Bang The Drum

Q: What do Mr. Tambourine Man and Mrs. Robinson have in common? 

A: The same drummer played on both recordings—a phenom named Hal Blaine.


Check out this PARTIAL list of recordings where Hal was the drummer. Did I mention this is a partial list? The actual number of recorded songs where Hal was the drummer exceeds 4,000. Can we all agree, this is what prolific looks like? 

Be True to Your School, The Beach Boys
The Boxer, Simon & Garfunkel
Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Simon & Garfunkel
California Dreamin’, The Mamas & The Papas
Can’t Help Falling In Love, Elvis Presley
Dedicated to the One I Love, The Mamas & The Papas
God Only Knows, The Beach Boys
Good Vibrations, The Beach Boys
Help Me Rhonda, The Beach Boys
Homeward Bound, Simon & Garfunkel
I Got You Babe, Sonny & Cher
MacArthur Park, Jimmy Webb (Richard Harris version)
Monday Monday, The Mamas & The Papas
Never My Love, The Association
Rhythm of the Rain, The Cascades
These Boots Are Made for Walkin’, Nancy Sinatra
Up, Up and Away, Jimmy Webb (The 5th Dimension)
Wichita Lineman, Jimmy Webb (Glen Campbell)
Wouldn’t It Be Nice, The Beach Boys

As I was playing my own drum set the other day, I became aware that my favorite patterns, rhythms and fills are those I learned from listening to songs like these, and thus I tend to and have always tended to play like Hal Blaine—a drummer most non-drummers have probably never heard of. Hal had a significant impact on a significant point of view for me.

Stay with me here: In drum lessons, I learned that the typical pattern in pop and rock drumming is to play the snare drum with your left hand on beats 2 and 4, along with the your left foot on the hi-hat. My cousin Beth Ann, who is a few years older than me, had a solid collection of 45 rpm records. One day, while visiting her house, I heard a song called “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes, coming from her bedroom. “WHAT IS HAL BLAINE DOING?” I thought to myself, (even though I didn’t know at the time that Hal was the drummer). He was playing a hard snare drum shot on the 4th beat ONLY! Can you do that? Can you, so to speak “march to the beat of your own drum?”

It changed my point of view instantly. The next time our little rock band played at a school “mixer”, not only did I not play the snare drum on 2 and 4 consistently, I actually played on the “and” of 4 occasionally. I felt like a rebel with a cause.

basic rock beat 1.png

While Hal had an influence my drumming, these songs influenced my psyche. There, I said it out loud. So, for all those traveling evangelists who warned frightened parents about the impact of the rock n roll; yes! yes it does. You were right. I am a much happier senior adult today because of the influence of rock music. Listening to the oldies that were the big hits when I came of age confirms it. I have no idea what “House of the Rising Sun” is really about, but I am transported to a wonderful place every time I hear it.

Fortunately for me, I was exposed to a wide spectrum of music. So not only do I stop whatever I’m doing and listen when I hear The Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, I also love to hear John Phillip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever”, and “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms”.

Here’s the thing about stepping into dogma, like saying the snare must be played on beats 2 and 4; or “christian” music is the only music God loves, you miss the wonder of MORE.

Today, we are all asked to take a side, to choose a pigeon hole to be pigeon holed into. Choose your news source: MSNBC or FOX News. Choose your party. Pick a side. Repeat the creed. Sign the pledge. Line up. Know the “Truth”.

But what if maybe, from time to time, we actually stopped to think, to listen, to not start every discussion with OUR point of view. What if, every now and then, even if we believe unwaveringly that everyone should play on 2 and 4, we let someone else bang their dang drum on EVERY SINGLE BEAT! (Really who wants to hear a song where everyone is playing the same beat anyway.)

I just finished a wonderful little book by Madeleine L'Engle called “Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art”. I would like to share a quote from the book. And, I would like to humbly ask you to do something: as you read this quote, think first how it might apply to you (because, I’ll admit, our first thoughts on reading something like this is to think of all the people who need to hear a message like this, and miss that fact that maybe we need to hear it too).

“We all tend to make zealous judgments and thereby close ourselves off from revelation. If we feel that we already know something in its totality, then we fail to keep our ears and eyes open to that which may expand or even change that which we so zealously think we know.”

The other day I heard someone use the term “political climate” to describe the warring worldviews of the day. I though to myself, “Maybe climate change wouldn’t be a bad thing to wish for.”

Back to Mrs. Robinson and Mr. Tambourine Man for a minute—

I don’t know what kind of place she was in, but check out the first verse of Paul Simon’s lyric:

We'd like to know a little bit about you for our files
We'd like to help you learn to help yourself
Look around you all you see are sympathetic eyes
Stroll around the grounds until you feel at home
— First verse of “Mrs. Robinson”

Now suppose as she’s strolling around the grounds she meets Mr. Tambourine Man. They strike up a conversation. We hear him say as they leave one another:

Let me forget about today
Until tomorrow
— last line of last verse of Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”

And maybe, just maybe, as he is walking away she would say to him (because she heard someone say it to her):

And here's to you, Mr. Tambourine Man,
Jesus loves you more than you will know
Wo wo wo
God bless you, please, Mr. Tambourine Man,
Heaven holds a place for those who pray
Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey
—somewhat edited chorus from “Mrs. Robinson”

#MarchingToMyOwnBeat #Peacemaking

Maybe Good Is Better Than Best

“Father Knows Best” is not an empirical reality, it was a TV show in the late 50s and early 60s. Apparently though, the idea that Father Knows Best acquired the status of a cultural norm that has caused men for years to make long road trips without consulting a map, to attempt to assemble stuff without looking at the directions, and to wreak household havoc by attempting various plumbing and electrical repairs.


Speaking as a father I can say with a morsel of confidence that in those times when I did Know Best, it was by probably by sheer accident. Let me say early in this little essay: thank you to the spouses and children who are kind enough to let Fathers believe that We Know Best, and for forgiving us when we can’t admit that we don’t always Know Best.

There are many areas where I would like to Know Best. Family vacations were one such category. To plan a good vacation was to know what would be fun for all, to demonstrate your command of geography and wider culture, and to create lasting memories (hopefully good ones). I would plan our annual odyssey with Griswoldian fervor and ambition. 

Ellen: You set standards that no family activity can live up to. 
Clark: When have I ever done that? 
Ellen: Parties, weddings, anniversaries, funerals, holidays... 
Clark: Goodnight Ellen
Ellen: Vacations, graduations...

If I’m not Clark Griswold, I’m Don Quixote; approaching life like a knight in shining armor. When asked about his quest, Don replied:

It is the mission of each true knight...
His duty... nay, his privilege!
To dream the impossible dream,
To fight the unbeatable foe,
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go;
To right the unrightable wrong.
To love, pure and chaste, from afar,
To try, when your arms are too weary,
To reach the unreachable star!
This is my Quest to follow that star,
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far,
To fight for the right
Without question or pause,
To be willing to march into hell
For a heavenly cause!
And I know, if I'll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest.
And the world will be better for this,
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars!

That’s all I’m asking for.

Knowing that I won’t always Know Best, I would like to at least know what is good. This is more than just a grading scale as in Good, Better, Best. See if this makes sense: I may not know what’s Best for my children, but I do think, by now, that I know what’s good for them, theoretically. I want the Best for them, but more importantly, I want them to know what’s good. Kind of like I want them to know what’s pretty, but even more I want them to know what’s beautiful. I want them to know honesty, but even more I want them to know truth. Am I making any sense at all?

Sure it’s good to regard the best, the pretty, the honest, but what if you could know deeply the good, the true and the beautiful?

One of my favorite parts of scripture are those verses in the creation story that say, “and God saw that it was good.” Except for that one time that He said “this isn’t good.” He was speaking of man’s relational status. He said it is not good for man to be alone. And at that point it was obvious that we are created to be connected to others. That’s a good thing; and true and beautiful. In fact, it may be the best thing.


The hardest challenge is to be yourself in a world where everyone is trying to make you be somebody else.
— e.e. cummings

For a minute or two, it’s sort of flattering when someone says something like, “I’ve noticed you haven’t posted anything on the blog in awhile. I miss it.” That feeling quickly gives way to feelings of failure and foreboding because the words won’t come, or maybe no matter what words I write someone is going to be hurt or offended, or I’ll make a fool of myself, or someone will add my name to their prayer list because the words at the front of my mind are degenerative. For some reason I’ve let the language of the current public discourse affect me. These words are words of frustration and despair, and are a dam holding back better words and thoughts.

So, I’ve been trying to say nothing, and the result is that I have nothing to say. I try. I open my journal to a blank page, or lay my fingers on the ASDF — JKL; keys on the keyboard… Nothing.

Here’s my plan. I’m going to carefully and mindfully try to type this out of my system.

At 66 years old my values are pretty well set. I’m not likely to change much at the core, although I do want to always be a “learn-it-all” rather than a “know-it-all”. My values, including my aspirational values lean toward humility, service, honor, love, peace and freedom (not just in a constitutional rights kind of way, but in a freedom to BE, in all the fullness of the gifts, grace and goodness of God).

So right now, in this cesspool of political divisiveness and narcissism my prayer and plea is for PEACE. That’s the word and the attitude I hope will give me something to say so I can move on to saying other things. I know the whole “give peace a chance” thing is idealistic and naive, just like it was in the 60s when that message made sense for me. Back then, I wore a “peace” button and put a peace sign bumper sticker on my VW bus. I remember once getting out of my bus in a parking lot and a man, seeing the bumper sticker said, “The footprint of the American chicken! You one of them hippie draft dodgers?”

I pretended to ignore him. I should have said, “Why is it rednecks always use pronouns when they need a good adjective?” That would have showed him. But I was a “Peacenik”. Better to turn the other cheek.


Now I’m taking it to the streets. I’m not going to buy a VW bus or start wearing bell-bottoms, or let what little hair I have grow long, but I did decide the least I could do was wear a peace button, sort of like wearing my feelings and opinion on my sleeve. This time the demonstration will be a little more laid back than in the 60s, more appropriate for someone in their 60s.

The first hurdle to my little revoltion was finding the peace buttons. I did find some on Etsy (whatever that is), but while I’m a big believer in Peace, I’m not going to pay three bucks from my buttons, so I had some made for less than a dollar. 

This peace thing is for me all parts spiritual, political, personal, physiological, psychological, selfish, selfless, emotional, prayful, playful, antiestablishment and a quiet shaking of my mini-fist in the face of institutions (in a peaceful, loving way of course). I believe Jesus when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

NOTEIn this day of twisted religious/political worldviews, I feel I need to offer this: Not to try to speak for Jesus, but I’m am highly confident that when He speaks of Blessed he is not in any sense of the word speaking of the concept of “blessed” espoused by the properity gospel preachers and creepy, narrow religion of “fundamentalist evangelicals”. In fact, I am certain that when it comes to comparing that worldview to the actual Gospel, the phrase “prosperity gospel” is an oxymoron. Sorry, sometimes honesty doesn’t seem very peaceful.

Let me throw this out there. If you would like to jump on the “Peace Train” (music and lyrics by Cat Stevens), you don’t have to burn your draft card, your AARP card or your bra, just pin on your button; literally or figuratively. If you don’t have one, next time you see me, ask for one. If you promise to wear it, it’s yours. Of course, if you would like to pitch in a dollar to help the cause… Peace costs. 


Take The Fork

One of my favorite quotes and a guiding principle of my life is this: “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” — Yogi Berra

from a muppets movie. used without permission

from a muppets movie. used without permission

First: for all my young friends, Yogi Berra is not a yoga practitioner named Berra. This Yogi, number 8 in pinstripes, was a catcher for the New York Yankees. He also was a dispenser of weird wisdom. Here, sample a few morsels:

It's like déjà vu all over again.
You can observe a lot by watching.
It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.

As for that fork in the road, wouldn’t it be nice if it was as simple as just “take it”? Maybe I’m an indecisive person, I know that I like to make decisions intuitively, but maybe I don’t trust my own intuition. Some might say I lack faith. Maybe I’ve just grown weary of people blaming God—as in, “I prayed about it and this is the way God lead.”

Some time back I read the memoir of Cheryl Strayed called “Wild”. Recently I watched the movie based on the book. A line in the movie caught my attention.

“There’s never been a fork in my road.”

At first a forkless road sounds pretty good. Not to oversimplify, but that sort of seems to be the theology of my Calvinist friends—the predetermined road would have to be a forkless one, right?

Even though a fork-full road, has questions, and quandaries, and chances for choosing wrong or right, I still prefer that road. It just seems sweeter somehow. Take my marriage: many years ago I asked my Amazing-Missus to marry me. It was like I put a fork in her road. Now in my strange theology, I do believe that some things are just meant to be, like our marriage. But still, she had a choice and she chose US!

See isn’t that a more beautiful story than the one that says our lives are mapped from beginning to end without forks?

These days, as the road stretches closer to a horizon, the forks seem to come up less often, but seem more daunting when they do. But I’ll keep praying, keep trusting, and keep truckin’, because as the great Yogi Berra once said, “It ain't over till it's over.”