This American Life commissioned some musical theater songs inspired by this unbearable election ordeal, and here’s one of three (listen to the other two HERE.)

This is the refrain, in the voice of President Obama.


Am I angry?
You ask me if I’m angry?

And I’m at a loss for words.

After all we’ve done,
every battle hard won,
every hair gone gray,
in the name of this place,
in a history paved
with incredible mistakes –
I pledge my allegiance
to these united, divided states



Holiday Blues and a White Christmas

I love the movie, and the song,  White Christmas  beyond all reason. The film stars Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kay and Vera Ellen,and I think I watched it with my grandfather every year, curled by the fire.We laughed and sang the songs together,  and  knew many of the lines.

trainWCThe movie is ridiculous. (go watch it, NOW) Crosby and Kaye are terrible cross-dressers. Vera-Ellen needs to eat something. Who bursts into song on the train? And how on earth does that rustic little inn have the soundstage for those dance numbers?

None of this matters. Somehow, this confection, conceived in sunny Hollywood with a hit song written by a Jew manages to evoke the most perfect nostalgia and longing for the perfect Christmas that never was.

I’m home snuffling with a cold/flu thing, looking at my one string of lights and missing all my bygone family, who would be getting on my nerves if they were here, and feeling all these pangs of longing for home. Of course, it’s been a big year for me,  moving  beyond the householder’s life and embracing a new simplicity. With it comes freedom and a lightness. Out goes the tree and the three boxes of ornaments.

I heard composer Rob Kapilow describing what makes the song so great, on the Kojo Nnamdi show the other day. It was a hoot to hear Nnamdi say “I grew up in Guyana and never knew what snow was, and this song still gets to me. Thank you for explaining why.”

Rob Kapilow is known for his talks and performances of “What Makes it Great?” which is now also a book. He’s brilliantly enthusiastic about music, and believes that everybody loves music, given a chance to really listen and understand it. In this video he attempts to explain the genius in Irving Berlin’s song. “You can just feel the pang of memory!”

The love for this film, and song, lives on. The song is covered again and again but it will always belong to Crosby. The film gets trotted out every year, shared with new generations. It’s in the mash-up culture: here’s Vera Ellen dancing, brilliantly,  to Run DMC:

Watch the original 50’s jazz music version

The Speckless Sky

Have you ever been re-united with a piece of music, after such a long time that it makes you feeeel things?

Wednesday night I went to hear two musical heros (both Canadian!) at Wolf Trap, the splendid outdoor performance venue in Virginia. We sprawled under a clear blue sky (while it poured down rain at home!)

k.d.lang and Jane Siberry played to an enthusiastic crowd of fans. We had lawn tickets, so sprawled out and wined and dined as the shadows grew long.

k.d. will always have a place in my heart. Her disc Ingenue kept me going during the last weeks of my mothers life, and the first months without her. “Constant Craving” revived my longing for life  in that darkening October. When all went gray and cold her voice stirred something wild and deep in my blood. She called me back to life.

Maybe a great magnet pulls all souls toward truth
or maybe it is life itself gives wisdom to its youth
Constant craving, has always been, has always been.

I loved watching her cavort with her band and flirt with the front row fangirls. She can croon, she can belt it out, and man can she hold a note! The rockin’ version of Craving was worth the price of admission, I was dancing on the grass.

Play Inglewood

Jane’s music takes me back even further. I can’t remember remember how I found her, through my ex, maybe, or on WICB Ithaca College radio, but I had Speckless Sky on vinyl, and over the years as I’ve purged the record collection, hoping to get them digitized, I’v ehung onto that one, seeing as it was never on iTunes or CD as far as I could tell. Now, you can download Jane’s early works for free, or make a love offering if you like.

I want to write something down
I want to sing a song
or paint something
lie down and fade away
or get up and get away

Play One More Colour

Something about her wandering, peculiar songs touches the right nerve. I remember The Taxi Ride just completely broke me when I’d listen to it.

Did you call me? It’s only the trees outside flailing. It’s only the sirens that are wailing.

Jane played a very short set and we were disappointed, because she was wonderfully quirky and elegant and sweet, wearing a beautiful gown. But she came back in mid-show to duet with k.d. on Calling All Angels. That song, that song.

Everyday I gaze upon the sunset with such love, and intensity
Its almost as if you could finally crack the code and finally understand what this all means

Play Calling All Angels

My dear, dear friend Grace recorded this song on her album My Life, at a time when her brother was was dying from Parkinson’s, a disease she shares with him. This is music that cracks open your heart and heals you.

I am thrilled I got to hear these angels sing.