Poem: Born during the Korean War

640px-Aldrin_Apollo_11_originalBorn during the Korean War

Born during the Korean War,
Raised in the 1950s and 1960s
Stay at home mom and hard working dad
They gave us a better chance than they ever had.
And were glad they did, but never told them.

Eisenhower was president when we started school,
Boys wore flat-tops, tee-shirts, and Levi’s jeans.
Girls in dresses, saddle oxfords and knee sox,
Kennedy debated Nixon,
And we got a black and white TV.

Mantle and Maris chased Babe Ruth,
In Cuba we faced off the Soviet Missiles,
In Dallas President Kennedy was shot,
It was different before the British invasion,
And then the world started to rock.

Our hair grew longer, our skirts got shorter,
We had loud music our parents couldn’t stand,
We watched Viet-Nam each night over supper,
Hey, hey LBJ how many kids did you kill today?
We wanted muscle cars and drove old Chevys.

Saturday night with our favorite girl,
Sheiks and Trojans would go with us to the drive-in.
And we’d be in luck each month if nature struck
And if not you said I do – and did
Beatles, Stones, CCR, Johnny Cash, and Glen Campbell

We crossed the Trinity River for a beer,
Boones Farm and Everclear… and Nixon was back
And we buried Everett who was killed in ‘Nam
With dozens from high school somehow surviving the big trip
And we went to the moon.

Jimmie Aaron Kepler
January 1974

Photo Source:
Aldrin Apollo 11 original” by NASA – http://www.hq.nasa.gov/alsj/a11/AS11-40-5903HR.jpghttp://www.archive.org/details/AS11-40-5903 (TIFF image). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Review: Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon – And the Journey of a Generation

Tonight I watched a new installment of PBS’ My Music series. Founding Supremes singer Mary Wilson served as the host of the program showcasing many classic female singers and girl groups of the 1960s. It showcased seventeen of the singers/groups. Watching it reminded me of the book “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon – And the Journey of a Generation” by Sheila Weller that I read a couple of years ago. Here is a review of the book I wrote in August 2011.

The contents of “Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon–And the Journey of a Generation” by Sheila Weller will be very recognizable to us who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s. Sheila Weller tells us that King, Simon, and Mitchell pushes back the barriers for women specifically, “one song at a time.”

The enigmatic one remains Carole King, whom Weller just can’t shed light on in any significant way. King’s life was amazing then it stopped being of any interest at all. We learn and hear again and again how she wrote all those Brill Building masterpieces before she was 21. We learn how she broke down under the strain of a troubled marriage to a husband and lyricist, Gerry Goffin whom she at married when she was 17 and pregnant by him. We see how she comes through the divorce with an LP, Tapestry, that everyone loved and bought. After that her life is bad men in abundance. They were attracted to her wealth. King once estimated that every time she divorced a man, it cost her a million dollars. Weller gives us all the facts. One still has to wonder why King did this to herself.

Carly Simon, on the other hand seems nearly normal as normal can be for someone of the upper, upper middle class. Though perceptibly spoiled and protected by wealth, Simon doesn’t seem spoiled. Her reactions are always understandable and sympathetic. This includes her meeting and marrying the drug-zombie James Taylor.

Joni Mitchell isn’t sympathetic. She has the integrated persona of the genius totally in love with herself and obsessed with her own reflection, so she’s great in a special way. The author makes fun of Mitchell’s vanity and enormous self-esteem. Weller still lets us know that, in her estimation at any rate, Mitchell actually is amazing.

Weller is interested in the ways women deal with each other. It’s nearly a biography of five people, not just three, as there is so much about James Taylor you will never need to read another word about him if you have this book on your shelf. There is also plenty of material about Judy Collins. Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon–And the Journey of a Generation is a book that convinces us forcefully in its larger arguments and dazzles with its wide-ranging portraits of artistic life in the 50s, 60s and 70s.

Why I Write

George_Orwell_in_Hampstead_-_geograph.org.uk_-_432863Today is Thursday March 21, 2013. 

In 1946, George Orwell (his real name was Eric Arthur Blair) wrote an essay titled “Why I Write”. It detailed his personal journey to becoming a writer. Orwell lists “four great motives for writing” which he feels exist in every writer. He explains that all are present, but in different proportions, and also that these proportions vary from time to time. They are as follows:

1. Sheer egoism – Orwell argues that many people write simply to feel clever, to “be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups in childhood, etc.” He says that this is a great motive, although most of humanity is not “acutely selfish”, and that this motive exists mainly in younger writers. He also says that it exists more in serious writers than journalists, though serious writers are “less interested in money”.
2. Aesthetic enthusiasm – Orwell explains that present in writing is the desire to make one’s writing look and sound good, having “pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story.” He says that this motive is “very feeble in a lot of writers” but still present in all works of writing.
3. Historical impulse – He sums this up by simply stating this motive is the “desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.”
4. Political purpose – Orwell writes, “No book is genuinely free from political bias”, and further explains that this motive is used very commonly in all forms of writing in the broadest sense, citing a “desire to push the world in a certain direction” in every person. He concludes by saying that “the opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.”

After reading the essay, I came up with my list. They are as follows:

1. Ego/Hubris – I love to see my name listed as the author. I enjoy when my name appears on the cover of a magazine and in the table of comments of a magazine. I wish to see my name on the spine of a traditionally published book.
2. Educating People – I have loved when I have published a magazine article then get a telephone call, letter, or email asking for more information on the subject. Sometimes because of my writing, I have received job offers and speaking engagements. I enjoy informing people about historical events, writer’s lives, and the backgrounds of people and events.
3. Desire to influence others and be held in esteem by others – Maybe this goes with number one – Hubris. I recall the pride my oldest son had when he went to college and found several of my traditionally published magazine articles while doing research. He said it was somewhat cool to quote his father’s published work in a research paper. He said some of what I wrote for journals would be in the library forever.
4. Sharing my faith – I remember reading the late musician and former Beatles guitarist George Harrison’s memoir, “I, Me, Mine”. In the book, he says he purposefully wrote songs to share his beliefs and faith in Hare Krishna. I do the same to share my faith and belief in Jesus Christ. I try to do it in the normal flow of life as opposed to clobbering someone with the Bible.

If you write, why do you write?

Encourage your friends, keep reading and write.
Jimmie A. Keple

Photo credits: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license. English: George Orwell in Hampstead On the corner of Pond Street and South End Road, opposite the Royal Free Hospital. The bookshop has long gone. Date: 11 May 2007. Source: From geograph.org.uk

Review: Papa John – An Autobiography: A Music Legend’s Shattering Journey Though Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll

Return with me to those glorious days of the 1960’s when we transitioned from folk music to folk rock. You will enjoy this book if you like a brutally honest account of the seedy side of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. John Phillips was driven, hugely talented, lucky, and a beast in terms of consumption. I read this book the first-time in 1986 and really enjoyed it. It reminded me at times of an old soldier telling war stories.

I had earlier read Michelle Phillips’ fluffy memoir, “California Dreamin’,” She had told us a Sunday School version of her marriage to John and the Mamas and Papas. I learned nothing-new from Michelle. I knew there must be more to the story of the Mamas and the Papas. Therefore, I sought out her ex-husband’s story. At more than two-and-a-half times the length, “Papa John” did not disappoint. It contained all the grimy details that Michelle chose to omit, and then some.

If you read the book you find yourself saying TMI, TMI, TMI (too much information) if you have little taste for very private information on drug use, personal sex life (he tells who, how, when, where, with almost XXX description of tryst, by tryst) for my taste. He tells not only of his private life but of a number of other celebrities as well. He admits everything from paying quarters for sex from a neighborhood girl when he was a young teen, to hookers and barmaids in Havana to explaining what it means to be “greasing on American Express”.

The story of the origins of the Mamas and the Papas including Cass getting hit on the head and it changing her pitch is included. The books later chapters deal with his and his daughter McKenzie Phillips heavy drug taking are in meticulous, mind-numbing, and often alarming detail. Perhaps putting it all down for the record was healing for John. Perhaps he was attempting to discourage others from going down the same path. At times, I felt like the priest in the confessional booth or the psychiatrist who was hearing it all. His descriptions were so nauseating that I quickly read them. It would make most swear-off or never go near drugs.

If pop music history is your thing, you won’t want to miss this unique slice of history of the son of a USMC career officer and Cherokee Indian mother. He is the father of Jeffrey Phillips, Mackenzie Phillips, Chynna Phillips (conceived during the Monterey International Pop Festival – the story of her conception is in the book), Tamerlane Phillips, and Bijou Phillips.

Also, after the book’s release John Phillips wrote the song “Kokomo” along with Scott McKenzie, Mike Love and Terry Melcher. Recorded by The Beach Boys in 1988, it became the biggest selling song of 1988. It is also the Beach Boys best-selling single and one of the best-selling songs of all time. It secured John Phillips financially for the rest of his life.

Review: I, Me, Mine

“I, Me, Mine” by George Harrison was an extremely challenging read. The book was at times boring, has poor structure, and lacked direction. You can feel George Harrison’s dry wit and humor in the pages of the book with the key word being dry.

Don’t expect to learn a lot about Harrison. The book lacks the tell all element that many want.

Harrison was obsessed with Krishna. He says in the text that he promoted his personal religious beliefs through his songs. He felt it critical to share his faith. Does that make him an evangelical Hare Krishna?

George does not describe much of his relationships with the other Beatles. Including the handwritten lyrics is a great bonus. This is a definite must-have for admirers of the Harrison. If you can find the book at the half-price book store or even you local library and love the Beatles and George, enjoy.

Review: Clapton: The Autobiography

Biographies are a passion for me. I approach each with an open mind ready to hear the writer’s story. My interest in music, love of rock and roll, and respect for great guitar musicianship lead me to read Eric Clapton’s autobiography.

Sex, booze, drugs and rock and roll fill the celebrated guitarist’s autobiography. As he retraces his career, from the early stints with the Yardbirds, Cream, and Derek and The Dominoes to his solo successes, Clapton also devotes great detail to his drug and alcohol addictions.

You get the back-story of his life as you learn he was raised by his grandparents. You learn that his mother was 15 when she became pregnant with him and that his father was a Canadian soldier. He struggles all his life with his background.

A major influence/obsession in his life was Pattie Boyd (former wife of Beatle George Harrison). His relationship with the Boyd for whom he wrote Layla culminated in a turbulent marriage. He spends great detail on their relationship as well as other female relationships.

I enjoyed reading about how he taught himself to play the guitar. I learned that he never learned to read music. He describes his playing style as a variation of the folk music claw-hammer style. He says he uses the top two strings of his guitar for the bass line, the middle two strings for rhythm, and the bottom two strings for playing lead guitar. He shares how he selected his guitars. We learn how the gauge of the strings and the distance between fret and neck influenced his ability to play.

You get the story of his son Connor, his accidental death, and the song Tears in Heaven.We learn of the impact of the death of Stevie Ray Vaughn on his life.

Clapton warms to the subject of his recovery, stressing its spiritual elements and how he started the Crossroads Clinic in Antigua. He eagerly discusses the fund-raising efforts for his Crossroads clinic and the Crossroads Guitar/Music Festivals he used to raise money for the clinics. Sharing this personal journey into addiction and recovery is therapeutic for him.

His reflecting is filled with humility, particularly in the form of unhappiness with his early successes. He professes ambivalence about the famous Clapton is God graffiti, although he admits he was grateful for the recognition from fans. At times, he sounds more like landed nobility than a rock star. He shares about his collection of contemporary art, enthusiastically defending his hunting and fishing as leisure activities, and extolling the qualities of his quiet country living. But both the youthful excesses and the current calm state are narrated with a charming tone that pushes Clapton’s story ahead of other rock and roll memoirs. This is a well written book that is worth the purchase price and time you invest in reading.