MarsEarth

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


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Tom Petty – RIP

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

In an ironic twist of life and death, we will soon celebrate the birthday of Thomas Earl Petty, AKA Tom Petty, the  American rock musician, singer-songwriter, producer and music icon.  He was born in Gainesville, Florida, on October 20, 1950.

As the lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in his early career, he went on to co-found the 1980s supergroup “The Traveling Wilburys” with George Harrison (formerly of The Beatles) which also included Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, and Jeff Lynne (formerly of Electric Light Orchestra).

His recent death on October 2, 2017,  came too soon for our current generation of youth and 20-somethings who are woefully musically clueless by being exposed to the overpoliticized genre that is the self-aggrandizing rhythmic expression performed as Rap. Add to that the Electronic Pop swill from LA and NYC “record” production companies which foist repetitive and mindless phrases posing as anthems into the distribution stream to hawk oversexualized personas that will never pass as teen role models no matter how little they “donate to show you care” –  when everyone is looking. But, I digress. Suffice to say that music as an art form has gone DOWN a peg with his unexpected passing.

If you grew up with rock music and appreciated what it was to sing about America and the American dream, or even if you only just learned about his melodies, or were ever fortunate enough to see him in concert, you may appreciate the following  song from the Heartbreaker’s golden years.  It was at the dawning of cable TV and MTV and CCTV and mobile phones. 

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #12

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Who is the one to say ‘this is how it is’ in a relationship ?  You or me? Eventually we will decide which one of us is going to be the leader. When dealing with feelings, it is true that one person loves more than the other.  That does not mean love is not worth the price we pay. But, we all know Human beings take advantage of this position in order to tease (both meanly and playfully), to critique and even to humiliate. It gets worse when the proverbial pot is calling the kettle black.

The American rock band Staind is made up of Aaron Lewis – lead vocals, Mike Mushok – lead guitar, Johnny April – bass, and Jon Wysocki – drums.  The four formed in 1995 and cut their first album in 1996. Near the end of Year 2000 they were cutting their third album, “Break the Cycle  in a network of  studios from LA to New York City to Miami, Florida. While the band was known for lyrics that were angry and depressing, it was cutting its teeth in a new metal and post-grunge style that expressed the difficulties of relationships. One song in particular highlighted what it feels like when the misgivings of a cruel lover are finally exposed.

The easiest thing to do is to criticize another person. It happens every day on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and every other overly social web that invites comment and controversy. Among our friends we talk about it at work, we engage in it behind the wheel, and raise our voices to our world’s leadership, especially those who lack leadership. What should our attitude be when the one closest to us breaks our hearts with hurtful words and hipocrisy?

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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #22

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Years of experience have taught our old time farmers what to expect in a given situation. Pleasant weather turning bad. What is a good tool and what is a better tool to use for a job. How to not let your eyes fool you – so use a measuring stick.  And, what it really takes to get from point A to point B.  There is always that outlier, that one freak possibility which can cause everything to go wrong. We are instructed to be prepared for that outcome and especially a loss in any case.

In 1968 Michael Martin Murphey was a student at UCLA, working on a concept album for Kenny Rogers. The work meant long hours and little sleep. In his fatigue Michael is said to have dreamed of a song.  He woke up and by the next morning wrote it down. He told an interviewer that the song reminded him of a story his grandfather told him when he was a little boy. It detailed a Native American legend about a ghost horse.

Michael was teamed up with Boomer Castleman in 1967 as part of a duo known as the Lewis & Clark Expedition (which had a brief stint on TV).   After Michael began his solo career later in 1968 he co-wrote his song with Larry Cansler. They were struggling in southern California at the time.

By 1971 Michael came back to Texas and joined the “Outlaw Country” movement. He was working along side Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker. Michael created a unique blend of country, rock, and folk music. This caught the ear of Epic Records managers who produced four albums for him, including “Blue Sky – Night Thunder” which peaked at #18 on the Billboard 200 Album chart in 1975. This was the seminal work of Michael’s career. The lead track of the album still brings young girls and old men to tears. It is the tale of a man facing devastating weather, a runaway prized pony, and a lost love.

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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 – #33

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

How much fun is it to point at the TV and say, “There’s my boyfriend/  girlfriend.” We see people in the malls, driving by, and even in our schools and can instantly fall in love. Sometimes there are chance meetings at clubs and shows or concerts. What happens if we meet a rock star and they are nice enough to make us feel special?

If a girl or a boy ‘falls in love’ in this way we call them silly. If an adult does this, we call her/ him a groupie. Even if we fall in love with a famous musician who we meet by chance, it is usually not a long term thing, We might think less of that musician if they break someone’s heart. This seems to be the theme for a 1969 song written by Bonnie Bramlett, Leon Russell and Delaney Bramlett.


This was the same year that Karen Carpenter (1950-1983) formed The Carpenters soft rock band with her brother Richard Carpenter. She was the drummer and lead vocalist while he was a pianist and arranger. The band released hit songs that touched on all manner of hopeful relationships. Their star power generated five #2 singles and three #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

The song, originally called the ‘Groupie song,‘ became one of the most famous melodies by The Carpenters and also an international sensation. The way Richard arranged the orchestra seemed to showcase sobbing horns, a broken beat, and a rainy piano accompaniment. Fans said it really felt as if you were someone who was “in love” with a popular itinerant musician. It is not always easy to accept that the one we love is ready to move on and not as invested as we are.

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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 – #37

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

What do we want? What do we want out of life? It is easy to ask for material things. It is hopeful to ask for lofty goals such as peace and an end to hunger. In our personal lives each of was wants to be appreciated, especially by those closest to us.  It is hard to be apart from a loved one who really “gets” us. And even harder if we are in military service and that person is far away. What if that person is suddenly no longer with us?

In 1953 the United States had just brokered a peace to end the Korean Conflict and establish a permanent military presence there, then send many servicewomen and servicemen home. Just four years later the Congress revved up its political nerve and industrial production to fight communism in Vietnam. During this time, Elvis Aaron Presley (1935-1977) AKA Elvis, was conscripted in the US Army. He served honorably as a regular soldier from training in  Fort Hood, Texas, until his final deployment in the 3rd Armored Division in Friedberg, Germany.

His managers carefully released previous recordings during his two-year service tour. All went as planned until his mother Gladys died from hepatitis before his discharge. Elvis spent his first holiday season without his closest ally and best friend. It took him a few years to grieve. He re-released his version of a song that represented a difficult memory. Sometimes we just need to wrap our heads around the issue.

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