When EF Talks

Pass It On 

“It only takes a spark
To get a fire going
And soon all those around
Can warm up in its glowing
That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you’ve experienced it
You spread His love to ev’ryone
You want to pass it on”
— Kurt Kaiser

The early history of me and the guitar is inextricably tied to my early history with the church, and with one very special song by the great Kurt Kaiser.

I’m not alone in this.
There are very likely millions of folks my age who remember Kaiser’s iconic song, “Pass It On.”

We sang that song every week, at the conclusion of our UMYF song-time at First UMC, Richardson. And for a few short, glorious years —which somehow feel like they still go on forever— I was one of the kids who led the singing with my guitar.

It was the late 1970s. And as the great Dr. Dick Murray used to teach at Perkins, in those days youth ministry was comprised of “folks who believed you had to hold hands and play guitar.”

The Eagles and Jackson Browne (and, eventually, Dan Fogelberg) were kings of the radio. And Kurt Kaiser was the king of Christian youth music.

And to me, it was all one piece. One “thing.”

I never grew up with the hard separation between “secular” and “sacred” music that I later learned other people did. I played it all –the stuff on the radio, the stuff from Youth Group– sitting in my room, on my Yamaha guitar, practicing for hours and hours. It was all “music.” It all moved me, spoke to me, and nobody shamed or told me anything different.

I mention this last point because, as I grew, I came to understand others grew up differently in their faith/music experience as teenagers. People in more fundamentalists backgrounds grew up believing that Pop/Rock music of was of the devil, and that only Christian music should be played. I have, to this day, never understood that division. I mean, I understand the words. I just can’t understand the experience, because it wasn’t mine.

For me, it was all one thing. It was Music. It was Spirit. It was sometimes silly, and sometimes sacred, and sometimes moved you to tears…and there was no hard division between the two.

I took my first guitar lessons in the 8th Grade at Westwood Junior High (note: Yes, they offered guitar in public schools back then…). That led to hours and hours, practicing “Peaceful, Easy Feeling” and “Take It Easy” in my bedroom by myself. I had songbooks of 70s Country-Rock, and a copy of Yohanne Anderson’s book, “Songs and Creations.

The latter was the Bible of Youth Group music. The Sargent Pepper’s of 70s youth group guitar players.

And I loved it all. I especially loved The Eagles, early on; because, since their guitar was dominant, you could strum the chords in your bedroom, and vaguely approximate the recordings you loved from the radio.

It makes me laugh a bit to realize how the barely pubescent me belted out, “I wanna sleep you with in the desert tonight…

I know I had no idea what I was singing about.

But the idea of sleeping under the stars?
That sounded awesome.

I practiced and practiced this stuff. I started writing songs…really BAD songs….those lyrics sheets are still on a shelf behind me here, somewhere.

It was my friend, Stu Roberts, who first invited me to play guitar in public, at church, at the youth group. We idolized the kids who were just a few years older than us, playing guitar and leading the group. And, as we grew older, we became those kids. And, to this day, I run into friends from that era, who tell me they remember these moments, and our playing guitar.

At our weekly UMYF Group, we spent 15-20 minutes a week in a gathered group before splitting off by grades. Yes, by grades. It as HUGE group. Sometimes 150 kids or so on a Sunday night (not an exaggeration), all gathered together in the upper room of Middlebrooks Hall.

We called it “SingSong, and we would sings songs out of “Songs and Creations.”

Again, it made perfect sense to me. In that book, there were “secular” folk songs, and Christians songs too. There was no separation. The book contained songs from Peter Paul and Mary, and the Beatles. There were folk songs by Bob Dylan, and John Denver.
And….there was “Pass It On.”

Pass It On,” was the “Take It Easy” of Christian youth group songs.

Whatever else we sang, we always “closed” with that one.

We guitar players would stand in the midst of the circle, Stu with his twelve string Guild, me with my gut-string Yamaha, and we’d lead the kids in this song.

“What a wondrous time is spring
When all the trees are budding
The birds begin to sing
The flowers start their blooming
That’s how it is with God’s love
Once you’ve experienced it
You want to sing it’s fresh like spring
You want to pass it on”

When I pause to think back, there is really no more deep and abiding imprinted musical memory inside my soul than this one. I can still picture the moment…

Us with our guitars.
Boys in their muscle shirts.
Girls in their “short-shorts.”
Everybody with their summer tans, and their John Travolta and Farah Fawcett feathered hair.
Kids wearing “Boston” and “Kansas” t-shirts.
Kids wearing church youth group t-shirts, “Richardson Eagle” and “Pearce Mustang” shirts.

And the hundreds of kids, holding hands, and swaying together to the music as we sang this song.

Kurt Kaiser died this week.

This is, of course, what causes all these memories to well back up into my soul. A few posts from old fogie-friends around my age have helped the memories come flooding back.

I haven’t thought about Kaiser, or about “Pass It On,” for a couple of decades. Heck, I haven’t playedPass It On” for a couple of decades.

I doubt there are many Youth groups at all who still play it. It sort of fell out of favor over time. I’m sure folks got sick of it. It happens.

I mean, when was the last time you heard anybody play “Blowing in the Wind” non-ironically?

Newer generations always create their own traditions, and this is as it should be. Soon after, both Contemporary Christian and Pop/Rock music moved toward the synthesized and away from the folkie. Interestingly, I sort of drifted away from contemporary Christian music in the that period.

“Christian culture” became more exclusive during the 1980s…more willing to critique, in soft and hard forms, the alleged “mushiness” of a theology that would embrace both Bob Dylan and Kurt Kaiser.

Christian music became the balkanized form it remains to this day. But, that balkanization was but a symptom of a broader cultural movement that can be seen as…

“Secular” = “Bad”
“Christian” = “Good”

Those messages were just starting to seep into the culture, in the late 1970s, as we strummed those guitars.

This was increasingly the message of the 1980s “Christian culture.”

Again, as I’ve said and written many times, this message didn’t make sense to me. It was not then, nor is it to this day, my experience. But that harder division increasingly led me in two outwardly ironic existential directions:

Toward a calling as a clergy person…
Away from the increasingly balkanized format of “CCM.”

I was not a fan of 80s Pop, nor 80s CCM. Musically, the 80s felt like (and still does) a wasteland to me. (Sorry, Gen Xers, this is the one sharp dividing line between us…)

I hibernated into the world of folk music, and for myriad reasons –much having to do with the increasing division I’ve just described– landed on the “secular” side, musically. And that’s pretty much where I’ve been ever since.

(Although, I must observe, much of the newest Christian stuff seems to be very acoustic-driven, like “Mumford and Son” wanna-bes. And that makes this old folkie smile…)

So, even though I have not played “Pass It On” for decades, as soon as I hit “send” here, I’m gonna pick up my guitar and play it today.

Because I realized this week that I must include “Pass It On” in the list of my all-time favorite songs.

Without “Pass It On,” I would never have learned how to play guitar in front of a crowd.
I would never have kept playing, or had a reason to practice.
I would have never have eventually written/recorded my own songs, which are decided not CCM, but definitely do speak of Spirit and holiness in exactly the way the “Songs and Creations” book first taught me.
I would have never found my way to my folk music tribe, and places like Kerrville.
I would have never have had the courage to play the live shows I play now. (Youth group taught me that I could play in front of people…)
I wouldn’t be playing with Connections….with whom, ironically, I’ve been able to perform almost all of my other “all time favorite songs” from 1970s classic rock.

NONE of that happens, without Stu asking me to play guitar at youth group, and without the two of us and our friends, time and time and time again, playing “Pass It On” for those youth group kids.

I’m confident I’m not the only one with this kind of story about this one song, which is what drives me to post this today.

So, God bless you, Kurt Kaiser.
May you rest in peace.
And I hope you have a sense of just how important you and your song were, and are, to so many of us.

You most definitely changed my life.

“I wish for you my friend
This happiness that I’ve found
You can depend on Him
It matters not where you’re bound
I’ll shout it from the mountain top
I want my world to know
The Lord of love has come to me
I want to pass it on”
— Kurt Kaiser

 

Here’s a video of Kurt Kaiser talking about his life and musical legacy.

My Set at Uncle Calvin’s 

Here’s video of my set at Uncle Calvin’s last night. There are a few problems. The lighting is weird….I look ghostly.

And my pickup went dead, so we had to switch to a mic, which threw me off a bit. But, overall, it gives you a sense of the night.

So great to open for Grace Pettis. Many thanks to my Calvin’s family for having me back again.

Icarus Ascending 

So, I’m a few days late, but here’s a tribute to Dan Fogelberg, in honor of what would have been his 67th Birthday this week. It’s a cover of what became one of my favorite Dan-songs, following our weekend in Peoria some years back.

I still recall that weekend with such fondness.
— To meet his wife, Mom, family and friends….
— To be invited to play some with some great musician friends, who are all in their own way keeping alive Dan’s musical “legacy,” and watch while his wife and friends rocked out to our homage to him.
— To attend the dedication of the memorial in his honor overlooking the river.
— To connect with musical friends who also admired this amazing soul and talent, gone too soon.

It was a truly amazing experience. “Icarus Ascending” got stuck in my head that weekend. I think it was my earworm the entire way back to Dallas. Dan calls it his song in honor of artists. (I’ll post an extended quote from him about the song in the comment section below…)
Anyway, I’ve worked up a version with the Looper, which I think is kinda fun. Hope you like it.

“There is no darkness in this place that we’re bound,
Love the only thing that matters….”

Happy Birthday, Dan. You’re still my favorite, and always will be.

The Guilt That We Survive 

Here’s a new song from me. Hope you like it.

“The Guilt that We Survive”
It’s the rookie who just made the team
Whose old friends now just watch and dream
It’s the CEO who’s upward bound
With a brother stuck in her hometown
It’s the Dreamer with her new degree
Whose Abuela still long to be free
It’s the Soldier on that National Mall
Who runs his fingers down that Wall.
It’s the price we all pay, the longer we’re alive
Ones who fade away, and the guilt that we survive.
It’s the singer with that sidewalk star
Whose old band still plays run down bars
It’s the drunk who fingers his bronze chip
While his roommate’s on his seventh slip
It’s the one who’s five years cancer free
Whose friend dies unexpectedly
It’s the Mother in her shelter bed
Whose bunkmate went back home instead
It’s the price we all pay, the longer we’re alive
Ones who fade away, and the guilt that we survive.
So these questions, they rattle through my mind
With answers I can never seem to find.
Why am I the one that fortune found?
Why am I the one who’s still around?
Why am I the one who made it through?
Why am I the one, and why not you?
It’s the price we all pay, the longer we’re alive
Ones who fade away, and the guilt that we survive.
Words and Music, Eric Folkerth. Copyright, 2018.

Eric Featured in the Lakewood Advocate 

So, this happened.
A nice feature on me and my music, in the current issue of the Advocate Magazine. I believe it’s running in both the Lakewood (near home) and Preston Hollow (near church) editions.
Thanks to all the good folks at the Advocate, to Patty Vinson and Kathy Tran.

It’s an incredibly generous feature. And I thank them. The title is beyond ridiculous.

Read it here.

Shower The People (Cover) 

As the last horrible week unfolded, amidst the mass shooting, hurricanes, and the usual daily Tweets, I had the overwhelming urge to play this song. Life is just so heavy right now, and we’re all in such need of hope. This song has always given me hope. You can’t help but feel a little better when you sing along. So, feel free.

Thanks to the great James Taylor for writing it (the “original” JT, I must always remind my daughter…)
Fun with the looper….hope you enjoy…share if you wish.
(It seems to sound best through headphones…)


Filed under: Music News, My Music, Worth Repeating Tagged: acoustic music, Boss RC-300, Cover, Cover Song, James Taylor, Loop Station, Looper, Shower the People, singer-songwriter

Kerrville 2017 

I’m a day back from the Kerrville Folk Festival​ now. In previous years, I used to write long entries from the fest. I’d post videos, pics, wax philosophically and theologically about the experience. I would name-drop my songwriter friends, and those I wanted as my friends. I would, as I pretty much do most days in the real world, Facebook-overshare.

Perhaps you noticed, I didn’t really do that this year. I’ve got an emerging spiritual discipline at work within me that calls me to live within my own skin. To not worry about what others think of me, and to resist the temptation to either over-share or run about with rampant “FOMO.”

“Live in your skin, Eric….don’t live outside or beyond yourself…It’s enough…”

This is something I’m telling myself all the time these days, and it’s a kind of wakeful meditation that I practiced a lot this week. Little social media. NO news coverage.

Just…BE….just be present…just remember to not live outside my experience…

It was kinda awesome. Every year for the past several festivals, I come away saying “This was my favorite festival, ever.”

And that happened again this year.

But unlike years past, I’m not gonna overshare a ton of specific details about it. Let me just tell you the general impressions racing through my soul tonight…

I spent hours in song circles (an afternoon at Coho, most memorably) that stunned me when I realized the time that had passed. I thought it had only been a few minutes. But FIVE HOURS had passed.

I got the chance to sit with several small groups of the New Folk writers, and be wowed at their talent and passion.

I hugged the necks of dozens of friends, and got to feel the true sense of their joy to see me and my joy to see them.

I spent late nights at “Camp Jews Don’t Camp” and laughed until my belly hurt.

I heard a half dozen songs from writers I know and respect, and writers I just met, that moved me so deeply there were tears.

I sang songs in the rain with Coho, and huddled with my Nashbill Peeps in Paul and Susan’s trailer during the same storm. (Yes, I still have a little FOMO)

See, there I go, dropping names.
Sorry.
I just know that some of you know them, and that the context helps.

Anyway…continuing…I had deep conversations with a writer friend over HOW songs communicate….over what metaphor is and how we walk around, day to day, failing to realize that ALL language is metaphorical language, really….and how, whether you are writing a song, a sermon, or a speech, once you toss it out into the ether, what becomes of it has more to do with who’s listening than your own brilliance and control.

It keeps you humble.

This was a writer I’ve known of for a long time, but had never actually *talked* with, deeply. We were actually making coffee, and suddenly…. and I mean, in less than five minutes, we were talking communications theory at a level that would have made George Lakoff proud. It was was SO deep we apparently failed to realize that we were in the midst of making the worst pot of coffee in the history of the bean.

We didn’t care. It tasted good.

I played my song about my Dad a ton. And I was gratified that it broke open several conversations about family with men and women….people sharing their own struggles to live in their own skins with their parents and families. I think it was healing for them. I know it was for me.

I went up the hill one night in a specific quest to find Steve Fisher. Steve is not known to venture down into the meadow. So, as if I was hunting an Abino Rhinoceros, I went looking for him, and found him outside a trailer. We got to spend about an hour together.

I love to watch/listen to Steve sing. He’s a freaking brilliant writer. But I also love to watch Steve *listen* to songs. He looks like the Buddha when he does it. And then, he just leans his head back, with his eyes closed, and breathes a deep breath…like he’s drawing in the final essence of the waning song from the ether.

He played a song just for me that he wanted me to hear. It’s freaking amazing song. It’s genuinely haunting me now. I’ve listened to it about 20 times today.

I LOVE being haunted by good songs like this one. (More on this soon…)

I had perhaps a half dozen men —writer friends from around the country— who greeted me with…

“How are you, brother?”

I don’t have any biological brothers. Hell, there are very few men in my family at all, in any direction, and for multiple generations. So, to have these men call me “brother”….and to KNOW they mean it…I can’t really explain what that means to me. It’s very special.

I just soak it in with deep gratitude.

But that does bring up one final story.

It’s one that stuck with many of us who were there to experience it. A few nights ago, somewhere between 2:30 and 4:30 am (my SWAG) a young songwriter came by during a particularly awesome song circle at “Camp Jews Don’t Camp.”

If there was such a thing as a folk music “poser” he might have been one. Leather hat. Cool clothes. Beat up guitar. Requisite harmonica.

He said he had a song he wanted to sing us.

He was invited to sit with us, several times, but he didn’t want to. He was reminded that “circles” are what makes Kerrville, Kerrville. That made no difference to him. He was offered that he might be surprised to find he made friends by sitting down. He said he didn’t want to be in a circle, and didn’t want friends.

His presence inspired heated conversation for about 20 minutes after he left….and even the next morning around breakfast. I won’t recount it now. And I still maintain that we’ve probably thought a lot more about him than he did of us…

But more than once, somebody said “that kid has no idea what he’s missing.”

And that’s true.

And it’s also true you can’t make anybody eat from even the most scrumptious buffet.

But then, the next night, there was another circle. It was only a handful of us. Our Nashbill peeps…and four or five players. It was late. The regular Nashbill circle had broken up, the four or five players didn’t feel like being in the big circles still going. So, Teresa brought out some candles, and Jaime, Joe, Bruce, Jack and me played quiet songs under the stars, with the reflected faces of some of our dearest friends in the candlelight. It was beautiful…and peaceful…and “a moment.”

And somewhere in the midst of this, Verne Crawford walked up and sat down. (I’m not name-dropping…it has to do with the story…) Verne is a lovely old man with grey hair and beard….who looks like Santa Claus and is kinda like Kerrville’s Dumbledore.

So, he sat along in the quiet of the night with us.

And at a certain moment of quiet, after looking up in the sky, Verne said to all of us, “How lucky are WE that we get to do this?!”

Meaning…sit out under the stars at 3 am…with our friends…..listening to music.

I mean, he’s right. There are very few human beings in the entire world who get to do that. And it takes a special kind of crazy to do it year after year.

I thought about the Poser Kid and Verne. I thought about how one couldn’t, or wouldn’t, hear any suggestion as a kindness, or invitation to a richness beyond his wildest imagination…and another who understands what it means to be filthy rich in songs and friends…and was ridiculously glad just to SIT for hours and soak in all the beauty.

In our debates as to he existential meaning of this kid, I continued to assert that by the end of the week, the Poser Kid would sit down in a circle. Most of my friends seemed to think not. We should have taken bets, although I’m not there to see how it might yet turn out. I’m thinking I would have lost.

But although it’s not evidence of him sitting down, and while I’m pretty sure the kid doesn’t “get” it…I did happen to see him once more…and that has stayed with me too.

Two days later, sometime after dinner, about five of the New Folk folks were sitting out by the road of their camp. I was standing up, just listening to them. They were about to break up when up walked the Poser Kid….in exactly the same outfit I’d seen him in two nights before.

He had a flash of recognition for me from “Jews Don’t Camp Circle,” and gave me the “Sup” nod that guys give each other.

He asked them if he could play them a song. And, since they were about to break up anyway, they said, “Sure.”

They had no idea of any of the drama from the night before. I’m not sure he had any idea that they were about to break up anyway, and were probably feeling magnanimous.

So, he played his song. They folded up their chairs to leave, and headed back under their canopy. He stood there, readying to walk back up the hill. But first, he looked at me, moved toward me, offered me a hug, and said “Thanks, brother.”


Filed under: Kerrville, Music News Tagged: kerrville folk festival

A NEW Dan Fogelberg Record 

Yesterday, I listened to a new Dan Fogelberg record. A new, old one.
In case you haven’t heard the news, Dan’s concert at Carnegie Hall, from 1979, is being released as a live record. Even better, it’s a solo-live show. And it’s amazing.

I pre-ordered the digital download some weeks ago, and it popped up in my iTunes yesterday morning. Just in time for the long trip back from Fayetteville with my daughter.

Got a chance to listen, uninterupted, to the whole thing, and then to listen back to several songs.

O my, did it transport me back. What a time capsule!

I remember listening to Dan’s original records as I drove to and from college….especially the first four records…pre-Phoenix, if you will…

Now, I am driving my daughter back from college, and listening to a live record of the very same material. A-MAZING.

liveatcarnegiehall700

What an incredible treat for all us fans. This concert was from a seminal time in his career. His early albums had become obsessed-fan favorites. He was on the cusp of releasing “Phoenix,” which would begin a string of smash hits that later continued with “The Innocent Age.”

But this show captures that moment of pre-superstardom…the incredible artist that true “Dan-fans” know and love.

It’s just him and his guitars and keyboard. Which, of course, I love. Musically, I hang out in the folk/singer-songwriter world most of the time. And for years my favorite artists have always been those who write/sing/play their own stuff.

Dan loved doing that. I saw Dan in a live solo show twice, both after the historical time of this record (Irwin Center in Austin, and Starplex in Dallas) and both times were absolutely amazing evenings.

The record captures what I remember of those live performances…how Dan could hold an entire audience of THOUSANDS with just his guitar, keyboard, and voice….how BIG the sound was….how he could capture the essence of his songs.

Again, folk artists do this all the time…which is why they are my friends. What I love remembering is that Dan did this too.

Two observations from the listening…
First, I kept thinking of the recent blog post “Dan Fogelberg is an Underrated Guitarist.” Google it. It’s a music writer who goes back and finds little gems of Dan’s over the years…the amazing stylistic diversity in his writing and playing….rock, folk, jazz, bossa nova, pop, blues…the writer argues that far too many people just stopped with the big hits and never saw all this talent.

The reason I bring this up is that this record does the same thing. It takes you on a musical journey through hits and obscurities,..and all sorts of styles.

Second, as I listened, I kept hearing alternate tunings! Almost everything I’ve written for the past fifteen years has been in alternate tunings. For a long time, I assumed it was David Wilcox who inspired me in them.

But listening to this record, and realizing I’d heard those live show, it dawns on me that it was Dan. The alternate tunings LEAP out at me on this record….I’m gonna have field day trying to figure them out. I got so excited, I called Sheldon Felich to talk to him about it as soon as I got done listening…because I knew he’d understand.

What kept blowing my mind as I listened was to think, “He was just 27 at the time…”

He was just 27, and he’d ALREADY put out all that amazing music…music that has been a soundtrack of my life.

And the big hit, superstardom, was literally just about to burst upon him. All the hits that captured the attention of the masses are yet to come as you hear this record. In fact, “Same Old Lange Sine” is on here. And in a little gem, Dan suggests it will be on his new record…which seems to be Phoenix. (And therefore, must have been released mere months later?) But, of course, it was not….it waited until “The Innocent Age.”

I love that….artistry in real time…big songs, huge hits that are concretized in our memory and history, played here, from back in the moment they were still in flux and creation. Other big hits…the stuff most of the world knows Dan for….isn’t even a glimmer in his eye during this set list.

I LOVE that…

A HUUUGE and copious thanks to Jean Fogelberg, for shepherding this project to birth. It’s been a labor of love (You can read about it at the link), and it becomes a tender gift to the whole world. Thanks so much, Jean.

So, if you’re a Dan-fan, you MUST get this record. Period.

And if you’re one of the many folks who never moved past the hits to get to know him, this record becomes “Exhibit A” for what you’ve been missing all these years, and your best shot at redemption.

Point being, either way, you should get this.


Filed under: Folkerth on Fogelberg, Music News

Let It Be 

I believe sometimes our loved ones visit us in dreams, after they are gone.

This happened to me when I was about ten. Just after my grandfather Frankie died, I dreamed he drove down to Dallas in the 1965 Mustang that, in the waking world, would eventually become mine.

He woke us up and gathered us in the living room. And we were all so happy that we danced around the room, holding hands. Which is ridiculous. Because nobody in my family, least of all my Dad’s Dad, danced.

And then, he looked at me and said that he had to go again. But that he was going to be OK. And that I was going to be OK.

And that was it.

But it was the most vivid and real dream that I perhaps have ever had. I woke up with the strong sense that I’d been in the presence of his very spirit. It was so terribly reassuring.

I thought about this, when I later read the story of how Paul McCartney wrote this song.

It was near the end of the Beatles’ time together. They were quickly growing apart. The other guys all had girlfriends or wives. Paul was feeling like life might pass him by, and wondering what in the world his future would be, given that his world seemed to be falling apart.

And then, he had a dream about his mother, Mary, who had died when he was very young. As he tells it,

“So in this dream twelve years later, my mother appeared, and there was her face, completely clear, particularly her eyes, and she said to me very gently, very reassuringly: “Let it be.”

It was lovely. I woke up with a great feeling. It was really like she had visited me at this very difficult point in my life and gave me this message: Be gentle, don’t fight things, just try and go with the flow and it will all work out.”

I believe these kinds of things are real. I not only believe in God, but I believe God sends these kinds of spiritual messengers to us. But we have to listen carefully.

Because Paul’s words say it right. Those spiritual voices of wisdom? They whisper their words. They don’t shout.

So, remember to quiet down your mind, now and then. Don’t be too quick to explain it away as something you ate, or a desire of only your unconscious mind.

And listen…to what they tell you…

“There will be an answer.”

“Trust.”

“Believe the doors will open.”

“Know that the reality of reality is gracious.”

“Let it be.”

 


Filed under: Angels and Pins, Music News, My Music, Worth Repeating Tagged: Beatles, Beatles Cover, eric folkerth, Let It Be, McCartney, Paul McCartney

Thanks Again, James Taylor 

We’re still tabulating expenses and computing exactly how many folks came to Friday night’s big show (We think: 500-600) in Allen. And we’re still figuring out just how much we raised for our beneficiaries.

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James Taylor Signs the Guitar

But one thing we do know: the heart and generosity of James Taylor helped us tremendously. In case you missed the incredible news, James Taylor (Yes, THE James Taylor) heard about Connections‘s big show with the Allen Symphony Chorus and orchestra. He sent us an autographed guitar and some concert tickets to upcoming shows.

You can’t imagine what a thrill this was for all of us. Before the show, several of us in the band got to play the guitar a bit. Rusty ran through “The Secret O’ Life.” I threw down a little “You’ve Got A Friend.”

And we all said, “Holy Crap, we’re playing JT songs on a guitar that JT touched!”

ericandJTguitar

Eric Considers Running for the Door…..

All told, the items James Taylor contributed raised an additional $4,000 for our causes!! How amazing. Thanks again to James….we are so grateful to him for thinking of us.

Turns out, the guitar found a good home. Dave Sherman and Beverly Sharpe ended up taking it home. I know Dave from song circles, down at the Kerrville Folks Festival. Nice that this “connection” got made.

February 2016 128

Dave and Beverly

If we get some decent video of our two James Taylor songs, we’ll post those in coming days. But thanks again to Dave and Beverly….and especially to James Taylor!!

EF


Filed under: Connections News, Music News

Our Living Legacy 

As many of you know, Connections started with Dan Fogelberg. At the “core” of what drove us to ever get our crazy band together ten years ago was a chance to play Dan’s music, and to do in a BIG way…with a big band that could recreate some of the lush instrumentation that you’re used to when you hear his records. Many of you also know that he’s my all-time favorite songwriter.

We had a BIG show in Allen again last night….Connections…the Allen Symphony Chorus…an orchestra of about 20…approaching 70 musicians onstage. (I’m not sure we actually counted!)

We covered many great artists, and had some incredible support from James Taylor…yes, THE James Taylor….)

But the show also  gave us the chance to pull out a show-stopper from our last big show: Fogelberg’s great opus “Ghosts” from the “Innocent Age” record.

This is a BIG song….it’s deserves to be played big, like this.  I think we did the song proud…

It gave me chills to hear it last night…especially how the Chorus nails the ending…and I can’t believe how great this recording sounds here. (Thanks to Alison for capturing it…)

If we get a nice full recording of “The Reach,” I’ll add it to this post….and I’ll likely post additional video from the show, as it become available.

When Glenn Frey died, I took the liberty of paraphrasing an old spiritual adage that gets passed around from time to time…

“a person dies three times: the first time when your heart stops; the second time when you’re buried or cremated; and, for songwriters, the last time your songs are played, sung, and heard.”

That’s true for Dan too.

It’s such a unique honor to be a part of Dan’s “living legacy,” the fans, musicians, and friends who honor his memory and keep his music alive. And…to be able to do so in such a bold and big setting…

How freakin’ lucky am I?!!

Last night, then, as I was singing, I was thinking of all our DanFan friends/family from around the country…many of whom were with us the last time we did a big show like this. I was most definitely thinking of Dan, and of Jean and her generous support to all of us who try to honor Dan.

I was thinking especially of our buddy, Sheldon Felich, whose own killer band is also one of the great “living legacies” to Dan. (Sheldon and Dan’s actual orchestral arranger, Glen Spreen, shared with us these arrangements you hear on this recording…)

But most of all, as I said from the stage, just after this video cuts off….

“That was for you, Dan.”


Filed under: Connections News, Folkerth on Fogelberg, Music News

Frank’s Cafe 

I continue to remember my Dad in all sorts of ways. One way is by pulling out, and finally finishing, this song I started years ago after a visit back to the place my Dad grew up (In Kentucky, just across the river from Cincy)

So, here’s a demo. I really really like how it’s coming.
And I’m glad I finally finished the song. Hope you like you….EF

(BTW, this picture actually is from Frank’s Cafe….New Years Eve, 1950. Taken by my Dad)

FRANK’S CAFE
The Sun’s not shining bright,
On the road back to the old Kentucky home,
Tree coated with ice,
And across each field, a light dusting of snow.

And with every mile, old ghosts reappear and gather round.
And I’m suddenly aware of what is lost and what is found.

And those voices from the past are all around me
And they echo up through time, right to today.
So say hello, and say goodbye
And sing, “American Pie,”
And toast it all tonight at Frank’s Cafe.

An hour down this road,
I find the old red brick house I still recall
Giant in mind, but today in real life
Strangely small.

We used to walk across that bridge to watch the “Big Red Machine.”
Rummage through that attic, filled with old Time Magazines
Sled Devou Park hills in a deep midwinter snow
And watch the seasons turn, as Ohio River flowed

And those voices from the past are all around me
And they echo up through time, right to today.
So say hello, and say goodbye
And sing, “American Pie,”
And toast it all tonight at Frank’s Cafe.

Now, once upon a time,
This old bar and grill bore my grandfather’s name.
I step inside for just one night
To the sounds of karaoke Don McLean.

And these locals raise their beers to a barkeep they’d never known
And the guy behind the tape machine hands me the microphone
As they gather in that pub, like they’ve done a thousand nights
I stand in that small spotlight, and sing with all my might.

And those voices from the past are all around me
And they echo up through time, right to today.
So say hello, and say goodbye
And sing, “American Pie,”
And toast it all tonight at Frank’s Cafe.

Copyright Eric Folkerth, ©2016.
All Rights Reserved.


Filed under: About Dad, Music News, My Music Tagged: acoustic music, cincinnati, original music, Original Song, singer-songwriter

Glenn Frey 

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Been away from home all day and now that I’m home, I’m feeling the full weight of Glenn Frey’s passing.

Unreal.

So strange to come home, open up the computer, and see that the Wikipedia entry already says “Glenn Frey was an American singer, songwriter…”

Wait. Was?!

Jeez…

Can’t they give us a few days before they change that?

This one is gonna take some time for me to really accept.

I was a child of the 70s. We’ve become used to icons from the 50s and 60s dying. That happens all the time. But, I am sorry, but sixty-seven is waaay too young. And not just because it’s only a fifteen or so years from my generation.

I’m feeling so heartbroken for Don Henley. The two of them were like a Lennon/McCartney for those of us who grew up in the 70s. Some of you are groaning and assuming I’ve just lost all credibility at that last statement. I don’t care. They were. And the facts of their hit songs bear out such comparisons. Look it up.

I’ve said for years that the singer-songwriters of the 1970s form the heart of my musical DNA. Folks like James Taylor, Carole King, Cat Stevens, Jackson Browne…

And, yes, of course Henley and Frey. They were songwriters first, who just happened to be in an incredibly successful band.

One of the real joys of watching “The History of the Eagles” last year, was the segment where Frey talked about this very thing….about how they took writing seriously….about how early on he lived in the same small apartment building with Jackson Browne and learned some of songwriting from him….listening to him play/sing a phrase over and over through the walls.

Eagles songs are story songs…. “New Kid in Town”….”Lying Eyes”….”Hotel California”….they paint pictures with the words and music. They’re memorable songs, and they work their way into your heart and life.

As some of you know, Connections does an Eagles-cover show, now and then. My own observation is that folks might dance and move more to other artists. But they sing along more to the Eagles songs than almost any of the dozens of artists we’ve covered. The songs are deep in the hearts of millions of us.

I was fifteen-years-old when “Hotel California” came out. My vinyl copy has so many pops and skips that its hardly playable any more. As with the whole world, I listened to “Hotel California” over and over….and over…

Even as I kid, I got that this song was about something more…some deeper social commentary…even before I fully understood what was happening in the adult culture of the time.

But the song that really spoke to me on that record was “The Last Resort.”

I’d put on “Side B” of the album, and fall to sleep listening to this song. It’s such an amazing anthem. And such a commentary about the worst of who we are, as Americans. It was one of the first times I realized songs could be BIG….could have big and important themes…lyrically and musically….and socially relevant themes that spoke to something deeper.

As a team, Henley and Frey excelled at giving us those kinds of songs. And that’s why they’ve lasted so long. That’s why thousands of artists have come and gone since they first hit the scene…but they remained.

Except for a few notable exceptions….Dan Fogelberg, Harry Chapin…most of the folks from that generation are still around. Which makes Frey’s loss all the more heartbreaking.

Thank you, Glenn Frey, for all the incredible songs. For so many songs that are a soundtrack to our lives. We’re heartbroken for you and your family, for the Eagles, and for all of us. But I am so deeply grateful for your craft, for how it stays with us, and for how it always will for many of us.

And tonight, I’m remembering Laurie Anderson’s tribute to Lou Reed at the Rock and Roll Hall induction this past year. She quoted a spiritual saying I’d heard before:

“a person dies three times: the first time when your heart stops; the second time when you’re buried or cremated; and the third time when your name is spoken for the last time.”

For songwriters, it seems to me we must change the third time to “when your songs are played for the last time.”

By that measure, Glenn Frey will be with us for a long, long time.


Filed under: Balcony People, Music News

Brand Spanky New Website 

A quick word to say that my website has been completely updated. It’s mostly a website that supports my music, and it’s got new pictures, soundclips, videos, and more. (Or, at least old ones…finally collected together.)

Check it out at www.ericfolkerth.com

While you’re there, sign up for my email list, check out the links to all my other social media sites, and enjoy a few sound clips and videos.

Hope you enjoy the music!

EF

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Filed under: Music News, My Music Tagged: Music

Honor Dr. Salia on Friday at Connections’ Show 

Connection is playing a show this Friday at Northaven. We’re again raising money for a good cause: fighting the scourge of Ebola in Africa.

ebola-dr-salia-01-582x388But this morning, the show became a little more poignant. Hours ago,  Dr. Martin Salia died from Ebola in Nebraska. What you may not know is that he’d been working in Africa, at our United Methodist Kissy Hospital in Sierra Leone. Recently, Dr. Salia gave an interview about his sense of calling to minister to those in Sierra Leone’s poorest neighborhoods.

Friday’s show was already poignant, in that Dallas had been affected by Ebola. In part, we were pledging to fight Ebola in Africa as a way of remembering how we are now Ebola free. Now, we also remember the true sacrifice that those fighting Ebola, through the United Methodist Church and may other NGOs, truly make.

Come to enjoy the music. But also don’t forget the truly important cause.

Your presence Friday, and your gifts, will make a difference.

Show information here. See you Friday.


Filed under: Angels and Pins, Connections News, Music News

Jimmy Pankow Was Right 

OK, I’m not proud of this post. But I can’t help myself.

Everybody needs to rewatch Chicago and Robin Thicke at the Grammys last night, for the hidden gem of the night.

Right as they transition to “Beginnings” the camera pans out just enough to catch Jimmy Pankow (trombone) mouthing some words to Keith Howland(guitar).

With a big smile, still in full stage persona, he unmistakably he says “What an *$$hole!”
Just when I thought I couldn’t love that band any more.

Also, notice that Robert Lamm (keyboards) thinks he’s supposed to sing verse two of “Beginnings,” but drops out when Thicke keeps singing over him. Classy, and smiling all the time.

Again, Jimmy Pankow was right.

Watch it all below, although this link will probably vanish eventually. It’s at about the 1:05 mark:


Filed under: Music News, Worth Repeating Tagged: Chicago, Grammys, Robin Thicke

Woody’s New Years Resolutions 

Even though I’ve made it crystal clear that I do not make New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve reposted these several years on this day just because they’re so awesome. This list is from 1942 and the great Woody Guthrie.

Click the pic to enlarge.

Image

As I’ve said before, I don’t “do” New Year’s Resolutions. I have found that not making them has actually helped me achieve more of my primary life goals.

It’s something along the lines of Yoda’s wisdom, or Nike’s. Or both. I’d love for you to consider the logic by reading this blog: “Resolve To Not Resolve.” Then, consider joining the non-resolving movement.

But as general life-goals, you can’t get much better than Woody. I started seeing this list float around the internet about three New Year’s ago, and I’m glad folks are reading his folk-wisdom. Although, this year when you Google it, the top link is no longer Woody’s own great website, but “Business Insider’s” repost.

Not quite sure how to fathom that “Business Insider” has embraced Woody Guthrie.

Don’t think he would reciprocate.


Filed under: Balcony People, Music News, Poetry In Motion, Worth Repeating Tagged: New Year Resolution, newyear, Nike, Woody, Woody Guthrie, Yoda

A New iTunes Single and Reflections on 50 Years 

I’m pleased to announce that my song “Sitting In the Trade Hall (11.22.63)” (1) is now available on iTunes as a single. This song will eventually be on my new CD, whenever it’s finally done. But given that we’re a month-out from the 50th Anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, I thought it was a good time to release a single now.

I’d be honored for you all to give a listen, and pleased to have you download it for yourself.

Link here.

It’s a song I wrote some years ago, from the perspective of adults who lived in Dallas at the time of this horrific event.

Here’s a video for the song:

But since I love blogging, I thought I’d not only announce the song, but also talk more about both it and my own thoughts on the Kennedy assassination.

Fifty-years is a long time.
Think of it this way:1963 is to Now.
What 1913 was to 1963.

And, as we know, time moves even faster now than it did back then. World events –assassinations, murders, shootings– come at us like water out of a fire hydrant. I’m not saying this is good. I’m just saying, “it is.”

Like September 11th in the present day, the Kennedy assassination was the most deeply scarring domestic event of a generation. Nobody escaped being changed by it. And, everybody alive at the time remembers it.

Well, everybody but me…

One of the strange facts about us late-generation Baby Boomers (the President and Michelle Obama are others, btw…) is that even though we are generally lumped together with the “Boomers,” the memories we share are with our younger “Buster” brethren and sistren.

We have few conscious memories of most of the world events and trends that shaped the lives of most Boomers, even though they tell us we are one. This was always very very strange for me, growing up. And never stranger than when it came to the Kennedy assassination.

Yes, I lived in Dallas at the time (ten minutes from the scene). But at fourteen-months-and-one-day-old; there’s no conscious memory for me.

So, while everybody I grew up with has a “Where were you?” story, I don’t. Stranger still, the stories I grew up hearing were first hand.

The people I grew up with –some of my parent’s friends, and friend’s parents– have memories of being in the parade route, or at Market Hall waiting for the lunch. (I’ll talk more about them in a moment…)

Dallas’ Silent Burden
I think it’s important for folks beyond Dallas to understand this: While the Kennedy assassination no doubt changed you, it specially changed our whole city. It stayed with us in ways that it did not stay with you.

When I was kid, everywhere we traveled around the nation, people would say to me,
“Oh…you’re from Dallas….that’s where Kennedy was killed…”

And whether they meant it or not, there was a patina of shame woven into their words.

“Oh…you’re from that place…”

Everywhere I went, I grew up feeling the shame from an event I didn’t remember. Even when we went to Russia in the early 1990s, the people there knew Dallas for two things:
1) The Dallas Cowboys.
2) Kennedy.

New Russian friends –with whom we shared no language– mouthed the word “Kennedy” to us, and then stood before us in awkward silence no words could have ever vanquished.

But here’s the point not to miss: As a kid growing up in the Preston Hollow neighborhood of Dallas, in the shadows of both the physical buildings and the historical time, nobody ever talked about the Kennedy assassination.

If adults around me ever did mention it, it was in hushed tones. Hushed, pained, perhaps even humiliated, tones. It was unmentionable. It was a heavy pall, a weight in the shoulders of every adult I knew.

And the message I learned and intuited, as a kid, was that I was not to talk about it either.

So it was that I was almost out of high school before I knew for sure which of those downtown buildings was the “School Book Depository,” or where “Dealey Plaza” really was.

The biggest, most momentous thing ever to happen in my hometown.
Something in our backyard that was debated, discussed, and lamented the world over.

But not here. Nobody ever spoke in words about it here. But everybody felt it.

And it was horrible.

It was that sense of guilt that inspired my song.
I wanted to write a song about these adults I knew, growing up. My parent’s friends. My friend’s parents. All those adults who never, ever talked about it, but whose guilt and shame I could palpably feel as a child.

For better or for worse, average folks in Dallas took the Kennedy assassination hard. They took it to heart. Afterwards, there was, in some national circles, a kind of “What’s wrong with Dallas?” debate.

As I’ve said, today however –in the light of dozens more crazed lone-gunmen over decades that have come and gone– we understand that these things just happen sometimes. They happen just about everywhere now, it seems. Crazed gunmen strike lots of places.

But there was a kind of all-pervasive Kennedy guilt that overcame Dallas in the years afterwards. You can ask anybody who was an adult here at the time, and they’ll tell you about it.

You could make a very very strong psychological argument that Dallas’ reputation as a city that always wants to “look good” can be traced back to that very day. You could make the strong argument that, although everybody knew it wasn’t really Dallas’ fault, that many adults here still secretly prayed the last line of the song,

“O dear God, don’t let ’em say it was our fault…”

When I started writing songs, I knew I’d write about this. Not about the assassination, or even really even about Kennedy, but about the people of Dallas. The people with the heaviness in their shoulders, and the fear that they might, somehow, really be guilty.

The Truth of Dallas in 1963
For the record, I don’t think Dallas killed Kennedy. But, as I’ve just said, we’ve always felt the guilt the song hints at.

And, if we are totally honest, some of the guilt had real basis events in and around Dallas at the time. I know that sounds contradictory. So, bear with me. You see, the song itself gets at some of the deeper truth.

The deeper truth is that, in November of 1963, Dallas was an extremely conservative place. The John Birch Society had one of its largest outposts in Dallas. As the song notes, people had, in fact, spit on Adlai Stevenson. Others had pushed around LBJ and Lady Bird on the streets of downtown. The day of Kennedy’s arrival, there were “Wanted for Treason” posters on light poles around the city. There were many other things I could mention. As Casey Stengal said, “You can look it up.”

UPDATE!
I have recently found the incredible new book, “Dallas, 1963” which chronicles all of this with staggeringly accurate footnotes and detail. I know of no greater source for understanding the Dallas I grew up hearing about all my life. Details behind the headlines I always knew…

These were known parts of local history. In 1963, “liberals” were, in fact, not tolerated very well. Average folks? They were giddy and uncomfortable that the president was coming.
Dallas was a conservative place.
He was a northeastern liberal.

But! He was also the President. They were glad to see him visit. Puffed up with civic pride.

But, the visit was also controversial. And as the song ironically suggests, I imagine the average person would be pleased to have him back in Washington the next day. Dallas wasn’t a very big city as of yet. It was not the teaming, international city of today. This was the biggest thing ever to happen in anybody’s memory. But nobody was quite sure how to handle it.

So, that’s what I tried to capture in the song…
… That sense of real pride…
… That sense of warriness over a “liberal” coming to Dallas…
… That horrible sense of guilt that descended like a 50-year pall.

I’m very proud of the song. It’s said that the best songs are about what you “know,” and those of us here know this event better than anyone. My friend Alan Gann once told me, “Only somebody from Dallas could write that song.”

I’m grateful for Tim McLemore’s great piano track in the song, and for the unbelievable fiddle-work of the incomparable Reggie Rueffer. He did that fiddle solo in about two-takes. It was amazing to watch/hear.

As I’ve said, hope you like the song.

But, wait, there’s more…

The Past and Future Collide
This history, this song, and even my ministry, would collide in ways I could not expect, when I was appointed as Senior Pastor of Northaven Church more than a decade ago now.

Having grown up here –just up the road from Dealey Plaza, and just down the road from Northaven Church– I suppose these worlds were bound intersect.

For once I was at Northaven, I was reminded of a story I’d heard, years before. In fact, the story was in my mind when I’d written the song, fifteen years before coming to Northaven.

Three days after JFK was gunned down in Dallas, Rev. Bill Holmes, Northaven’s Senior Pastor at the time, preached what became a quite controversial sermon.

The title of the sermon was “The One Thing Worse Than This.” And while I won’t repeat the whole thing here, the gist of it was that this assassination was, truly, the “worst thing” that had ever happened to Dallas.

But, to Holmes, “the one thing worse that this” would be for Dallas not to take a hard look at the harshly polarizing rhetoric and politics of its time…the things I’ve just mentioned…the spitting at Stevenson…the pushing of LBJ…etc…

And Holmes listed one thing he’d been told about that week: that schoolchildren had “cheered” when told of Kennedy’s assassination. It was this last example of intolerance that garnered the most attention. News folks heard about the sermon, and a crew from the CBS Evening News stopped by the church early the next week, and filmed Bill Holmes re-preaching the sermon to an empty sanctuary. (Remember: no videotape in those days…)

UPDATE!
I have found a video clip of the sermon! Please watch it below.

Here’s a few quotes from that famous sermon:

“We, the majority of (Dallas) citizens, have gone quietly about our work and leisure, forfeiting the city’s image to the hate mongers and reactionaries in our midst.  The spirit of assassination has been with us for some time.  Not manifest in bullets but in spitting mouths and political invectives…”

“We have many graces and human decencies of which I am extremely proud.  But we cannot, month after month, year after year, sow the seeds of intolerance and hate, and then upon learning of the President’s visit – just throw a switch and hope all rancor will disappear.  The vocal, organized and unorganized extremists have captured us – while we were sleeping in the night…”

Walter Cronkite ran lengthy excerpts of it on his newscast.

Then, the you-know-what hit the fan. Holmes got death threats and, at the suggestion of the Dallas Police, went into hiding for a week. City leaders quickly rose to deny that “children had cheered.”(2)

UPDATE!
I have found video of the event in 2007, where Holmes finally reveals the name of this teacher, and compellingly answers the critics who claim this never happened. Find it here.

It became one of the seminal events, if not the seminal event, in the history of Northaven Church.

Folks left. Others who stayed were shocked.

They wondered, “Why the outcry?” Holmes had done nothing but speak the truth, after all.

And, even if you somehow choose to deny all the things Holmes listed, the mere fact that he was forced into hiding for a week proves his point, doesn’t it? The reaction to the sermon proved the point of it.

Now, it is sometimes said that “timing is everything,” and some have suggested that perhaps Holmes’ timing for such a prophetic sermon was questionable. Three-days later…while everyone was still grieving…was that the time to make such prophetic statements?

Timing aside, Holmes’ main point reverberates down with us to this day. Hateful speech can contribute to hateful action. As I pointed out two years ago, we don’t like hearing this any more today than we did back then. But it’s always been a truism, in every generation.

No, Dallas didn’t kill Kennedy. But that guilt, that feeling that we might have something to feel guilty about, has driven this town ever since.

Since being at Northaven, I’ve met actual people who were actually there. Meaning, folks who were in the room at the Trade Mart, awaiting President Kennedy. Our friend and Northaven member, Jan Sanders, was among them. I must tell you, it’s been surreal to actually meet folks who were actually there, in that room I picture in the song. Jan says they huddled around a few radios, trying to figure out what was going on….and only did it gradually dawn on them that something truly horrible had happened.

The truth is, the balloons would never fall. The city would never really say, “Welcome to Dallas!”

“Everything Is Different Now”
Or, Is it?
Don Henley sings that line. And everything is different in Dallas now.
But is everything different everywhere?

One thing that’s different is that after decades of silence, people started talking. All credit to the Sixth Floor Museum for that. Opened in 1989, it’s one of the only places I always strongly encourage out-of-towners to visit.

I know it’s been a healing place for everyone who has visited, but especially for us Dallas folk. I cried, almost heaving tears, the first time I went through…just recollecting all this stuff…remembering all that silently-carried burden of all those average folks who lived here…remembering the senseless loss of a great President; who might have merely been tolerated here, but who was deeply loved elsewhere.
So, yes, Dallas finally learned to start talking about it.

But the other thing not to miss is that Dallas is also much different now. Everybody in the city, including the long-timers at Northaven, struggle to remember this. It’s so easy to get caught up in the past you know, and “assume” you know Dallas now.

Politically, for example, Democrats win every county-wide election now, and have for a decade. And as I’ve written numerous times, this is a shift unlikely to reverse itself in any seismic way. Put another way…with all apologies to Austin, Dallas is Texas’ “Bluest” city (In terms of the sheer number of total voters, not percentage…).

Dallas is a genuinely multi-ethnic, international city. Hundreds of thousands of people have moved into the area from elsewhere, bringing with them values that have nudged out our old provincialisms.

Until you understand facts like these, you won’t “get” where Dallas is now.

This means that Northaven –deeply scarred by the reaction the Holmes’ sermon–  is no longer a tiny fringe progressive oasis in a conservative desert. If you asked longtimers, that’s really how they’ve seen themselves all these years. In fact, just in Methodist circles, there are easily a half-dozen genuinely “progressive” congregations popping up around the city today.

Northaven haven’t changed.
But Dallas, has around us.

It’s become more like Northaven, and Northaven is less of the odd duck in its midst. (Personally, I believe this is a part of why we’ve grown some in recent years…)

So, as I said at the start, fifty years is a long time. It would be a mistake, deeply wrong, for conservatives or liberals (or anybody in between) to believe Dallas is the city it was fifty years ago.

Having said that, I look around at extremists like Ted Cruz and some in the Tea Party, and I wonder:

“So, how different are we, really?”

And what it seems to me is: the hard core, ultra-conservatism that infected Dallas in 1963, now moves freely in our national politics.

Tea Party rhetoric often sounds very John Birch to me. Or, Google the name “National Indignation Convention,” and be amazed at how similar it is to the Tea Party movement.

More often that I’d like, Ted Cruz sounds like Bruce Alger.
More often that I’d like, unelected leaders like Sarah Palin sound like General Edwin Walker.

And if you didn’t grow up around here, and don’t know those historical leaders, Google them. Or, better yet, give a read to this book I mentioned earlier. It’s amazing.

One more thing is similar then as now, and it’s something that really drove the anger of Bill Holmes in that famous sermon: Ordinary people often refuse to stand-up against their own extremists.

In the 1963, Holmes noted that the average Dallasite was not a “John Birch conservative.”
Nor is the average Republican in our nation today a “Tea Partier.”
(Furthermore: not all who agree with Tea Party principles are “extremists”)

And yet in both cases, in both historical times, a silent majority allowed extremists to be “out-sized” in their political and social influence.

The case of the recent government shutdown is “Exhibit A.” We know now that there were always plenty of votes among moderate Republicans to keep the shutdown from happening in the first place.

But it happened anyway. The extremists in the Tea Party pushed for it, nobody stood up to them, and they got their way.

And what I keep hearing from Republican friends is this:

“Eric, everybody I know is afraid of the Tea Party.”

Let me be clear, I am not afraid of them. I am annoyed by them.
Everybody I know is annoyed by them.

But I know this. What Bill Holmes said in 1963 is still true today: until people stand up to them, nothing will change.

This was precisely the situation in 1963, when Bill Holmes’ called for regular citizens to stand up and reclaim their city. And through a twisting and turning five-decade path, that did happen here. Dallas changed.

But what Holmes said to Dallas 50 years ago, we can say to the nation today:

“It is not too late for us to learn that men can agree to disagree in love and still hold partisan persuasions. Where do we begin?

We have our children.
They were not born hating the President of the United States. They soon learned to imitate their parents. It is not only important that we nurture them in political ideas, but in the even more fundamentals of understanding and respect for those who old a different point of view.

We have our neighborhoods.
When the extremist across the street, or down the block, starts spewing his epithets and hate, he must soon discover that he has a contest on his hands as we confront him with sanity and love.

We have our precincts, where live and vital issues are discussed.

It is time both liberals and conservatives took responsibilities for the reactionaries and extremists in their own parties.”

Everything has changed here. But old issues seem to rear their head in every new generation.

We can learn from the past, though.

Thanks be to God, we don’t ever have to repeat it.

(1) I realize that this was not actually the name of the venue. Kennedy was to be the guest at a lunch in the Dallas Trade Mart. The actual room was called “The Great Hall” which, lyrically, would have worked. But I didn’t know this fact when I wrote/recorded the song. Also, I wanted to have the name “Trade” in there, to hint at where the room was. So, yes, I knew what I was doing when I titled the song this way.
It’s just a song…go with it…

(2) I, for one, have always been puzzled by the tempest over “children laughing.” City leaders, and sincere Dallas historians, continue to deny that it ever happened. However please do not miss this inescapable point: Bill Holmes and his family went into hiding for a week after the sermon. Even if you choose to deny the truth of children clapping, you cannot deny that the reaction to the sermon proved the point of the sermon itself.
UPDATE!
I have found video of the event in 2007, where Holmes finally reveals the name of this teacher, and compellingly answers the critics who claim this never happened. Find it here.

Beyond this, another teacher, Joanna Shields (who you can still find in the pews of Northaven every Sunday, to this day) also reports children cheered at her school too.

All the other stuff…spitting on Stevenson…pushing LBJ…the “wanted for treason” poster with JFK’s image…the large John Birch group….all these are undisputed by anyone studying the history. So, it seems patently silly to pretend that debunking the “children cheered” story changes Rev. Holmes’ main point.

It didn’t then. It doesn’t now.

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