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Fiddlin’ Around August 2018

Fiddlin'Around headerSunshine SupermanThere have been so many beautiful days here lately in our little corner of the planet that it’s prompted me to think about weather, and of course, how it relates to music. The sunsets are spectacular, the critters and birds are super active and the rains aren’t intimidating yet. When I started looking through my songbooks and searching my leaky memory, I noticed the words ‘sunny’ and ‘sunshine’ are in about as many songs as the word ‘love’. ‘Course some of these songs are about the lack of sunshine in our lives, or the absence of love. “You are my sunshine—my only sunshine—you make me happy when skies are grey!” No sunshine and no love is a double whammy and darned hard to recover from.

Then there’s the ‘Sunny side of the Street’, ‘Sunny Skies’ by James Taylor, ‘Sunny’, the band Cream singing ‘Sunshine of Your Love’, or Stevie Wonder’s beautiful song ‘You Are the Sunshine of My Life’. Jonathan Edwards sang ‘Sunshine’, Donovan penned ‘Sunshine Superman’, and we were all ‘Walkin’ On Sunshine’. John Denver’s love of the natural world and his song, ‘Sunshine on My Shoulder’ connected us to the elements. He described the fickleness of weather and life—both bring us happiness and tears. A guy named Terry Jacks had a #1 hit in the USA and the UK in 1974 with a haunting song called ‘Seasons in the Sun’. It was an unusual theme for the pop music world—a dying man fondly recalls his life and loves, knowing it’s all nearly over with. The Walker Brothers had a hit in 1966 with ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’. These guys had weather on their brains, because the next year they followed it up with ‘Walkin’ in the Rain’. Country music fans might remember Dottie West’s song ‘Country Sunshine’, a catchy upbeat song that was used to the point of annoyance in ads for Coca- Cola to help us feel that their product would make our lives happier. Well, when rum is added, I suppose it could work that way. At least for a while.

Here in Costa Rica there are basically two seasons—verano (summer) and invierno (winter, sort of). There’s not much need to refer to spring or autumn—it’s essentially either raining or it’s not raining. Although rain might bring nourishment to the land and to our fragile little lives, it gets a well justified and documented bad rap for bumming people out. It can be a great source of inspiration, or it can launch people into melancholy and gloom.

In my soggy, spongy, slippery, sordid, and silly New Orleans, artists have been telling the truth about especially the too much rain thing forever. Righteous soul sister Irma Thomas does a song called ‘It’s Raining So Hard’, where her voice is almost the sound of the rain and somehow the sound of our hopes too, sliding down a damn window pane. The instruments being played behind her become the musical definition of what nature sounds like—rhythm, melody, a hint of history, a heartbeat. Rain falling and life going on.

The Weather GirlsAaron Neville, a man who was granted forgiveness and grace with the wonderful power of his voice and who knows all about the mean side of life, leads us all to transcendence and redemption when he sings ‘Can’t Stop the Rain’. Then there was the first New Orleans Jazz Fest after the levees broke and trashed our town and lives. I was standing in the back of the crowd with some friends watching long, tall Marsha Ball singing the Randy Newman song ‘Louisiana 1927’. “They’re trying to wash us away, they’re trying to wash us away”. I will never be able to adequately describe the huge pain and sadness we all felt that day, but as always, music helped us heal.

The Mavericks did ‘Here Comes the Rain’, Eddie Rabbit sang ‘I Love a Rainy Night’ and Ronnie Milsap wrote about ‘Smokey Mountain Rain’. BJ. Thomas had an optimistic theme with ‘Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head’—that a positive attitude can withstand any storm. James Taylor’s great song ‘Fire and Rain’ was about the highs and lows of his life—“…through fire, rain and sunny days that I thought would never end.” Guns and Roses sang about ‘November Rain’ and the Stones about ‘She’s a Rainbow’. The Carpenters song ‘Rainy Days and Mondays’ has been recorded by over 50 different artists, as has the blues standard ‘Stormy Monday’. Supertramp sang ‘It’s Raining Again’, Prince about the unlikely ‘Purple Rain’, and hallelujah because according to The Weather Girls, ‘It’s Raining Men!’

Let the Sun Shine InThere was no happy ending to Credence Clearwater Revival’s song ‘Have You Ever Seen the Rain’—“comin’ down on a sunny day…”. That song was reportedly written about a band member’s bitter departure just as the band was becoming successful. ‘I Can See Clearly Now, the Rain is Gone’ as I go ‘Over the Rainbow’ into a ‘Rainy Night in Georgia’. Well, ‘Come Rain or Come Shine’, there will always be ‘Stormy Weather’, when it keeps on raining all the time. You got your ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain’ and Fred Astair ‘Singing in the Rain’. By the way, when they were filming his rainy dance scene in the movie version it just wasn’t working visually. So they added milk to the water so it would show up better on the camera—‘Singing in the Rain and Milk’.

In the 60s the radical rock musical Hair had a hit with the anthem ‘Let the Sunshine In’. It felt at the time like we were all united in a stance with the planet and against the corrupt establishment. Sigh. Bob Dylan was singing ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna’ Fall’—clearly about the political BS going on, and Credence Clearwater Revival were so influenced by their trip to Woodstock that they took the political stage with ‘Who’ll Stop the Rain?’. Dylan also had a song on his Blonde on Blonde album called ‘Rainy Day Women #12 and #35’. It almost never happens that a song title is not to be found somewhere within the lyrics, but that’s the deal with that song. It was also banned from lots of radio stations for references to ‘getting stoned’. I wonder what Woodstock would have been like without the rain.

WoodstockIt’s amazing how many song titles and lyrics contain weather words or imagery—I have barely scratched the surface! Think of all the songs that talk about the seasons, and snow, and cold and there’s ‘Dust In the Wind’ and we’re in a ‘Tropical Heatwave’ under ‘Blue Skies’ and oh god please somebody stop me…..

Don’t let a little rain stop you from getting out and listening to live music! In Quepos the Marina, Dos Locos, the Jolly Roger and others present local musicians, and there are several places down here in Dysfunction Junction (aka Dominical) that host a wide variety of musicians from all styles and origins. Support the venues that help support us!

I like lazy weather, I like lazy days. Can’t be blamed for having lazy ways. Hoagy Carmichael

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? William Shakespeare

How high’s the water, Momma? Johnny Cash


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