education, lessons learned, music

Is teaching activism a “bad” thing?

Brace yourselves, y’all. I have a new topic to discuss today!

I am a proud graduate of Longwood College, now known as Longwood University. It’s a medium sized liberal arts college in the dead center of Virginia. When I was a student there, it was smaller than it is now. In fact, I know I would be shocked by the huge changes to the campus since I attended in the early 90s. Not only has the campus changed significantly, but apparently, so has the curriculum. Longwood is offering what I think are some very exciting and innovative courses.

Longwood is the kind of school where students are nurtured and encouraged to try new things by professors who really care. I graduated from Longwood in 1994, and 28 years later, there are still people there who remember me when I was a student. I also have so many real friends from my years at Longwood. It’s at Longwood that I started developing my gift for music, and was allowed– and even strongly encouraged and recruited– to study music, just because I have a knack for it. The faculty at Longwood is, by and large, first rate. And while it was not my first choice college, it turned out to be an excellent choice for me. My four years at Longwood truly changed my life for the better.

Naturally, because I am such a booster, I follow Longwood on social media. And this morning, I noticed a post about a new and exciting course that is being offered this spring. Longwood now offers a Civitae Core Curriculum, which did not exist during my college years. Back when I was a student, we called the core curriculum “general ed”. But things have clearly changed, and now freshmen can take a course called Citizen 110– Music Identity and Social Change. This class, which is taught by Honors faculty member, Dr. Kevin Schattenkirk-Harbaugh, will explore how music can inspire people to take action. It will look at artists such as Billie Holliday, George Michael, Marvin Gaye, Paul Simon, and others, to see how music motivates people to take interest and action in the world.

Now… as a music lover who took many music electives at Longwood to supplement my major in English, I know that this class would intrigue me. I haven’t taken a close look at Longwood’s Civitae Core Curriculum, but my guess is that this class is just one choice of several that students can take to fulfill their degree requirements. Based on the class description, I can state with certainty that I would have wanted to take this class myself. It sounds exciting and interesting. And based on the Facebook comments I’ve seen so far, I have a feeling that I’m not the only one who would be interested in taking this course.

Still, there’s a critic in every crowd, and this post was no exception. A woman, who apparently isn’t even a Longwood alum, wrote this:

Activism? This is what parents are paying for?

Another commenter wrote:

The history of activism inspired by music. A unique and interesting examination of how music has inspired some…

And the original commenter responded with:

I get that. But to what purpose? To incite more activism?

I couldn’t help but get the idea that the poster thinks activism is a “bad” thing. And while I usually try not to respond to people on social media, and had already passed my self-imposed one comment per day quota, I felt compelled to leave a response. This is mainly because the person’s comment irked me on many levels, but also because I know I would have LOVED a class like this in the early 1990s:

No. To teach students about how music inspires people to take action. What’s wrong with that? A lot of positive changes have come out of activism. Aside from that, not everyone who takes that course will eventually wind up taking to the streets.

Not all college students are having college paid for by their parents, either. When I went to Longwood, I knew a number of people who were older students and paying for their own education. Or they were in school on scholarship. As legal adults, Longwood students should be trusted to choose electives that interest them. If the course turns out to be inappropriate or unpopular, that will be reflected eventually.

I don’t know this poster at all, but her comment really troubles me. From the implied assumption that all students in college get their tuition paid for by their parents, to the idea that teaching adults about how music inspires action could potentially be damaging, I feel personally affronted by this person’s comment. However, I am not sorry she posted, because her comment did lead me to do some thinking and writing about something besides my current pet topics. I do enjoy reflecting on my time at Longwood, and all of the things I learned there, as well as the many good times I had when I was a student there.

When I was a Longwood student, Virginia was a more conservative state. There was a Confederate statute that stood just off campus. I remember watching many drunken fraternity brothers climbing it at night. While there were some innovative classes offered during that time period, I don’t remember ever seeing a course with such a provocative title on offer at Longwood during my era. I think this new class is a sign that my alma mater is evolving, and I think that’s a really good thing.

Longwood has a long, storied reputation as a school where great teachers are trained. It makes sense to me that new courses with exciting subject matter would be offered. My only hope is that this class allows for constructive discussion from many different perspectives. I hope and expect that the professor who teaches it will allow students to explore the topic from all angles. There will be some students in that class who are conservative, and not politically correct in their opinions. There will also be some students who will take a much more liberal view. I hope that all sides will have a voice, and it won’t be a course in which opinions are taught as fact.

BUT– after my own seven years’ experience as a university student at two different schools, I have found that course quality often has a lot to do with who is doing the teaching. Having spent four years at Longwood, I have every expectation that this class will be taught in a way that encourages reflection and broad thought. It sounds like it will be a treat to take this course. I truly wish I could take it myself, and it’s exciting to me that it’s being offered now. I wish I had a son or daughter I could have sent to Longwood. I have to be contented in seeing some of my old friends’ children deciding to attend college there.

Below is a screenshot of a description of this class:

It sounds great to me!

One of the great things about getting a liberal arts education is having the opportunity to broaden one’s perspectives. When I got to Longwood in 1990, my world view was mostly shaped by spending ten years living in a very rural part of Virginia. Although I had the benefit of living in England and the multicultural D.C. area when I was very young, when I was growing up, I was mostly surrounded by white, southern, Christian, conservative people. My upbringing really showed when I got to Longwood, and in fact, after I graduated, I still had some limited views that could have used some informing.

My mind opened up a lot when I joined the Peace Corps and went to live in Armenia for two years. I still cringe a little bit when I think about how sheltered I was when I was in my 20s, not having been exposed to that much of the world. I remember more than a couple of times when I sounded truly idiotic– perhaps even more so than I might today. 😉

Yes, people can choose to take paths that will broaden them at any stage of life, but it would have been great to have had the chance to start the process when I was in college, rather than after I graduated. College is a time for exploration and evolution in a safe place. I think these kinds of courses are crucial for young adults who are coming of age. And they also spice up the usual basic 101 courses that are typically required for freshmen students.

And– by the way– most college students are legal adults, whether or not mom and dad are paying their tuition. Legal adults should be encouraged to take charge of their education, since they will ultimately be the benefactors of it. I know that some parents who pay college tuition bills think they should have a say in what their dollars are paying for. However, I think that’s something that needs to be handled within individual families, not at the level of parents complaining about curriculum offerings. In other words, if you– mom or dad– don’t like what Junior is taking at college, take it up with Junior. Don’t try to take educational opportunities away from everybody by assuming that you, as a parent, should get a say in what courses the university offers when you’re not even a student there. Granted, this one class might not lead a student to a great job, but it might help a student become a person with a heightened awareness and broadened perspective, which could lead them to places they never dreamed of going.

So… count me among those who are cheering about this class, and others like it, that are now being offered at Longwood University. I see nothing wrong with teaching young people about activism, or how certain things– like great songs– can inspire and motivate people to take action, for better or worse. I don’t think the students who are exposed to this course are necessarily going to grab picket signs and stage protests. Some of them might do that someday, but they would probably be the types of people who would have done that, anyway. Rather, I think this class is going to make students aware that they have the power to effect change if they want to– and it doesn’t necessarily have to be for causes that are liberal, conservative, or whatever. It’s just a look at the ways music can inspire and help foster change– for better or worse. I think it sounds like it’s going to be a very stimulating and fun class, and the students are lucky there’s a professor at Longwood who had the vision to create this course. If it turns out to be a flop, that will become clear soon enough.

We shouldn’t be afraid to expose young people to new ideas or exploration of old ideas. We shouldn’t assume that they’ll go astray simply because we encourage them to reach out and learn more about things that might be controversial or against the establishment. I have great faith in the students at Longwood, and I suspect this class will be very successful. Bravo, Dr. Kevin Schattenkirk-Harbaugh! I look forward to hearing more about this course offering.

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Bill, home, housekeeping tips, music, YouTube

The power of teamwork and learning new skills…

Bill had to work late last night. Originally, he planned to go to work at noon and stay until 9:00pm, which would have been a reasonable work day. But it turned out that things kind of went to shit early in the morning, so he ended up heading to work at 7:30am. He stayed until 9:00pm.

I knew it was going to be a crazy week, and after nineteen years of marriage, I understand the nature of Bill’s work. Sometimes he has to work at odd times. Sometimes he has to work very long hours. I wasn’t even that annoyed yesterday that he had to go in earlier than planned. In fact, I kind of expected it. Bill is a very dedicated employee and he’s extremely empathic. He knew they needed him, so he jumped right in to get the job done.

Last night, I was sitting in our bedroom listening to Katie Joy’s Without A Crystal Ball stream about Josh Duggar’s trial. I don’t even think I was paying a lot of attention to what was being said. I’ve been trying really hard to finish a book, but every time I try to read, I get really drowsy and either fall asleep or have to take a nap. I want to get the book finished, because I’m really looking forward to reviewing it.

At around 8:00pm, I realized I hadn’t eaten anything and felt like having pizza. So I went down to the kitchen and started making dough. I made a full recipe, so there were two crusts. I put one in the freezer. We have a pizza stone that I haven’t personally used much, although I have made pizza lots of times. Nowadays, Bill does most of the cooking. So I watched a video on how to use a pizza peel.

This was a big help! And yes, I was successful.

I used to be a great cook. I was even paid to cook at one time in my life. I am out of practice, though. It’s great to have YouTube around for handy household tips like this. Nineteen years as an overeducated housewife, you’d think I would have learned sooner.

By 9:00pm, I had eaten two slices of the delicious small pizza I made. The crust was infused with raw garlic, and I had topped it with bacon, green peppers, pepperoni, and lots of cheese. I never said I was a healthy eater. I cleaned up the kitchen, noticing that the oven door was brown with disgusting caked on gunk. Ex landlady liked to used the word “encrusted”. Well, in the case of our oven, the term fit. So I Googled how to clean oven doors, since I had great success with my quest in finding out how to clean the glass fireplace doors a couple of weeks ago.

Sure enough, some lovely housewife blogger provided a simple hack for cleaning oven doors. That was my project this morning, scrubbing the hell out of the inside of the oven door. I got most of the gunk off.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Bill got home at 9:21pm. I had two slices of pizza for him on a plate that I wrapped and put in the refrigerator. I also brought up his beer from the Advent calendar. We both have different ones, since Master of Malt is no longer shipping to Germany or the United States. I used to get us really fun liquor filled calendars from them.

He had stopped at the grocery store and picked up some food to cook. He wasn’t expecting that I had already cooked. But now there’s food to cook tonight, because he’s working late again. Since he was so happy that I made pizza, I might get inspired again today. Maybe I’ll even get fancy and make something healthier!

Bill was definitely delighted that there was already something for him to eat, but for some reason, he thought of me anyway and brought this home…

And one other thing I did yesterday that involved teamwork was collaborating with another YouTuber. Some time ago, I stumbled across a guitar player named John. We have similar tastes in music. A few days ago, he ran across a recording I did of Joni Mitchell’s song, “Urge for Going”. He wrote to me and said he loved it, and wanted to know if I would be willing to sing it to his guitar playing so he could add some harmony. He says he’s obsessed with harmony. So he sent me a recording of his guitar part.

This was the video John found and liked. On this one, it’s just me and a background recording.

I made a recording with my vocals and John’s guitar yesterday. It wasn’t without difficulty. For some reason, when I try to record lately, the music sometimes skips, ruining the recording. It happens on SingSnap (a karaoke site) and on Garage Band. After many tries, I managed to get a clean rendition. I added a simple harmony line and sent it to John, who added more harmony and added it to his channel. He says he didn’t do much editing because he was busy with work. But it’s our first collaboration. Maybe we’ll do another at some point and things will get further refined.

Not too bad for a first attempt. I’m still working on learning guitar so I can accompany myself more.

Personally, I wouldn’t have put as much harmony on this. I would have confined it to the chorus, which you can hear that I did. But hell, it’s just for fun. I do enjoy listening to him play. We like a lot of the same artists. And I’m flattered that he wanted to collaborate with me in the first place.

I haven’t been doing much singing lately, mainly because of the issue I have with the music skipping. It’s very frustrating. But maybe today, I’ll spend some time finding a solution for that problem, now that I know it’s not confined to SingSnap, as I thought it was. I’ve also done the dishes and am working on the laundry. As soon as I close this post, I’ll practice guitar, and maybe eventually walk the dogs and wrap some Christmas presents… and maybe even finish that book, so I’ll have a new book review ready. I’ve got a bunch of other books waiting to be read.

It’s good to be busy, especially when Bill has to work late. Makes the time pass… And I’m so grateful to YouTube and fellow bloggers for teaching me handy housekeeping tips that my mom never taught me.

P.S. I get a kick out of Bill’s penchant for sending me military-esque emails. I asked him to bring home some more baking soda, vinegar, aluminum foil, and bar soap. His response was “Okay. Acknowledge all.” I’m surprised he didn’t write “Roger.”, which he’s also been known to do.

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book reviews, celebrities, mental health, music

Repost: Judy Collins shares her thoughts on Cravings…

And here’s a repost that was originally written May 13, 2017. It appears as/is.

I have loved Judy Collins’ beautiful music since I was about 18 years old.  She’s recorded so many beautiful songs over the years and inspired others as well.  Although I knew she’d had trouble with alcohol and eating disorders, I didn’t know the extent of her problems until I picked up her latest book, Cravings: How I Conquered Food.

Published on February 28, 2017, Cravings offers readers insight into what may have caused Judy Collins’ issues with booze and food.  Collins’ theories may also be helpful to other readers.  The book is also about Judy Collins’ life, so if you read it, it helps to also be interested in her life story.  I suspect a lot of younger people may not be fans of Judy Collins’ music, although I think they should be.  I should also mention that this is the first book I’ve read by Judy Collins, so I wasn’t perturbed to read about her life.  Others who have read her earlier memoirs might feel like parts of this book are reruns.

Here Judy sings “Someday Soon” with Stephen Stills, who famously penned “Suite Judy Blue Eyes” in her honor.

Collins writes that when she was growing up, she loved all things made of flour, sugar, wheat, and corn.  She was addicted to sugar and would eat sweet things constantly.  That sugar obsession later turned to unsightly pounds and a neverending compulsion to eat more.  She eventually went on to become bulimic and would binge and purge to the point of developing a vocal cord hemangioma.  It almost destroyed her voice.

And one of my favorite versions. I love the piano player on this. They made a wonderful live album from the Wildflower Festival.

As she got older, Collins took up drinking and smoking.  She became an alcoholic and, for many years, would even drink heavily before and after taking the stage.  Although she indulged in self-destructive behavior, Collins somehow knew that what she was doing was dangerous.  She sought help from doctors, most of whom told her she didn’t have a problem.

Eventually, Collins realized that there was a link between her cravings for sugar, flour, wheat, and corn and her addiction to alcohol.  She eliminated the problem foods from her diet and adopted what looks to me to be a paleo diet.  She says now her weight is stable and she know longer has such intense cravings for unhealthy foods or booze.  She also credits spending time in support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and employing the Grey Sheet Diet Plan for helping her to stop the insanity.

“Suite Judy Blue Eyes”

Aside from explaining her secrets to eating and drinking success, Collins writes about her son, Clark Taylor, who sadly died after committing suicide.  Collins herself attempted suicide, although she doesn’t delve too much into her experiences with suicidal ideation.  Before he passed, Clark fathered Judy Collins’ only grandchild, Hollis, who is now herself a mother.  I enjoyed reading about Judy’s family and can tell that she loves them very much.  She writes that not a day goes by that she doesn’t think about and miss her son.

I also enjoyed reading about Collins’ musical training.  Originally, she was trained as a pianist and she studied great and challenging classical works.  I never knew Judy Collins was once being groomed for the classical music world.  As she became a teenager, she was lured into folk music.  She picked up a guitar, learned how to play, and began to sing.  I was astonished to read that she once had a very limited vocal range.  Work with an excellent voice teacher eventually stretched her range to about three octaves, quite respectable for a singer.  I have always liked her voice for its ethereal quality.  I think my own style is kind of like hers.

Anyway… I thought Cravings was well-written and engaging.  It didn’t take forever to finish.  Because I haven’t read Collins’ other books, the material and new for me.  It’s also relevant for me personally on many levels.  I liked that she drew in interesting examples from history to backup her theories about diet, drinking, and health.  I learned something new in those passages.  And, given that Judy was born in 1939 and is still making albums and writing books, I figure she must be doing something right.  I recommend her book to those who are thinking about reading it.

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book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart write their life stories in Kicking & Dreaming…

I am reposting this May 2014 review I wrote of Ann and Nancy Wilson’s, book Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll. For some reason, I never shared it on my blogs, so technically it’s not a repost from them. It was originally published on PopRockNation, and appears here as/is.

I have admired Ann and Nancy Wilson, talented sisters from Seattle, for as long as I can remember. These two women are among the most respected women in rock & roll. They have enjoyed a career that has spanned over four decades and are longstanding members of a band that has had chart topping songs since the 1970s. Heart is one of a very few bands that has enjoyed that kind of success and Ann and Nancy Wilson were integral to making that success a reality.

Since I am myself a singer and I do love my rock & roll, it seemed natural that I’d want to read Kicking & Dreaming: A Story of Heart, Soul, and Rock & Roll. The book was published in 2012, but I just got around to reading it. This book was a lot of fun to read and made me like the Wilson sisters even more than I did before. Ghostwriter Charles R. Cross did a masterful job in making this book sound as if it came straight from the Wilson sisters. When I finished reading, I felt like I’d love to know them as friends.

Back in 2008, Ann Wilson released an album called Hope & Glory. It consisted of duets she did with a number of different famous singers like Elton John, Alison Krauss, Gretchen Wilson, and Wynonna. I remember thinking at the time that the album was very left wing and political, since the songs were mostly covers of anti-war songs. I am married to a man who is about to retire from the Army, so the subject of war is a personal one for me. I bought this album when it first came out and listened to it fairly regularly for a time. At the time, I had no knowledge of the Wilson sisters’ own history with the military. I didn’t know they were Marine brats.

Ann Wilson covers Neil Young’s “War of Man” with help from Alison Krauss.

Ann, Nancy, and Lynn Wilson were the three daughters of John (Dotes) and Lois Wilson, a Marine and his wife. As kids, they had the typical military brat upbringing, with constant moves stateside and abroad. They spent time in Asia, with a couple of years in Taiwan, then came back to California, where Ann had been born in 1950. Eventually, their father left the Marines and became a teacher. The family made a permanent home in Bellevue, Washington, where Ann and Nancy Wilson blossomed into talented musicians who would one day be world famous rock stars.

Kicking & Dreaming is a very engaging book. Each chapter starts with an amusing rundown of what the chapter is about… kind of like a synopsis one might read in a TV Guide. Each sister’s voice is identified before she spins an old story of growing up in the Pacific Northwest, then growing into a music career. The Wilson sisters were fortunate enough to attend schools that promoted the arts, and that helped lead them to learning their craft.

At the age of 12, Nancy Wilson was a good enough guitar player that she was teaching others how to play. Ann was becoming a notable singer, with a big voice that seemed custom made for singing rock & roll. She and Nancy cut their teeth on songs by Led Zeppelin and Elton John. In Heart’s early days, the band’s bread and butter was capably covering songs made famous by other people. They would sneak their original material into their set lists at high school proms and in clubs. Many of the earliest shows were in Canada, because one of Heart’s original members had been a Vietnam draft dodger and couldn’t be in the United States. Consequently, Heart was originally more of a Canadian act… and they even got to play Michael J. Fox’s prom!

Heart sings Magic Man, a song they explain in their book.

The Wilsons are both big fans of rock music, too. There are some charming stories in Kicking & Dreaming about Ann and Nancy growing up, going to concerts, and going on quests to see certain rock worthies in concert. In one chapter, Nancy relates the story of how she borrowed money to buy a ticket from a scalper to see Elton John in concert. The ticket turned out to be fake and she almost got arrested when she tried to use it. Undaunted, she scaled a fence and snuck into the venue to see Elton anyway… and many years later, he became a friend and was the very first person to hear their 2012 album, Fanatic, as they were producing it in a hotel room! Another anecdote is about how Nancy and a friend went on a fruitless quest to find Joni Mitchell’s farm in Canada. Ann and Nancy eventually did meet Joni years later. What struck me about the Wilsons is how grounded and normal they seem; here they are big stars themselves, yet they write of being starstruck when in the presence of people like Paul McCartney.

Kicking & Dreaming doesn’t shy away from the more painful topics, either. Ann and Nancy Wilson had to deal with sexism from music business executives and fellow rock stars alike. In one anecdote, the Wilson sisters write about touring with Lynyrd Skynyrd and, because they were women, being tasked to watch the young son of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s drummer, Artimus Pyle. Pyle basically dropped his kid off with Ann and Nancy and expected them to babysit while he went out on an “errand”. The boy ended up spending the night with the Wilson sisters. Artimus Pyle was later in the 1977 plane crash that killed several members of Lynyrd Skynyrd; he was seriously injured, but ultimately survived.

I also read about Ann Wilson’s struggles with obesity and alcoholism and the health problems that came from those issues. I read about both sisters’ quests for motherhood, which they both achieved, though not through giving birth themselves. They share details about their love affairs and friendships, some of which were with fellow famous people. It made for fascinating reading. I have a lot of empathy for both of them, even as I realize how lucky they are to be so talented and successful. Of course, being talented and successful is no barrier to personal demons and psychic pain; they have both dealt with their fair share. Fortunately, they are close to each other and their older sister, Lynn. They also have many lifelong friends, including Sue Ennis, a songwriter they met when they were just girls. Sue Ennis is a member of the Lovemongers, a band the Wilson sisters formed in the 1990s. She also teaches songwriting and music business classes at Shoreline Community College in Seattle, Washington.

An energetic Heart performance of “Straight On”.

I got a big kick out of the chapter in which Nancy Wilson writes about Sarah Palin’s political campaign ripping off Heart’s big hit, “Barracuda”. When Sarah Palin was a teenager, she played high school basketball and was so aggressive on the court that she was called “Sarah Barracuda”. Naturally, Heart’s big song seemed perfect for her campaign, except Heart never gave permission for her to use the song. No one in the band agreed with Palin’s Republican ideals. Moreover, the song, which was written in the 70s, is about the sleaziness of the music business. Nancy notes that it was kind of ironic that Sarah Palin’s camp would want to use it to promote Palin as a potential Vice President of the United States. In the long run, it turned out Palin’s use of “Barracuda” was lucky, since it got new people listening to it and wanting to know what the song meant.

“Barracuda” in 1977.

Kicking & Dreaming is a fantastic read for Heart fans or for anyone who just likes a rock & roll memoir. Ann and Nancy Wilson have dealt with all kinds of adversity throughout their long careers, yet they still seem like really cool women from Seattle who just want to rock and roll and are lucky enough to get paid to do it for millions of people. I highly recommend their book.

According to Nancy Wilson, Ann and Nancy got paid a lot of money to make this ad!

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book reviews, celebrities, music

Repost: Kenny Rogers shares his life in a memoir…

Here’s another reposted book review. This one was written for Epinions on October 8, 2012. It appears here as/is, although Kenny died on March 20, 2020. I miss him. His music was a big part of my childhood. So was his acting.

The other day, I ran across a news article about country singer, actor, and photographer, Kenny Rogers.  The article was about his brand new book, Luck or Something Like It: A Memoir (2012), and his publisher’s demand that he remove a chapter about his experiences with plastic surgery.  Having grown up in the 1970s and 80s, and having a mother who loves his music, I was already pretty familiar with Kenny Rogers as a singer.  I had heard a little about his photography and business ventures with Kenny Roger’s Roasters, a chain restaurant he lent his name to, and I had seen him act in Six Pack and a couple of television movies.  And I had noticed the dramatic change in his appearance after he got his eyes done…  I knew I wanted to read his story, even if there wouldn’t be anything about who botched his surgery!

Kenny Rogers… a man of humble origins  

At the beginning of Luck or Something Like It, Kenny Rogers writes about his humble origins in Houston, Texas.  He’s one of many children, born in the middle of a big brood.  His father, who died in 1975, was an alcoholic who spent all his extra money on booze.  His mother was a practical woman who worked hard.  When Kenny was young, they lived in the San Felipe projects in Houston, but were later able to move to a better part of the city when the family’s finances improved. 

Kenny Rogers attended Jefferson Davis High School in Houston and eventually got into music as a means of getting girls.  He was also athletic and went out for sports teams, but it turned out he was better at making music than playing sports.  Oddly enough, Rogers didn’t seem to come from a particularly musical family, though he does write that his older sister, Geraldine, taught him how to sing harmony when they were in church.  Rogers writes that he was immediately hooked on harmony and it became a defining feature of his sound.  He loved being part of a band because of that sound.

Speaking of bands… 

Kenny Rogers has been in quite a few of them.  Perhaps his best known band was The First Edition, which was the band he was in when he became famous.  Rogers explains how he moved to Los Angeles and rubbed elbows with some very talented folks.  He learned how to play folk, jazz, and even a little psychedelic styled music.  He learned how to alter his image so he could fit in.  And he even writes briefly of auditioning Karen Carpenter for The First Edition when their lead singer decided touring wasn’t for her.

He also writes about his famous duet partners, particularly Dolly Parton and Dottie West.  He very graciously explains why he owes Dolly Parton a great debt, since their famous duet “Islands In The Stream”, helped keep his career going after he signed a deal with RCA that seemed destined to ruin him.

Speaking of songs

I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ hits.  He takes the time to explain the stories behind some of his biggest songs, like “Lucille”, “Reuben James”, and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town.” 

Married five times…

Kenny Rogers claims that he loves being married.  In fact, he loves it so much that he’s walked down the aisle five times.  Granted, his first wife was the result of a shotgun wedding.  Rogers seems to have gotten the hang of marriage, though, having now been married to his fifth wife, Wanda, for twenty years.  Besides being a prolific husband, Rogers has also fathered four sons and a daughter.  He writes a bit about his kids.  I was heartened to read about how he managed to heal his relationship with his eldest son, a product of his third marriage and the victim of parental alienation.

His photography

Kenny Rogers is well-known as a singer and an actor, but did you know he’s also a photographer?  Rogers writes about how he became interested in taking pictures and some of the projects he’s undertaken with his camera.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed reading about Kenny Rogers’ life.  He comes across as a nice person, suprisingly down to earth and candid about his successes and failures, and gracious to all who helped him get to where he is today.  I didn’t even miss the missing chapter about his plastic surgery. 

Kenny Rogers has been around for 74 years and had some amazing experiences.  I never got the sense he was bragging about his good fortune or whining about his misfortunes.  He just comes off as someone who came from humble origins and had a rare combination of drive, talent, and luck that propelled him to success.  His story is the kind that has the potential to give people hope.

He includes photos in both color and black and white.  Just as an aside… In case anyone is wondering, no, Kenny doesn’t include the roasted chicken recipe made famous in his restaurants.

Aww… his widow and sons still really miss him.

Overall

I would definitely recommend Luck or Something Like It to Kenny Rogers fans or even people who just enjoy a good life story.  I read this book on my iPad and am pleased to report that I had no issues with that method.  Even the pictures looked great.  Five stars.

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