Category Archives: music

Lucky to Live in the ROC (Part 1)

A friend is staying with me this summer, and the weather has been cooperating. In fact, since his arrival, we’ve had almost constant sunshine (and that’s really rare for Rochester). As a result, we’ve been going out on little adventures every day.

Now, through my friend’s eyes, I’m starting to appreciate my hometown more than ever, and I’ve decided to write about this in my new series, “Lucky to Live in the ROC.” In each segment, I’ll discuss something really special about Rochester, New York – something that makes me glad I moved back home.

PART 1: THE LITTLE

The Little Theatre, a.k.a. “The Little,” is located at 240 East Avenue in downtown Rochester. It was built in 1929 as part of the Little Cinema Movement (an alternative to commercial movie houses), was constructed in the Art Deco style by Edgar Phillips and Frederick Pike, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In my opinion, it’s the best place in Rochester for movies, especially if you like independent and foreign films. In addition, it has a great little café with live music and food (including a light, delicious limoncello layer cake).

The Little Theatre, Rochester, NY

We recently visited the café at The Little to hear Hanna & the Blue Hearts. Hanna PK grew up in South Korea; her parents were in a rock band. She learned to play piano at a young age, but it wasn’t until she was an adult that she discovered American blues, and it knocked her out. (My friend Aleks, guitarist for the Blue Hearts, tells me she was “gobsmacked.”)

You can read more about Hanna’s evolution as a blues musician in the WXXI news story, “Music Heals Hanna PK and the Blue Hearts.

Tony Hiler (drums), Hanna PK (vocals),
Aleks Disljenkovic (guitar)
Gian Carlo Cervone (organ),
Hanna PK (piano, vocals), Tony Hiler (drums),
Aleks Disljenkovic (guitar)

I love Hanna not only for her musicality (she plays piano and guitar, covers the blues and American classics, writes her own songs, and sings), but also for her huge heart, which comes across in her original lyrics as well as her stage presence. And the music she and the band play is world class. To my mind, hearing Hanna & the Blue Hearts play the blues is one of the most uplifting things I’ve experienced, here or anywhere else.

And I’m getting an education about the blues, too. After hearing the Blue Hearts’ version of Memphis Slim’s “I’m Lost Without You,” I asked my friend Aleks about it, and he sent me a link to a video – Memphis Slim performing the song along with famed guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy. I’d never heard the song before, never heard of Slim or Murphy, and now I’ve heard both of them play another great version of the song.

Then I did three things: I looked up Memphis Slim (and learned his real name), I looked up Matt “Guitar” Murphy (and learned that he played in the Blues Brothers band and even played a role in the Blues Brothers movie), and I listened to Hanna’s version of the song, which is track 4 on her new CD, “Blues All Over My Shoes.” I learned a lot that day.

As I said, I’m lucky. Lucky to live where I can hear Hanna & the Blue Hearts playing LIVE at the Little Theatre (and all over New York State).

Do you feel lucky living where YOU live?


New Video (Please Share)

November 3rd is fast approaching. On that evening, we may (or may not) know the results of the U.S. Presidential election. I’m hoping it’s a decisive landslide for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, and that we Americans will not have to endure weeks of legal wrangling over who actually won.

More than anything, I hope we will never again have to endure the abuse of a donald j. trump Presidency. That’s right. I’m calling it abuse, and if you don’t agree with me, I’m sorry. You can always choose to unfollow this blog.

I don’t have to spell out what I’m talking about. You’ve seen his mocking, derisive speeches, you’ve read his Tweets. You’ve heard him joking about sexual assault, and you’ve been subject to his lies and denials, a.k.a. “gaslighting.”

You’ve heard him refer to bigots as “good people,” and to Mexicans as drug dealers, criminals, and rapists. You’ve cringed when he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

You’ve watched while he intentionally exposed his staff to COVID-19. You’ve noticed as he’s ignored the more than 200,000 American deaths due to the pandemic, downplayed its severity (meaning more vulnerable people will contract it), and used racial slurs to describe it.

You’ve even heard him call himself “the chosen one.” If I sound angry, it’s because I am.

In recent days, I’ve tried to keep a semblance of a sense of humor by matching up song lyrics with current events. For example, on my Facebook page, I’ve referred to “Creep” by Radiohead and to “Paper Moon” by Harold Arlen. But my sense of humor is beginning to wear thin. In fact, I think I can see through it.

That’s why I feel it’s time to ask you, my dear 200-plus followers, to help me.

Please comment below, so we can commiserate together! We need each other more than ever in this strange new world, while we manage to get through the next 27 days without losing our minds.

And also, if you would be so kind, please give a listen to the new (and, I hope improved) version of my original song/video, 2020 (2.0). You may remember my post about it in 2018, but don’t bother listening to that one. I’ve since changed some of the lyrics, added strings and glockenspiel, and re-recorded the audio. The rap in the middle is now accompanied by written-out lyrics. You can sing and rap along with me!

I’d be extremely honored if you’d like it and share it with your friends. The purpose is to get a message out reminding and encouraging people in the U.S. to VOTE (like their lives depend on it, as Michelle Obama recently said).

The song is also fun to dance to.

Here’s the link again: 2020 (2.0)

Thank you.

I’m November Dreamin’

To borrow a phrase from the late great Congressman John R. Lewis, I hope to get into “good trouble” for this post.

In 1963, John Phillips woke his wife Michelle in the middle of the night to tell her about a song idea. Michelle wanted to go back to sleep, but John encouraged her to get up and help him write the song. She wrote the second verse, and two years later they’d record it with Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty. John, Michelle, Cass, and Denny were The Mamas and the Papas, and the song was California Dreamin’. It was a huge hit.

I’m old enough to remember when that song was new. And now, 55 years later, I’ve taken the liberty of rewriting John and Michelle’s iconic lyrics with a new message for 2020. I’ve even recorded it in Garage Band, added video with iMovie, and posted the song, I’m November Dreamin’, on YouTube.

You can experience the entire project (including three-part harmony, artwork that I found on Pixabay.com, and video of me rapping) here. Or just search YouTube for “I’m November Dreamin’. The title is unique, so far.

I’m no Mama Cass – I can’t sing as well as any of the Mamas OR the Papas – but I suppose I might qualify as The Grandma. I might, in fact, be the oldest rapper on YouTube.

I’m not here to toot my own horn. The whole purpose of the video (and this post) is to get Americans riled up enough to vote in November (for the alternative to “you know who”). So, if you like the video, I’d really appreciate it if you’d share it far and wide. And of course, I’d love to get your likes and comments here, and on YouTube.

Just in case you’d like to sing along with me, here are the lyrics to I’m November Dreamin’:

All the leaves are green
and the sky is blue                               
I’m hopin’ for a change,
somethin’ we can do.
I’ll be feelin’ better
when this administration’s through.                                    
I’m November dreamin’
‘bout electin’ someone new …    
 
I’m gonna vote by mail,
maybe you are too,
or you can go and stand in line
where they will welcome you.
Ya know it’s time to make a difference,
Defeat old you-know-who.
I’m November dreamin’
‘bout electin’ someone new!
 
Rap:
 
This isn’t a game, and what’s even stranger is
he’s deranged. Oh yeah, he’s dangerous.
He won’t take blame, he lies and he’s lazy.
Get him outta D.C. ... the guy is crazy!
Puts kids in cages, but then he’s liable
to brag about his brain while holdin’ a Bible!
He insulted McCain, but he’s always rootin’
for his pals like Stone and Vladimir Putin!
Don’t want more of the same? Then ya gotta be a chooser.
You all know his name, let’s make him a loser.
He appeals to his base … aww … they must be trippin’,
It was a tight race, and now he’s slippin'. But
NO! This is NOT the time to relax.
Let’s give it what we’ve got up to the max.
It’s our only shot! Don’t sit around and gloat.
We’ve gotta vote!
 
All the leaves are green
and the sky is blue.
We’ve got a racist in the White House,
doesn’t have a clue.
It’s really time for an eviction
at Pennsylvania Avenue.
I’m November dreamin’ 
‘bout electin’ someone new,
‘bout electin’ someone blue,
and I hope that you are too!
 

Again, thanks for comments and sharing!

From My Isolation Outpost to Yours

Greetings from Lori’s Isolation Outpost, otherwise known as my home office. My disembodied voice is coming to you through the wonders of a website called WordPress. It’s an apt name for a space that allows me to figuratively “press” you (as opposed to shaking your hand or otherwise coming within six feet of you).

Isolation Outpost is actually my spare bedroom. It has an old oaken table, a sewing table, a dresser, a keyboard, a guitar, and a fake oriental rug where I do a few exercises each morning. (OK, maybe not every morning.) This is where I do office-y things like writing and editing photos. It’s also where I do non-office-y things like online shopping, checking my Facebook page for likes, watching YouTube videos, and researching important topics like how to copy and send mp3 files via email. No home office deduction for me, not after the IRS sees this post, anyway.

I guess since this site’s called WordPress, it would be appropriate to have a Word of the Day. Well, in that case, my word for the day today is PALPITATION. My heart’s been going ker-thump and ker-thumpity thump on and off for about a week now — in fact it’s doing it as I type this sentence. Palpitations can be brought on by any number of conditions, but in my case, I’m pretty sure it’s stress.

You wouldn’t know it to see me. In fact, you wouldn’t even know it to BE me. I look, act, and FEEL very calm most of the time. But I have a feeling this pandemic is getting to me in insidious ways. It may be my new normal. But I’m going to fight it. I’ll reduce my coffee intake, I’ll meditate, I’ll go for a walk, and I’ll watch more comedy. Yes. That’s my plan, anyway.

And I’ll keep taking photos. Here’s a juvenile vermilion flycatcher. He looks pretty chill.

Juvenile Male Vermilion Flycatcher-4

Adult vermilion flycatchers are brilliant red. (I once wrote a song inspired by one.) Young males like the one shown above look like they’ve been partially dipped in a bucket of orange paint. This one’s spreading his tail feathers to sun himself. Maybe I’ll do that today — sun myself, that is. A walkabout in the Arizona sunshine would do my heart good. And maybe it’ll inspire another song!

Here’s a roadrunner I saw a few days ago, also sunning its tail feathers.

Road Runner Preening

He or she (hard to tell the difference) seemed very content to stand still and preen itself while I took its picture, although it did warn me to stay at least six feet away.

Whatever you do today, I hope it’s relaxing and good for your heart … and soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sowing Some Song Seeds

Many thanks to d. ellis phelps, who has just published my personal essay, Song Seeds, at formidablewoman.org. The website is a sanctuary of poetry, essays, creative nonfiction, art and photography by women for women on the act of becoming formidable.

Song Seeds is a story about how I came to write a prize-winning song about a cat … and also about my dad, and … well … you’ll just have to read the story.

The song itself (My Name is Romeo) can be previewed and downloaded here.

That’s enough shameless plugs for one post.

But one more thing: I can now proudly display my new formidable woman badge, as seen below!

Formidable-Woman-Blog-Badge

 

 

A Little Reptile Music

How are you celebrating New Year’s Eve?

They’re predicting snow and ice tonight, so I’m staying home with my Trader Joe’s frozen hors d’oeuvres, bottle of wine, and internet streaming. And just in case you’re doing likewise, here’s a suggestion:

Log onto YouTube and watch my latest attempt at video stardom, Desert Spiny Lizard Blues. It features a song I wrote about a lizard who uses acronyms. (You may remember it from my previous post, A Lizard’s Tale.) Given enough champagne, I’m predicting you’ll enjoy it even more than watching the ball drop.

If you DO enjoy it, please feel free to give it a thumbs up, and share it with your friends! Once again, here’s the link:

Desert Spiny Lizard Blues

Wishing everyone a happy, peaceful, joyous, adventurous, and successful 2019.

 

 

 

 

Song of the Iguana

I’ve written and recorded a song about iguanas. Read on to learn why my songwriting career has taken this reptilian turn.

My friend Elaine Powers is an author and biologist who lives and works with reptiles. Her pets include iguanas, tortoises, tegu lizards, and a turtle. She currently is actively involved in saving endangered iguanas in the Carribbean.

As Elaine explained to me recently, rock iguanas and spiny-tail iguanas living in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, and other islands have become endangered due to habitat loss and introduced (non-native) predators. Spiny-tails are sometimes consumed by humans. The Statia iguanas on St. Eustatius Island are threatened by hybridization with the non-native green iguana. Some iguanas, while warming themselves on asphalt highways, get run over by cars, either accidentally or for sport. And then there’s poaching for the pet trade. Elaine’s group is trying to educate the public about the importance of native iguanas to the local ecosystem.

After hearing about the plight of the iguanas, I decided to write a song about them. Elaine had the song animated by Anderson Atlas, and she posted it on her YouTube channel.

To see and hear the video, click the following link:

Iguana Song

There’s even an iguana joke at the end of the song.

I’m hoping it catches on in the Carribbean. Do they have some version of a Grammy there? Maybe a Carribby? I’d settle for a paid vacation. But the real prize would be helping the iguanas to survive and thrive on their native island homes.

I’d love to hear your comments, and sharing is always appreciated!

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Diversity Song

Yesterday, I walked to a little park near my apartment. It was a beautiful day. People of all ages, shapes, and sizes were out walking and riding bikes. A gray-haired woman sat on a bench in the sun next to a young woman with Down syndrome. A bald man on a recumbent bike sat quietly next to a statue, a memorial to children in the community who have died. Children played on a rainbow-colored slide. I noticed that it was also a rainbow-colored variety of children; their hair was black, brown, and yellow. It got me thinking about America.

It’s hard NOT to think about America these days (especially if, like me, you happen to be an American). We’re in the news every day, and most of it’s downright embarrassing. But at the park, I started thinking about what I believe truly makes America great. To me, it’s our diversity.

Maybe this Thanksgiving, Americans should make more of an effort to give thanks for our diversity. And maybe we should celebrate it this Fourth of July, too.

Tonight, I’ve written some lyrics about diversity in America. You might want to sing them to the tune of “America the Beautiful” while sitting down for your Thanksgiving dinner this year.

DIVERSITY

Oh beautiful for this our home
For mountains, rivers, trees
For buffalo so plentiful
Fish swimming in the seas
For Native people living here
Respectful of the land
The beans and corn and squash adorned
That perfect feast so grand

Oh brave the many immigrants
Who faced the ocean storms
With hopes of finding better lives
Wishing to be transformed
And braver still the stolen ones
Robbed of their liberty
Our country’s been a melting pot
Though not completely free.

We stand for nothing if not this:
We are diversity
A land of many colors proud
That is our legacy
America, America
Our strength: our many shades
A garden where all flowers grow
Where every grain can wave!

© Lori Bonati

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A Lizard’s Tale

Yesterday, I met with my writer’s critique group at a local coffee shop. I was the first to arrive. The second to arrive was a woman I’d never met before. She introduced herself as “Liz” before excusing herself and walking toward the coffee counter.

For some strange reason, I decided I’d remember her name by associating it with a lizard. She in no way resembles a lizard. It was just the first thing that popped into my mind when she said, “Liz.”

Another writer — Elaine — arrived and joined me at our table. While awaiting Liz’s return, I told Elaine that I’d just met Liz, and confessed that I was associating her name (not her!) with a lizard. The weird thing is that a second later I realized that Elaine is another Liz. Her nickname is “Liz Lady” because of the work she does with reptiles.

Liz returned to the table and introduced herself to Elaine.

“I’m Liz,” she said, “but my real name’s Roberta. I go by Liz because of a lizard …”

I was too stunned to listen to the rest of her explanation. I’ll have to ask her more about it next time I see her. But while I was sitting there, in between two lizards, I remembered this photo I’d taken once.

lizard-2

Did you know that lizards sing the blues, and that they also like acronyms? To prove it, here’s a blues song written by my friend in the photograph.

DSL Blues

Oh, I’m a desert spiny lizard, but you can call me DSL
I’m a desert spiny lizard, but you can call me DSL
My life is hot and dusty, all this crawlin’ in the desert is hell.

Well, I’m strong and I’m fast, and my scales are a colorful sight
Yeah, I’m strong and I’m fast, and my scales are a colorful sight (that’s right!)
But when people see me comin’ I always give ’em such a fright.

Well, they scream and they holler, they run away and hide
It makes me feel bad, it hurts my pride
I wish they would stay, but instead they just go
I think they are so wrong, IMHO

Now, you may be wondering what I mean by IMHO
Yeah, I’ll bet you never heard a lizard say IMHO
It means “In My Handsome Opinion,” so there you are, and now you know.

And the acronym LOL was a lizard’s invention, I won’t lie
Uh-huh, the acronym LOL was a lizard’s invention, I won’t lie (or bat an eye)
It stands for Lizards On Lunchbreak, now it’s time for me to go and catch some flies … Bye bye!

— DSL

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Looking Ahead to 2020

They say the 2020 U.S. Presidential race began last night. If so, I guess the time has come to share with you my latest music video, “2020,” which you can listen to and view here:

2020 Music Video

I was amazed and flattered that it took third place (based on applause) at a recent local amateur film contest. The 300-person mostly college-age audience was clapping in time and loudly singing along even before the first verse ended!

If you like the video, please “like” it here and on YouTube, and share!

Spoiler Alerts:

  • I rap during the instrumental part. (My audience actually whooped with surprise when they heard it.)
  • It has a beat you can dance to.
  • I’m not exactly a fan of Donald Trump, as will become obvious.
  • Here are the lyrics, minus the rap:

2020

Verse 1:

In two thousand twenty, the votes they will be plenty
Cryin’ out for justice, and nobody can bust us!
Don’t call us a snowflake, we’re more like an earthquake, yeah!
Just like an eruption, we’ll throw out corruption, yeah!

Verse 2:

In two thousand twenty, our voices will be many
It wasn’t an illusion, you’re guilty of collusion
We’ll show you we aren’t buyin’ your wall and all your lyin’, yeah!
There’s one way to beat you, our votes they will defeat you, yeah!

Chorus:
In 2020, heed my words
Your hopes will fly like little birds
Democracy will get a boost
The eagle will come home to roost
The world will be a better place
When at last you lose the race
No longer will we see your tweets
The victory will be so sweet!

(Instrumental/Rap)

Verse 3:

In two thousand twenty, the votes they will be plenty
Cryin’ out for justice, and nobody can bust us!
And you can quote us, we’re puttin’ you on notice, yeah
Just go ahead and quote us, you never were our POTUS, yeah!

© Lori Bonati, 2018

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Note: These are my unapologetic sentiments. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, but I’m worried about racism, xenophobia, guns, and the future of our planet, and it’s just time for me to make a little noise about it. I hope you’ll sing along, and play it loud!

Don’t forget to watch the video and share if you like it!

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