Today would have been my mother’s 98th birthday! So happy birthday to her!
Today is also the Celtic festival of Beltane. So, happy May Day as well!
Beltane was one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals: Samhain (~1 November), Imbolc (~1 February), Beltane (~1 May), and Lughnasadh (~1 August). Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season, when livestock were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were held at that time to protect them from harm, both natural and supernatural, and this mainly involved the “symbolic use of fire”. There were also rituals to protect crops, dairy products and people, and to encourage growth. The aos sí (often referred to as spirits or fairies) were thought to be especially active at Beltane (as at Samhain) and the goal of many Beltane rituals was to appease them. Most scholars see the aos sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. Beltane was a “spring time festival of optimism” during which “fertility ritual again was important, perhaps connecting with the waxing power of the sun”
First a little back story. I was in the Air Force, stationed at Homestead AFB, just south of Miami. My family home was also just south of Miami, just not as far south. My parents had a 32′ motorhome that was used to travel around the eastern seaboard for vacations.
This particular summer, my brother and his wife were going
to join mom and dad on vacation. Their
plan was to go to New Orleans, then up into the mountains of North Carolina,
then to the Atlanta area, finally ending in Disney World where my brother was
to play in a company golf tournament. My
plan was to take some leave and stay at the house and basically party the
Of course, I didn’t tell them that. As far as they knew my
leave was not approved, which was a big fat lie. I can say this now since both
mom and dad have passed.
During this trip, they would call back to the house on a
semi-regular basis. Obviously checking up on me. I’m guessing my brother knew
what was up.
Everything was fine until the one evening they called, and I
was, shall we say, just a bit drunk. While
talking to my brother I let it slip that my leave had been approved. Plans were immediately set for me to fly up
to Greensboro, NC to meet them and spend the rest of the trip with them. I was
not too happy about this plan. The motorhome didn’t have that many sleeping
places. Dad was an emphysema patient and had a nebulizer in the back of the RV
where his and mom’s beds were. Having spent several other vacations in that RV,
I knew how loud that nebulizer was at 2 AM.
I wasn’t looking forward to cramped sleeping quarters and being woken up
at any hour of the morning.
In the end, it was a good thing I joined them. The new plan was for me to fly into Greensboro and rent a car, then drive to meet them at the campground, just across the state line in Greensboro, SC. Big problem. I was only 20 at the time. The minimum age to rent a car was 26. Even with a military ID, they legally could not rent me any vehicle. So, the family unhooked the motorhome and drove up to the airport to rent a car and pick me up.
I’m not sure who exactly rented the car, but I was listed as the primary driver. Following them back to the campground I noticed something very bad. None of the lights on the back of the RV were working. No tail lights, no turn signals, no brake lights, nothing! When we made it back to the campground and got everything hooked back up we started looking at what was wrong.
If I remember correctly (always a challenge), we found a bundle of wires that had been burned out. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Every single wire in the RV was brown. Not brown as in burned or singed, but molded in brown plastic. None of the usual red, black, and green wires. Everything was the same dull brown, from the front to the rear. It would appear that the previous owner rewired the RV with only one color of wire. We had no idea which wire was hot, neutral, or ground! That meant one thing. I was to follow, as closely as possible, the RV to Atlanta where we would park it in a friend’s driveway and rewire the entire motorhome. An entire weekend of vacation would be lost. But it was something very critical.
As I remember (again – we’re talking shaky ground here), we
fixed all the wiring and all the lights worked, and we took off for Disney for
that golf outing. That’s when the next issue showed up. And now, we’re up to date, and where are
somewhere around Duluth, GA.
As I mentioned dad has emphysema. While we were working on the motorhome, we could all see he was sinking into a major breathing issue. That’s when we made the stop at a local hospital to see if we could get dad breathing better, hoping a more powerful breathing treatment would allow him to continue with us. It didn’t work. He spent a night or two in that hospital (my brother thinks it was “Joan Clancy Hospital”). Then he and mom flew back to Miami, while my brother, his wife and I went to Disney.
But, that’s not what I cam here to talk about. While dad was in that hospital, my brother pointed out someone to me. Down the hospital hall was a young guy with a big beard and longer than usual hair. His room was the only one that didn’t have a name outside the door. We would see this gentleman walk up and down the hall, stop and chat with the nurses, and really look like he didn’t need to be there. Plus, he looked very familiar to us. It took me a little bit, but then I saw it. If it wasn’t Kenny Loggins, then it was a doppelganger! It looked just like him. But why was he in the hospital? To complete the conspiracy theory, once he realized we noticed him he didn’t come back out of the room while we were there.
Was it Kenny?
Doubtful. But it’s fun to look back and wonder.
All this finally leads to today’s video. The song was originally released on the 1976 album The Best Of Friends. The video isn’t the best, but I used this version for two reasons. The live version, while musically beautiful, is very boring. They just stand there nothing exciting. Second, the image of Kenny Loggins (the guy on the left) is who we saw in the hospital!
Neil wrote this song about the caretaker that “came with” a ranch he bought in 1970. He tells the whole story on the video below. As he’s quoted in wiki page about the song;
About that time when I wrote (“Heart of Gold“), and I was touring, I had also—just, you know, being a rich hippie for the first time—I had purchased a ranch, and I still live there today. And there was a couple living on it that were the caretakers, an old gentleman named Louis Avila and his wife Clara. And there was this old blue Jeep there, and Louis took me for a ride in this blue Jeep. He gets me up there on the top side of the place, and there’s this lake up there that fed all the pastures, and he says, “Well, tell me, how does a young man like yourself have enough money to buy a place like this?” And I said, “Well, just lucky, Louis, just real lucky.” And he said, “Well, that’s the darnedest thing I ever heard.” And I wrote this song for him.
I’ve always enjoyed Neil’s work. Some time ago I read where (but don’t remember exactly where) he was voted as one of the top 10 guitarists. I wouldn’t go quite that far. He is very skilled in his playing, but not top 10, at least not in my opinion. You can make up your own mind about that. And we won’t get into his singing other to ask “Who told him he could sing”?
Mr. Young was elected to the Canadian Music Hall of Fame (1982) and twice to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. First in 1995 for his solo work and again in 1997 as a member of Buffalo Springfield.
This song speaks to me in the way it tells the title character that even younger folks have a lot of the same wants and needs. Some things just don’t change over time.
What do you think of this song or Neil Young? Leave a comment!
So the other day I was either talking to Wifey® or texting with my brother about the song “Hasten Down the Wind”. It was written by Warren Zevon (one of my favorite singer/songwriter/musicians of all time. May he rest in peace) but Linda Ronstadt (without a doubt, one my of my “future wives” in my teenage years – I had posters of her on my bedroom walls) had a much bigger hit with the song.
Mr. Zevon included the song on his 1976 album “Warren Zevon”. Not the most original of names, but it’s not like he’s the only artist to name an album after himself. And just in case you’re unclear on this, there is no “White Album” by The Beatles. Its title is “The Beatles” no matter what that stupid cruise ship employee said. We should have won that contest. Ms. Ronstadt covered this song on her 7th solo album, “Hasten Down The Wind”, released also in 1976.
I did not hear of Mr. Zevon’s original until later, as he didn’t come into my stream of conscientiousness until his “Excitable Boy” album in 1978. It was with the help of Jackson Browne (another of my singer/songwriter/musician heroes) as the producer of the self-titled album the Mr. Zevon found a major record contract.
So anyway, here are the two songs for you. First up is Ms. Rondstadt’s cover, since that’s the one I heard first. Then will be Mr. Zevon’s original. And I have to say, I prefer Mr. Zevon’s over my lady Ms. Ronstadt. Yeah, weird I know. But I think Linda’s cover is too smooth. She does have a very sweet voice, but I just don’t hear the raw emotion I hear in Warren’s original.
It’s nice to know that Linda has Don Henley (of The Eagles fame) singing backup, while Warren has Phil Everly (of The Everly Brothers on backup vocals and David Lindley on slide guitar).