Without the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, we are nothing. Yes, our family has served in the military: Nephews in Afghanistan and Iraq (Army & Marines), Dad in World War II (Navy), me and a brother in law in the Vietnam Era (Army). We believed we owed it to our country. None of us regretted the decision to wear the green or, in my father’s case, the blue.
But none of us ever qualified as naïve, either. We’re keenly aware of the truth that only an armed populace is capable of defending itself against the forces of evil, whether those forces manifest as local criminal home invaders or overly enthusiastic government officials with tyranny in mind. This is not a peaceful universe and never will be.
Strangely enough, though, I’d never been able to write a song supporting the Second Amendment…until recently.
I’ve been writing poems and short stories for 61 years, since the age of nine. Songwriting, however, began taking off when I was sixteen. That year (1959), I wrote a song called I’ll Take You the Way You Are, a little tune my somewhat biased mother declared far superior to the later country hit with the same title. In the fall of 1961, I got my first guitar and there was no turning back.
But there was one problem.
Over the years, it became clear to me that the musicality of many a song I’d written a capella (voice only) was far more complex and subtle in its melody and key changes than anything I could produce on the guitar. My ear was (and is) good enough to know when a song “felt right” vocally…but not good enough to figure out precisely which guitar chord needed to go where and when, especially when it involved any of the many chords I’ve never even mastered in the first place. Additionally, my picking styles are equally limited; I’m no Eric Clapton. As a result, quite a few really good songs got “dumbed down”, square pegs jammed into the round holes of my one-step-up-from-crappy guitar capability.
And I hate that. Have hated it for decades. When a song called Soul to Soul came along, something had to give. It was no country tune. For that one, I learned a finger picking arpeggio. It worked well. But for the totality of my natural vocal work covering hundreds of songs, it wasn’t enough.
Something. Had. To. Change.
A couple of weeks ago, I picked up my guitar, gave it a workout for an hour or so…and gag a maggot, it was horrible. My song writing nuances are at times world class, in my obviously not so humble opinion. Not the voice, you understand, but the subtlety and power of the song itself, the sort of thing that could be a Bullet to the Top if recorded by, say, Carrie Underwood or Garth Brooks–or Ray Stevens, in the case of the more humorous ditties.
Upgrade my guitar skills, you say? Uh…ain’t happening. As the old movie line says, a man’s gotta know his own limitations. Twenty years of full time study and practice on the git-fiddle could most likely elevate yours truly to “not bad” status, but not with the intuitive ability to hear a song and come right up with the perfect arrangement. Repeat: Ain’t happening.
So…give up, then?
Oh, no. Never that. It was simply time to work around the shortcoming, innovate a new way of recording my music. And I was motivated to find such a way, thanks to my newest song.
How to do it, then? Well, if there was to be no musical accompaniment, there would need to be something visual to keep the viewer involved. Perhaps…a slide show! Yes! There are more than a thousand photo files in my library. If one of those could be tuned up, unworthy pictures deleted, then…man, I love it when a plan comes together:
1. Pick and prepare a suitable file of photos.
2. Open up the starter photo so that it fills most of the computer screen.
3. Set up the camcorder in front of the desk, aimed at the monitor, zoomed in just so.
4. Hit Record and, while singing World War II Was My Daddy’s War, click the mouse button every so often to change “slides”.
It worked. By golly, it worked.
With one interesting and totally unforeseen twist. You know how when you take a screen shot of your computer screen with a digital camera, the resulting photo ends up with all these mostly vertical lines running through it? Well…it turns out those lines are sensitive to sound. As I sang, they moved in response to my voice, just like the graph lines you see on an equalizer display.
Amazing. Absolutely freakishly amazing.
Here. See for yourself.
Okay, so the vocal scatting isn’t exactly R & B quality. So? This is how it goes in the car or truck when I’m driving to Sierra Vista on errands. My wife tells me (repeatedly) that she still loves my lows but can’t stand my voice in the upper half of my range. She tells me I’ve lost it. I disagree; I’ve listened back, and as far as I ever had it, I’ve still got it.
But for a while, three years to be exact, I couldn’t hear it. In December of 2010, while exercising my Second Amendment rights by practicing combat moves with a short barreled .357 Magnum revolver and too little in the way of ear protection, I touched off a round a few inches above ground level and blew my hearing to smithereens. Three years later, three years during which I couldn’t appreciate music because it all sounded tinny and alien and incomprehensible, let alone uncomfortable–a miracle happened. I got my music back.
And, naturally, wrote a song about it.
Here. See for yourself.
Experiments in video recording technique aside, we really do need to stand up for the Second Amendment. Lock and load.