Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Song: Solitary Man

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. This week’s Spotlight song is Neil Diamond’s “Solitary Man”:

This is an early Neil Diamond in the days before he became all superstar. The words are simple and direct and it shows what a great songwriter can do.

It’s the story of someone who’s been betrayed and dumped a number of times. But he’s not giving up on love. He’ll keep trying till he finds just the right person. Though it comes from a guy’s point of view, it could very well be a woman singing this song.

One of the reasons I love this song is the simplicity of the lyrics. Yet they hit and they hit hard. We feel the singer’s pain. Most of us have been there and he is speaking personally for us. That is what makes Neil Diamond one of the great songwriters of our time.

Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick: Fair and Tender Ladies

It’s Thursday again. You know what that means. Uncle Bardie’s Weekly Music Pick. Uncle Bardiie gives a double thumbs up to this week’s selection: “Fair and Tender Ladies” by Gene Clark with Carla Olson.

It’s Uncle Bardie’s birthday. That’s right. Uncle Bardie is a bi-cuspiteer, a Virgo leaning toward the Libra side of the lake. And this one is for Uncle Bardie.

For some of you, it’s Prince. For some, it’s David Bowie. For some, it’s Lemmy. For me, it’s Gene Clark I miss the most.

If you’ve never heard of Gene Clark, then you’ve missed one awesome talent. He was the main man in the Byrds, composing a good deal of their early stuff: “I’ll Feel a Whole Lot Better”, “Set You Free This Time”, “Here Without You”, “You Won’t Have to Cry”, “If You’re Gone”, “The World Turns All Around Her”, “She Don’t Care About Time” and “Eight Miles High”. After three albums, he went solo for a variety of reasons, among them his fear of flying.

Gene was a songwriter who would never lose his ability to put the most beautiful lyrics to music. He collaborated with a number of musicians including the bluegrass band, The Dillards. His album “Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers” had a slew of West Coast talent backing him. In addition to the Gosdins, they were former bandmates Chris Hillman and Michael Clarke. Glen Campbell, Jerry Cole, and Leon Russell, Clarence White and Doug Dillard joined in with their talent. During the eighties, he collaborated with Carla Olson.

With his voice, he brought a vulnerability and sensitivity that is rare. That is obvious on Gene and Carla’s version of this old folk song. I don’t know of another version that comes close to the beauty of this one.

Lately his status as a cult figure has been rising. But for a long time he has been ignored by the rock music press, though not by the musicians. Now he is being discovered by the very press that ignored him so long.

I gotta tell you I heard his “No Other” album when it was released in in 1974 and loved it. The fact that it did not sell well was a great disappointment to me. It was up there with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club” and “Dark Side of the Moon” with its brilliance. It was a perfect album from beginning to end. So perfect I wore it out listening to it. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a replacement. Then in the nineties, I came across the anthology, “American Dreamer”, quite by accident. There were several of the songs from “No Other”, then I finally found a copy of his masterpiece.

Just one last thing to say. Thanks, Gene, for all the music.

Here’s a couple more of my favorite Genes. Man, that man knew how to lay down a lyric:

Radio Song.

The Virgin.

Why I do lyrics

Some people quilt. Some crochet. Some play cards. Some play music. Some build things. Some solve puzzles. Some take up gardening. My stepfather rebuilt grandfather clocks. Or if you’re my former neighbor, you wash your car and spiff it up. Me, I write lyrics.

I’m talking hobbies, of course. We don’t do it for the cash although occasionally someone is able to turn their hobby into a profit-making venture. No, we do it for the pleasure of it. We know it will never pay for itself but we do it just the same.

Now where I came by this desire to write lyrics I will never know. There is no songwriter in my family that I know of. Yet I’ve been writing lyrics and poetry all my life. At least as far back as to the time I was nine when I wrote my first poem, “Chewing Green Corn”. Even now I look back on that three-stanzaed sucker and wonder what made me do it.

It was a long time gone before I could create anything that I would call a decent lyric. One that was worth showing anybody and calling it mine. Mostly it was about love or the longing for love, the rhyming of moon and June. Liking Rod McKuen in those days did not make me better at the craft of creating a good lyric. In fact, I found myself picking up many of his bad habits.

Then, sometime in the seventies, I began to write lyrics about things other than love. My God, hearing “Feelings” for the five millionth time would cure anybody of that habit. Somewhere along the way I learned I could write humorous lyrics as well as the other stuff.

Once I get that opening line it’s just a matter of gardening. I start planting roses and pretty soon I have tulips. Then I’m in there doing some weeding and out goes the inessentials. Along the way occasionally I get lucky and come up with a line I really like. Like the one from “Shoes Done Me In”, “Separate closets and shoes get lost.”

Now you know why I am partial to certain musicians like Mark Knopfler, Ellis Paul, Gene Clark, Bob Dylan, Dan Fogleberg, Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Cole Porter and Bernie Taupin. There’s nothing like a good lyric to get my attention. When I hear one, I am surprised and in awe of the talent that created it. I always feel like I’ve learned something new. It may be a phrase or a way of saying something that I had never heard before or a feeling that was imparted through those words.

As I say, it’s just a hobby. No reward but the sheer magic and pleasure of birthing something that never existed before. Guess I’ll keep doing it. Who knows. I might win the lottery and hire Ellis Paul to write some music for one of my little ditties. You never know.

Do you have some kind of hobby?