Saturday Single No. 683

April 4th, 2020

Once a year during three of the four school years I worked for the Eden Prairie News, I taught an informal class in songwriting. And it was, sort of, Bill Withers’ fault.

Well, it was my fault. But it all came about because of Withers, who died this week at the age of 81, leaving behind a catalog of nine albums of R&B that crossed a lot of boundaries (and found a wide audience). Sadly, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Withers’ music when he was active. (His first album, Just As I Am, came out in 1971, and his last, Watching You Watching Me, was released in 1985.)

I knew and liked the major tunes, of course: “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Use Me,” “Just The Two Of Us,” and “Lean On Me” chief among them. And it was that last song that sparked my awkward and very limited turns as a teacher of songwriting.

It was early on a Monday, if I recall things rightly, and I was at Eden Prairie High School to shoot some photos of the concert choir as it prepared for a performance sometime in the next few weeks. The members of the choir were milling around the room and gabbing, and I stood waiting off to the side, camera slung around my neck, not far from the piano.

Then one of the young men in the choir said to another, “Hey, listen to this song I heard!” And he sat at the piano and sang the first verse to “Lean On Me.” But instead of underscoring every note of the melody with a chord, he played chords under only the first and last words of phrases.

His buddy nodded and said something nice about the song. And I couldn’t help myself. I went to the piano and told the first young man it was a good song, but he really needed to play all the intermediate chords for the song to sound right. He was puzzled, so I sat at the piano and played the song pretty much like Withers does, a chord for almost every note.

As I played, other students gathered around the piano, and when the choir director – a woman named Julie Kanthak – came in, one of the students said, “Hey, check this out!” She came to the piano as I played a bit more of the song. I’d been reporting for the paper for a year-and-a-half by that time, and I guess I’d never mentioned that I was a musician, and she looked surprised.

And when she learned that I also wrote songs, she asked me to come back on another day – when the choir was not deep into preparation for a concert – and talk to the students (many of whom I knew from having covered them in other school activities) about songwriting.

I did so a few weeks later, having given at least some thought to my process. I talked about the challenges of starting with lyrics, which I generally do, and the very different challenges of starting with the music, which I have done only rarely. And as I talked about that, I was surprised to realize something that I then shared with the students: Even though I’ve only written three or four songs by starting with the music, those three or four are among my best.

And I performed one or two of those songs, and a few of my others, talking between songs – sometimes between verses – about the process of putting each of those songs together.

I was in Eden Prairie for two more school years after that, and during each of those, I spent an hour with the concert choir, talking about songwriting and, I expect, learning more each time than did the students I was supposedly teaching.

And here, I imagine, I’m supposed to share Withers’ “Lean On Me.” But despite its small role in my very limited time as a teacher of songwriting – a memory I do cherish – it was never my favorite piece from Withers. I much prefer the album version of “Just The Two Of Us,” his collaboration with saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. It’s found on Washington’s 1980 album Winelight, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

‘I Would Be In Love (Anyway)’

April 3rd, 2020

Here’s what the top ten looked like on the Billboard Easy Listening chart fifty years ago this week, the first week of April in 1970, one of my best-remembered years for music:

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel
“Easy Come Easy Go” by Bobby Sherman
“Kentucky Rain” by Elvis Presley
“Let It Be” by the Beatles
“Temma Harbour” by Mary Hopkin
“I Would Be In Love (Anyway)” by Frank Sinatra
“Rainy Night In Georgia” by Brook Benton
“Long Lonesome Highway” by Michael Parks
“All I Have To Do Is Dream” by Bobbie Gentry & Glenn Campbell
“Brighton Hill” by Jackie DeShannon

Well, six of those I know well, and I clearly remember five of them – the top four and the Brook Benton single – coming out of my old RCA radio during spring evenings in my room. The Gentry/Campbell duet is not as memorable, though I know I heard it.

“Temma Harbour” is one I don’t recall from fifty years ago; I don’t believe I heard it until about ten years ago when I was tipped to it in a comment here by reader David Lenander. I have vague memories of the Michael Parks record, but those memories don’t say “1970” in any way, which tells me I rarely heard it then. And the DeShannon record rings no bells at all, even though I can tell from the visual in the YouTube video that for years, the LP from which it came was in the vinyl stacks.

And then there’s the Sinatra record:

If I lived the past over, saw today from yesterday
I would be in love anyway
If I knew that you’d leave me, if I knew you wouldn’t stay
I would be in love anyway

Sometimes I think, think about before
Sometime I think, if I knew then what I know now
I don’t believe I’d ever change somehow

Though you’ll never be with me, and there are no words to say
I’ll still be in love anyway

If I knew then what I know now,
I don’t believe I’d ever change somehow

If I knew then what I know now
I don’t believe I’d ever change somehow

The single came from Sinatra’s Watertown album, a work I mentioned thirteen years ago:

Watertown [is] a song cycle that’s one of the more idiosyncratic recordings of Sinatra’s long career. The songs on Watertown came from Bob Gaudio – writer of many of the Four Seasons’ hits – and Jake Holmes, the singer-songwriter/folk-rocker who was also the composer of “Dazed & Confused,” which Led Zeppelin appropriated as its own work. The album is, as All-Music Guide notes, Sinatra’s “most explicit attempt at rock-oriented pop.” It’s also a rather depressing piece of work, as the mood throughout is one of unrelieved (and unrelievable) sadness.

And as I listened to “I Would Be In Love (Anyway)” this morning, I recognized the tale Sinatra was telling. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, I spent some time in that same bleak emotional place. Eventually (and thankfully), I moved on.

I remember frequently seeing the LP in cutout bins in the early 1970s and in the “Sinatra” bins at used record stores in the 1990s. Even though my buying in the 1990s was pretty indiscriminate, for some reason I never brought Watertown home with me. Somewhere along the line, I acquired a digital copy of the album from which I made the above judgment that its mood “is one of unrelieved (and unrelievable) sadness.” I may take time to again listen closely to the album one of these days, but I’m not sure I need the downer.

As to “I Would Be In Love (Anyway),” it peaked on the Easy Listening chart at No. 4 but got only to No. 88 on the Hot 100. Watertown went to No. 101 on the magazine’s album chart.

A Random Six-Pack

March 31st, 2020

There are currently 79,000-plus tracks in the RealPlayer, most of them music. (I have about thirty familiar lines from movies in the stacks and some bits of interviews, too.) And today, we’re going to take a six-stop random tour through the stacks. We’ll sort the tracks by length; the shortest is 1.4 seconds of broadcaster Al Shaver exulting over a goal by the long-departed Minnesota North Stars – “He shoots, he scores!” – and the longest is the full album with bonus tracks of Bruce Springsteen’s 2006 release, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, clocking in at an hour and eighteen minutes.

We’re going to put the cursor in the middle of the stack and click six times and see what we get.

We land first on a track by Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers: “Memphis Queen” from the group’s 1989 album Rock & Real. At All Music, William Ruhlman notes, “Grushecky’s songs of tough urban life are made all the more compelling by his rough voice and the aggressive playing of his band.” The track in question, “Memphis Queen,” tells the tale of a Pittsburgh boy headed to New Orleans on the titular riverboat, stopping in St. Louis to search for the “brown-eyed handsome man” and meeting a girl named Little Marie, whose daddy is “down in the penitentiary.” I found the album at a blog somewhere when I was going through a Grushecky phase a few years ago. It’s a good way to start.

We jump from 1989 back to 1972 and a track from Mylon Lefevre. “He’s Not Just A Soldier” comes from Lefevre’s Over The Influence album. Originally recorded in 1961 by Little Richard, who wrote the song with William Pitt, the song reads on Lefevre’s album as an artifact from the Vietnam era, declaring that a young man in military service “is not just a soldier in a brown uniform, he’s one of God’s sons.” And there’s a surprise along the way, as Lefevre is joined on vocals by Little Richard himself. There’s also a great saxophone solo, but I don’t know by whom. (I saw a note on Wikipedia that said the album was a live performance, but I doubt that’s the case.)

Next up is a cover of a piece of movie music: “Lolita Ya-Ya” by the Ventures. The tune originated in Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film adaptation of the Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita. Penned by Nelson Riddle, the song is source music from a radio the first time that the movie’s protagonist, Humbert Humbert, sees the title character who will become his obsession. Sue Lyon, the actress who played Lolita, provided the vocals for the film version of the tune. The Ventures’ cover of the tune was released as a single, but got only to No. 61 on the Billboard Hot 100.

From there, we head to 1968 and Al Wilson’s first album, Searching For The Dolphins, recorded for Johnny Rivers’ Soul City Label. “I Stand Accused” was the fourth single from the album aimed at the Hot 100; the most successful of the four was “The Snake,” which went to No. 27. “I Stand Accused,” a good soul workout, bubbled under at No. 106. As usual with Rivers’ productions, the backing musicians were spectacular: Hal Blaine, Jim Gordon, Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborne, Jim Horn and James Burton. (A 2008 reissue of the album provided as bonus tracks eleven singles and B-sides recorded around the same time for the Soul City, Bell and Carousel labels.)

Lou Christie’s fame (and his appeal), as I see it, rests on five singles: “The Gypsy Cried” (1963), “Two Faces Have I” (1963), “Lightning Strikes” (1965), “Rhapsody In The Rain” (1966), and “I’m Gonna Make You Mine” (1970). He shows up here today with “Wood Child,” a track from his 1971 album Paint America Love, released under his (almost) real name, Lou Christie Sacco. (He was born Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco, according to discogs.com.) I’m not sure what the song is about, except that its lyrics are evocative and include the recurring choruses, “You’ve got to save the wood child” and “Take a ticket and get on this boat.”

(A 2015 appreciation of the album by Bob Stanley for The Guardian said: “Yet another side of Christie emerged in 1971 when he cut his masterpiece, Paint America Love, a Polish/Italian/American take on What’s Going On. Orchestrated state-of-the-nation pieces (‘Look Out the Window,’ the extraordinary ‘Wood Child’) compete with majestic instrumentals (‘Campus Rest’) and childhood reminiscences (‘Chuckie Wagon,’ the Sesame Street-soundtracking ‘Paper Song’) in a gently lysergic whole. Online reviews compare it to Richard Ford and John Steinbeck: fans of Jimmy Webb are urged to seek it out.”)

I’m not sure where I got the album, probably a long-lost blog, but I suppose I should take Stanley’s advice and listen to it more closely.

And our six-pack this morning ends with “Long Line” from Peter Wolf, one-time member of the J. Geils Band. The title track from his 1996 album, the tune shifts from straight-ahead tasteful rock to a spoken interlude and back. It sounds a lot more like 1972 than 1996, with some nifty piano fills, which makes it a nice way to end our trek.

Saturday Single No. 682

March 28th, 2020

The blank space on the computer screen has been mocking me for about an hour. At least five times, I’ve typed something, looked at it, and then deleted it. For some reason – perhaps because of the madness beyond our walls, perhaps because of a weariness that seems to have found its home in me overnight – I have nothing to say this morning.

Here’s Fotheringay’s take on Bob Dylan’s “Too Much Of Nothing.” It’s from the group’s self-titled 1970 album, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Stuff On My Mind

March 25th, 2020

Epidemics, pandemics and plagues are on my mind, for some reason.

My dad had scarlet fever when he was a young boy. I’m not exactly sure of the timing, and there’s no one to ask anymore, but I’m thinking he was ten or younger, as it stunted his growth. Both of his brothers – one younger, one older – topped out taller than six feet with broad shoulders and solid, if not exactly burly, builds. Dad was five-seven, maybe five-eight, and was maybe 150 pounds when he went into the Army at the age of twenty.

He remembered their home being quarantined. No one in or out. The house still stands across the street from the Lutheran Church in Cambridge, Minnesota, somewhat neglected but still occupied from what we could tell during a stop at the adjacent cemetery last summer. It’s not large at all, and I imagine it was crowded and probably tense during the weeks of quarantine.

Let’s say Dad was ten when he was ill, making it sometime after the autumn of 1929. That means that the eldest of his seven siblings was nineteen and the youngest was six. Now, my Aunt Emeline, the eldest, may have already left home to be a teacher, but still, that leaves seven children and my grandparents and Uncle Charlie – my grandmother’s uncle (whose rocking chair sits in our bedroom) – all cooped in a smallish house. I don’t know what time of year it was, but it had to be uncomfortable as well as frightening.

I don’t really know how prevalent scarlet fever was, so I dug a bit and found a chart at the website of the Minnesota Department of Health that noted there were 4,030 cases in Minnesota in 1930, with thirty-eight deaths. (Two decades earlier, in 1910, Minnesota saw 4,117 cases with 284 deaths, which tells me the incidence of the disease was probably higher than in 1930, assuming a smaller population in 1910, and treatment was much less successful.)

Over the years, I’ve thought about plagues and epidemics on a historical level, reading about the Black Death’s periodic visits to Europe in the Middle Ages and other outbreaks. I recall one fine book, Justinian’s Flea, which examined the source of the plague that devastated the eastern Roman Empire in the sixth and seventh centuries CE. And now I read about a pandemic in my state and nation.

I’m too young to actually remember the polio epidemics of the late 1940s and early 1950s. My mom once told me that the fear was palpable, especially among parents of young children, and towns and cities were eerily quiet. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The previously referenced chart says that there were 258 cases of polio in the state in 1940, and then lays out the total for each year in the first five years after World War II:

1946: 2,881
1947: 201
1948: 1,387
1949: 1,715
1950: 502

I was born in 1953, and it was not uncommon during my childhood to see people – usually children but sometimes adults – using crutches and wearing bulky braces on withered legs. To a kid who was maybe eight, that was scary. By then, there were vaccines, of course, first the Salk and then the Sabin, but even if we were safe from polio, what else might there be out there that could kill us or – likely worse to the eight-year-old mind – cripple us?

And now, there’s novel corona. I’m sixty-six, and I long ago had a lung ailment that’s seemed not to have left any lingering damage, but still, that’s there. So I have some anxiety, even as we do the things we should here. And I’m reasonably certain that if everyone does the things they’re supposed to do, we’ll get through.

And here I take a deep breath and offer Holly Wilson’s bossa nova take on Pink Floyd’s “Breathe.” It’s from her 2006 album Pink Floyd En Bossa Nova. Enjoy (and ignore the line about racing towards an early grave).

Kenny Rogers Lost Me Long Ago

March 21st, 2020

So, Kenny Rogers died overnight.

He was, without doubt, one of the most popular and successful pop and country performers of the last third of the last century. Here are the raw numbers:

A total of fifty-seven records in the Billboard Country Top 40 between 1969 and 2003. (My country book goes to 2006, so there may have been a few more hits; I don’t know.) Of those fifty-seven records, twenty-one went to No. 1, starting with “Lucille” in 1977 and ending with “Buy Me A Rose” with Alison Krauss and Billy Dean in 2000.

He was, of course, a presence on the pop chart before he went country: Before “Lucille” hit in 1977, he had fifteen records reach the Hot 100, credited first to the First Edition, later to Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, and then simply to himself. The best-performing of those singles were “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In),” which went to No. 5 in 1968, and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town,” which peaked at No. 6 in 1969.

And as I went through my life, I heard him all around me, from the pop stuff before I really cared about pop music, to the country stuff that crossed over before I cared much about country music. Kenny Rogers, during the last third of the 1900s, was inescapable.

But after enjoying some of the early pop stuff and recognizing that 1978’s “The Gambler” was a great story record, I quit listening, switching the station or turning the radio off entirely whenever I heard his voice coming from the speakers.

Why?

Because of “The Coward Of The County,” Rogers’ 1979 hit that uses gang rape and vengeance as plot points. The first time the Other Half and I heard it, we were disgusted. And it felt like nobody else noticed the repugnance of those plot elements, as the record went to No. 1 on the country chart, No. 3 on the Hot 100, and No. 5 on the adult contemporary chart.

Were we being selective in our reactions? Don’t many other pop and country songs use similarly unseemly topics? Yeah, they do. But something about “The Coward Of The County” felt so unnecessarily blatant.

So the Other Half and I quit listening to Kenny Rogers. Forty years later, I have nothing from his days as a country star on any of my shelves. I do have seven of his earlier works in digital form and four of his early hits in the iPod, and I’m often uneasy about even those.

I’m sorry he’s gone. I’m sorry for his family and friends. But just as his voice has for more than forty years, the news of his death reminds me of the shock and horror I saw on the Other Half’s face and the sick feeling I felt in my stomach at the same moment when we first heard “The Coward Of The County” coming into our living room.

‘Voices Half Remembered . . .’

March 20th, 2020

I often write about, or at least refer to, my sweet spot (a term I got from my pal Dan), the span of years from my youth when my taste in music was pretty well set. I generally identify it as the years between 1969 and 1975, but it tends to stretch a little on each end. A lot of stuff from 1967 and 1968 matters to me, being not just familiar but formative, and the same holds true to a lesser extent for 1976 and 1977.

As I’ve noted before, a rough gauge of the impact of those years can be gained by looking at the numbers of posts here featuring music from those years, numbers that – were they entered on a chart – would produce a slightly predictable but still interesting bell graph:

1967: 92
1968: 123
1969: 180
1970: 201
1971: 167
1972: 154
1973: 116
1974: 91
1975: 91
1976: 53
1977: 50

Those numbers come from a little more than 1,500 posts in just more than ten years at this site and do not include the three years of blogging at the two shorter-lived sites. And the years cover my life from the last months of eighth grade to the first month of my years at the Monticello Times. If there’s anything surprising in the numbers from those eleven years, it’s the clear drop off from 1975 to 1976 and 1977.

But those last two were years when my view shifted from college life to what would come after. There was an internship, graduation, moving away from Kilian Boulevard, an abortive attempt or two at permanent employment, additional college work, and finally, a job in reporting. Those years were a lot less carefree than the ones that came before. Maybe that makes a difference in what the music of those years says to me. And maybe the music wasn’t – to me, anyway – all that great. I dunno.

But we’ll end this relatively pointless post by letting iTunes do some work. We’re going to click randomly through the 3,900-or so tracks there and focus on the third track from either 1976 or 1977 and see what life serves us.

Well, it took twenty-eight clicks, and the tracks we hit ranged from 1955 (“Bring It To Jerome” by Bo Diddley) to 1991 (“Mysterious Ways” by U2), but we finally fell onto a track that met our requirements. It comes from a 1976 album that I do like a great deal: Neil Diamond’s Beautiful Noise, produced by Robbie Robertson. The album went to No. 4 on the Billboard 200, and “Signs” is a pretty decent album track.

Hunkering Down

March 18th, 2020

Well, we’re pretty much self-isolating, as we should. I was out yesterday for a brief time, picked up two prescriptions at the pharmacy drive-through, then got a pick-up order at the grocery store. The order wasn’t quite right, so I had to go into the store to straighten it out and then go into another store to get the soap powder for the dishwasher that the first store was out of.

Both stores had relatively little traffic, and the shelves were beginning to look bare in some spots: Canned soup, instant potatoes and potato box mixes, cereals, and, of course, paper products. In the store where I did my actual shopping, eggs were plentiful but customers were limited to two dozen. As well as getting the soap powder, I filled some minor gaps in our supplies and headed home.

And today, I’ll head out to the podiatrist for my regular six-week visit, being very careful about surfaces and aware of the people around me. The receptionist said they’ve expanded the seating area of the lobby to provide more distance between people. I’m still a bit nervous about it, but I thought I should go while I can. And then home again for the rest of the day.

There is nothing in the digital stacks with “COVID” in the title, of course. There are, on the other hand, several tracks with “nineteen” in their titles: “The Two Nineteen” by Long John Baldry & The Hoochie Coochie Men, “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Day, “John Nineteen Forty-One” (the closing track to the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar), “Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five” by Paul McCartney & Wings, “Nineteen Something” by Mark Willis, and five versions of the blues tune “She’s Nineteen Years Old.” Not much joy there.

So I thought I’d look at the Billboard charts from the years I call my sweet spot, 1969-75, and, playing some Games With Numbers, see what was at No. 19 during the third week of March in those years. With any luck, we’ll find something decent to listen to this morning. Here we go.

1969: “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose” by James Brown
1970: “Call Me/Son Of A Preacher Man” by Aretha Franklin
1971: “(Theme From) ‘Love Story’” by Henry Mancini, His Orchestra and Chorus
1972: “Don’t Say You Don’t Remember” by Beverly Bremers
1973: “Do You Want To Dance” by Bette Midler
1974: “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” by Aretha Franklin
1975: “I Am Love (Parts 1 & 2)” by the Jackson 5

Well, that’s an interesting mix. I respect James Brown more than I listen to him, and Aretha’s double-sided single doesn’t grab me this morning. I know we’ve offered the Mancini, Bremers and Midler singles before (maybe some time ago, but still). And I’m going to ignore the Jackson 5 record because a quick search tells me that not only have I never posted “Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” I’ve never – in more than thirteen years of blogging – even mentioned the record.

There’s a reason for that neglect. Given that it was on the radio in early 1974, the record falls into the list of those that I did not hear at the time, being in Denmark and beyond the reach of Top 40. I learned about it through my digging into Aretha during the late 1980s and via whatever play it got on oldies stations, and I like it a lot.

In mid-March 1974, the record was on its way down the chart, having peaked in the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 3 at the end of February. It spent a week at No. 1 on the magazine’s R&B chart and went to No. 33 on the Easy Listening chart.

And finally, it shows up here.

Saturday Single No. 681

March 14th, 2020

Intrigued by the results the other day of digging into a 1972 survey from a radio station formatting itself as “progressive,” I thought we’d do it again this morning. The first time, we were in Portland, Oregon, so I thought we’d head to the East Coast for our second time around.

Here are the six albums that WMMR in Philadelphia listed in its survey for the second week in March 1972:

Together by Jesse Colin Young
Sailin’ Shoes by Little Feat
Isle Of View by Jimmie Spheeris
Fanny Hill by Fanny
Hellbound Train by Savoy Brown
Compost self-titled

Only two of those ever showed up on the vinyl stacks here, the Spheeris and the Little Feat. I had seven LPs on the shelves by Jesse Colin Young, but Together was not one of them, so I’m surprised by that absence, as I am by the absence of Fanny Hill. The absence of the Savoy Brown album does not startle me at all. And Compost?

Well, I can’t say I’ve never heard of the band, but I didn’t recall the name. It turns out that Compost was also one of those groups promoted by Columbia on The Music People, just like Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders from Tuesday’s post. I checked the LP log, and I brought The Music People home with me in 1992, twenty years after it came out, so I first heard of Compost long after the group’s performing days.

And those days were relatively short: Wikipedia tells us that Compost released two albums, the 1972 self-titled release listed by WMMR (which has the alternate title of Take Off Your Body), and a 1973 release titled Life Is Round. The band is described at both Wikipedia and discogs.com as a jazz fusion group; its members were Bob Moses, Harold Vick, Jumma Santos, Jack Gregg and Jack DeJohnette. And we’ll get back to the group later.

First, though, how many of those albums ended up on the digital shelves here? Well, the albums by Little Feat, Spheeris, Fanny, and Young are here. Hellbound Train is not, although I do have Savoy Brown’s 1971 release, Street Corner Talking. Compost is represented only by the one track from its 1972 album that was featured on The Music People, “Country Song.”

So here’s “Country Song” by Compost, today’s Saturday Single.

Stocking Up & Staying Home

March 13th, 2020

As more and more institutions have closed and events have been canceled over the past couple days because of the coronavirus, we’ve taken some precautions here. We spent a couple hours at one of the bigger box stores yesterday getting some things that we honestly should have had before – an electric lantern to light at least one room in the case of power failure, along with several flashlights and a good supply of batteries – and stocking up on canned goods, pasta and dried beans (as well as some meat for the freezer and a few other things).

As has been reported in many other places, toilet paper was gone from the shelves, but our need for that – and for other paper products – was filled a little earlier in the week. And the store was crowded but at base sane. There were, however, some grocery items that were obviously in short supply. There were no corn tortillas (unless I was looking in the wrong place), and the supply of some types of dried beans was limited, just to note two.

There were a few things at the big store that we could not find, so on our way home, we stopped at our neighborhood market and picked those up. And then headed home.

So far (as of last evening), there are nine cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, one here in Stearns County. I’m betting, though, that there are far more people infected with the virus, so we’re going to be prudent and pretty much self-quarantine from now on. There are a few things that need to be done, like dropping by the nearby hardware store for a new supply of furnace filters. And I need to refill a few prescriptions.

In addition, I am committed to playing piano at our fellowship Sunday. We’re a small congregation, averaging thirty-five or so people each week, but the greater majority of us are past sixty, and I’m not sure how wise it is for us to keep gathering each week. The fellowship leadership is, I know, weighing factors, but the Texas Gal and I are thinking that after this Sunday, we may withdraw ourselves from activities for the last six weeks of the fellowship year.

Beyond that, we have tickets for a musical performance the first week of April, in a small theater. We don’t know what we’ll do. Perhaps by then, most gatherings will be discouraged, if not actually barred by officials. We’ll see.

As readers can no doubt tell, I’m concerned, perhaps even shaken by how fast things are happening. And the Texas Gal and I are both older than sixty, which we have to take into account. So, with very few exceptions, we’re going to stay home. The Texas Gal added to her stock of yarn yesterday so she can continue to crochet as we watch television, and I stopped by the public library and added seven books to my reading pile. And I’ll no doubt find plenty of time to sit at the other keyboard and dig into my pile of music books old and new.

And here’s a fitting tune: “(Staying Home and Singing) Homemade Songs” by Tracy Nelson and Mother Earth. It’s from the 1972 album Tracy Nelson/Mother Earth.