Posts Tagged ‘What the World Needs Now’

I spent Saturday afternoon listening to Holocaust survivor Daniel Goldsmith share his story. His family lived in Antwerp, Belgium, which was invaded by Nazi Germany in May 1940, when he was 8 years old. As in all their other occupied territories, the Nazis instituted a series of anti-Jewish laws. Then, in August 1942, they sent his father and other men to a forced labor camp in northern France. (As he learned many years after the war, several months later his father was sent to Auschwitz, where he died.) 

After he, his mother and 1-year-old sister narrowly averted capture by the Nazis during a roundup of the remaining Jews, his mother placed him and his sister in a Catholic convent and joined the underground as a courier. For safety’s sake, after several months he was shuttled to a series of orphanages, but one was eventually raided. He was sent to a prison, then another, and then another, and then was placed in a box car with other boys for transport to what likely would have been a death camp. They managed to escape, however. A 16-year-old boy pried the wood planks from the car, and they jumped from the moving train when it slowed for turns. They hid in the woods for several days before a priest in Perwez arranged for local families to take them in; and, this time, they remained safe until the Allies liberated the area in September 1944.

The story is representative of an era in human history that too few have educated themselves about. It’s not that history is being forgotten, per se. It’s that it’s being ignored. Most folks know the broad-brush outline of the past, but in the mad rush of modern life it’s easy to miss the similarities between then and now, and to look the other way when and if those similarities come into view. In Europe and the U.K., for example, anti-refugee sentiments and rising antisemitism are worrisome. In the U.S., at present, the latest example is the way some talk about the migrants seeking to escape the dire poverty and violence in Central America. Rather than seek a solution to stop them from fleeing in the first place, we’re told that they’re “bad people” and “criminals.”

It’s not that dissimilar to when we turned away the MS St. Louis in 1939.

In Trump’s America, people of good conscience are not allowed to disagree on how to address the problem without being vilified. Democrats, we’re told, are in league with the “bad people” – and always have been. On the flip side, some Democrats are equally as asinine in their assertions about Republicans.

In other words, for many, the political arena is no longer a venue where political philosophies compete. Instead, it’s become a battle of “us vs. them,” with the “them” forever cast as villains. But, as I wrote here, that’s a false construct. It’s actually, always, us vs. us.

And, with that, here’s today’s Top 5: What the World Needs Now…

1) U2 & Mary J. Blige – “One.”

2) Paul Weller – “Can You Heal Us (Holy Man)

3) Stone Foundation – “Heavenly Father”

4) Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On” & “What’s Happening, Brother”

5) Rumer – “What the World Needs Now Is Love”

Happy Mew Year

Posted: December 31, 2017 in 2010s, 2017, Rumer
Tags: , , , ,

And so 2017 comes to a close not with a bang or whimper, but a mew.

A feral feline of unknown gender, who I’ve decided to call Bobbi/e, may have taken up temporary residence in our standalone garage, which is about 100 feet from our back porch. After the last few snows, I noticed paw prints tracking to and from the door; and, this morning, I spotted a ginger tabby cat slipping from the sliver of darkness into the light.

Once it’s closed, I should explain, the garage door gradually cracks open until it’s about six inches off the ground. And even if it didn’t, there’s a hole somewhere in the back, behind the boxes and old furniture that takes up much of what was once a two-car space. During the late-spring and summer months, for example, a groundhog family that lives behind (and below) the garage often uses it as a covered short cut. They’ll be grazing in the nearby grass when danger – i.e., me – steps onto the back porch, and off they go. Thirty seconds or a minute later, one peeks out from behind the garage to see if the danger has disappeared.

I’ve spotted a few other cats since, back in 2014, we moved into what was my parents’ house. One, another ginger, is a well-fed and well-groomed longhair; it obviously has a home. Another, however, is a scrappy-looking gray tabby that sometimes lounges on the front porch on sunny afternoons – like Bobbi/e, he’s probably descended from my family’s feline of the 1970s, Reilly, and his orange-hued missus. She appeared at our backdoor one day, heavily pregnant, and eventually gave birth behind the living-room couch. Which is to say, this house is likely ingrained in their DNA as a place of safety and refuge.

This morning, I stepped onto the porch to introduce myself to Bobbi/e as s/he padded down the driveway and s/he, in turn, mewed salutations before scampering off.

Anyway, my song for tonight is one that resonates far beyond the 45 released by Jackie DeShannon on April 15, 1965. In my Album of the Year essay for 2016, I wrote of its timeless quality as thus: “Somewhere there’s war, somewhere there’s heartache and somewhere some people hate while others fear. It’s not fair. It’s never fair. But it’s why the song resonates when it’s sung. It’s always true. The world needs love. Sweet love. Not for some. For everyone.”

And that is my sincerest wish for everyone in the coming year. No matter who or where you are, or what you’re going through, may peace and love find us all.

As a child, Christmas was my favorite holiday. And why wouldn’t it be? There were gifts to give and get, roast turkey to be had, stuffing to be savored, and family to be enjoyed.

Once, in my early years, I sneaked out of bed at what must have been 4am, saw that a bounty of presents had magically appeared beneath the Christmas tree overnight, and scampered around the house like a mini-Paul Revere screaming “he’s been here, he’s been here!” But unbeknownst to me, Santa’s two adult elves had just turned in after a long night of arranging everything just right. And though they shepherded me back to bed, the cat – so to speak – was out of the bag. I was back out in the living room within minutes. They corralled me again, I snuck out again, and around and around we went.

The elves drank a lot of coffee that day, I’m sure.

By my teen years, aka the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, the gifts shifted from action figures (not to be confused with dolls!) and assorted toys to LPs, Mattel Electronics handheld devices, and clothes; and the giving of presents became as much fun as receiving.

Thanksgiving, back then, always seemed somewhat of a rehearsal holiday to me. There were no gifts, just turkey and stuffing, and if dinner was at an aunt’s, as it sometimes was, then the stuffing was never as good as my mom’s.

That said, it did provide the grist for a classic TV moment –

Through the decades, however, a funny thing happened: Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday. Family and friends come together. Family breaks bread. And a good time is had by all. There is no stress, no worries beyond (not) eating too much.

And with that, here’s today’s Top 5: Thanksgiving…& Rumer

1) Rumer – “Thankful.” To my ears, Rumer’s Seasons of My Soul is one the greatest albums of the new millennium. Here’s a live version, from 2010, of one of its key tracks…

2) Rumer & Daryl Hall – “Be Thankful for What You’ve Got.” Rumer later recorded a wonderful rendition of this song for her 2015 Love Is the Answer EP, which is well worth the purchase.

3) Rumer – “Home Thoughts from Abroad.” This mesmerizing cover of Clifford T. Ward’s classic song is from Rumer’s sophomore set, Boys Don’t Cry.

4) Rumer – “Better Place.” This lovely tune hails from Rumer’s third album, Into Colour. The video was shot by me from the front row (a bad angle) from her 2015 visit to Philly – a great show that we took our mothers to.

5) Rumer – “What the World Needs Now.” There’s a reason why I chose This Girl’s in Love: A Bacharach and David Songbook as my top album for 2016 – a year on, and it remains timely and timeless at once. This song, especially.

Some days, it seems, the highway of life crawls to a stop due to an ill-placed on- and off-ramp, a la the stretch of Pennsylvania turnpike between the suburban-Philadelphia enclaves of Willow Grove and Fort Washington. For those unfamiliar with that portion of the toll road, the powers-that-be installed an EasyPass-only exit-entrance about halfway between the two stops, which are only four or five miles apart, years ago. The idea, I imagine, was to reduce congestion. The result for those who get on at or before Willow Grove, however, has been quite the opposite thanks to two or three streams of cars now merging into traffic within a few miles.

In fact, that short stretch of highway usually takes half my commute. On a good day, I travel two or three miles in 20 minutes, and then the next 15 (or so) more miles in about the same amount of time. But that madness is routine madness, the kind of thing I and every other commuter has come to expect and begrudgingly accept.

But the madness that happened outside of Manchester Arena on Monday night is of another, horrific dimension. Ariana Grande’s fanbase is, I imagine, mostly teens and preteens; and I’d wager that, for many, the show was their first concert. The lights dimmed, the band kicked in and then Ariana appeared to applause, screams and shouts, and for the next hour and half (give or take) she commanded and directed the hearts and souls of everyone in attendance. I can say that without knowing much about her or her music, actually; anyone who’s been to more than a few shows knows the basic outline. And by night’s end, the 20,000+ fans were undoubtedly happy, content and ecstatic – stoned, in a sense, though not from drugs or drink but the experience.

A fan is a fan is a fan.

The idea that such a venue was a target for attack? It scorches the soul.

While driving home tonight, I listened to the CBS Evening News; KYW-1060AM, Philly’s all-news station, simulcasts it. What struck me was the night’s final report, about the response in Manchester, how everyone of every faith and color came together. The story spotlighted a Pakistani-Muslim cabbie who ferried 20+ young concert-goers wherever they wanted/needed to go at no charge. His own daughter had thought of attending the show, he said, but decided against it due to its proximity to school exams. That response, the outpouring of love and affection, is why those who hate will never win.

With all of that in mind, here’s today’s Top 5: Love, Peace & More. (One note: I’d hoped to start with the obvious, the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love,” but it’s not on YouTube.)

1) Bobby Darin – “Simple Song of Freedom”

2) Rumer – “What the World Needs Now Is Love”

3) Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – “All I Really Want to Do”

4) Paul Weller – “Going Places”

5) Sandy Denny – “Full Moon”

And two bonuses…

6) Nanci Griffith – “From a Distance”

7) 10,000 Maniacs – “Peace Train”