Was it three years ago that Meredith came to my house and we recorded an album’s worth of Sara Teasdale poems? And then she thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have just one more, and she took the copy of Flame and Shadow that @snakroo got for me from St. John’s Thrift and opened it to this little gem and started singing what would become this beautiful melody and I said hey wouldn’t an E7 chord be nice there and what if the “not ones” both had the same little melodic hook happening and anyway this is perhaps my favorite Sara Teasdale song of all and it happened with you, my friend, and I would really love to tag you here but it looks like you’ve deleted your instagram again so maybe I’ll try your sister? @heylouwrites
This poem is just so beautiful and under my reading today it speaks to this destructive tendency that white people in power have. Do we have a death wish? Sara Teasdale wrote this in the time of WWI, but its themes could be applied to so many occurrences in American history: subsequent wars, occupations, colonizations, environmental degradation, the upholding of systemic racism, environmental racism, every stripe of racism. Sara Teasdale probably died of depression and in this poem you can see her hopelessness. Can white people hold all the terrible things we’ve done to people of color, to the environment, to the earth? Can we hold ourselves responsible and consciously undo all of the harmful social structures that we unconsciously re-enact each day?
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground And swallows circling with their shimmering sound And frogs in the pools singing at night And wild plum trees in tremulous white Robins will wear their feathery fire Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire And not one will know of the war, not one Will care at last when it is done Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree If mankind perished utterly And spring herself, when she woke at dawn Would scarcely know that we were gone.
A song I started writing in 2013 or so that remained incomplete until about a month and a half ago. Earlier today on Instagram (@sageharrington) I posted about The Artist’s Way, that most wonderful book on cultivating healthy creativity, which is how I learned to do morning pages: fill three pages each morning. I do it longhand. This writing is allowed to be bad. It is supposed to be boring. It is supposed to, and does, teach you how to get past the blocking aspects of #perfectionism. It helps you turn off your internal critic so that you can get some creative work (or play?) done even if your creative work isn’t writing. This practice is amazing! I love my morning pages. I miss them when I don’t do them. And it was so very very interesting to watch as the remaining lyrics flowed—how smoothly they came onto the page!—after 7 years or so of this song feeling incomplete and abandoned. I attribute this song’s completion to the daily practice of morning pages for preceding six months. Hah!
So here you have it: a song about capitalism and the monetization of silence. What if you actually could sell an experience, a memory, a quiet moment? What if that’s the only way it was available to you? I feel the influences of my beloved Regina Spektor here, especially her earlier songs.
I have been wanting to share a cover of this song for so long. There was a version I started recording two summers ago that somehow was abandoned. I love this song. It was written by Elizabeth Cotten, a black woman born in North Carolina in 1893 and for anyone with any uncertainty, she was such a badass. Apart from surviving in the US while black, being left-handed and teaching herself to play a right handed guitar upside down, and writing this amazing song in her early teens, she—along with many other women of color—made important, defining contributions to American music and music across the world. Since contributions by people of color are so often silently co-opted by white people, I want to be deliberate in honoring her. With love and respect, here is my cover of her beautiful, timeless song.
Black lives matter, not just the lives of black people who are amazing artists.
My uke arrangement is based off that sweet version Zooey Deschanel and Ben Schwartz did. But I am only one person, so I did both parts.
I love all these old songs, even though I don’t love the concept of “owning” a person in a romantic or any other sense. Unhealthy? #feminism Anyhow here’s to secret affairs, romance and intrigue !
If you have the funds please consider joining me on this song-recording journey on Patreon. You can join on a sliding scale basis (anything from 1$ a month to $10,000 a month 😉 ) and you can cancel at any time. I know most people’s incomes are uncertain right now so if it’s not possible for you I totally understand and know that my songs will be here, available for free for all to enjoy. I’m considering writing up tabs and charts for some of these songs if there is interest. Let me know. And see you on Patreon.
Smile. What a sad, sad song. Charlie Chaplin wrote it as an instrumental theme in 1936 for a movie of his I have never seen but when I do watch it I bet it will make me cry. Nearly twenty years later some other guys added the lyrics. When I used to do shows in person (in the Before Times) I would make jokes about this song. “Hold it all in, it’s healthier,” I would say. “Repress your sadness, don’t burden the rest of us.” As a really very smiley person in normal times it’s so weird to be making all these videos and looking at my sad, sad face every day. It is so difficult to smile right now.
Smiling is such a politically loaded thing. Women are expected to smile. “Give me a smile,” so many dudes of every age and race have told me and the women around me. Just a couple weeks ago when I started recording songs almost daily the lack of my smiles stood out to me from the beginning. “Well, what if I don’t feel like smiling?” I asked myself. My very favorite @andrewbirdmusic has not been smiling in his videos and his lack of smiles do not concern me and do not seem to concern anyone else. And it certainly doesn’t make his music any less beautiful or deeply moving.
I took a yoga class online yesterday. One benefit of the lockdowns is that I can just log on to take class with amazing yoga teachers across the country, something that I have been starved for. And why did it take me so many months into this to realize that it’s now so easy for me to study with the teachers I have been longing to study with for years? Hm. Maybe it was that depression that was slowly setting in this whole time? Anyway, the yoga class lightened me up considerably. It was a backbending class. “Certainly the depression won’t set in,” @lois_steinberg said. Hah! True. Although I don’t feel totally bubbly and smiley like my “normal” self, I do feel lighter than before. There is more a sense of equanimity, of acceptance, of level-headedness.
So while I think that not smiling can be a political act and while I don’t want to just smile because I am anxious or uncomfortable (<–true), I also don’t want to be plain not able to smile. Here’s to going forward, to growing.
If you made it this far, please consider subscribing to my Patreon to support my independent music career. I know many folks’ income is uncertain at this time and know for sure that my music will always be available for free online. But! If you have the funds to spare, join me on a sliding scale basis–$1-10,000/month, because I know I am worth it ;)–you can cancel at any time and your contribution 100% supports me in my artist’s life. Which most of the time, means learning ABBA songs on ukulele.
I learned this one because Len asked me to. I was soooo pleasantly surprised by this song because 1) I have not ever been a George Jones fan (sorry, I am sorry) and 2) it’s unusual that I like the songs that people ask me to cover (again, I apologize). So when I listened to this very particular version of George Jones singing this song I was taken aback when I loved it, absolutely loved it. It’s just such a sweet and magical and intimate and lovely performance by him. I love the softness, the closeness, the precision, the quietness with which he sings. I understand now in a way I never have before what people love about him. There’s something contained and beautiful and delicate about his approach–nothing flashy, nothing showy, nothing over the top. I just love it and was so inspired by it and needed to record it here. I’m not sure I totally captured his reserved sort of sweetness but I like the results anyway.
Here is Mr. Jones’s very sweet very lovely version of this song.
And if you’ve made it this far, I’ll now invite you to please ask me to cover things. Because sometimes I find I am open to suggestion. Hah!
If you have the funds right now, and like what you hear, please support my music for as little as 1$/month on my Patreon.
My baby is back! My little 1920s Martin soprano is having some issues and will probably have to go to the doctor at some point but for right now she has new strings and is totally playable and I am so excited to have her back. Expect to see more of her here!
I wrote this song as a response to the idea that performing artists aren’t supposed to be “political,” or at least political in a certain way. I was a kid and very much a fan of the Dixie Chicks when Natalie Maines made the comment that essentially destroyed her career: that they were ashamed that George Bush was from Texas. Of course now I recognize that the backlash she endured was #sexist and gross. So here’s to believing that people are allowed to have opinions, even the ones who sing for a living.
Support me as I go through this process of recording a few songs each week — some from my back catalog of originals, some from the golden jazz era arranged for ukulele, even some Abba tunes I can’t stop myself from playing. These videos will always be available for free online but if you want to support me you can do so for as little as $1/month on my Patreon. <3
“I made you many and many a song Yet never one told all you are It was as though a net of words Were flung to catch a star;
It was as though I curved my hand And dipped sea water eagerly Only to find it lost the blue Dark splendor of the sea.”
I love her beautiful representation of the artist’s struggle to capture what is ultimately uncapturable. Even if it is not exactly the poem Sara Teasdale was trying to write, I think it is perfect. <3
In other news yesterday in a lesson a kid told me that I… can I remember the exact wording? That I looked “deranged and little bit emotionally disturbed,” and I’m like yeah, kid! Thanks for noticing. Hah! This is me on quarantine life. How many of ya still consider yourself in quarantine? Please tell me if you are, apparently it’s written all over my face that I still am. #longhaul
Please consider joining in on this video-making adventure — you can contribute as little as 1$/month to my Patreon and support independent quarantine music adventures as I record originals, vintage ukulele jazz numbers, and more. Considering making tabs available for some of these if there is interest…
Yesterday, a song written by Paul McCartney, and today a song that happens to appear on an album of his (2012’s “Kisses on the Bottom”). There’s also a dreamy version by the wonderful Sam Cooke. This is a lovely tune that was written in 1931. The ukulele solo is Ukulelezaza’s arrangement — he’s one of my favorite ukulele players I’ve found online, one of the pleasures of having internet access. <3