Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chris Squire, Virtuoso Bassist and Co-Founder of Progressive Rock Group Yes Passes Away

Chris Squire passed away today (June 28, 2015). He was one of the greatest bass players of all time, known for his virtuoso playing on his stereo-amplified Rickenbacker bass. In the seventies, Paul McCartney, Geddy Lee, and Chris Squire made it really cool to play a Ricky!

Along with Paul McCartney, John Entwistle, Stanley Clarke, he was one of the bassists who influenced me to want to play bass.

One of my favorite albums is his solo 1975 Fish Out of Water. Here is a blog piece I wrote in 2012 on his 1975 solo album, Fish out of Water.

One of the very first concerts I ever saw was Yes. I remember their revolving stage and Squire ' s flashy playing, which was essentially the lead instrument on some songs.

May he rest in peace.

Here is a link to Rolling Stone's news release on Chris Squire's passing:
Chris Squire, Bassist and Yes Co-Founder, Dead at 67

Here is the music video of Chris Squire's Hold Out Your Hand and You By My Side from his Fish Out of Water Album:


Sunday, March 8, 2015

My Story

We all have a "story," and we inhabit it and live in it. And that is okay as long as we know it is a story. The problem comes in when we insist on other people living in our story, and we dismiss other people's stories. I have my story, but I appreciate and can learn from other people's stories. I have no emotional need to incorporate others into my story. And as such, my story is relative, and not absolute.

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.