Long Time Gone?
It is a wonder to me how we evolve over time as individuals. We often hear it said, “If I knew then what I know now!” In this regard, I’ve always liked Winston Churchill’s take on this subject. To paraphrase, he once said that while young people seem to think more with their hearts, older individuals are more likely to think with their brains. Churchill’s thoughts on this subject do seem to hit the mark about how people tend to evolve over time as they travel through this journey we call life. Interestingly however, there seems to be at least one facet of our lives that stays with us throughout all stages of our journey. And that constant is our seemingly inherent and endless love of music.
I can still recall with great fondness a young, pre-school Italian-American immigrant child sitting on the living room floor of his parents’ modest fourth floor flat tucked away inside of a long-since demolished Greenwich Village tenement listening for hours on end to his scratchy yet cherished “45’s” as they circled oh so hypnotically on his “victrola’s” turntable. Unbeknownst to me at the time, my life-long love affair with music had thus begun… a relationship that strengthened me as I struggled my way through academia, lifted me up as I fell in love for the first time, helped me celebrate the marriage I thought would last forever, inspired me during the miracle of my daughters’ births and comforted me through the depths of divorce and the despair of a friend’s or family member’s death. Music has not only been my life-long love, it has also been my ever-faithful companion and best friend.
My mother use to tell me that as a five year old child I would refuse to go to bed at night until my mom or dad lifted me up on to the top of the kitchen table so that I could stand there looking down upon my captive audience and sing “Goodnight, Irene” to my parents, grandparents and all of their friends. Although I vaguely recall the song, I have no recollection whatsoever about those nightly performances. My first memory of performing before an audience was actually in the early 1960’s as the fourteen year old lead singer/“front man” for a high school garage band called, The Village Merchants. The band included my brother, Bob on rhythm guitar and my life-long friend, Dick Layton on lead guitar. This, in turn, led subsequently to my association with several other bands during my college years culminating in my late twenties with a folk-rock acoustic guitar trio titled, Stillwater.
Stillwater represented my first serious effort at writing original music and marrying my melodies to poetic yet personal lyrics. Performing with my life-long friends, Joe Dinorcia and the late Phil Bayle, Stillwater was a welcomed creative respite for me from the daily rigors and routine of my white collar job as an aspiring young marketing executive. However, it never occurred to any of us that a recording contract would be in the offing. And when that did in fact occur, no one was more surprised than me.
As I contemplated the artistic opportunities before me at that time, personal conflicts in my marriage convinced me to walk away from both the group and the recording contract as well. Moving forward, I targeted all of my creative efforts towards my career in advertising. I still continued to write and record songs in my home studio… songs with lyrics that I hoped reflected relevant themes universal to us all… every day life, personal and family relationships, politics and society, etc. But the songs always stayed quietly on the shelf nestled high above my guitar collecting dust and devoid of any and all audiences.
It’s been a long time since those early days of The Village Merchants and Stillwater. And after successful careers in advertising and academia I now find myself dusting off the old guitar and returning to my all-too-familiar roots… family, friends and the music that has defined me and my life. Every song on Long Time Gone is a personal reflection about various stages and aspects of my life and the lessons learned along the way. My journey has at times been challenging yet always inspiring and insightful. But for now, it feels great to finally be back home with you and my music and to share my songs with each of you after such a Long Time Gone…