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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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Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Unknown  legend Karen Dalton

July 19, 1937 – March 19, 1993
All that shines is not truth
All that glitters does not shine
Rare beauty rarely shines, I find

Karen Dalton

Katie’s Been Gone  sung by Dan LaFortune written by Bob Dylan and The Band

“My favorite singer in the place was Karen Dalton,” writes Bob Dylan on p.12 of Chronicles: Volume One. “She was a tall white blues singer and guitar player, funky, lanky, and sultry. I’d actually met her before, run across her the previous summer outside Denver in a mountain pass town in a folk club. Karen had a voice like Billie Holiday’s and played the guitar like Jimmy Reed and went all the way with it. I sang with her a couple of times.”

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Ego

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

I like to think (foolishly) that I’m familiar with all the names of important performers from the 1960s.  Of course, “important” is a relative term.

Karen Dalton meets few of the typical measures of importance. She only recorded two studio albums and one of those she didn’t realize she was recording.

At a time when singer-songwriters were emerging as the leaders, she covered others’ songs.

Her voice was not particularly unique, yet as Dylan said above, it could have a Billie Holiday quality to it.

Authentic

In a TIMELINE site article, Peter Stampfel, who played in Dalton’s backup band in the 70s and was a member of the Holy Modal Rounders, wrote in the liner notes to a Dalton reissue that she was “the only folk singer I ever met with an authentic ‘folk’ background. She came to the folk music scene under her own steam, as opposed to being ‘discovered’ and introduced to it by people already involved in it.

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Cherokee/Irish

Karen Cariker was born in Bonham, TX and raised in Enid, Oklahoma. Her mother may have had some Cherokee blood.  Her father a descendant of the Irish. Her first marriage was to Don Dalton.

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Greenwich Village

In the early 60s she lived in Greenwich Village amongst the many folk musicians gathering there. She played the twelve string guitar and the banjo. At times she lived in Colorado. She later married Richard Tucker.

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Of the two albums, the first was It’s So Hard to Tell Who’s Going to Love You the Best released in 1969 on Capitol. Producer Nik Venet had tried unsuccessfully to record Dalton, so he invited her to a Fred Neil session and asked her to cut Neil’s “Little Bit of Rain” for his own private archives. She cut the entire album that night, most of the tracks in one take.

It was was re-released by Koch Records on CD in 1996

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Dalton’s recorded her second album, In My Own Time (1971) at Bearsville Studios and originally released by Woodstock Festival promoter Michael Lang‘s label, Just Sunshine Records. The album was produced and arranged by Harvey Brooks, who played bass on it. Piano player Richard Bell guested. Fred Neil (“She sure can sing the shit out of the blues”) wrote the liner notes, and Elliot Landy took the cover photos.

The album’s title is no accident (not that any are). Dalton did things at her own pace and the album was recorded over two years (1970 and 1071).

At AllMusic, Thom Jurek praised the albuma more polished effort than her cozy, somewhat more raw debut… If one can only possess one of Karen Dalton’s albums, In My Own Time is the one. It creates a sound world that is simply unlike any other; it pushes the singer outside her comfort zone and therefore brings listeners to the place Dalton actually occupied as a singer. Without apology or concern for technique, she could make any song her own, creating a personal narrative that could reach outside the song itself, moving through her person and becoming the truth for the listener.

Check out her cover of Percy Sledge;s “When A Man Loves A Woman”

Or her cover of Paul Butterfield‘s In My Own Dream.

Lang arranged for Dalton and band to tour Europe as the opening act for Santana. An odd opener for sure. Her life became an unhealthy one.

The album was reissued in 2006 and  Nick Cave wrote in its liner notes: “All of us in the Bad Seeds were huge Karen Dalton fans…  She’s a blues singer to me. It’s full of idiosyncrasies that you can’t repeat – it’s in her voice and it’s just extraordinary. She is my absolute favorite blues singer – female blues singer.

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Cotton Eyed Joe

Joe Loop was one of the proprietors of The Attic, a short-lived Boulder, Colorado folk club. During its time, The Attic had several artists on their way to fame: David Crosby, Tim Hardin, and John Phillips.

In 1962 he recorded Dalton there.  Those tapes remained unreleased until 2007  when they became part of a 2 CD compilation called Cotton Eyed Joe, which was one one of the albums cut as well.

It was the first music of Dalton’s released since her 1971 In My Own Time.

From the Austin Chronicle: Delmore Recordings’ Mark Linn, who guided Cotton Eyed Joe onto the market and played an enormous role in this story, ultimately delivered the most poignant reflection on Dalton.

There’s a small amount of people that have the original records [who] were intensely affected by them – by her voice,” he offers. “I think you can really feel the pain. She lived a hard musician’s life. It wasn’t about trendiness or stardom. It was about playing music.

“She wasn’t really made for her time.”

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Woodstock

From the same TIMELINE article above: After years in New York, Dalton relocated to rural Colorado, where she and her third husband lived in a tiny cabin in the near-abandoned town of Summerville. There, she descended further into her addictions. Eventually, she made her way back to upstate New York, where she lived in a trailer near the town of Woodstock. According to the biographical quotes and notes at the beginning of Karen Dalton: Songs, Poems, and Writings, Dalton was struggling with drugs and was HIV positive in the 1980s. The combination made her “fragile as a wisp.” Still, she commuted to the city, “worked at low pay jobs, and struggled to stay alive.

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Death

Given her musical anonymity, it is not surprising that a haze surrounds Dalton’s death.  The story was often that she died homeless on the streets of New York.

Not true. In a 2008 PopMatter interview, Dalton friend Joe Loop explained, “ She was actually staying in a house owned by Peter Walker — a guitar player who lives up in Woodstock …. She was staying at his house — had been for quite some time — she was there when I got a hold of her. And, she told me, matter-of-factly, when I called her that she was “staying in this cabin this guy got me to croak in.” Those were her words. We chatted and all that. Her son Lee was with her, taking care of her. And, actually, when she passed away, Peter Walker was with her in the room.”

She died of AIDS.

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Remembering Mountains

In 2015, Tomkins Square Records released Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton.

After she died, a number of writings or perhaps poems or perhaps lyrics without music were found. These words were given to several women to interpret.

According to a Pitchfork account: “Remembering Mountains is maybe the closest we’ll ever get to hearing Dalton’s own articulations of heartache, although plenty was communicated on her first two records, regardless of whether the words there were her own. Still, there’s a palpable narrative here, a sense of loss and stillness, and it reanimates Dalton, if only for a moment. It’s good to have her back.”

Here is Patty Griffin’s All That Shines Is Not Truth. An NPR article said:  She [Griffin] recorded “All That Shines” in an Austin church, filling both the structure and the song to the brim with swooping gospel vocals, piano and organ. 

All that shines is not truth
All that glitters does not shine
Real beauty rarely glitters so I find
Real beauty rarely glitters so I find

Broken diamonds on the floor
Fractured beauty into violence
Muddy waters that’s for sure
Despite the mist

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

Peter Walker

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton

As often happens, delving into the life of one interesting person leads to another equally interesting person. Peter Walker, the person who sheltered Karen Dalton during her last days, still lives in Woodstock, NY.

In October 2018, his home–The Ark–burned down with all of its contents—including his guitars and items from his numerous world travels

A Go Fund Me page has been set up to assist Walker.

Unknown Legend Karen Dalton
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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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