Songs

1989 September 13

No One Like Alice

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Lake Champlain, Alaska

I think Springsteen said once that the only time he’d used a rhyming dictionary was for Blinded By The Light. Similarly, the only sentiment behind these lyrics was to play off the Robert Service–esque rhyme scheme.

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1989 September 30

The Good Old Days

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Two GIs with their tank in Italy during World War Two

Sad how easy it is to update this song, by switching “Syria” for “Lebanon.” Although not many WWII vets are left to fill the shoes of the first protagonist. Still, there must be another justified war to reference instead. Right?

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1999 April 4

Jacob’s Birthday Song

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Jacob seems perturbed at the thought of hearing the same old birthday song again.

For years, the best man at my wedding said he hated “The Birthday Song” and never wanted people to sing it to him. So one year we were challenged to write a new song that he couldn't complain about. Music maestro Aaron Gee-Clough composed some music, and I bashed out the lyrics.

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2007 September 16

Translating Moscow Nights

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Moscow's Red Square at sunset

My friend Andrei, from Moscow School No. 45, got married in September 2007. Since his American wife's family was mostly from Massachusetts, the wedding was held in Salem. Large bride's party; smaller groom's party able to make the trip from Russia. I wanted to bring a little balance to the reception, so I toted along my 6-string and was allowed to serenade the couple with the old Russian standby Подмосковные вечера (Moscow Nights). Back in the mid-1980s, the opening bars were used by the Moscow radio station to introduce the evening news.

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2010 October 10

Translating Le Moribond

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Portrait of Jacques Brel

NL-HaNA, ANEFO / neg. stroken, 1945-1989, 2.24.01.05, item number <914-8399>, license: CC-BY-SA

I’m not fluent in French, but when I heard the original Jacques Brel song on which the 1973 pop hit “Seasons in the Sun” was based, I could tell it was a very different song. I was surprised to discover that the lyrics translation had been done by famous poet Rod McKuen. How could he have gone so far astray in his translation?

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