Monday, March 31, 2008

Manilow Memories

It's been two years since I attended my first Barry concert in Vegas on March 29, 2006. Nostaligia has set in this morning and I can't think of a better place to share those memories than here on the blog that I began because of that magical night.

My first Vegas show
This is where it all began: a great show, a magical, unexpected moment with Barry and a new friend who grew up with his music and introduced me to the vast new world of Manilow.
At the dance with Mandy

My first ever "Barry trip" with my new friend, Mandy, and the night she danced with him to It's Not for Me to Say for what seemed like an eternity.
The scrapbook project
Bringing a group of fans together to create a scrapbook for Barry after his hip surgery. Everyone worked together to create the best "get well" scrapbook
called, "Your Music, Our Passion".
Atlantic City
The first concert after the hip surgery; the anticipation; all the fans and the energy in the huge arena. Finally, Barry comes out on stage in a wheelchair and the crowd roars. It was my first arena show and a night I will never forget.
Madison Square Garden
New York City and a night to remember with Barry, Dave Koz, and one of my very best friends.
Starting I Am Your Child Fan Club
A dream that ensued between two friends and a
fter a few short months blossomed into an officially sanctioned fan club, which was the start of new friendships and some great times with other fans.
May 2007
A last minute trip to Vegas where I had the time of my life at the concerts and experienced some memorable moments of frivolity, fandom and fun.
A girl's weekend with Barry and a road trip to Atlantic City resulting in some inspirational moments listening to the Greatest Songs of the Seventies.

A night to re
member with my daughter; her first Barry concert--sharing the passion that is Manilow.
The friends I have m
ade along the way
These are friends that I've met, have yet to meet, and possibly might never meet. They
have enriched my life and given me moments of great joy. They have shared heartache with me, celebrated and had fun along the way, and given me encouragement with I needed it the most. They come from all over the world and they speak the universal language: music. Our friendships have taken some unique paths and come full circle. They are the glue that holds me together and they are the reason that every time I walk through those doors (at the Hilton, at an arena show, or when they welcome me into their homes) I know what it means to be a Manilow fan.

2008 has barely begun and a day doesn't go by that I don't think of that magical night in March two years ago and how Barry, with a smile, a hug and a simple kiss took away a cloud of grief and put me on the path of discovering his music, his magic and the ability he has to impart unspeakable joy.

Looking toward the future and many more Manilow memories,
Texas Fan

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Evolution of Music Media

My great aunt who lived to be 96 used to talk to me about the myriad of changes that occurred over her lifetime: electricity was invented, air travel, movies, television, space travel, and home computers. One of my favorite movies underscores how much our lives have been affected by technology: Desk Set. In it, the first IBM computer is showcased, taking up an entire room and requiring punch cards (yes, believe it or not I remember those punch cards).

Music media has also changed drastically in my lifetime. My father owned a rather extensive collection of reel to reel tapes with some jazz greats: Al Hirt, Louis Armstrong, BB King. He would sit in our den on Saturday night, load them up on the tape player and listen for hours. Then came the phonograph records, or LP's. My parents had an extensive collection of them: Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Henry Mancini, The Righteous Brothers and the like. Their stereo equipment would have made any music oficiando from the 60's envious.

The first album I ever purchased was the soundtrack to The Sound of Music. And I was hooked. I became a collector myself: The Music Man, Funny Girl, and finally all, and I mean all of Barbra Streisand's albums. Like any teen, I purchased 45's of the latest singles: I Think I Love You by David Cassidy, I'm Henry the Eighth I Am by Herman's Hermits, She Loves You by the Beatles. During my high school years, 8-track tapes surfaced. Anyone who was anyone had an 8-track tape player in their car. And I was no exception. For Christmas one year, my parents bought me an 8-track stereo system for my room. I was in heaven.

Shortly after graduation, and into early marriage, cassette tapes came along. Cassette tapes were so much more convenient than 8-tracks. You could rewind, fast forward, and they were easier to carry around because of the compact size. The sound quality was improved over the 8-tracks (although I always felt that LP's were still superior in sound quality). Cassette tapes and LP's remained strong until the early 80's when compact discs hit the marketplace.

My first CD was Amy Grant's The Collection. My family purchased it for me for Christmas, along with a portable CD player and headphones. The sound quality absolutely blew me away. You could hear the instruments like you were in the room with them. After my first listen, I was hooked. My collection grew over the years and CD's have remained the dominate form of media in the marketplace.

But...the invention of digital music came along during my kid's generation. Napster hit the scene and teens all over the country began downloading music and sharing music with each other. Of course, it wasn't long before the record companies and artists hit the panic button and put a stop to that almost as quickly as it began. We now have digital downloads, MP3's via ITunes, Yahoo Music, and numerous other music sites online. You can purchase a card with the picture of your favorite musical artist (Barry's Greatest Songs of the Seventies is one of them) at Best Buy now and download an entire album to your computer, transfer it to you MP3 player and carry hundreds of songs with you in the palm of your hand.

Matchbox 20 was the first group to pioneer a USB wristlet with their newest album on it, along with a video of one of their sellout concerts. There are no boundaries in this music evolution. But I'm ready for it. Because it can only improve the quality of the sound and creativity of the artists that record the music.

Life can't be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years. ~William F. Buckley, Jr. (or all the Manilow masterpieces),
Texas Fan

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Finding that balance

Growing up southern Baptist had its pluses and definitely had its minuses. There was no dancing allowed in our household; no movies on Sunday; no drinking of any kind; and as a teenager, I felt, no fun. My parents eventually loosened up over the years, realizing that perhaps all dancing was not the devil's tool, and perhaps a glass of wine now and then would not send you straight to hell.

It's a natural human tendency to go overboard. It seems to happen more often, however, when we are deprived. Kids who go off to college and lived in a strict home environment lose all sense of reason and fall fast into the sex and drinking culture that permeates modern college experience. Adults who worked hard for years and years often chunk it all in lieu life-changing adventures. Lottery winners who had no money prior to winning often blow all of their money quickly because they have done without for so many years.

I learned a valuable lesson here that applies to everything I do in life. I learned that you can get carried away with anything. Whether it's rules and regulations related to religion, or it's getting wrapped up in a hobby that consumes all of your time, or even pouring your life into your kids. I learned that while so many pursuits in this life are worthy of our time and our passion, there is a danger in not finding a balance. And when we don't find that balance, we make extreme sacrifices that affect our lives and our futures.

Barry addresses this when he says, "My passion for music has obliterated everything in its path for my entire life. Whenever there was a choice between music and anything else, music won hands down every time. No one person or material thing could ever come close to the feeling I get when the music is right. I imagine it's like a drug addict who keeps going back for more. Once you've experienced it you have to have it again." (Sweet Life)

At times I think we as fans adopt this mantra. We pour ourselves into his music and it becomes a drug for us. We keep coming back for more and we forget that we have lives apart from the music and the celebrity admiration. And we also forget that although Barry has committed his life to this music, he has also made great sacrifices: lack of anonymity, physical harm to his body from years of touring and performing, emotional pain that we can't even begin to imagine, and loneliness. And Barry would be the last person that would want us to lose sight of what is important in this life to pursue an unhealthy celebrity obsession.

It all comes back to finding that balance. Love the music. Listen to the words for inspiration. Respect the man. Enjoy the friendships. Have fun at the shows. But keep that balance between reality and fantasy. In the long run it makes for a happier life and a brighter future.

Keeping that balance,
Texas Fan

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Meaning of Life

"So you want to know the meaning of life, you’ve come to the right place. I know the meaning of life. And here it is: the meaning of life is to have fun. Hope that’s not a let down, but that’s what it is, it’s to have fun and to learn that we create it all, we create everything, no asterisk, no parenthesis and no fine print. Overall I think it’s to realize that we are good enough, that our essence is beautiful even though our actions sometimes aren’t. I think by our actions we prove that we are human beings, and by our essence we prove that we are spiritual beings. I think that overall we are here to learn how to love and how to receive love and that’s difficult. That’s difficult for a human being. It’s not difficult for the spiritual being in us but the human being part resists that all the time. That’s what I think the meaning of life is. We all have to keep working on that. So here’s my advice. Let someone pick up the check and just say thank you when they do."-Barry Manilow

I was listening this morning to this track and I realized there is so much more to the statement that we as fans so often quote: the meaning of life is to have fun. It's so easy to take someone's words out of context and leave out the essence of what they mean. If you listen (or read) to what he is truly saying you will glean some great truths and come away with what he was trying to communicate overall (his exact word).

Yes. He does say that we need to have fun in this life. BUT...he also says that we need to realize that although our essence is beautiful, sometimes we act like humans: we make mistakes. We have a human side and a spiritual side. It's not just about having fun. It's about getting in touch with that spiritual side that makes us better human beings. And once we do it affects everything that we do: from having fun, to giving and receiving love, to receiving help when we need it from others.

Bottom line: our fun should not be at the expense of our growth as a human being. If it is, we've missed the point. Beauty to Barry, is not on the outside, it's the essence of who we are: frailties, insecurities, flaws, and failures. In his words: we are "good enough". And if you really look at the meaning of what he was trying to say, you'll find that it's the "working" at it that makes life fun. It's the choices we make, the obstacles we overcome, the failures that keep making us try harder. It's what you learn along the way and how you grow in the journey.

That my friends, is the meaning of life. And like Barry, I hope you aren't disappointed.
Texas Fan

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Last Lecture

This really puts EVERYTHING into perspective.

Choosing to be a Tigger,
Texas Fan

P.S. Thanks Karen for the link!

Thank you for the music

There's a song by Abba that expresses my feelings this morning. A new day with new hope.

Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing
Thanks for all the joy they're bringing
Who can live without it, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a dance what are we?
So I say thank you for the music
For giving it to me.

Thanks Barry for the clarity today and for the music that brought it all back into perspective.

In times like these we need your music more than ever,
Texas Fan

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

OT-The Cancer Card

I rarely do this, venture off into non-Manilow subjects but this has been bothering me so much for the last few days I thought I would write about it.

The History: I am a cancer survivor (although I'm not sure there is such a thing) for over 10 years. I had my first incident of it when I was 42-ten years before my mother who died from the disease. When I got it, I was taking care of my 92 year old great aunt with Alzheimers who lived with me, my 82 year old father who also lived with me, and my teenage children. I continued doing this for 2 years of surgery and treatments (radiation and chemotherapy) with no help or relief-financially or physically. I have my own business. When I don't work, I don't get paid. I had tons of extended family, but it was "well-known" in family circles that I was strong enough to handle anything (my bad I guess). I received no phone calls or follow up "how are you doings" while I was in treatment.

The Drama: My sister-in-law who is about 8 years younger than me found out about a year ago that she had cancer. You would have thought the world as we knew it was coming to an end. Her children were grown, she worked at a hospital and had all the best medical care and referrals, and she had full time paid medical leave for all her surgeries and treatments. When she began losing her hair, the entire family shaved theirs in solidarity, along with her son's college baseball team. My husband's uncle sent them money every month to subsidize her being off work. She received a phone call every week from me and from all the other family members. Poor Suzie. She has cancer. Isn't it awful.

The straw that broke the camel's back: This weekend we met her and her husband in San Antonio for a short visit. As I saw her walking across the street to meet us, there it was. The shirt that did it all for me: CANCER SUCKS. I almost lost it. She's never going to let the cancer card go. She had the best treatment. They consider her to be cancer-free and give her very positive hope that they were able to remove all signs of the disease. And yet, she's wearing that shirt like a badge of honor.

Here's my question: At what point do you stop playing the cancer card? With her, it's the first words out of her mouth (or in this case on her shirt). When she talks about it, she acts like I don't have a clue what she went through. Excuse me but I do. Not only did I go through what she went through, I did it alone. No mother there to hold my hand. No spouse there to go with me to treatments (he's a wimp). No kids there to show solidarity because they were too young and scared themselves. No medical community to support me because I live in the most backward city in Texas. No financial support from my job or relatives.

Of course, as my wise sage of a Mother used to tell me: Nobody ever said that life was fair. Trust me, I've certainly learned that truth over the last few weeks.

Texas Fan

Monday, March 24, 2008

Music in the 21st Century

Over the weekend while we were in the car traveling we listened to Randy Jackson's Top Picks on the radio. The number one song this week (2nd week in a row) is by a young woman who bucked the system and went out on her own to make her name in the music business. She posted her song on MySpace Music and a homemade video on YouTube. After receiving over 200,000 downloads in one week, and more than that amount of hits on YouTube the record companies took notice. She's making her own music and did it without a big record label or backing.

Then, there's Dolly Parton. She hasn't had a major record deal in 10 years. Her last top five hit was in 1991. She did something a little different; she decided to invest in herself. She recorded her new album herself and hired a promotion company to promote it. Her album reached #2 on the Billboard chart its 2nd week. Her best showing in 17 years.

What do these two things say to me? They say the music business is changing. And it also tells me that the public is a better voice in what they like than the record companies who keep spoon feeding us re-recorded decade hits. It tells me that if you have talent and creativity that you don't necessarily need a big record contract to be heard. With MySpace music and YouTube you can sell your own music and forge your own path. The day is coming when all music will be online or via downloads and the record companies just might be obsolete. Or at the very least, less of an influence on the artist's choice of music.

What does this mean for those of us who are craving an original body of work from Mr. Manilow? Maybe he should give Ms. Parton a phone call and see how it's done. Or give this young woman a call and get a few pointers from the generation that grew up with mp3 and
online videos. The way I see it, we're never too old to learn some new tricks or forge some new paths.

As Dolly so eloquently put it: "Now the majors (labels) are what they used to think I was: history," she said.

Here's to music in the 21st century,
Texas Fan

Friday, March 21, 2008

Out of Nowhere

About 4:00pm this afternoon I got in my NEW 2008 Chevrolet Aveo to go to the post office, make a quick stop at Starbucks, and pick up my husband from work. I highlight the word NEW because in over 35 years of marriage we have never had a new car. We have paid for two children's braces, private schools, colleges and even graduate school. We have helped them when they were unemployed and without a home after the Marines. They had cars, nice clothes, new laptops and numerous other luxury items and we were happy to provide them. But...we never had a new car. In November, after giving our son our dependable used car and taking his piece of metal that he called a vehicle, and, after realizing the transmission was about to go out, we sold it, gathered most of the cash we had available, and purchased a new car. It was somewhat of a right of passage for us. Time for us to spend some hard-earned money on ourselves.

But, I've digressed from the real message here: out of nowhere. I was driving along minding my own business and suddenly a large vehicle is heading toward me out of nowhere. Of course, I immediately react and swerve to try and avoid the inevitable collision. When you are in a compact car and a car twice your size gets a piece of you it's a given that you will go flying upon impact. And that's just what happened. I went flying into oncoming traffic; spinning out of control. When I stopped, I was perpendicular to the flow of traffic and stunned. I managed to gather my wits and pull out of traffic into a parking lot. The driver of the other vehicle was a 96 year old gentleman. His wife was in the front seat. They were both terribly shaken and she kept saying over and over again, "the cars just go too fast". Once we ascertained everyone was not physically hurt, we telephoned the police.

While we were waiting, I was standing there in shock. I realized I had no idea what had just happened. I didn't know how I was hit, which direction he came from, or how fast or slow he was going. I didn't know if he was turning into me, going straight toward me, or where he came from. I just remember he came out of nowhere. When the police arrived I couldn't facilitate the recreation of the accident. The older gentleman gave three accounts. The police officer did the best he could ascertaining what had happened by the damage to the vehicles. When it was over I drove home (thankfully the car was still drivable) and sat in the driveway for several minutes trying to breathe.

It occurred to me this evening. Our lives are like that. We are going along each day doing the usual tasks and then out of nowhere something or someone comes and crashes into us and changes everything. What happened today was a practical expression of what has happened in my life since first experiencing Barry in Las Vegas in 2006. There was the excitement of having a newfound love of the man and his music, followed by the crash that has become my journey into fandom. Quite apropos and ironic. Life imitating life.

Still reeling from both crashes,
Texas Fan

The message of Easter

Today is Good Friday: in Christian circles the day that Jesus was crucified. In non-Christian circles it means little. Easter has become a secular holiday for the most part, just like every other religious holiday. The Easter bunny has replaced the cross, just like Santa Claus has replaced the birth of God's son. For me, Easter has always been about new beginnings. From death comes life. From the grave came the resurrection and hope.

On the first good Friday, the disciples and Jesus' followers wept at the cross. They believed that He had come to set them free from their bondage; from their slavery to the Roman empire. They believed that He was indeed the son of God. But if he was, how could something so horrific happen? How could he be put to death? How could God allow Him to die on the cross? It seemed like the end of all their hopes and dreams.

But then, the resurrection. The grave was empty on the third day. Jesus had conquered death and given us the keys to eternal life through him. And thus, out of what seemed to be the end, came a new beginning.

One of Barry's songs always reminds me of this and every time I listen to it I think about how blessed we are to be able to "begin again".

Sometimes it's hard to believe
how simple life can be
just when you think
you'll never reach the end
you're finally round the bend and see
there's no need to cry anymore
life's better than before
yesterday fades away into the past
the pain you thought would last
is gone

And you begin again
sometimes you lose, sometimes you win
but you begin again
even though you're heart is breaking
in time, the sun will shine
and you'll begin again
you'll begin again

Have a blessed Easter and remember that it's all about new beginnings,
Texas Fan

Thursday, March 20, 2008

From Bobby to Barry

Things have been way too serious lately, so I thought I'd lighten up with some thoughts on my two favorite male singers when I was a teenager.

Bobby Sherman hit the scene a bit prior to Barry in the late 60's.
His first hit record, "Little Woman" came in 1969, which led to concert tours and a hit television series "Here Come the Brides". Bobby was mobbed by adoring fans. His face began appearing on every teen magazine cover. Lunch boxes bore his picture, and love beads and "Bobby Sherman Chokers" became the rage. I personally had his picture plastered over every inch of my bedroom wall and rushed to the store for the latest issue of TigerBeat to had more pics to my growing collection. His music was considered to be "bubblegum" music and his fan base was most definitely teenage girls. His television appearances fueled his music career but in the middle 70's his popularity began to fade. His music was romantic and it spoke to my teenage heart.

Then along came marriage (at 18) and Barry, in that order. I was driving to work one day and heard Mandy on the radio. The love affair with his music began that day. Since I was married and heavily
into surviving, I never developed the "crush" that I had with Bobby (the crush came later!) But the love of the music was there from the start. I remember purchasing the first album and listening to it at night while lying in bed before we went to sleep. We spent many hours in those first few years of marriage listening to Barry's music at night. When I hear the songs from his early albums they bring back some great memories. They are intrinsically linked to my teen years and although I was acting the role of an adult, I still felt very much like a teenager. Those songs carried me into adulthood and when I needed them the most those songs were always there.

Comparing Bobby Sherman to Barry Manilow might be like comparing coke to champagne. I adore both of them but they are in totally different classes altogether. Bobby isn't even in the business any longer and was never a true musician. He had a nice voice and was pleasing on the eyes. Barry on the other hand (while pleasing to the eyes) is a musician and an artist in the truest sense of the word and has carried me through many years of joy and sorrow.

And yet when I think of those teen years, I have to smile. From Bobby to Barry says, "what a ride!"

Thanks guys!
Texas Fan

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Some days are like that...

...even in Australia.”

One of my children’s favorite books growing up was “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” by Judith Viorst. I would read it to them at night and we would laugh at Alexander’s trials: gum in his hair, not having his favorite cereal, being forced to buy the wrong colored shoes, having to wear his train pajamas. Alexander’s day was so horrible that he wanted to move to Australia to escape. It wasn’t long before Alexander’s mother’s response to his woes became my response when we were all having a bad day, “Some days are like that, even in Australia.”

We’ve all had days like Alexander’s: days when we wish we had stayed in bed. Those are the days when absolutely everything goes wrong and as your day progresses it only gets worse. You wish you could run away to Australia and escape, but you are forced to keep plugging along and wish for night to fall, hoping things will improve tomorrow.

Literature has addressed this dilemma over and over again. Alexander is not the only one that felt this way. Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind” shared the same feeling of being overwhelmed with the events of her day. Her solution was to “think about this tomorrow, because tomorrow is another day.” Even Shakespeare’s MacBeth could not escape a day to end all days.

Screenplays have been written based on this premise. Jerry’s day in “Jerry McQuire” was a nightmare. George’s day in New York in the “Out of Towners” would make anyone run for the hills. Then there is Jamie Curtis’ character in “Halloween”, who can’t catch a break on that same day for years. And my favorite is the father in “Parenthood”, who realizes that life is like a roller coaster, with its ups, downs, twists and turns.

This is a recurring theme in fiction because it is a recurring theme in life. Some days just feel like they are spinning out of control. You can wallow in the reality of it all or go along for the ride. You can strap yourself in and hang on for dear life and know that some days are just like that. Some days require all the stamina you can muster to survive.

Personally, I have had many days like this recently. Days when I wished I could just pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed. Days in which I wonder if I'm ever going to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Barry knows about these days too. He has songs that speak of these days: All the Time, Life Goes On, I Made It Through the Rain, Lay Me Down, Please Don’t be Scared, You Begin Again to name a few. And those are the songs that help to get me through those days. They remind me that it is just the ebb and flow of life: some good days and some bad days. We all have them.

Take a moment to think about the coyote in the Roadrunner cartoon. He tried and tried to stop that bird, but failed every single time. He exemplified perseverance. It didn’t matter how many times he failed; he kept trying. He got up every day and got back on that roller coaster of life. You will find that no matter how sick the ride may make you or how afraid you might be to keep trying, the excitement that every day brings is worth the ride. Why should you keep trying? Because “some days are like that, even in Australia.”

Here's hoping tomorrow is NOT one of those days,

Texas Fan

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Some questions to ponder

What makes one fan more "special" than another fan?
Is it the number of shows they attend?
Is it how many times they have sung CSWY, danced with him or put on his jacket?
Is it the size of the collection of music and memorabilia?
Is it who they know or think they know on the "inside"?
Is it measured by the amount of money they spend on tickets, fan items, conventions and the like?
Is it the amount of photographs they take and share?
Is it the number of Platinums or Meet and Greets they have had?
Is it the number of times Barry has shook their hand or made eye contact during a show?

Does the world of fandom come with a price?
If you get too involved with the fans do you risk your anonymity, and at what price?
And once you do, is it still possible to have that magical concert experience?
Once your eyes are open does it cause your view of the "man" and the music to be jaded?
Can you still enjoy the concerts if you can't escape the fanatics?
Is it possible to know the true level of fanaticism when the only contact you have had with other fans is online?
How does someone remain a fan for over 30 years in spite of all the drama, backstabbing, and vindictive comments?
Does Barry really have the "best seat in the house" or is he completely disgusted by what goes on with his fans?

I wonder....
Texas Fan

Monday, March 17, 2008

A life filled with music

I have this vivid memory of my childhood that flows over me and envelopes my senses every time I hear Johnny Mathis or Nat King Cole. It is the type of memory that evokes the best of feelings and makes you smile. It makes me smile because when I hear one of those songs, I remember my mother in the small kitchen of our first home playing those records and singing along with them. She would sing and glide around the kitchen dancing with me. She is wearing a dress, as all proper 50’s housewives did, with her newly bleached blonde hair and bright red lipstick. She was beautiful at that moment. I remember thinking she looked like a movie star and she did.

Our home was always filled with music. My mother liked the easy listening genre and my father was a fan of New Orleans jazz: Al Hirt, Pete Fountain and the likes. One evening, my father brought home the latest Nat King Cole release. My mother was beside herself. She ripped it open and cranked up the stereo. That evening, we ate dinner to the soothing sounds of “Unforgettable”.

This love for music in my parents translated into my love for musicals. I remember standing in long lines at the movie theatre to see “The Music Man”, “Mary Poppins”, “Sound of Music” and “Funny Girl”. I would lose myself in the music of these movies and couldn’t wait to purchase the soundtracks so I could memorize the songs. I would stage productions of the films in our garage for the neighborhood kids and belt out songs just like Julie Andrews and Barbra Striesand. The critics would not have been impressed with my voice, but I didn’t care. I loved singing those songs and I loved the music.

When I had my own children, I began introducing music to them immediately. It lulled them to sleep at night and awoke them in the morning. When we were given a VCR for Christmas, I rented all the classic musicals. My daughter danced around the living room with Julie Andrews and belted out songs from “Funny Girl” with Barbra Streisand. She had all those songs memorized before she ever entered school and owns them on DVD. Every road trip we ever take together includes the songs from these classic musicals, along with some of the greatest memories from both our childhoods. I even introduced her to Nat King Cole and she has vowed to have his songs played at her wedding.

When my daughter was in high school, I accompanied her to a concert. I admit that my intent was to protect her from the “mosh pit” and make sure she did not get hurt. (I know I was overprotective: and proud of it!). In the process, however, I experienced one of the true poets of her generation and this decade: Rob Thomas. The lyrics to his songs were filled with emotion, passion and reality. Not only did I develop a love for Matchbox 20 and Rob Thomas, but I also bonded with my daughter over music: something that can be rare in the teenage years.

My daughter is a music aficionado, as is my son. They have varied taste in all different genres: Christian contemporary, country, jazz, rap, pop, foreign and classical. They have introduced me to some music that I would not normally listen to and have grown to enjoy. Music is very much a part of their lives.

The experts say that music spurs creativity. The experts also say that music can “soothe the savage beast”. The experts say that music can change your mood, even spur you to violence. I’m sure that some of these statements are at least partially true. But for me, every song I listen to is attached to a memory. That’s what makes me love it so much. When I hear Johnny Mathis sing “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”, I remember lying under the tree guessing my Christmas presents with my brother. When I hear Nat King Cole sing “Unforgettable”, I remember that smile on my mother’s face when my father gave her that album because he knew she would love it. When I hear a great jazz piece I think of my Dad and those trips he took to Bourbon Street to hear Al Hirt play. When I hear “Seventy Six Trombones”, I remember singing in my garage to an unimpressed audience. When I hear “Ina Godda DaVida” I remember my brother in the room next to me playing that music so incredibly loud while I listened to Barbra Streisand. When I hear “Grease”, I remember being pregnant with my first child. When I hear a Julie Andrews’ songs from Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music I remember my daughter dancing around our living room. When I hear “Push” by Rob Thomas I remember standing at the concert in the San Antonio heat watching my daughter have one of the greatest times of her life. When I hear Barry’s “I Am Your Child” or “Even Now” I remember all the wonderful times I’ve had going to his concerts with a friend I made at my very first Music and Passion show in Las Vegas.

Hopefully, music does the same for you. It evokes great memories. Because I don’t care what the experts say. I know that a life without music, would be a life without joy. How do I know that? The smile on my mother’s face when a song filled our home one night during dinner.

It's really ALL about the music!

Texas Fan

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Find joy in life...

...even if others think you are crazy

During the last few years my family and friends might tell you that I have gone off the deep end. They would say that my newfound interest of a certain blue-eyed, blond-haired entertainer and his music has them baffled. I’m also quite sure that many of my friends would participate in an intervention of sorts if the topic were to arise. Recently one of them told me she was trying to understand why this is so important to me, and why it is taking up a large portion of my life.

Passing the half-century mark is at the very least daunting. Add to that the fact that you have survived breast cancer, buried both your parents after nursing them in their poor health, and cared for a great aunt with Alzheimer’s disease. Spend the greater portion of the last ten years making sure that both your children have college educations, one of them with a master’s degree, and as you look back, you have spent little or no time having fun.

My mother and father both learned the hard way that life is short and if you miss those moments you don’t get them back. After my father passed away, I needed some moments of shear joy. I needed to feel like life was more than struggling, scraping by, and waiting to die. I needed an escape, however brief it might be, to regroup and refresh myself. In short, I needed some joy in my life.

After so many years of sacrificing for others, giving myself to so many, and feeling just a little spent, I found a place that made me come alive again. For ninety minutes at a time, I forget about the drama in my life and experienced the joy of Music and Passion, compliments of Barry Manilow. And after the show, I spend time with some new friends that “get” me and where I am in my journey. They “get” me because they are there too, looking for that same joy.

He will be the first to tell you he doesn’t get why we keep coming back time after time to see him on stage. He doesn’t understand why his career has span 30 plus years and several decades. He admits he’s not the best singer and his songs are pop songs, chided by critics over the years as bubble gum melodies and smaltz. But during a recent video, he admitted he feels a bit like a preacher, leading a congregation to experience the joy in life. He recognized that his music makes people happy, and that they leave his concerts singing. And with those few statements, he has nailed why we keep coming back for more.

Every time I walk through those doors at the Hilton hotel in Las Vegas, it’s like I’m coming home. I can’t explain it, and neither can most of the other fans, but I feel safe there. I can relax and be myself. I can yell, and scream and have some fun. I can experience every emotion in those 90 minutes and cry if I want, shout for joy if I choose, and sing at the top of my lungs to “Can’t Smile Without You”. When he belts out “all the time I thought, there’s only me” I relate to that. When he sings “it’s a miracle”, I’ve experienced those. When he sits at that piano and sings “we dreamers have our ways” it makes me dream all over again.

At the end of the night, I walk out of that theatre with a smile on my face and a bounce to my step. The friends that I have made remind me that life is for living. We laugh and sing and even dance together while forging bonds that were never there until we met because of this man. His music carries us home and helps all of us survive troubled marriages, difficult children, aging parents, job insecurity, terminal illness and the day to day drama that we all experience.

Everyone has to find their own joy in life. But my advice is not to wait until you are 50 to find it. Sprinkle those moments, those mini-vacations or even those occasional concert experiences liberally throughout your life. Find something that you are passionate about and pour your whole being into it. If you do this on a regular basis, perhaps your family and friends won’t want to schedule an intervention for what they consider to be "different". Find that joy even if everyone around you thinks you are crazy. Those moments of joy will give you hope and help you “make it through the rain”.

Thanks Barry for the music and the joy it brings to my life,
Texas Fan

Saturday, March 15, 2008

If they don’t want to play with you...

...then find some other friends.

When my kids were younger, I must have said this at least once a week. The simple fact is that kids can be cruel. They don’t care about hurting your kid’s feelings or making them cry. And a group of kids can be even crueler. Sadly, I have found that these same kids grow up to be teens and later adults. Those same kids that tortured you as a child continue to torture people as adults. It doesn’t matter what their groups are called: cliques, “the in-crowd”, fraternities, “junior league”, society, power circle, the “rich and famous”, or even the cool ones. They exclude the ones who are not like them.

As a child, I was taught to share. My mother taught me to play with everyone. She told me to be kind to everyone and not exclude anyone from my play group. I wish I could say I always listened to my mother. But the reality is I have been guilty of excluding people for various reasons. None of which were kind or legitimate, and all of which I am not proud of. Sadly, my children’s generation seems to be more exclusive than when I grew up and the competition to fit in has become fierce.

The lines have been drawn politically to the point that the “red and blue” states can hardly be civil to one another. The social elite continue to snub their noses at the uncultured. The rich and famous can’t imagine how anyone could allow themselves to become homeless. Those with college educations thumb their noses at those with street smarts alone. The teens with the Abercrombie clothes talk smack about the kids that are forced to shop at Target or WalMart. The adults with the huge suburban homes and fancy cars don’t associate with the families from the other side of the tracks: those who they call “poor white trash”. Women with expensive clothing and jewelry and money to spend look down on those who are not as fortunate.

What can you do about these “friends” that don’t want to play with you? The real question for me is why do you want to play with them at all? Why would anyone want to be that shallow, opinionated, callous, uncaring and insensitive? Why would anyone want to be accepted into a group that sets its values as money, power, prestige and the right address? You can strive your entire life to be accepted by these people, but when push comes to shove, they will never be friends. They let you play with them when it’s convenient or beneficial for them. They will never sacrifice any of their needs, wants or desires to meet you halfway or even try and see things from your point of view. They will never change. They have been that way since they were children and will continue to set their values and goals as they relate to the group they belong to.

My advice to anyone in this situation is to find some new “friends”. Find some friends that have the same values as you. Find some friends that are kind to those around them. Find some friends that sacrifice and give for others. Find some friends that speak to you in love and compassion, not judgment and condemnation.

You might find as Barry says, "'re not alone."

Texas Fan

Friday, March 14, 2008

I Let Myself Believe

I should have known right from the start
You never understood the feeling in my heart
I thought that you were just afraid
Or maybe just naïve

And so I let myself believe again

I let myself believe that you could love me
I let myself believe that you would stay
Oh I swore I’d never do this go through this again
But I let myself believe and now I can’t believe
You’ve gone away

I should have learned from times before
Why can’t I stop myself from coming back for more
I fall too fast
I say too much
My heart is on my sleeve
And then I let myself believe again

I let myself believe that you could love me
I let myself believe that you would stay
Oh I swore I’d never do this go through this again
But I let myself believe and now I can’t believe

The signs are always there as they were with you
And still I did what I always do

I let myself believe that you could love me
I let myself believe that you would stay
Oh I swore I’d never do this go through this again
But I let myself believe and now I can’t believe
You’ve gone away.

This song literally breaks my heart. It's along the vein of Streisand's famed My Man. What makes someone keep coming back time after time for rejection? Is it insanity? Is it being stuck in a pattern of abuse? Is it unconditional love?

Honestly, I can't understand it myself. Maybe because I've never loved like that. Or maybe because it's not fair or just and that bothers me. But I'm told that when you love like that, your heart won't let you let go. Even if it might never be returned or realized. Maybe that is the greatest love we have to that never gives up.

Texas Fan

P.S. I found the photo on Scooter Talk (thanks Scooter for the perfect photo for this song)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

What it means to be a Manilow fan

After all the drama of the last few weeks and all the negativity floating around in the Manilow world, I was reminded this evening how truly special Manilow fans can be. Those of us in "blogland" know her as Scooter. She spends countless hours putting her memories online for all of us to share every single day. Much of what I have learned about Barry and his music has been from the amazing collection of memorabilia that she has willingly shared with all of us.

After reading one of my blogs she performed a "random act of kindness" for me today. It might not have been a big deal to anyone else or even to her, but for me, it was monstrous. And the simple fact that she took the time to really "listen" to what I say here when I write means the world to me.

Thanks Scooter for all you do for us and thanks for showing me what it means to be a Manilow fan.
Suzanne (aka Texas Fan)

Taking someone for granted

I took a break from the music of Manilow because my heart and my head needed some raw emotional music to help me today with some very angry feelings. This is a Matchbox Twenty song:


She said I don't know if I've ever been good enough
I'm a little bit rusty, and I think my head is caving in
And I don't know if I've ever been really loved
By a hand that's touched me, well I feel like something's
Gonna give
And I'm a little bit angry, well

This ain't over, no not here, not while I still need you
You don't owe me, we might change
Yeah we just might feel good

I wanna push you around, well I will, I will
I wanna push you down, well I will, I will
I wanna take you for granted, I wanna take you for granted
Well I will

She said I don't know why you ever would lie to me
Like I'm a little untrusting when I think that the truth is
Gonna hurt ya
And I don't know why you couldn't just stay with me
You couldn't stand to be near me
When my face don't seem to want to shine
Cuz it's a little bit dirty well

Don't just stand there, say nice things to me
I've been cheated I've been wronged, and you
You don't know me, I can't change
I won't do anything at all

I wanna push you around, well I will, I will
I wanna push you down, well I will, I will
I wanna take you for granted, I wanna take you for granted
Well I will

Relationships can be complicated at their best and completely frustrating and confusing at their worst. I find it so unthinkable that someone could love someone and hurt them over and over again with lack of concern for their feelings. But it happens all the time and its happening to one of my closest friends and I look for a way to understand how you can allow someone to do this to you. She tells me she loves him unconditionally and I can certainly understand that. But watching him hurt her over and over again makes we grasp for answers. And when I do grasp I remember that he's gripped with fear. That he's afraid of disappointing her and that although his heart wants to love, he can't move past his past. So he pulls away.

So I come here. And I vent. And I hope that at some point he will wake up and see that having someone love you that way is rare. And I hope that her fragile heart can withstand another day of him "pushing her around, pushing her down, and taking her for granted".

Texas Fan

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A set list moment

I spent my day fixing plumbing in my 30 year old house. Needless to say I made several trips to Home Depot and in the car back and forth I listened to the set list from the Dallas show. Yes..geek that I am I compiled a CD of the set list from the show (in an attempt to relive it every time I listened to it).

Today it seemed to get stuck on the encore--
Old Friends and Forever and a Day. Those two songs have become two of my favorite moments in the arena shows. Maybe its the poignant way that Barry sings them or maybe it's the lyrics and what they mean. But today, I sat in the Home Depot parking lot and really listened. I thought about the friends that I have made in the past two years since I rediscovered Barry's music. These friends aren't "old" but I feel like I've known them forever. And I thought about what they have come to mean to me. And I thought how empty my life would be without them.

Didn't we show them, aren't they blown away...
Here's to us, who's like us...DAMN FEW!
Texas Fan

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What does it mean?

What does it mean when you make a promise to someone? My father used to make them to us all the time as children. He would promise to take us on vacation. He would promise to be home on the weekends. And almost every time he would break those promises. Don't get me wrong, he had a good reason. But when you make a promise to someone, is there ever a good reason to break it?

When we are young, we make promises all the time. We think we mean them. We try to keep them. We promise to love someone forever and that love fades away. We promise our friends they will always be our friends and then we drift apart. We promise our kids things all the time and circumstances prevent us from keeping that promise.

In the Bible, Jonathan and David made such a promise to one another. They promised to be there for each other and be that friend for life. Each of them took that promise so seriously they entered into a covenant with one another. And for me, that's when a promise is truly a promise. When you are so serious that you enter into a covenant with God and that person. And there isn't anything that warrants breaking that covenant.

There's a great song that Barry sings with Babs that illustrates the meaning of that covenant:

"even when it seems that everything is going wrong..this i swear, i won't be the one to let go"

For me, and for someone I made a promise to, that covenant means everything.
Texas Fan

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Leather-Free" Zone

There's a new group out there in cyberspace specifically set up for discussing the music. It's a "leather-free" zone, but everyone is welcome to join. We've just set it up and there's a new discussion posted that we would love everyone's input on. Don't be shy. Share your thoughts with those of us out there that LONG to talk about the music and the memories that are MANILOW!

Here's the link:
Manilow Music

You have to join the group to enter the discussion. It's simple and once you're a member you can post discussion questions, upload your favorite pictures and links.

See you there,
Texas Fan

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

My New Hero

I know I read this on another blog, but this is a new article that I found yesterday so I wanted to post some snippets to highlight the fact that Kenny G is my new hero--standing up to Clive and recording an album of his original work.

The G-man saw no point in following other older artists like Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow down the well-worn path of playing cover tunes. So he arranged an amicable divorce from Arista Records in order to return to making original music.

"All my success in the past ... have always been my original compositions played the way that I play and people seem to connect with that," said Kenny G, in a telephone interview from his Malibu, California, home. "I lost sight of that a little bit and I'm glad to be going back to my roots and re-establishing the integrity that I've had in my music.

His new CD "Rhythm & Romance" -- his debut for Concord/Starbucks Entertainment -- is not only the 51-year-old saxophonist's first album of original music since 2002, but also finds him exploring new territory in Latin music.

The new record marks the end of his 25-year relationship with music mogul Clive Davis, who first spotted the saxophonist when he was a sideman in Jeff Lorber's jazz-fusion band and released his self-titled debut album in 1982.

Their partnership resulted in 26 albums -- with global sales totaling more than 75 million records….But more recently the saxophonist says he felt "handcuffed" by having to play cover tunes on which he couldn't stray far from the melody. According to Kenny G, Arista insisted on him doing standards albums such as the 2006 "I'm in the Mood For Love: The Most Romantic Melodies of All Time."

"Unfortunately, I fell into a category with Arista of, 'Well, you can't really do original material any more,' " he said.

"I knew that doing a Latin album of original material was going to be an amazing project ... but Clive and the guys at Arista were not interested at all," he added. "I said, well I have to do this album so we're going to have to get a friendly divorce."

"Personally, I think that this is one of the best albums that Kenny has done in years," said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment. "It's kind of a return for Kenny back to doing original music that is really what he built his reputation and credibility about."

"People can tell when somebody's doing something from their heart or whether they're doing it from their brain," he said. "Fortunately for me, I sleep well at night because I know that I've always played the best that I can ... and a lot of people seem to like what I do."

Way to go Kenny G! Here's hoping Barry is not too far behind...
Texas Fan

Monday, March 3, 2008

Rob Thomas vs Barry Manilow

I just spent the weekend in Dallas with my daughter again. Two concerts within one week of each other. First it was Barry Manilow, then this week it was Matchbox Twenty. Two completely different concerts, but both headlined by musical geniuses.

Rob Thomas (the lead singer and writer behind Matchbox Twenty) is a true poet, along with an amazing musical talent. His voice is clear and strong, filled with emotion. The guitar solos blew the roof off. The piano solos were just as magical as Barry's
Could it be Magic. You can sense the passion in Rob's voice, just as you can sense the passion in Barry's. He's passionate about his songs and getting the audience on its feet, just as Barry is passionate about his music moving people. It was two hours of musical entertainment and the time flew by quickly.

The crowd, of course, was a little different in gender, but the same in age variance-from teens to seniors and everything in between. From the moment they walked out on stage the crowd was on its feet and never sat down for two hours. Instead of glow sticks, they used cellphones (the entire arena was lit up at one point with cellphone screens).

I realized something that night as I looked around at the crowd. Music is truly the universal language. It crosses all genders, ages, economic backgrounds and political parties. It is the common thread that can bring people together in one place to hear what the musician has to say through his music. He can be 30 or 60, it really doesn't matter. He can be a rocker or a pop icon. He can be a guitarist, a saxophonist or a pianist. Or he can simply use his voice to create "beautiful music". That's the beauty of it all. And when Barry is allowed to create and interpret the music, just as Rob does, it moves people.

If you've never heard of Rob Thomas and his group Matchbox Twenty you should take some time to listen to the words of his songs. I discovered them about 10 years ago quite unexpectedly. It's been a treat to watch his career explode and his music appreciated by so many worldwide.

Proud to be a fan of both of these musical geniuses,
Texas Fan

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