Thought for the Day: Today, I am consolidating my Saturday and Sunday posts. Initially I was going to have both Saturday's Songs for the Soul and a Sunday Comic Strip, but I changed my mind. Read on to see why.
On Friday, I was having a wonderful time with my brother, sister-in-law, my nephews and their wives. We attended my nephew, Matt Bogdanow's last concert with the group Plushgun in NYC before he and his wife move to Los Angeles at the end of August. (Plushgun will continue to perform, but it will be a bit trickier for them.) I had been meaning to give Matt a few contacts in LA who could help him in the music business. In the middle of a noisy club, I decided to use my trusty iPhone to find the contact information, that I had neglected to do over the last few weeks. I found my first cousin's phone number easily enough. Then, I looked up my friend, Sam Hooper, a great blues guitarist & songwriter who moved to LA from Boston several years ago.
When I googled my third contact, John Brahaney, best selling author of The Craft and Business of Songwriting, I was thrown for a loop. On the small screen of the phone, I saw the date January 19, 2013 & the words "Dear Friends, It is with great sadness that..." Shocked, I expanded the writing on the screen & saw that John had passed away a little over 6 months ago. Ironically, my nephew had met John about 10 years before, when he was still in high school. I gave Matt, who was already a budding songwriter, a private critique with John when he came to Boston to teach a workshop I had organized.
I decided to write about John for Saturday's post but did not have sufficient time to devote to the post & am therefore writing it today. I met John at one of the first songwriting workshops I ever attended. After the workshop, I signed up for my 1st private critique. I handed him a scribbled lyric to a song & apologized because it was all I had. I did not have any of my songs on tape yet. I told him I only had a minimal melodic idea for the chorus. He said that as fine and asked me to sing the melody that I had in mind. The title was "For Crying Out Loud." The story line was about an adult who was the victim of incest as a child, finding her voice. I remember having gone to Nashville a few weeks before this workshop. I been inspired listening to hit writers play at The Bluebird Cafe. I wanted to write more powerful songs that expressed raw emotions & this song was my attempt to do so.
John was extremely supportive of my work. He told me ways to strengthen the song & encouraged me to keep working on it. When I began organizing songwriting retreats, I invited John to 3 different retreats. Every time he came, I was amazed by his ability to teach and offer constructive criticism that could help writers lift their songs to more commercial levels. He could take apart a song without putting down a writer . Somehow he found ways to be supportive of their creativity & helped them become better writers with honest sensitive criticism. When I started to write a check for a private critique at one of the retreats I organized, John told me to put away my check book. He had spoken with the other 3 hit songwrtiters who were teaching that weekend & they were each giving me a private session! Although he was a world renowned expert on songwriting, when he came to teach he preferred home hospitality with songwriters to fancy hotel rooms.
I also remember the first time I turned on a channel on an air plane ride and heard John interviewing a well known songwriter on the process of writing songs. Whenever, I flew after that i searched for John's informative interviews.
I would speak with John occasionally over the years & sent him friends or writers when they were moving to or visiting LA. He was always ready and willing to help. The last time I spoke to John, I was trying to organize a retreat in Mexico. The retreat would have been funded by participants taking part in medical research. John was even willing to consider taking part in the research to help keep the costs down! The craft & business of songwriting has lost a great teacher, mentor & friend. His lessons live on in the hundreds of thousands of people he touched along the way, either personally or through those he taught & the music he helped enhance. I was honored to know him personally & will miss having his supportive presence in the world. His memory is truly a blessing.
Here's a song for John by two great singer songwriters. (Mama Cass Elliot passed away 2 years after this recording & we lost John Denver in 1997, but their music continues to inspire us as well.) The words remind me of hearing John on airplane rides. He loved life & I'm sure he hated to go as well.