My Music: A journey of expanding consciousness
The recent passing of Richard Alpert, aka Ram Dass, the Harvard social psychologist and researcher turned mystic, reminded me of his classic book, Be Here Now. It describes the journey of expanded consciousness, one we begin when escaping a menial and unhealthy existence. Some do this on their own, or with guided psychedelics, others with meditation, and many with a combination of methods.
My life’s journey began as a teenager, with a major influence of storytelling music from songwriters on the same road—those able to write lyrics in meaningful, heartfelt beautiful songs. In addition to Dylan and the Beatles, they included the Moody Blues, Cat Stevens, Nina Simone, Leonard Cohen, and many others. So it was only logical that when I woke as a songwriter in mid-life, the stories in lyric forms were part of the journey too. My songs reflect rebirth, real love, expanded consciousness, and the interfering, intrusion and illusion of society.
A good lyric is interpreted differently by many who hear it, matching their own moods and memories. Many of mine seem to hide that meaning more than others, some say too much, while others don’t or are even blunt.
My song Better Days describes the breaking out of the four walls built long ago that bound and limited us, and becoming a person in full bloom. And to remember, remember better days—the ones we could have, not those left behind. (Perhaps a reference to Alpert’s book and its chant-like remember written four times on the cover.)
Is It Love If You Fall may also be shrouded in meaning. Sure, the obvious play on the language is evident in the title. But the song really refers to universal love, while poking fun at social norms, with the key line being: love is just now. This idea of living in the moment—to be here now—is to begin experiencing this love.
For centuries, folk songs highlighted society’s injustices, and some of my lyrics follow this tradition. Lookin’ the Other Way is what society does even with its cruelest wrongs: they killed all the children, then took away all the guns. The songs John and Joe, and Untitled Ballad represent the many forgotten people cast away in a world of plenty. And Generations asks about hope for the future: the children and grandkids are growing up fast, with they make it safe will they make it last, and, will we be any better than what we’ve been told?
While antiwar songs were prominent in the 1960s, they waned afterwards; war continued. My song Marches begins with a why: there ain’t many other marches anymore. It concludes with, the power to make war can be used to kill it once and for all; Peace keepers ain’t killers and peace ain’t the reason for war.
Then there’s my Kissin’ Cousins, which also pokes fun at our world. We’re not sisters and brothers, but all cousins, so let’s kiss and make up so everyone can have a wonderful life.
Recently I realized many of my songs use the keyword home. I referred to it in those stuck in their journey, in the song Home, where the character isn’t even sure about life (it’s like I’m on some kind of journey). In Circles, the lyric is more clear: don’t go home there’s nothing to do there, as we’re born again far from home. And the character in Here I Am seems resigned to their world: I never felt so welcome in such a lonely town.
Of course, songs reflect both the happy and sad aspects of life, and we can’t have one without the other. I write about both, using fictional characters typical of the situation. A few are autobiographical, like Flowers and Weeds: I need to be in nature, and if I’m anywhere else, I’d lose indeed. But in Livin’ on a Dead End Road, the person is spinning their wheels going round and round on the journey, where the white line fades into black at the end.
In short, my music rallies around a common theme, that crazy thing called love and peace.
All songs are love songs, happy and sad, playful and teary, heavy and light. They’re significant for those who appreciate music on their personal journey. See you along the way.