Happy Presidents’ Day weekend! Many of us will get the day off this Monday as we celebrate the commanders-in-chief of our past. What better way to reflect on the men who have greatly impacted the United States – for better or for worse – than to create a perfectly presidential playlist? I hope you enjoy these tunes that tell the tales of some of the executive legends, as well as some of the unknowns, from American history.
5. “He Was a Friend of Mine” – The Byrds
Originally written by Bob Dylan in 1962, “He Was a Friend of Mine” soon turned into The Byrds’ somber reflection on the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. The song features all the trademarks that made The Byrds one of the most popular bands of the 1960s: glorious harmonies, jangly guitars, and powerfully poignant lyrics. Perhaps most importantly, “He Was a Friend of Mine” paints a picture of a national leader who was truly respected and revered, a man adored by those who never met him.
4. “Abraham, Martin and John” – Emmylou Harris
Originally recorded by Dion in 1968, “Abraham, Martin and John” is a tribute to four assassinated American icons of social change, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert F. Kennedy. Emmylou Harris covered the classic tune in 1992, and her live version on PBS captured the gentle, reflective nature of the original. Backed by her live band, The Nash Ramblers, Harris delivers a touching ode to these four heroes from America’s past.
3. “James K. Polk” – They Might Be Giants
This tuneful history lesson by They Might Be Giants is a fun, rollicking tribute to James K. Polk, winner of the 1844 U.S. election. “James K. Polk” is a U.S. History teacher’s dream come true, with references to abolition, Manifest Destiny, and the Oregon Territory all carefully weaved into the tune. The clever gentlemen in TMBG also manage to sneak in Polk’s nickname, “The Napoleon of the Stump,” given to the eleventh president of the U.S. because “his oratory filled his foes with fear.”
2. “Young Abe Lincoln (Make A Tall, Tall Man)” – Johnny Horton
Johnny Horton’s 1960 hit “Young Abe Lincoln (Make A Tall, Tall Man)” is a great example of storytelling through song. Horton’s ditty is a charming stroll through both the factual and fabled life of our most famous president. From his humble upbringing (“he lived in a cabin way down by the creek, he ran through the dust in his bare feet”) to the Civil War crisis that consumed Lincoln’s presidency (“he heard both sides of the battle of rights, he hated to see those soldiers die”), “Young Abe Lincoln (Make A Tall, Tall Man)” covers all the major events of Lincoln’s storied life.
1. “Mr. Garfield” – Johnny Cash
“Mr. Garfield” was first recorded by Bascom Lamar Lunsford in March of 1949. The folk song is an epic narrative of the events and emotions surrounding the assassination of James Garfield, who was shot by a deranged man who grew increasingly frustrated with Garfield’s refusal to give him a cushy government job. Johnny Cash’s version of “Mr. Garfield” is an even more intriguing blend of country and folk music, sung with all the charisma Cash was known for.
Do you have any presidential tunes that you enjoy? If so, share in the comments.
One look out the window confirms what the calendar has been telling us for weeks: we are smack dab in the middle of winter. The days are short, the air is cold, and the sky is all too often gray.
While these few months can feel like an eternity to those of us who prefer the splendid surf, sun, and soirees of summer, there are plenty of lessons to be learned from winter. Here are 4 things this cold, hard season has taught me:
1. The sun will come out tomorrow – or maybe the next day. But it will come out. It is scientifically proven that a lack of sunshine can negatively impact your mental and emotional state. If you find yourself down in the dumps during the winter months, you are certainly not alone.
The good news is that at some point, the sun will return. It might not be as warm as its July version, but its mere presence can do wonders for the soul. Plus, don’t you appreciate the sun even more when it’s peeking through the clouds on the coldest, grayest of winter days? Yeah, me too.
2. Take things slow. Winter’s dreaded mix of snow and ice can be lethal if you decide to take things too quickly. I am certainly guilty of rushing to get out the door, only to slip and fall flat on my back due to the sheet of ice awaiting me on my steps. Lesson learned. The advantage to the often inclement weather is that we get tons of practice taking our time.
Moving more slowly is not just something we should try to do during winter. In a fast-paced world in which information comes constantly darting at us from all directions, perhaps it is best to take a careful and cautious winter’s approach to life all year long.
3. Expect the unexpected – and then roll with it. Winter is sure to cause some unexpected delays. Whether it’s a deeper than expected snowfall that leads to you running late for work, or a stressful flight delay caused by a blizzard in your city of arrival, you can rest assured that winter will bring its share of headaches.
But if you remember that your health and happiness are more important than things always running smoothly, you will be grateful for the chance to enjoy winter and all its madness. You’ll eventually get where you want to go, so relax and enjoy life as it is – even if it’s not exactly as you planned it.
4. Beauty exists in all things. That’s right. Even during the slushy, muddy, and chill-inducing winter, you don’t have to look hard to find a season’s worth of beauty. Have you ever really examined the incredible complexity of a snowflake? Or the frozen magic of a 3-foot long icicle?
Sure, those things can be nuisances that make life difficult, but they also contain an equal amount of beauty and wonder. Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned the intense winter sun as it breaks through gray clouds to reveal a crystal clear blue sky. It’s almost enough to make you feel okay that summer is still five months away.
I hope that you stay safe and warm and enjoy the season that you are in at the moment. It might be cold, gray, and inconvenient at times. But before you know it, all that brilliantly bright snow will melt and be gone until next year.
Happy new year, friends! I hope 2017 is off to a great start for you. I haven’t written yet this year because 2017 has gotten off to a crazy busy start. I am not at all complaining, though, as there are few things I love more than playing big shows with talented musicians and sharing my songs with listeners. It’s been a whirlwind few weeks, and in this industry, whirlwinds are a sign that things are going well. I feel quite blessed to be able to say that yes, things are going better than well.
I added the picture above because it represents two approaches to life that I plan to take in 2017. I hope you will too. You’ll notice that there isn’t a whole lot of “stuff” in the picture. This was on purpose. This year, I want to live a simplified life.
I am intent on getting rid of the things that are not absolutely necessary to the happiness, success, and wellbeing of me, my loved ones, and my career. I am convinced that we spend so much time and energy on the things that simply do not matter, often at the expense of the things and people that do.
This desire to get rid of excess not only applies to material things, it also pertains to some of the heavy mental baggage that can weigh us down and keep us from moving forward. That brings me to the second element of the image that I want to focus on. I am particularly fond of this picture because I am looking ahead.
One of my big goals for 2017 is to stop dwelling on the past. What’s done is done, and all we have left is today and whatever future we’re fortunate enough to enjoy. Onward and upward, as they say.
There’s a lot to learn from the past, but sometimes we get stuck in it. This year, I want to positively impact my future by fully embracing today. If there’s one thing the past has taught me, it is that our futures are shaped by the decisions we make today. Right now is a product of way back when – for better or for worse. That is both an incredibly sobering and inspiring thought.
With an eye toward the future and a big, warm embrace of who and what is important in the here and now, I hope you’ll join me as we make 2017 our best year yet.
Lately it has felt as though the world is falling apart at its seams. Current events have caused such anger, frustration, and bitterness – and it’s all right there on television and social media, seemingly overwhelming us at every turn. The good news is that whenever I’m torn between wanting to scream and needing to cry, I have something that comforts me: music.
The warm embrace of my favorite song, or better yet, my favorite album, can do wonders for my soul. My most cherished sounds of country, pop, and rock n’ roll have the uncanny ability to instantly bring me unbridled joy and optimism, as well as a sense of refuge that often feels worlds away. They can take me to another place, somewhere I can forget the harsh and divisive rhetoric of today.
Escapism is not the only reason why I love listening to music when I feel the stress of days like these. There is an entire catalogue of songs from the past that provide a sense of perspective, something that feels much needed nowadays. Certain songs and artists have a way of reassuring me that everything is going to be, in due time, okay.
Our country – our world, in fact – has been this divided before. Difficult social and political issues are deeply embedded within our history. We are hardly the first generation to deal with explosive topics such as immigration, racism, and gender inequality.
I take solace in knowing that we have survived and, more importantly, come together, during other turbulent times in our past. The songs of yesterday are a sort of soundtrack to these struggles, as well as an anthem of our eventual reconciliation and progress.
If you’re struggling with the anxiety, bitterness, or frustration that often festers in times like these, I strongly recommend that you dive into your favorite music. It can provide enough healing, refuge, and perspective to get you through it all. I hope you enjoy your special sounds of solace!
In the meantime, check out this feel-good Spotify playlist filled with country classics that have gotten me through the toughest of times:
Tomorrow is the day. Finally. The longest, most excruciating election season in memory will end as those of us who have yet to vote will head to the polls to have our say. And with Election Day 2016 now upon us, I thought I’d provide some comforting words for those of us who fear the worst for a nation plagued with the type of hateful and divisive attitudes, behavior, and rhetoric so common in modern American politics.
When it’s all said and done and the election has been decided, there will be much frustration and anger on one side, if not both. The harsh words and the argumentative tone of the past year will not suddenly disappear once the news networks dramatically reveal the 45th president of these United States. Acknowledging the fact that there will still be intense feelings of resentment is, I believe, an important step in starting to heal the wounds of such a divisive election season.
It is what we do with these feelings of bitterness and hurt that will determine how well we move on as a country. Recognizing that ideological and political differences are actually an important and necessary hallmark of a successful democracy, I hope that we try to understand and actively address the complicated beliefs and opinions of those with whom me may disagree.
It is always easy to get along with those who share our views. It is how we engage and interact with those of differing views that matters most. Getting to know and fully grasp the ideals and values of others is a significant step in moving forward.
With that said, while I do believe it’s important to show tolerance and appreciation for the views of others, I don’t think we should tolerate implicit or blatant words and acts of hatred. In fact, quite the opposite.
I consider it our civic and moral duty to push for what is right, to counter the type of ignorant and destructive behavior we have witnessed in recent months. When intolerance and disdain for other beliefs, cultures, and races are present, we must speak out against them. It has been proven time and time again that history is on the side of those who have the courage to do so.
These are troubling times, no doubt. Tension is everywhere. Everything we do and say currently feels highly flammable. But I strongly believe that America has what it takes to overcome the suffocatingly negative climate of this year’s election. God knows we have encountered worse. Much worse.
I take comfort in knowing that even an election this intensely divisive, this wrought with fear and loathing, cannot completely destroy the bonds which have united us for centuries.
For kids of all ages, Halloween is one of the most exciting times of the year. Nothing can match the spooky night’s magical suspense, intrigue, and fun. If your children are planning to trick-or-treat, you’ll want to make sure that they are as safe as possible. The following are 5 simple steps to guarantee a fun Halloween night that won’t include any health scares. I hope you and your young ones have a sweet, spooky, and safe Halloween!
1. Plan your route before you head out.
A little bit of preparation will go a long way towards a safe Halloween. By mapping out your route beforehand, you won’t have to worry about unexpectedly crossing streets and encountering unwanted foot traffic. If you’re familiar with your neighborhood, even better. Nobody gives better candy than familiar and friendly neighbors.
2. Prevent tripping by wearing costumes that are short.
You’d be amazed at the number of Halloween injuries that happen due to excessively long costumes. Kids can get so excited while trick-or-treating that they don’t really pay attention to things like, you know, their feet. It’s quite easy for them to trip and fall while hurrying from house to house, and with their hands full of plastic pumpkins and bags of delicious candy, they usually don’t have their hands free to break their fall. Make it easier on your kids by dressing them in costumes that are short and, as a result, safe.
3. Bring a flashlight.
In addition to attaching reflective tape to your child’s costume, be sure to bring a flashlight when you head out on your trick-or-treat adventure. The mysterious darkness is one of the best things about Halloween, but it can also present unwanted risks. There is always a ton of foot and car traffic while trick-or-treating, so your best bet for ensuring a safe night is to stay well lit.
4. Wear face makeup instead of a mask.
Even the safest masks can lead to visibility issues for your kids. The best – and most creative – way to get around this problem is to spend some time painting your child’s face. The best costumes are usually the ones that take some time and preparation, so go for it. You’ll find a fun outlet for your artistic skills while also ensuring your child’s safety.
5. Carefully inspect all of your child’s candy.
This is probably the most obvious step you can take to keep your kids safe this Halloween. While the chances of someone pulling a trick instead of providing a treat are slim, you can never be 100% sure. There are some sick folks out there, so carefully inspect every single wrapped piece of candy to make sure it has not been tampered with. Halloween is perhaps the most appropriate time to practice the always necessary parenting skill of being safe so that you and your kids won’t be sorry.
I’d love to hear any other suggestions for keeping kids safe while trick-or-treating. Feel free to leave tips in the comments. Happy Halloween!
One of my favorite holidays is just around the corner, and I could not be more excited. As someone who loves the creative process, Halloween offers the opportunity to show off our super scary creative skills. Whether it is decorating your front porch with witches and ghouls, or designing the perfect costume for the year’s most sugary soirees, Halloween allows all of us to make the most of our imagination.
One way I love celebrating the creative spirit of Halloween is by watching some of my favorite fun and frightening films with my family. You won’t find Carrie or The Exorcist on this list, but that’s okay. These age-appropriate classics display all the gasps – but none of the gore – you and your kids could ever want. Happy Halloween!
1. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
If you are a kid, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is pretty much a childhood rite of passage. One of the best things about watching this classic with your kids is seeing them react to Charlie Brown and his gang with the same joy you felt the first time you saw it. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a must-see movie this Halloween, so it’s definitely #1 on my list.
2. Corpse Bride (2005)
Tim Burton is one of the best at producing cinematic gasps and screams intended for younger viewers. His 2005 hit Corpse Bride is no exception. The shy Victor (Johnny Depp) accidentally marries a corpse (Helena Bonham Carter). This unique gothic love story is a fascinating Halloween tale that fully embraces its Victorian setting.
3. James and the Giant Peach (1996)
James and the Giant Peach tells the story of a brave young orphan boy who travels to New York City inside a massive peach just to get away from his mean and frightful aunt. This classic is the rare Halloween film that features themes of friendship, courage, and the fight to make one’s dreams come true. In other words, it’s the perfect movie for your entire family.
4. Coraline (2009)
If you’re looking for the most creative and unique movie on this list, you found it. Coraline is an incredibly captivating piece of animated cinema. In addition to boasting some of film’s most impactful visuals, Coraline also teaches a very important lesson for family members of all ages: the things in life that appear too good to be true very often are.
5. Frankenweenie (2012)
Children of all ages will relate to young Victor Frankenstein, the main character in Frankenweenie who takes extreme measures to bring his beloved dog back to life. This darkly humorous film by Tim Burton is the rare Halloween favorite that manages to be both creepy and sweet.
I hope you and your entire family will enjoy watching these scary – and oftentimes sweet – movies. What are some of your Halloween favorites? Feel free to comment with some suggestions.