Is there any significance to sharing birthdays? Astrologers would say yes. If you share your birthday with someone you admire, you might be tempted to say yes in hopes something rubs off on you.
Today (November 29) there are a number of people who share a birthday. John Mayall, who is credited as a parent of the British Blues Revival, is 88 today. Among the guitarists who passed through his band, The Bluesbreakers, were Eric Clapton (hailed as “god” by fans in the 60s), Peter Green (who replaced Clapton and about whom B.B. King said “He was the only guitarist who made me sweat” and when someone asked what happened to Clapton, Mayall said “Don’t worry – we’ve got someone better”) and Mick Taylor (who went on to play with the Rolling Stones).
Felix Cavalieri (organ and vocals with The Young Rascals) is 79 today.
Joel Coen (of the filmmaking Coen Brothers) is 67. One shot in their first film, “Blood Simple”, convinced me that I was going to follow these guys. Adude in Austin might appreciate this one.
Actor Don Cheadle (“Devil in a Blue Dress”, “Hotel Rwanda”, “Ocean’s 11”, “Crash”) is 57.
The theoretical conception date for these men would have been March 8 – International Women’s Day.
Is there any significance in this? I don’t know. Time to go ride my bike.
I startled a pair of deer on a recent ride. Rather than run uphill away from me, they ran along the shoulder of the road for about 100 feet, then dashed across my path and headed down to the wooded creek bank. Trying to think like a deer, I imagined that they figured that if they were going to be pinned down somewhere, they wanted water and shelter. Either that or they’re just stupid, running across the highway in my path, instead of away from it.
I came around a bend quickly and encountered a pair of sandhill cranes. I braked and swerved to give them space. One paid me no mind. The other, with a few graceful wing beats, rose a few feet off the ground and soared 20 feet down the road, coming to rest in the road again. I was enthralled by how such a big bird could get airborne so quickly and gracefully, and come to rest so smoothly. Apparently it had realized I wasn’t a threat. Its partner was still strolling. Thinking anthropomorphically, I imagined the flyer was trying to be cool and pretend it hadn’t been startled. “I just decided to fly a few feet. It’s cool…”
Another red tailed hawk flew over head. I managed to keep both wheels on the road this time as I watched it soar by 15 feet off the ground. It helped that it crossed just ahead of me, rather than directly over head.
In my continuing Wednesday Night‘s Greatest Hits tour, last week I rode from Lodi to the Baraboo Bluffs, crossing on the Merrimac Ferry and climbing Devil’s Delight Road – short but steep enough to require switchbacks anyway. If any of you remember biorhythms (a popular schema in the ’70s), the theory posits that we have three rhythms that follow sine waves at different periods. If all three line up at the top of the wave, you have a great day. If they all line up at the bottom of the wave, it will be a bad day. Last Wednesday was one of those days. I had no energy. Every climb was a chore. Even going down was hard. There seemed to be headwinds in all directions. After climbing Devil’s Delight, I turned around and headed back down, short of the ridge and cutting at least ten miles off the loop I had planned. At least I got two ferry crossings in.
Luckily I saved the ride that is usually that week and did it tonight. The ride starts at Black Earth; if you see the ground being turned in the spring the reason for the name becomes obvious. The Black Earth Creek watershed contains incredibly rich, black soil – even after 150 years of farming. The route crosses the ridges multiple times, with five steep climbs. The person who wrote the cue sheet for this ride illustrated the climbs with evil grinning jack o’lantern demon faces. I felt much better tonight and the five climbs were great fun, as was the 5 miles along Blue Ridge Road, staying on the ridge until the 40 mph downhill. One of the ridges is occupied by the Camp That Must Not Be Named, where my daughter spent many summers and some winter weeks – and I was a counselor-in-training there 51 years ago. The route includes the “easy” side of Sutcliffe Road, meaning that the downhill side is the one where I have hit 50 mph on my steel bike. Tonight as I approached 50 mph I felt a little oscillation in the frame. Rather than just squeeze the top tube with my knees, I feathered the brakes. Either this bike feels less stable at that speed, or I’m just getting old.
One couldn’t ask for a better late July day for a ride…85 degrees (30 Celsius), dew point 59 (15 degrees Celsius), winds less than 5 mph, just enough clouds to give the place atmosphere, and the smell of corn ripening in the fields.
My post-ride beer was a timely one. I’d seen it in stores but hadn’t tried it. Since I forgot my church key tonight I needed something in cans, and voila!
While my guitar gently weeps
The song could have been written (but wasn’t) while listening to Peter Green. One more round from his guitar gently weeping. First is this BB King song, with an opening that sounds like Mose Allison could have written it – “I’ve got a mind to give up living/And go shopping instead”:
There is also a great 1968 live recording of BB himself available on YouTube; BB being the other great guitarist who knows it’s not the number of notes you play, but the soul you put into those notes. That recording also contains a great organ part and a horn funeral dirge. I’ve been listening to Peter Green all week. Slow blues may not be your cup of tea, but he and his guitar continue to weep with his own song:
It almost hurts to listen to Peter Green. He doesn’t play notes, he draws beauty and suffering from the instrument. His voice aches. But when the song is over, I feel at peace.
The world lost one of its greatest and least-appreciated guitarists today. Peter Green (born Peter Greenbaum) has died at the age of 73.
Green replaced Eric Clapton in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers in 1966. When a producer expressed dismay that Clapton had left the band, Mayall replied, “Don’t worry. We got someone better.” Lucille Bogan’s “Sweet Black Angel”, made famous by BB King as “Sweet Little Angel”, was recorded by Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Green on guitar.
Mayall introduced some of the best British blues guitarists to the world. Green, like the others, soon left to form his own band – Fleetwood Mac, with the rhythm section of Mick Fleetwood and John McVie (the only constants in that band’s long tenure). There he recorded his song “Black Magic Woman”. While most of the world associates this song with Santana’s cover version, here is Fleetwood Mac:
While Green was a phenomenal blues guitarist, he and Fleetwood Mac soon branched out, especially as they added additional guitarists. Here is Green’s instrumental “Albatross”:
With the album “Then Play On”, they went in another direction. Here is “Oh Well” from that album:
Green left Fleetwood Mac in 1970. Within a few years they had morphed into a phenomenally successful pop band; unrecognizable to fans of the original Fleetwood Mac. Green disappeared from the public eye after an unpleasant LSD experience in Germany. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia and underwent electroconvulsive therapy. He resurfaced a few times over the years, including in the 90s with “Peter Green’s Splinter Group”.
After all those years, it was clear he still had it. He reappeared one last time with “Peter Green and Friends”. While he could no longer tolerate the ravages of touring and his voice was shot, his fingers still worked, as did their connection to his heart. Here, from 2010, is his cover of “Oh Pretty Woman” (not the Roy Orbison song but the A.C. Williams blues song made famous by Albert King).
Peter Green 29 October 1946-25 July 2020.
This post may have nothing to do with bicycles, but it seems like everyone has the blues these days and could use a dose of the blues as treatment.