For Sunday: “Dear, If You Change” by John Dowland (1597)

john dowland

This song, first published in 1597, is (I think) one of the most beautiful ever written: John Dowland’s “Dear, If You Change.”







For Sunday: John Cale sings “Paris 1919”

john cale paris 1919

I bought this John Cale album in 1978 or 1979. I didn’t love the entire album, except for this song, and the song “Graham Greene.”



This song has everything: strings, harpsichord, harp, bizarre elliptical lyrics:



Efficiency efficiency they say
Get to know the date and tell the time of day
As the crowds begin complaining
How the Beaujolais is raining
Down on darkened meetings on the Champs Elysee

You’re a ghost la la la la la la la la la la
You’re a ghost la la la la la la la la la la
I’m in the church and I’ve come
To claim you with my iron drum

La la la la la la la la la.







For Sunday: Buck Owens sings “Cigarettes and Whiskey and Wild Wild Women”

cigarettes and whiskey

There was a television show called “Hee Haw” back when I was a kid. It was a real breakthrough: the country/western world went prime-time / nationwide with a variety program, with stupid sketches and lots of music.

The hosts were Buck Owens and Roy Clark.

Buck Owens, bless his steely Republican heart, was a classic C&W performer. This song of his still goes through my head sometimes. Don’t ask me why.

For Sunday: “You Are My Friend,” sung by Mister Rogers

mister rogers

I think Mister Rogers was a modern saint. His television show – a gentle slowly-paced production, with puppets and people speaking quietly – was distinctly different from all the other children’s television shows of his time.



Fred Rogers wrote almost all of his own material. This song I still know by heart, and I will sing it at the drop of a hat.



But Mister Rogers sings it better:




For Sunday: Erik Satie’s Fourth Nocturne

satie 4 nocturne

I have a liking for the music of Erik Satie. When Partner and I were in France last October, we visited Satie’s childhood home in Honfleur, and one of his residences in the Montmartre district of Paris. He’s one of my favorite composers. He was a complex personality; he could be disagreeable and angry, and was a determined loner for much of his life, making and losing friends (among them Claude Debussy).

He wrote this small piece, his Fourth Nocturne, during the last years of his life. Rollo Myers, who wrote the first English-language biography of Satie, says of this nocturne: “Is there not something Chopinesque about the flowing arpeggios in the left hand which provide, as it were, so reassuring a support for the bare consecutive fifths which outline the melody above?”


For Sunday: “Island Magic,” from Leonard Bernstein’s opera “Trouble in Tahiti”

trouble in tahiti

This is the best scene (I think) from Bernstein’s early opera “Trouble in Tahiti,” in an excellent staging / performance, with Nancy Williams singing the lead.

If you can’t make out the lyrics, you can find them here. They’re hysterical.


For Sunday: Cat Stevens sings “Peace Train” (1976)


Cat Stevens has always been one of my favorite singer/composers. His first five albums were bliss. He became a little more hit-and-miss after that, but I still find something to listen to on every album.

Cat, born of Greek parentage in England, has been on a long journey: he was a Buddhist for a long time, then Baha’i, and now Muslim. He even changed his name to Yusuf Islam (though Cat Stevens wasn’t his real name either; he was born Steven Demetre Georgiou).

He has always been unapologetic about voicing his beliefs. He got into trouble some years ago for mixing himself up with the whole Salman Rushdie / fatwa thing.

But there has always been a freshness and purity in his music. And he is often strangely profound, and he is also often powerfully spiritual.

This song (in live performance in 1976) is all of the above: fresh, pure, profound, and spiritual. And I still find it powerfully moving.

Ev’rybody jump upon the peace train.

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