Category Archives: Birthdays

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Robert Hunter at Miller Hall, PA on September 28, 2013.

June 23, 1941 – September 23, 2019

As we go through our daily routines, having someone else’s words as companions is comforting.

Robert Hunter’s lyrics have been that faithful companion.

Rolling Stone magazine said of himConsidered one of rock’s most ambitious and dazzling lyricists, Hunter was the literary counterpoint to the band’s musical experimentation. His lyrics — heard in everything from early Dead classics like “Dark Star” and “China Cat Sunflower” and proceeding through “Uncle John’s Band,” “Box of Rain,” “Scarlet Begonias,” and “Touch of Gray”— were as much a part of the band as Jerry Garcia’s singing and guitar.

Here is a taste of just a few.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Althea

I told Althea I was feeling lost
Lacking in some direction
Althea told me upon scrutiny
my back might need protection

I told Althea that treachery
was tearin me limb from limb
Althea told me: now cool down boy –
settle back easy Jim

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Black Muddy River

When the last rose of summer pricks my finger
And the hot sun chills me to the bone
When I can’t hear the song for the singer
And I 
can’t tell my pillow from a stone

I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own
I will walk alone by the black muddy river
And sing me a song of my own

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Box of Rain

Look out of any window
any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
birds are winging or
rain is falling from a heavy sky –
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
this is all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Brokedown Palace

Fare you well my honey
Fare you well my only true one
All the birds that were singing
Have flown except you alone

Goin to leave this Broke-down Palace
On my hands and my knees I will roll roll roll
Make myself a bed by the waterside
In my time – in my time – I will roll roll roll

Grateful for Robert Hunter

China Cat Sunflower

Look for awhile at the China Cat Sunflower
proud-walking jingle in the midnight sun
Copper-dome Bodhi drip a silver kimono
like a crazy-quilt stargown
through a dream night wind

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Days Between

There were days
and there were days
and there were days between
Summer flies and August dies
the world grows dark and mean
Comes the shimmer of the moon
on black infested trees
the singing man is at his song
the holy on their knees
the reckless are out wrecking
the timid plead their pleas
No one knows much more of this
than anyone can see anyone can see

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Ripple

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung
Would you hear my voice come through the music
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Scarlet Begonias

I ain’t often right
but I’ve never been wrong

It seldom turns out the way
it does in the song
Once in a while
you get shown the light
in the strangest of places
if you look at it right.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Friend of the Devil

Got two reasons why I cry
away each lonely night
First one’s named sweet Anne Marie
and she’s my heart’s delight
Second one is prison, baby
the sheriff’s on my trail
If he catches up with me
I’ll spend my life in jail

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Sugar Magnolia

Sugar Magnolia blossom’s blooming
Head’s all empty and I don’t care
Saw my baby down by the river
Knew she’d have to come up soon for air

Sweet blossom come on under the willow
We can have high times if you’ll abide
We can discover the wonders of nature
Rolling in the rushes down by the riverside.

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Touch of Grey

Must be getting early
Clocks are running late
Paint by number morning sky
Looks so phony

Dawn is breaking everywhere
Light a candle, curse the glare
Draw the curtains
I don’t care ’cause
It’s all right

I will get by / I will get by
I will get by / I will survive

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Greatest Story Ever Told

Moses came riding up on a guitar
His spurs were a-jingling, the door was ajar
His buckle was silver, his manner was bold
I asked him to come on in out of the cold
His brain was boiling, his reason was spent
He said if nothing was borrowed then nothing was lent
I asked him for mercy, he gave me a gun
Said Now n’again these things just got to be done

Grateful for Robert Hunter

Terrapin Station

Let my inspiration flow
in token lines suggesting rhythm
that will not forsake me
till my tale is told and done

While the firelight’s aglow
strange shadows in the flames will grow
till things we’ve never seen
will seem familiar.

Grateful for Robert Hunter
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Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

August 27, 1934 – August 22, 2005

I often entitle my little bios of Woodstock performers by including the word “Woodstock” before or after their name. An SEO strategy.

In the case of Teddy Harris, the word Woodstock, however  much apropos, is far too limiting because his roots and branches are  Detroit.

As he says above, “Nobody swings as hard as Detroit.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Detroit

Theodore Edward Harris Jr. was born in Detroit on August 27, 1934.

His first music teacher was his father, jazz organist Theodore Harris Sr.

A Metrotimes article recounts his early musical milestone: as a precocious 7-year-old, [Harris] had a musical epiphany…at the Paradise Theatre. As recounted in Harris family lore, the curtains opened, the youngster jumped up on his seat, pointed at Duke Ellington on stage and pronounced, “That’s what I want to be.”

Harris himself talked about his home’s musical atmosphere: “I came up in a house full of music. I had uncles that sang; they sang like birds. They had a trio called the Cosmopolitan Trio, and they sang in churches throughout the area. My father was their accompanist. Every Saturday my father would give me a haircut, and after I would listen to the guys sing and rehearse.”

In high school, he served as student band director.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

New England

In 1955 Harris attended the New England Conservatory for a time before being drafted in 1956.  Before he left he  was part of Jackie Wilson’s first hit “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want to Meet).”

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Germany

The military did not interfere with his musical journey. He performed as guest saxophonist with the 7th Army Symphony Orchestra and Soldier’s Show Company

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Paris

After his discharge in 1959 he studied with  Nadia Boulanger in Paris before returning to Detroit.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Back in Detroit

Harris had known Berry Gordy, Jr and when Harris returned to Detroit in 1961, he became part of Gordy’s growning  Motown enterprise. He worked with Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Woodstock

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr

Bassist friend Rod Hicks got Harris to join the Paul Butterfield Blues Band,  which led to Harris’s presence at Woodstock. He described flying over the site as looking at “biggest Indian pow-wow in the world.

After Paul Butterfield, Harris spent 16 years as musical director for the Supremes.

Post Woodstock

In the early 1980s Harris formed the New Breed Bebop Society Orchestra while heading a summer arts workshop for economically disadvantaged youngsters.

During the mid 1980s, Harris led the house band at Dummy George’s, and led a big band often accompanied with The Detroit Voices.

Awards

Some of the awards he received were: Outstanding Contributions (United Negro College Fund) 1986; Distinguished Recognition Medal (City of Detroit) 1990; State of Michigan Special Tribute 1992; Legends of Jazz International Hall of Fame; Michiganian of the Year 1993; Jazz Masters Award 1993; 1993 Key to the City of Detroit; Spirit of Detroit Award 1994, Governor’s Michigan Artist Award 1995.

Teddy Harris died of prostate cancer at John D Dingell VA Medical Center in Detroit.

The Motown Forever site said of HarrisThere was always an elegance about Teddy Harris Jr., from the fluid caress of his piano and saxophone work, to the curlicue grace and bebop lyricism of his arrangements, to the hip presence with which he led his bands and mentored generation after generation of young jazz musicians.

Detroit Teddy Harris Jr
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Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

Happy birthday, March 31, 1947
 “Music is simply the sugar syrup that the medicine of the Divine name is hidden in.”

Sometimes a happenstance event becomes that stone thrown in a still pond and the ripples vibrate out to the lakes’ shores and throughout history.

In April 1965, the Beatles were filming the movie, Help!. The script called for a scene in an Indian restaurant with Indian musicians playing.

George Harrison saw a sitar for the first time.

Norwegian Wood

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

On October 12, 1965, the Beatles began working on their Rubber Soul album  and during the day’s second session they started to record “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown).” Harrison played sitar on the song.

On my tours at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts I emphasize the importance of the Rubber Soul album and how it changed the scope of pop music. I joke about how when I first listened to the album, intently staring at and reading its covers, I found a typo: someone had misspelled guitar! They spelled it s-i-t-a-r.

And just as Harrison had accidentally discovered Indian music (and thus Indian culture), so too happened the teenage Western listener.

And as the Beatles became interested in other things Indian, so did many Baby Boomers.

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

Jeff Kagel

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

Jeff Kagel was a student at the State University of New York, Stony Brook.

He had first learned yoga asanas [postures] on the floor of a tenement apartment on the Lower East Side in 1966 from a guy who had just come over from India.

He also loved rock music and was in a band. He wanted to be a star.

The Soft White Underbelly would go on to rock fame as Blue Öyster Cult and sell more than 24 million records worldwide.

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

Krishna Das

As much as Jeff Kagel wanted to be a rock star, he felt spiritually lost.  In the winter of 1968, he made a decision: move to New Hampshire visit the spiritual teacher Ram Dass  (who, in his former incarnation was Harvard professor Richard Alpert as in LSD researcher with Timothy Leary).

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

Later, Kagel traveled across the country with Ram Dass as his student, captivated by the stories of  Dass’s recent trip to India where he had met the legendary guru Neem Karoli Baba, known to most as Maharaj-ji.

Jeff Kagel went to India.

From an interview in Ascent magazine:

In India, Krishna Das [Kagel] also encountered kirtan, or the chanting of God’s name. “I heard it and I couldn’t believe it. I thought, this is fantastic. I was always musical and I always loved to sing. I didn’t really do it at first as a spiritual practice, in a heavy way like that. I sang because I loved to do it.”

He spoke of his guru with great love and respect: “Someone like him is like the sun. To be in his presence and to be connected to him is to be doing the best thing you can do for your own blossoming. He didn’t give meditation techniques, he didn’t give mantras. He ripened you from the inside.”

For awhile, Kagel became “Driver” because he was in charge of driving the one car that’s how many referred to him, but…

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

Neem Karoli Baba gave Krishna Das his spiritual name. Das means servant, and Krishna is one of the names of God.

NYT interview: Krishna Das lived blissfully at Neem Karoli Baba’s temple until 1973, when he returned to America at the guru’s behest. His teacher called him back about a year later, but Krishna Das, who was making money and enjoying a new romance, hesitated. Within months, Neem Karoli Baba died.

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

Lost/Renewal

After Baba’s death, Das became lost.  Eleven years of substance abuse and depression followed.

He returned to India and came to the realization that although Neem Karoli Baba had left his body, his presence remained.

Chanting had never left Krishna Das.

Back in the United States, in 1994, Krishna Das started leading chant at Jivamukti Yoga Center, NYC.

From his siteOver the years, he continued chanting, developing his signature style, fusing traditional kirtan of the east with western harmonic and rhythmic sensibilities. 

Does he still love rock? Does he ever tire of kirtan?

I do, all the time! You should hear us at sound check. We do Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Rolling Stones. We do everything. We’re totally nuts in sound check. [YJ interview]

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das

One Track Heart

In 2012, director Jeremy Frindel released One Track Heart, The Story of Krishna Das. It is how I first heard of and heard KD.  And again I found myself asking, “How is it I never heard of him before.”

Jeff Kagel Krishna Das
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