It’s my birthday! I’m turning 67 on April 8, 2016. Sixty-seven has always been one of my favorite numbers. Because, in ’67, I graduated from high school. The Summer Of Love happened in ’67. And I moved to Hollywood with my band, the Velvet Illusions, where we achieved a modicum of success, in ’67. (In fact, New York Magazine recently named our song, “Hippy Town” the iconic song of ’67). But now, my number is 67. Gosh, it happened fast. Why, just the other day I swear I was strolling down Hollywood Boulevard, where I paused to gaze into the window of a hip record store, at an eye-dazzling display featuring the brand new Beatles LP, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. I remember thinking how amazing it would probably be. And it was. — As has been my life. It’s been an amazing roller coaster experience. I’m very grateful.
And so, on my birthday, let me give you a gift. I’m a singer-songwriter. Back in 1985, here in Seattle, Washington, a song popped into my head. Yep, suddenly, an entire song just flooded in, as if someone turned on a spigot in my little brain. The words, “Isn’t It Good To Be Alive” came first. – I had my title, and hook line. – Soon, three verses and a coda followed. Grabbing a pen, I wrote furiously, trying to capture every word on my paper, before they had a chance to escape into the ozone. And I caught them all.
Next, I fetched my cheap acoustic folk guitar, and I somehow found a new chord figure, which had never before crossed my mind. Starting with that figure, I added more and more chords, until I laid the foundation of my new song. It’s a song which portrays little vignettes from life. Not necessarily from my own. But from the lives of regular people. It’s a song which conveys my philosophy: isn’t it good to be alive?
In 1987, I went into Triad Studios in Bellevue, WA, where I recorded the track in one or two takes. — Just me and my guitar, with a little “processing” (sound effects) done on my guitar. Triad engineer Mike Tortorello expertly caught it on tape. The album it was included on received a nomination from the Northwest Area Music Awards for Folk Album of the Year. I released it on cassette, because that was the way indie artists did things back then. CD’s were new, and extremely expensive to make.
Fast forward to the present. My Facebook pal, Tim Gassen, put the album onto a CD, enabling me to share its songs in this digital age. Then my surrogate nephew, Peter Garami, combined the song with a group of photos featuring some of my friends (nope, I never started a family of my own) and voila: a YouTube video was born. So here is my birthday gift/blessing for you: “Isn’t It Good To Be Alive?” Just click on the arrow, and enjoy.
After I posted this, something dawned on me: “Isn’t It Good To Be Alive?” is my “answer” to a song I recorded in Seattle with the Velvet Illusions in 1966 called “Town Of Fools”. In “Town Of Fools”, which was written by rockabilly legend Jerry Merritt, I sang to an imaginary man who put making money over being with his family, “Why don’t you stop all your wishin’, take your kids now and go fishin'”. And in “Isn’t It Good To Be Alive” I wrote, “Teachin’ my little kid to catch a fish”. — I guess subconsciously, I wanted to show how the seventeen year old boy who sang “Town Of Fools” grew up to be a man who chose building a family life over being a workaholic. Below, please find a YouTube video of “Town of Fools”, so you can see what I mean. Thanks!