a warm and welcome place to share words and thoughts

Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Heaven Adores You – a heartfelt tribute in film to Elliott Smith

It was three years ago I discovered the Kickstarter campaign of a filmmaker named Nickolas Rossi. He had a vision of creating a documentary film about singer/songwriter Elliott Smith that would be less drama about his life and more music focused; what came to be known as a “love letter” to Elliott Smith. And as I followed the path of creation that became the film Heaven Adores You, it was evident every step of the way that this project was being done with the utmost love, respect and admiration for Elliott and his family and friends as well.

And finally the time arrived for me to be able to view this film that I had literally been counting the days to see. The screenings have been at various film festivals literally all over the globe, which is a testament to the worldwide appeal of Elliott Smith’s music. But last night was a very special screening I attended, the showing of the film in Portland, Oregon, a city that is widely held as Elliott’s hometown.

The theatre was packed, a sold out show, and the energy of breath-holding anticipation for Heaven Adores You in Portland was palpable. After a lovely set of Elliott Smith songs performed by the Portland Cello Project it was time to see the film that so many have waited to see.

What I watched for 104 minutes was a very well crafted tribute to Elliott showcasing his music not just from his days of fame but also treating the viewer to some rare songs from his adolescence where it becomes obvious that he had the seeds of musical talent and genius ready to sprout.

Heaven Adores You is also well seasoned with snippets of commentary and memories from Elliott’s dear ones that shared in his lifetime. I found myself in more moments of laughter than tears as I watched this film, not being awash in the usual drama and darkness that is often attached to the telling of Elliott Smith’s lifetime.

And then there is also the visually stunning cinematography that adds to the breath and depth of Elliott’s journey in the various places he lived and created and played his lovely music.

Heaven Adores You is the ultimate gift of tribute to this lovely troubadour who left us all too soon; it is a fitting homage of love to a man who was really just all about love himself.

http://heavenadoresyou.com/

heaven-adores-you_low-res_041714

 

Advertisements

His music still plays, and his spirit still shines

Elliott Smith, singer songwriter extraordinaire by many people’s standards, would have been 44 today, had he not died a much too early death in October of 2003. After his passing, a good share of his notoriety came not due to the amazing music he created, but by the manner of his death, and the sometimes dysfunctional life he led as he dealt with drug addiction, alcoholism and depression.

But those who were close to him knew the fullness of his generosity, his great sense of humor, his compassion, and the other endearing qualities that inspired his family and friends to honor him with a series of four benefit shows in four different cities. They run from August 4th to August 10th and are the brainchild of Ashley Welch, Elliott’s younger sister, who decided to pay tribute to all the great things about her brother that made him her “hero”, as she describes Elliott in Autumn deWilde’s book, Elliott Smith.

One of those great things about Elliott Smith was his generous nature. Elliott was known as one to never turn down a chance to play a benefit show for someone, and before his death he had begun the process to start his own non-profit to help abused children. In this light of his giving so much to others, every show in each city – Portland, OR; Los Angeles; Austin, TX; and New York City – will be donating all the proceeds to a non-profit in that particular city. All the musicians are playing for free, as Elliott inspires so many to share and reach out to others as he did in his lifetime.

Another great thing about Elliott Smith was of course the music, the amazing legacy he left behind, the songbook of an extremely gifted and talented singer and songwriter and troubadour. He is revered by his musical peers, as is evidenced by all who agreed to come out and play these benefit shows for free. Some are more well known than others, but all shared the music with Elliott and shared the joy of music with him.

I was fortunate enough to get a ticket for the first show, in my city of Portland, a place Elliott called home for a time. He is well loved here, and the energy that night was just one big lovefest of Elliott, of music, of joy. Sweet and touching stories were told about Elliott from his friends, revealing a much more positive side of his life that was often overlooked. The crowd made much of the event a singalong, as the well loved and familiar words and melodies sang out in a loving cacophony.

Many famous musical artists are often memorialized in tribute shows, and that speaks to the success and inspiration of their music. But these shows touting Elliott Smith touched my heart in a different way. It wasn’t just the music we celebrated, but the fact that he used his fame for the greater good, to give back to others less fortunate. And really, Elliott shows us that we can all do this, in our own way; we don’t have to be famous to be angels of generosity. Here’s to you, dear Elliott – thank you for inspiring all of us through your music but most of all through your shining soul.

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

Concert posters for the Elliott Smith benefit line the stairs to the Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, OR

 

The sparkling Christmas lights of Peacock Lane

Since I am spending Christmas here in Portland this year, and not traveling back to Minnesota to be with my family, I was able to experience a Portland Christmas tradition the other night. I learned about the Lights on Peacock Lane, which is a holiday tradition going back to the 1920’s. Since that time, every house on the SE Portland street of Peacock Lane has participated in decorating for the Christmas holiday with lights, yard ornaments of all types, and even music that plays for everyone to hear. Since it was one of the few rain-free nights we have had in awhile, their were plenty of people out and about to view the shining lights and festive decorations. I guess there is even a special song that has been written in honor of this event, although I didn’t hear anyone singing it, not even the carolers who were there. But it was a beautiful sight, and a lovely evening to share with my fellow Portlanders, as I spend Christmas in the place I love the best.

 

 

014

013

010

012

 

Remembering Elliott

Those souls who have left this earth for heaven, or whatever we believe is beyond are missed and remembered by those close to them. But there are those souls who leave us that were able to affect a great number of people by their time on earth, and Elliott Smith is one of them. He touched us with his music; words creatively brought together that often spoke of heartache, of sadness, of anger and even hope in the midst of despair, paired with achingly beautiful melodies that often betrayed the mood of the words. He was able to get us to listen to the sad reality of life that it is sometimes, in the guise of musical notes that danced with joy. In doing this he created a following of listeners who empathized with him and felt that Elliott understood the pain in their own lives.

During his many live shows, Elliott brought himself even closer to his followers, as they hung onto every word and every note he played in utter admiration and devotion; all eyes and ears completely focused on the lone man  playing his sweet and precious music. Elliott had a gracious way of making his audience feel so involved in every show, so appreciated; never putting himself up on a pedestal. Song requests were shouted out, or oftentimes Elliott would ask what the audience wanted to hear. He would tell little stories that fed the camaraderie he had with his fans, and they felt as if they knew him intimately.

Despite all the drama and despair that was his lifetime – dealing with depression, addictions, and a sadly violent death – Elliott Smith gave all he could to the career he chose as a musician. He crafted his music with a perfectionist’s touch, and toured extensively to bring that music to all who wanted to hear him play. He showed us the qualities he possessed of hard work, integrity, generosity, and compassion in the man that he was, not letting his struggles in life hold back the gift he gave to us of amazing music, created from his very soul.

Elliott Smith would have been 43 years old today, and he would still be blessing us with lovely songs. In this world he is lovingly remembered by the timeless legacy he left of music, but he will also be remembered as a sweet and gentle soul who just wanted everyone  to enjoy his gift of song.

Memorial plaque of Elliott Smith that hangs in Lincoln High School in Portland, OR

Artwork done of Elliott Smith that hangs in the Crystal Hotel in Portland, OR

Their Friend

 

Every venue he plays

Becomes an intimate setting

As if he sits

With the audience

In their living room

He greets them with a shy “hello”

Then sits in the chair

The small man and his guitar

Swallowed up by the stage

He nervously picks at the guitar

And a song starts to emerge

The crowd cheers

Then a hush ensues

He holds them in the rapture of melody

The song ends

They cheer once more

A quickly spoken “thanks”

Is shared with his followers

They talk to him

Asking him questions

He politely answers

Someone shouts “I love you!”

“I love you too” he replies

And this exchange of love

Is what endears him to them

To every face in the crowd he is

Their friend who sings

Perfectly Portland – The Big Busk

One of the things that really drew me to Portland was the great music scene here. I had always felt pride in the wide ranging nationally known music of Minneapolis – Prince, The Replacements and Bob Dylan of course, even though he really turned into more of a New Yorker when he finally achieved his fame. But now I am proud of not only the great music that has come out of Portland – Elliott Smith, The Decemberists, Sleater-Kinney and even Paul Revere & The Raiders – but the emphasis and respect that is given to the buskers, the talented and hard working street musicians that serenade us all around the city.

Today was a special event designed to give extra special notice to the music of the streets, a festival called The Big Busk. Unlike most music festivals that are held in one specific location, this one was held all throughout the downtown area, on various street corners. Each artist or group was given an hour at a time on whatever corner they chose, allowing a rotation of artists and locations. This guideline is actually part of something called the Street Musician Partnership Agreement. This is a policy that was written to help the street musicians and downtown businesses come to agreement on some guidelines to assure a safe, respectful and enjoyable time for all, allowing everyone to take in the joy of hearing great music in such an amazing city setting.

I often stop to listen to the buskers on any given day when I am out and about, as well as taking in the great buskers that are always playing at the eclectic gathering we call Saturday Market. But today was so much fun, as I came across so much great music.  I listened to a young man play music on a gorgeous guitar, which I’m sure is his pride and joy that he saved up to buy, complete with a leather guitar strap with roses embossed on it (Portland is known as the Rose City). Then I listened to a duo sing a song that lifted my spirits; words sung to me of hope that I really needed to hear – and they gave me a free cd of their music! I saw a woman in a long skirt pushing a xylophone to her next corner destination, but I lost her somewhere along the way. But I found a woman playing a beautiful handmade hammered dulcimer, that produced ethereal sounds in contrast to the cacophony of the city noises. What a lovely way to spend a bright and sunny summer’s day, listening to the sweet sounds of music in the city I love so much.

Better than a glass of warm milk

I don’t know what the problem was the other night; too much ice cream, the overly dramatic book I was reading or maybe the Mercury Retrograde has seeped its way into my system. At any rate, sleep just would not pay me a visit. I lay in bed for what seemed like hours; tossing, turning, staring at the night sky through my skylight and counting the few stars I could see in the bright city sky. Nothing seemed to help, nothing relaxed me enough to drift off into my usual land of crazy dreams (I tend to have very vivid dreams that last all night long, like some kind of science fiction movie marathon). So I turned to the one thing that can relax me like nothing else – the sweet sound of music. I wanted something mellow of course; The White Stripes seemed like a poor choice in my efforts to turn off the monkey mind in my head. I found myself drawn to the one artist who can calm me like no one else – Elliott Smith.  His album New Moon was the perfect choice to me; full of his gentler acoustic songs, sung in the soft vocals that he is known for. And lo and behold, I must have drifted off like a baby listening to a lullaby. I woke up with my headphones on and the cd no longer playing. After that it was nighty night! I thought about how the music was like a lullaby, and how sweet it would be to have one lover singing the other to sleep in this way – so romantic! To fall asleep in this way would be pure bliss…

Lullaby

My heart is cradled in your music

Sweet high notes that gently rock me

To and fro on your rhythm of love

Tender melodies that caress me

Whispered words in a sea of calm

My soul slips into a dream

Of a love so gentle, so soothing

Lulling all my cares away

And my heartbeat sings a song to you

“I love you, oh so true”

A lullaby of love

School of Rock really rocks!

Listening to new music that I buy is a huge rush for me, as I wrote about in my last post. But the ultimate high in listening to music has to be hearing it live, and that is just what I did last night. As I was paging through Portland’s alternative weekly newspapers, I happened to see that the students from the School of Rock here were putting on a show just a few blocks from my home at a wonderful place called the Mission Theater, performing the music of Stevie Wonder. What a great chance to hear some awesome music, and at the same time support the up and coming musical talent in my city that is nurtured through this inspiring school of music. Last night’s performance consisted of 27 students taking turns playing various instruments and singing vocals on 26 different Stevie Wonder songs. And believe me, if you ever really listen to any of Stevie Wonder’s music, you’ll realize that it is complex and not that easy to perform. It is full of key changes, rhythmic changes, hyperactive bass lines, inventive keyboard playing and room for lots of vocal improvisation. But this group of eager young musicians gave it their all, and their hard work showed in amazing renditions of these challenging songs. By the end of the night most of the crowd was on their feet dancing, my friend and I included – what a blast! Music is a drug, and how great to see these young people becoming addicted to something that gives their souls a natural high.

Tag Cloud