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 – #24

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

What is a haunting memory? It does not always mean that the thing remembered is scary or threatening. It more often means that the particular recollection just shows up when least expected. It could be something traumatic, but that is more along the lines of PTSD. A haunting memory is usually like a regret of some kind. More often it is a type of separation felt by a couple or a family.

In the early 1970s David Pack, Burleigh Drummond, Christopher North, and Joe Puerta  began working together in southern California as the unique and memorable band Ambrosia. The group initially auditioned for Herb Alpert and A&M Records but got signed by Warner Brothers Records which would release five of the group’s albums.

Their first album was self titled and was released in February 1975. It produced their first legitimate hit “Holdin’ On To Yesterday” which peaked at #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The album was nominated for a Grammy in the ‘Best Engineered Recording’ category. They had some help from Alan Parsons who engineered the album. Then he produced their second “Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled.” The band returned the favor and played on Alan Parsons’ first Project album.

David was the songwriting influence for the band having written music solo and also in partnership with other band members. Many of the band’s tunes involved some sort of memory about relationships good and bad. While the members were honing their signature sound, they recorded their breakthough hit in 1978. It hammered home the painful recollections of a man whose love declared him unfaithful. How do we defend ourselves when this accusation is untrue? Continue reading


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The Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #25

by Lawrence J. J. Leonard

Sometimes we ask a question and hope anyone listening will give the answer. Other times we ask a rhetorical question because we know the answer, but a friend will answer it anyway. We tell them to ‘shut up’ and to go away, but we hope they really don’t.  We just cannot win at pushing away people who care about us. How ironic it is that we do that to them when someone we loved just pushed us away.

The Brothers Gibb: Barry, Robin (1949-2012) and Maurice (1949-2003) Gibb, AKA the Bee Gees music group, pose a question for the ages and put it to music. In the start of the new year in 1971 they were in London, England,  recording their seventh international album, “Trafalgar“. The Battle of Trafalgar was a British naval victory against the French and Spanish fleets in 1805. You would think the song themes of the album would be about glory and fame. Not so – many of the tracks deal with heartbreak and loneliness.

At the time, Maurice was going through some personal trials with heavy drinking and   accusations of extramarital affairs. He had been married to the highly popular Scottish singer Lulu. Since they both abused alcohol and partied too much their young marriage ended after only four years. Barry and Robin could see the decline happening to their brother. They expressed his pain and their helplessness in song. How bad does it have to get before we ask for help? Continue reading


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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #35

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

We communicate with our body position, with our eyes, and even when we do nothing at all. We can send signals of ‘yes’ with a wink and a signal of ‘no’ with that same wink. We write notes but these days we write electronic messages which are not as personal. Some things that we wish to say we don’t say because there can be no good outcome. This was not the personal philosophy of the leader of one of Rock and Roll’s most successful bands Van Halen whose communication style was inadequate.

Eddie Van Halen the lead guitarist formed the band in Pasadena, California, with brother and drummer Alex Van Halen, bassist Michael Anthony, and from 1973 to 1985 vocalist David Lee Roth. The band has been riddled with controversy following the exits of David Lee, Sammy Hagar, and Michael. Each one complained that Eddie had problems taking seriously the business of the band. They said he did not talk about his alcohol abuse but finally went into rehab in 2007. Some have a hard time accepting fame and the changes it brings.

Early on, Van Halen’s self-titled debut album was essentially a live-to-tape production in 1977. Their touring garnered fans nation-wide. The following year when the album was released radio gave America what it was hoping for, rock theme songs such as “Runnin’ with the Devil” and “Feel Your Love Tonight.” But one song with heavy metal overtones lamented the hopes and dreams of a young girl in love.

Fans were intrigued by this melancholy tune with a dance beat which was released as a single just two months after the album was in the stores. Critics used the opportunity to  proclaim the band doomed to failure in the same way they declared an early end for British electric blues band Led Zeppelin. The song decries the power of lust tempered by the choice of reason and a personal letter not sent.

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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #36

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

We have heard cries for help from little children who got their feelings hurt. Some pleas may have come from colleagues, peers or friends who needed money, more time to fix a problem, or even a little emotional support. It is not always easy to ask for someone to care about our issues much less a crisis. So, we live in fear that the one we ask will say ‘no.’

In 1970 Pete Townsend of the British rock band The Who was writing songs for the band’s fifth album. Pete was on tour with lead singer Roger Daltrey, bass player John Entwistle, and drummer Keith Moon in Denver, Colorado. Rumor has it that  Roger encountered a spiritual conflict as he turned down a romp with a groupie. He then went back to his hotel room alone. Because he followed the enlightenment teachings of Meher Baba, Roger wrote down his wishes to make himself a better person. The words called on the divine force to help him keep true to his beliefs.

When Pete heard about it, he collaborated with Roger on setting the experience to music. The two of them recorded a first version of the song at the Record Plant in New York in March, 1971. The band recorded a second version at Olympic Studios in London which took nearly three months to complete it. Sometimes we have to do something over and over until we get it right.

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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #39

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

No matter if we are famous or the quiet type, we fail ourselves and fail others from time to time. Psychologists say we should forgive ourselves for our faults and try to not repeat the same mistakes. They also insist that when we ask for forgiveness from others it is a sign we are taking responsibility for our actions. Receiving that forgiveness we beg for from a hurt loved one is another topic for a different day.

Claude Russell Bridges (1942-2016) best known as Leon Russell was an American pianist and musician and songwriter whose career spanned 60 years. He wrote pop, rock, blues, country, bluegrass, standards, gospel and surf songs in all that time. He also achieved six gold records for some of his works. Leon had been married and divorced three times during these creative days and had fathered six children. He made his share of mistakes in life and in love.

His first break was playing with The Beach Boys. After that gig he composed a self-titled debut album. Leon was mentored by Elton John on this effort and recruited musicians such as Ringo Starr, George Harrison and Eric Clapton. At the time Leon was romantically involved with Carla McHenry. She may have been the inspiration for his iconic ballad that seeks forgiveness. Sometimes when we hurt the one we love it cuts deep into our souls, too. What we do about reconciling with the one we hurt can leave an impression on many more peoples’ lives than we had planned on. Continue reading


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Saddest Songs of Rock and Roll – #40

by Lawrence J. J, Leonard

It is easy to be excited by someone else. Their look, their aura, or even the sound of
their voice. In the same way we can watch a person declare their love to another and
be repulsed by that, especially if that love is untrue or secretly promised to someone else. Why does love have to be so complicated? For many of us love either works out great or love causes a big mess.

For the ever-changing San Francisco rock band, Journey, love is the source of most of
their successes and ironically the reason they changed singers in the 1990s. It all began when lead vocalist Steve Perry joined the group in 1976. At that time the band’s futuristic sound would change direction and most assuredly love would be the dominant song topic.

Steve collaborated on compositions with band members Neal Schon, Ross Valory, and Gregg Rollie. They had co-written 17 songs by the time the “Evolution” album was
recorded in 1978. Keeping the pulse of the band throughout the changes was drummer Steve Smith. Most of the recordings exuded happy beats evoking feelings of devotion and the occasional heartbreak of separation.

Steve had been inspired by a Sam Cooke tune which professed undying love. The lyrics for Steve’s new work however, showcased love that had gone real bad. What should we do if the person we love pushes us away, or cheats on us? We can find some comfort in what goes around usually comes back around. Continue reading