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FRED FIRST: Tending The Melodies of A Lifetime

The advent of the COVID weeks, then months, then years wreaked untold hardship and abnormality for humans everywhere. If there is a silver lining to this awful cloud of pestilence, it might lie in the fact that many people found the time to polish off skills or hobbies they had become too busy to enjoy in the over-commitment of their pre-Covid lives.

In my own backwater existence, that virus-induced resurrection of long-latent passions made me take my guitar out of the case in the closet and keep it on a stand nearby in the main room of the house.

Truth is, the strings didn’t get much plucking in the early Covid months. Even so, this old guitar (circa 1966) was like a friend. I took some comfort from merely having it close at hand, even if rarely touched or tuned or strummed.

I am a hydro-vehicular creative type

In hindsight, this neglect is surprising because music has been a constant in my life since being a teenager in the 60s— in a similar way that story-telling and writing have been constants since 2002.

In fact, I just realized recently that, with regard to both writing and music, I am HYDRO-VEHICULAR. Let me explain:

I was a guest on a radio show called Studio Virginia at WVTF in 2007. Before we went on the air, the host asked if I had always been a writer.

“Yes” I said without thinking. “I have always been a hydro-vehicular writer: I tell myself stories in the SHOWER and in the CAR.”

The same, I now understand, goes for music. I sing in the shower and in the car. Unfortunately for my wife and the cat, I do not limit myself to these boundaries.

And the guitar, more and more, carries the melody.

Music is the poetry of my life

If someone asked me WHY I so frequently hum or sing or whistle, I would have to explain that part of the reason is that, if I hear myself making music, I might be happy.

Putting the cart in front of the horse, I also believe that we can tend towards happy if we smile. Likewise, we can prepare our minds to be happy because we sing or whistle or hum happy-sounding music. Think about it.

And so I sit alone on the porch with the Bose speaker and sing along with a Spotify playlist of songs from the 60s or 70s; or music by performers like James Taylor, John Prine, Kris Kristofferson; or groups like the Beatles, Grateful Dead or the Eagles. Bring it on!

Granted, the lyrics of pop songs of the decades are not always poetic, just because they mostly rhyme. But the tune plus the words from the music of all those songs (mostly of my youth, but not entirely) weaves a patchwork story of who I have become. Music has been a tincture that has saturated, flavored and enriched sixty years of this one life.

And for my next song…

So I have ramped it up a notch in the past few months. I pick up the guitar several times a day and play for a few minutes to a half hour. My fingers no longer complain.

I have found some kindred spirits (all but me with band-member experience) and jam with them from time to time.

And two weeks ago, I tricked out my classical guitar (the one pictured in the topmost image) that I can play through the first (Fishman Mini) amplifier I’ve ever owned. (At age 75 . . .)

Fishman Loudbox Mini Acoustic Combo - Nearly New at Gear4music

My list of song lyrics (nicely alphabetized by title in OneNote on the iPad) is growing. It includes songs I can play; songs that I could eventually play; or melodies just to have the words to sing them on the porch—to the crows and the trees. Makes me happy. Or imagine being so.

I can connect the amp to bluetooth so may eventually be able to download music backing tracks, and play-sing-record just for giggles.

I could threaten to post a song or two here, but expect I will continue to be mostly hydro-vehicular. You’re welcome.

The Bottom Line…

The choice with “free time” lately often comes down to EITHER writing (or the background research for it) OR playing music (or gathering lyrics and chords.) So don’t be surprised if I don’t combine the two and WRITE about MUSIC from time to time, in whatever future posts I manage to complete in my more musical days ahead.

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– Fred First is an author, naturalist, photographer watching Nature under siege since the first Earth Day. Cautiously hopeful. Writing to think it through. Thanks for joining me. Subscribe to My Substack HERE

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