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Archive for the ‘music crushes’ Category

“One of my biggest thrills for me still is sitting down with a guitar or a piano and just out of nowhere trying to make a song happen.” ~ Paul McCartney

Ribbet collage paulSir James Paul McCartney (my other secret husband) is 71 years old today!

He’s still one of the most well preserved classic rockers out there. Can’t get enough of his boyish good looks and irresistible charm. Plus, he makes good mashed potatoes. :)

Despite having been a member of the greatest rock band ever, and now described by the Guinness Book of World Records as “the most successful composer and recording artist of all time,” (wow) he seems remarkably down to earth. Paul just keeps on doing what he loves and we love him all the more for it.

Did you see him on Stephen Colbert last week? A little cheeky and always quick on the draw.

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Macca is the wealthiest musician in the UK (and probably the world); as of this year, his net worth is estimated in excess of £680 million. Not bad for a lad from Liverpool with a modest working class background. In this interesting BBC Radio 4 interview with Sheila Dillon, he talks about being raised on traditional meat and potatoes meals. His mother served Yorkshire Pudding as a dessert (with Golden Syrup), and the Sunday roast was the highlight of the week.

He enjoyed the usual chops and liver but drew the line at tongue, a cheap alternative to meat in those days of rationing. Can’t blame him in the least. As he says, “It’s a tongue!” Ewwww.

Ribbet collage lpaul 2

While touring with the Beatles, food was basically fuel. He remembers huge steaks drooping over the edge of the plate and thinking how Americans always like to do things “big.”

Though he was introduced to vegetarianism in the 60′s while studying meditation in India, it wasn’t until he met Linda that he adopted it as a lifestyle, initially because of his compassion for animals. Over the years, his commitment to a meat-free diet intensified as he learned more about its health benefits and the detrimental effects of livestock production on the environment. These days he passionately campaigns for animal rights, using his fame to help spread the word about how greenhouse gas emissions impact climate change.

paul's kitchen

The McCartney kitchen at 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool, is now maintained by the National Trust.

I like looking at the humble kitchen at 20 Forthlin Road, imagining 15-year-old Paul eating beans on toast or sausages for tea and writing songs with the Quarrymen, never dreaming where his life’s journey would take him.

Other things I love about Paul:

  • Sometimes, just for fun, he uses the pseudonym “Apollo C. Vermouth”
  • He wrote “Yesterday,” the most covered song in history (3000+ recorded versions)
  • He had a rare and genuine-for-real, 29-year enduring marriage to Linda, the love of his life
  • He’s a firm believer in family life and never spoiled his children, wanting them above all to be people with good hearts
  • He’s also a painter and a poet
  • He can’t read music and is largely self-taught, a natural-born instinctual artist
  • He’s considered one of the most generous musicians in the world, having contributed millions of pounds to various charities
  • He wrote beautifully lyrical love songs inspired by his real-life muses: “And I Love Her,” “You Won’t See Me,” “I’m Looking Through You, “Here, There and Everywhere,” “For No One” (Jane Asher), “Two of Us,” “I Will,” “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “My Love” (Linda McCartney)
  • “Blackbird” is his favorite song, and it’s mine too :)

Lookin’ good in Melbourne, Australia, 1975:

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To celebrate his birthday, I made the Easy Chocolate Fudge Cake recipe included in The Meat Free Monday Cookbook (Kyle Books, 2012), which Paul launched with his daughters Stella and Mary. It was nice to get a quick chocolate fix made with ingredients I already had on hand. It turned out to be more like a cakey brownie with a moist fudgy layer on the bottom. Yum!

IMG_0785

EASY CHOCOLATE FUDGE CAKE 
(adapted from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
7 tablespoons melted butter
2 organic eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons organic milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/3 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease a 1-quart baking dish.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the baking powder, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, and 1/2 cup sugar. Make a well in the center, pour in the melted butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and organic milk, and beat until well combined.

Stir in the chopped pecans, and pour into the prepared pan. In another bowl, combine the brown sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, and hot water. Stir well and pour over the cake batter.

Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. During baking, the cake will rise to the top and underneath there will be a delicious chocolate sauce. Serve hot with cream.

Serves 4.

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Here’s Paul to sing us out with “Birthday” from The Colbert Report. The song was written mostly by Paul in the Apple Studios 6 days before Linda’s 26th birthday.

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mccartneys

Paul with daughters Mary and Stella

♥ HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MACCA! ♥

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Copyright ©2013 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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“Vegetable Soup” by Malgorzata Lewandowska-Zych via They Draw & Cook (click to enlarge)

1. Love this “Vegetable Soup” recipe poem by Polish artist Malgorzata Lewandowska-Zcyh — her name’s quite a mouthful, isn’t it? Just like a big spoonful of yummy soup containing carrots, celery, potatoes, beans, cauliflower and parsley. “Malgorzata” = Margaret.  This is one of the best illustrated recipes I’ve seen at They Draw & Cook.

2. Speaking of which, there’s now a They Draw and Cook for Kids! Ebook available for download on your iPad. You get 20 recipes for only $1.99. Here are three samples:

“English Muffin Pizza Faces” by Alison Kolesar (click to enlarge)

“Pretzel S’mores” by Jennifer Bell

“Ants on a Log” by Stefan Jolet

3. Have you started your holiday shopping yet? I’ve already ordered several of these adorable macaron trinket boxes via Waiting on Martha. You can purchase them individually (light pink, rose, pistachio, lavender, yellow, peach) or as a set of 12, which comes in a pretty lavender presentation box. Great stocking stuffers or bridesmaids gifts. Which reminds me, I haven’t actually eaten a macaron in ages. If you feel like sending me some, feel free :)!

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Paul with daughters Stella and Mary (photo © 2011 Mary McCartney)

Back in the Dark Ages, when I was a dreamy 12-year-old listening to the radio in my bedroom with the pink curtains and wall-to-wall Beatles pictures, it was inconceivable that any of the Fab Four would ever age.

Well, it seems Sir Paul has decided to turn 70 today and I can’t think of any other classic rocker who’s managed to age quite so well. Still has his boyish good looks and charm, still writes, records, performs and tours, still the idol of millions all over the world. Whenever I see him, I still feel like that innocent middle schooler watching the Ed Sullivan Show, so lucky to have witnessed that watershed moment in history when popular music changed forever.

You probably know Paul is a longtime vegetarian, who, with his daughters Stella and Mary, launched the Meatfree Monday campaign in London back in 2009. Last fall they published The Meat Free Monday Cookbook (Kyle Books, 2011).  I just purchased the American edition (released March 2012), and decided to make one of the recipes to celebrate Paul’s birthday.

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“A hundred hearts would be too few to carry all my love for you.” ~ Anonymous

The bottom nearly fell out of my world when Sir Paul, my eternal Valentine, married that Nancy woman recently.

I know. She’s rich, slender and probably has her perky moments, but the important question is, Can she bake a good pie?

I am crushed Macca didn’t even think to call and tell me. Here I’ve been his love slave loyal true-blue fan for over 40 years (I first heard “She Loves You” in utero :)), and nary a word. Now that he’s got a new Honey Pie, what am I to do?

Bake! Bake deep, rich, decadent, devil-may-care this will make me forget all about him Bake. Take no prisoners Bake. And to get me through Valentine’s Day, only chocolate will do.

I considered my options — Pioneer Woman’s French Silk Pie? Saveur’s Thin Edge of the Wedge Chocolate Pudding or Molten Chocolate Cake? I could have gone all retro and dug out my old Midnight Chocolate Cake recipe (so good, diehard football fans actually stopped watching the 1992 Superbowl game to eat it). And I hadn’t made my famous Chocolate Cheesecake in a long, long time.

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When I first heard Jon J Muth was doing a picture book adaptation of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” I fairly swooned.

The mere thought of DYLAN (my best bud who’s probably writing a song about me even as we speak) paired with MUTH (who had me years ago with his panda wearing baggy shorts) made me hyperventilate with anticipation. Just how would he make an iconic, somewhat ambiguous protest song meaningful for children?

Muth cleverly used a paper airplane as a visual metaphor. The “answer,” perhaps written on this folded piece of paper, sails on the wind, ever present but always out of reach. It’s quite an apt metaphor, perfectly in tune with what Dylan himself said when the song was first published in 1962:

Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some  …But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know . . . and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong.

Muth’s paper planes travel through lush, dreamy watercolor landscapes, each scene reflecting a different lyric. Four children and a woman, depicted singly or in groups, appear in the narrative — a journey traversing green fields, hillsides, forests and an ocean. The paper airplane is always present — a silent lodestar which takes on spiritual connotations (“How many seas must the white dove sail/Before she sleeps in the sand?”). I am reminded that the Native Americans view birds as messengers between heaven and earth. The ethereal, capricious wind, invisible but for the flittering of a paper plane, can gently usher in change or cause mass destruction.

Ironically, Dylan didn’t consider “Blowin’ in the Wind” a protest song. It was adapted from the Negro spiritual, “No More Auction Block,” and contains Biblical rhetoric, so it “follows the same feeling” — inspirational as gospel music is, but not political. He claims he wrote the song in ten minutes!

"Yes, 'n' how many years can a mountain exist/Before it is washed to the sea?" (click to enlarge)

Muth’s idyllic landscapes, characterized by a soothing, inherent stillness, reflect the song’s entreaty for peace, harmony and freedom. The sheer majesty of these natural scenes are in keeping with the spiritual feeling Dylan intended. Each child has his own plane, must travel his own path, find his own answers. By the end of the book, the children and the woman are all playing together with a big red ball. Nearby, there’s an old cannon draped with the flags of several nations, a single red balloon tied to it.

The final spread shows all the paper planes gliding in unison high in the sky. There may be different answers, but only one human truth. Basically we all want the same things. A fleet of planes, the collective unconscious. Single notes join in 12-part harmony, a beautiful chorus.

This new picture book will make it possible for parents and teachers to share Dylan’s song with a new generation of children who’ve never known a time when America was not at war. It comes with a CD of the original studio recording of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and there’s also an Author’s Note and a Note from music historian Greil Marcus, which discusses the song’s universal, timeless message and describes what the world was like when the song became a civil rights anthem in the 60′s.

The open-ended narrative and use of enigmatic symbols (red balloon, red ball, red boat, acoustic guitar passed down to the children from a man living in a walled city), will challenge children of different ages (and adults) to draw their own conclusions, interpret as they will. Muth’s use of red, in particular, could spark interesting discussion: is it the color of strength and love, or a reminder of blood shed in senseless wars? Is it the rising sun, the dawn of new hope (since the boy on the cover, the only one able to touch a plane, is wearing a red shirt)? Or is it fire — to complement the earth, air and water so prevalent in the pictures?

For almost 50 years, “Blowin’ in the Wind” has reminded us of these painful unanswerable questions. Muth says:

Freedom and joy are not care-free. Escape from the burdens of life isn’t freedom. Freedom is full of care for everything. That means we must be a part of what all people want for themselves and for humanity. The doors of the heart will then be thrown open to wind from every direction.

Reach for the paper airplane, unfold it and read what is written there.♥

*Dylan first performed “Blowin’ in the Wind” at Gerde’s Folk City in NYC on April 16, 1962. Since then, he’s performed it live 1050 times, the most recent being last night in Leipzig, Germany. Enjoy this performance at the Concert for Bangladesh (1971):

BLOWIN’ IN THE WIND
written by Bob Dylan
illustrated by Jon J Muth
published by Sterling Children’s Books, November 2011
Picture Book for ages 5+, 28 pp.
Includes CD
*On shelves now!

I’d love for you to share any thoughts or memories you might have related to this song. Do you remember when you first heard it?

♥ Diane Mayr has today’s Roundup at Random Noodling.

♥ Related reviews on this blog: Man Gave Names to All the Animals illustrated by Jim Arnosky (Sterling), When Bob Met Woody by Gary Golio and Marc Burckhardt (Little, Brown).

♥ Review of Blowin’ in the Wind by Kelly R. Fineman.

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“Bob Dylan sets up a number of questions, like ‘how many deaths will it take till he knows/That too many people have died? and finds that ‘The answer is blowin’ in the wind.’ This is a poet’s answer to an unanswerable question, and it has the effect of poetry, which is to open up the sky.” ~ Frank Kermode and Stephen Spender (“The Metaphor at the End of the Funnel”, Esquire, 1972).

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*Spreads posted by permission, copyright © 2011 Jon J Muth, published by Sterling Children’s Books. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

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