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August 12, 2014

JONI, I HARDLY KNEW YE…Confessions of a Dormant Hippie!

by Susie Duncan Sexton
 
www.youtube.com is my second home…my escape from the madness of life…a retrieval of song lyrics that inform while simultaneously lightening my soul. 


Interest is revived in continuing to endure the pitfalls of life. Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut swore that music, all by itself, proves the existence of heaven. Despite such photographic YouTube video-clipped time-warped evidence as: skinny ties and lapels and mop haircuts (the BEATLES); underrated murky-early-on-"living color"-telecast geniuses (Bobby Darin, Peter Allen, Harry Nilsson); over-done cocktail dresses (Eydie Gorme, Lena Horne, Leslie Uggams, Doris Day, Dinah Shore); bare, hairless, calypso chests (Harry Belafonte); flowered shirts and tiny bubbles (Don Ho); capes (Elvis); flowing caftans (Mama Cass, Judy Collins, Carole King, Joni Mitchell); annoying "prop" guitars (James Taylor and nearly every other person), it is/are the LYRICS that steal my heart…and much of that language freakily stands the test of time. Way too many tunes become better with age--they resonate…and inspire and guide me even more than "YESTERDAY" when I was young . 

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It's downright spooky…and I welcome my hippie mentality and heightened groovy sensibilities at this rather advanced stage of life. 

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Recently, I moped off to a party "all by myself" (sans the significant "other")…doubting that marriage ever could have been a worthwhile (man-made, artificial, institutional, economic) concept! Admit it? Most of us have been there more times than we care to count. An imaginary Don Ameche and radio wife Frances Langford (Google "The Bickersons"!) and I all started the car while I stifled tears, attempting to eliminate a mind-swirling barrage of bombastic barbs. HE had snarled, "Sure, put on your very best t-shirt, the only dressing-up you ever do! Have a great time, you (insert sexist slur modified by scathing adjective!)" Upon arrival, hardly in a festive mood, I mingled, then stared at a depressing choice between deleterious frankfurters or pulled pork. I am a vegan. Would far rather pet a pig than eat… or be… or wrestle one. Felt out of place. Tossed a hastily wrapped present atop the gift table. Fielded a few probing questions. Grudgingly watched the big-deal international World Cup soccer match on a big-screen TV, as I silently lamented that a bunch more wandering stray dogs, in yet another country, had gotten slaughtered to accommodate pointless, televised, "sportsy", showboating human activities. However, my funk lifted! When I left for home, a handsome personable Hispanic foster child scurried over to my side, bestowing upon me the biggest hug of my lifetime--and thanks to that young fellow, I got back on track. I smiled for the first time in an entire week.


If I possessed the talent of either Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Eddie Arnold, P!nk, k.d. lang, or the Dixie Chicks, about now I might contribute a bluesy woeful folk song highlighting that checkered NON-party-mode celebration; even though country-western, rockabilly and especially folk-singing are my least favorite musical genres…yet all three boast some powerful messages often. I have begun to focus on the words of songs, minus Ed Sullivan's introductions, or squealing females, or twanging guitar strings, or pounding, thudding "garage band" drumbeats, or bright lights or whatever bells and whistles and unnecessary pizzazz customarily weigh down, drown out, and obscure sweet, sometimes dark, meaningful tunes' souls upon further examination. Shut out the noise…focus on the lyrical prayers…for change, for peace, for understanding…contained in arrangements of words…the lyrics…the all-important lyrics. The older I grow, the more profound certain melodic messages become…as in "Imagine", "One is the Loneliest Number", "MacArthur Park", "Big Yellow Taxi","You're So Vain", anything at all ever created by Randy Newman, and that "Itsy Bitsy Spider" ditty created by Carly Simon for that heart-wrenching, honest, raw, Nora Ephron auto-bio-flick Heartburn starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson at their combative finest. Nicholson screeches out "My Boy Bill" (a.k.a. "Soliloquy"), from the musical Carousel, to a pregnant Streep in the funniest movie moment I've ever viewed! (As a side note, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Annie Lennox as well as David Bowie's "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" are forever in my personal music hall of fame!)

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I've changed and so have lots of lyrics which I never really understood until I matured? The hard way? Case in point? I am revisiting with gusto a "painter derailed by circumstances"--the gifted poet/composer named Joni Mitchell with her panoply of intriguing titles, one of which was her first hit single entitled "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio"! Noteworthily, I discovered the personalized yet universal significance of "Both Sides Now" -- in the wee hours of a recent morning…just me and YouTube and Canadian Joni and a 70 piece orchestra, all of us together at a 2000 New York tribute to her magnificent talent. (Over 3 million views!) This particular version, sung by Joni herself, got featured on the soundtrack of the film "Love Actually". (I choose to ignore that one of the Olympics committees copped and probably corrupted this masterpiece in 2012…) Mitchell is heading toward age 60 in the video and impresses as exquisite, elegant, serene…. noticeable are a much deeper voice and refreshingly more studied delivery of a most eloquent song.


Simplistically divided into three equal portions of observations, in ascending importance, of"clouds", "love", then "LIFE", the piece counterpoints youthful illusions shattered by inevitable disillusionment -- resulting in positive change and personal evolution of thought. The songwriter/performer sings for eight plus minutes all the while headed deliberatively toward the "ah, yes" conclusion, a standing ovation, and thunderous applause: 

"…Tears and fears and feeling proud, 
To say 'I love you' right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds, 
I've looked at life that way.

"Oh, but now old friends are acting strange, 
They shake their heads, they say I've changed
Well something's lost, but something's gained 
In living every day.

"I've looked at (clouds, love,) life from both sides now
From (up and down, give and take,) win and lose -- and still somehow
It's life's illusions I recall
I really don't know (clouds, love,) life at all…"


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Never one to act my age, to know my proper place, or to become lost inside any clique whatsoever, I have tumbled along honoring my free-wheeling instincts…often at my own risk. But I am so pleased that contentious, ridiculous quagmires of age issues, gender landmines, religious identifications, and ethnicity mazes mean zilch to me. I dedicate today's column to some "youngsters" half my age because they have all enhanced my life -- and their consistent friendliness, support and joie de vivre boost my morale year 'round every year. Thanks to twins Lisa & Laura, Rusty, Missy, Chelsea, John, Tami, Deborah, Tammy, Mel, Tricia, Victoria, Beth, Jennifer, and Roy. My apologies for stealing from Frank Sinatra, but kids, "You make me feel so young…"

 
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Secrets of an Old Typewriter  Stories from a Smart and Sassy Small Town Girl by Susie Duncan Sexton

More Secrets of an Old Typewriter  Misunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels by Susie Duncan Sexton

Read about movies and nostalgia, animal issues and sociopolitical concerns all discussed in my book Secrets of an Old Typewriter and its follow-upMisunderstood Gargoyles and Overrated Angels - print and ebook versions of both are available on Amazon (click the title).

The books are also carried by these fine retailers: Ann Arbor's Bookbound and Common Language; Columbia City's Memory Lane, North Side Grille and Whitley County Historical Museum; and Fort Wayne's The Bookmark. And you can download from iTunes. Meet other like-minded souls at my facebook fan page. Visit my author website at www.susieduncansexton.com. Join a great group of animal advocates Squawk Back: Helping animals when others can't ... Or Won't

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