Behind the Songs for Show 10.
Behind the Songs Main Page.
Wednesday Appreciation Day (1998)
My wife Sue always called Wednesday "hump day". I thought it would be humorous to write a song on that subject.
If I Become the Night (1998)
I came up with this one in one of my more poetic flights of fancy. A good friend remarked, after hearing it, "Max, you are an incurable romantic." I plead guilty as charged.
Prairie Soil (1992) From CD "River, Earth and Sky"
When I was nine years old I "wrote" new words to an existing song. Neither I nor my parents knew from copyrights. My mother highly praised it and thought it was the best thing since Beethoven's ninth symphony. That's part of a mother's job description. It was really pretty bad and I would just as soon forget it. I'm really glad that no sound recordings of it have survived. That was my first brush with writing songs.
In college my roommate and I dabbled a little but there was nothing to write home about.
In 1992 I was beginning to think about what I wanted to do when I retired about ten years in the future. In idle moments I was entertaining fantasies about being rich and famous for writing a hit song titled "Prairie Soil". I found I was composing large parts of the song in my head so I decided to put it on paper.
And that's how it all began.
I was rather naive about the music business and thought I had a sure hit. It was filled with mistakes that made it sound amateurish. Here is where many people make the big mistake. That is when the song doesn't become an instant hit they give up. I decided to study books and see what I could learn. I also had considerable help from my Aunt Grace who wrote poetry. All the advice I found was "keep writing" so that's what I have done.
I know the songs I am writing are not going to be hits in the current music market but I don't care. There some people who enjoy my songs and I enjoy writing and singing them. If one should be a hit that's fine but I'm not holding my breath.
Then You Can Sing with Me (1993)
This song originated in a dream. The chorus my unconches mind sent up through that channel wasn't all that good. I, unwisely, used it for several years before deciding to rewrite it. The Song Pays Tribute to one of my major musical influences, Joan Baez, as well as several lesser ones.
The Comet Song (1997-2001)
This song is both old and new. It appeared once before under the title of "Comet Hale-Bopp". I deleted one of the original stanzas and added three new ones to make it less dated.
Every comet has a name. They are all named after the person or persons who discovered them. Of the three comets mentioned in the song only one will be familiar to non astronomers. That is comet Halley. It is pronounced Hal-e not Hail-e.
The first one mentioned, comet Kohoutek was spotted when it was farther from the sun than is normal for comet discoveries. Everyone in the astronomical community believed it would be spectacularly bright when close to the earth. Armageddon believers latched on to the early publicity and started claiming that this was the end of the world. Even here in little old Bowling Green the planetarium was picketed by those who claimed that scientist were withholding the truth about Kohoutek. A group of armageddonest somewhere out west even went so far as to commit mass suicide. As it turned out the comet didn't deliver on advance promises and in order to see it one needed to know exactly where to look and binoculars to see it.
The previous appearance of comet Halley in 1910 was, so I have read, a spectacular sight. When it returned in 1986 anticipation ran high but it was a big disappointment.
Comet Hale-Bopp was discovered simultaneously at the same time by Mr. Hale and Mr. Bopp. This was the comet appearance that Kohoutek and Halley should have been. Starting with the fourth stanza I wax poetic over hale-Bopp and conclude with a historical perspective.
500 Channels (1993)
In April of 1993 I had only been writing songs for 11 months. My song output in 92 had been only 2 songs and this was the first one of 93. Ideas were hard to come by in those early days. On April 16 National Public Radio's All Things Considered had a report about the future of TV. The overly optimistic prediction was for 500 channels within a year or two. That seemed rather excessive to the interviewer and to me. At that time ATC was playing tapes of satirical songs sent in by a bunch of no-talent people. I decided to try to clime onto the band wagon. I wrote it before supper, recorded it after supper and sent it in the next day. Unfortunately that first version wasn't as good as the song is now. If it had been they might have played it. But they didn't. They actually returned the tape (wonder of wonders) with a nice letter from the producer.
At the end of the year I improved it and sang it for the introduction of some of the acts for the New Year's Eve celebration. Someone whose name I didn't know said "that's a very well written song." Most of the songs I wrote in those early years needed revision. But I have made only minor revisions to this one.
I performed it at the 1994 National Federation of the Blind state convention to considerable laughter. Later I sang it at the 2002 national convention of the NFB to a very well warmed up audience. There were howls of laughter at each punch line. That was a most memorable performance. In 2007 I did it at the ACB National convention in Jacksonville Florida to a similar reception.
People who know me and my songs often ask for it. I had to change the title when no one ever remembered the title I thought would be a good one. They would always ask for "500 Channels" so I had to give in to public opinion and change it.
Magic Cloud (1995)
Ever since my first visit to Mammoth Cave I have been fascinated by the story of the Native American who's mummified body had been found in the cave years ago. As I sing this song I can almost feel myself walking through the pitch-dark cave with only a flickering torch ... feel my heart beating fast and the sweat beads forming even in the cold cave ... feel the bolder fall on my foot ... and feel the fear and pain as my torch goes out.
But more background information is required. First of all is the native American sky lore that is included in the first stanza. The Campfire Star was how the native Americans referred to the north star Polaris. They believed that the Milky Way was the path that souls of the dead followed to reach paradise. In the early winter when the song is set the Milky Way is high overhead. I do know that in the winter cold air from outside flows into a cave while in the summer pleasantly cool air flows out of a cave. The reference to the icy breath of earth is a writers dramatic touch justified by poetic license.
The story grows out of a slide show with recorded narration that I saw and heard in 1969 on my first visit to Mammoth Cave. Here is a summarization of it as best I can remember after 41 years.
We don't know why the Indians went into the cave. It appears as if they were gathering gypsum and other compounds for uses we don't understand.
This particular Indian drove the bottom end of his cane torch into a pile of sand and knelt to work on his task. A rock fell pinning his foot. He waited for rescue but none came. His torch went out leaving him in the most profound darkness that exists anywhere in the universe. Alone, frightened, and feeling abandoned, he died in that darkness.
The script of this show was prepared by scientists who won't make a statement unless they have proof of its accuracy. Poets are not bound by such considerations. Although this story comes from my imagination it seems to me to have some degree of validity.
It's Greek to Me (Then You Can Sing with Me)
This really was my mother's favorite saying. When ever she was puzzled about something there was never any doubt because she would roll out this statement. She had no idea that it came from Shakespeare and neither did I. When she was home schooling me, my mother was ahead of her time in many ways, we discovered "It's Greek to me" at the same instant. The actual quote is "It was Greek to me".
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