♫ Pastime Paradise ♫

A dear friend, whose name I shall not say except to note that the first and last letters of his first name are the same, shot this song into my brain last night, whereby it lodged and refused to budge.  All day, I have been humming or whistling this song, and so … sigh … sorry folks, but from my brain to yours it goes …

Pastime Paradise was first released on Songs in the Key of Life, which has become Stevie Wonder’s most highly praised album. Michael Jackson considered it Wonder’s best, whilst Elton John told interviewers it was “the best album ever made,” a sentiment shared by many in the listening public.

When one thinks of Stevie Wonder, “joy” is the operative word, but in Pastime Paradise the synthesizer strings – one of the first novel attempts at using this sort of string-synthesis in a song – create an edgy atmosphere of anxiety, substantiated by the lyrics which are insistently negative in tone until the final stanza. A combination of issues, from race and religion to the economy are vaguely alluded to by using catchwords like “Race Relations” and “Exploitation” without any further explanation. Anyone that would have been hearing these words in 1976 at the tail-end of the Black Power movement (1965-1975) would know exactly what they were referring to. However, Wonder’s final statement defines the actual message of the song: “Let’s start living our lives, living for the future paradise,” as opposed to living in the unhappy past, or the illusory future in order to escape present social issues.

Pastime Paradise
Stevie Wonder

They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been wasting most their time
Glorifying days long gone behind
They’ve been wasting most their days
In remembrance of ignorance oldest praise

Tell me who of them will come to be
How many of them are you and me
Dissipation
Race relations
Consolation
Segregation
Dispensation
Isolation
Exploitation
Mutilation
Mutations
Miscreation
Confirmation, to the evils of the world

They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a future paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a future paradise
They’ve been looking in their minds
For the day that sorrows gone from time
They keep telling of the day
When the savior of love will come to stay

Tell me who of them will come to be
How many of them are you and me
Proclamation
Of race relations
Consolation
Integration
Verification
Of revelations
Acclamation
World salvation
Vibrations
Stimulation
Confirmation, to the peace of the world

They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a pastime paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a future paradise
They’ve been spending most their lives
Living in a future paradise
We’ve been spending too much of our lives
Living in a pastime paradise

Let’s start living our lives
Living for the future paradise
Praise to our lives
Living for the future paradise
Shame to anyone’s lives
Living in the pastime paradise

Songwriters: Stevie Wonder
Pastime Paradise lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Leopards Don’t Change Their Spots …

When I heard the news last week about Virginia Governor Ralph Northam, my jaw dropped.  WTF???  I saw the yearbook picture, and my heart clenched.  I heard his apology that, on the surface, seemed sincere, but in the back of my mind kept ringing this refrain:  “Leopards don’t change their spots, leopards don’t change their spots, leopards don’t change their spots.”

I went to bed sometime that night, having moved on to other topics, and early that morning, Politico, The Washington Post and the New York Times all woke me to inform me that Governor Northam had decided, after admitting the night before that he was in the picture, that he wasn’t actually in the picture.  Though for the record, he did wear blackface once when entering a dance contest and doing Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk.

By now, I had the man pegged as a liar and a bigot.  The sooner he stepped down, as surely he must, the better for the State of Virginia.  But, rather than stepping down, the man dug in, refusing to resign, declaring that this, too, can be fixed.  He sounded so Trump-like that I’m fairly certain there was a conversation between the two between the first and second public announcement.  It was reminiscent of Trump’s apology for his horribly sexist remarks heard on the campaign trail in 2016, and then later his denial that he had ever made the remarks … plainly heard … on tape … by the world.

If you were wondering why I hadn’t tackled this subject yet, it’s largely because I was waiting for the next shoe to drop.  I couldn’t believe that some were actually taking his side, defending him.  I knew that it was unlikely he could be impeached, for the crimes of which he is accused do not meet the legal criteria for impeachment.  The president of the United States can remove a governor at any time, but we have no president, at least not one with any degree of morality or set of values.  And the last option would be for Northam to step down, which he said he wouldn’t do.  My head spun, as I pondered what this would mean for the State of Virginia, for the Democratic Party, and for the value of morality in the 21st century.  I also wondered who dug into Northam’s past to come up with this … why now?  Somewhere, there is more to this than meets the eye.

So, I have been silent, trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, but fortunately our friend Don Lemon has not shared my silence, and in this video, I think he lays out the facts clearly.  Take just a couple of minutes to listen to him, then think about it.  Is this the direction our nation is going?  We are 21 months from the next election, and guess what, folks … we are going to see more and more and more and more of this.  At the end of the day, we may have to ask ourselves if there is anybody in our government who is not corrupt, who has values, who represents We the People.

♫ Earth Song ♫

Much of my writing of late has been about the environment — climate change, the IPCC and NCA reports, the utter failure of the U.S. government to address the obvious and imminent threat.  When our friend David mentioned this song a few days ago, I went back to listen to it for the first time in years, watched the video, and knew the time was right to remember this song.

Michael Jackson, known for his socially-conscious music, released this song, dealing with the environment and animal welfare, on November 27, 1995.  The music video you are about to see was shot in four separate geographical locations, including the Americas, Europe and Africa.  According to Michael Jackson …

“I remember writing ‘Earth Song’ when I was in Austria, in a hotel. And I was feeling so much pain and so much suffering of the plight of the Planet Earth. And for me, this is Earth’s Song, because I think nature is trying so hard to compensate for man’s mismanagement of the Earth. And with the ecological unbalance going on, and a lot of the problems in the environment, I think earth feels the pain, and she has wounds, and it’s about some of the joys of the planet as well. But this is my chance to pretty much let people hear the voice of the planet. And this is ‘Earth Song.’ And that’s what inspired it. And it just suddenly dropped into my lap when I was on tour in Austria.”

The song has won numerous awards, perhaps none more important than the Genesis Award: 1995 Doris Day Music Award, given each year for animal sensitivity.

In 2008, a writer for the Nigeria Exchange noted, “Earth Song drew the world’s attention to the degradation and bastardization of the earth as a fall out of various human activities”.  Ten years later and we still haven’t gotten the wake-up call.

The video, directed by fine art photographer Nick Brandt had an environmental theme, showing images of animal cruelty, deforestation, pollution, poaching, poverty and war. Jackson and the world’s people unite in a spiritual chant—”Earth Song”—which summons a force that heals the world. Using special effects, time is reversed so that life returns, war ends and the forests regrow.

Earth Song
Michael Jackson

What about sunrise
What about rain
What about all the things that you said
We were to gain
What about killing fields
Is there a time
What about all the things
That you said were yours and mine

Did you ever stop to notice
All the blood we’ve shed before
Did you ever stop to notice
This crying Earth, these weeping shores

Aah, ooh

What have we done to the world
Look what we’ve done
What about all the peace
That you pledge your only son

What about flowering fields
Is there a time
What about all the dreams
That you said was yours and mine

Did you ever stop to notice
All the children dead from war
Did you ever stop to notice
This crying earth, these weeping shores

Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh

I used to dream
I used to glance beyond the stars
Now I don’t know where we are
Although I know we’ve drifted far

Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh

Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh

Hey, what about yesterday
(What about us)
What about the seas
(What about us)
The heavens are falling down
(What about us)
I can’t even breathe
(What about us)
What about apathy
(What about us)
Drowning in the seas
(What about us)
What about the promised land
Preachin’ what I believe
(What about us)
What about the holy land
(What about it)
What about the greed
(What about us)
Where did we go wrong
Someone tell me why
(What about us)
What about baby boy
(What about him)
What about the days
(What about us)
What about all their joy
Do we give a damn

Aah, ooh
Aah, ooh

Songwriters: Michael Jackson
Earth Song lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc