It’s a chilly, rainy April Fool’s Day eve and so I find myself thinking about warmer climes and times…
We sat there in folding chairs, side-by-side under a colorful umbrella, reading books, drinking cheap white wine, sharing a sandwich, watching our fellow beach people and loving their diversity, talking occasionally, keeping an eye on the dog, but mostly both of us just gazing out over Sandy Hook Bay. There were a few people swimming, a few more people in kayaks, a lot of people on sailboards, and just then music drifted across the water from a clam shack-cum-outdoor bar in the town of Highlands. And this is the song we heard on that lovely summer’s day (and which I heard in my head tonight):
Some warm thoughts of love provide the soundtrack on a very cold winter’s night, courtesy of the legendary Stanley Brothers:
I thought I knew every bit of trivia there was to know about my old hometown of Yonkers, New York. Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti was born there. So was Ella Fitzgerald. So was Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. Son of Sam lived there. So did the great jazz drummer Gene Krupa.
But holy friggin’ God — I had no idea that Chip Taylor, the guy who wrote “Wild Thing,” grew up in my old neighborhood, off Lockwood Avenue near the Saw Mill River Parkway! What’s more, I didn’t know that he also wrote the great song “Angel of the Morning,” which was a big hit in the late 1960s for Merrilee Rush and the Turnabouts!
OK, I knew that Angelina Jolie’s father, the actor Jon Voight, grew up in Yonkers. But I had no clue that Jon Voight is Chip Taylor’s brother, and that they grew up on Ball Avenue — about 15 years before moved to that neighborhood with my parents — just a few blocks from where my mother still lives and where I lived from age 11 until I went off to college.
I’m stunned. Learning this today….well, it just made everything grooooooovy!
Here’s Merrilee Rush singing “Angel of the Morning:”
Here are The Troggs doing “Wild Thing:”
Here’s Jimi Hendrix doing “Wild Thing:”
And here’s Chip Taylor himself doing a song he wrote, titled “Yonkers, NY,” in which he refers to several landmarks and touchstones of my childhood and adolescence in that city — including the old Getty Square business district (where my parents met, at age 15, at a movie theater where my young father was working as an usher); the Herald Statesman newspaper (which I delivered for about four years when I was a paperboy) and Roosevelt High (where I graduated — and did my first creative writing, in Mrs. Diven’s creative writing class for the literary magazine Reflections).
I’m hearing this song in my head tonight, as I wonder what happened to the Blizzard of 2015 — and wonder about other things, too:
It’s so outrageous that it’s almost beyond outrage.
A TV commercial for the tax-return outfit Jackson-Hewitt features a soundtrack of “I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad” — sung by the late, great Pete Seeger.
It’s an old-late 1950/early 1960s Smithsonian Folkway, recording so I’m assuming that Pete’s family has no control over how it’s used. And his performance is from the late 1950/early 1960s vintage Smithsonian Folkways recordings, so perhaps those recordings are now also beyond the reach of copyright protections. .
Doesn’t matter. Pete Seeger would never, ever allow his voice to be used for a TV commercial unless it was to promote a cause.
I hope the Seeger family will demand that Jackson-Hewitt pull the commercial — or at least change the soundtrack. And I’d suggest asking — or demanding — that the tax-preparation firm makes a big donation to Pete’s beloved Clearwater Foundation.
Before he performed solo, of course, Pete Seeger was a member of the legendary group The Weavers. Before that, Pete — along with his pal Woody Guthrie — was a member of the Almanac Singers. Here they are singing an appropriate song:
I post this video without comment…Well, OK, with just two comments:
1) This video by someone named Mark Gormley may be the worst video ever.
2) When I watch this video, all I want to do is shout out to the girl, “Run for your life! Get off the beach! That creepy guy Mark Gormley with the high-pitched voice is heading toward the beach! Run!”