by the chapter president, Alan A. He was standing right next to me, and he asked me how bad I wanted in. Then I was jostled and there was a lot of shoving and yelling. I heard them all yelling that if I wanted in, I had to “go through” Mark E.; literally take him on. Someone removed the blindfold, I saw I was surrounded by all the Brothers, and I looked around and found him.
I charged him wildly with all the pent up frustration of the whole year of hazing. I was scared, enraged, unbelievably angry, and I really went after him. It took a bunch of them to hold me back before I got to him. There was a lot of cursing and shouting while they were trying to hold me down. Finally I heard them telling me over and over that I was IN. It took a moment for me to realize they were laughing and clapping me on the back and telling me I was a Brother and that I had made it. They let go of me and asked me shake hands with Mark E., which I did hesitantly and reluctantly.
After my freshman year, I had a truly wonderful time in the fraternity. I knew I had earned respect for taking it and being strong through the hazing. It turned out to be a great life experience. Looking back at college, I laughed a lot, I had lots of friends. It was the time of my life. I would not trade it for anything. That was in the late 1960s, in Alabama, where the Greek fraternity system was the center of social life on our campus. I totally related to the frat house dances in Animal House. I partied to a bunch of Otis Days.
So Mark E. died last week. I never spoke to him or saw him after college. Obviously, I never forgot him. I can’t forgive him, but I have not had malice toward him for decades. I know who he was. My bitterness faded away a long time ago.
Reading his obituary, I was surprised to learn he served in the Vietnam War. He apparently had no wife, kids, or close family. The paper said his closest relative was a cousin. They didn’t say much else other than he loved Bama athletics, Broadway shows, and horse racing.
Having outlived him and knowing that his life is over, I am not exactly sure how I feel about it all. The best I can come up with is that I finally feel sorry for him. Maybe that is payback enough. HL
Back again with the Mormom Tabernacle Choir, except this time it is the Mormon Tabernacle Hand Bell Choir with “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” today’s HarryShots Song of the HoliDay. Enjoy. HL
The greatest living composer, John Williams, adapted “Suo Gan” for the sountrack to the Spielberg movie, Empire of the Sun. There are many versions of Suo Gan. To my ear, none rival or compare to this moving version of this incredible song. I give it my highest recommendation and it is today’s Harry Shots Song of the HoliDays. Enjoy. HL
Placido Domingo at his very best, pours himself into this Medley of Christmas Carols. Included in this song are Joy to the World, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Good King Wencelas, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and the 1st Noel. Enjoy the Christmas Medley as today’s HarryShots Song of the Day. HL
American combat troops crossed into Kuwait last night, and the War in Iraq officially came to an end. I am profoundly struck by the quiet, “ho-hum” nature of this news.
The Iraq War was among our nation’s longest. The cost was incredibly high. Far too high in lives lost, lives destroyed, and in “treasure” as they say. Lies, and the aggression of the Bush 43 administration, including George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney boldly and with malice aforethought, deceived the American people and the world, in taking us to war.
The War, and the manner in which we entered into it, was Topic One for years in the American dialogue. Our leaving last night barely seemed to be noticed. No agate type headlines, no breaking news bulletins interrupting our football games, and TV re-runs.
Most of the “democracy we established” in Iraq will largely evaporate. Iran will fill the void. Bombings and regular acts of terror in Iraq will become commonplace. Kurds will try to reassert their independence.
We are working/hoping for regime change in Iran. Israel and/or a Western Coalition/United States will, at some point in the short term, strategically bomb numerous Iranian nuclear facilities. It will ignite the region in anti-Israeli/anti -American fervor. It may lead to another Arab-Israeli war. At the very least, Israel will come under withering criticism, rocket attacks, and acts of terror. The Arab “street” will erupt in bitterness toward Israel and the U.S.
The War in Iraq was a great failure. The next chapter will be far more important in determining meaningful long term peace in the entire Middle East and beyond.
True peace, honest self governance, equality, safety, security, and the chance of a decent life are goals to which most in the Middle East aspire. Someday Peace will come. That is a very long way from where we are as 2012 begins.
Nevertheless, tonight the War in Iraq officially ends and that, for damn sure, is very good news. HL
The Tarbox Ramblers originally came out of the Cambridge, MA music scene. They have a raw hard blues sound which is fairly primitive and harkens back to Otha Turner, but as a bues rock band, if you can imagine that. I love their hard driven “Last Month of the Year” an old African-American church/gospel hymn. Done here like no other, it is the HarryShots Song of the HoliDay. Check it out. HL
John Starling is a fine artist and his version of “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” from the album, Sugar Plums: Holiday Tunes from Sugar Hill, is today’s HarryShots Song of the HoliDay. Enjoy. HL
“The Christmas Song” was co-written by Mel Torme, who made this his signature song. Back in 1944, Mel wrote this with pal, Bob Wells on a scorching summer day in Southern California. Sorry to burst your bubble. They were trying to think “cool thoughts” and came up with the whole song in less than an hour and a half. Not bad.
Christmas carols don’t have to be old to be great (unless you consider 1944 old, which it certainly is not). So here is Mel Torme singing his original song which is the HarryShots Song of the HoliDay. Enjoy. HL
Not sure where I ran across this group, but I’m glad to have found them. I am unsure if they are a group in and of themselves, or a larger group effort from various musicians. Here is a great version of the wonderful Christmas carol, “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” and it is today’s HarryShots.com Song of the HoliDay. Check it out. HL
“The Holly and The Ivy” is believed to have been written and first performed in the early 1700s. No one knows its author, but it was published in England, which makes sense because this song is of Gaelic/GBR roots. I am told that holly and ivy were both worshipped as long ago as The Druids, which is going back a long way.
This version, today’s HarryShots Song of the HoliDay is sung by the New York Choral Artists, from their album “O Come All Ye Faithful.” Enjoy. HL
Margaret Whiting was a very popular singer in the 1940s and 1950s. She died this year and I pay homage to her by making her version of “Silver Bells” our HarryShots Song of the Day. Interestingly, Margaret’s father was a well known songwriter (“Hooray for Hollywood”) and she was performing for Johnny Mercer at the age of 7.
“Silver Bells” was first heard at the movies. Bob Hope sang it on the big screen. Bing Crosby was the first to record “Silver Bells” and it is now a Christmas classic. Enjoy HL
Well it becomes the Christmas Holidays when Arthur Fiedler is on the old turntable leading his beloved Boston Pops in Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride.” Anderson, a Cambridge native, and Maestro Fiedler had a special working relationship over the years, and it was many a Leroy Anderson piece that debuted with the Boston Pops.
“Sleigh Ride” is a great picker upper and crowd pleaser, and it is today’s HarryShots Song of the Holidays. Enjoy. HL
Not only is this one of my favorite Holiday songs, this version is by Jerry Douglas, the finest dobro player this side of Timbuktu. The entire album is one to cherish, and it is hard to pick one song from the record. That being said, here is today’s HarryShots Song for the Day, Jerry Douglas and “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem.” HL
Well, here we go with the first of our twenty-four Holiday Songs running from December 2 through December 25. We are starting out with Erik Kunzel at the
baton, directing the wonderful Cinncinnati Pops that Maestro Kunzel was so instrumental (pun intented) in bringing to prominence. One of my favorite conductors and one of America’s most energetic during his long career, I honor Erik, the Cincinnati Pops, and the great Afro-American spiritual that is “Go Tell It On theMountain,” today’s HarryShots Song of the Day. Spread some holiday cheer, y’all. HL
For December, the HarryShots Songs of the Day will be exclusively featuring wonderful holiday music. I have chosen my favorite songs to share with you and I hope it brightens your season. Some of the songs are well known and popular. You’ll here the best version of those songs. Some of the songs are not so well known and again I will choose the good stuff, that I hope you will enjoy.
We cover a lot of musical ground here at HarryShots and the holiday music will be varied as well. The daily song selection will come from such artists as the Morman Tabernacle Choir, Margaret Whiting, Buddy Clark, Patty Loveless, Dan Crary, John Starling, Jerry Douglas, Yo Yo Ma, Robin Petrie, Bryan Bowers, the Philadelphia Brass, Leroy Anderson and the Boston Pops, the Harlem Parlour Musicians, Peter Rowan, John Williams, Stile Antico, The Elizabethan Singers, Celtica among others through the month of December, which will conclude with a daily variation of “Auld Lang Syne” between December 26 and New Years Day.
I hope that you will each drop by daily during December for a taste of my favorite holiday music.
“Love’s Old Sweet Song” is what my Mother sang to me as a bedtime lullaby when I was a little tyke. I remember this song with all of the fondness and all of the nostalgia my heart can hold. It is one of my favorites for purely sentimental reasons. “Love’s Old Sweet Song” was probably the first song I ever heard for obvious reasons.
Today would have been my Mom’s 91st birthday. Sadly, she passed away in 1971. So this one is for you, Mom. Happy Birthday. Today’s HarryShots Song of the Day is “Love’s Old Sweet Song” sung barbarshop quartet style by The Mellomen with Thurl Ravencroft. Oh my. HL