I went to a birthday celebration last night. And you might be thinking to yourself, big whoop, so what? But the thing is, this one was not merely a love-fest for the birthday girl; this gathering was like living the musical version of A Christmas Carol. But instead of Christmases, we revisited the ghosts of songs past, present and future. And not just any songs – our songs.
The birthday girl was Lorraine Ferro. And sure, there were some of her students and some non-music people thrown into the mix, people who had never heard these songs before, but for the rest of us, these songs were like a home we used to live in, that lovingly secured our memories of people and places and dreams safely within its walls. And last night we got to revisit them.
The music business attracts multitudes of people who want to try their hand at it. Everyone wants to be a rock star, or the next American Idol. Everyone thinks they can write a hit song. Most people try, fail, throw in the towel, and move on. Yeah, that’s what most people do. Did I mention we aren’t most people?
We’re the ones I’m sure Teddy Roosevelt was talking about in this quote, which is one of my favorites:
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
So we lived to tell the tales…of how JJ wound up on stage with Lorraine singing with Billy Joel (hand to God, I was there), and of the publisher who signed Lorraine telling his secretary before their initial meeting to come in and say he had a phone call five minutes into the meeting. (He wound up telling the secretary to “hold all his calls.”)
Most of us have had hits in one category or another. Lorraine and I won back to back Abe Olman Awards from the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.
I got up and sang a birthday ditty for Lorraine. I think ditties might be my new thing. Or not.
Mega-multiple-super-hit-songwriter, Arnie Roman, who not 2 hours prior at dinner told me he hated performing and so would not do it, got up and played and sang one of his songs with his wife, Tanya Leah.
Tanya, who also hours prior told me she would not be playing, um, did.
Because here’s the thing: we cannot help ourselves. It’s that line we got ecstatically excited about, that melody that haunted us, that thing inside us that we just had to express, that moment we had to pull off the road because inspiration was calling and would not wait another minute.
So the beauty of remaining with these extraordinary souls over time is that we’re not only friends who have stood by one another through the triumphs of success and the losses of family members, but we’ve stood by encouraging each other to step into the fullness of who we are meant to be at our best.
A few nights ago, on Oprah’s Where Are They Now, Kenny Loggins said, “I needed to write music that touched my heart that had something to do with who I am and where I am in my life.”
I think that sums up what we’re all doing now. We’ve got as much optimism as ever, but it’s a different kind, tempered by hard earned wisdom and miles traveled, battles won and lost, and an abiding sense of humor about it all.
It’s kind of an amazing thing to be able to say your friends wrote one of your favorite songs of all time. But three of mine did. And yes, it was a #1 song. I don’t think the three of them have ever sung it together…but they did last night. (And hopefully they won’t kill me for posting this!) So because I want to bring you to the party, too, I give you “Stand” by Lorraine Ferro, Tanya Leah, and Joanne Sonderling (with Garry Novikoff on keyboard). Thanks for stopping by.