Wednesday, February 25, 2015

George Harrison's Birthday

(this was originally published on February 25, 2013, on George's 70th birthday).

Today is George Harrison's birthday. He would have been 70 had he lived. Today, I want to honor the spirituality of George Harrison. I find George's spirituality very inspiring for my own relationship to God.

George did not always “walk the talk,” as evangelical Christians say, and George would readily acknowledge this. But he steadfastly followed his spiritual path all his life. He never swerved from it. George's life long passion as an adult was the pursuit of God.

When George passed away in 2001, his widow Olivia Harrison said, “George left this world in the same way he lived in it- in the consciousness of God.” According to Olivia Harrison, upon George’s death, “There was a profound experience when he left his body. It was visible. He just lit the room.”

George's spiritual path was based on Hinduism, which he first embraced in the mid sixties. During the filming of the 1965 movie Help! on location in the Bahamas, the Beatles met Swami Vishnu-devananda, founder of Sivananda Yoga, who gave each member of the band a signed copy of his book, The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. George became interested in Indian and Hindu culture. He learned to play the sitar, and had as his teacher Ravi Shankar. Shankar was not only a musical mentor, but a spiritual one as well.

The Beatles went through their famous chapter with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and visited him in India in 1968. The other Beatles lost interest in the teacher, but George remained committed to his spiritual practice.

To understand George's spirituality, we need to know a little bit about Hinduism. In its popular form, Hinduism may seem to be polytheistic, with many divinities. But actually, Hinduism teaches that there is only One Reality, which is the foundation of our being, and our task in life is to realize our divine potential, our union with this One Reality. In Hindu scriptures, Ultimate Reality, God, is called Brahman. The Divine within us is called Atman, roughly analogous with the Soul in Western religion. Hinduism (at least one major stream of the tradition) teaches that the Brahman and Atman are ultimately the same. Our separateness from God is an illusion.

The method for realizing this identification with the divine is Yoga. There are different types of Yoga, two of the most common forms are Karma Yoga, union through detached action, and Bhakti Yoga, union through devotion. There are other types of of Yoga as well.

George followed a path of devotion most of his life. Following the path of devotion, one must choose an image of God, and be devoted to that image. For George, it was Krishna, God in human form. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the primary Hindu scriptures, presents teaching on devotion to Krishna, and on the paths of Karma and Bhakti Yoga.

George was also ecumenically minded. He believed that Jesus was a manifestation of God, and said in an interview in the early eighties, “The Greek word for Christ is Kristos, which is, let’s face it, Krishna, and Kristos is the same name actually.” During his 1974 American concert tour, George encouraged his fans to “Chant Krishna! Chant Jesus! Chant Buddha!”

Besides his devotion to God, George was also devoted to Hindu teachers, especially Paramahansa Yogananda. Paramanhansa Yogananda is famous for being the wisdom of Hinduism to the West, and he taught the fundamental unity between Yoga and Christianity. George wrote his song, Fish on the Sand, from the 1987 Cloud Nine album about his devotion and reliance on Yogananda. George often enjoyed visits to the Self-Realization Fellowship Center in Encinitas, California, which was founded by Yogananda.

George's spiritual practice was largely based on saying a mantra and chanting the Name of God. His big #1 hit from 1971, My Sweet Lord, features the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, and chanting the Divine Names of Vishnu and Lord Rama. He also produced a hit single of the Hare Krishna Mantra performed by the Radha Krishna Temple in 1970.

George maintained his practice of mantra all his life. For this sort of spiritual practice, the Name of God and God are the same; to practice Mantra is to put one's self in the presence of God. George likened the practice of mantra to “God dancing on your tongue.”

One of my favorite religious songs of George is Awaiting on You All, from the 1971 All Things Must Pass album. The song proclaims that by “chanting the Names of the Lord you'll be free..” The song is upbeat. I love the words expressing devotion to Jesus:

You don't need no passport
And you don't need no visas
You don't need to designate or to emigrate
Before you can see Jesus
If you open up your heart
You'll see he's right there
Always was and will be
He'll relieve you of your cares.”

I also like the lyrics that seem to be distinguishing between religion and God in this song:

You don't need no church house
And you don't need no temple
You don't need no rosary beads or no books to read
To see that you have fallen
If you open up your heart
You will know what I mean
You've been kept down so long
Someones thinking that we're all green.”

George shared his faith on all of his albums, sometimes to the chagrin of critics and some fans. But I personally find his spiritual songs very edifying.

Probably his two most well known spiritual songs are My Sweet Lord from 1971, and Give Me Love, 1973, both #1 hits which express devotion to God. But for me, the greatest of his spiritual songs was the title track on his last album, Brainwashed.

The message of Brainwashed is that we are in a “Matrix”-type of world, “brainwashed by the military, brainwashed by Dow Jones... brainwashing us in Brussels, brainwashing us in Bonn, brainwashing in us in Washington, in Westminster and London...”

In the song, George cries out, “God, God, God, won't you save us from this mess...”

In the middle of the song, there is an interlude in which a lovely female Indian accent recites a brief passage from a Hindu religious classic book, How to Know God - The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali, page 130:

The Soul does not love, it is Love Itself;
It does not exist, It is Existence Itself;
It does not know, It is Knowledge Itself.”

George, as his wife said, lived his entire adult life in the consciousness of God.

As a Christian, I find I have a lot in common with George. My spiritual teacher is Bede Griffiths. I follow a path of inter-spirituality, which is based on my devotion to Christ, but also influenced by yoga. My own practice is a mantra based on the Christ, which is taught at Bede Griffith's Shantivanam Ashram in India. I also chant the name of Christ. I find peace in this practice amid life, which can often be stressful. It is reassuring to me to realize that God is lives in me, and that I can know God. It gives me hope for the future.

For me, George is a spiritual brother. His example of clinging to God all his life, in spite of his failings, is inspiring to me.


Here are some links to some online articles about George's faith:


Below is my YouTube mix of some of George's spiritual songs. The song list is:

1) Within You and Without You
2) The Inner Light
3) My Sweet Lord
4) Awaiting on You All
5) Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth)
6) Fish on the Sand
7) Brainwashed

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Memorial for Lillith Cat

Lillith Cat

Today, my companion animal Lillith passed away. The vet said she had eye cancer and probably started to suffer some pain this last week. She had stopped eating the last few days, and I did not want her to suffer, so I had the vet put her to sleep. 

Lillith was 15 years old, I had her since she was a kitten. Lillith, whom I also called affectionately, Lillith Cat, was a very clever smart kitty, and very affectionate. 

About 12 years ago, I had an angioplasty for my heart from an arythmia caused by hyperthyroid. When I was home recovering, Lillith would jump on the couch or bed and lie right over the left side of my chest. How smart was that? 

In one of the apartments I lived in there were double folding doors in one of the entrance ways. Lillith would jump up on top of the doors when they were folded open, and perch herself there, surveying the apartment like it was her queendom. 

Lillith was a very affectionate cat. would often wake me up for no other reason to but to be petted. She loved to sleep on the bed or couch with the lights and TV on. She would be in her glory. 

When I would sit and say my daily office, she would often jump on the bed or couch with me and lay her head on my lap. I would say, "wanna say prayers with daddy?"

The idea that animals have no souls, spirits or personalities, as is usually taught in traditional Christianity, has never sat well with me. I find it hard to believe that one can look in the eyes of their companion animal and not see personhood, on some level, even if not on the same level as humans. I believe not only do animals have spirits, but have existence beyond death, just like we do. 

I like that the vet in her calming voice today, was telling  Lillith she would be in heaven soon. I believe she will, and I offer this memorial for her. 
Lillith Cat, 1999-2014

Liturgy for a Dead or Dying Pet

Leader     Let us sing to the Lord a new song;
All            a song for all the creatures of the earth.
Leader     Let us rejoice in the goodness of God
All            shown in the beauty of all things.

A Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Romans (8:18-21)
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory
about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of
the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by
the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from
its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

A Reading from our holy father, St. Isaac of Syria
What is a merciful heart? It is a heart that burns with love for the whole of creation, for human beings, for the birds, for the beasts, for the demons, for all creatures.

A Reading from the Revelation to John (Rev. 21:1, 4-5a, 6)
I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed
away. And he shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death,
neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things
are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new. I
am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.
                  The Word of the Lord
All              Thanks be to God.

Let us pray.
This we know: every living thing is yours and returns to you. As we ponder this mystery
we give you thanks for the life of Lillith, and we now commit her into your loving
hands. Gentle God: fragile is your world, delicate are your creatures, and costly is your
love which bears and redeems us all.

Holy Creator, give us eyes to see and ears to hear how every living thing speaks to us of
your love. Let us be awestruck at your creation and daily sing your praises. Especially,
create within us a spirit of gratitude for the life of this beloved pet who has lived among
us and given us freely of his/her love. Even in our sorrow we have cause for joy for we
know that all creatures who died on earth shall live again in your new creation. Amen.

Source: St, Margaret's Episcopal Church 

Daddy & Lillith Cat

Friday, November 28, 2014

John Lennon and Elton John- Live, Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1974, 40 years ago today

On November 28th, 1974, 40 years ago today, John Lennon joined Elton John on stage for a Thanksgiving Day concert at Madison Square Garden.

Elton who was a fan of John's, had struck up a friendship with him. Elton had sang and played with John on the Whatever Gets You Through the Night single, which was culled from the Walls and Bridges album. He had also joined John for one other song on the album, Surprise Surprise (Sweet Bird of Paradox). John in turn played and sang on Elton's cover versions of John's songs,  Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds and One Day (At A Time).

Elton had asked John to join him on stage, half-jokingly. John had not performed live for a couple of years, and was very reticent to join his friend on stage. But John agreed to do so provided his current single, Whatever Gets You Through the Night, went to number #1 on the charts. John said in an interview that he made this promise to Elton "never thinking in a million years [Whatever Gets You Through the Night] would go to #1." But of course, the single did reach #1 on the Billboard Charts, on November 16th, and John kept his promise.

John and Elton performed three songs- Whatever Gets You Through the Night, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, and I Saw Her Standing There, which John said was "written by an old fiancee of mine called Paul."

It was also at this concert that John and Yoko reunited after John's so-called "lost weekend". Yoko met John back stage after the show, and they ended their year and a half of estrangement.

Two years after the concert, Elton served as godfather for John and Yoko's son, Sean. And a mere six years later, John was murdered. Elton eulogized him in the song Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny).

This performance of two musical legends was a rare and memorable event in the history of rock and roll.


Below I have my Youtube play list of the performance, which is great. After Elton introduces John, they launch into a lively version of Whatever Gets You Through the Night, then Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, and finally I Saw Her Standing There. I also included a second version of Whatever Gets You Through the Night. It has the actual audio from the concert and video from a movie called John & Yoko, a Love Story, with actors playing John, Elton and Yoko. It is well done and looks very real. Finally, there is a clip highlighting this momentous event from a 50th Anniversary program for Madison Square Garden.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

John Lennon's 74th Birthday

In a perfect world, John Lennon would be alive at 74 today. Today, I want to remember and honor John Lennon today, he has been a hero of mine since childhood. - Lance

"If you can imagine a world at peace, with no denominations of religion not without religion but without this my-God-is-bigger-than-your-God thing then it can be true"  - John Lennon

"We're all Christ and we're all Hitler. We are trying to make Christ's message contemporary. We want Christ to win." - John Lennon

Imagine Video

Cold Turkey

#9 Dream

Instant Karma

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Beatle's Acappella vocals on the Abbey Road Side 2 Medley- voices like Angels

This is beautiful. There can be no question that the Beatles are the greatest pop/rock group of all time. The clever song writing, and here, the beautiful singing and vocal harmonies, isolated, from the Abbey Road side 2 medley. I thought I was hearing angels sing.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

It was U.S. capitalism that nearly brought the world economy down

"It wasn't Argentinean populist economics, Eastern European crony capitalism, or African kleptocracy that threatened the world economy with the worst recession since the 1930s; It was no-holds-barred American capitalism that did that."

- Fr. Drew Christiansen, S.J., professor of ethics and global human development at Georgetown University.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

25th Anniversary - Paul McCartney's Flowers in the Dirt (June 5th, 1989). Also, remembering the 1989-1990 Tour and Tripping the Live Fantastic live album

Today, June 5th, is the 25th Anniversary of the release of Paul McCartney's Flowers in the Dirt album in 1989, arguably his best since 1973's Band on the Run. It is my personal favorite.

Paul's career had hit a plateau in the mid-Eighties. Paul found he was not selling as big as he was in the 1970's, when he enjoyed multi-platinum success with Wings. In 1984, he had a charming, but somewhat amateurish movie called Give My Regards to Broadstreet flop at the Theaters. Paul was booed on stage when his microphone was accidentally disconnected during his performance of Let it Be during Live Aid. His 1986 album, Press to Play, even though clever and well-performed and produced, did not even certify Gold in the United States.

Elton John suggested to Paul that he needed to go on tour to give a boost to his career. Paul had not toured since 1980, and that tour was cut short by Paul's infamous drug bust in Japan.

Paul listened to his friend, and decided to record a new album, and to go on a major world tour.

Paul assembled a crack band for his new project. Led by Average White Band alum Hamish Stuart, the new Paul McCartney band included Pretenders veteran Robbie McIntosh on Guitar, Paul “Wix” Wiggins on keyboards, Chris Witten (Dire Straits, Waterboys) on drums, and of course, Linda on keyboards. This band was arguably better as a unit than any of the configurations of Wings. Paul toyed with the idea of naming the band Wings for his tour, but decided against it. He wanted to write a new chapter.

Paul and the band recorded Flowers in the Dirt in 1988 and 1989. There was some work left over from the 1986 Press to Play sessions. Joining Paul and his band for the album were several other luminaries such as David Gilmour, Trevor Horn, and Elvis Costello, who also co-authored with Paul several songs on the album, including the hit, My Brave Face.

The album and the tour were a big success. The album reached #21 in the US, and quickly went Gold, and was #1 in the U.K. The tour was huge, garnering record ticket sales. The tour was called the Get Back Tour. Originally booked in arenas, Paul found he had to quickly move to stadiums to accommodate the large fan demand for tickets. On this tour, Paul performed several songs from his Flowers in the Dirt album, but also was comfortable again playing Beatles songs, some of which had never been performed live before. Such Beatle hits as Back in the U.S.S.R., Things We Said Today, Get Back, Eleangor Rigby, Let it Be, Fool on the Hill, Hey Jude, and many others were performed on the tour. Many Wings and solo McCartney hits such as Maybe I'm Amazed, Band on the Run, Ebony and Ivory, Coming Up and others were also performed. 

There is no doubt that the success of Flowers in the Dirt and the tour that supported it from 1989-1991 rejuvenated Paul's career, and put him back on a level where his subsequent albums began selling gold and platinum again.

There are two live CDs that capture the excellent performances from the tour, Tripping the Live Fantastic! (GOLD) and Tripping the Live Fantastic! Hightlights (Platinum). I have both CD versions, and the single record vinyl version of the album.

There is also an award-winning performance video of the Tour, Get Back, produced by Richard Lester, who also produced A Hard Day's Night and Help!

Flowers in the Dirt  is my favorite Paul McCartney album. I have this album both on vinyl and CD. Much of it sounds very Beatle-esque, and the hit single, My Brave Face, can stand up to anything Paul did with the Beatles. One critic compared it favorably with She Loves You, the Beatles biggest selling single in Britain of all time.

For the tour and album, Paul used, in addition to his famous Hoftner Beatle-Bass, a five-string Wal Bass Guitar that Linda bought him for his birthday. It provided a deep powerful bass line for the song, Rough Ride.

Below is my video play list for both albums and the tour. I do not feature all the songs, but four of what I think are the best ones- My Brave Face, This One, Figure of Eight, Rough Ride.

Flowers in the Dirt Track List:

1. My Brave Face
2. Rough Ride
3. You Want Her Too
4. Distractions
5. We Got Married
6. Put It There
7. Figure of Eight
8. This One
9. Don't Be Careless Love
10. That Day Is Done
11. How Many People
12. Motor of Love
13. Ou Est le Soleil

Buy Flowers in the Dirt here.

Tripping the Live Fantastic! Track listing

All songs by Paul McCartney, except where noted.

Disc one
"Showtime" – 0:38
"Figure of Eight" – 5:32
Recorded in Rotterdam, 10/11/89.
"Jet" – 4:02
Recorded in Wembley, 17/01/90.
"Rough Ride" – 4:48
Recorded in Paris, 10/10/89.
"Got to Get You into My Life" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 3:21
Recorded in Dortmund 17/10/89.
"Band on The Run" – 5:09
Recorded in Wembley, 16/01/90.
"Birthday" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 2:43
Concurrently released as a single to commemorate what would have been John Lennon's 50th birthday, recorded in Knebworth, 30/06/90.
"Ebony and Ivory" – 4:00
Recorded in Rotterdam, 08/11/89.
"We Got Married" – 6:38
Recorded in Wembley, 16/01/90.
"Inner City Madness" (Paul McCartney/Linda McCartney/Hamish Stuart/Robbie McIntosh/Paul Wickens/Chris Whitten) – 1:22
A soundcheck jam by McCartney and his touring band, recorded in Birmingham, 02/01/90.
"Maybe I'm Amazed" – 4:41
Recorded in Rotterdam, 08/11/89.
"The Long and Winding Road" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 4:18
Recorded in Rio de Janeiro, 19/04/90.
"Crackin' Up" (Ellas McDaniel) – 0:49
Recorded in Los Angeles, 23/11/89.
"The Fool on the Hill" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 5:01
Recorded in Wembley, 13/01/90.
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 6:23
Recorded in Los Angeles, 23/11/89.
"Can't Buy Me Love" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 2:14
Recorded in Munich, 21/10/89.
"Matchbox" (Carl Perkins) – 3:09
Recorded in Wembley, 21/01/90.
"Put It There" – 2:43
Recorded in Gothenburg, 28/09/89.
"Together" (Paul McCartney/Linda McCartney/Hamish Stuart/Robbie McIntosh/Paul Wickens/Chris Whitten) – 2:17
Another soundcheck jam, recorded in Chicago, 05/12/89.

Disc two
"Things We Said Today" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 5:01
Recorded in Madrid, 02/11/89.
"Eleanor Rigby" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 2:36
Recorded in Worcester, 08/02/90.
"This One" – 4:28
Recorded in Detroit, 01/02/90.
"My Brave Face" (Paul McCartney/Declan MacManus) – 3:09
Recorded in Wembley, 19/01/90.
"Back in the U.S.S.R." (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 3:15
Recorded in Tokyo, 05/03/90.
"I Saw Her Standing There" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 3:25
Recorded in Montreal, 09/12/89.
"Twenty Flight Rock" (Eddie Cochran/Fairchild) – 3:09
Recorded in Wembley, 13/01/90.
"Coming Up" – 5:18
Recorded in Tokyo, 03/03/90.
"Sally" (Haines/Leon/Towers) – 2:03
Recorded in Wembley, 21/01/90.
"Let It Be" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 3:53
Recorded in Miami, 14/04/90.
"Ain't That a Shame" (Fats Domino/Bartholomew) – 2:40
Recorded in Tokyo, 09/03/90.
"Live and Let Die" – 3:11
Recorded in Gothenburg, 28/09/89.
"If I Were Not upon the Stage" (Sutton/Turner/Bowsher) – 0:36
A faux beginning to the next song, Recorded in Cincinnati, 26/09/89.
"Hey Jude" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 8:03
Recorded in Cincinnati, 12/02/90.
"Yesterday" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 2:06
Recorded in Worcester, 09/02/90.
"Get Back" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 4:11
Recorded in Tokyo, 13/03/90.
"Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" (John Lennon/Paul McCartney) – 6:41
Recorded in Toronto, 07/12/89.
"Don't Let the Sun Catch You Crying" (Greene) – 4:31
Recorded in Montreal, 09/12/89.

Tripping the Live Fantastic: Highlights!
"Got to Get You into My Life" – 3:15
"Birthday" – 2:43
Concurrently released as a single to commemorate what would have been John Lennon's 50th birthday
"We Got Married" (McCartney) – 7:09
"The Long and Winding Road" – 3:48
"Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" – 6:21
"Can't Buy Me Love" – 2:14
"All My Trials" (Traditional) – 3:14 (UK only)
"Put It There" (McCartney) – 2:44 (US only)
"Things We Said Today" – 5:01
"Eleanor Rigby" – 2:36
"My Brave Face" (McCartney, Declan MacManus) – 3:09
"Back in the U.S.S.R." – 3:15
"I Saw Her Standing There" – 3:25
"Coming Up" (McCartney) – 5:18
"Let It Be" – 3:53
"Hey Jude" – 8:03
"Get Back" – 4:11
"Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End" – 6:41

Tripping the Live Fantastic: Highlights! Single Record Vinyl limited edition

Side One
The Long And Winding Road
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Can't Buy Me Love
All My Trials

Side Two
Eleanor Rigby
My Brave Face
I Saw Her Standing There
Coming Up
Let It Be
Hey Jude
Get Back