Saturday, August 10, 2019

He Sold His Soul for Rock & Roll


with James Hirsen on blues harp
Recorded in Muscle Shoals

Here are the lyrics:

He Sold His Soul for Rock & Roll
[The Faustian Bargain]

1. Faust went down... Didn't know how to play.
He lost his soul... on the blues highway.
And the phantom's seen down at the road.
Takin' back the bargain, freed the heavy load.

CHORUS:
Yes, he sold his soul for rock and roll
But the mourning dove--- told him to pray--
for another day... hey, hey, hey, hey--

2. The angel came and his guitar bled...
then RVZ's ghost rose from the dead.
He'd signed in blood on the darkest night.
The answer came in a flash of light.

BRIDGE:
Oh, my God had a vision and a plan
to reclaim the soul of that dying man.
He was on a mission from up above
in a hail of rain and a shower of love.

3. Played a mean guitar under the devil's spell.
But The Man forgave... not givin' him hell.
There's another train... comin' down the track
to start another life and he won't look back.

Don't bargain with the devil!
Just play that sweet guitar...
It was given by God.
Don't give away your soul.
Just play that rock and roll.
You'll be satisfied.

_____________________________

Here is the story about what inspired this song...  Read on...
[Read the story of my Deep South Rock & Roll Blues Tour here]

A Musical Haunting: "He Sold His Soul for Rock & Roll"


In September 2018, I reluctantly moved back to a place where I'd lived through the horror of 1989's Hurricane Hugo - James Island, SC.  I couldn't understand why I was being led to move back to a place where I'd experienced some of the highest highs, yet the lowest lows of my life.  I found myself living literally across the street from what used to be New Life Center, where my mother had an office long ago that attracted people from all over the world.  In that office, I had written many songs and created many paintings in spite of the constant turmoil in my life.

I moved into what they call "the lighthouse" with three floors, and finally had a beautiful roomy art studio that I'd dreamed of for years.  It wasn't Soho Manhattan, but I could afford this place, yet nonetheless I felt lonely and sad.  Very soon after I moved in, I started having incredible paranormal experiences.  At first, I couldn't understand what my new ghost was trying to tell me.  All I knew was that I was fearless and I knew he was there to help me.  I was suddenly hit with a flurry of incredible creativity that reminded me of the year before the hurricane.  My eyes were wide open... I opened myself up to whatever might happen.  I was painting like never before - all very original, vivid creations... and then the music came.

Just the year before, my childhood  boyfriend, who happened to be an incredibly talented musician/guitarist, had died and after I moved to the new place, I became acutely aware that he was trying to communicate with me.  (We hadn't seen each other since we were very young, but in recent years had reconnected on social media and stayed in touch online until just before he died.)  When my ghost arrived, I quickly realized he was trying to reconnect me to my roots. 

In 2018, I happened to see the documentary about Lynyrd Skynyrd, "If I Leave Here Tomorrow" when I immediately made the connection.  I'd forgotten about all those great songs.  I'd forgotten Lynyrd Skynyrd.  But I knew these songs.  I knew every word... and the reason was because my boyfriend had played every one of those songs back in the '70s when we were kids.  I barely remembered Ronnie Van Zant.  But very soon after, I knew it was his astral spirit who had been coming to me and giving me very specific messages.  I thought, why in the world would someone who died in a plane crash over 40 years ago come to me, of all people?  Because my mother had been a famous trance medium?  Because I was open to the music of the spheres? 

I had to ask myself: is he real?  I wanted proof.  He told me to look through some old trunks and try to find a diary from 1976.  I had kept diaries for years but was almost certain I didn't have a diary from that year.  Nonetheless, I rummaged through old scrapbooks, and found a tiny news clipping stuck in a homemade diary - literally a bunch of papers never to be rediscovered.  I couldn't believe I'd saved this 2-inch piece of an old newspaper all those years - especially since I'd moved at least 50 times.  Sure enough, I'd been at his 1976 concert in Chicago, IL.

RVZ's message from the very beginning was to keep it simple (my music).  He said: "Don't try to be anything that you're not."  He never had a single effect on his vocals and I should do the same.  He was unpretentious - misunderstood by those "highfalutin society people and 'pencil pushers'" he wrote about in his songs.  I could relate.  The flood of his song lyrics started coming back to me - not the big hits... the obscure ones... or, maybe not obscure, but lesser known.  It was because of my guitarist childhood friend who played those songs over and over and who was such a great singer that I remembered every word, every melody.  It all came flooding back.

I listened to RVZ's music over and over, night after night, and studied him and his story and started remembering all the great music from the '70s before the plane crash that took his life.  I wondered why he was coming back now?  Should he have not reincarnated long ago?  Why me?

Then one night in June I went to bed and he kept waking me up with the lyrics to a brand new song.  They came in a frenzy; and a few nights later, I could hear the music in my head and wrote it down as fast as I could.  The next day, I called my producer, Kati, and she said, "Don't wait to do a demo in the studio... just play your guitar and sing into your phone..."  So, I rehearsed it over and over and did what she told me to do and suddenly, we found a brilliant synthesizer player who understood our vision.  He's probably 70 years old, yet still full of imagination and inspiration. (He obviously had RVZ and the blues highway in his soul.)  When we told him the story of the song, he created the wonderfully visual track that stimulates your imagination.  It was like a movie soundtrack... the protagonist walking to the Crossroads to sell his soul for Rock & Roll.

RVZ came back to do what he loved: write songs.  He wrote this song from the grave. I was an open channel.  I allowed him to come through - exactly the way my mother did as a trance medium.  But it was so much more complicated for me.  This is a song I had been writing since I was 14 years old - the first time I saw Paul Williams's Brian DePalma-directed "Phantom of the Paradise" - a film with the same theme: Faust.  On the marquee way back then, I remember seeing: 'HE SOLD HIS SOUL FOR ROCK & ROLL.'  I was immediately mesmerized; and my life was changed forever.  I never forgot that message; I was so passionate about the idea.  Even though I had no money, no band and was practically homeless, when I was 21, I put together an entire show and created an original rock opera based on this theme, which we performed in Chicago.

Years later, I wrote "My Faustian Bargain," a short story about my experiences.  And the theme kept popping up in my songwriting throughout the years.  Then I heard Daft Punk and made the connection.  Those two French boys understood the idea of "Anonymous Fame," and had robot costumes made (like the phantom in the movie) to hide their identities as they skyrocketed to fame in the 2000s.  They, too, had been inspired by "Phantom of the Paradise" and even recorded with the great Paul Williams.  Their story was my connection.  I not only loved their music, but the origin of what inspired them in the first place.  I created this painting about their love of "Phantom of the Paradise" and Paul Williams.

I kept telling the story - on the radio, to my producer, the musicians, to my manager... and I could hear RVZ talking to me every single day.  He always did that thing with his voice where he hit those high-pitched notes. I knew if Ronnie could sing "Was I Right or Wrong," he could sing anything. Then he challenged me vocally: if I could learn that song and sing it and then sing in Manhattan - a man's song - I could write my first hit.

He warned me that if I was going to retell this mythic legend told decade after decade by so many great guitarists since Robert Johnson, to not slip into the cliché trap.  Then when I was writing the music, I thought: do I have the talent to sing this?  And he said, "They told me I had limited vocal talent."  He gave me the confidence to sing it - keeping it simple, rock & roll, non-pretentious, never highfalutin!  And that's when he led me to Muscle Shoals to record the vocal track.  I could feel the ghosts all around and the session was very emotional for me.  I did what he asked me to do and it has changed my life forever! [Read the story of my Deep South Rock & Roll Blues Tour here]

NOTE: By virtue of their melancholy call, mourning doves have been fittingly named. But far from representing death, the symbolism of mourning doves gives us optimism with its spirituality. Beyond their sorrowful song is a message of life, hope, renewal and peace.

Monday, July 29, 2019

My Deep South Rock & Roll Blues Tour



I recently embarked upon a 2,000-mile, 5-state road trip through the Deep South - all in 8 days.  Throughout the trip, I kept thinking about the movie "Gandhi" - the scenes where he went on a train trip, traveling third class, so he could rediscover India and its people.  I am an American, born and raised, and I say emphatically I was led by a ghost to take this trip to remind me why I live in the greatest nation on earth... and it changed me forever. 

My family on my mother's side was from Tennessee and on my father's side, Kentucky.  We have relatives all over the south... and I'd wanted to see Elvis's Graceland since I was 9 years old!  So, this trip was long overdue.  Here are pictures I took along the way.

Starting out in Charleston, South Carolina, we left on July 13, 2019 traveling the backroads almost the whole way.  We soon stopped in a little town called Earhardt where we met an old man with a small flea market, which was actually a gun shop.  About an hour later, we crossed into Georgia and I started thinking of all the wonderful music inspired by this beautiful state.  A little over an hour later, we stumbled upon a great discovery!  It was literally a "Pickers" sign paradise: the Peebles family at Page Garrett in Georgia.  We would have entered, but they had a lot of security and warnings not to enter.  There were signs for what seemed miles ahead - like the ones you see on "American Pickers." 

We landed in Macon, Georgia for the night and the next morning got up and went to The Big House - the home of the famous Southern Rock band, the Allman Brothers.  We talked to the manager, Richard Brent, and it was absolutely fascinating to see their massive collection of memorabilia in a huge house with something like 4 floors... maybe more!  Back on the road, we kept hearing Charlie Daniels's great classic, "The Devil Went Down to Georgia"... we understood the devil was looking for a soul to steal and we were on a similar mission.  We ended up staying in Atlanta.

The next day, we drove to "Sweet Home Alabama," where we drifted through the mountains, which were absolutely gorgeous with breathtaking views.  We didn't know what a few days would bring in Alabama, but we stopped to meet people on the backroads, and went to some of the antique shops - a pickers bonanza!  The great mountain passes near the Trail of Tears in Alabama were so vast and everything we saw made us feel like we were in paradise.  We noticed an American patriot trucker on the blues highway who had decorated his truck in memory of the POW/MIAs.

In Stevenson, Alabama, we ran into a haunted RR depot where we had the pleasure of meeting the lone last living person there - Loretta! http://www.cityofstevensonalabama.com/Depot-Museum.html - it was in the midst of a haunted abandoned ghost town.  Loretta gave us the tour and told us the stories of the soldiers being shipped home during the great wars at the rail.  There were all kinds of fascinating historical things to see at the little museum she maintains every day - preserving the beauty of American history - the Civil War, WWI and WWII. Next, we ran into the Cowan, Tennessee RR train depot and the old courthouse from the 1800s.

The next day, we arrived in Nashville and went downtown.  We stopped in at Antique Archaeology where the Pickers reside in Tennessee.  Nashville - downtown Broadway - was bustling with bands playing in every bar and juke joint.  We stopped in at the famous Tubbs Museum where Loretta Lynn's memorabilia, including her dresses were on display.  We drove to Memphis and stopped in at Elvis's Graceland on Elvis Presley Boulevard.  Unfortunately, Elvis had left the building long ago.

That evening, we finally landed on the Blues Highway in Mississippi... ending up at The Crossroads - HWY 61/HWY49 in Clarksdale.  Then we saw live music at the Ground Zero Blues Club.  It was great meeting Roger and Bubba at the Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Arts. https://www.cathead.biz/ ... Fun chatting with wonderful people and seeing the art and studio of the great Stan Street at Hambone Art Gallery.  It was so cool meeting Richard who runs the Delta Blues Museum - Clarksdale, Mississippi... [thanks for the great work you're doing to preserve America's rich music heritage!]  We got a nice tour of WROX Radio and it was great meeting Mrs. Wilson!  [Thanks for the tour and great stories!]  The quiet strength of Clarksdale, MS - real people with heart and soul - really touched our blues soul.  We knew why we were there.

Back in "Sweet Home Alabama" the next day, we learned the true meaning of that song and all about Ronnie Van Zant's lyrics, The Swampers and so much more!  Muscle Shoals, Alabama - music center of the South - told us the great stories of American music history and the ghosts were all around us.

It was a dream come true when I recorded vocals on my latest song, "He Sold His Soul for Rock & Roll" at FAME Recording Studios.  The session was very emotional for me.  I may have sung into the same microphone that Aretha Franklin sang "R.E.S.P.E.C.T.!"  And the next morning, we got a V.I.P. tour of the FAME studios and then headed to the very place where RVZ and Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded some of their greatest songs, tipping his hat to the Swampers - Muscle Shoals Sound Studio!  I did what he asked me to do and it has changed my life forever!  I'm in the club.

I believe Ronnie came back from the dead all these years later to do what he loved: write songs.  I believe he's working through many artists on the planet today - as an astral soul.  He wrote this song from the grave.  I was an open channel and allowed him to come through to guide me (since September 2018).  He gave me specific messages to help me with my music.  But this song would be different.  He told me I needed to take a journey in order to understand the meaning behind the story and actually LIVE the song so I could tell "the same old story" with a new twist about the protagonist walking to the Crossroads to sell his soul for Rock & Roll.  This is not about Robert Johnson... it's about me... and RVZ.

We all need to take time to rediscover America.  My Deep South road trip has reacquainted me with my roots and has been a great reminder of the beauty and strength of the people of my country - America, the Beautiful!  I love this country more than ever, having revisited places I hadn't been since I was very young... Thank you, RVZ!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Times Square


Sandy's new single is out!  Listen here.


TIMES SQUARE

Neon lights in the evening sky
I have arrived and I feel so high.
(I am not lost) I know I'll never die...
and soon enough we'll all know why.

[CHORUS]
I'm going to Times Square.
Thousands of people everywhere.
Won't you meet me there?

I am tossed by every gust of wind.
Every life I've lived, I have sinned.
In a New York minute, there is time
to find the rhythm and the rhyme.

Fallen angels in my soul
singing mystic rock & roll
Oh, those artists are so rare
And they all live in Times Square.

            In New York, it's a brand new day.
            I'll never fall or run away.
            I'm so alive, and I've got hell to pay
            and the One to light my way--

In my dreams, time heals all
and the fallen go on standing tall
as if the pain had no past
and we are all free at last.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Deeper and Darker

My new song about the struggle of the painter...
Listen here.

Deeper and Darker (The Midnight Painter)

1. I stand before my canvas, the colours sing to me.
I await the wild-- attack, when I can set them free.
I prayed "The Joy of Life" [Le bonheur de vivre] would see its way to me.

CHORUS:
Deeper and darker I paint the scene
'til the light no longer shines through me. 
I don't like it when my heaviness gets the best of me.
Will I rise above the negativity?

2. I fought with desperation, breaking up the planes
setting fire to my weaknesses; let the wild beast take the reins.
I prayed "The Joy of Life" [Le bonheur de vivre] would see its way to free me.

[CHORUS]

BRIDGE:
My heart never makes a smart move
never feels the fright
'til it's too late in the night
and the urges hurt so bad.
'til I'd fallen deeper than I ever had.

[Spoken/sung:]
The call of my heart speaks
I share my canvas's defeats
I've seen the visions of Matisse
A thousand hurricanes release
I am the artist; I am Fauve
The feral wild beast of rock and roll
Brush strokes align-- in my soul--
je suis libre .... je suis libre d'etre moi

3. I love colour like a lover - an incandescent jewel.
I am dazzled by the light it makes, reflecting in the pool.
I prayed "The Joy of Life" [Le bonheur de vivre] would see its way to free me.

[CHORUS]

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

No Time to Cry


"No Time to Cry" is a song I wrote many years ago... I'm so excited to have been able to record it the way I originally heard it in my mind.  This is dedicated to my mother, Elizabeth Baron, who contributed some of the lyrics.  She wanted her life story and documentary to be called "No Time to Cry," which was how she lived her life. 


Listen here


No Time to Cry




My home is the universe, my family all mankind.
My mission is the search for truth;
the light has filled my mind.
Wealth cannot be measured, now, by things
the eyes can only see.



We must believe a new reality.
Wounds will heal, there’s no time to cry.
Though troubles do arise, you’ll see
blessings in disguise.



No time to cry
No time to cry



Body, mind and spirit balance in the end.
We’re living in such darkness,
but truth can heal and mend.
Rage and hate descend and die
so love can heal the hurting heart.



Once there was a time we thought we’d nothing left to give.
But now we are aware there’s no time to cry,
no time to die,
no time but to live.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Impossible Sky


I wrote the music for "The Impossible Sky" in one take... totally improvised.

GO HERE TO LISTEN.


The Impossible Sky


Suspended from a skyhook, an Old World Lark
is out of reach, can’t conceive, in the dark.
Soaring through the skywaves, vault the arch
clearest welkin cover, vault the sky march.
In God’s home, listen for the silence.
Let the whispers of infinity flow in your ear.
Let the eyes on the back of your head help you to hear
His messages, which will come so clear.

Life is a liquid flowing in time.
Life is a journey down the skyline.
As we slide through the slipstream clouds,
feet turn into knees.
The only way to capture what you need is to seize.
Crawling-- languid-- seeking complacency in flight.
Only in our blindness, brightest sun, do we see night.

A destiny is a spiritual drama in which we seek the why.
And though we are so crippled, we can move toward the sky
- the impossible sky. Darling, we can do it if we try---
Drift free, fly – till we’re all so sky-high.
Fly--- ooh--- It's only the impossible sky.