Happy Valentine’s Day, Lovers!
This is either the happiest day or the saddest day of the year, depending upon the state of your love life. As a happily married man, I’ve enjoyed a permanent valentine for twenty years and we tend to celebrate any old time we please. It works out well.
As music lovers, my valentine and I are both great fans of the Great American Songbook standard “My Funny Valentine” — a show tune from the 1937 Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical “Babes in Arms.”
I’m sure you’ve heard it. This popular jazz standard has appeared on over 1300 albums performed by over 600 artists. It’s even been performed on “American Idol,” so even the Gen-X, Y or Z kids should know it.
Whether your favorite version is traditional (like Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra) or jazzy (like Miles Davis or Chet Baker), you can probably find a version to suit your mood.
Name your favorite performer, and chances are, you’ll find a recording of this song. Michael Bublé? Too easy. Jerry Garcia? Believe it or not — YES.
The perennial song was written by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart. Of course the music is absolutely beautiful, but the lyrics make this the ultimate valentine song.
This time of year is full of holidays and reasons to party and be glad. But for me it is also a time of reflection — thinking of those I’ve lost and that won’t be partying with me on any of these holidays.
Two close dates mark the beginning and the end of my big brother’s life — bookends that are too close together.
Craig was born on Dec. 4 and died on Dec. 6 — 49 years apart.
It sounds silly to say that we were very close, but I’ve found that not all brothers are. Craig was very special and he made his two brothers feel very special. The relationship he had with me was different than the relationship he had with our little brother, Bart, but they were both very strong and special in different ways.
One of the things we three brothers shared was a magical, musical time in the mid-1970s when we played music together professionally. Looking back, it was a very brief period. But duration really isn’t relevant. It was magic.
Unfortunately, I don’t think many — if any — recordings survive from that musical partnership. And I know there aren’t a lot of photos.
I’m starting a special page on this web site to reminisce about my late brother Craig, and am framing it against the backdrop of his — our — musical journey.
I’d like to invite anyone who knew him, or anyone who experienced our music, or just those who are kindred spirits to post comments, photos or whatever else you’d like to share.
I filed my first copyright in 1978 and am now able to do so electronically. It’s not just vanity. I work at trying to get my songs recorded, licensed or somehow making money for me.
Along the way, I’ve taken an interest in the business side of music. Frankly, if any musician is serious, I think this is a necessity.
Attorney and pianist Janie Gust has the first of a two-part series Who Owns the Song? Intellectual Property and the Musician (Part I)
and her personal web site is http://www.chez-janie.com/
If you don’t know music theory and the formula for telling the key signature of a song by the number of flats and sharps in it — here is a SNEAKY MUSICIAN’S TRICK (one in a long series — collect them all).
This works for MOST songs — there will always be exceptions. But I’d say at least 90% or 95% or maybe even 99% will follow this rule.
I’d vaguely heard of musical modes but didn’t know much about them until I decided to take some brush-up piano lessons a few years ago.
My teacher was a retired rocker from the 60s who had modest success and was enjoying his life of relaxation in a California beach resort town where my wife and I were staying.
As I got more educated in modes, I also got more interested in Jazz music. I’d never understood where a lot of it came from or where it was going until I got modal.
If you want to stick your toe in the water, there is a great two-part series at ultimateguitar.com
Take a peek and see if it can help you awaken some creative juices in your playing or songwriting.
If you’re having problems with you’re songs beginning to sound the same, I’ve found that working with a diverse producer helps a great deal. Maybe you should even think about the music you listen to. Try listening to different styles of music, I did a search and found unbelievable amounts of songs from all over the world and although i couldn’t understand the lyrical content due to the language barrier the melodic detail blew me away! Now I’ve been inspired in a totally different way
The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan late last week impacted me more than most natural disasters do. I’m not sure why exactly, though I have some theories. One of my very good friends was drowned in a riptide in Panama a few years ago, and there are definitely echoes of his passing in the footage I’ve seen of Japanese cars and homes and people being swept away. Same goes for one of my favorite ever drummers, Mieszko Talarczyk of the Swedish grindcore band Nasum, who was killed by the tsunami in Thailand in 2004. I think it’s especially affecting to see a country that we hold up as an exemplar of technological and engineering achievement be ravaged by the same natural forces that have existed since the beginning of time. Mankind can strive for dominion over the earth as much as it wants. Mother Nature will still take her toll.
Like many of you, I turn to music to help in tough emotional times. Here are a few Japanese artists that I turn to for healing. In the comments field, let us know what music has helped you get through difficulty.
One thing I’ve enjoyed over the years is collaborating with songwriters all over the globe via the internet.
I’ve had collaborators in Australia, Canada and other parts of the USA whom I’ve never met. And yet we make beautiful music together.
One fellow out on the east coast was not only one of the best I’ve run into, but he came to San Diego for ComiCon a few years ago and we actually got to meet.
Another one was just down the road a few miles and we wrote some terrific things — and got to meet a few times.
If you have songs that need some finishing — whether you need lyrics or melodies — I found a great resource.
SongWriting Fever Blog is very democratic. Any type of music, anything goes. Post your lyrics like a want-ad or post a request for collaborator like a lonely-hearts singles ad.
I think I know where I’ll find my next collaborator.
By Mike Viola
There is a base human need to consume. We gotta eat. We do it with food, we do it with sex, we do it with raising our kids. We do it with movies, music, musicals, paintings, pictures, pictures of musicians in musicals who paint movie posters. The list goes on. What do we love more than lists? Crossing something off our lists. Consuming our lists.
Let’s walk right past the “I wanna be famous” stage of being an artist. Even though you tell yourself and everybody else around you that you “don’t want to be famous, I just want to be heard.” You’re kidding yourself. You’re hungry. I know very famous people at the top of their game. One guy is the only surviving member of his era. He’s the best. Everyone knows he’s the best. And it’s not enough for him. And that hunger has nothing to do with more fame. He’ll die starving, a very rich man.