When the global pandemic washed across the world and brought the global economy to a standstill, I think it’s fair to say that most of us were in something of a daze, facing a future of indefinite uncertainty we’d never, ever had to contemplate. When the lockdown first took effect, I couldn’t help but think of the title of the sci-fi classic, “the day the earth stood still.”
Confined to our homes, unable to anticipate when work might resume, or what life would be like if we ever made it through this, millions of us turned to projects that would fill time, be productive, distract us from the dire state of things. The dumpster business was vigorous as all kinds of household clutter found its way into landfills in April and May. Garden shops and greeneries did gangbuster business, and new or expanded gardens sprouted. Old hobbies were resumed. Paint sales were brisk.
There was a great deal of emotion in this period. Sadness, anger, fear, despair, worry seemed to be at the top of the list, as there wasn’t much to be positive about. It was difficult to be suddenly confronted with isolation from your friends, family and workmates, unable to pursue the expressive outlets you had come to rely on for peace of mind and happiness.
The lockdown barred me from the weekly blues jams that had fulfilled my happiness outlet for the past twenty years. To fill the void, I spent many nights writing and recording songs on my simple Garageband iPad app. Just me, recording my own voice, guitar and bass and adding drums and piano from the app. Each time one was finished, I shared it on Facebook. I called them the “Coronavirus Isolation Blues Series” (since shortened).
Over six weeks, I published ten songs in all on Youtube, some quite unremarkable. If you were to listen to them chronologically, I think you would find an evolution in my emotional state – first bewildered, melancholy, darkly humorous, devolving to sarcastic, then downright indignant! One might even characterize one or two of these as “protests songs!”
One of my favorite music friends is Jay Psaros, a talented, industrious, smart, and hard-working musician. Shortly before the pandemic hit, Jay had rented some space in Scituate and built out a recording studio, which he now couldn’t use, except alone. An opportunity had become a worry. Jay took the opportunity seriously, and produced several superb “Facebook Live” shows from the studio that were quite successful. In another inventive promotional effort, he had his fans video themselves lip-syncing one of his songs, cut and spliced them all together, and published the compilation as a new music video.
Still, dozens of music venues had closed indefinitely, with no certainty that they would ever reopen (and less certainty today!). Performing artists had no place to play. Like Jay, they also turned to Facebook and other social media platforms to try to preserve their livelihood with virtual performances. Suddenly, we could watch Chick Corea’s practice sessions every day at 5:00, and for so many well-established performing musicians, Venmo/Paypal became “the door.” “Live From Home Open Stage” became a thing, open to anyone brave enough to click the green button. Much of it was very bad. Some of it was brilliant.
In early June, Jay and I talked about recording a few of the songs in his studio. I contacted Andy Bergsten (who was locked down in Florida) to ask for his musical direction and bass skills, and he agreed… once he was permitted to leave Florida and cleared quarantine at home.
I had this wild idea that someone might actually contribute money to this music project, so asked Andy for a few ideas, and the first words from his mouth were “Magical Moon Foundation” in Marshfield, the creation of Donna Green, a talented local artist and great humanitarian. More on Donna and the Foundation below.
Over a few days in late July, four songs were recorded. Then in August, we added Bobby Mroz’s brilliant keyboards and harmonica, and all was then mixed and produced by Jay at “PB & J Records.” The songs are presented chronologically – see if you can detect the emotional shift!
They are offered to you as a gift of good will, along with a request that you pay that good will forward by clicking the link right below and help us save the Magical Moon Farm.
Here is the link to the Pandemic Blues Series on Soundcloud.
Here is the link to Magical Moon Donate
If you want to know more about these songs – or the ones that weren’t recorded – you can find a more thorough discography here.
A final word about the civil unrest and protests following the murder of George Floyd and the many victims of racial violence. I initially wondered if the pandemic songs had been rendered irrelevant by superseding events, and perhaps I should rewrite the songs to incorporate the protests. As I watched the nightly videos and reports of what was happening in Minneapolis, Seattle, St. Louis, Washington D.C., and other cities, I decided that the subject deserved a focus of its own, and and not with the whimsy that is displayed with these songs. It would take much more thought before I feel I could deal with that subject in a credible, and creditable, way.
But on that very important subject I want to leave you with a song just published by my dear friend, Chuck McDermott, in which he captures, as only a master songwriter can, the moment of our collective dilemma, in Here’s the Thing About America:
“Here’s the thing about America: she’s as dirty as she’s clean, she’s as gentle as she’s mean, she’s everything between shear hell and fantasy…
…She’ll sing a harmony, as if she means every word, as if all those cries were heard, as if color lines were blurred, just don’t sit next to me…”
I hope this has been fun for you to read, and that I have added something to your listening. It is my most emphatic wish that we are all able to join together again, in close space, side by side, to enjoy live music and the magic of its work on our souls.
“The Magical Moon Foundation” strives to nurture and empower children with cancer and other life-threatening conditions, supporting children and their families by teaching healthy ways to deal with challenges and stress. While there are many wonderful organizations that support research, Magical Moon uniquely strives to empower children to manifest miracles in their lives. At Magical Moon Farm children can feed their bodies with our nutrition programs, and can feed their minds and spirits with our educational, arts-themed, magical grounds. It is a safe haven for guards to be let down, for emotions to be expressed, for experiences to be shared, and for kids to simply relax and experience some fun and joy.
More important to the music community, with Andy Bergsten’s guidance and crew, MMF constructed an outdoor performing arts center where musicians could safely perform and an audience of hundreds could safely listen, with all of the social distancing that a five acre farm would provide. Magical Moon Farm has all the potential to be a… MAGICAL new-“normal” antidote to the no-live-music blues.