September 14 2015

Homeless Vet Travels From Sarasota Streets To Play At NFL Game

Donald Gould of Sarasota, Florida does an interview and shares that he studied music theory in college and learned to play every instrument.  He is a former marine and currently homeless.  But since being captured downtown on video playing “Come Sail Away” on a piano, he has experienced viral exposure on the web.  He recently was a guest at the recent 49ers-Vikings football game, where he played the national anthem.   His audience at Levi’s Stadium was a sellout crowd of more than 68,000 people.  (see lower video)

Donald Gould Plays Come Sail Away

January 4 2014

Accentuating the positive: SF singer/songwriter spreads his messages through music

Chris Chickering (1)

By Adrian Gomez

Chris Chickering needed some rest – so he took it.

After working 60-70 hours a week this past summer on music, he retreated to Florida for two months.

The singer-songwriter is back and ready to promote his latest album, “Living in the Now,” which came out on Oct. 1.

Chickering wrote 37 songs for the album and 14 of them made it onto the record.

“I was exhausted by the time the album came out,” he says. “I wanted to go on this tour and promote the album, but I just wasn’t motivated. I was tired from the process.”chickering-400x400

Chickering will return to the stage and sing his songs of positivity. He is the founder of Music for Positive Change, which has a vision for leveraging the power of music to bring people together.

“I’ve always wanted to write,” he says. “It’s been something that I’ve always wanted to do. Now I have the chance to impact people with my music.”

The 44-year-old musician says he didn’t get serious about writing music until he was 36.   “When I was 36, I pulled out this bucket list that I …..

Read some more of this story about Chris Chickering > >

December 23 2013

With ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ songwriter Richard Sherman relives the pain of ‘Mary Poppins’

Saving Mr. Banks - Sherman Brothers (1)

85-year-old Richard Sherman is a character in the Disney holiday release “Saving Mr. Banks” opposite Emma Thompson as Travers and Tom Hanks as Walt Disney.   Jason Schwartzman plays Sherman and B.J. Novak plays Sherman’s brother and songwriting partner, Robert B. Sherman.

Schwartzman, who at 33 is two years older than Sherman was in 1961, sings “Feed the Birds” beautifully in “Saving Mr. Banks,” and that’s really him playing the piano, too.Sherman Brothers Saving Mr. Banks w Richard

“Jason and I did a lot of talking,” Sherman says. “He listened and watched me play. He’s a musician himself, a drummer, but he plays the piano a little – more in a jazz style. I play Tin Pan Alley. You play the accompaniment and sing the melody. He learned.”

Schwartzman knew Sherman would be on set every day, so he listened to all the tapes that Travers had recorded of her Disney meetings, which include a lot of the Sherman brothers playing and singing the “Poppins” songs. Then Schwartzman gave the tapes to his piano teacher, who transcribed them and taught him how to play exactly like Sherman was playing in 1961, when songs such as “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” were still evolving.

“No one would ever notice that in the movie,” Schwartzman says, “but I knew it would be meaningful to Richard if I played as correctly as possible. I wanted him to feel like we were doing it right.”

If Schwartzman was nervous playing someone who was sitting mere feet from him during filming, he had to get over it. “As weird as it was for me, it had to be 10 times weirder for him. I could see him having visceral reactions to the scenes with Travers laying into him and his brother.”


Thank you to SF GATE for the article!  Read more >>

November 28 2013

The Saddest Christmas Songs Ever?

charlie brown sad

By Randy Lewis 

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” says one of the most popular songs of the season. Yet good cheer isn’t what everyone experiences during the holidays. With that in mind, Pop & Hiss hoped to compile a list of the saddest yuletide songs ever recorded.

We can’t claim these are definitively the saddest, because there are so many more available to choose from. Some are holiday standards, others may be less familiar because they typically don’t show up on shopping mall playlists and those 24/7 holiday-music radio stations. So here are two dozen of our favorite holiday downers, in alphabetical order:

Elvis Costello & the Chieftains, “The St. Stephen’s Day Murders.” Costello collaborated with Chieftains leader Paddy Moloney on this macabre tale referencing the first Christian martyr and a less-than-idyllic holiday gathering of relatives: “For that is the time to eat, drink and be merry/Til the beer is all spilled and the whiskey has flowed/And the whole family tree you neglected to bury/Are feeding their faces until they explode.” From the Chieftains’ 1991 album “The Bells of Dublin.”

Fear, “….  Christmas.” L.A.’s notorious punk outfit weighed in on what’s supposed to be the happiest season of the year in its jolting 1982 single in which singer Lee Ving wails: “Don’t despair, just because it’s Christmas/Children, they’re all so gay at Christmas/All the children on the street/Hope they get something good to eat/But for me it’s not so great.” Then the world explodes.

Rosie Flores, “My Christmas Tree Is Hung With Tears.” This ode to the country rocker’s first Christmas without her father tugs hard on the heartstrings. Her album also includes an inspired minor-key arrangement of “Blue Christmas,” a twist that serves the mournful lyric beautifully.

Judy Garland, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” The “merry” in the title couldn’t sound more disillusioned than in the 1944 version by pop’s original diva.

Vince Gill, “It Won’t Be the Same This Year.” The country-bluegrass singer applies his high lonesome voice to a song written after the death of his brother: “It’s time to pack our bags and hit the highway/And head on out for Christmas holiday/I’ll fall apart when I pull in the driveway/It’s my first time home since brother passed away.”

Vince Guaraldi Trio, “Christmastime Is Here.” There are words to this cornerstone song from the 1965 TV special  “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” but Guaraldi’s original instrumental arrangement communicates all you need to know about the glum reverie inherent in the season for many people.

Merle Haggard, “If We Make It Through December.” An unemployed blue-collar worker’s angst comes through powerfully in Haggard’s 1973 country classic: “I got laid off down at the factory/And their timing’s not the greatest in the world/Heaven knows I been workin’ hard/I wanted Christmas to be right for daddy’s girl.”

The Kinks, “Father Christmas.” Kinks’ lead singer and songwriter Ray Davies has always taken the side of the little guy, and that’s who he salutes in the band’s punk-infused 1977 holiday single: “Have yourself a merry, merry Christmas/Have yourself a good time/But remember the kids who got nothin’/While you’re drinkin’ down your wine.”

Darlene Love, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” A girl begs for her love to return in this gem from Phil Spector’s celebrated 1963 collection “A Christmas Gift for You.” As energetic and bright as Spector’s production shines, you can’t help but be moved by the yearning in Love’s voice as she sings “Please…please…please” to her absent objet d’amour.

Shelby Lynne, “Xmas.” On this track from her 2010 album “Merry Christmas,” the soulful country singer-songwriter goes for deep blues, wasting no time communicating what the season brings up for her: “Christmas makes me sad/That I’m being bad/Holiday cocktails make me forget/The gift that Daddy never opened.”

Aimee Mann, “Whatever Happened to Christmas.” Jimmy Webb’s song showed up on Mann’s 2006 album “One More Drifter in the Snow,” which was less a conventional holiday album than a genuine exploration of the emotions of the winter season. Mann sings, “Remember the sights and the smells and the sounds/Remember the cheery cards/Remember how love was all around/Whatever happened to it all?”

Chuck Mead, “Will Santa Come to Shanty Town?” Country boy Eddy Arnold tapped his hardscrabble youth when he co-wrote this song questioning whether Santa would visit his underprivileged neighborhood: “He didn’t stop last Christmas Eve/Doesn’t he know we live here?/Will my mommy have to paint my toys — The way she did last year?” Roots rocker Mead has recorded a bouncy but still melancholy new version for 2012.

Joni Mitchell“River.” The Canadian singer-songwriter’s 1970 song about a holiday breakup has become a contemporary classic, turning up on dozens of other artists’ seasonal albums. Still, nobody tops Mitchell’s sense of loss and hurt as she sings, “I’m so hard to handle/I’m selfish and I’m sad/Now I’ve gone and lost the best baby/That I ever had/I wish I had a river I could skate away on.”

Tracy Newman, “Mama, I Know You Ain’t Santa.” TV comedy writer-turned-songwriter Tracy Newman has crafted a gentle tearjerker (Dolly Parton said it made her cry) saluting a single mother who has to pull double duty as Santa Claus for her kids: “Billy don’t know you ain’t Santa/How could he — he’s only 2?/Billy don’t remember Daddy/But mama, you and I do.”

Over the Rhine, “All I Ever Get for Christmas Is Blue.” Ohio husband-wife duo Linford Detweiler and Karen Bergquist included this on their brilliant 2007 holiday album “Snow Angels.” Bergquist lays out the feeling of anyone who ever wanted to stay in bed and shut the world outside as she sings,  “Strings of lights above the bed/Curtains drawn and a glass of red/All I ever get for Christmas is blue.”

Buck Owens, “Blue Christmas Lights”/”It’s Christmas Time for Everyone but Me.” The achingly beautiful steel guitar work of Buckaroos member Tom Brumley underscores the soul-deep pain in two songs from Owens’ sterling 1965 album “Christmas With Buck Owens and His Buckaroos.”  Owens borrows the melody of his own hit “Crying Time” for “It’s Christmas Time for Everyone but Me,” singing,   “All of everything is nothing dear without you/And it’s hard to live with just a memory/For I need your love to give each day a meaning/Oh it’s Christmastime for everyone but me.”

Elvis Presley, “Blue Christmas.” Billy Hays and Jay W. Johnson’s downcast tune has been recorded hundreds of times, most famously by Elvis for his 1957 Christmas album. The heartache is amplified by the Jordanaires’ swinging “ooh-ooh-oohs” behind the King’s voice.

John Prine, “Christmas in Prison.” The acclaimed Chicago singer-songwriter vividly conjures what the season might look like through the eyes of someone separated from his loved ones while doing hard time: “The searchlight in the big yard/Swings round with the gun/And spotlights the snowflakes/Like the dust in the sun.”

Mindy Smith, “My Holiday.” The Long Island-reared, Nashville-based singer-songwriter wrote an ode to her artificial tree in the title track from her exquisite 2007 holiday album. Dissonant chords and an unconventional melody add to the melancholy feeling behind her outwardly celebratory lyric: “Somebody’d say this tree’s not real/’Cause it stands there every year/But it makes my holiday feel like Christmas/When Christmas time is here.”

Sufjan Stevens, “Did I Make You Cry on Christmas Day? (Well You Deserved It).” The prolific indie rocker has a lot to say about the holidays. If his 42-song box set “Christmas” from 2006 wasn’t enough, he’s just released “Silver and Gold,” a five-CD set with 58 additional yuletide songs. This one from his 2006 collection looks at a downward-spiraling relationship that gets more dysfunctional during the holidays. “This time of year you always disappear/You tell me not to call… And when the door is closed you’re wearing different clothes/Or hiding in the paper, pretending not to hear.”

Barbra Streisand, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” This World War II-era number first came to fame with Bing Crosby’s 1943 version, capturing the sadness of a soldier serving far from home at Christmas. Streisand delivered a gorgeous rendition on her 2001 album “Christmas Memories.”

Dwight Yoakam, “Santa Can’t Stay.” From Yoakam’s 1997 album “Come on Christmas,” this  rockabilly-steeped big-band arrangement sets the scene of the holiday for a split family: “Mama says Santa can’t stay/Says she told him that twice yesterday/Then a car just like Dad’s pulled out and drove away/As mama said ‘Santa couldn’t stay’.”

The Youngsters, “Christmas in Jail.” A 1956 doo-wop-based R&B chesnut about a nitwit who drinks and drives on Christmas Eve, this one is more lighthearted than the rest: ” ‘Merry Christmas, happy new year,’ they’re singing down the street/While everybody’s havin’ Christmas turkey/They give me bread and water to eat.”

November 11 2013

Lyrics to heal: Veterans struggle with PTSD, find comfort in songwriting

PTSD Veterans Music

When Army and National Guard veteran Todd Foster talks about his songwriting therapy sessions at the Alvin C. York VA, his eyes light up and his hands become steady. Once a week on Friday, Foster goes to the VA and meets with seven or eight other veterans, a songwriter and a music

Click to read the whole story!

Written by Amanda Haggard – The Daily News Journal
October 24 2013

Dirty Loops Releases First Single On YouTube

Dirty Loops

How many innovative power trios can you name off the top of your head?   Let me try…   Cream.   Jimi Hendrix Experience.   Thin Lizzy.   Emerson Lake & Palmer.    Rush.   The Police.   Kings X.   Green Day.   Nirvana.   Dirty Loops.

That’s right, I said it – Dirty Loops! In my book, they are a power trio. If you need schooling on who the band is, then check out my earlier post:

Dirty Loops Compare and Contrast

Then enjoy their early release “Hit Me” which just debuted on their website and social sites!   Superb musicianship and production!

August 28 2013

96 Year-Old Man Pens Viral Song After Losing Wife of 73 Years


By Brandon Lowrey

“Oh sweet Lorraine, I wish we could do all the good times over again,” the song goes.

Fred Stobaugh, 96, remembered laying eyes on the prettiest girl he ever saw: It was 1938, and she was a car hop named Lorraine at an A&W Rootbeer stand in East Peoria, Ill.

Two years later, she was his wife. They remained together until Lorraine’s death this year.

“She gave me 75 years of her life,” Stobaugh said in an online documentary.

It was this love story that transformed Stobaugh – not a musician by any means – into a chart-topping songwriter and Internet star.

Soon after Lorraine died, Green Shoe Studio, an Illinois-based music studio, held an online contest for singer-songwriters. Studio employees were sorting through uploaded videos when they received a …….

The full story can be read on NBC LA’s website

May 16 2013

Songwriting Dream for The Voice’s Elise Evans

A talented teen still hopes to pursue her dream of making it big in the music industry.
Elise Evans from Glynneath, who had a taster of stardom on BBC’s The Voice, has big plans to get her own music heard and hopes to become a professional songwriter.

The Voice’s Elise Evans
“I would love to continue to write music,” said the 18-year-old. “I love to write. I have been writing since I have been singing, and that has been since I was really little.
“I would love to produce my songs. I am going to continue to write at home and hopefully once I can afford to get it recorded, I can get my songs out there.”

Elise Evans
On Sunday the teen was knocked out at the battle stages on the BBC talent show.
She sang It’s all About Tonight by Pixie Lott, but lost out when she was pitted against her […..]

READ THE WHOLE STORY  By Gill Roberts >>>


May 11 2013

The Hitless Songwriter


The Roches, 1985

Michael Tannen, The Roches’ manager, was yelling into the phone at me. Why don’t you just listen to the radio and figure out how to write a commercial song? Then the phone went dead.

We were at that point every music career gets to where the honeymoon was over. The Roches had burst onto the music scene in 1979 with a shower of press infatuation rarely accorded a folk group. The unlikely pairing of King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, with his hard-driving English art rock, and the three singing sisters from New Jersey had caught the attention of music writers even before the album was released. Liz Rosenberg, our publicist at Warner Brothers, told us the press was calling her for interviews. She told us this was extremely unusual.

When the actual record came out, the momentum accelerated. The sound of three fairly soft voices and three acoustic guitars, with songs about waitress jobs, commuter trains and longing to be accepted by your parents, issued forth into the 1970s climate of disco fever like a drop of powerful medicine into a compromised bloodstream. Fripp, in an interview, put forth that people don’t realize gentle music can be revolutionary. Some of his fans were upset that he’d traded in bombastic male music for lily-white warbling so delicate you had to turn up the dial to hear it. “The Roches” was No. 1 on The New York Times’s list of the year’s best albums. We were on our way.

Read more of the story by Terre Roche >>