I Fell in Love with a Young Young Girl

The first time I took Linda on a west coast road trip, we left Carbondale with $300 and stretched it nearly three months, thanks to the kindness of friends, acquaintances, cheap gas, free rides, hitchhiking and a diet of canned tuna, avocados, cream cheese, peanut butter and jelly, pinto beans, hard rolls, and eggs. A reader might think that surely this is an exaggeration: only $300 for an entire summer road trip of thousands of miles? This was 1972. We had no car, no rent, no insurance, bought no clothes and never went to restaurants except for a truck stop apple pie or fried rice at the Moon Café in San Francisco, which cost a dollar.

(excerpt from my memoir, Hardly Working.)

This song chronicles our adventure.

Not a care in the world.

More Money Than God

“He has more money than God.”

We’ve all heard this description applied to somebody who is well off, often uttered by somebody who wishes that they were as well off. It is the ultimate praise in our capitalist society. God is rich but this person is richer. The richer you are, the more god-like. God is money. God could replace Bennie Franklin on the $100 bill, if only we could figure out how to illustrate God’s likeness. A stack of Benjamins would become a stack of Gods. Cocaine sniffed through a rolled up hundred would, in a way, have God’s blessing. Or, at least, HIS assistance.

Does God have mortgage payments, pay for Impossible Whoppers, owe membership dues at Augusta, possess a garage full of vintage Aston Martins? Does God owe back taxes? Child support? No. God has none of these markers of wealth. A need to be transported in a helicopter? Overdue health insurance premiums? No-no-nah-no-noh! God has a credit card with no limits.

On reflection, don’t we all have more money than God? Forget it. That was a stupid notion. God is so well off that he doesn’t even need money? God is a penniless, omniscient presence who owes nothing, oversees everything, who is worshipped by billions. The poor one in the family was God’s son. He was notoriously poor. But he developed a lot of followers. He went viral. Since his passing, trillions have been raised in his name. It is a thriving business because there are a lot of customers with an insatiable demand for the product.

You know who has more money than God? Who is rolling in dough? The devil. Here is a mischievous dude adept at the financial arts, able to live high on the hog by whatever means necessary. The colloquial saying should be: “He has more money than the devil.” That is a more accurate statement. If you really have a lot of money, the devil is your guy. Like God, the devil needs your dough.

Remember. God never picks up the tab, but the devil might buy you a few drinks. Maybe even a nice dinner and a show. Would you rather be in Vegas with God or the devil? Would God frown on your gambling or would he turn a blind eye, which of course is impossible because God sees everything at all times.

The next time someone say, “She has more money than God,” keep this in mind.

Photos by Dave Clark

Truck Drivin’ Astronaut

Truck Drivin’ Astronaut is one of the first songs I wrote, probably around 1973, though I can’t specifically pin down the date. The moon landing was an obvious inspiration.

My astronaut is an everyman who remains grounded even while in space. He’s the cowboy next door who takes out his own trash and sips beer on the front porch. Commercial endorsement rewards will soon be coming his way as they do to many successful Americans. In the last verse, now that he’s been in space, he’s uncertain that he prefers his earthly existence.

It’s also possible that the protagonist is not even an astronaut but instead is just a dreamer. Or a songwriter.

Many of the photos are from a Sunflower Cablevision video shoot for Randy Mason’s program “Bringin’ It All Back Home.” They were shot in and around Lawrence, Kansas. Probably around 1979 but not certain. Pretty sure the photog was Jim Jewell. The outfit is compliments of my dear friend, Jim Vaughn, who was working for a fire retardant company at the time. I photographed his visit to my wife Linda’s classroom at Wakarusa Valley Elementary. The shot of wife, Linda, and I (me in the cowboy hat) was taken by our friend Steve Burkhart near Lake Powell, Utah in 1973. The astronaut with wine was shot last week by Linda. Space shots compliments of NASA. The suit is still in our attic and one day will be donated to either to the Smithsonian or Good Will.

Reinforce My Belief

Is ignorance a curable disease? This song is an observation of current media consumption habits which primarily reinforce rather than challenge or inform our worldview. Social media and 24 hour news exacerbate this polarizing condition. Of course we will always have disagreements but now, we have a fundamental disagreement about truth. Decency, civility and critical thinking take a back seat to emotion. A culture without civility cannot stand. We are in a bubble of our own choosing. Pop that bubble now!

Why Oh Why?

Last May our current President asked,” Why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?” That presidential musing was the genesis of Why Oh Why? Upon writing this song, I knew that I had to visualize it. The images are from the public domain.
•Thanks to Geoff DeMuth for the evocative horn and background vocal arrangements.
•Jack Mazzenga for the banjo and mando accompaniment.
• David Prusina on Civil War snare
White folks often say about black…”The Civil War is over. They can vote. Can’t they just get over it?” This lays out the “it” that they must get over.

 

Song For Dear Kitty

During the summer of 2016, I spent a good chunk of time in Amsterdam. While there I read—for the first time—Anne Frank’s Diary. A few days after completing this powerful book, I visited the annex on the Prinsengracht Canal, where she hid for two years during the Nazi occupation. Song For Dear Kitty resulted. A combination of hyper nationalism, authoritarianism, sanctioned bigotry and a rejection of intellectualism and the arts resulted in Anne’s plight and the plight of countless millions more. These same forces lurk today. When a politician declares the free press as an enemy of the people it is time for all to take note. In the name of Anne, resist demagoguery!    Song for Dear Kitty ©2016 Roger Bain

My Bad Attitude

They say that attitude is everything. By societal standards, I have a bad attitude.
I am not a big fan of anything with a pop prefix: Pop music, pop radio, pop culture. (I do like “Pop Goes the Weasel.”) Also not a fan of homogenized corporatization, mindless nationalism, dogmatic ideology, most reality and talent shows, most food products advertised on national television and let’s throw in much of social media behavior.
I am a skeptical optimist, walking the fine line that separates humanism, curmudgeonhood and flagrant relevance.
In the 60s, I liked the Stones more than the Beatles. I liked Elvis only before he went into the army. I revered Mad Magazine, Monty Python, Captain Beefheart, Paul Bowles and Lester Bangs.
Now that we have that out of the way, I invite you to listen to this quirky lament that I wrote and recorded last summer.

1950s Trio

Here are songs about three disparate personalities from the 1950s. Sports, politics and rock & roll.

1n 1953, Ernie Banks left the Kansas City Monarchs in the Negro League and joined the Chicago Cubs as a free agent, where he would spend his entire 19 year career, winning back-to-back National League MVP awards in 1958/59 and hitting 512 career homers, all to left field. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1977. Thanks Mister Banks!  erniecard1

 

A few months prior to 1950, Mao Tse-tung routed Chiang Kai-shek—America’s preferred despot— and became Chairman of the People’s Republic of China for the entire decade (1949-59). Mao dictated his people with little thought to their own welfare. He was bent on consolidating his own power and leading China to world prominence.  50 million Chinese died when he traded the country’s rice crop for weaponry. How many people did you kill today, Chairman Mao?

chairman mao

 

In 1956 Elvis Presley jumped onto the national stage from his humble, blue collar, blues and gospel inspired life in Tupelo, Mississippi. As he swiveled his hips, American culture entered the Rock & Roll era. Elvis was anointed the King of Rock ‘n Roll. When he died for the sins of rock & roll in 1977, his body rose and went to R & R Heaven, where he still gives the occasional concert. Performance by Under The Kitchen.

Screens


Where previously our gaze may have been out the window or across the alley or at a newspaper or book or scroll, it is now fixed upon a screen. Not all of the time, of course, but very frequently. I hope this turns out to be a good thing.

Television has been a gateway to our new path. It entranced us.

Early television

Early television

Then along came communication satellites….

 

…which opened the door for cable TV.

In the year I was born, few citizens could have envisioned computers, the web, smartphones or twitter. But those born during the past 30 years could not imagine life without these little screens.

3screenstaring

Youth enjoying the company of others.

Imagination has changed. The pathway to personal identity has changed. The way we interact with life has changed. The use of the word “friend” has changed.

I hope this is a good thing, don’t you?

burkha staring

Even though you can’t see my face, what’s happening on Facebook?

 

grand canyonstaring

A small screen out-seduces the Grand Canyon

The nature of screens will change.

smallest-screen

What now requires a screen may one day require no screen, but this ever expanding connection to all humans, all information, is irreversible.

The author

The author seeks balance by staring at a tree.

In the third grade I combed my hair like Elvis. Is it still my duty to keep up? Do I have a societal obligation, as well as a personal one, to remain current?

It can be a lot of work but I think that the answer is yes.

Now let’s go out there and provoke each other.

rbw:smalltv