(War Relocation Camp) where my relatives were incarcerated
And he carries the reminders of every glove that laid him down or cut him
‘Til he cried out in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving, but the fighter still remains.” – Paul Simon, who sang “The Boxer” on June 3, 2016, at our concert in the Greek Theater, UC Berkeley, when he told us that Muhammad Ali had passed away.
I must tell you that I am very picky when it comes to Hawaiian music. I was never a fan of Don Ho and his Tiny Bubbles. I also remember being entertained by Hilo Hattie on the Harry Owens and the Royal Hawaiians on TV back in the 50s. Through adulthood, I have just lost interest in Hawaiian music, save for the occasional hula at a wedding or party.
In the 90s, I learned of the great IZ*, Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, who died an early death but made a huge impact with his falsetto Hawaiian singing. I do like the ukulele virtuoso, Jake Shimabukuro, though it is hardly traditional. But what do I really know about its roots and meaning?
From the experts:
Music and rhythm have played central roles within the Native Hawaiian culture. From the beginning, mele or chant, was important for Native Hawaiians as it allowed them to remember myths of gods. Early Hawaiians told their stories through chants in two general categories, mele oli and mele hula. Mele oli is a chant usually performed by one person and generally recounts historical events and tells stories of legends. Mele hula is accompanied by dance movements that help translate ancient legends and stories. Native Hawaiians used different objects for instruments like the ʻuliʻuli (rattle instrument), ipu (gourde rattles), pu’ili (a pair of hollowed bamboo sticks).
In the nineteenth century, Hawaiian music evolved to a more western style as string instruments were introduced and that music is known as himeni (hymns). The ukulele and slack-key guitar were introduced by the Portuguese, modeling their traditional “braguinha.” The music of Hawai‘i is mixed with vibrant rhythms and poetic lyrics that tell stories of the Hawaiian culture and lifestyle. The popularization of Hawaiian music around the world began in the last quarter of the 19th century, mainly through the publishing of many of the songs of Queen Liliuokalani in the United States – Aloha ʻOe (Farewell to Thee) was her most famous song. The stories and legends of the Native Hawaiians come to life through the sounds of the islands. Some popular Hawaiian musicians include: Israel Kaʻanoʻi Kamakawiwoʻole (Brother IZ), Kui Lee, Kealiʻi Reichel, Keola Beamer, and Ledward Kaapana. To this day, the Native Hawaiian culture is perpetuated through Hawaiian chants and himeni that embrace the depth and significance of the people of Hawaii‘i and their history.
Perhaps the funniest encounter we ever had was with a Hawaiian singer named Arnold in Waikiki, on our very first trip to Hawaii. He was singing and playing guitar at Chuck’s Cellar across the street from our hotel. We went over to hear him since we were taking guitar lessons at the time. We even started singing with Arnold on many of the songs, and “forced” him to sing additional versus of well known songs. When he joined us for a beer during a break, Arnold could only speak pidgin, the singing voice and enunciation disappeared!!!
*IZ= Israel Kamakawiwo’ole-his best popular album was “Facing Future” released in 1993, and topped by the medley, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What A Wonderful World”. You must find it on You tube or your favorite music service if you do not know about it. It is quite uplifting, and provides a glimpse into this artist who left us too early, due to severe obesity.
Each year, I seem to travel a little less. Some is attributed to getting older. But I am convinced it is our little Labradoodle, Lexi, who keeps me home more. And we will try to travel (road trips) more with her, as she is a good traveler, and seems to enjoy the places we visit. I am also taking classes at the local college.
That said, I do have a few nice trips planned, and, I am certain, a few that are unplanned. The biggest was a return to SE Asia in October, a VIA Canadian Railway trip, and a long anticipated trip to the famous 4th of July concert with the Boston Pops.
In years past, we always met my Mom in Las Vegas for her birthday, and a small family reunion. Now that she is gone, we turned our attention elsewhere. But we have dear friends there, Ken and Debbie, who we have not seen now in two years. It’s about time!
Maybe a dream come true? What if my Cal Golden Bears play the local boys, the Fresno State Bulldogs in a bowl game? It is possible the two teams could meet in either Vegas or Phoenix. Both teams have been or are currently coached by the Dogs own Jeff Tedford. So, the hometown Bulldogs are playing in the Las Vegas Bowl (they defeated Arizona State), and my Golden Bear are in Phoenix at the Cheez-It Bowl (haha).
So, we drove over for the game. Then after my brother and wife drove back, I stayed with dear friends in the Vegas suburb of Summerlin for a few days. It was nonstop fun, cards, happy hours, and games. And I got a bonus! I got to have dim sum with dear friends, Kevin and Patty from the Bay Area!!!! Double bonus.
2018 was a decent travel year. One trip overseas (SE Asia), and a short jaunt to Canada for the VIA Canadian Rail from Toronto to Vancouver. You will notice we had more road trips, since we can include Lexi. We even bought her a new car!!!
I plan to hit Europe again in 2019, perhaps for the last time. I want to see an old friend in Bucharest, Romania. And my long awaited venture into Turkey, if the politics calm down and terror threat stays low. Oh, and maybe a cycling trip to Bordeaux sandwiched in there somewhere? How about you?
With the recent passing of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, the subject of farewell tours comes front and center. I always tell my friends to see the greats, while they are still alive. We saw Aretha in 2015, on her last tour. And it was a treasured performance. Who else has fallen into this farewell tour goodbye?
Paul Simon is homeward bound. Yes, the master song writer and singer has pulled the plug on a great career. After seeing him a few times with Artie, his solo performances are even better, more entertaining, and certainly, more nostalgic. We just saw him on his Homeward Bound Tour.
Elton John is another. We saw him a few years back with he traveled with the well traveled Billy Joel. And yes, both voices were over the hill, but not their charisma. It was entertaining, especially when both of them were on the stage together.
Neil Diamond finally made it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But I have enjoyed his music for decades, with my favorite, “Sweet Caroline” leading the way. We saw him numerous times, he was one of the first to use lasers during his show. He was a great showman, and could get even the more hard core guys and gals standing and swaying to his many hits.
Never cared much for Kenny Rogers, or his chicken. I saw him once in Vegas or Tahoe, certainly a mere shell of himself now. Maybe his chicken is better than his singing?
Only one guy left with Lynyrd Skynyrd, that one being Gary Rossington. A bare bones show up at Ironstone Vineyards up in Calaveras. Loud, but not much in the way of artistry or for that fact, good memories. It is a good time to hang it up!
I never saw Anita Baker, but what a voice!
One of my all time favorites, Joan Baez, led the way through protests, anti-war and peace movements, and just plain great songs about this wonderful country of ours. She still has a great voice. She could motivate a crowd to sing and better, to believe!
I can skip Motley and Aero, never did a whole lot for me, even in their prime. They are just doing a money grab now, like Nike with the Kaepernick ads. I expect some other greats to retire from touring soon: Carole King, Judy Collins, Billy Joel. Heck, I even saw Elvis back in 1971. I regret not seeing the Beatles at Candlestick.
Many others have passed on, or barely hanging on. So, the point to all of this is to go see them while they are still performing!
I wrote this before going to my last Aretha Franklin concert at the Oracle Arena in Oakland (August 2015). It was a magical night. She sang all of her classics. But the best was her version of Paul Simon’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”, where she accompanied herself on the piano!!! A rare occurrence according to most. It was so easy to stand and sway to the great sound of her voice. I will never forget what a great evening we had.
The big, ridiculous hat seemed to take over the proceedings of the inauguration of the first African American President, Barack Obama. But when she began to belt out, “My Country Tis’ of Thee” in her famous voice, all seemed well in the world. Her church hat continued to be all the talk online and in newsprint. And only I America does the daughter of an itinerant preacher from Shelby, Mississippi reach the podium with the new POTUS, the most powerful man in the world.
Though Aretha Franklin’s career started slowly, first with Columbia Records, then Atlantic Records in 1967, she became the Queen of Soul by the end of the Sixties. She eventually recorded a total of 112 songs on Billboard, including 77 Hot 100 entries. She had 17 top ten pop singles, 100 R&B entries, and 20 number one R&B singles! She became the most charted female singer in the chart’s history.
Ms. Franklin has won 18 Grammy Awards, and is one of the best selling female artists of all time, with over 75 million records sold world wide. In 1987, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was the first female performer to be inducted. She learned to play piano by ear, though her mother was an accomplished piano player and vocalist. She had a teenage crush on Sam Cooke, and soon aspired to follow him into pop music.
In April, 1967, she signed with Atlantic Records, and recorded Otis Redding’s “Respect” which shot to number one on both the R&B and pop charts. This frenetic version of the song became her signature song, and became a civil rights and feminist anthem. It is still one of my favorite songs. From there, as her popularity soared, she signed with Arista Records (Clive Davis), and gave a command performance for Queen Elizabeth at Royal Albert Hall. She also had an acclaimed guest role as a waitress in “The Blues Brothers”, singing “Respect” to the chaotic dancing of Akroyd and Belushi.
Her recording success continued through the Nineties, with her first certified platinum album, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who”. In her hometown of Detroit, she sang “The Star Spangled Banner” at Super Bowl XL with Dr. John and Aaron Neville. And in 2010, she accepted an honorary degree from Yale University. She also received an honorary “Doctor of Arts” from Harvard University. Since 1984, she has performed only in the U.S. due to a fear of flying.
She has four children and has been married twice. She has fought weight problems through much of her life, as well as numerous health issues. She received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1979. She was the second female performer, after Madonna, to be inducted in the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2008, she received the MusiCares Person of the Year Award at that year’s Grammys. In 2012, she was inducted into the GMA Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
Her current tour, which I will see in Oakland this evening, promotes her latest album, “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics”. I think this quote from her says it all:
Fast forward: RIP, to the Queen of Soul. She was the star at President Obama’s inauguration. Remember that I always tell you to see these great stars while they are still alive.