King of the Five String World


“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”
Steve Martin


Today while I was detailing my car, I was listening to my favorite banjo music. Well, not only my favorite banjo music and musician but also one of my all time favorite performers.

I’ve been a fan of Steve Martin since I was in my teens. On July 4th back in 2014, my dear son bought tickets for us to see “Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers” perform at the Hollywood Bowl.

My son knows who Steve Martin is, but he was unaware of the banjo musician side of the man. He had a great time and we both were thoroughly entertained by not only the great music, but by his comedy throughout the performance. A great evening was had by all.

Shortly after the Hollywood Bowl concert, Mr. Steve Martin received the 43rd AFI Life Achievement Award, one of the highest honors for a career in films. That same year he also received a Grammy for Best American Roots Song. The song, “Pretty Little One” is from his album Live (with Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell) and is such an amusing song, everyone should check it out.

I love all his bluegrass music that he has produced the last few years. But the one CD I listen to the most is, “Live”. Not only because it reminds me of the Hollywood Bowl performance, but because each and every song is pure perfection. It amazes me that one person can have such talent in so many areas of entertainment.

There was a time when some people I knew looked down on banjo music as just silly hillbilly music. But with entertainers such as Steve Martin, Bela Fleck, The Steep Canyon Rangers, and the recent interest in Pete Seeger, I’m glad to say it’s making its way back up the music charts.

In a sea of six strings, in my opinion, Steve Martin is king of the five string world.

Shine On

Carefully Taught


“You’ve got to be taught, to hate and fear
You’ve got to be taught from year to year
It’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught”
Oscar Hammerstein II & Richard Rodgers


It was a beautiful sunny day in Southern California, so I decided to take a leisurely drive north up Pacific Coast Highway. With the top down in my car and the wind in my hair, I was happily listening to my new James Taylor music from his, American Standard album.

I’ve been listening to Taylor’s music for the past five decades and I was excited to hear that this man’s voice has not changed. All the songs on the currently released album are classics that I was familiar with. There’s one song he sings from the musical South Pacific, You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught which I can remember as a child but the words never really sunk in until now.

For those not familiar with the 1949 Broadway musical, South Pacific, it’s a story adapted from the 1947 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by James A. Michener titled, Tales of the South Pacific. The novel is a collection of Michener stories he wrote about the Pacific campaign in World War II. The stories focus on the interactions between Americans and native islanders and deal heavily with the issue of racism.

The music and lyrics for South Pacific were written by the famous team of Rodgers and Hammerstein also responsible for musicals Oklahoma! and Carousel. When the song, You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught was written for South Pacific, the pair were dealing with the racial tensions sweeping the nation. So much so, that there was an attempt to cut their song, Carefully Taught from the show because of its controversial lyrics.

While the show was touring in the Southern United States, lawmakers from Georgia actually introduced a bill outlawing entertainment containing “an underlying philosophy inspired by Moscow.” One legislator went so far as to say that a song justifying interracial marriage was a threat to the American way of life. Thankfully, Rodgers and Hammerstein defended their work and the number was kept in the show.

It’s hard to believe this beautifully poignant written song was a threat to our society during the 1950s. We’ve come a long way since then but still have a lot of work to do when it comes to racism. Because as the lyrics so appropriately point out:

You’ve got to be taught
To be afraid of people
Whose eyes are oddly made
And people whose skin is a different shade
You’ve got to be carefully taught

You’ve got to be taught
Before it’s too late
Before you are six
Or seven
Or eight
To hate all the people
Your relatives hate
You’ve got to be carefully taught

Shine On

Funny Girl

 

“People
People who
need people
Are the luckiest
people in the world.”
Bob Merrill 

 

funny-girl1

My favorite Barbra Streisand musical Funny Girl was on television the other night. I was just a kid when my parents brought this Broadway hit album home in 1964. It didn’t take me long before I had every lyric of every song memorized, belting out each song like any other normal 8-year old.

Funny Girl became a huge hit, not only as a Broadway Musical but also as a movie. I was too young to see the Broadway version, but I was the first in line at the movie matinee theater with my elementary school friends when it was released in 1968.

I can remember sitting in the movie theater quietly singing along with each and every song. My friends were surprised that I knew all the lyrics, especially since I hadn’t told them. I just thought every kid knew the lyrics. Guess I was wrong.

To my surprise, when I watched the movie the other day, all the lyrics came back to me. How is it I can’t remember what I made for dinner two days ago, but start playing the music from Funny Girl and I start singing along without forgetting a single note or lyric. Guess I’m just a funny girl.

Shine On

Back to the Future

“Roads?
Where we’re going,
we don’t need roads.”
Dr. Emmett Brown

Back to the Future

On July 3, 1985, the movie Back to the Future opened nationwide. Little did any of us know this movie would become one of the most iconic movies of our generation. It’s one of those movies that you can just sit back, eat your popcorn and forget about everything and literally go for the ride of your life.

As a diehard Back to the Future fan, it’s safe to say I have watched this movie half a dozen times each year for the past 35 years. In my opinion, the story, the characters, the concept of time travel is done with pure perfection. However, this perfect picture almost didn’t get made.

Writer, Bob Gale conceived the idea for the movie in the early 1980s after visiting his elderly parents. While rummaging in his parents basement, he found his father’s high school yearbook. He was surprised to learn his dad was class president of his 1940 senior class. He contemplated if he would have befriended his father if they had attended school together. Deciding it would be a great storyline, Gale shared the idea with his good friend from USC cinematography classes, Robert Zemeckis.

The Two Bobs, as they are now known, collaborated on the idea and presented a script to different studios. After getting rejected more than 40 times by numerous Hollywood studios, the movie was finally green-lit by Universal Studios thanks to the help from their mutual friend, Steven Spielberg.

DeLorean At Pedersen Museum LA

Petersen Automotive Museum, Mother’s Day  2019

In the original script, the DeLorean time machine was a Philco refrigerator, Einstein the dog was Shemp the chimpanzee and the title Back to the Future was originally Space Man from Pluto.

One of the real stars of the Back to the Future franchise is none other than the DeLorean time machine. I for one will never forget the magic moment where the DeLorean rolls off the back of Doc Brown’s sealed truck and is revealed for the first time.

Zemeckis is the genius behind using a DeLorean as the time machine. The car was just introduced to the world in 1981 and sold for around $25,000. The movie played a major role in the continuing popularity of the DeLorean.

Five weeks into filming, actor Eric Stoltz who was portraying Marty McFly, was fired. Zemeckis determined Stoltz had been miscast and realized his original choice of Michael J. Fox was the only actor that could portray Marty. Luckily for Zemeckis, he was able to replace Stultz with Fox. The best career choice of both director and actor in their entire life.

Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown was brilliantly cast, but was not the first choice by the studio. Initially, John Lithgow as well as Jeff Goldblum were tested and thankfully not selected. In my opinion, no one could portray Doc Brown but Lloyd.

The Bully Biff played by actor, Tom Wilson with many of his signature lines, “what are you looking at butthead? “ were adlibs by Wilson. In a recent interview with Bob Gale, he was asked who if anyone was Biff based on and Bob’s response was, “the character Biff was based on Donald Trump.”

I enjoyed the 1950s music and was a big fan of Huey Lewis and the News music that summer of 1985. So, the fact that the movie had a guest appearance by Lewis and his song, The Power of Love was the opening track song, was an added bonus for me.

DeLeroean Interior BTTF

Petersen Automotive Museum, Mother’s Day  2019

When the movie opened in 1985, it became an immediate number one hit in theaters across the country all the way into early 1986.

Immediately after the success of the movie, the two Bobs were reluctant to do a sequel since sequels were rare in the late 1980s. Zemeckis had said that if he had wanted to do a sequel, he would have never ended the first movie with Jennifer, Marty and Doc in the DeLorean driving off into the sunset. But, through encouragement from the studio, Bob Gale alone wrote a 210-page long script, which the studio ended up splitting into two separate movies.

The 1989 Back to The Future II became as successful as the original, but not my favorite. By the time the sequel opens that November, the studio is filming and finishing up the third sequel.

On May 1990, the third and final movie is released. Commercially, Part III was the least successful in the trilogy. Still, this western set sequel is one of my favorite of the franchise. Not only because of the western theme but because of the Doc Brown romantic story line. Mary Steenburgen as Clara Clayton is absolutely enchanting as Doc’s sweetheart. It’s also the first on-screen kiss in Lloyd’s movie career.

Sadly, the third movie sees the end to the DeLorean time travel device and the end to the Back to the Future franchise. Thankfully, owning the DVD Trilogy Box Collection I’m ready and able to travel any time my heart desires, back to the future.

Shine On