The 12 Songs of 2020

After attending the SRQ New Year’s Eve party at the Sarasota Municipal Auditorium and seeing a band perform a rousing rendition of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, one of my first endeavors for the new year was to learn how to play the iconic Def Leppard song myself. While it was certainly fun to play, it soon dawned on me that my energy would be better used in writing a song of my own. Staying in the key of Am, I started to let the chords come together, and eventually a melody came to mind.

I recorded myself singing the melody in a “na na na” refrain and listened to it as I ran some errands. Still not sure about what the song was about, I reached out to the woman who’d given me a New Year’s kiss and asked her to be my muse. She said that the song was about “finding  beauty in the brokenness, living in the moment or the journey… vulnerability,” and so the song “Broken” came to be.

Although I have often felt as if I were broken in the past, and still sometimes feel that way to this day, I have also recognized that I can still be useful. And although the system that runs our world may seem very broken at times, I have come to realize that it is actually a work still in progress that needs continued refinement. 

While there is indeed a part of me that would love to see a complete revolution that replaces the current operating system with an upgraded worldview and paradigm, for the time being, we still have to work with the system we have. It would not be fair for me to say that our two-party political system is broken because it was flawed from the start due to human stubbornness. Although many of the framers of the Constitution warned of the dangers of a two-party system, and the ridiculousness of a winner/loser scenario has been consistently proven over the last two and a half centuries, we still find ourselves clinging to this antiquated notion of good versus evil.

Since I had committed to writing a song each month after finishing “Broken”, February found me wanting to be a bit of a protest singer and calling out the folly of our political system. “Keep It Simple, Stupid” starts with the introduction of the good versus evil mindset which cast Adam and Eve out of paradise, according to the biblical story. Since then, the notion has been used to empower all sorts of movements, the most recently egregious being our bowel movement of a political system. So instead of a collaborative system where our best minds can find areas of consensus for wise growth, we have a celebration of antiquated buffoonery as a gaggle of the most competitive play an incessant game of winners and losers, frittering away our shared well-being on nonsense and immaturity.

As March brought the first talks of Covid19, and realizing we would be at the mercy of leadership from the current administration over a barely functioning system, I decided to write a “Song For The People”. With the discussions of a shutdown, I imagined a lot of what we’ve seen with people not wanting to be limited in movement or forced to wear masks. Yet I also saw the possibility for this crisis to unite us and wake us up to greater possibilities beyond the limitations we have been living in. 

Incidentally, if we were to truly change me to we, America would become Awerica, which could be interpreted as “Aware-ica” (as in, we are aware of our presence in the world and our effect on it) or Awe-Rica (as in, we are in awe of how rich our lives truly are now that we’ve stopped making selfishness the foundation of our society). Either way, just something to consider. 

On April Fools Day, as Florida started it’s quarantine protocols, I moved into my new girlfriend’s place to ride out the pandemic together. When it was time to write my song for the month, after the chord progression and melody had come to me, I asked her to be my muse and let me know what the song was about. She asked me what I thought the song was about, and I replied, “I don’t know yet.”

“Well, then there you go,” she replied. 

And so “I Dunno Yet” became my official song for the pandemic. I watched very little news reports and reveled in not knowing what was going on outside of our little love nest and art studio.

About a year ago, I found a battered copy of the Mona Lisa on the side of the road among an assortment of other treasures the recently former tenant had left behind. After playing the tune and hearing the melody of the refrain for about 2 weeks, it finally occurred to me that it would be interesting to ask one of the oldest and most valued paintings about the changes she may have seen in the world. When I finished my version, it was over four and a half minutes long. I sent it to my nephew Kyle, and he sent me back a version that included musical interludes which was over seven and a half minutes long. While I thought it was too long for a radio hit, I knew there was potential for an interesting video so I started looking up images of the Mona Lisa created by other artists and had compiled enough to make a video within a day or so. 

John Hoover played my last show before the pandemic, the Leap Day Hootenanny I put on at Tamiami Tap on the last day of February. I had been messaging John about getting together and recording a mandolin track for one of my songs, but living in Bradenton, with him in Sarasota, we never connected. When I finally did move back to Sarasota, speaking with my new neighbor, a former high school classmate of mine, I discovered that John lived one block away, and it wasn’t long before he walked over with his mandolin and laid down his tracks for “Dear Mona Lisa”.

“Today” was my second official song of the pandemic. While the world around me was riled up about the dangers, I was able to focus on creative ventures, personal development, and the practice of cultivating an intimate relationship. I hoped that others were doing the same and still hope that we all continue to do the same. 

I love America.I love America with the same unconditional love that I extend to my family members. Although we may disappoint one another, our bonds are inexplicably connected.

Yet that does not detract from the reality that I am sometimes perplexed by the beliefs and behaviors of the family and country from which I was spawned. And while I truly hope that the divine does shine on the people who share this life with me and the country which has paved the way toward a more unified democracy, sometimes I just have to shake my head at our collective stupidity. So I often find myself saying, “God Bless, America!” It’s amazing how much difference a simple comma can make.

Because I want to see a better world and participate in our continued evolution, I have, for a long time, been enamored by the writings of Joseph Campbell. While each of us has our own personal hero’s journey to participate in, I believe that as a people, we also have a journey to take in order to create a better world. Building upon the steps outlined by Joseph Campbell in his monomyth, I wrote “Another World Is Out There” for those who are brave enough to make the individual and collective journey. I was still singing the song while taking one of my low tide bike ride’s so that became the video.

After having lived with the executive director of Transition US  for a couple of years and following the Transition movement for longer than that, I was very inspired by Rob Hopkins‘ latest book and podcast, “From What Is To What If”. The concept of looking for better questions more than soluble answers inspired me to create The What If Journal with my artist friend Martha Robinson as well as a song based on the idea. I still believe that “what if?” is one of the most important questions we can learn to ask.

Over the last 4 years, I have been reticent in writing about my thoughts regarding our current president. However, after I started playing with the chords for October’s song in anticipation of the upcoming elections, the phrase, “It’s Been A Long Time Coming, And I Can’t Wait To See You Go” popped into my head, and there was no other person for whom I could think to write such a song. Although the song made me laugh out loud, and I was quick to share it with those I thought would appreciate it, receiving over 1400 views in the first couple of days, I was still trepidatious about sharing it too much and contributing to the negativity which had already been so greatly perpetuated throughout this administration. I hope to never play this song again, but I still think it’s funny.

Having shared my dissatisfaction at our country’s current leadership, I felt that I needed to speak to the fact that we are all still “One People”. Despite the manufactured differences that our political parties use to divide us and strengthen themselves, we still all have to get through this together. After writing the song, I immediately put out a call to people who may want to contribute their voices, and I am very excited to release the single when it is fully produced. As it happens, this is scheduled to be released on Inauguration Day.

After a year of writing these songs, I reflected on the message I hoped would come through. Although we are often pulled in many directions by forces outside of ourselves, I believe that most people still have the goals that Stephen Covey mentioned in his book, The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective Leaders: to live, to learn, to love, and to leave a legacy. In writing the song, I took some liberties with changing the leaving of a legacy to laughter because I believe that laughter may be the saving grace of humanity. Ultimately, I believe that my legacy will be felt by how much I inspire people to “Live, Learn, Laugh and Love”.

I am extremely grateful to have a very talented nephew who has been producing my songs, and I look forward to continuing their monthly releases as well as continuing to write a new song every month. May 2021 bring us all new perspectives and new opportunities to rejoice in the lives we have been gifted with.

Photo by Dark Rider on Unsplash

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