Category Archives: Music

“You Light Up My Life” A Jimmy Story

You Light Up My Life

I wanted to share one of the stories with Brianna about her dad Jimmy.

Jimmy was spoiled beyond belief. As an older cousin, I benefited immeasurably from this. He had all the toys, games, and add-ons that can make a childhood full of play. Because my immediate family was so poor, I’d never get the chance to experience those things if it weren’t for Jimmy and my Aunt Ardith and Uncle Buck. But I’m not exaggerating when I tell stories about Jimmy’s legendary spoiledness.

Uncle Buck was an accomplished musician. He had the chance to ‘be’ someone in the music field but chose to do it as a side gig and hobby instead of pursuing it. He gave Jimmy record players and an endless supply of 45s and LPs. Some of these I remember well because Jimmy played them until you couldn’t help but to have the songs burned into your ears. Stories like the one I’m recounting take on an unlikely meaning when you consider that Jimmy dived deeply into Pantera and his beloved group Metallica as soon hair began to grow on his face. Rock and heavy metal gave him a voice like nothing else had before. The year Jethro Tull won the grammy over Metallica, I wondered if Jimmy might go off the deep end permanently. “Effing Jethro Tull!” he said at least two million times in the next month. “Bands with flutes are NOT rock music!”

Whether it was “Devil Goes Down to Georgia” or other songs, none of my memories eclipse 1977’s “You Light Up My Life” by Debby Boone. Jimmy was about seven when the song premiered. He thought the song was the best he’d ever heard – and that Debby Boone was an angel. For those who don’t know, this song was EVERYWHERE and #1 for ten weeks. Jimmy played that record so many times that I wondered if it would ever fade into the background. Jimmy had the song memorized in five plays. He played it twelve million more times just to be certain. When Jethro Tull won the Grammy years later, I reminded him that “You Light Up My Life” had a flute in it. He got pissed off, but then in typical Jimmy fashion, he laughed. “You’re right! Damn it, you’re right!” He added the phrase, “Damn flutes!” to his repertoire of mumblings for a while.

When I hear “You Light Up My Life,” which is a rare thing now, I can’t explain how odd it is to think of Jimmy, Metallica, and Jethro Tull in the same thought. Jimmy’s been gone now for slightly less than ten years. 1977 is forty-six years ago.

So, Brianna, if you want a moment to connect with Jimmy, take a minute and look up “You Light Up My Life” and think of Jimmy standing in his living room with the song playing. He’d sway and badly sing the lyrics over and over. He was happy in those moments. Later, Metallica supplanted Debby Boone. Every once in a while through the years, I’d tease him and say, “Well, they are no Debby Boone, Jimmy!”

As for Jimmy, I hope those damn flutes are playing somewhere. With Metallica’s drums and shredded guitars accompanying them.

Jimmy’s hairstyles followed those of Metallica. The picture looked nothing like him for the last half of his life. But it’s tucked away in my collection to remind me.

I hope this story connects you to Jimmy.

Love, X

Mullet Memories

I’m in my cathedral at work. Because I usually have a couple of hours with no one in here with me, I can blast heavenly music curated with the intent to inspire or motivate. My cousin Jimmy used to torture me with Metallica, and sometimes with horrible bands like Pantera. Because he’s been on my mind a lot lately, I played a few songs for him and had to laugh. I also played “Far From Home” by Five Finger Death Punch, a song Jimmy didn’t live long enough to enjoy.I ended the set with a heavenly song from Il Divo, probably the most opposite and contrasting music possible. In his last few years, he would have appreciated the switch. And we probably would have laughed about his mullet.

Each of us has had our mullet years, the ones characterized by uncertain identity and our place in this world.

When we get older, we laugh about our mullet years. But nostalgia makes it golden.

Some of you are probably living through the best years of your life and you don’t even realize it.

Take a minute today and crank up one of your favorite songs. If you do, I hope it makes you vibrant and joyous.

If it doesn’t, go ahead and fill out that  AARP application.

Love, X

Black Eyed Peas Preach

Though I’m not dogmatically religious, I’d like to write an incongruous post that merges the Black Eyed Peas with the Christian Bible.

The aforementioned group has a current hit called “Don’t You Worry.” It’s vibrant, energetic and a call put away your worries and concerns. It’s one of those throwaway songs, full of pop momentum and repetitious lyrics. It’s also delightful in a way that belies its formulaic lyrics. I’m certain they weren’t inspired by a call to remember that control and worry are the provinces of people unfocused on what’s essential to happiness, especially from a spiritual viewpoint.

I have a lot of issues with religious texts. Sometimes though, truth is where you find it.

Whether it is Matthew 6+, or a verse from my favorite book of Ecclesiastes, among several others, one of the essential truths of most religions is that we are forces living inside bodies. And we’re not supposed to be mental prisoners to the outcome of our worries.

Not to ignore them or blindfold yourself; rather, to rejoice at this moment and to dance with joy. It’s something that older people forget to do as if such a thing is only an option for the young.

The Black Eyed Peas song evokes a reaction in me. Something about it strikes a call to action to remember that for everything, there is a time and place. Maybe it’s because I love the book of Ecclesiastes.

And if your head is cluttered with worry and concern, no matter how justified, you might be distracting yourself from the opportunity to remember to live. To give up control and surrender. To dance, sing, and feel the physical world. But not to such a point that you forget that everything that makes your heart sing can’t be quantified.

You can find truth and reminders anywhere.

If you’re tuned to it.


Things That Don’t Seem To Be True But Are

I saw it on TikTok after seeing it on Reddit a while back. Of course, I doubted that it was true. Today, I loaded my Audacity sound software and chopped the song “Hey Jude” by The Beatles.

You’ve probably heard of them – they were a band from England who had a few songs back in the day.

Somewhere around the 2:55 – 3:00 minute mark in the song, the allegation was that you could hear Paul McCartney hit a wrong note on the piano and utter “Effing Hell,” using the actual f-bomb. John Lennon said, “Let’s keep it in the song,” so they did, albeit dropped to a lower register.

After snipping the song in Audacity, I could hear it clearly but wanted to be certain, so I overtracked it and isolated it.

You know what? It’s true.

I’d post it here, but I’m sure FB wouldn’t like me using language that many of us hear and use daily.

Paul McCartney wrote the song originally as “Hey Jules,” for John Lennon’s son. John Lennon went so far at one point to call Julian’s birth a drunken mistake.

Ouch. Proof even that icons say and behave stupidly.

So many people adore the song “Hey Jude” without knowing it was inspired by a five-year-old boy whom Paul McCartney loved and feared for as John Lennon abandoned him to start a new life with Yoko Ono.


A Beginner’s Mind A Beginner’s Heart

“That joke is dumb, X.”

“It’s 100 times better than yours, though,” I reply.

“I didn’t tell any jokes.”

“Exactly!” I usually reply.
I modified the social media meme by exchanging one word; it changed everything.

You don’t have to write, draw, paint, make music, dance, or any of the other million ways to express yourself. But in failing to do so, your life exudes monochrome dullness. Whatever you love doing or creating, do it. You don’t have to do it well. I’ve never seen a newborn baby play Chopin or Merle Haggard. Even if you’re sixty and find enjoyment in whatever form of expression, feeling like you must be an expert is pure insanity.

A beginner’s mind – a beginner’s heart.

Remember when you did something with enthusiasm? Regardless of the result?

Well, the clock is ticking.

There will always be critics.

Even if you do it PERFECTLY, it will not be to everyone’s liking or taste.

As Van Halen quipped, “You might as well jump.”

Love, X



Though I am reluctant to compare my early morning to the prison yard in the movie The Shawshank Redemption… I felt a little like Andy Dufresne
as Paul Potts’ “Nella Fantasia” blasted at high volume with a haunting echo in the empty warehouse. “Duettino Sull’aria” had its place in the movie. All those trapped souls paused long enough to appreciate the melody. As did I, today of all days. If you’ve never looked at the translation for Nella Fantasia, today would be a good day to do so. It is a wistful and optimistic call for another type of world.

This one is pretty damn good most of the time. Why do we always ask for more?

I woke up this morning, almost embryonic -and warm. I’m not one to sit in melancholy. Standing there completely alone in the concrete and steel expanse, I let it wash across me. October 5th, another day and another opportunity.


Not everyone is here to experience them. I remember because I need to be reminded.

Love, X

A Time For Sundays

I commented on my sister’s social media. Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Christian bible. I still have the hand-written copy a friend’s daughter transcribed for me a few years ago. I asked my friend Mike to tell his daughter I’d pay her to do it; instead, he paid her. I like to think the beauty of some of the passages stuck with her as she sat and patiently copied the words onto the pages of the special journal in which she noted them. I’m lucky to have it after it temporarily escaped from me last year. I’m not much into possessions but this one hits most of the notes for something worth keeping. Having said that, I know that one day I will again find someone who needs the words and I’ll gift it to him or her. It’s likely the recipient won’t know the story behind it. I’ve had my eye out, waiting. Somehow, I know I’ll find the right person one day. Given that the person who transcribed it for me will probably be a well-known author one day, it will undoubtedly become priceless – and then I’ll regret it. It’s odd to me that I know several people who would be phenomenal authors.

I’m not into religious dogma at all. So much of it is transparently created by men with foolish purposes. But it is foolish to skip over wisdom where you can find it. Anything that makes me think and be introspective is always welcome.

If such things interest you, look for “Time Of Our Lives” by Paul van Dyk. He’s a German DJ and musician. This song evokes the message of Ecclesiastes and yet also infects your head with a catchy melody.

“Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.”

Regardless of ‘who’ wrote it, people still argue whether the book Ecclesiastes is optimistic or pessimistic. I like that. Modern people who pay attention to their inner voices and the world struggle with the same themes all these centuries later.

It isn’t that life is meaningless. But if you don’t feel purposeful, it gets that way quickly. And if you don’t find pleasure in the simple moments between the Kodak moments, you are definitely doing life wrong. ‘

Sister Monica Joan, from Call The Midwife: “If there’s one thing the religious life has taught me, it’s that it’s impossible to love too much. What’s needed is taken up, and what’s not needed hangs around somewhere, looking for a home”

Who is that in the picture, you ask? That’s a possible genetic outcome for me, if the road had forked in that direction. AI algorithms are becoming amazing. It’s strange that the person in the picture doesn’t exist. She looks familiar. 🙂

Love, X

Scenes From a Country Church (A Story)

Josh drove along the country road, the smile on his face wrinkling its way up to his eyes. Next to him, Susie sang with abandon, her voice exuberantly mouthing the words to the Billy Joel song on the car’s media center. It was a song Josh knew well. He once disliked the song but loved hearing Susie sing it. She didn’t know that he hadn’t been a fan. Josh wanted her to sing it every time she heard it. He didn’t need to appreciate the song to love the person accompanying it. Susie didn’t know that the song was Billy’s favorite of all his songs.

Before their second date, Josh spent hours learning everything he could about Billy Joel. Susie shared a fascination with trivia and details about people’s lives. Susie listened in wonder as Josh recited all the facts that he’d learned about Billy Joel: that he had been a boxer and quit after his nose got brutally broken, that his ancestors were Jewish but that he had attended a Catholic school, only to end up as an atheist. Susie was horrified to learn that Billy also suffered from depression and attempted suicide by drinking furniture polish. She laughed in delight when Josh told her that Billy’s success came after failing to end his life.

“I learned to play the piano when I was very young, just like Billy,” he had told Susie. She raised her eyebrows in dubious surprise. “I hated it then but learned that music was as much a part of me as breathing. My mom told me that music would keep me sane. She was right. I can’t sing to save my life, though.”

Susie laughed. “We will see about that,” she mysteriously told him.


“Where are we going, Josh?” Susie laughed as she stopped singing long enough to utter the question.

“You’ll see. It’s a beautiful drive. Just sing a little more. We’ll be there in a couple of minutes.” Josh smiled and kept driving.

The road became less maintained as he drove. Fences that were previously metal became loose barbed wire, and the number of houses decreased precipitously.

As he neared the old country church, he slowed and turned between the narrow confines of the ditch on either side. The church stood against a backdrop of old trees. The white steeple looked brilliant against the intermittent sun that peeked through the clouds.

“It’s beautiful, Josh. I love old churches!” She almost squealed. Her enthusiasm always bubbled up.

“I know. That’s why we’re here.” He pulled up closer to the church and shut off the engine.

“Want to go inside? I have a key.” He grinned.

“You have a key? Wow. Of course I want to go in.” Susie immediately opened her door and jumped out of the car.

Josh scrambled to undo his seat belt and follow her. She was already walking up the few steps to the door by the time he exited the car.

As he walked up to her, Susie turned and gave him a light peck on the lips. Josh laughed. Her affection still caught him off guard. He’d spent a lot of his life imagining what such attention would evoke.

Josh unlocked the door with the large key in his jacket pocket. He pulled the door open, and Susie darted in ahead of him. He shook his head in amusement.

As he entered, he flipped on the lights. The inside of the church flooded with sudden illumination. The wooden pews shone with the proof that someone still took the time to polish them. The wood smelled divine.

Josh took Susie’s hand and led her to the front pew. Her fingers folded effortlessly around his.

“Sit here, Susie.” Josh gestured to the front pew. A single piece of dark chocolate lay on the bench. Susie looked at Josh in surprise, realizing he’d planned this. Her eyes grew wide, and she smiled. She said nothing as she sat on the pew. She picked up the piece of candy, unwrapped it, and savored the bitter flavor as she chewed it. She nodded.

Josh bowed toward her as he turned. Both of them smiled. The church was quiet as Josh’s feet echoed faintly on the wooden floorboards. He walked behind the small altar and to the right. He sat at the old organ and looked at Susie.

“Did you know that Billy Joel considered himself a better organist than a pianist, Susie?” Susie shook her head “no.”

“I do too. And this one is slightly out of tune. I love the way it sounds. Imperfect enough to give this song the new life it deserves.”

Josh’s fingers began to play. Instead of the expected four bars of notes to precede the lyrics, he played an improvised version, much like Billy loves to do at his concerts. He looked over at Susie as he began. He was delighted to see that she was slightly shocked. The sound of the old organ flooded the church with melody and life.

“A bottle of red, a bottle of white, perhaps a bottle of rosé instead,” Josh sang, his voice cracking with emotion. Susie clapped in delight.

Josh continued to play and sing, his audience of one feeling the emotion he brought to the song. Time stopped as the wood structure of the church filled with melody and vibrated.

He played an improvised closing melody that faded into a hum as he finished the lyrics. “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant” had never been played with so much love by someone who once thought it was a terrible song.

Susie had tears across her face as she sat in the pew in front of Josh. She smiled.

“Look under the pew, Susie. I left another surprise for you.”

As Susie locked eyes with Josh, she already knew what awaited.

I won’t tell you what happened next. If you’re full of life, you already know. You can smell the wood, feel the melody as it dissipates. And you can imagine Josh and Susie and the life that followed them out of the church.

Try This On For Sighs

Well, I wrote a country song, if you can believe it. The song is just banjo, piano, and guitar; the guitar is loosely tuned to mimic a banjo’s jangly feel. It’s an imagined moment, making it more tangible than a memory. One of these days, I will sing it, though your ears might protest.

Try This On For Sighs

I turned on the radio, hearing lyrics nostalgic and free
Conway, George, and Charlie telling us simple stories
invoking us to live by life’s happy and simple decree

family to give us community
friends to give us companionship
and one to share our vulnerable soul

come here and try this on for sighs
you don’t need money, cars, or clothes
discard the disguise and guarded pose
let your heart and body murmur its song
find the enthusiastic arms where you belong

I walked by the closet, you standing like a dare
facing the mirror, nimble bare feet on the floor
black dress draped against your body, shoulders bare

the memory of your departed mom flooding your candid eyes
I could picture both of you silhouetted there, and still
your shared beauty an ongoing and persistent surprise

your chin and neck trembled with the painful past
you turned and smiled willfully in my direction
knowing I witnessed the overlap of time, recast

you tossed the garment aside, your eyes locked and wide
“Come here, and try this on for sighs,” you whispered
as the invisible music played, our bodies erased the divide

come here and try this on for sighs
you don’t need money, cars, or clothes
discard the disguise and guarded pose
let your heart and body murmur its song
find the enthusiastic arms where you belong

In the small space of a closet, time slowed, then stopped
as we laughed, elbows bumping as we twirled
in that closet, the entire volume of the world

….as we sang…

come here and try this on for sighs
you don’t need money, cars, or clothes
discard the disguise and guarded pose
let your heart and body murmur its song
find the enthusiastic arms where you belong