Pat Blythe – Reflections, A.J. Croce, Buffy…..plus Music!

 

WOW!!! It’s has been a while. Sooooo much has happened since mid-August. I sit here listening to He Ain’t Heavy by The Hollies thinking how lives are changed in literally a heartbeat. The thoughts of this wild and woolly summer filter through my mind…..the people the places, the experiences, the freedom, the folks I have connected and re-connected with, the hospitality of incredible friends, the music…..yes, especially the music. My life changed forever the day I lost Chris five years ago. It has morphed into a wild and exhilarating ride that does not appear to be slowing down one iota and, truth be told, I love it. But I also pause to think, it is indeed “a long, long road, from which there is no return….”

We all have our bits and pieces of baggage we carry with us throughout life. Some we cannot bear to part with, some we need to unload at the nearest depot and there are those tiny bits that become our lifeline to the past. Those little “lifelines” are memories of our own past but also pasts shared with us. Memories, good or bad, can stagnate us or push us forward. Even sad ones should make us smile for we are still here to remember. Memories are lessons learned, love we’ve shared and received….the flotsam and jetsam of our lives we can conjure up when we most need them. Memories are also stories we can share, that we pass on to our children and what we become when we are no longer. The past five years have been a time to reflect and grow, accept the changes and to keep making new memories.

At this stage of my life I have far fewer years ahead of me than I do behind me so now is as good as time any to stuff my face and fill my gut, cram my mind and open my heart….to never be satiated but to saturate myself with as much as I possibly can. I recall a chat with an AirBnB guest last year who was telling me about his bucket list. He asked me about mine. I told him, “at my age you no longer have a bucket list, you have a fuck it list.”  You just don’t give a one anymore because things you thought were, or should be, are no longer important. It’s time to enjoy the buffet. This summer has proven that. An incredible year so far and it’s not finished. So, as I say farewell to the road once trod, I say a big hello to the road ahead wherever it takes. There is no going back. You only have one ticket for this ride so enjoy.  Welcome aboard this train….you are most welcome to share a seat with me!

A summer of festivals…..

It has indeed been the summer of festivals this year. Racing around parts of Ontario to experience new places, new music and listen to some of my teenage heroes. The season always hits the ground running with Canadian Music Week (CMW) but this year was outdoors time. Mariposa, Summerfolk, Hunter St. Hootenanny, London Bluesfest, Beaches Jazz Festival and in a single day Brantford (ONES) and Brampton Canada Day celebrations (Tom Cochrane and Red Rider). Filling in the blanks were numerous trips to London to spend time with family (especially my mom), the Jack Richardson London Music Week and Awards, theatre shows and club concerts. I’m going to try and wrap us as much as I can so grab that coffee (or cocktail), sit back, put your feet up…..here we go. This is just the beginning!

Day three of Mariposa was full of surprises. After two perfect, sun-filled days of music it was time to wrap up this baby up in a big blanket of music. Another glorious day by the lake. Highlights of the final day — A.J. Croce, Buffy Sainte Marie, Matchedash Parish and Bahamas but there were two special performances that were my icing on the cake.

A.J. Croce…..

It’s difficult to mention A.J. without thinking of his dad, Jim Croce, the latter being of my generation. His son is also a brilliant singer/songwriter/musician in his own right. I have to say right here…..Jim would be busting with pride. A.J. was only two-years-old when his father was killed in a plane crash so he never knew his dad, at least not in person. Thank you A.J., we have two Croce’s…..one for each generation.

A.J. Croce

I watched as A.J. performed with a number of different musicians on the various stages salted throughout the site. A man with a quiet but wicked sense of humor, he had Danny Michel in stitches (literally almost on the floor) along with father/son team Bill and Joel Plaskett at the Pub Stage. He also shared the Estelle Klein Stage with Valdy, Lief Vollebekk and host Alan Doyle (Great Big Sea) for Songwriters in The Round. I ran into Croce and his manager Jeff DeLia again at the main stage watching Nick Lowe from the sidelines. This was also the night of A.J.’s finale. I had developed a deep appreciation and respect for the man and his music and kept asking myself why I hadn’t heard him before now. A virtuoso on the keys, his passionate voice resonates with everyone. It’s almost spiritual, the deep connection Croce has with his music ….. He also made my heart melt and brought tears to my eyes when he sang Time in A Bottle, a huge hit back in the day for his dad. It’s a song that never grows old and this performance was particularly poignant for me. It was such a pleasure to watch this man perform and listen to his songs. I really hope to see him again on stage.

l-r – A.J., Bill Plaskett, Danny Michel, Joel Plaskett

l-r – David Barard, A.J., Gary Mallaber (Steve Miller Band), and Garrett Stoner

David Barard (bassist for Dr. John for over 30 years)

Gary Mallaber (Steve Miller Band)

Garrett Stoner

Cures Just Like Medicine – A.J. Croce

The Other Side of Love – A.J. Croce

I had to add this…..

Time in A Bottle – Jim Croce

Buffy……

Then there’s Buffy! I don’t even need to provide her last name (Sainte-Marie). Truly a legend in her own time, this spirited, indestructible, educated, courageous, passionate, fierce and beautiful woman has given us years of music and herself. This petit powerhouse with her distinctive, vibrating voice is a magical force on stage, prancing and dancing around with such joy. The music and the audience give her flight and she uses it to maximum effect. Her voice is heard not only on stage but around the world in protest against the abuse of the indigenous people, particularly the women.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Born on the Piapot Cree First nation Reserve in Saskatchewan, she was adopted and raised in Massachusetts by relatives after the sudden death of her parents. Nicknamed Buffy, by the age of three she was playing piano and by the age of four setting her poems to music. At the age of sixteen Sainte-Marie taught herself guitar. According to a CBC article, she “ultimately invented 32 different ways of tuning her instrument, creating sounds completely unique to her music…..so inquisitive that she would even take apart the vacuum cleaner and try to create her own headphones by hooking its tubes to the broken record player.”

Sainte-Marie began performing where many folk singers started their careers….the numerous coffee houses in New York’s Greenwich Village as well as Toronto’s Yorkville….alongside Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. By 1963 she had already written and performed her anti-war anthem, Universal Soldier.  There are mixed stories regarding the history of this song. One report states the song was actually penned before the U.S.’s involvement in the Vietnam war. Songfacts.com claim the song was penned in Toronto’s Purple Onion after Sainte-Marie witnessed wounded soldiers coming home from the Vietnam war. Either way, Universal Soldier was banned from any media play in North America. It wasn’t until Donovan recorded the song and released the EP, entitled Universal Soldier, in 1965, the song was brought into the mainstream as well as hitting #5 on the British charts. When it was released as a single in the United States later that year it reached #53 on the Billboard charts.  According to Sainte-Marie, Universal Soldier is “about individual responsibility for war and how the old feudal thinking kills us all.”

Cod’ine, another well-known song by Sainte-Marie, is probably her most covered song having been recorded song by a long list of artists including Eric Clapton, Janis Joplin, Donovan, Courtney Love, Gram Parson, The Charlatans, Quicksilver Messenger Service….the list goes on. Written after Sainte-Marie became addicted to the drug while recovering from bronchial pneumonia, her ensuing struggle with the drug became the basis for the song.

Cod’ine – Buffy Sainte-Marie (live Newport Festival 1983)

Her 19th album, Medicine Songs, won the 2018 Juno Award for Indigenous Music Album of the Year, a category she pushed to create. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia “Another artist might show signs of disappointment or uncertainty when faced with the notion that not much has changed in half a century, but on Medicine Songs, in the face of the unchanging nature of the oppression she’s expressed through her music, Buffy Sainte-Marie has chosen to be just as determined, unflinching and constant in her own art.”

l-r – Mark Olexson, Buffy, Anthony King

Michel Bruyere

Anthony King

Mark Olexson

Universal Soldier – Buffy Sainte-Marie

Universal Soldier – Donovan

Years of recording and live performances, through 24 albums which includes six anthologies and eleven singles, multiple appearance on Sesame Street (including breastfeeding her son live on air….a first for TV) she continues to create and perform today…..her joie de vivre on stage just glows. I spent years listening to her music and reading about her, never thinking I would have an opportunity (a gift really) to photograph this captivating woman and her band live and close up. Killer drummer Michel Bruyere (I’ve never seen anyone play with such power, ferocity and passion), bassist Mark Olexson and guitarist Anthony King completed this dynamic ensemble. The whole performance was surreal (I had to pinch myself)….it simply blew my mind!

Saint-Marie is widely known for her stalwart support of indigenous peoples across North America, particularly around education. She founded the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education, the Cradleboard Teaching Project and is also a spokesperson for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Sainte-Marie’s music performances always display the red dress on stage, a symbol of the hundreds of missing and murdered indigenous women, an ongoing issue that has been ignored and/or denied by both law enforcement and the general population for years.

Sing Our Own Song (Power In The Blood) – Buffy Saint-Marie

You’ve Got To Run (Spirit of The Wind) – Buffy Sainte-Marie & Tanya Tagaq

Finally….

One final, personal note. I want to send a huge shout-out to my good friend Sandy Bolyki who has been diagnosed with lymphoma. Sandy was my neighbour for almost 20 years. She had just sold her house and purchased a new one in her home town of St.Catherines, super excited to move back to be among old friends. Sandy was instrumental in pushing me to apply for media accreditation for both Mariposa and Summerfolk. A huge, huge supporter of both festivals for the past 25 years, she was insistent I experience the joy of both ensuring me I’d have a great time and meet some wonderful people. She was absolutely bang on, on all counts. I managed to capture Sandy (wearing her Buffy t-shirt) with Buffy (whom she adores) . Please send good thoughts and best wishes to Sandy as she begins her first of many chemo sessions….and thank you Sandy, from the bottom of my heart, for being part of my life and one of my best summers ever!!! I couldn’t have experienced this without you.

Sandy and Buffy

Loads more to write about….enough fodder to keep this column full for weeks to come including my two weeks in England, road trips with ONES, Bluesfest and some recent shows. Just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Cheers!

All photographs ©2018 A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker”

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

One Response to “Pat Blythe – Reflections, A.J. Croce, Buffy…..plus Music!”

  1. Awesome article Pat! I especially love the intro 😉 Your photography genius is getting better and better! Keep it up xx

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