Category Archives: Birthdays

Grateful for Robert Hunter

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

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.”

New York City at the Church Of St. Paul & St. Andrew in October 2013

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

Jeff 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…

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

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Happy birthday
March 24,  1940

Luis Gasca played in Janis Joplin’s Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock. That’s why I’m doing this blog piece, but like so many other times in my life, I’ve discovered that that momentous performance is simply one small piece in Gasca’s nearly lifetime of performances.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Houston

Luis Gasca grew up poor in Houston. His parents made and sold tamales.  Earning a living was first for them. Performing music was not part of the picture, but one day Luis saw two men playing trumpets and he felt something.

By the time he was 15 he was playing gigs and by 16 getting paid to play.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Berklee

By 18 he had a scholarship to the Berklee School of Music in Boston and traveled on weekends to New York City and absorbed the music of Tito Puente, Cal Tjader, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane.

He was drafted but afterwards lived in Japan awhile–playing trumpet, of course. Then to Oahu.

When asked about his love of the trumpet, he answered, “”It’s a very demanding instrument…. And I’ll never quit learning it. I got that at an early age: Never let anything slide. I have a hunger and a thirst for music. That love for something, that is the impetus to make you never never quit, to make you give it your all. That love cannot be taught. One has to love the music and the knowledge. I’m 100 % joyous playing music with other masters.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Count Basie and more

One of his greatest achievements was being a part of the Count Basie Band.

In 1969, he released  “The Little Giant” album. on Atlantic. Interestingly, one of the album’s cuts is “Motherless Child” made famous as part of Richie Haven‘s famous Woodstock improvisation of Motherless Child/Freedom as well as the very next song played at Woodstock, Sweetwater’s cover of the same song.

Gasco’s cover is like no Motherless Child you’ve ever heard:

Trumpeter Luis Gasca

Malibus

In 1972, Gasca was playing in The Malibus, which became Malo. It had released its first album eponymously named “Malo.” By the way, the lead guitarist in that band was one Jorge Santana. Jorge has a pretty famous older brother by the name of Carlos.

From a WBGO article: “Nena” opens [the album] with a face-grabbing bass riff by Pablo Telez over a driving son montuno with rock rhythm generated by Victor Pantoja (congas), Coke Escovedo (timbales) and Richard Spremich (drums), and a fiery brass intro. Trombonist Ron Murray, famed jazz trumpeter Luis Gasca and organist Richard Kermode are featured.

I featured the song “Just Say Goodbye” from that album because Gasca co-wrote the song.

Another interesting member of Malo was keyboardist Richard Kermode who was also at Woodstock and also played with Janis Joplin there.

Solo artist

Gasca’s “For Those Who Chant” album cover

Gasca released three other albums: For Those Who Chant (1972), Luis Gasca (1972), and Collage (1976).  And though that discography may seem short, have a Snickers nearby if you’re going to look at his extensive credit list at AllMusic.

Among the names listed are Santana, Van Morrison, and Mike Bloomfield.

For those who want to know, a few guys were on that “For Those Who Chant” album who also had Woodstock connections: Greg Rolie, Mike Carabello, Michael Shrieve, Carlos Santana, and Jose,”Chepito” Areas.

That’s right…most of the Santana band played on the album.

As sadly happened to many of his generation’s fellow musicians, the lifestyle overwhelmed him and he left music until the 90s.

I stopped (playing) because I was self destructive. I was burned out,” he admitted. “That’s when I knew it was time for me to go.” He came to realize that in order to save the musician, he had to sacrifice the music.

Here he is in 2012 leading an all-star Latin Jazz Big Band – The Mambo Kings on the second night of a three-day Latin Jazz Festival.

Thank you, Luis, for everything your given our ears.

Trumpeter Luis Gasca