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Rusted Root came by the National Geographic studios to do an interview for my radio show and sing a couple of songs. You can hear part of the interview in a previous post on my web site, but here is their complete version of, “Send Me On MyWay.”
For most songwriters success could be defined as writing a song that eventually gets recorded and played on the radio for a few weeks. But for Michael Glabicki and the band Rusted Root, when they released “Send Me On My Way,” a few weeks of radio airplay was just a small piece of the success that song would create. It’s one of those tunes that sticks in people’s heads and one that you can’t escape even when you turn off the radio. If you turn on the TV it may be there, if you go to a movie it may be in the sound track. If you ride an elevator or walk through a mall, there’s a good chance you’ll hear a version of, “Send Me On My Way.”
We get to hear Rusted Root sing their biggest hit as well as a new song, “Sun and Magic,” on my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend” this week. They stop by the studio to sing a little and talk with me about song writing, and using music to communicate with a broad spectrum of audiences. They also tell me how it all began for Rusted Root more than twenty years ago.
This video has part of that interview and it also has them singing a little of “Send Me on My Way”. Be warned after listening to this, there’s a good chance you’ll also be singing their song as well.
I once met a psychic who could see the future, but couldn’t remember it. At least that’s what she told me when I ask who was going to be the next president. She said she could see a name but she forgot who it was. I was sorry I had paid in advance. Apparently looking into the future she could see me coming from a mile away.
On a trip to Sedona, Arizona some months ago, I was reminded of that psychic when I realized I had arrived in what I call, “the woo woo capital of America. There are psychics, fortunetellers, tarot card readers, and crystal ball gazers on every corner. It’s easier to find someone to do your charts than to do your laundry in Sedona. I tried one of everything, and there was considerable disagreement as to what exactly my future holds. Several did suggest there would be major career changes for me in the next few years. I couldn’t argue if you consider retirement a career change. I think they need to adjust their spiel based on the age of the client.
I also tried a few places that specialized in reading your past, your way past all the way back to previous lives. People took pictures of my aura, and read my chakra, and took me to visit power points. It was all for a column I wrote for National Geographic Traveler magazine. This video shows part of my Sedona journey to get in touch with myself. By the way after my chakra massage I did feel like a new person, or I did until I stood up and realized I had the same old bad knees. That’s when I finally got an accurate reading on my future. There will be pain and stiffness.
Andrae Crouch is one of the greatest songwriters of the past fifty years. The music seems to just flow from his body. When he walks you expect to see a trail of dancing notes leaving a wake as he passes. Every day he sits at the piano creating new melodies, most of which are never written down, lost to a moment in time. For anyone else this would probably produce a panicked response, “Oh what was that song I was playing yesterday, I can’t remember it and it was so good, I’ll never have anything that good again.” And then we would spend the next several months in writer’s block trying to reproduce what we had done before, but never capturing it and also not able to move on to anything new.
With Andrae, the music flows like water from one of those faucets with the motion sensor. He just goes to the sink, or piano, waves his hands over the keys and the melodies come pouring out. Obviously his songs are not all instant classics, although some are, but others he works on and plays day after day making changes in the chords, melody and adding lyrics. What’s so amazing though is even his throw-away songs start from a higher place than where many songwriters finish.
Recently I was with a group of friends who used to hang out with Andrae when we all got together for an impromptu reunion at his house. Just like the old days Andrae sat at the piano and started played. Bill Maxwell, his former producer and drummer, decided to challenge Andrae. He said, “Andrae, write a new song on the spot like you used to do and make it a song about seeing Boyd again.” Boyd is of course me, Boyd Matson and not really much of a subject of inspiration for a song.
Andrae though about it for maybe five second and then started playing a new tune. He worked out a melody, seemingly without thinking, and then started with the lyrics, which were not the usual rhyming suspects. The man has still got it. His voice isn’t the powerful instrument it once was, but he is still a creative songwriting genius.
This video is that instant song, Andrae’s “Song 4 Boyd” as it was created in real time.
The first time I went to Africa’s Victoria Falls I was on the opposite side of the gorge from that magnificent curtain of water when I saw a guy climbing over the rocks near the edge of the falls. My first thought was, “He’s crazy.” My second though was, “Get the video camera ready because he’s going to be swept over the falls and be killed.” As soon as I start taping, he jumps. Now I think, “He’s suicidal.”
I keep watching for a body being washed over the edge and plunging to a certain death three hundred fifty feet below, but there is nothing but the waters of the Zambezi pouring over the cliff and reforming into a river at the bottom of the gorge. In a few minutes and I watch the man climb out of the water and back on the rocks and jump again into what looks like the edge of the falls. Finding one of the locals I ask, “What’s he doing? Is he trying to get killed?” That’s when I’m told about, “The Devil’s Pool”, a spot near the edge of the falls where it is possible to jump in and live, and enjoy one of the most spectacular swimming holes in the world.
Right then and there I make a vow that someday I will return to Victoria Falls and jump in, “The Devil’s Pool” myself. I’ve been back on several occasions but only this past September did I leave myself enough time to take a plunge in “The Devil’s Pool.” It can only be accessed during the dry season when the water flow is low enough that you won’t be washed over the edge. On this day we had the right water conditions but we also had a clear sky and a perfect rainbow over the gorge to complete the picture, making for a most memorable experience. I write about my plunge into “The Devil’s Pool” this month in my column in National Geographic Traveler magazine, but here is the video that shows how beautiful the setting is and why this may be the most stunning swimming pool on the planet.
The blue whale is the biggest animal on the planet. but no matter how many times you read than fact about these giant marine mammals you don’t fully appreciate what it means until one surfaces right beside your ship. Even if it’s a good sized ship like the National Geographic Explorer, when a blue whale swims along side, it is one impressively large animal when seen up close.
On my recent trip to the arctic around Svalbard, Norway with Lindblad Expeditions we were watching a blue whale feeding in a area a couple of hundred yards off the bow. Nothing too dramatic was happening, in fact the whale was doing a series of shallow dives and didn’t even show its tail fluke before going down each time. I was watching and had my cameras, but didn’t think it was picture worthy so I was spending most of the time on deck taking pictures of birds flying near the ship.
Then the whale surprised us all by suddenly appearing from beneath the ship swimming just below the surface for a few seconds before emerging to send up a big plume of spray as it exhaled through it’s blow hole. About ten minutes later the whale came by for a second pass swimming along the port side, passing just a few feet off the bow and then emerging with another big blow on the starboard side.
I talk about the encounter on my radio show, “National Geographic Weekend” this week but here are some pictures and video of the whale putting on a show for us.
I’m headed for Turkey in a couple of hours where I’ll be sampeling ice cream from street vendors at every chance. I’m willing to put my waist line at risk for two reasons, OK three reasons since reason number one is my serious addition to ice cream. But beyond my weakness reason number two, the ice cream in Turkey is really good, but even better than the taste is reason number three, the show the vendors give you when they make your cone.
I talk about ice cream as performance art this week on my radio show, National Geographic Weekend. I’ve watched the routine dozens of times but it always leaves me laughing and even when you don’t speak the language, laughter opens the lines of communication.
In this video after serving up a little ice cream I also try to make bread with some Turkish women in a small village. This time the laughter is related to my feeble attempts to master their bread making skills. You can hear the full story of laughter as the great universal language on National Geographic Weekend.
Watching the Texas Tornados perform at Jazz Fest in New Orleans this year brought back good memories of the times I spent filming these guys and other influential Texas based musicians for stories on the Today Show. The original Tornados was made up of Doug Sahm, Augie Meyers, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jimenez. Sahm and Meyers were the key members of the Sir Douglas Quintet in the 60’s that recorded such hits as “She’s About a Mover” and “Mendocino.” Based on the band’s name, many fans thought they were another British import band. Of course once anybody heard Dough talk, there was no doubt these guys were from Texas.
Freddy Fender had two big hits on his own, “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” and Flaco was a leading figure in Tex-Mex or Conjunto music. Freddy and Doug are now deceased but Doug’s son Shawn has joined the Tornados.
I don’t have a copy of the story I did with the Tornados, but I found a copy of story I did on Tex-Mex music when the Today Show was on location in San Antonio. In this piece I have some very rare footage of Flaco playing guitar with his father Santiago playing accordion in their front yard in San Antonio. Santiago, who is credited with creating the Conjunto sound talks about how he combined German Polka music with a little hot sauce to come up with the Conjunto style. I’m not sure of the exact date when I did this story in the early 80’s, but Santiago died in 1984.
The video ends with music from a young Joe King Carrasco, another Texas musician, who takes Tex-Mex to the next level with what he calls at the time Nuevo Wavo or Tex-Mex Rock & Roll. His “Party Weekend” is still a bit of a party classic.
Once again I wish I had all the outtakes from this shoot. There are moments that can never be captured again, not only with Flaco and his father, Santiago, but also the images of a very young Boyd Matson and Bryant Gumbel.
My how time flies. Fifty years ago this month The Rolling Stones started up and rock and roll was never the same. If Elvis and then the Beatles made your parents nervous, the Stones gave them nightmares and convinced them it was time to lock up the women and children. The Stones had an image of living on the edge and many of us from their generation wanted to join them. Their music was the vehicle to take us there.
After almost twenty-five years of making music and despite their influence on rock and roll, and number one records and sold out concerts the band had never won a Grammy. In 1986 the Grammys tried to makeup for that failure by giving them a Lifetime Achievement award. I went to London to interview the band about the honor for the Today Show. Mick jagger, Keith Richards, and Bill Wyman seemed to all have slightly different takes on whether or not it was in fact an honor.
Since this is the fiftieth anniversary of the band and there is some uncertainty as to whether or not they will ever tour again, I though it would be a good time to post this old Today Show story. In it there’s a small taste of how Mick and Keith don’t always see eye to eye. Their answers to my questions also show an honesty that not all celebrities are willing to reveal. I think that same attitude was present in their music, which helped make it so successful. It certainly made interviewing the guys a fun experience.
Setting a proper formal table. People were paying good money for these lessons in NYC when I did this story in the early 90′s. I just didn’t think the information would be of any practical use for the average family with young kids. But to test my concerns I tried to share my newly learned skills with my children, Erica and Taylor.
Using my kids as props in a short satire piece is probably just another in a long list of parenting choices that has weakened their commitment to following rules and regulations, and eroded their willingness to submit whole heartedly to the voices of authority. Oh well, on the positive side their childhood experiences should provide more than enough material if they want to write one of those “Daddy Dearest” books. It will be story of all the things our dad made us do that kept us from having a normal childhood, like when he made us go on trips where we had to sleep on the ground and carry our own toilet paper, and then tried to tell us it was a vacation.