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“My Heart Will Go On”

A number of you have asked me about the details of my recent heart surgery. Was it interesting? Was it terrifying? Was it fun? So as a public service I am providing this blog post on details of my day in surgery about one week ago. While the outcome was good and the surgery was successful, there were a few unexpected details that made the day “interesting”. However, apologies in advance for TMI (Hey Kathleen and Maryanne, I’m cool and I know that means “too much information”).


Back in mid-November, at my annual physical, I was diagnosed by my primary care physician, Beth Weinstock, with a heart “flutter”. I had complained to her of having not felt well for the previous couple of weeks, so kudos to her for quickly diagnosing the problem. While a “flutter” sounds innocuous enough, if left untreated it makes stroke or a heart attack much more likely. Within 48 hours, I was on both beta blockers and blood thinners, medicine that my 97 year old mother takes NOW–never thought I would be taking these some 30 years earlier. After getting over the side effects of the beta blockers in 2-3 weeks, ( I described it as similar to how one feels physically when they fly into Aspen, CO from sea level for the first 48 hours), I settled down to my normal physical activity and was able to resume my daily walking and lap swimming. However, there was one main difference –which was positive from a medical standpoint, but negative from a social standpoint- I had to give up drinking alcohol as both medications made abundantly clear on the label –ALCOHOL IS TO BE AVOIDED. (However, I confess to flavoring tonic water with half an ounce of gin on a few days to at least be able to have one pseudo drink with presumably no ill effects).

After a long wait of four months, (heart surgery was very backed up due to COVID and medical staff retirements in the past couple of years) about one week ago on March 23rd, I had the second major surgery of my life—a “heart ablation” surgery. My heart surgeon and others at Riverside Hospital referred to it as “routine” and my surgeon had done hundreds if not thousands of these procedures. But “routine HEART surgery” sounds like the ultimate oxymoron to me–up there with “deafening silence”, “devout agnostic” and “alone together” among countless others. And I couldn’t help but remember what Woody Allen said in the movie “Sleeper” five decades ago (but in his case referring to his brain), “you can’t operate on the brain, that’s my second favorite organ”.

We checked in at Riverside Hospital just after noon. Anne received a regular guest ID paper bracelet in the main reception area; I got the more substantive, impossible-to-remove, hospital-patient ID, which is made of plastic and no doubt fortified with some titanium alloys. SO “impossible-to-remove” that I only remembered that it was still on my wrist almost 24 hours later, before I had to employ Grade A scissors to remove it.

At 12:30 PM, I was brought into a pre-surgery patient room where I was hooked to several monitors to measure my heart electrical activity, heart beat, blood pressure as well as an IV for hydration. (This latter part was REALLY important because since midnight the day before I was not allowed to have anything to eat or drink-including water- and my mouth felt like the Sahara desert, my head was throbbing (no coffee either!) ). As I was lying on that “comfortable hospital bed” (another oxymoron) which they had to add a special extender, I remember thinking “Am I really THAT tall–what happens when a member of the OSU basketball team comes in for a procedure?” do they add another extender?.

At the time, they had stuck many of the heart monitors on my side rather than on my chest which I found odd, until a male technician (or was he officially a nurse or assistant?) came in with an electric razor and shaved me from my neck down to my groin – on the back as well as the front- and then repositioned the heart monitors all over my chest. The nurse then noted that I still had my heart flutter -obviously the beta blockers had only helped somewhat. ( Part of me was secretly hoping that she would say “no heart flutter, surgery is cancelled. Go home and drink a six pack of beer”).

At about 1:30PM Anne was allowed to come sit with me until surgery, which was scheduled to start at 2PM. It did not start until much later. My surgeon Dr. Chopra finally came in around 3:20 PM and described the procedure (which fortunately I already knew about-so there was no shock and awe)–very thin sheath inserted in the lower-right groin area through a major vein which goes up into the heart -even thinner wire catheter inside the sheath that is used to ablate (or burn/cauterize) tiny areas of the heart which are responsible for the “flutter” (i.e. or to this former electric power professional, an over-firing of the heart’s electrical system with too much voltage for the heart to handle.). He noted I would be given IV medication to make me relax and put me in near twilight–not fully conscious– but not asleep either.

They wheeled me (on my bed) into surgery around 4PM. And as I was watching the ceiling whiz by, I couldn’t help but think that though my surgeon’s name is pronounced CHO-PRA, might be fittingly pronounced CHOP-YA. (and they hadn’t even given me any drugs yet!). Once in the OR, I was told the sit up and cold packs were placed all over my back (from my buttocks to the top of my shoulders). Apparently, they felt the 60 degree temperature in the OR wasn’t cold enough for me. After lying down on the OR table, they started to layer hot blankets on my legs and upper back, more patches on my chest, an tube for oxygen and an oxygen monitor on my nose, heart monitors , an automatic blood pressure cuff on my wrist, as well as countless other layers which I have no idea what they were for, except perhaps to make me forget how cold my back was. In fact, I felt like I was a three-decker club sandwich or perhaps a multi-layer enchilada or taco (see SNL pseudo commercial “Taco Town” from about a decade ago if you want to know how I felt). Meanwhile if I looked to my left I could see a very large wide-screen monitor–definitely good for sports viewing at home–which presumably had my vitals as well as the afternoon’s Daily Double results. At this point, they told me they would give me a little medicine to relax me.

Dr. Chopra arrived soon thereafter and explained again briefly what he was going to do. Then he along with his assistants (not sure who or how many) proceeded to give me a shot of Lidocaine in the right groin area (ouch!) then proceeded to make the incision to insert the catheter(s) (double ouch!), but the pain quickly subsided. Not sure what they were doing down there exactly but about 5 or 10 or 20 minutes later (?) (hard to keep track of time in my haziness) the catheter was up in my heart and apparently searching for the areas that needed fixing.

At this point, Dr. Chopra said he was ready to start the ablation and then made the classic doctor understatement “You may feel a bit of discomfort”. (Similar to when the pilot comes on the PA system and says we may be encountering “a bit of turbulence”, while passengers are vomiting and being scraped off the ceiling in the main cabin). As he started the cauterizing burners ( a motor-like noise so I knew he had done so), sharp pains radiated to my shoulder, neck, upper back and chest. Fortunately, this pain instantly receded when he stopped and each ablation was only about 5-10 seconds long. So I knew if I just dug my thumbnail into my other forefinger I could get through this.

Funny how the mind works, but I found myself thinking about having my teeth drilled at my dentist Dr. Kresge’s office when I was only 8 or 9 years old. He did not believe in novacaine at least not for his younger patients, figuring the needle was more traumatic than the drilling (Boy was he wrong! I should have probably nicknamed him Killer Kresge). However, I can remember his counting as he drilled but to no particular number so it wasn’t particularly helpful. I knew the pain would end when he finished counting but never knew if it was done at 6,8 or 10 or any other number for that matter. I found myself wondering if Dr. Chopra could tell me how long each ablation would last.

Finally, after probably only about 3-4 minutes but what seemed like an eternity, the ablation was over. A few minutes later they removed the catheter and placed pressure on the groin (ouch!) to stop the bleeding. Then we had to wait about 20 minutes to ensure there was no internal bleeding and to make sure the ablation had stopped the flutter.

After Dr. Chopra had left, unbeknownst to the staff, I began to hear the gossip (or was it the truth?), about the morning of surgery. Apparently without his knowledge, Dr. Chopra had to squeeze in another “emergency” surgery, and as a result mine was starting 2 hours late. He was very annoyed about all this and took it out on the nurses/assistants/anesthesiologist – or at least that is what I heard. So I gather he was still angry when I was doing MY surgery (Glad I didn’t know that beforehand!). Or maybe this was all a figment of my drug-induced haze?

At about 5:40PM I was sent back to a different post-op recovery room and was told to lie still and not move my right leg/side for three hours (in other words stay flat on my back). I was given some real food and water (yay!) and I was quickly reunited with my wonderful wife Anne (Anne added “wonderful wife ” to my original draft :) )who brought me a real sandwich (yum) to eat. At 845PM I was allowed to get up and walk to the bathroom and back, and having passed the test (not fainting I guess), was discharged shortly thereafter.

So that is my experience with heart surgery. Not exactly what I expected, but at least it was all over in ONE DAY. Now I am ‘resting’ at home awaiting the time I will be able to walk (for exercise) and swim again without a lot of pain. Many thanks for your notes and cards. “My heart will go on!”

Trillions and Trillions..

Or an alternate title could be a “a trillion here and a trillion there and pretty soon you’re talking real money”. (Original quote with “billions” was by Sen. Everett Dirksen).

With the passage of the $1.9 Trillion “American Rescue Plan” in March, we officially entered into the era of US debt (and money printing) on steroids. We now have $28.4 Trillion in US debtalmost triple the $10 trillion in debt we owed in 2008 just before we started to ramp up federal spending with the first trillion $ stimulus package of 2009. Even measured as a % of GDP our debt load is enormous some 128% of annual GDP higher than it’s ever been in the US since WWII.

Incredibly we currently have about federal spending (at a $6.7 trillion annual rate) that is approximately double our annual tax revenues of $3.4 trillion. (Never in my 67 year history on earth has federal spending been that % above tax revenues).

Total debt will continue grow rapidly in the next few years as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid outlays continue to soar easily hitting $37 trillion by 2025 (OMB estimate), but if interest rates go up significantly (which is a virtual certainty) probably closer to $40 billion. Even today, we owe a mind-boggling $226 thousand per taxpayer. And this number doesn’t even count the unfunded liabilities in the US –social security, medicare/medicaid, other federal and state government and private pensions– which currently adds another $150 trillion to the total. The term “fiscal responsibility” has officially been stricken from the lexicon, while “free money” is the new watchword. Or as Robert Preston once famously sang “Oh folks we got trouble right here in River City…”

The Solution: Monetizing the Debt?

The Fed, Treasury, The White House, Congress all see “monetizing” the debt or at least a large portion of new debt as the only viable strategy going forward. (Interestingly, this seems to be one of the very few things that Dems and Reps generally agree on). Monetizing the debt simply means that the Fed buys Treasury Bonds and Treasury Bills typically from member banks to soak up some of the excessive amount of debt being created. Banks and others that own Treasuries sell the Treasuries to the Fed and receive $$$ credit from the Fed. Voila! the debt held by the market falls (the debt goes onto the Fed balance sheet) and money supply increases by the same amount.

This strategy had never been used in a major way until the 2008-09 Financial Crisis when QE (Quantitative Easing) was started. (a fancy seemingly intellectual way of saying massive money printing). During the period 2009-2015 the monetary base more than tripled from $1.2 to $3.9 trillion which helped cover the stimulus packages and increase in govt. programs during this period of roughly $1 trillion more per year. (i.e. Fed budget which had been about $3 Trillion a year during 2005-2008 grew to about $4 trillion during the Obama years).

With the 2020 economic market shutdown in late March, the Fed instantly reduced the Fed Funds rate to 0% AND immediately printed ~$1.5 trillion in just two months (Buying Treasury Bonds). By April 2021, the Fed had increased its supply of Treasury Bonds by $2.1 Trillion. The Fed remains committed to purchase approximately $120 billion per month or a $1.4 trillion a year pace for the foreseeable future.

The effect of all this money printing is well-documented and agreed upon (at least in the short run). Massive money printing lowers the cost of borrowing by reducing interest rates of Treasury bonds. (i.e. Massive buying of bonds increases bond prices which in turn lowers interest rates). This strong support for the Treasury bond market also drives down the borrowing costs for the economy as a whole. Mortgage interest rates, state and municipal bond rates, corporate bond rates etc. all are benchmarked relative to treasury rates and all fall as a consequence. This encourages borrowing, increases corporate debt and increases asset values (particularly housing/real estate values which are heavily driven by borrowing costs). In fact, lower interest rates generally increase the value of investment securities and hence stock and bond prices and other real assets such as gold, silver and even bitcoin.

These virtuous effects of money printing increase wealth, economic growth, increases employment and wages. It also allows the government to fund more giveaway programs (e.g. the Cares Act $1800 checks, higher unemployment benefits, etc.) and generally expand the total debt. So Why not print even more? Why not give everyone $50,000 a year for free!!!

The answer of course is that a much greater money supply reduces the value of a dollar so eventually there is inflation. (i.e. many more dollars chasing the same number of goods). In the past, money supply and inflation often were heavily linked. However, the last round of massive money printing(2008-2015) did not create the inflation that many feared would result. This in part was because on a relative basis the rest of the world economy was also printing lots of euros, yen, and yuan. So the dollar value relative to other currencies wasn’t a major cause of US inflation. Further, the US economy and the world economy remained very weak with generally high levels of unemployment and unused productive capacity throughout much of this period. This meant there was little ability to increase prices or demand higher wages because there was lots of competition between goods being sold around the World as well as among laborers for scarce jobs.

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) and its advocates believe in increasing money supply in order to reduce interest rates and in turn enhance economic growth and employment. This according to MMT should be done UNTIL we get inflation. At that point, MMT advocates that taxes should be increased to quell inflation. Not much is stated about the political difficulties/very low likelihood of actually accomplishing this however, particularly given that a very large increase would be required on all Americans not just the wealthy in order to accomplish this. Nor is much said about the knotty problem of “inflation expectations” which can rather quickly set in after prices have started to increase significantly. This problem was evident in the 1970s.

Is Current Inflation Temporary?

One thing is for certain is that we do have reported inflation now on the order of 5-6% per annum. The truth is actual inflation is much higher –near 10%– when you take out the government’s phony adjustments. (See the Shadow Stats website for more info on this Note that the Fed uses the PCE for its inflation number to guide policy. But PCE excludes energy and food because apparently none of us need to eat, drive or heat our homes in the winter.

The Fed and many others believe inflation is temporary and should abate by year’s end. However, there are a significant number of us who are concerned that inflation increases are not temporary and may become more permanent, if not now , over the next few years. If so, it will almost certainly will mean that interest rates for federal debt, corporate debt and mortgage debt will increase significantly in the next few years. This will kill the stock market, the housing boom (Goodbye 3% Mortgages …Hello 8%+ Mortgages) and consumer demand in general as prices rise. All this points to an even larger deficit (hard to imagine I know) than we currently have, because tax revenues will decline and interest on new federal debt will soar. Only even more federal money printing will keep Treasury bond rates in check. But of course this is just more fuel for inflation.

To be sure many of the experts may be right and govt. reported inflation may return back to 2%. I would be very glad if this is the outcome!!!!, but I do think it is worth protecting yourself at this point. The current politics is for massive deficit spending and money printing to support it to continue for many years in the future. Don’t be fooled by proposals for “tax increases on the the wealthy” which have been promoted by Biden or the increasingly rare calls for reforming Social Security or health care in order to control costs. There is no appetite for either at this point. And even these calls would do very little to fix are long term budgetary problems.

Could we fix a lot of these problems? Sure, but in a world where many sees all government programs as essentially free as the MMT crowd rules the day, it’s hard to imagine how or when. If we refuse to tackle the easiest problems (e.g.the Social Security trust fund), how on earth are we ever close the gap on a $3 trillion per year annual deficit.

In the meantime, for many of my retired or partially retired peers as well as any others who are saving money for an uncertain future, my advice is simple. Protect your retirement funds vs. future inflation. That means owning gold, silver and precious metals (commodities and funds); no long term or intermediate term bond funds except for TIPs funds; some stocks but only companies with strong balance sheets and cash flow. And hold lots of cash just in case it all goes to hell in a hurry.

Let’s hope I am wrong. But unfortunately the numbers usually don’t lie.

Promise to blog about something more cheery next time!

“I’ve Got the Music In Me- Second Edition” is on Sale.

The Second Edition of “I’ve Got the Music in Me: A Fan’s View of 1960s and 1970s Rock and Pop Music” is available on And starting on March 16th the Kindle edition is on sale for $0.99.

The Second Edition is a substantially expanded version of the first edition published in 2017. See detailed description below:

1960s and 1970s rock and pop music is reviewed and discussed year by year (1960-1979) in parallel with the author’s life growing up in New York City and thru his college years at Brown University and graduate school years at Stanford University. Each chapter (year) in Section 1 of the book includes a list of the ten most popular songs and the author’s ten favorite songs. Also, peak chart position and month is included for all the singles mentioned in these chapters. For many songs, there are also selected song lyrics to help the reader’s recognition of the songs. In a few chapters, there are much more extensive song lyrics – e.g. the “depressing” songs of 1976. 

Section 2 of the book contains Bruce Braine’s favorite or “best of” lists and commentary. This includes several song, album or artist lists such as favorite rain songs, favorite b-sides, favorite summer songs, favorite rock instrumentals, favorite comedy songs, favorite rock albums, favorite family groups, favorite numeric/alphanumeric songs, favorite long songs, favorite album sides, favorite rock concerts etc. 

For the second edition, the book was expanded substantially (by about 50%) to include the early 1960s (1960-1962) and the late 1970s (1977-1979) as well as a substantial number of new lists in the second part of the book. This included favorite Canadian artists, British artists, International Artists, best songs for each of the 50 states, one-hit wonders, best singer/songwriters, best drug songs, bird songs, and animal songs. In a new final section of the book, Bruce included two lists of his 100 favorite songs of the 1960s and 1970s ranked in order. Also in the second edition, several of the first edition chapters and lists were expanded with new facts, anecdotes and songs/artists. 

The books’ references and bibliography are extensive. It includes primary sources such as many of the major autobiographies/biographies of artists such as Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Pete Townshend, Keith Richards and John Fogerty among others. It also includes secondary sources such as Billboard, Rolling Stone, Joel Whitburn and even Lou Simon, Executive Producer and the highly knowledgeable former host of the 60s Satellite Survey on Sirius XM radio.

“Bye Corona”

Phew, what a last couple of months it has been: Corona pandemic, “shelter in place”, social distancing, stock market crash and chaos, business shutdowns, huge layoffs. And for me and my family: (1) I had a car accident which totaled my car in mid-February and resulting in a concussion and back injuries which I am still very slowly recovering from.(2) left alone in her NYC apartment my daughter smartly drove to Columbus three weeks ago and seems to have escaped contagion. (3) but we now have my daughter’s cat, our new puppy and the three of us. So much for empty nesters!

When the Knack had a hit in 1979 with “My Charona” (which had surprisingly dirty lyrics for a # 1 pop hit) , did they ever imagine that some 40 years later it would become my designated upbeat song entitled “Bye Corona” about the dreaded Corona Virus . Here are the new lyrics. (Play the song and sing along!):

Ooh, I’ve got a fever now, a raspy cough
When you gonna give me some, Ty-len-ol
Ooh, you make my sputum run, sputum run
Time for you to say Goodbye, Corona
Never gonna stop, fight it now, Til the end of time
I’ll beat that virus now, get it out of me this time
Bye, Bye, Bye, aye-aye, whoa!
B-b-b-Bye Corona

Come a little closer, huh, a-will ya, huh?
Close enough, see its in my eyes, Corona
Wheezing is a mystery, it gets to me
Coughing down the length of my spine, Corona

Never gonna stop, fight it now, Til the end of time
I’ll beat that virus now, get it out of me this time
Bye, Bye, Bye, aye-aye, whoa!
B-b-b-Bye Corona
My temps a droppin’ now, its good for me
all the way down to ninety nine, Corona!
Not a fantasy, f-fantasy
My Antibodies make me feel fine, Corona

Never gonna stop, fight it now, Til the end of time
I’ll beat that virus now, get it out of me this time

Bye Corona
B-b-b-bye Corona
B-b-b-bye Corona

B-b-b-bye Corona


I am trying to convince Maryanne to learn to play and sing this song ( a la her recent hit version of “Ninety-Five”). PLEASE VOTE TO ENCOURAGE HER TO DO SO! (Who knows, her version might go viral on You Tube! ) See poll at end of this post.

So in that spirit , herewith a list of rock songs (along with pertinent original lyrics) predominantly from my favorite music era (1960s-1980s) on the topic of Corona virus and recovery,  social distancing, isolation and shelter in place. Because these may a bit depressing to some, I have limited myself to 20 in the first two categories and added a final group which are the most upbeat about recovery and eventual reintegration of society and the world at large. Admittedly I’ve seen some of these appear on other FB sites and of course this is not an exhaustive list, just some that I thought of:

Corona Virus– First News, Infection, Fighting the Disease and Recovery

  1. “American Pie” – Don McClean – “And February made me shiver with every paper I deliver, bad news on the doorstep…”
  2. “In the Air Tonight” – Phil Collins – “I can feel it coming in the air tonight, hold on”
  3. “Good Lovin”- Young Rascals  –  “I said doctor, Mr. MD, can you tell me what’s ailing me?”
  4. “Hot Blooded” Foreigner  – “Check it and see. I’ve got a fever of 103”
  5. “Urgent” – Foreigner  – “Got fire in your veins, burnin’ hot …You say it’s urgent, so urgent..”
  6. Fever -McCoys – “You give me fever….Fever in the morning. Fever all thru the night”
  7. “Take My Breath Away” -Berlin
  8. “You’ve Got Your Troubles” – Fortunes – “I see that worried look upon your face. You’ve got your troubles; I’ve got mine”
  9. “Welcome to My Nightmare”- Alice Cooper  – “Welcome to my breakdown”
  10. “Livin’ On the Edge”- Aerosmith   – “There’s something wrong with the world today….There’s meltdown in the sky. Livin’ on the edge, can’t help yourself from falling”
  11. “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” Four Seasons
  12. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” – Dylan
  13. “Don’t Fear the Reaper”- Blue Oyster Cult
  14. “Hold On”- Wilson Phillips – “Don’t you know things can change…if you hold one for one more day”
  15. “Somebody Help Me”- Spencer Davis Group  “Somebody  help me now!”
  16. “Shake Me Wake Me”- Four Tops – “when its over”
  17. “I’m So Tired”- Beatles – “I haven’t slept a wink”

Social Distancing and Sheltering in Place/Isolation

  1. “Don’t Stand So close to Me “- Police
  2. “Don’t Come Around Here No More”- Tom Petty
  3. “Keep Your Hands to Yourself”- Georgia Satellites
  4. “Another Saturday Night”- Sam Cooke   ” Another Saturday night and I ain’t got nobody…and how I wish I could have someone to talk to”
  5. “I Can’t See Nobody”- BeeGees  “I walk the lonely streets…I can’t see nobody” 
  6. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”- Green Day “I walk this empty street on the boulevard of broken dreams…. and I’m the only one. And I walk alone”
  7. “All By Myself” – Eric Carmen – Don’t want to be all by myself anymore”
  8. “Dancing With Myself”- Billy Idol
  9. “Rocket Man” – Elton John  “And I think its gonna be a long long time; and I think its gonna be a long, long time; And I think its gonna be a long, long time; and I think its gonna be a long long time….(Repeat forever)”
  10. “Alone Again Naturally” – Gilbert O’Sullivan
  11. “Lonely Days” – BeeGees “Lonely days, lonely nights where would I be without my woman”
  12. “Lonely Too Long” -Young Rascals  “I’ve been lonely too long….I feel like I can’t go on”
  13. “Day after Day” – Badfinger  “looking out from my lonely room, day after day”
  14. “One” – Three Dog Night- “One is the loneliest number you’ll ever do. Two can be as bad as one. It’s the loneliest number since the number one.
  15. “Nowhere Man”- Beatles ” He’s a real nowhere man, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody”
  16. “I Think We’re Alone Now” – Tommy James and the Shondells –  “I think we’re alone now, there doesn’t seem to be anyone around”
  17. “Isolation” – John Lennon  – “We’re afraid to be alone. Everybody got to have a home. Isolation.”
  18. “We’re All Alone” – Rita Coolidge 
  19. “Lonely People” – America – “This is for all the lonely people”
  20. “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” – B.J. Thomas 


RECOVERY, REUNIFICATION AND REINTEGRATION OF SOCIETY (YAY!)–(Play these songs if you are looking for inspiration!)

  1. “I Won’t Back Down”- Tom Petty   “You can take me to the gates of hell, but I won’t back down”  (ONE OF MY FAVORITE SONGS BY PETTY, I CONTINUE TO USE FOR INSPIRATION)
  2. “We Gotta Get Out of this Place”- Animals –  “If it’s the last thing we ever do, girl there’s a better life for me and you”
  3. “98.6” – Keith  – “Hey 98.6 its good to have you back again”
  4. “Getting Better”- Beatles – “It’s getting better all the time. Can’t get no worse”
  5. “Lean on Me” – Bill Withers – “Lean on me when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend”
  6. “I Feel Fine”- Beatles
  7. “We Are Family” – Sister Sledge
  8. “We Are the World” -USA for Africa
  9. “What the World Needs Now is Love” – Jackie DeShannon
  10. “Get Together”- Youngbloods   – “Everybody get together, try and love one another right now.” (SUNG AT OUR WEDDING ALMOST 34 Years ago today). 
  11. “All You Need is Love”- The Beatles
  12. “Time for Livin” – Association
  13. “Rockin’ in the Free World” –  Neil Young
  14. “Back in the High Life”- Steve Winwood – “I’ll be back in the high life again. All the doors I closed one time will open up again. All the eyes that watched me once will smile and take me in again”
  15. “Going Mobile”- The Who – “Going Mobile…. I can stop in any street and talk to people we meet. …when I’m driving free the world’s my home, when I’m mobile…”
  16. Joy to the World”- Three Dog Night
  17. “Back in My Arms Again”- Supremes “I got him back in my arms again. So satisfied”
  18. “Rock Show” – McCartney and Wings  “…rock show at the Concertgebow. You’ve got long hair at the Madison Square. You’ve got rock n’ roll at the Hollywood Bowl”
  19. “Groovin” – Rascals– “Groovin down a crowded avenue. Doin’ anything we like to do”
  20. “Shiny Happy People” – REM – “Shiny happy people holding hands. Shiny happy people laughing.”


Of course there are many other songs but I’ve simply run out of steam. Be sure to vote in my poll below as to whether you would want to see Maryanne (my daughter) make a song video for “Bye Corona”. And of course stay safe and careful!



This past Saturday our family gathered for my mother ( a.k.a. Sally/Gobby) 95th birthday. To help celebrate the occasion I decided to write a new lyrics for the song  “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton which I have provided below. In addition, at my request the very talented Maryanne Braine agreed to sing and play guitar at the Saturday dinner as well as develop a video of her doing the song in advance. (See below). Hope you enjoy.

Ninety- Five

Lyrics by Bruce Braine; Sung and Performed by Maryanne Braine



Born in Waterville a wonderful addition

Thirties child but full of ambition

D       A

To Vassar College she did arrive


President of her class magna cum laude


Always friendly maybe a bit rowdy

D A     D

Hard to believe now my mom is 95


 Gobby’s Ninety-Five but she keeps right on a givin’
Sally’s Ninety-Five she’s wild and keeps on a livin’
She Loves Federer and always watching tennis
Dad Added that line to rhyme with this sentence

Ninety-Five –gives service and devotion
Say it proudly now and with plenty of emotion….
She raised three kids right and never was lazy
Even though Bon and Geoff drove her mostly crazy


After the War she’s workin’ in the city
Where New York boys found her very pretty
But then she was fired by a man named Jack
But Sally and Jack went out on a few dates
Next thing you know they’re married and mates
Movin’ into a brand, new apartment on Twenty-Third Street



 Gobby’s Ninety-Five but she keeps right on a givin’
Sally’s Ninety-Five she’s wild and keeps on a livin’
She Loves Federer and always watching tennis
Added that line to rhyme with this sentence

Ninety-Five –gives service and devotion
Say it proudly now and with plenty of emotion….
She raised three kids right and never was lazy
Even though Bon and Geoff drove her mostly crazy



“My Little Runaway” 1960-62

With the new year and a new decade upon us, naturally I thought about the fact that it is the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the 1960s, the most important rock music decade. While I have virtually no memory of early 60s music during my early years (Ages 5-8) with no siblings or parents that ever played the music in our household, I did start to listen to and collect oldies and greatest hits albums by the late 1960s. In my more limited view, 1960-1962 were an extension of the 1950s and certainly did not feature much of what I liked the most in the mid and late 1960s–rock music.

  • There was no Beatles music (at least not in the US.)
  • There was no Rolling Stones music
  • There was no rock music and only a limited amount of rock n roll music
  • There was no British Invasion.
  • There was no folk-rock or beach rock.
  • There was still plenty of Elvis Presley, but the 50s version of Presley with great rock n’ roll songs such as “Jailhouse Rock” “Hound Dog” “Don’t Be Cruel”, “A Big Hunk of Love” and “Heartbreak Hotel” was largely gone and had been mostly replaced by crooner Elvis with mostly slower love songs which were never my favorites.

In fact, there were plenty of slow love ballad hits that would never be among my favorites but that reached or almost reached the top of the charts. These included:

  • Paul Anka “Puppy Love” (#2 Apr. ’60)
  • Brenda Lee  “I’m Sorry” (#1 Jul. ’60) and “I Want to Be Wanted” (#1 Oct. ’60)
  • Connie Francis’ “My Heart Has a Mind of Its Own” (#1 Sep. ’60) and “Don’t Break the Heart that Loves You” (#1 Mar. ’62)
  • Elvis Presley’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight” (#1 Nov. ’60), “It’s Now or Never” (#1 Aug. ’60) and  “Can’t Help Falling in Love” (#2 Jan. ’62)
  • Pat Boone “Moody River” (#1 June ’61)
  • Bobby Vinton’s “Roses are Red” (#1 Jul. ’62)
  • Johnny Angel (#1 Apr. ’62) – Shelley Fabares

Fortunately, amidst the many slow love songs that seemed to predominate the charts, there was some very good music that would set the stage for the mid 60s rock revolution. And not surprisingly, a lot of this was Rhythm and Blues (R&B).

Rhythm and Blues Lead the Way

Fresh off his first top-ten success with the brilliant “What’d I Say” (#6 Aug. ’59)  Ray Charles had his greatest success in the early 1960s. His first #1 was the soul ballad of the early 1960s “Georgia on My Mind” (#1 Nov. ’60). He also recorded one of the biggest hits of the decade with the country/soul “I Can’t Stop Loving You” (#1 Jun. ’62) followed by the beautiful “You Don’t Know Me” (#2  Sep. ’62). However, it was his only other #1 hit that I loved the most — the lively and catchy soul hit “Hit the Road Jack” (#1 Oct. ’61) (“and don’t you come back no more”).

The Drifters had their only number one hit with the interesting and thoroughly enjoyable “Save the Last Dance for Me” (#1 Oct. ’60). The song features a nice rhythm shifting between a dance beat to a slower love song cadence, in line with the lyrics. Early in the year, they had the hit “This Magic Moment” (#16 Apr. ’60) which was later covered with even greater success as a comeback hit for Jay and the Americans in early 1969. But it was Carole King-Gerry Goffin beautifully composed and written “Up on the Roof”(#5 Feb. ’63) released in late 1962  that was my favorite by the group.

Mississippian Sam Cooke had some of his best output in the early 1960s with five of his best songs- “Wonderful World” (#12 Jul. ’60), “Chain Gang” (#2 Oct. ’60), “Cupid” (#17, Jul. ’61) “Twistin’ the Night Away” (#9 Mar. ’62) and “Bring it On Home to Me” (#13 Aug. ’62) all within a two-year period. Cooke’s smooth soul voice and his song writing talents were unmatched at the time, but tragedy struck in December 1964 when he was shot to death at the age of 33 by a motel manager under mysterious circumstances.

Other R&B classics included “Tossin and Turnin'” (#1 Jul. ’61) (“I couldn’t sleep at all last night“)  by Bobby Lewis , a lively song for insomniacs everywhere. Lewis an orphan born in Indianapolis, was brought up in Detroit, Michigan. Another R&B song and one of my favorites of the early 1960s was the heartfelt  “Raindrops” (#2 June ’61) by Dee Clark. In a very different vein “Mother in Law” (#1 May ’61) (“The worst person I know”) by Ernie K. Doe was catchy and utter fun.

The early 60s was also the era of the girl groups with the Shirelles (named for lead singer Shirley Owens) leading the way. The Shirelles had their first big hit courtesy of a beautiful Carole King/Gerry Goffin composition “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” (#1 Feb. ’61) followed shortly thereafter by another favorite of mine “Dedicated to the One I Love” (#3 Mar. ’61). Both of these songs were covered brilliantly by the Four Seasons and the Mamas and Papas respectively later in the 1960s. By the middle of 1961, the group had another excellent song “Mama Said” (#4 June ’61) (“There’ll be days like this, mama said”) followed by another stellar ballad in early ’62  “Baby’s Its You” (#8 Feb. ’62) and then the group’s final #1 hit “Soldier Boy” (#1 May ’62) (“I’ll be true to you”). In fact, during a 15 month period from early ’61 to mid ’62, the Shirelles had eight c harting singles including five top 10s and two #1s. Other than the Supremes there was no other female group during the 1960s and 1970s, that was as successful. By late 1962, another excellent “girl group”, the Crystals hit the top of the charts with the excellent “He’s a Rebel” (#1 Nov. ’62).

Motown had its early beginnings in the 1961-62 with the Marvelettes  “Please Mr. Postman” (#1 Dec. ’61) and the Miracles “Shop Around” (#2 Feb. ’61) featuring lead singer Smokey Robinson. But it was the lesser-known Contours that had my favorite Motown song of the early 60s with “Do You Love Me” (#3 Oct. ’62) which later played a prominent role in the 1980s hit movie “Dirty Dancin'”.

Let’s Dance!

The early 60s was the era of dance music – with many new songs introducing new dances. This began with Chubby Checker‘s “The Twist” (#1 Sep. ’60; #1 Jan. ’62) and the even better “Let’s Twist Again” ( #8 Aug. ’61) (“like we did last summer“) . Checker (orig. Ernest Evans) also had other dance hits including “Pony Time” (#1 Feb. 61), The Fly (#7 Nov. ’61) and “Limbo Rock” (#2 Dec. ’62) the latter which would became an outdoor pool party staple for decades.

Meanwhile, other artists achieved their first successes with the dance craze. This included the “Peppermint Twist Pt. 1” by Joey Dee and the Starliters, “The Wah-Watusi” by the Orlons (#2 Aug. ’62) and the enjoyable “Bristol Stomp” by the Dovells (#2 Oct. ’61), as well as Dee Dee Sharp with “Mashed Potato Time” (#2 May ’62). But my favorite of all the dance songs was the “The Locomotion” by Little Eva (#1 Aug. ’62) yet another early 60s King- Goffin composition, this time written for Goffin and King’s 16-year old babysitter Eva Boyd.

Meanwhile, other songs simply talked about dancing. This included the simple but thoroughly enjoyable “Let’s Dance” (#4 Oct. ’62) with Chris Montez exhorting us to move, with a driving beat and a melodic organ.

Roots of Rock

Late 50s teen idol Ricky Nelson arguably had his two best songs in 1961 both on the same 45 RPM record. “Travelin’ Man” (#1 May ’61) was an excellent tune (originally written for Sam Cooke) featuring Nelson’s mellow folk-country rock blend and his understated voice. Almost as good was the b-side “Hello Mary Lou”( #9 May ’61) which I do remember hearing at the time. I have vague memories of a few of the The Ozzie and Harriet Shows which always ended with Rick Nelson and his band introducing a new song. But at age 7 I can remember distinctly disliking this part of the show. Imagine that!

Legendary singer/songwriter Roy Orbison had his first great successes beginning in 1960 with “Only the Lonely” (#2 Aug. ’60) a song he almost gave away to Elvis Presley and the Everly Brothers before recording it himself. By 1961, he reached the top of the charts with “Runnin’ Scared” (#1 Jun. ’61) another brilliant ballad. Later in the year, he recorded the beautiful “Crying” (#2 Oct. ’61) and then followed in 1962 with “Dream Baby” (#4 Mar. ’62).

One of my favorite songs of the early 60s was “Runaway” (#1 Apr. ’61) by Del Shannon.  In addition to Shannon’s tenor and falsetto voices, it featured a synthesizer-like electronic organ called the ‘musitron’ which created a unique sound most clearly heard in the musical bridge of the song.  “Runaway” was followed up nicely by Shannon’s “Hats Off to Larry” (#5 Aug. ’61) which had many similarities to its predecessor.

In the late 1950s, the Everly Brothers had notable success with early rock n’ roll standards such as “Wake Up Little Susie” and “Bye, Bye, Love” but in 1960 they scored with one of the best songs of the early ’60s, “Cathy’s Clown” (#1 May ’60) (“Don’t want your love anymore“). This was to be their first #1 song that was also written by the Everly Brothers. But there was much more in 1960 with two beautiful love ballads  “Let it Be Me” (#7 Mar ’60) and “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad” (#7 Oct. ’60) and the more lively “When Will I Be Loved” (#8 Aug. ’60), which was covered superbly by Linda Ronstadt in 1975. The Everly Brothers continued to have hits thru the early 1960s with “Crying in the Rain” (#6 Mar. ’62) another favorite.

Late 50s or Early 60s?

The “Doo Wop” genre of the late 1950s was still alive and well in the early 60s. The two best of this genre were Blue Moon (#1 Apr. ’61) by the Marcels and the infectious Duke of Earl (#1 Feb. ’62) by Gene Chandler. Chandler recorded another 21 singles (that reached the top 100) over the next 8 1/2 years before he would score with his second most successful hit “Groovy Situation” (#12 Sep. ’70) which was a much more conventional pop-rock song. Another catchy tune was released by the Earls a white doo-wop group from the Bronx at the end of 1962 “Remember Then” (#24 Jan. ’63).

In 1962, a major new group The Four Seasons had their first two big hits–back to back #1s with “Sherry” (#1 Sep. ’62) and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (#1 Nov. ’62). While the Four Seasons music was to evolve into a popular rock sound, these early hits owed as much to the doo top sound as anything. In a similar vein, also featuring falsetto voices, the Tokens had by far their biggest hit “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (#1 Dec. ’61) (“Wimoweh, wimoweh….In the jungle, the mighty jungle“) about a year earlier. This was their only major success though they kept recording into the early 1970s and by 1964 had formed a record label B.T. Puppy and produced the Happenings  who had big hits with “See You in September” and “I’ve Got Rhythm” in the mid-1960s.

Though not exactly doo-wop music, Neil Sedaka did owe his roots to late 50s music and some doo-wop influences. His first breakout hit was “Oh Carol” (#9 Dec. ’59) which he wrote for fellow songwriter Carole King. By the early 1960s, Sedaka had a string of hits the best of which included “Calendar Girl” (#4 Feb. ’61) and my favorite “Breaking Up in Hard to Do” (#1 Aug. ’62) (“Comma, comma, down-doo-be-doo-down down“).

Dion and the Belmonts had their first big hit in 1959 with the 50s classic “Teenager in Love” (#5 May ’59). Dion went solo in 1960 and then later wrote and recorded my favorite song by him, the lively “Runaround Sue” (#1 Oct. ’61).

And though I was never a huge Elvis Presley fan (particularly in the 1960s), I did love the clever “Return to Sender” (#2 Nov. ’62) (“address unknown, no such person, no such zone“).

Other good singles included Hey! Baby (#1 Mar. ’62)- Bruce Channel ; the lively “Palisades Park” by Freddie Cannon (#3 Jul ’62) and my favorite Bobby Vee song – Take Good Care of My Baby- Bobby Vee (#1 Sep. 61) . In the last case, this was due to the song writing talents of Carole King and husband Gerry Goffin who seemed to have a monopoly on good songs in the early 1960s.

Last but not least, there were multitudes of instrumentals during the early 1960s many of which reached the top of the pop charts. This included Percy Faith “Theme from a Summer Place” (#1 Feb. ’60); Bert Kaempfert “Wonderland by Night” (#1 Jan. ’61); Lawrence Welk “Calcutta” (#1 Feb. ’61); Acker Bilk‘s “Stranger on the Shore” (#1 May ’62) and David Rose “The Stripper” (#1 Jul. ’62). But the best of the lot was The Tornadoes “Telstar” (#1 Dec. ’62), owing to its unique electronic sound.


While the early 60s weren’t the best years for rock and pop music, there were still plenty of songs that were pretty darn good. Further, songs by the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, Del Shannon, Rick Nelson, Ray Charles and early Motown music served as an excellent segue to what was to come next. The rise of the Four Seasons and the Beach Boys was to begin in earnest in 1963 with rock and soul music ascendant soon thereafter.




“Tonight we’re gonna party like it’s 1999 (2019)”

Seasons Greetings and Happy New Year! The end of the 2010s decade (or as I like to call it the “teens” decade) seems to have gone by in a blink of an eye. While many “best of” the decade lists have appeared in the past couple of weeks, this blog won’t attempt to repeat them or belabor the obvious. Suffice to say that 2010 began with a still fragile US (and world) economy just beginning to recover from a major financial meltdown in 2008-09. Ten years later we are enjoying positive GDP growth and significant job growth, historically low unemployment and even more significant (above inflation) wage growth as of late. During the decade we had 7 years of a historic Obama presidency (first African American President in US history) which has been followed by 3 years of President Donald Trump who just made history by being the third President to be impeached.

I began this blog at around the beginning of the decade in late 2011. So I thought with the end of the decade I would post a list of my ten favorite posts of this decade. Some of these are funny ( or I hope you think so!). One is very sad. A number of these were my “idea” blogs, almost never original, but ones that I thought could make a big difference for future US policy. I don’t do any of the top 10 full justice in my brief write ups below so please read them in full if you are interested. And of course let me know if there were any others that you liked in particular. So here they are in the order of when I posted them :

  1. “No Sugar Tonight” (4/12) – In 2012, I wrote about the pernicious increase in sugar in the US diet and its obvious bad health effects . I recommended a sugar tax to help discourage overconsumption, with the proceeds used directly to cover federal health programs. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but when my blog was referenced in AEP Now, (the company’s intranet site), the over-the-top comments I received seems to suggest that I had proposed taxing the air that we all breathe. Even so, I still think it is a good idea (if it is done across all added sugar in all products) but I doubt it will ever happen.
  2. “1968: Born to Be Wild” (5/13) – My third blog post about rock music confirmed a trend of “yearly” and “favorite song list” blogs in the l960s and 1970s, with another 30 more music posts to follow. (This seemed to correspond with me being too depressed to blog much about Public Policy). Ultimately, much of this material was to find its way into my first book “I’ve Got the Music in Me” published in May 2017. And there is more to come later this year with my new expanded edition (all of the 1960s and 1970s and more favorite lists) planned for this Spring/Early Summer. (Now all I have to do is finish writing it :) ).
  3. “Sixty Years On” (4/14). – I decided to take my own aging/mortality head on with a humorous look at getting older. But now 60 seems so young to me!
  4. “Sarah Smile” (2/15) – On my mother’s 90th birthday, we presented her with a book of memories which included this account of her 90 years paralleled with world events. She got a big kick out of it, as I hope you will too. Stay tuned: she is still going strong and we are set to celebrate her 95th!
  5. “Our House is a very very very fine house” (3/15)– This may be my most intelligent post (although judge for yourselves!) in which I review and summarize Peter Wallison’s excellent book on the true origins of the housing crisis. Spoiler alert: it’s not greedy Wall Street bankers who were the root cause but rather government housing policy dating back to 1992 (with Congress affordable housing goals requirement for  Ginnie Mae and Freddie Mac) and continuing thru the next 15 years. Too bad Congress still doesn’t understand these root causes. No doubt we may be doomed to repeat history.
  6. “Water, Water Get Yourself in that Clear Cool Water” (5/15) – In the midst of one of California’s worst droughts , I wrote about a market solution to water consumption and supply in an all too often anti-market state. California’s antiquated water allocation system still is severely broken and leads to all types of behavior that only exacerbates wasteful behavior. Marketable water rights ( plus a minimum free and allocation for households and small businesses) would encourage conservation and more efficient agriculture and more supply . Too bad that California hasn’t even considered a move in a sensible direction.
  7. “Debt”(10/15) – As my blog readers know, I have posted multiple times over the past decade about our huge federal debt, deficit and future liabilities – so much so that I should rightfully be called a broken record. However, numbers in multiple trillions are so unimaginable that they are meaningless to most of us. Hence, my favorite blog was about Big Joe Spender which had an eerie similarity to the federal government spending and debt problems ( except all the numbers were 10 million times lower) .
  8. “Inside Out, Outside In, Perpetual Change” (1/16)- My public service post on colonoscopy with 20 questions and answers on this procedure based on my recent experience in early 2016. Naturally, this was a very serious post, highly factual and done without any humor or sarcasm. :)
  9. “Yeah I’m the Taxman” (4/17) – I have blogged multiple times about our horrific tax system in the US. This blog summarizes most of my recent thinking as to why it is still a big problem (and a terrible waste of trillions of dollars) and how to fix it (albeit thru a radical change) while still collecting all the necessary revenues to pay for all of our federal programs.
  10. “My Bonnie” (11/17) – My sister Bonnie’s long struggle with Picks disease ended with her death in late 2017. My blog post focused on Bonnie during a happier time and my remembrances of the best sister a brother could ever have.
Of course, there are many events during the 2010s that my posts did not cover. For the most part, I tried to steer away from politics and religion which these days are more important than ever to avoid. But I have really enjoyed writing them.  So as long as someone is reading them, I will keep doing it during the 2020s.
Happy Roaring 20s.


This One’s For the Birds

Ah, It’s Springtime, the season of flowers, ample sunshine (well at least some of the time) and many active birds. In fact, on just a couple of our recent walks along the river near our house, we’ve either seen or heard about 20 different species of birds. This has included the tufted titmouse, black capped chickadee, nuthatch, American robin, cardinal, blue jay, mourning dove, crow, Canadian goose, gull, wood duck, mallard, baltimore oriole, bluebird, red-winged blackbird, blue heron, white egret, among others that I have forgotten. So in honor of our fine-feathered friends, I thought I would create a list of my favorite songs with “birds” or bird types in the title. Per usual, it includes my strong preference for those rock and pop songs from the 1960s and 1970s. So here is a list of twenty-five favorites with songs alphabetically by bird type with generic bird songs last:

  1. “Albatross” -Fleetwood Mac (1968) – A nice guitar-led, instrumental rock song from the early years of Fleetwood Mac (Peter Green on guitar) before Christine McVie, Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham joined the group. Originally a single,  “Albatross” was later included on a UK compilation album, fittingly entitled The Pious Bird of Good Omen.
  2. “Bat Out of Hell”- Meatloaf (1978)- Ok, I can hear you saying, “Doesn’t Bruce know that a bat is NOT a bird?” Well, I like this rock song a lot so I have decided to stretch the definition to include flying rodents too.
  3. “Blackbird” -Beatles (1968) – One of McCartney’s best solo composition while with the Beatles. Beautiful and haunting.
  4. “Bluebird”- Paul McCartney (1973) –  With the Wings group in shambles during the Band on the Run recording sessions (only Paul, Linda and Denny Laine were left as members), this song was a nice breezy pop song by Paul with very nice harmonies from Linda and Denny.
  5. “Bluebird”- Buffalo Springfield (1967) – Same title but a very different, up-tempo, melodious rock song written by Stephen Stills.
  6. “Voices in the Sky” – Moody Blues (1968) – Bluebird flying high, tell me what you say” – A nice composition and great vocal by Justin Hayward. Though bluebird is not in the title, I made an understandable exception for the Moody Blues.
  7. “Blue Jay Way” – Beatles (1967)– This George Harrison composition thought not his best, was interesting and fit right in with the psychedelic sound of much of the rest of Magical Mystery Tour album particularly the avant-garde “I Am the Walrus”
  8. “Dixie Chicken”- Little Feat(1973) – This is the signature song of this group which spanned most of the 1970s. A pretty good song as well.
  9. When Doves Cry” – Prince (1984) – Prince’s most popular song of his long career from the movie Purple Rain. Not my favorite by him, I prefer “1999” and “Let’s Go Crazy”, but still a very good song.
  10. “Edge of Seventeen (Just Like The White Winged Dove)” – Stevie Nicks (1982) – I must admit when I finally saw the record I was surprised it wasn’t called “white winged dove”, though it does make it into the parentheses of the official song title. It’s my favorite solo effort by Stevie Nicks.
  11. “Fly Like an Eagle” – Steve Miller (1977)- One of Steve Miller’s most popular songs with music that literally soars like an eagle.
  12. “Hummingbird” -Seals and Crofts (1972) – My favorite song by Seals and Crofts combines an exquisite tune with excellent harmonies. Not only that but it’s about one of my favorite birds which I love watching on our back deck. (Anne, please get the hummingbird feeder out!)
  13. “Mockingbird”- James Taylor and Carly Simon (1974) – The original by Inez and Charlie Foxx is also good, but always loved this duet from pop music’s top couple of the 1970s.
  14. Skyline Pigeon -Elton John (1972) – Another excellent piano song by Elton which I only recently rediscovered when I finally decided to buy Don’t Shoot Me I’m Only the Piano Player album.
  15. “Fly Robin Fly” – Silver Convention (1975)- Though I generally dislike disco music, this very popular song was not that bad and the chorus seems to always come to mind when I see a robin in flight.
  16. “Rockin’ Robin” – Bobby Day(1958)- Michael Jackson’s remake is better known, but I prefer Bobby Day’s original. Hard to see the robins congregating on our lawn and not think of this tune.
  17. “Little Red Rooster”Rolling Stones (1965) – An interesting blues song from “The Rolling Stones Now” album (1965). The song is a remake of a Willie Dixon original blues song first recorded by Howlin’ Wolf in 1961.
  18. “Cold Turkey” -Plastic Ono Band (1969) – A great hard rocker by Lennon with an important assist from Eric Clapton on guitar. Naturally, the song wasn’t about a turkey at all but rather the pain of kicking drugs “cold turkey”. However, one could be forgiven if upon hearing it three days after Thanksgiving one believed that the song was also about getting tired of eating cold turkey sandwiches.
  19. “The Vultures Fly High” – Renaissance (1975) – Though I prefer the group’s Turn of the Cards album, this short song from their Scheherazade album is also excellent. And as always Annie Haslam’s exquisite vocals soar!
  20. “White Bird”- Its a Beautiful Day (1969)  – In a similar vein as Renaissance, It’s a Beautiful Day was a progressive rock band that used orchestral sounds, electric violin and classical-style compositions. Both their best and best known song is “White Bird”, a beautiful soft rock classic.
  21. “Yellow Bird” – Mills Brothers (1959) – This Caribbean standard has been performed or recorded by countless folk, calypso and other pop groups and reached  #4 on the pop charts in 1961 in Arthur Lyman’s instrumental vibraphone version. However, it was the Mills Brothers who sang it the best. “Did your lady friend leave the nest again? That is very sad makes me feel so bad”.
  22. “Free Bird” -Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974) – Written as a tribute to Duane Allman after his death. A rock anthem and rock jam classic.
  23. “Songbird” – Fleetwood Mac (1977) – A beautiful Christine McVie love song, one of her best. “And the songbirds keep singing, like they know the score…”
  24. “Surfin’ Bird” – The Trashmen (1963) – I love this garage rock classic. “Bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word”!
  25. “The Birds and Bees”- Jewel Akins (1965)- “Let me tell you about the birds and the bees and the flowers and trees and the moon up above…”

Honorable Mention– “Birds”- Neil Young (1970), “Songbird”-Kenny G (1987), Night Owls – Little River Band (1981), “Rubber Duckie”- Ernie (1970)

Honorable Group Mentions– The Eagles, The Flamingoes, The Byrds, Sheryl Crow, Counting Crows

Dishonorable Mention: Disco Duck- Rick Dees (1976)



“I’ve Got the Music in Me” Radio Interview

I was recently interviewed by OSU senior Matt Baugher on his radio show on rock music re: my book “I’ve Got The Music in Me” Hope you enjoy!


“Oh, Canada”

With winter’s grip still upon us here in Columbus, it reminded me of cold and snowy Canada.  In addition, I owe it to my former Palo Alto condo roommate, landlord and long time friend Steve Fung to choose my top ten rock and pop artists from Canada during the 1960s and 1970s. Steve originally hails from Vancouver and has always reminded me of the greatness of all things Canadian. (As you will see from the list, I struggled to come up with 10 artists which perhaps suggests that Canadian musical “greatness” is a bit overrated, at least during the 60s and 70s.)

To qualify for this esteemed list, the group or artist must have had some significant part of its output from the 1960s and 1970s (so no Barenaked Ladies I’m afraid) and the majority of the group’s members must hail from Canada. So herewith is my list in approximate order:

  1. Neil Young– “Southern Man” “Down by the River” “Heart of Gold” “Cinnamon Girl”-Is there any doubt that Neil Young is the greatest Canadian rock artist ever? His styles range from soft, socially conscious folk-rock (e.g. “The Needle and the Damage Done”) to hard guitar rock “Down by the River” with everything in between. His songs are brilliantly written with infectious melodies and he is a pretty darn good guitarist too.
  2. Rush– “Fly by Night”; “Closer to the Heart”, “Limelight” “Tom Sawyer”- This Toronto based group became the preeminent progressive Canadian rock band courtesy of some brilliant rock songs. Admittedly some of their best output was in the early 1980s but they still had many good songs in the 1970s so they definitely qualify.
  3. The Guess Who- “American Woman”, “No Sugar Tonight” “These Eyes” “Undun” – During the late 1960s and early 1970s, this Winnipeg based group rose to the top of the pop charts and were quite good, featuring Randy Bachman on guitar and Burton Cummings as a superb lead vocalist. It was a relatively short-lived success. During 1969-70 the group had six top twenty hits. Randy Bachman left in late 1970 and after that the group had only one top ten, the not-very-good “Clap for the Wolfman” in 1974. The group disbanded shortly thereafter.
  4. Bachman Turner Overdrive-“Taking Care of Business” “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” “Roll on Down the Highway” “Hey You” – After the early 1970s demise of the Guess Who, Randy Bachman and fellow Canadian Fred Turner formed Bachman-Turner Overdrive in Vancouver. Between early 1974 and mid-1975, the group had their biggest hits with a nice hard rockin’ sound. However, they faded into obscurity soon thereafter.
  5. The Band “The Weight”, “Up on Cripple Creek”, “The Shape I’m In”, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” – The Band was formed in Woodstock, New York in 1968 but with the exception of drummer/vocalist Levon Helm (born in Arkansas), the group members were all from Ontario. I always liked their mellow rock sound. They produced a number of good songs in their career which ended in 1976 with their last concert documented by Martin Scorsese in the movie The Last Waltz.
  6. Steppenwolf – “Born to be Wild” “Magic Carpet Ride” “Rock Me” “The Pusher”- After an unsuccessful career as The Sparrows, three members of this Ontario group went to LA and recruited two Americans and formed the group Steppenwolf in 1967. They had their breakthrough success with “Born to Be Wild” in mid-1968, but their last good single and last top 40 (“Hey Lawdy Mama”) was only two years later. They were the first hard rock group to come from Canada.
  7. Gordon Lightfoot “If You Could Read My Mind” “Sundown” “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” – While I don’t know much of Gordon Lightfoot’s music beyond his three big hits, those songs alone are good enough to qualify him. An excellent folk singer from Ontario, Lightfoot wrote great music with wonderful lyrics.
  8. Joni Mitchell- “Help Me” “Big Yellow Taxi” “California”- I have very mixed feelings about Joni Mitchell. Some of her songs are great, but many seem so dreary to me that overall I am not much of a fan. Nonetheless, she certainly qualifies as one of the top ten Canadian artists of the 60s and 70s.
  9. Anne Murray- “Snowbird” “You Won’t See Me” “Danny’s Song”. Anne Murray might rank as the top pop artist ever to hail from Nova Scotia. She has a very nice voice, but her country/soft pop style and her constant focus on covers of others songs never did much for me. But since she is one of Steve’s favorite artists ever I had to include in the top 10!
  10. Five Man Electrical Band, Stampeders, and Lighthouse – These three groups came from Ottawa, Calgary and Toronto respectively. They are best known for only one hit each: “Signs” (“and the sign said long haired freaky people need not apply”), “Sweet City Woman” and “One Fine Morning” respectively. Fortunately, all three songs are excellent (and interestingly all of them came out in 1971). Of note, Howard Shore who played the saxophone for Lighthouse ended up being the first music director of SNL (Saturday Night Live) in 1975.

Dishonorable Mention: The Poppy Family (incl. the execrable solo #2 hit “Seasons in the Sun” by group member Terry Jacks, as well as unmemorable solo compositions by his wife Susan ) and Paul Anka (Known for such saccharin hits as “Puppy Love” “Put Your Head on My Shoulder” and the truly awful “You’re Having My Baby”).