Recently, Apple has been running a commercial with someone singing in the background as the camera flashes clips of people using a Mac. I immediately recognized it as a song I first heard over 10 years ago when it was featured as KUT Song of the Day. The Austin radio station has since changed to KUTX but their Song of the Day feature is still a terrific place to hear new music.
The song is Story of an Artist, by Daniel Johnston. Daniel is a visual artist, songwriter, and musician who moved to Austin in the 1980s. He’s had a lifelong struggle with mental illness, but has found success and is fondly regarded here. He is the artist who, in 1992, painted the frog, Jeremiah the Innocent, in the iconic Hi, How are You mural in Austin on 21st street at Guadalupe.
The version of the song I heard on KUT was a recorded-live-in-studio-1A cover of Daniel’s song, performed by M Ward in September 2006. I liked it the first time I heard it. But it is a sad song, in my opinion, of an artist shunned by society for being different. And after having learned more about Daniel Johnston, I think it is autobiographical. A 2005 documentary about him called The Devil and Daniel Johnston reveals more about the man and his struggles.
The version of the song in the Apple commercial is performed by Johnston himself, originally recorded in 1982; just him, a cassette recorder, and a piano. In the commercial, the lyrics are chopped up and rearranged, so it comes off as a funky upbeat tune; you don’t get the whole vibe of the original song. Here’s a link to his entire original recording, if you want to give it a listen.
I think the M Ward version I first heard on KUT Song of the Day is beautiful….but when I heard it, I didn’t know the background story of the artist. Now I do.
We attended the annual Austin Oyster Festival today. This was our third time to enjoy it. It was held on the grounds of the old Seaholm power plant on the north shore of Austin’s Ladybird Lake. And we had a great time.
I attended Laura’s recital yesterday afternoon. She plays piano beautifully. There were a dozen or so other people playing a piece each; on either piano or violin. It was a nice way to spend a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Since we are (mostly) unencumbered by commitments, we took a road trip over the weekend to Louisville, to attend our niece’s wedding. We extended it a day or two to squeeze in a couple of additional visits in Indiana and Kentucky before heading back home. It was a beautiful and heartfelt wedding. The fall foliage was beautiful. We were able to play tourist a little bit. And we are now back home safe and sound.
Mary Anne and Chris did it up right. We enjoyed the ceremony, the reception and, most importantly, the time spent with family visiting and telling stories and laughing. Not everyone could be there, and Gene & Jo were sorely missed.
This is the amazing view of the Ohio River valley from their living room!
Then we stopped in the hills outside Bowling Green for a day with Lanny, and I scoped out all the birds I could find. The bird on the left is a lifer for me – a white-breasted nuthatch; a carolina chickadee on the right. I do love the birdies!
Another trip in the books. It’s also nice to be home 🙂
I caught a glimpse of the crescent moon this morning as the sun was coming up behind it. Only a week ago I was watching the moon rise, just past full, over the desert. It made me think about how Time passes and Life happens. The James Taylor song Secret o’Life popped into my head. Give it a listen here. Enjoy the day.
We visited Joshua Tree National Park yesterday, drove the entire length of the park, from south to north, and stopped to explore all of the varied terrain and plants. The park is ruggedly beautiful, and marks the intersection of the Colorado Desert and the Mohave Desert.
We had a blast. And took a bazillion selfies. I’ll share some photos, but also wanted to share this cool interview I found this morning…. it’s 10 minutes long… of Steve Averill, the guy that designed and photographed the album art for U2’s album The Joshua Tree, which is celebrating its 30th birthday this year. I think this guy has my dream job. 🙂
A fine example of the namesake of the park, said to look like Dr Seuss trees:
Amazing rock horizons:
Skull Rock, spooky!
Another peek from beneath the rocks:
I love exploring new places, and I love hanging with my girlfriends. A perfect day.
Tonight we made it to the last concert in this year’s Blues on the Green free concert series at Austin’s lovely Zilker Park. Bright Light Social Hour was the headliner. We joined Lori and Doray, who have made it to every show this year. They’re professionals; they have the parking/tailgating/setup thing down. We got downtown early, went for a swim in Barton Springs Pool and then headed over to the Great Lawn to set up our chairs and share some nibblies before the show.
I enjoyed the night very much. Temps were in the 80s!! How lucky was that?!
When rafting up with friends on Lake Travis, we invented this game to amuse ourselves – everyone takes turns playing a song from their iPod that they think is awesome. We pass the plug from one person to the next. You strive for a song that others will agree is awesome. Some songs take people down their own memory lane, some are just funny, some songs everyone sings along to, some are songs other people never heard before. It’s a great way to pass the time, under the stars, on a boat, with friends, slightly impaired, at anchor, off the grid, into the wee hours of the morning. Here’s the typical scene.
One of my unofficial new year’s resolutions was to dedicate some time to learning. Have you heard of MOOCs – massive open online classes? Well, there are MANY online courses on every subject imaginable, hosted from many different institutions and web portals. They are free – if audited, and are taken online from the comfort of your couch. Ten weeks ago I enrolled in a MOOC on Jazz Appreciation on edx.org, along with 11,000(!) other students. I love all kinds of music, but I really didn’t know much about Jazz, and I thought if I learned a bit more about it, its eras and artists, that I might enjoy it even more.
Today I finished the course. I highly recommend it. I now know a bit more about early jazz, swing, bebop, cool, hard bop, modal, free jazz, fusion, and neo-classical eras. I know that Coltrane was THE MAN on tenor sax. I know that Miles varied his music on trumpet to influence many eras. I found out that I really like the pianist Bill Evans and will seek out some of his albums. I understand why Charles Mingus and Thelonius Monk transcend a specific Jazz era. I decided that I don’t care as much for bebop – no offense to Dizzy and the Bird. I enjoy early jazz and modal and hard bop and cool. I can distinguish blues form from AABA form. I can listen for the bass and drums to try to pick out swing from even-8th rhythm. I heard many snippets of a variety of performances from artists that I was already aware of, whetting my interest to hear more by them. And I learned about some of the newest artists to appear on the Jazz stage. Professor Hellmer was great.
All and all, a great class! Aaaaaand, I got an A. 🙂
openculture.com maintains a list of over a thousand MOOCs here. Take a look, pick one out that sounds interesting, and enroll!