reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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the old file cabinets. [k.s. friday]

it's a long story

two old file cabinets.

the old file cabinets are in the closet in the studio.  at some point i organized all – well, most of – my music, lugged a couple metal cabinets up from the basement and spent a few days filing.  there’s overfill in a few cardboard bank boxes on the floor.  maybe someday i’ll get to those.

yesterday i was looking for a piece of music i thought i had.  i went to the drawer it should be in and starting rifling through the books and sheet music.  every title i looked at brought back memories:  “moon river” made me think of my uncle allen, who took voice lessons and sang that song beautifully.  “all i need” made me think of days at moton school center, comparing ‘general hospital’ notes with lois over lunches of peanuts and diet cokes.  “the rose” made me think of earlier years of promise and love.

i forgot about what i was searching for and dragged out a pile of music, sheets spilling out onto the floor as i struggled to pull them from their tightly filled drawer.  books – collections of artists or full transcribed albums – called my name, begging to see the light of day.  i whispered to them i would be back for them.   it has probably been decades since they were opened.

standing at the piano, not another thought in my head, i started shuffling through sheet music and playing.  it was no longer 2020, transported instantly back to the 70s, the 60s, the 80s.

had i opened a different drawer i would have found all my old piano books, my old organ music – tools of a student learning her eventual trade.  in those drawers are the books my children used for their music lessons, for band and orchestra.  in those drawers are the books i used as i attempted junior high oboe and college trumpet lessons.  in those drawers are the pieces that kept me on the bench for hours as a child and then as a teenager, practicing, playing, dreaming.

other drawers yield a plethora of more advanced piano and organ music, years of accumulated resources.  there are drawers of choir music, both sacred and secular, from years and years of directing and conducting work.  and still others house the scores of music i have written, staff paper and pencil, finished in calligraphy pen.

it made me want to just clear a day off.  liberate my mind from every worry, every task, every watching-the-time responsibility.  brush off the dust of the dark drawers from the lead sheets and scores and play.

i’d love to gather a whole group of friends around the piano and sing through john denver and billy joel songs, through england dan and john ford coley’s “we’ll never have to say goodbye again” and paul mccartney’s “maybe i’m amazed” and david soul’s “don’t give up on us” and the carpenters’ “bless the beasts and the children” and led zeppelin’s “stairway to heaven”,  through carole king and james taylor and pablo cruise.  through the ‘great songs of the sixties’ book and the ‘sensational 70 for the 70s’ book and fake books from all time.   just take a day – a whole day – and sing.  and remember together.

in light of the restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic, this would have to be virtual, i suppose.  so that might not be such a good idea.  but maybe d and i could just take that day.  think of nothing else but music and where it has brought us, where it brings us.  our long stories.

a few things can instantly place you back in a moment.  songs, scents, pictures.  a whiff of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume has me immediately missing her.  john denver singing anything off any number of albums of his that i owned places me in my room hanging out on my beanbag chairs with my slick 3-in-1 turntable/8-track/cassette stereo or driving my little bug around the island.  wings’ “silly love songs” or elton’s “don’t go breaking my heart” and i can feel the hot sand under my beach towel at crab meadow.

two old file cabinets.  filled to the brim.

so many treasures.

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IT’S A LONG STORY ©️ 1997 & 2000 kerri sherwood

 

 

 


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1980. no balloons. [k.s. friday]

no balloons

1980.  it’s not often i have listened to this song since four decades ago when i recorded it.  i was a mere 20.  listening to it warbling now, in the way that only old cassettes can warble, has been a mixed bag:  this cassette master, with little studio experience, with reel-to-reel recording, with no auto-tune for my young nervous soprano-ish voice, with too-sweet flute lines and picked guitar, measures-too-long-instrumental-interlude; i am catapulted back.

it is shocking to hear the innocence.  it is shocking to hear the pain.  if my wednesday post this week was too much, i would hasten to add that this will be as well.  this is a song about stripping a young woman of choice, of what should be the blissful love of first intimacy, of no justice, of no opportunity to process.  it’s the story of sexual assault in the late 1970s.  it’s the story of sexual assault any time.  it changes everything.  every trajectory.  it’s my story.

NO BALLOONS is a song of the times.  especially for someone who listened to john denver, james taylor, carole king, joni mitchell, bread, loggins and messina, america, england dan & john ford coley, the carpenters – the A-team of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-interlude-chorus.  simple melodies, simple instrumentation, simply written, simply sung.

i can’t believe i didn’t write it in the vein of led zeppelin or kiss.  it should have been a screaming heavy metal song, full of pointed weapons of anguish, of power-stripped anger.  instead, it sounds like a sweet love-gone-bad song, “you take away my hopes, my dreams, you give me no balloons to fly.”  only it’s not.  it’s about no air.  no breath.

“and now with my eyes closed, i no longer see the pain in yours or feel it in mine…”  and that was a product of the times as well.  i closed my eyes and silenced my voice.  i stopped feeling it.  or did i?  “and i cried as long as the rain lasted and when it stopped i stopped.” was it really that simple?

until this week i really never thought i would share this song again.  after all, the song is 40 years old; i’m an alto, perched firmly on the tenor shore.  but somehow, between the #MeToo movement and the swirling-around-us-in-the-world-contention and public court battles in recent media and the lack of regard for those who truly need help or healing and my aunt’s texted article and the weeping inside of my younger-self and my silenced-silence, it felt like it was time to be vulnerable and candid and believe that our muddy-boots-narratives might make a difference for someone else.

we each have a story, a timeline, an arc that takes us through this life.  things we want to remember in detail, things we desperately want to forget.  things we have lived boisterously out loud, things we have lived in despairing silence.  the tapestry that holds all these threads together is the soul of our experience, the way we can hear others and truly listen, the empathy we can employ in a world that seems to cite MeFirst instead of UsTogether.

i wouldn’t wish this experience on anyone.  i’m pretty sure that every day since those-dark-days-in-the-late-70s i have both been affected and have effected because of them.  i have made choices and non-choices, taken action and had reflexive reaction.  i have searched for answers.

but i also know that my heart was blown open.  i am not standing on a different rung of the ladder, too high up to understand or remember, too discurious to ask, too blinded to see, too discriminating or apathetic to care.

i am next to anyone who needs me to listen, really listen.  i am next to anyone who needs me to jump and catch their balloons before they have flown too far to reach.

 

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NO BALLOONS ©️ 1980 kerri sherwood

 

 


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count on you [k.s. friday]

count on you song box copy

i drove back and forth and back and forth to nashville when i recorded this album, each time returning with a cd of the work we had done on the album.  i’d play it numerous times, taking notes to share with my producer, re-writing, practicing, sometimes sharing the songs-where-they-were-at-the-time with others.

joan was the one who told me i needed a “strong woman” song included on this album.  so i walked across the street home, directly into my studio and wrote one.

now, this isn’t my favorite song – it’s a little kitschy if you ask me – but i have had many tell me how much they like it and one of my favorite performances of it was when beth’s students sang it.  (i was long-term-subbing for her. she’s a dear friend and an amazing choir teacher in a middle school in our district.)  those kids really rose to the occasion and kitschy fell by the wayside in favor of strength and power and belief in themselves.

recently d and i listened to some of my first recordings.  they were from 1979-80 and recorded in a studio in a town called port washington on the north shore of long island.  i had found a cassette (now isn’t that retro word dating me!) and we have a boombox (another retro word) that plays cassettes so we settled in to listen to the three songs on what would now be called an EP.

one of the songs is called leaving and is a song i wrote for my parents as they retired and moved from our long island home to florida.  i remembered that song well.

the other two?  well, it’s funny.  i could sing every word, but i didn’t remember the intense emotion behind them.  THESE were my #metoo songs, i discovered (rediscovered?) as i listened.  one of these days i might share these songs, not because they are great songs but because they are truth and every artist has songs that are life-defining.  not the ones necessarily that chart (although those are lovely, indeed!) but the ones that speak from deep inside, with lyrics or music that must be spoken.  these two songs were written by a vulnerable (and pretty angry) young woman who wanted to unleash the power of her crayon and live out loud, who definitely wanted to live without fear, who tried hard to break away from an experience i still would rather forget and who prayed – alone at the time – beseeching words.  all this is what i wrote about in this week’s melange.

my heart goes out to all those women who are also card-carrying #metoo survivors.  the out-loud ones and the silent ones.  my wish for each of you: unleash your crayon, live without fear, break away, pray with another, count on you.

from this song of today’s melange post COUNT ON YOU, which may be more #metoo and less kitschy than i thought,  “just move forward and then believe – you gotta trust…in you.”

DOWNLOAD the song COUNT ON YOU track 12 AS SURE AS THE SUN on iTUNES or CDBaby or purchase the CD on kerrisherwood.com

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COUNT ON YOU from AS SURE AS THE SUN ©️ 2002 kerri sherwood