I got a writing request from a combat veteran, from Iraq and Afghanistan, to compose to a lyric he wrote, called "The Dust Blows Forward, blows back". I don't know much of his story, but the images in the song, seem to be of a dust storm in the Iraqi desert. The song also deals a bit the mental effects of PTSD, which they used to refer to as "Shell Shock" The VA reports veteran suicide rates at 20 per day, a shocking report.
The lyricist wanted an alt rock kind of feel, similar to Tom Waits. I added the military snare drum, to give the military vibe.
We could still learn from their stories, in this era of building walls.
Throughout my music career, I've met many of the policy makers of US foreign policy, that affect us all, including Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, Nancy Pelosi, and others.
WWII, was different, we had to save Europe from Hitler and Nazi Germany. I've visited Nuremburg, and the site of the mass Hitler Rallies, much like the Trump MAGA Rallies of today. As a young boy, my parents took me to see "Judgement at Nuremburg", in 1962. I didn't fathom that such horrors could take place at that age, but I've seen the movie a few times as an adult, I read "Rise and Fall of the 3rd Reich" and numerous documentaires. These things should be taught in the public schools, because the Nazi hate crimes have increased in the USA since Trump became President. We need to teach our kids that democracy is fragile, and more than words on an ancient document, and can be taken away by the stroke of a pen, a racist cop, or a corrupt election, with voter suppression.
I've toured Germany as a musician, since 1993, my wife Maria is German, (Spanish Born) I've visited the concentration camps, and the Holocaust museums, and know the effects of racism, and dog whistle politics, which have resurfaced in the era of Trump, starting with the birther movement, that propelled him to the highest office in the land.
I was in Bonn Germany, 1995, (birthplace of Beethoven) doing a concert, on the 50th anniversary of 'VE DAY, WWII, with the Long John Baldry Band, Long John, who I toured with from 1987-2003, was born in London during the height of the German Blitzkrieg, his father helped defeat the Nazis, Our band was Canadian, USA, and British. A German woman came up after the show and gave me a hug, and thanked us all and those on whose shoulders we stand, for her freedom, a moment I shall never forget. With Trump's isolationist, nationalist agenda, I worry about our strong alliances, with our allies, NATO, are breaking down. I believe in building bridges, Not walls!!
This picture speaks a thousand words, with Merkel and Macron, at the graves of the fallen
Touring with Long John Baldry, (who discovered Elton John, and me in a 20 year later line of succession on the keys) especially through Europe, on the long bus and train rides, was always a great history lesson. He knew probaby more, than most of my history professors, and seeing these important places are forever in my memory.
I'm forever grateful, because I met Maria, my wife to be in 1996, on one of those great tours, in her hometown near Frankfurt Germany
My new upcoming CD, "Tweakin Some Twang" an Americana fusion of country, Blues, Gospel, Rockabilly, Soul, New Orleans, Cajun and Classical, includes worldwide musicians, from Canada, USA, Russia, Holland, Germany, Austria, and Spain.
Sweet Home Alabama, 2015I moved to Orange Beach Alabama, August 2015, where I spent many great summers with my parents as a teenager in Gulf Shores, AL. I moved back from Vancouver BC, and started working at the Perdido Beach Resort as a solo piano Vocalist. I've played Gospel music much of my life, as Organist at the Bebee Memorial AME, (African American Episcopal) church in Oakland California, around 2000-2004.
Path to PeaceLast month, I was part of the music production, a multi ethnic Choir of "Path to Peace" in Foley Alabama, a gathering of God’s children, including black, white and Hispanic churches, for reflections on the Christian call to reconciliation between races and ethnicities with music, worship and reflection. The goal is to start a dialogue that will lead to lasting friendships and dissolve racial lines that have been drawn in our community’s sands.
Growing up in the Jim Crow south, in the Methodist church in the 50s and 60s, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, with it's violently enforced apartheid, had a virtual silence, indifference, and apathy, regarding the intense struggle for civil rights going on around us. If it were not for music and sports, we may not have come as far as we have today, with the holy trinity of the south, Jesus, footbal and guns.
The Church has come around recently, opposing Trump, on it's separation of immigrant families.
As a blues, soul, and Gospel musician, with also a background in classical music, the music of the black church, from radio, records and television, and the old hymns, with roots in the German, English Reformation, were co-existing in my upbringing, and I learned to play many of them. European church music were the foundations of music theory, and learning these amazing harmonic voicings on piano, and voice, were the building blocks that are like a DNA of music in my brain that has never left me. The Blues and Gospel of the Mississippi Black culture, co-existing in my musical and cultural dichotomy childhood were something I deal with to this day, with demographics, and what's gonna grab the people.
If I were a dancer, I would be like Prince up on the Grand Piano, if I was a piano virtuoso, I could seque from Mozart to Jellyroll Morton, and celebrate all that music has to offer.
I grew up and learned to sing in the choir, in the Capitol Street Methodist Church, with it's beautiful 1912, Gothic Style Revival, grand pipe organ. The Church is now located in what now resembles a ghetto, now falling down, looking like a war zone, but a result of White Flight to more affluent suburbs. Before
In 1960, my family moved from this Jackson neighborhood, to Birmingham Alabama, in an all white suburb called Vestavia Hills. Birmingham was had a thriving downtown, concerts, a great symphony orchestra, that the school board would bus the kids downtown once a month to hear at the local city auditorium. I had a great classically trained vocal teacher as a teenager, Dr. Vernon Skoog, head of the Birmingham music of city schools, when my voice was changing, who taught me how to control my voice, from the diaphragm, vocal chords, and the nasal head tones, that I still remember to this day. It wasn't the music I was most fond of, but I still use the techniques I learned from him to this day.
My favorite DJ in Birmingham, Dave Roddy, was promoting weekend shows at a National Guard Armory, with black R&B acts, from New Orleans, like Irma Thomas, and Otis Redding at high school dances, and discovered me during this time at aged 13. Along with my brother, Chip and his band, the Ramblers, I opened for many of the top pop, soul and rock acts of the time, including Billy Joe Royal, Bobby Goldsboro. It was an amazing time to be part of this music scene, in Birmingham, while so much history was being made, on many fronts.
On Saturdays, I'd ride the city bus down Red Mountain, to the movies with my friends,
Jim Crow laws since early in childhood, that had been in place for generations, and a violation could mean a beating, a cross burning or a hanging.
I didn't know who or what "Jim Crow" was, but often when walking downtown, I would see black men and women, carrying protest signs saying "Jim Crow Must Go" outside the big department stores, where I later met Dr. Martin Luther King, at Pizitz dept store, where he had organized a boycott, because they refused to hire black employees. These brave kids, became the foot soldiers of the Birmingham civil rights movement, facing fire hoses, police dogs, beatings and jail. During my October visit to Birmingham, my wife and I visited the Birmingham Civil Rights museum, where so much history was made.
Justice Delayed, Justice deniedOn September 15, 1963, I was 12 years old, on my Dad's Birthday, my family witnessed the aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing while driving to his birthday dinner after church. Four young girls died in the bombing, by the KKK. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover closed the investigation of the terrorist bombing in 1968. The case was re-opened, and 24 years later, Prosecutor and now new Senator Doug Jones, also from Birmingham, was 9 years old at the time of the bombing, was the prosecutor, and finally got a conviction in the case.
Two months later, JFK was murdered in Dallas, where I lived for 4 years, in the 70s, and drove over the the assassination site hundreds of times going to work, or shopping, which always gave me a chill and a sadness, of this time of my life, and wondered what great things he could have achieved.
This is my brother, Steve Sanders account, of that day, that changed our city forever, and was a turning point in the movement for equal rights. Steve is a 6 time Emmy Award winning Television Journalist on WGN Chicago
"JLS, you may not remember but that horrific1963 bombing took place on our father's birthday, Sept. 15. We were heading downtown after church for a birthday lunch. As we drove closer to the bombing site, I still recall the pall of dust in the air and police barricades. About 15 years later, that scene was seared in my memory as a young radio reporter covering the trial of Robert Chambliss, one of four KKK terrorists responsible for the bombing."
This week, October 2018, of our Birmingham visit, 11 Jews were massacred in a terrorist attack, by a gunman, and a Synagogue in Pittsburg. Pipe bombs sent by a Trump supporter, to prominent Democratic leaders. I thought we had progressed as a country, since those dark days in the 60s, and these times, since the election of 2016, we have regressed. Here's a picture of our visit to Birmingham, with my wife Maria in a statue in Kelly Ingram Park, honoring the heroes of the Civil Rights movement.
On October 29, I performed for the "Stars of the Industry" restaurant, and Hotel awards dinner, in Birmingham, one of my first visits back since my family left Birmingham 50 years ago. The Perdido Beach Resort, where I've been performing for the last 3 years, won Alabama Hotel of the Year, They have been very supportive to me, and my wife, and I'm very grateful of my music position there.
Here's a picture of the street I grew up on, in Vestavia, a suburb of Birmingham, many great memories of this time. My 2 brothers and I were a big part of the Birmingham music scene. There was always a jam session or rehearsal in this house where I learned to sing, play piano, bass, guitar, and drums. In 1968, our family was transferred to Monroe Louisiana. It was a sad time for me, leaving the life I had here in Birmingham, but I've had an amazing life, and just celebrated my 67th Birthday.