Canadian Songwriters Hall Of Fame

Who knew Sylvia Tyson wrote "You Were On My Mind"?

When I woke up this morning
You were on my mind

Ain’t that love!

You know how it is, you meet someone new.  There’s a rush of blood to the head, you tingle, you don’t want to part.  And the next morning, you wake up and the first thing you think of is them.  You wonder if it’s real.  And when you realize it is, that it really happened, you get a shiteating grin on your face.

Now "You Were On My Mind" is about the back end.  When you break up, when you just can’t get over them.  ANYBODY who says they’re over somebody right away is a fucking idiot.  We’re animals.  It’s human nature.  Closeness just can’t be cut off that quickly.  The hangover, the after effect, is enough to make you go back to the well again and again, until you finally get the gumption, gain enough power, to resist.

But "You Were On My Mind" does not have a downbeat feel.  It contains a euphoria.  Or maybe that’s just music, we were all so INTO it back in the mid-sixties, glued to our transistors.  Listening to the countdown, listening for the debuts.  The acts came out of nowhere, and we were open to them.  Everybody didn’t have narrow tastes, we were open to ANYTHING!  And the passion and the joy in this music, that’s what separated us from our parents.  We weren’t listening to offend them, to evidence our differences, to piss them off, we were just that INTO THE TUNES!  The radio was a Pied Piper!

You can go on and read the history of the We Five.  And it’s interesting, but it didn’t matter to us back then.  All we knew was there was a 45, with a blue label, if I remember correctly, that we had to buy and spin again and again, just to get that HIT!

So, "You Were On My Mind" was performed on Sunday night by Jim Cuddy and Oh Susanna.  They took the stage and started to RIP!  And like a sixties freight train, we were off and running, everybody in my row was singing along.  Putting our heads in the air to sing the chorus:

Hey I got troubles, whoa-oh
_I got worries, whoa-oh
_I got wounds to bind

There was a war in Vietnam.  And racial unrest.  All kinds of trouble.  But we weren’t depressed, we were consumed with the POSSIBILITIES!  With a guitar and a song, we could change the world.

I’m down with music you can sing.  I’ll leave it at that.

The other highlight of this show was James Taylor singing "Woodstock".

He referenced meeting Joni at the Mariposa Festival, just as Larry LeBlanc had told me the night before.  Actually, James referenced listening to Joni’s debut in the offices of Apple Records.

And after reciting a bit more history, he started picking his guitar.

Do you know that song off of "Flag", the last one, "Sleep Come Free Me"?  James’ version of "Woodstock" had the same vibe.  It’s the percussive guitar picking.  That emphasizes the lyrics, James’ voice.  It’s like a ventriloquist and his dummy.  Two separate forces in close proximity interacting.  And the effect…cuts you to the bone.

Well I’ve been lying in this dungeon
Since I was eighteen
Ten lonely years of my life taken
I’ve been living in the pages of a magazine
It breaks my heart to awaken

You don’t have to be in prison to be depressed, to feel locked up.

There’s a mainstream, and you find yourself in the backwater.  Hopelessly out of step, with no chance of getting back into society.

Rehabilitation, ain’t that a laugh.  They don’t do it in jail, and they don’t do it after you’re eighteen, certainly not in your twenties, after you graduate from college.  You’re on your own.  If you can’t pick yourself up by your bootstraps, we don’t care.  Commit suicide.  One less loser to worry about.  What happened to compassion?  Is society only made up of winners?

Just remember your number
And abandon your name
And hold on to your imagination

Imagination.  We do our best to drum it out of our populace.  Just get in line, do what you’re supposed to, be just like everybody else.

Maybe that’s why we revere our artists, they dare to dream.

Diane Warren doesn’t dream.

And neither does Max Martin.

They’re doing a job.

But when you dig down deep and open your soul, for others to hear, to experience, then you’re doing it the way they used to.

We believed in our artists.  None more than Joni Mitchell.

When Joni took the stage, she started to tell a tale, of growing up, meeting a songwriter for the very first time.  Everyone previous to her had just given thanks and accepted the award.  But in a few words, Joni had us hooked.  We were back with her on the prairie, we could SEE IT!

That’s what an artist does.  Doesn’t worry about convention, but paints according to what he or she feels.  And the resulting truth resonates.

I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me

We’re all children of God.  We’re all in this together.  That’s what the Woodstock Nation was about.  It didn’t last for long, but if you were black or white or yellow, or tall or short or fat, it didn’t matter, you belonged.  We all want to belong.

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning

In an era of gated communities and private jets no one wants to walk beside ANYBODY!  The key is to make enough money to rise above.  Your brother?  FUCK HIM!

And all these years later, with the polar ice caps melting, we’ve got the same environmental issues.  And we want to be part of change, we want to make a difference.  Rather than shopping after 9/11, we wanted to THROW IN!  Won’t ANYBODY let us throw in??

Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning

Do you know who you are?

I don’t.  Oh, when I was eighteen, I knew everything.  Ever since, I’ve been learning how dumb I am.  That’s what knowledge does, it makes you feel dumb.  Because the more you know, the more you realize you DON’T know!  But those in power would rather anesthetize the way that we feel, keep us in front of the idiot box.  There’s not even any news ON the evening news.  And on the cable channels, they’re possessed with kidnappings and other crimes.  Our society, our country’s direction, its moral fabric, those issues are not raised.  For then it would be learned how far we have to go.

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

Joni Mitchell was not at Woodstock.  Her manager convinced her not to go, even though she was booked.  You see, she might get caught up in the mud, she might miss her TV appearance at the beginning of the week.

Don’t listen to your handlers.  Listen to what’s inside.  That’s what the sixties taught us.  Question convention, and authority.  Investigate for yourself.  Doing what felt good meant trusting your gut.  If you’re going against your gut, you’re going in the wrong direction.

Missing Woodstock for some bullshit TV show…

But maybe it was her absence that allowed Joni to be able to write "Woodstock".  You see the best artists are observers.  From a distance, she could divine the event’s essence.  And having done this, distill it into song.  Joni felt left out, she wanted to be there, and this song is evidence of her desire.  To belong.

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

We’re so far from the garden it isn’t funny.

Radio and labels whored out to a system that excludes the public.  One that doesn’t work.

We need to get out of Iraq, and we certainly don’t need to go into Iran.  Why trust these old men in Washington?  What do they know that you don’t?  If you don’t think you’re equal to those in power, then you’re abdicating your right as a human being to have a part in your destiny.

There is no center.

At that center is a garden.  We’ve got to get back there.

James’ performance of "Woodstock" was SPELLBINDING!

Although a communal experience, it touched each and every one of us individually, with the power of song.

Hell, you can hear his arrangement if you’re savvy in P2P.  There’s a performance from the Howard Stern show floating around.  But no, you’d better not log on, you might get SUED!  We’ve got to keep the music from the people.  Only authorized performances should be available.  We must have control.

Hell, I urge Apple to make James Taylor’s performance of "Woodstock" available as a download, IMMEDIATELY!

That’s the power of technology.  The power to change the world, to make life better for Earth’s inhabitants.

That’s the battle we’re in today.  It’s the sixties all over again.  Kids love technology.  They take pleasure in its advantages.  They don’t surf and IM and visit social networking sites to piss off their elders, but because it’s SO DAMN EXCITING!

This same excitement used to be in music.  Our heroes were musicians, not coders.  Their power was in evidence Sunday night.

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