I arranged these open-tuned, finger-picked guitar solos from songs I heard as a child, in my ‘teens, and in my early 20s, as a sort of musical memoir.
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s, I heard the social justice songs of leftie folksingers, plus Mexican songs, cowboy songs, Stephen Foster songs, early African-American spirituals, hoary American folk songs, and patriotic hymns, at elementary school and at home, including during five years of piano lessons.
As I passed into adolescence in the early 1960s, I discovered, on the radio, sounds that resonated with my changing body and mind – songs of Eros, rebellion, and heartbreak, all based on the bittersweet scale of the blues. I began playing guitar. My cousin Janet Lebow married open-tune guitar legend John Fahey, who taught me to finger-pick open tunings.
In 1966, at age 17, I moved to San Francisco. An astonishing phenomenon awaited me: masses of young bohemians opening their hearts, sharing whatever they had, welcoming whoever was in need, and eagerly seeking greater contact with the divine spirit. Famous songwriters produced philosophical anthems further inspiring, and documenting, this blossoming.
Many of us were moved to address the grave political issues of the day – civil rights, the war in Vietnam, Native American sovereignty - through direct nonviolent action, and the best songwriters of those times gave voice to these struggles.
In 1974, at age 24, I moved to Hana, Maui, a remote village rich in traditional Hawaiian culture, to learn Hawaiian style open-tuned guitar. Most people there sang, played guitar or ukulele, or danced hula, at the frequent family luaus and community gatherings. Certain beloved songs were sung often, most of them written by Hawaiians, but “Kalua,” from a corny B movie, was a favorite for hula performance. Every gathering ended with a swaying group hug while singing “Hawaii Aloha,” the unofficial state anthem.
I produced this CD in 2013, four years after producing Beyond Living, as a musical celebration of my childhood and adolescence, after having created a musical homage to death and reincarnation. I did not write any of the songs, but, instead, collected and arranged songs that influenced me during my formative years as a musician.
The photo of me at age 4, reading a book, and at age 10, sight-reading piano music, were taken by my father. My mom took the one of me at age 15, playing guitar on her front porch. The other two photos were snapshots taken in Hawaii in the early 1970s, by friends.