Boogie Writes

This blog was first seen in February of 2014 at Sunshine State Romance Authors. I am reprising it, because it is Musical Monday. Plus, Thursday was “Get Funky Day”, and I missed it. That is all.

 

Music has ruled my world since birth. I shimmied out of the womb with a bad case of Boogie Fever. I came by it honestly: my mom, a 40’s glamour girl, gave up her dancing career to marry my dad and have a family. My two older brothers are both musicians. LP records played nonstop during my childhood, introducing me to the many melodies and rhythms of human emotion.

My first record was Disney’s The Story of Thumper’s Great Race. As far as I was concerned it was a masterpiece of pure joy. Who could resist Thumper? I played it over and over, until I memorized every word. I learned about melancholy from Del Shannon’s “My Little Runaway.” The haunting melody of my mom’s “Goldfinger” opened my eyes to danger and mystery and the Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” introduced my six-year-old heart to young love.

My love affair with words began with listening to lyrics. Mom bought me an album with a collection of poems set to music. I loved “The Walrus and the Carpenter”, by Lewis Caroll. I still remember the tune to “My Grandfather’s Clock,” which I just discovered was written in 1876 by Henry Clay Work, a British author. Even then, I was drawn to historical writing. Who knows? Maybe that’s why my first novel is a historical romance. Once I could read, I consumed lyrics like candy and even now, lyrics keep me writing.

In college I studied creative writing and danced and sang professionally. Ah, college! Fast forward to disco in all its glory: every Friday night my small liberal arts college held a disco. It was joyful and liberating. After all, who can think about their problems while doing “the bump” with your dance partner to the Commodores’ “Brick House?”*(See below.) Certainly there was nothing profound about the lyrics: “She’s a brick house/ She’s mighty mighty/Just letting it all hang out.” Whatever! Disco wasn’t deep, but for me it was joyful and liberating. Dancing meant freedom, giving myself up to the bass beat and letting the music and lyrics fly me away.

Thirty years later, my fingers dance on the computer keyboard, creating romance novels. For me, writing and dancing will be forever linked. In the choreography of language, I find the freedom once found in dancing as I work to create plots with rhythm and characters with the range of emotions, in stories that I hope will entertain and satisfy.

In my column, I will share my thoughts on writing romance novels, my daily hustle, if you will, toward better writing and publication and the connection between my two loves, words and music. Just so you know, every so often, my body gets the “Boogie Fever” and I must get down with my bad self. Welcome to Boogie Writes. I hope you enjoy it.

*(For those of you too young to know what “the Bump” is, the dance consists of bumping hips with a partner, with various degrees of creativity and bad taste.)

If you’d like to read some more of my Boogie Writes columns and other great blogs about writing by my fellow members, check out the blog archives at:  http://www.sunshinestateromanceauthors.com

Tribute to Al Jarreau

A song is much more than mere music. A three minute tune can capture the history of our lives, times of joy or sorrow. A song can elevate our souls and lift us up when we’re down, energize us when we feel we can’t go on. Jazz and pop singer, Al Jarreau does all of those things for me. May he sing on.

I first heard him in the 80’s, and I was blown away by his scat-singing, his smooth, flexible voice, and above all, the sheer passionate joy he conveyed in every note. I’d never heard anything like it in my life. As a young mother of three small kids, to play his music while going about the same old routine (diapering, cleaning, preparing meals, seeing to everyone else’s needs) probably saved my sanity more than once. As the kids got older, I enjoyed blowing their minds with scat-mad songs like “Roof Garden,” and the unique version of “My Favorite Things.” He came into my home, bringing his vocal playfulness, filling the rooms with  joy.

Later, when my father became ill and passed away,  and while another family member recovered from a life-threatening disease, Al Jarreau placed his hand upon my shoulder with his music, and in kindness and comfort lifted me up with hope. There is compassion in every note he sings, and his love for life is contagious.

He will live on and gift his afterlife with passion and joy, transporting us out of the darkness, lighting up the world with his brilliance, turning three minutes into musical magic. Sing on, Al. And thank you.

Ian Sings to Maggie: Mercy of the Moon

Maggie Wilson is a serious woman. She’s a midwife in the 18th Century, and all she’s ever known is Work and Duty. The first time she meets Ian, he’s singing. When they work together to save her sister, he’s singing. When she’s angry, he tries to calm her with his music, and makes her feel things she’s never felt before: Longing. Desire. And he makes her laugh. So to celebrate his ability to charm and uplift her, I give you a passage from Mercy of the Moon, book 1 in the Rhythm of the Moon seriesShe is extremely angry, and he is accompanying her on a walk:

“She felt like an instrument of the devil, full of poison and a heartbeat away from screaming like a harpy and clawing her way through town.

He held her upper arm firmly, and she felt his fingers through her cloak, cool, calm. A deep rumbling arose from his chest, and he began humming, then louder, to match the ferocity of the wind. That was the preamble, apparently, for suddenly he released her arm, leaped in front of her and began to sing.

‘”My woman, when she’s angry, puts Medusa’s hair to shame.

She rouses all my senses and sets my soul to flame.

When she unleashes fury, a virago gone insane,

I’m only very thankful I am not the one to blame.'”

                                                 COPYRIGHT ©2014 Jennifer Taylor

The song has the desired effect on Maggie. More on that tomorrow, when I talk about passion.

The Power of Music Amidst Chaos

Music has always been a comfort to me in times of stress. Remember when the only way you could listen to your favorite song was on the radio? There was only one radio station I listened to, the one that had Casey Kasem’s Top 40 every Saturday morning.

This was the 70’s. Either you listened to your song on the radio or you bought the single, or if you were really lucky, the whole album. We weren’t wealthy, and to buy an entire album was a huge deal. In those days, I spent a lot of time deciding which album would be mine.

I loved Elton John from the very beginning. Around 1972, I saved my allowance to buy his Friends album. I listened to it constantly. “Madman Across the Water” on Tumbleweed Connection made me cry. My friend Diane and I saw him in concert during his big eyeglasses stage. More than anything, I wanted to be one of his backup dancers. I still do.

Back then, I used music to escape the tumultuous world around me. There was a lot of unrest going on in the world, and although I lived a sheltered life, I could feel the waves of rebellion around me. I hid with my music and my books. Music was a way for me to manage my emotions. Remember the scene from Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous, when they’re in the bus, mad at each other? Then someone plays “Tiny Dancer,” and they start singing? It was like that.

Nowadays, music continues to be a comfort. But it also enables me to make connections between the many songs in my head and what’s going on in the world. If a song is running through my mind constantly, it’s usually because it can be applied to what’s happening around me.

This last week, the Elton John song, “Madman Across the Water” is ever-present. The mood and melody of the song reflect the fear, hate, and uncertainty in the world, and the manipulation of those emotions by opportunistic individuals and groups vying for power. It’s gut-wrenching.

Why listen to a song if it makes me cry? Because it’s beautiful. Because it offers a release, as music always does. And most of all, because it reminds me that despite the upheaval in the world, there is beauty in the creation of melody and lyrics and the power they possess to move and uplift. And that gives me hope. I hope it does the same for you.

Does music move and inspire you? What do you listen to when you need shelter?