Old world wisdom, new world insight – poems, poetry, philosophy, dreams, commentary, ideas

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #11

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

The best part of growing up is finally getting into high school and then graduating. The worst part of growing up is finally getting into high school and then graduating. There are not equal parts of happiness and sadness. There are mostly sad and emotional issues for everybody involved. Going from teenager to adult is not easy. It is how we react to those situations that either force us to be “just like everyone else” or cause us to invent our own kind of “normal.” Most of us have looked in the mirror and wanted to change something about ourselves or our lives. Usually because we have compared ourselves to others, we ended up feeling like we were the ones lacking something. But, high school is a product of where we live. Almost nobody can go to high school in another state, like we can for college. So, it is our neighborhood that determines the social order of our teenage years that we struggle against.

Fighting the forces of hormones, emotion, social cliques and destructively selfish children are the topics that American singer-songwriter Janis Ian (born Janis Eddy Fink) wrote about in her early career. Janis was born in New York and cut her teeth in the folk music scene during 1960s as a teenager. Her first hit was “Society’s Child” and it made it to #13 on the Cash Box Pop Singles chart in 1965.  As a performer she took on quite a bit as a 14 year old.  That song’s focus was interracial romance.  The reality of social pressures from parents and schoolmates forced the girl to end her relationship in the song.

Not being able to “deal with the pressure” is not a failing of any young person who wants to have a friendship or something more meaningful with another person. Janis decided to speak about this in her music. After releasing several unranked songs that achieved critical acclaim, she ultimately wrote a song that struck the most sensitive nerve with young women (even to this day). She composed a song that unreservedly pointed to the cruel way  in which young women were and still are treated poorly by insensitive boys. She also exposed most young women’s secret misgiving, that they feel ugly because they are not accepted by those same selfish people and their high school peers.

Life is what we make it. So, if it is a struggle, we either gear up and learn to push back, or we just go along to get along. Either way, we make an active choice to get from 9th grade into 12th grade. This can be a skill that translates into surviving adult society’s pressures. But, why should we only survive in this world when we can live the way we want and love ourselves in the process?

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #13

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Ever had a friend that was always putting themselves down? Remember the times we may have done the same thing to ourselves? It is never easy feeling inadequate. This is something we do to ourselves. If others try to tell us how we are wrong, it can make us feel powerless. If we tell ourselves we can’t make the grade, then we are just giving up true power over our own lives. Wanting to be the best we can be can involves being with others. It can get confusing if we think that someone else can make our lives better, just by being close to them.

The English alternative rock band Radiohead kicked off their career with this concept. Band members Colin Greenwood – bass guitar, Jonny Greenwood – guitar and keyboards, Ed O’Brien – guitar and backing vocals, Philip Selway – drums, and Thom Yorke – lead vocals, are all involved in songwriting. Colin has reported that Thom wrote their first hit song while a college student in the late 1980s. Supposedly the lyrics were inspired by a girl that Thom had a crush on. She showed up at one of the band’s early concerts and that was the spark. While in the studio for their first album, the band decided to perform the song for their producers. They were impressed and encouraged the bigwigs at EMI Records to release it as the group’s first single.

The band had some issues with their newfound fame beginning in 1993. Extending their tours in the US and the UK and playing the same songs over and over again.  The group complained that they felt like they were stuck. Being sad, depressed or melancholy is not an easy place to leave. Especially if our own bodies are causing us physical and mental pain.  It is so important to try… to try and get a handle on what we tell ourselves.  Is it true that our inside-the-head game is more important that what’s going on around us?


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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #14

Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Sometimes we hear a song in our heads – over and over and over. When happy, it is a great thing. When it is an annoying jingle or an unpleasant phrase, the whole day can be one big distraction. Having a phrase or a command repeat itself is a challenge, especially if it is negative. The issue we have to deal with is when we let bad vibes and self-criticism determine our outlook on life. Letting bad things into our lives is a choice we make.

For the southern California alternative rock group, Awolnation, bringing attention to the fretful ideas in our heads which cause anxiety and worry is almost their trademark. Their songs ask questions: “Can I get an amen?” and “Do you love me?” and “Would you have the courage not to lie?” These are followed by being irresponsible: “Rob from the rich … to dance with the poor.” and “Look at who you’re hating. Now you’re celebrating.” Then,  expressing concern: “We must learn to cope.” and  “You gotta love your life.”

Band members Aaron Bruno, Christopher Thorn, David Amezcua, Hayden Scott and Kenny Carkeet all have had previous experience in a band. Their first studio work together, “Megalithic Symphony” was released in March, 2011.  The group’s subsequent tour helped the album reach #84 in the Billboard 200 Album charts. However, one song in particular did exactly what those pesky phrases in our minds do.  It appeared on the radio and then left. It went A.W.O.L. (absent without leave) so to speak. But then it re-entered radio rotation and climbed the charts to become a Top 40 hit. 

Is it just the nature of Humans to have a psyche that is hyper-critical? Do we often put ourselves down? Should we do that? Today’s culture seems to think there is always someone else to blame and that we are all just victims. How sad are we if we embrace this position of having no control over our own lives? Continue reading

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The Sky is Crying – Texas Flood

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Today we celebrate rain and wind and convection and hurricanes.
Hurricane Harvey is causing way too much anxiety for the East Texas coast.

We are praying for the south Texas coast, especially Corpus Christi and all the surrounding cities.
We are praying for Kingsville and Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Mexico, too.

Stevie Ray Vaughan said it best, “The sky is crying.”
But this weekend, we are having ourselves a genuine Texas Flood.

Thank you for praying for Houston, too.



Hunker down!

Copyright © 1960-2017 Lawrence J. J. Leonard All rights reserved.

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #15

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Remember how much fun it was when we were young and met people who would become instant friends? We saw them at the pool or the library or the park. There were many more people to meet at school, but it was not the same as having a close friend living next door or just down the street. So, it was hard if that person ever moved away. Even harder when dating that person and there were any questions of fidelity. The most difficult was being in love with that person who revealed their cruel and shallow soul.

These seem to be the themes of the fifth album released by Paramore, the Franklin, Tennessee, Pop Rock Punk band. Members are guitarist Taylor York, vocalist Hayley Williams and drummer Zac Farro. This album entitled “After Laughter” was co-produced by Taylor and rock music producer Justin Meldal-Johnsen. As of this publishing date, their A side top track, “Hard Times” peaked at the #6 position in the Billboard Hot 100 singles in the Rock Songs category, but is making another run at the top, moving up again from the #29 spot to #27.  The band’s style is reminiscent of Blondie with Deborah Harry‘s skill at singing with an inviting voice over up-tempo beats while delivering pensive and too real lyrics.

I know what you’re thinking.  I am writing about their song “Fake Happy.” It received serious consideration. In the very same way that the honorably mentioned Three Degrees received a review, and it was the happy tune that placed it out of contention – for both songs. For Paramore the song that had the punch and real grit of a sad song was dealing with a very toxic relationship. It was the kind of relationship that makes you cry, that hits you in the face, that makes you want to quit and keep on fighting at the same time.

Why do we put up with a loved one who keeps breaking our heart? Unfortunately, no one knows this answer. Some famous broken-hearted person once said, ‘the heart wants what the heart wants.’ That’s just a lie we tell ourselves when the other person becomes more important than our own identity. So what happens when we do this?

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #16

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

We love through sheer determination. Not all of us can rise to the occasion of a Liam Neeson character who can track down a loved one unto the ends of the earth. However, among those of us with some form of courage, we find that we can walk through fire to find and help the person whom we love. If they leave us and don’t want to be found, it does not matter how hard we look. They just can’t be located.

Elvis Aaron Presley (Jan 8, 1935 – Aug 16, 1977)

That must have been what country singer  Eddie Rabbitt and songwriter Dick Heard were thinking when they wrote a particular song that was meant for Elvis Presley to sing. Elvis received the track early in 1969. It was initially recorded at the American Sound Studio in Memphis, Tennessee.  Almost one year later, the song was released as an A-side single on the RCA Records label.

When Elvis went on tour in 1970, he introduced it as a new song. It quickly became a signature work that was part of the ballads which made him a great singer, and King of Rock and Roll. For Eddie Rabbit, the theme is based on an anxious lover. The person takes on a search to find the one he loves. The song’s imagery is heavy and it effectively paints a picture that no matter where the man goes, there is no one who can help in this particular case. Not even a preacher.

Having strong feelings for someone can make us obsessive or single-minded or blinded. If we feel that strongly, we might chase the dream and try to make our way to our loved one’s front door. How bad can that be?

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Telltale Tongue

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

When we stick out our tongues at someone who has angered us,
it is a sign that what we really feel is frustration or defiance or disgust.
When we have that exact reaction in a pleasant context, it is a demonstration that what we really feel is consolation or irony or just playful.

What matters most is what we intend to express. What is in the heart.
The tongue is a big red flag (pun intended) that we wag when we want to express something cutting or hurtful.
Then again, it is a soft and comforting tool when we want to speak soothingly to someone in pain or console someone’s exasperation.

Why the tongue so powerful?
This explanation will be shorter
than a Top 40 song from 1960s.

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