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A Tribute to My Dad Through the Songs of Harry Chapin

January 9, 2019

I’d venture to guess that, unless you’re a fan of 1970s folk music, you’ve probably never heard much about or listened to Harry Chapin. This folk singer-songwriter was known for his long musical “stories.” He was not an artist that frequented the radio much because most of his songs were too long for the dial. But each song was a story, usually about a man and some sort of inner conflict.

My dad turned 73 last week. He is not moved by music the same way I am. He’s not the type to listen to songs in the car or put on an album at home. But even my dad will admit there are pieces of music and songs of which he can’t deny their power, Chapin’s stories being in that category. So while it may seem odd to write a tribute to my dad through music, the songs of Chapin are one of the best ways I can think to celebrate him. Mainly because he is the one who introduced me to Chapin’s songs and the memories of them belong with me riding in a car with my dad.

Nearly every summer of my later childhood, we took a family road trip from San Diego to Lake Tahoe. It was on these nearly 10-hour drives that I first heard Chapin’s music. About half way through the drive up California Highway 395 – close to the point where there is absolutely nothing to look at – dad would break out Chapin’s “Greatest Stories Live” cassette tape. It started with “Dreams Go By.” Then on to “W*O*L*D*,” “Taxi,” “Cat’s in the Cradle,” “A Better Place to Be,” and “Circle,” just to name a few.

I’m not sure why dad waited until the mid-point of the trip to listen to Chapin. Knowing my father and his strong sense of discipline, perhaps it was a “reward” for making it through half the route. Kind of like the way he’d allow himself one (and only one) Fig Newton cookie after dinner each night. Maybe he wanted to be sure he heard all the news and sports on the Mighty 690 before turning to music, something he saw as more entertainment than necessity. Either way, I knew at some point during that trip through California’s inland, Chapin and his Greatest Stories would make an appearance.

I once asked my dad why he liked Chapin’s music. He responded the tunes were not like typical songs. They were stories, he said. And as such, were more meaningful; full of lessons to be learned. This sentiment is very much my dad, as he always asked me – after every movie we watched together – what was the meaning of it; what did we learn and could apply to life. The lesson from him being that if something didn’t have greater meaning, there was no point in consuming it. For better or worse, this lesson has become a lens through which I view almost everything throughout my entire life.

It wasn’t until several years ago when I sought out Chapin’s music as an adult did I discover what may have been the true themes of many of those songs, and what probably really resonated with dad. There’s a deep contemplation of life choices, bordering on regret, that runs through so many of Chapin’s songs. It’s as if he doesn’t think there’s a right path in life; one can’t simply be happy with their choices. There’s always the road not taken.

This is not a theme you can understand when you’re a kid. When you’re young, you’re traveling down one road and you haven’t had your own opportunities to make conscious choices as to how your life will play out. But as an adult, your entire life is defined by your past decisions and the roads you took (and didn’t take). While I don’t think my dad views his life as full of regret, I’ve learned – being an adult myself – that as you get older, debating your life choices becomes inevitable (at least it has for me).

In “Dreams Go By,” Chapin sings about all the dreams he (or the protagonist) had as a young man. Yet as the years go by, and the dreams fade to make way for the more sensible things in life – a job, family, home. I find the music of this song fascinating. Listening to it, it sounds very upbeat. Yet the words and theme behind the music are quite sad.

And then there are the songs where the character does live his dream, but ends up unhappy in the long–run. In “W*O*L*D*,” he sings about the man who leaves his family to be a radio DJ. Yet the end of the song is filled with sorrow as he realizes he can no longer live this young man’s dream and wishes he could go back home to his estranged family.

This also comes up in “Mr. Tanner,” in which the dry-cleaner “from a town in the Midwest” takes a chance on his singing career and gets panned by critics and never sings again. This song breaks me upon every listen, as I always want to wrap my arms around Mr. Tanner and tell him not to give up what he loves the most. It’s deep stuff, and it’s deeper when I found the real-life Mr. Tanner in this article.

There’s also “Taxi,” which tells the story of the man who wanted to be a pilot, yet is now driving a taxi around San Francisco. And of course, Chapin’s most-recognized tune, “Cats in the Cradle,” the classic tale of the turbulent father-son relationship. Of course there are others, and these songs – as sorrowful as they are – are ripe with meaning. Is Chapin saying if you live your dream, you’ll end up with another form of regret? And if you don’t live the dream, you’ll regret that decision?

Yet not all of his songs are somber. My favorite song –“I Wanna Learn a Love Song” — is one of the more uplifting tunes and is the story of how Chapin met and fell in love with his wife, while giving her guitar lessons. And “She’s Only Seventeen” is about the hopes and dreams of a young women determined not to give up during the turbulent 1960s and ‘70s. “Let Time Go Lightly” is also an uplifting song.

Finally, there’s “Circle,” which was my dad’s favorite song. When “Circle” came on, dad lit up slightly and sang along. There may have been a few occasions where we played it a second time (very unlike my dad). In “Circle,” there’s hope:

All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls through the nighttime;
‘Til the daybreak comes around.

All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.

It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.

No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.

I found you a thousand times;
I guess you done the same;
But then we lose each other;
It’s like a children’s game;

As I find you here again;
A thought runs through my mind;
Our love is like a circle;
Let’s go ’round one more time.

– Harry Chapin, “Circle”

“Circle” is the tenth track on the album. Interestingly, the songs preceding “Circle” are on the somber side and those following are more uplifting. Is there a reason he sings it toward the end of his live performance? Perhaps it’s the same reason my dad waited until half-way through the road trip to play the album — you have to get through the tough parts of the journey in order to appreciate the happiness.

When I told my dad we were moving to Indiana, he responded by saying it’s good to make these changes while I was still young. I was 40-years-old at the time and felt far from young. I told him that perhaps I was too old to make such a drastic life change. He laughed it off, and said I had an entire lifetime ahead of me. As much as I hate to admit it, dad was right. Because little did I know then, that move was the end of one era, and the start of another.

In “Circle,” life is not a one-way, dead-end street full of regret. Life doesn’t end when you get older. There’s still potential in the years that “keep rollin’ by.” I think deep down, Chapin (and my dad) truly believed that. I’m thankful for my dad for introducing me to Chapin’s “Greatest Stories.” And I’m grateful for those songs, which will always be symbolic of my dad and the life lessons he taught me.

Looking Back at 2018: A Year of Awakening

December 31, 2018

Several years ago, I started a tradition in which my last blog post of the year was a reflection on the past 12 months, both in words and photos.

Many people start January by choosing a word as their guiding theme for the year ahead. I could never quite get into that idea. My tradition involves looking back at the past year — reflecting on what I’ve done, learned and experienced. And inevitably, the word that was the year’s theme comes from that.

Looking back at 2018, it hit me immediately what the right word is to sum up the year: awakening.

Last year at this time, I wrote that 2017 embodied transformation, and 2016 reflected change. Thinking about the last three years, the order of these words makes sense. I moved from San Diego to Indiana in 2016, which marked the biggest change of my life. After settling into my new home, 2017 become a year of transformation — of my mindset, world-view, work direction, and running and health habits. Those two years led the groundwork for 2018 and what I feel was my personal awakening.

What does awakening look like? To put it simply, I feel alive and awake for the first time in my life (or at least in a very long time). I believe there are many reasons for this. I feel physically awake with respect to my health. As many of you know, I started a running program in January that helped me make tremendous strides in my running ability and confidence. And I spent an entire year working with a friend/coach who helped me become physically strong.

But my awakening goes beyond the physical. I’m emotionally awake in a different way. I feel things differently. My eyes are open to other possibilities and I am less fearful of going down difficult paths. And now more than ever, I want to live my life to the fullest and be open to every new opportunity. Because now that I’ve had this awakening, I don’t want to close my eyes.

These year-end photo collages give me a chance to visually reflect on the past year. I love looking back on all the memories, seeing Sophie grow up and watching the natural environment and seasons change before my eyes. I really love that my physical space is a constant reminder that life passes by, that nothing is permanent, and there is always a possibility to make a change and wake up anew each day.

Thank you for reading Leah’s Thoughts and being part of my journey. Happy New Year, and here’s to 2019!

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Looking Back at Nine Years of Writing This Blog

December 20, 2018

Nine years ago this week — on December 21, 2009 — I published my first blog post and Leah’s Thoughts was born. I like to think of it as the day I began writing my own story.

At the time, I was 34-years-old and a fairly new mom with a 2-year-old daughter. I was working in a marketing/communications job at San Diego State University and the extent of my writing was drafting admission letters, student email notices, university catalog copy, and recruitment brochures. I was trained as a journalist, so everything I’d written up to that point were news stories and work copy. 

I had not written anything in my own voice since … well, never. I started to feel like I had a lot I wanted (needed) to say. And a blog seemed like a logical way to start writing out my thoughts. But I was scared to start such an endeavor.

“In many ways, I am a perfectionist. And I only like to begin projects I can finish, or at least I can maintain with a clear focus. I also tend to lean toward a black/white, either/or personality. I think this is why I hesitated to start this blog. I have pages of ideas. But what if I couldn’t write more than three sentences? What if I couldn’t post regularly? Do I have to choose between journaling about my life or writing generic essays? All these options overwhelmed me. Hence I could not bring myself to starting this blog.” (First blog post, 12-21-09)

Well, somewhere along the way I got over my fears, hit “publish” on my first post, and have been writing (off and on) in this space ever since.

In the last nine years, I’ve published 559 blog posts. So many stories, feelings, rants, thoughts, recipes, book reviews … I chronicled it all here on my blog.

I’ve written about my struggles and joys of motherhood (from daily lessons in failure to all our summer bucket lists). I wrote about moving my life from Southern California to Indiana, and my hesitations with making friends in a new home. I talked about the loss of my beloved dog and cat, leaving my secure full-time job to start my own freelance writing business, and more.

My opinions and perceptions have certainly changed over nine years. Looking back, I seemed so young and naive in my earlier years writing here. I’m not sure I’m brave enough now to share some of the stories I wrote about then. I actually cringe reading some of the older posts on this blog and debate whether to erase them. And I have many stories and feelings that I’m not yet brave enough to even write.

Writing my blog has always been — and will always be — about telling my story. I have never cared about pageviews and statistics. I care about the words and stories I tell, and that they are honest and real. Because otherwise, what’s the point at all?

I don’t write what society wants to read. I write for myself to have a chronicle of where life has taken me. And I’m still humbled and grateful to the people who read my words. I may not write as much as I used to, but as long as I have words to write and things to say, I’ll keep writing them here on my blog.

I know some of you have been reading here since the beginning. And to those of you, thank you! And to new readers and people who have joined me along the way, I am thankful you stop by from time to time.

Here’s to the past nine years … and to the future, whatever stories I may write.

What I Know For Sure

November 7, 2018

I had a birthday this week. I turned 43. It seems like yesterday I was turning 39 and published the 39 Questions Answered About Me and My 39 Years post. Forty-three sounds old, even though I don’t feel old. In fact, I feel more alive today than I every have before. But birthdays and this time of year always get me a bit reflective.

At the end of every issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Oprah Winfrey writes a column called “What I Know For Sure.” It’s essentially her parting thoughts on the monthly theme or issue at hand. I don’t read many magazines anymore, so I’m not sure what wisdom Oprah has been espousing as of late.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the things I know for sure (and probably more relevant, the things I still have no clue about). So for my reflective birthday blog post, I’m sharing 13 “truths” I’ve come to learn about myself and how I view the world. What I’m completely unsure about is fodder for another blog post entirely.

1. It’s easy to say “follow your dreams.” It’s a much harder thing to actually do it.

2. Chapstick and hand lotion are essentials for your car in the Midwest winter.

3. The phrase “Do what you love and the money will follow” is bullshit. It takes a lot of hard work and courage to do what you love, and the money is never guaranteed.

4. Never consider indulging in books, music, television shows, art and movies a guilty pleasure. It’s essential for survival (at least it is for me).

5. No matter how hard you try, the Tupperware container collection will never match the lids you have. Just surrender the fantasy.

6. The world can be depressing. Find beauty in the simple and small things in life, and in people who make you smile, laugh and understand who you are.

7. Don’t use credit cards. And if you do, pay the balance off each month.

8. Watching the seasons physically change is a comforting reminder that change is inevitable and life is always moving on. No matter how dark and bare a tree looks in February, in May it will be full of green life again. The change coupled with consistency is comforting, and I’m grateful for the peace of mind my physical environment gives me.

9. Nobody’s looking out for you but you. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you deserve.

10. In writing, sometimes less is more. Killing off excess words like “that,” “the” and “just” does wonders. Trust me, your writing will be stronger.

11. Everything happens for a reason, usually one that moves you forward to a place you weren’t ready to go. I always try to remember this when the unexpected and bad things happen.

12. It’s easy to let your life be ruled by fear (I did it for a long time). But what’s on the other side can be incredible.

13. I truly believe words have the ultimate power to heal, forgive and comfort (as well as hurt and harm). I try to use my word powers for good. Because that’s the only way I know how to make a difference and keep moving forward in life.

That’s what I know for sure on my 43rd year on earth. What do you know for sure?

Discovering New Music, Appreciating the Old, and a Laurel Canyon Playlist You Need in Your Life

October 23, 2018

A few months ago, a friend told me about an article that said people generally stop discovering new music at the age of 30. The study said that between the ages of 12 and 22, our brains go through so much change and we’re more receptive to the songs we hear; hence why we are more open to new music. Additionally, the article states that after 30, we gravitate to the same songs over and over again because of musical nostalgia. Since music has a powerful effect on the mind to evoke memories, conjuring up the past is our way of assuring the endorphins keep flowing, if you will.

This makes sense and I understand the premise. While I’ve never been a big Top 40/pop fan, I certainly have a fondness for the music that accompanied me in my formative years. Yet at the same time, I remember where I was in life at age 30 and what I was listening to, and it’s strange to think that my catalog of music choices would have essentially stopped 13 years ago.

For me, music is about self-discovery. Songs can express exactly how we feel in a way our own words cannot, giving voice to sadness, happiness, confusion, anxiety, anger, disappointment, and love.

And just like I cannot imagine not discovering new music since age 30, I can’t fathom not having new life experiences or meeting new people that helped me discover those songs. It’s all about changing the perspective and gaining so much in return.

The majority of what I listen to now are artists I’ve discovered in the last several years. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I don’t know what my life would be like (and what it would be missing) if I didn’t have this music to accompany me. This is not limited to contemporary artists either. I’ve discovered so many great singers and songs from the 1960s and 70s that I would not have known about.

*****

One of my favorite music genres is the Laurel Canyon sound. When I was recently in San Diego, I gathered with my sister (Sari) and brother-in-law (Steve) – both HUGE music aficionados – for a night of Canyon music. We all picked 25 of our favorite Canyon or Canyon-inspired contemporary albums, and over the course of the evening, we shared those choices and music from the records. Music night for nerds, I know, but we had the best time! Because music brings people together and creates a bond in ways other things cannot.

What does Laurel Canyon music night have to do with this post and discovering new music, you ask? I realized when I compiled my list of 25 albums, that at least ten of them are ones I’ve discovered in the last several years (including older classics I hadn’t heard before). If I simply stopped listening to new music at age 30, Canyon night and my playlist would look considerably different.

Because I’m sure you’re now all dying to see the Canyon albums, here is Steve’s list in a fantastic blog post, and Sari’s list is equally epic. My top album choices and descriptions are below. And because we all need some good music in our lives, at the end of this post is a Spotify playlist that includes all 73 of our featured songs (73 because Sari and I chose two of the same songs).

So keep listening to new music, experience new things, learn more about yourself, and spend time with good people who help you discover these musical gems.

Leah’s Laurel Canyon Top 25 Collection (in no particular order)

Eagles ~ “One of These Nights” (1975)
It’s hard to pick an Eagles album because they all represent the Canyon so well. But “One of These Nights” is really when the Henley-Frey songwriting magic gels. I think this is one of their most collaborative albums, including songs written and sang by band-mates Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner (both hailing from Canyon bands the Flying Burrito Brothers and Poco, respectively). For me, it doesn’t get better than the harmonies in “Lyin’ Eyes,” which I could (and have) listen to on repeat. But I’m also partial to “Hollywood Waltz,” “After the Thrill is Gone,” “One of These Nights,” and of course, “Take It to the Limit.”

Itasca ~ “Open to Chance” (2016)
Kayla Cohen (who plays under the name Itasca) is a singer, songwriter and guitarist who lives in Los Angeles. Her folk sound is reminiscent of the Laurel Canyon female vibe. I find myself getting lost in her earthy voice and guitar sound, reminiscent of Joni Mitchell or Joan Baez. “Open to Chance” is her first full album release. Her voice often accompanies me when the house is asleep and I’m working late in the evening.

Dawes ~ “North Hills” (2009)
I can’t think of a more contemporary band that captures the Laurel Canyon vibe more than Dawes. Taylor Goldsmith, lead singer/songwriter, credits musicians like Warren Zevon and Jackson Browne as heavy influences to his songwriting and the sounds of their Los Angeles-based band. “North Hills” is not my favorite Dawes album. But it’s their first release and the one, I believe, most captures the Canyon vibe. It was really tough to choose the featured song; but I think “Love is All I Am” is the most Canyon-esque, with harmonies reminiscent of an America or Crosby, Stills and Nash tune.

James Taylor ~ “Sweet Baby James” (1970)
You really can’t discuss Canyon without James Taylor. I think “Sweet Baby James” is one of his best albums and very representative of Laurel Canyon. You can’t get much better than “Fire and Rain.” But “Country Road,” “Blossom,” and “Sweet Baby James” can’t be ignored either. Taylor is often cited as one of the first to be included in the 1970s singer-songwriter movement. I think this album is emblematic of that depiction of Taylor and Laurel Canyon. And he looks good on the album cover.

Warren Zevon ~ “Warren Zevon” (1976)
Warren Zevon is an interesting character who clearly influenced the Laurel Canyon sound, even though I doubt he wanted credit for that. A recent article about Zevon included a comment that a musician’s best song cannot be your favorite song. The best song belongs to everyone where the favorite belongs just to you, said the writer. Most agree “Desperados Under the Eaves” is Zevon’s best song. I’m breaking the rule and listing it as my featured song because it’s just so damn good.

Neil Young ~ “Harvest” (1972)
I firmly believe there are musicians, books and movies that don’t resonate with you until you need to hear them. Neil Young is an example of that musician for me. For most of my life, Young was not a singer I gravitated to; but over the years, his sound and words have grown on me and I’m partial to songs with a harmonica sound. While I’ve been listening to “Harvest Moon” (1992) lately, I believe it’s Young’s “Harvest” album that really establishes him musically and is emblematic of the Canyon sound.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ~ “Déjà Vu” (1970)
I would have preferred to include a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young greatest hits album on this Canyon list, but I know greatest hits compilations are kind of cheating. I went with “Déjà Vu” because I consider it one of the earliest forays into the Canyon sound; almost a pre-curser to the movement. It’s also a heck of a good album with songs like “Carry On,” “Teach Your Children,” “Our House,” and I’m a big fan of the dog on the album cover.

Carole King ~ “Tapestry” (1971)
Carole King’s “Tapestry” album is truly a masterpiece, and it’s almost too good to believe it’s one album. It’s incredible to think all these songs are on one album, and not a greatest hits collection. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like King does not get the credit she deserves for being such a strong female Canyon artist. Perhaps because she was more of a songwriter for other singers before a singer. You hear more about Joni Mitchell or Linda Ronstadt as Canyon leading ladies. Both incredible in their own right; but King deserves her fair share of respect.

Jackson Browne ~ “Late for the Sky” (1974)
Jackson Browne is another epitome of the Laurel Canyon scene. His music and songwriting is certainly in the Canyon vein. But his presence in the Canyon is also a huge part of his identity. After all, he shared a duplex with Glenn Frey and Don Henley before the Eagles were the band they became. He wrote half of “Take It Easy” and persuaded David Geffen to sign the Eagles to Asylum Records. “Late for the Sky” includes the most of my favorite Browne songs. It was tough to chose one to feature. “Fountain of Sorrow” and “For a Dancer” are two of my favorites. But I have to give the listen to, what I think, is his most powerful songwriting with “Before the Deluge.”

Linda Ronstadt ~ “Heart Like a Wheel” (1974)
You can’t pick a bad Linda Ronstadt album or song because her voice is absolute perfection and pure magic. I went with “Heart Like a Wheel” because of my fondness for “You’re No Good,” “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” “Dark End of the Street,” “When Will I Be Loved,” and “You Can Close Your Eyes.”

Fleetwood Mac ~ “Rumours” (1977)
Fleetwood Mac is one of those bands that is at its best when all five members are playing together and have a hand in each song. To me, “Rumours” is emblematic of that ensemble production. In fact, they should have titled the album “The Chain” since that song is so indicative of this band’s theme. I like many of the songs on their debut album and subsequent recordings. But “Rumours” seems to be their best work together, which is evident from the abundance of hits on this record.

Tom Petty ~ “Wildflowers” (1994)
One can debate whether Tom Petty is true Laurel Canyon or whether he belongs in a hybrid category of southern/California rock. Certainly his work with The Heartbreakers would fall into the later category. I find his solo work, the “Wildflowers” album in particular, the closest he comes to the Canyon vibe. He also spent quite a bit of time in that Southern California area, with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Canyon performers. So to me, Petty is an honorary Canyon member.

America ~ “Homecoming” (1972)
America represents that quintessential Canyon style and sound. Ironically the band was formed in England while the band members were living in London while their fathers were U.S. Air Force personnel. I love so many of their songs that are on other albums (“Sister Golden Hair,” “Horse With No Name,” and “Lonely People”). But “Ventura Highway” is classic Southern California. It was on every mix tape that went with me as I drove Highway 101 to Santa Barbara.

Israel Nash ~ “Lifted” (2018)
Israel Nash is a singer/songwriter who lives in Texas, originally hailing form the Ozarks of Missouri. But you may think you’re listening to Neil Young, and “Lifted” is described as a modern day hippie-spiritual collection. The sound, songs and Nash’s voice put him squarely in the Canyon vibe for me.

The Mamas and The Papas ~ “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” (1966)
The Mamas and the Papas are such an interesting group of people, and they all have such incredible voices in their own right. But together, the harmonies are incredible and produce a unique and distinctly California style. Since “California Dreamin’” is a favorite of mine, I went with their debut album.

Judee Sill ~ “Heart Food” (1973)
I was only recently introduced to Judee Sill, but after one listen to “Heart Food” and researching her background, it’s clear she belongs in the top Canyon collection (she was the first artist signed to David Geffen’s Asylum Records). She has such a troubled background, which adds an interesting element to her calming voice and music; it’s really too bad she was not more recognized with success. “The Phoenix” has been on repeat as of late, and it has soothed my soul in a way I desperately needed.

Traveling Wilburys ~ “The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1” (1988)
The Traveling Wilburys may be a controversial pick for the Canyon collection. With the exception of maybe Tom Petty, the individual artists themselves do not hail from Canyon roots. However, put them together as Wilburys and I feel like their songs have that inclusive Canyon vibe, especially as collaboration is very much a Canyon trait. The Traveling Wilburys are the ultimate collaboration. It’s too bad that Roy Orbison passed away so soon into this venture, as I think they would have had a long run.

Lowen and Navarro ~ “Pendulum” (1995)
David Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro met in the 1980s as songwriters. Little known fact: the two wrote Pat Benatar’s hit, “We Belong.” In an NPR story, they talked about how they didn’t like each other at all. But when they wrote songs and performed together, they were stronger than being apart. So they made a pact to stick together despite differences. They were active creating their own indie rock music in Los Angeles in the 1990s. I discovered this album in 1998 and it’s always stuck with me (I still have the CD). Sadly their twosome career was cut short when Lowen died of ALS in 2012.

Don Henley ~ “The End of the Innocence” (1989)
Whereas Glenn Frey’s solo career pivoted more toward 1980s rock, much of Don Henley’s post-Eagles work stayed within the Canyon sound. “The End of the Innocence” is still one of my favorites. But you also can’t overlook songs of the storytelling nature like “New York Minute” and the compelling “The Heart of the Matter.” Henley’s strength is his songwriting, and his best works are ones that stay within the Canyon themes (hence why you’ll never find “Dirty Laundry” on a playlist of mine).

Gregory Page ~ “The Romantic Adventures of Harry” (1998)
Gregory Page was well known in the San Diego music scene from playing alongside Jewel, Steve Poltz, and The Rugburns. He was a Saturday night performing regular at Java Joe’s in Ocean Beach, where I saw him many times in my formative post-college/single life year of 1998. I listened to it again recently, after a very long hiatus and I still think it’s as good as you’d find coming out of Laurel Canyon. His songwriting and singing talent is the type who would do really well today, where mediums like YouTube and Spotify could give him more exposure and popularity.

Farewell Milwaukee ~ “Autumn Rest Easy” (2009)
Can we really consider a band that hails from Wisconsin in a Laurel Canyon Top 25 list? Some may say no. But Farewell Milwaukee has such a great sound that reminds me of anything that was out of the Canyon. Their folk/indie rock sound comes through in spades with ”Autumn Rest Easy.”

The Byrds ~ “Turn! Turn! Turn!” (1965)
I’ve come to the conclusion that The Byrds can really be two bands with two distinctly different styles. The first Byrds would be in the early to late 1960s with David Crosby and hits like “Turn! Turn! Turn!” and “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The second Byrds band is in the country folk-rock vein, influenced by Gram Parsons. I almost chose two Byrds albums to reflect this distinction (“Sweetheart of the Rodeo” being the other pick), but opted against it because I didn’t want to duplicate artists. I’m partial to early Byrds; hence my choice of album here.

Counting Crows ~ “August and Everything After” (1993)
When I heard Sari included Counting Crows in her top Canyon list, there was no question they needed to be in mine too. This 90s folk/indie rock band is one of my favorites and every track on “August and Everything After” is a story and gem onto itself. Each song conjures up a memory and the album is still in heavy rotation today.

Cowboy Junkies ~ “Trinity Sessions” (1988)
I’ve loved the Cowboy Junkies since first hearing “Me and the Devil Blues” in “Pump Up the Volume” back in 1990. I wasn’t sure if they were Canyon-inspired necessarily, but Margo Timmins’ mesmerizing voice feels like it could have grown out of the Canyon roots of Joni Mitchell and the like. And clearly I’m not alone in my thoughts because Sari and Steve both included Cowboy Junkies in their lists.

Michael Nau ~ “Michael Nau and the Mighty Thread” (2018)
If I’m being honest, Michael Nau is probably considered more indie rock than true Canyon. But his songwriting yields songs that are simple and no frills, yet complex at the same time. I think the Canyon crowd would appreciate the work, and how else was I going to share these tunes with Sari and Steve?

Thanks for hanging with this post. I know it was a long one. Hopefully it was worth it!

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