Something for the weekend. Killing me Softly with His Song , written by Charles Fox with lyrics by Norman Gimbel. Out of the musical wasteland that was the Seventies, this is one of the few songs that I enjoy. Sung by many artists, this version by Roberta Flack is the standard. The song had an interesting genesis if one believes one version of how it came about.
Don McLean, he of American Pie and Vincent, was singing and folk singer Lori Lieberman had an emotional reaction to his song Empty Chairs. She wrote a poem and the song was based on the poem. She sang the song in 1972 a year before Flack’s version. Here is her version: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. The theme song from The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957). A combination of the Colonel Bogey March and the River Kwai March, performed by Mitch Miller.
Yesterday, taking a mini-vacation with the family, we were stuck in traffic for forty-five minutes due to bridge repairs south of Joliet on I-55. Temperatures topped 100 and my faithful Transit Connect Wagon decided this would be a splendid time to give me my first mechanical difficulties in three years by overheating. It was touch and go but we managed to get off the interstate and stopped at a convenience store. I let the engine cool down and then put coolant in with the able assistance of the store manager, an Indian immigrant who turned down my offer to pay him for his time. I gave him my card and asked him to call on me if he ever needed legal assistance gratis. I try to never forget a favor. We drove home without further incident and I will have the vehicle checked by my mechanic. I suspect it is a blown fuse on one of the electrical fans cooling the radiator, but we shall see.
In any event this heat drenched adventure convinced me to post a song where the setting is quite hot and the theme song from the Kwai film fit the bill. For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, it is magnificent. Alec Guinness plays Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, absolutely indomitable in the face of the most savage treatment from his captors. Ultimately he wins his war of nerves with his captor, Colonel Saito, over the issue of whether British officers must work in other than an administrative captivity, but fails to understand that by building the bridge he is collaborating with the enemy. Nicholson is a man of rules and discipline and in many ways he is a heroic figure, willing to die to uphold what he perceives as civilized standards, and is beloved of his men who he also loves. However, he is a tragic hero in that he fails to see that following what he thinks are the rules in his circumstances will benefit the enemy by building them a strategic rail bridge. He rectifies his mistake at the cost of his life. The film is an absolutely riveting character study of both Nicholson and Saito, stunningly portrayed by Sessue Hayakawa, a Japanese immigrant to the United States, who fought with the French Resistance during World War II, helping downed Allied fliers. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. The things you find on Youtube! I loved this album and this song, Ghost of Bras d’ Or, when I was a kid. Part of my Mom’s Newfoundland record collection. I always thought that Dick Nolan sounded like Johnny Cash, and I see that he was called the Johnny Cash of Newfoundland. I am sad to also see that he passed away in 2005, but his music endures. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. American Civil War Fantasy. Written in 1971 this piece attempts to convey the emotions of the Civil War. From a description of the composition: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Palm Sunday Gregorian Chants. Holy Week is our lives writ in Eternity. We begin with a burst of joy in our birth, and as sure as we were born we die, with the sorrow that death inevitably brings. Thanks to Our Savior Christ, that is not our end, and we can share with him the everlasting joy of Easter.
Something for the weekend. Pontifical Anthem, sung in Latin, of course. Written in 1869 by Charles Gounod, who also wrote Ave Maria, for the silver jubilee of Pio Nono. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. Irish Americans and Irish immigrants distinguished themselves in battle throughout the Civil War, whether they fought beneath the Stars and Stripes or the Stars and Bars. In 1865 one of them who fought for the South wrote this song to the tune of The Wearing of the Green. A brave defeat to the Irish is always more cherished than a victory.
Something for the weekend. As we approach a conclave and the choosing of a new pope I think a fitting musical interlude is the Prelude from the Agony and the Ecstacy (1965). Charlton Heston is magnificent as Michelangelo, but Rex Harrison steals the movie as Pope Julius II. Harrison plays the soldier Pope with a force and a wry sense of humor that dominates every scene in which he appears. Julius is shown, with all his flaws, as a man completely dedicated to God and His Church.
Something for the weekend. In the middle of winter it is no accident, as the Marxists used to say, that I have chosen for our musical selection the theme song from Lawrence of Arabia (1962). One of the last great historical epics, the film tells the tale of Colonel T.E. Lawrence’s involvement in the Arab uprising. It is largely historically inaccurate, although a magnificent story. One reason for the historical inaccuracy, other than the usual transmogrification of history in the hands of filmmakers, is that it relied too heavily on Lawrence’s war memoir Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Lawrence was a brilliant writer and a talented leader of guerrilla forces, but he never let a little thing like truth stand in the way of a good yarn. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. The forgiveness song from El Cid (1961). I have always loved this retelling of the legend of El Campeador, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren, who purportedly despised each other during the filming. I think the etchings of the intro capture something of the spirit of believing Spain, always waiting for the next great Crusade.
Here is my favorite sequence from the film: Continue reading
Something for the weekend. With all the recent furor over the Second Amendment, I thought the theme from one of the my favorite childhood friends, The Rifleman, was appropriate. Broadcast from 1958 to 1963 The Rifleman featured Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, the eponymous star of the show, and his son Mark McCain, portrayed by Johnny Crawford. Unlike almost all westerns of the time, the title character, Lucas McCain, was not a sheriff or gunfighter, but rather a widowed farmer raising his son near the town of Northfork. Each of the shows was a skillfully done morality play focusing on the human condition. Many of the episodes had plots drawn from the Bible and placed in a western setting. McCain’s modified Winchester 73 almost always came into play, but simple gun play and violence was not the focus of the series. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. As With Gladness, Men of Old seems appropriate for an Epiphany weekend. It was written by William Chatterton Dix in 1859 on Epiphany. By profession Dix was the manager of a marine insurance firm. He wrote many hymns during his lifetime. He started to do so when he was confined to his bed as a young man suffering from a near fatal illness. Out of his depression he fastened his faith on the Alpha and the Omega, his hymns being a lasting testament to that faith. Continue reading
Something for the weekend. There can only be one song on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception: Immaculate Mary. A Lourdes hymn, it was probably first sung in 1873. No one really knows who wrote the lyrics of the hymn although it has been attributed to Abbe Gaignet, a priest of Lucon. The melody is from a traditional Pyrenean song. It has long been a favorite hymn of Catholics in America.
The belief that Mary was conceived without the taint of original sin had its champions long before it was proclaimed as dogma of the Church in 1854 and some of the supporters, er, are unexpected! Continue reading
Something for the weekend. After the election results this week, I suspect that O God Our Help in Ages Past, sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford, will be of consolation to many of us. Written by Isaac Watts in 1719 it is a magnificent hymn based on Psalm 89. (Psalm 90 in Protestant Bibles.) The hymn is sung to the tune of Saint Anne written in 1708 by William Croft. Here is the text of Psalm 89 which reminds us of the omnipotence of God in spite of the transitory events of this life that preoccupy us: Continue reading