Tag Archives: songwriting

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!

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

 

 

Funny Looking Snowmen

It rarely snows in Tucson, Arizona, but when it does, it’s a pretty big deal.

There was a dusting of snow to our north last night, and probably five inches of the stuff 25 miles up the road, in Oracle State Park, which is where I went today to take photos. The place was swarming with “snow peepers,” and some of them were building snowmen.

Here’s one of my snowmen photos. But this snowman isn’t really a man, is it? Because he (it?) has three ears (horns?) and wings (gigantic shoulder muscles?). Obviously, it was built by a bunch of men with issues. I won’t say what their issues are, but what’s that guy in the red jacket pointing at?

Snowman 1-2

I do think this snowman is kind of lovable. Just look at that expression.

Here’s another snowman. This one is more typical of the ones I saw in Oracle today:

Snowman 2

A 3-foot tall snow person with eyes made from a plant called “desert broom.”

Obviously, we southwest Arizona residents aren’t too good at building snowmen. But then, can you blame us? It only snows one day a year here! We need more practice.

On my way out of the park, I spotted this 2-foot tall model pointing the way:

Snowman 3

Actually, I think its arm fell off.

I think this minimalist sculpture was the best little snowman of all.

If you like snowmen, you’ll probably enjoy listening to my song about them, called “Gonna Build a Snowman.” It’s guaranteed to get you in touch with your inner child, and you can listen now, for free, here:

http://www.pacificbuffalo.com/music

Just click the link, then click “Gonna Build a Snowman.”

Happy Snow Year!

 

A Song About Mars … and Earth

In 2010, I was hiking near the San Pedro River when I was inspired to write a song about the planets.

You may be wondering (as I was at first) how a walk in the woods could turn into a song about outer space. Well, I can explain. Meet my muse, the vermilion flycatcher.

Bee in the Pink-3

There I was, minding my own business, walking through the woods on a bright autumn day, thinking about trees and sky and birds. I was hoping to see a vermilion flycatcher. I didn’t see one that day, but I think one must have been up in the trees looking down at me.

As I walked along, I was filled with a beautiful feeling. Maybe it was the fresh air, the blue sky, or the bright sunshine, but I felt a song coming on. I thought it was going to be about that bird.

But when I got home, the words that came out were about two planets instead. Earth and Mars. I think I wanted to write about Earth, and thoughts of the vermilion flycatcher made me think of the color red. Somehow the two came together into this song about two best friends in space, Eartha Tierra (Earth) and Marty Vermilion (Mars).

Since NASA landed a probe on Mars today, I thought it would be a good day to post the lyrics to the song. You can listen to it for free by clicking on the song title, which is:

Vertical Horizon

Eartha Tierra was a beauty
Marty Vermilion was her friend
It had been that way since forever
It looked like it never would end
Eartha Tierra turned to Marty
My friends call me Mama, she said
Marty rearranged his auburn hair
And he answered, You can call me Red
 
Eartha and Marty were neighbors
Grew up on the same side of the tracks
In daytime they traveled in circles
At night they watched each other’s backs
The days soon turned into seasons
The seasons turned into years
Some years were better than others
And some just brought Eartha to tears
 
                        Some folks believe in miracles, she cried
                        They pray for salvation and such
                        Others just tryin’ to survive
                        They don’t really ask for much
                        But I’m lookin’ for a vertical horizon
                        A total eclipse of this scene
                        Somewhere a settin’ sun is risin’
                        That’s where I wanna be
 
One day Eartha said to Marty
There’s problems from pole to pole
The gravity of this situation
Is beginning to take its toll
No sooner had Eartha spoken
Than Marty was quick to agree
I’m tired of this constant revolution, he said
I need some peace and tranquility
 
                        Why can’t people be friends like us
                        And walk in each other’s shoes
                        They could be tasting heaven on earth
                        Instead of these heart-heavy blues
                        So I’m lookin’ for a vertical horizon
                        A total eclipse of this scene
                        Somewhere a settin’ sun is risin’
                        That’s where I wanna be
                        Yeah, I’m lookin’ for a vertical horizon
                        A total eclipse of this scene
                        Somewhere a settin’ sun is risin’
                        That’s where I wanna, that’s where I wanna be.
 
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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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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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Hanging Out with Bats

Tucson has a large bat population. In 2008, there were about 200,000 bats living here. Who knows how many more there are now. Most of them migrate north from Mexico in April and stay until October.

By day, the bats hang out under bridges, emerging en masse at sunset for their nightly feeding frenzy. People gather near the bridges to watch the bats take off. Bat-watching is excellent and cheap entertainment.

Several years ago, a small group of folks in Tucson came up with the slogan, “Keep Tucson Shitty,” in response to Austin’s “Keep Austin Weird.” They did it as a joke, and it was embraced by another faction who were upset about the sudden gentrification of the scrappier parts of downtown. But “Keep Tucson Shitty” never caught on. Too many people were appalled and resented anything resembling a put-down of their beloved “Old Pueblo.”

I can understand why they would be appalled. I love Tucson’s beauty, its character, its blending of cultures, its mountains and sunsets and desert flowers. The last thing we want people to think of when they think of Tucson is excrement.

However, I think I’ve come up with a solution that will satisfy everyone. How about the slogan, “Keep Tucson Batty”? It might just be the compromise this town needs. On the one hand, it lets others know that Tucson’s a nature-loving town that values its bats and supports sustainable lifestyles, while on the other hand it recognizes the scruffiness that sets us apart from Phoenix.

I’ve even written a song (well, the lyrics, anyway) to go with the slogan. It’s sung to the melody of that Cuban classic, “Guantanamera,” with apologies to Jose Martí (Cuba’s national poet who wrote the lyrics originally used in the song).

I call my version “Guano-tanamera.”

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 1:

I am a bat on a mission

For tasty bugs I am wishin’

Rather eat flies than go fishin’

Can’t drive, I don’t have ignition

Can’t fry an egg in the kitchen

But I have perfect night vision

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 2:

We bats cannot go out shopping

For tasty tacos and toppings

That’s why each night without stopping

Out from the bridge we come popping

Over our guano you’ll be hopping

Or all your floors you’ll be mopping

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Verse 3:

Although I look kinda scary

I’m just a little bit hairy

My name’s not Tom, Dick, or Larry

But I can fly like a fairy

Over the town and the dairy

And City Hall where folks marry!

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera

 

Chorus:

Guano-tanamera, don’t step in guano-tanamera

Guano-tanamera, watch out for guano-tanamera.

 

Four Reasons to Buy Songs for the Seasons

Three months ago, just after a month-long blogging challenge called NanoPoblano, I took a break from blogging to write some songs. Children’s songs, specifically. The holidays were fast approaching and I have 2 two-year-old grandsons. My big present to each of them was the gift of music.

Henry likes weed whackers and leaf blowers, while Porter is a little obsessed with Curious George and trains. I decided to start with a song about weed whackers.

After finishing the Weed Whacker Wiggle, I tackled leaf blowers, and came up with Blow the Leaves. Those two garden tools (one used in summer, the other in fall) inspired me to write Mud Makes a Mess and Gonna Build a Snowman for the other two seasons.

With the help of my husband and musical partner, we recorded the songs, had them professionally mastered, created an album called Songs for the Seasons, and uploaded them to CDBaby, where you can download all four songs for $4, or individual songs for 99 cents each.

Here are four reasons that I think it’s worth your while to buy this music:

  1. Spring
  2. Summer
  3. Fall
  4. Winter

Other reasons you might want to download the songs:

  • Mud Makes a Mess mentions a worm (bound to make kids squirm).
  • Weed Whacker Wiggle brings out the giggles.
  • Blow the Leaves will interest anyone who either likes or hates leaf blowers.
  • Gonna Build a Snowman has a moral to the story and includes some awesome harmonies.
  • We’d really appreciate some reviews!

Here’s the link where you can listen to clips and decide if you want to buy the downloads:

http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/pacificbuffalo4

What’s your favorite season?

Eleven Eleven

Today’s post was written for the “litebeing chronicles” blog, where a

SENSE-SATIONAL BLOGGING CHALLENGE

is underway for the month of November. When I chose 11/11 as the date for my post, I received the following response:

“11/11 is such an auspicious date, great choice!”

Yes, 11/11 has been auspicious for me. Ten years ago — on 11/11/07 — I met the man I would eventually marry.

Truth be told, we met before that, on match.com, but that doesn’t count, does it? His match.com profile said he played piano and liked Jackson Browne. That would have been enough for me — I play folk guitar and love piano — but in his picture he was riding a train and had a camera slung around his neck, just the right combination of sensitive musician and street-smart artist to hook me in.

We met for coffee on 11/11. We talked a lot about music, and a little about our former marriages. Our first official date (a Herbie Hancock concert) went smoothly. Before long, we played some songs together, and I started to dabble in songwriting. (He’d already done quite a bit of that himself.) Eventually, we decided to record our songs, but we needed a name for our duo.

Because we’d met on 11/11, and his apartment just happened to be #11 (how’s that for auspicious?), I suggested the name Two Candles. But when I Googled “Two Candles,” I found that the name had already been taken … by a store that sold sex toys. We didn’t want any confusion about that, so we crossed Two Candles off our list and kept thinking.

We came up with at least a hundred possible names — I’ve still got the list — before hitting on the one that would stick: Pacific Buffalo. (He’s from the Pacific Northwest and I’m from Buffalo.) For me, the name Pacific Buffalo conjures up oceans and prairies, modern and rustic – and that describes our music, too. There’s no one genre that we fit into, so I’ve made one up: “Cool Americana.”

Writing and recording cool Americana music with my husband has been fulfilling, frustrating, exciting, scary, tedious, and exhausting … but never boring. It’s taught me so much about music, about singing, about breathing, and about myself. It has shown me what a nitpicky perfectionist I can be, and also what a patient person my husband is. It’s made me a better listener. I’ll never hear music the same way again.

It’s also what got me started on blogging. Our band needed a website, so I became the official blogger. For a real treat to your senses, go to our website and check us out!

Which senses bring me joy and delight? They all do, but the one I chose to write about for today is the sense of hearing, and more specifically, of music appreciation. When I listen to music, I’m carried on a sea of sound to a space outside myself, a beautiful space filled with energy, waves, and light. In that way, I get to commune with some really cool, rustic, and positive energy in the universe. It even helps me to believe that there’s some meaning to my life (although I haven’t quite figured out what it all means yet). Is there a song in there somewhere? I sure hope so. Maybe I’ll call it “Eleven Eleven.”

Thank you, litebeing chronicles, for inviting me to write today’s post. My being feels lighter now that I’ve shared my love of music with you.

Tomorrow’s Sense-ational Challenge writer is: Barbara Franken

sensational-challenge-2017   Badge 2017