Thursday, July 23, 2009

Oak Planks and Songs

I'm grateful for having lived in New York City as a child. I got to see and experience many of the things that helped shape my appreciation of the diverse world we live in and my desire to improve life for those who are less fortunate.

I now live in a beautiful New England town where every day, I can walk down the block and see a sight that folks come from all over the world to see – the Charles W. Morgan, which is the last wooden whaling ship in the world (technically it's called barque). It is part of the Mystic Seaport Museum, a recreation of a 19th century maritime town, which has been the inspiration for so many of my best story-songs, like "The Promise", "Six Candles in the Chandlery", "Wrought Iron Ring", "Crest of a Wave", and many more.

Lately, as I walk past the Seaport, I have been seeing something which will probably only happen once in a lifetime – the Charles W. Morgan up on drydock, being carefully repaired and refurbished. Oak planks used in repairing old ships often come from trees downed by major hurricanes. The Seaport has a large collection of trees felled in New Orleans by Katrina, and some from storms in Florida.

Seeing the inspiration for many of my songs getting a much deserved facelift, I realized it has been almost 30 years since I first wrote and recorded all the songs from my "Crest of a Wave" album in 1981. Ten years later, in 1991, I re-recorded all the songs in a different style. Now approaching a 20 year anniversary, it may be time for another facelift.

The songs still work as audience favorites when I perform, so it seems worthwhile to give them one more time up on drydock to give the 19th century tales a 21st century treatment, with new arrangements.

Two of the songs, "Six Candles in the Chandlery" and "Wrought Iron Ring" have recently been re-done, and have been posted to my Facebook fan page. If you visit to check out the tracks, take a moment to click the "become a fan" button, and you'll get the updates about new music, performances and concert photos.

We so often write songs based on what's current either as a style or as a newsworthy topic, but when you have songs that continue to work as styles and topics change, keep them fresh and current, and they'll continue to blossom anew for you. That, after all, is the definition of a 'standard' – a song that retains its appeal across decades, through different styles and different artists.

For more on writing songs that last across time, see my book "Songcrafters' Coloring Book: The Essential Guide to Effective and Successful Songwriting".


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