MarsEarth

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


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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #23

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

The more things change, the more they seem to stay the same. We don’t intend to be just like our parents or guardians. Something happens as we grow older and begin to use good habits to protect ourselves or personal interests. We also try out bad habits that supposedly help us to ‘get through it’ or ‘to forget’ painful trials. This is how we evolve into who we are. Some of us are strong and motivated to develop good things and to make life better. The rest of us have weaknesses. We are preoccupied with not fainting from the pain, or struggling to see the light of a new day. We all confront roadblocks and hassles and really stupid humans along the way. If any of us get a chance to be a role model, we often struggle with doing the right thing.

For singer and songwriter Harry Chapin (1942 – 1981) our world was in was in constant need of somebody doing the right thing. Some of his friends such as Bruce Springsteen would say he was more than an activist and a little overbearing besides. Harry was versatile and his work as a guitar teacher brought him together with a student, Sandy Gaston, whom he asked to marry two years into their relationship. The new Mrs. Sandy Chapin inspired one of Harry’s songs “I wanna learn a love song“. The two would later collaborate on one of the most impactful hits which is still very recognizable today.

The new song’s lyrics began as a poem written by Sandy. It was inspired by the awkward relationship between her first husband James Cashmore and his father.  Apparently fathers and sons have issues when the dad is too busy with work or another relationship to maintain a connection. it is rumored that Harry told an audience that the song scared him just thinking about its implications. Is it really that hard for a father to spend time and nurture a relationship with a growing son (or daughter)?

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #27

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

When we hear someone say, “it is what it is,” are we admitting that we are accepting things the way they are or accepting people for the way they act? Not necessarily.  It may be more along the lines of “facts are facts.” Some things we just cannot deny. There will be people in our lives who are as flawed as characters in a play. At times, those people can be us. Doing what is best can break our own hearts.

Consequently, a reputation can open a door that would rarely be approachable on our life journey. Such was the opportunity for singers Michael McDonald and Patti LaBelle.  Michael had been four years separated from the Doobie Brothers rock band when he got a call from Patti. It was an invitation to turn a song into a duet for her upcoming “Winner In You” LP. She had just released the #1 Dance chart single “New Attitude” out of the film soundtrack for “Beverly Hills Cop.” It had also cracked the Top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Rock fans never stopped adoring Michael’s full-bodied melancholy tone. But, his solo work was moving deeper into the beats of 1980’s rhythms. So were Patti’s when she cut a new song track. Decidedly, she told her recording engineer that the vibe was not on point. She wanted to redo it as a duet. When asked who she would like to sing with, Patti immediately suggested Michael. Rock fans could not have been prouder.

Despite the two of them being on different coasts, a team of producers worked out the audio and the video separation elements. This brought them together for radio and MTV audiences. And yet, the song was wholeheartedly about being apart, alone, and torn up over a difficult break-up. No matter how we try to make a relationship work there will be circumstances where staying together is not in our best interest.

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #28

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Life is wonderful and every day is a diamond in the rough. Except when it is not. Since 1960 America has been videotaping and broadcasting war and violence and abuse and assaults for TV and film. The visual message does influence everyone who sees it. Ask any corpporation that has paid for and shown a Super Bowl commercial. Of course moving images and sounds can alter people’s consciousness in good and bad ways.

There was a time when rock bands would design acoustic albums to express the intensity of life’s ups and downs. In 1970 the English rock band Led Zeppelin went unplugged  on their third album “Led Zeppelin III”  Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Bonham (1948-1980) and John Paul Jones were on a retreat at Bron-Yr-Aur cottage in the country of Wales. Jimmy and Robert went for a hike and brought along a guitar.

They composed the beginnings of a song with Robert’s lyrics that highlighted the stressful issues of the day. They sang about pollution and even all the anti-Zeppelin sentiment experienced on their earlier American tour: being spat on and having guns drawn on the band. The 1970s decade saw the first generation  growing up with color TV and mobile phones. There was also a constant barrage of Vietnam War news and anti-war protests on TV. The newspapers even took sides cajoling subscribers and readers who to love and who to hate.

Sad news has made this particular generation weary. The youngest among us now are numb to violence. It is the saddest kind of mind control: witnessing crime on video while news media continue to incite viewers to hate. How do we stop exposing ourselves to negativity? Continue reading


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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #34

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

We live in a place where people are in despair. They suffer in public. Sometimes we see them hurting and we reach out with water, change, advice, or a meal. Other times we just concentrate on getting as far away as possible.

For English singer-songwriter Phil Collins, the thrust of his music is more than painting pictures with words. He describes realistic and stark scenes. Sometimes they have happy but complicated endings with upbeat rhythms. Other times the music is eerie and the lyrics hurt to hear. For Phil the prospect of having an encounter with a homeless man, as described in the 1982 release by his former band, Genesis, was a Top 40 sensation in America.  The song “Man on the Corner” saw a person down on his luck and with no place to go,  It had an “I see him” kind of detached feel.

Unfortunately, just like every other music artist who puts his/ her politics in front of the audience, the critics rightfully invoked the “hypocrisy label” on Phil because his wealth was being used as he called on  everyone else to act. As if singing about homelessnes is supposed to be a socially conscious and caring contribution. It is however quite lucrative for a musician.

Phil understood this formula and altered his lyrics for a song that ended up as the first track on the B-side of his fourth solo album, “. . .But Seriously.” It was a poignant description of a homeless woman’s plight. Phil’s tone and melody bring a an aura of shame and sadness to the radio. While singing along has caused us to convict ourselves of not doing enough. It is easy to feel sympathy for anyone who truthfull lives in the streets. It is hard to spring into action for each person’s need is as unique as their fingerprints.

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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #38

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

Ever have the perfect day? Wake up early and head out to the mall? Or just listen to some music? Maybe go to a favorite restaurant with friends, but when you turn around, there stands that person you used to have a steady relationship with. You can’t get  them back. It just kinda hurts inside to see them again.

This is not a familiar heart pang –  the same as when we fall in love with someone. Many times the hurt comes from recalling the breakup and what we went through during and after the separation. Did we let go? Did we move on?

By 1974 American singer-songwriter Paul Davis (1948-2008) had five years of music industry ups and downs. He was mostly a country cross-over artist. His nationally known  “Ride ’em Cowboy” song peaked at #23 and was a Top 40 favorite that same year. By 1976 some other type of music was weighing heavily on his mind.

Paul looked inward. Hel decided to write about what it was like to love someone deeply. Soon he came up with the idea to sing about seeing an old flame after ending the relationship. According to original American Top 40 show host Casey Kasem, Paul begged his studio to let R&B singer Lou Rawls publish the song. Paul knew it would be a sure hit. Studio execs saw how invested Paul was in the song’s success. They decided to release Paul’s studio demo version as a single. Everyone sympathizes with love lost.

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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #42

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

We only have two choices in life: give up or survive. Even when we find ourselves trapped, the only way out is to visualize and plan our next move.  That, or give in and play the part we are forced into. But we all know that our souls are more valuable than we can ever realize. It is an impossible situation for women and children being trafficked for sex or worse.

These themes are not such heavy topics for rock and roll. Blues composers have written songs that alluded to drug addictions, murder or crimes against the innocent. For the American rock group Aerosmith writing songs about people they met while on the road was a way of acknowledging their experiences and things gone wrong.

In 1974 Joey Kramer, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Tom Hamilton and Steven Tyler had just released their second album in the same number of years. The songs  for their third studio album, Toys In The Attic, magnified loneliness, vengeance, gut-wrenching sorrow, boredom, and even physical abuse like only a rock and roll band could. The beats and fuzz guitars kept you interested in learning the words. One song in particular expressed despair about an abused woman like no other song could.

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Continual reminder

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Plans are never easy
when contending with the soul.
Success is always worth the price
after accomplishing the goal. Continue reading