Poem: Music

Day after day, you fill my life with hope and carry me away.

You’re an enchanting enigma, and I’m spellbinded by your complexity.

When I’m down, you make me smile. And sometimes I can’t get you off my mind.

You’re infectious and magical. I peel back your layers and continue to learn something new.

You fill me with elation and embody my soul. A life without you isn’t worth living, for you make me whole.

You make me laugh, cry and chill me to the bone. As long as we’re together, I know I’m home.

Our love affair is 27 years old, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings. You’re profoundly beautiful…you’re my everything.

Hal David: Grammy-Winning Lyricist Dies At 91

I woke up this morning and read that Hal David died from complications related to a stroke. Working with Burt Bacharach, he wrote innumerable songs for a variety of recording artists, but their most memorable material was sung by the incomparable Dionne Warwick. Bacharach, David and Warwick defined the 1960s with hits such as “I Say A Little Pray,” “Don’t Make Me Over” and “Walk On By.”

To celebrate 50 years in show business, Dionne Warwick’s upcoming album, Now, produced by Phil Ramone, will feature four new songs written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach. While I look forward to hearing the rest of the album, these four songs will serve as a reminder of the magic these three musical giants created when working together.

Below is a 14-minute medley by Dionne Warwick, in 2000, during a tribute to Burt Bacharach and Hal David, as well as a lesser-known, but beautiful Bacharach-David song, “Sunny Weather Lover.” Enjoy!

Book Review: The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger Games has become a pop culture phenomenon. Seemingly overnight, these books catapulted to the top of the best-seller charts and have remained there. Then came the movie, which grossed nearly $700 million since its release this past March. And you can rest assured that many children – and adults – will be dressing up as Katniss, Peeta and, perhaps, Haymitch for Halloween. Having just finished all three books, I’d like to share my thoughts on this trilogy. If you haven’t read the books, stop here because key plot points will be revealed.

I still think the first book is the best in the series. Being introduced to all of the characters and the nation of Panem for the first time was a delight. And unlike the movie, the book allowed relationships between characters to develop at an excellent pace. For example, when Rue died in the book, I was legitimately upset because I had spent hours getting to know her. In the movie, it seemed as if she died as quickly as she appeared. Furthermore, the romantic confusion between Katniss, Peeta and Gale was incredibly well done. But one of my favorite characters in the book was Haymitch. While he originally came off as a drunken fool, he was later revealed to be quite intelligent and an invaluable resource for Katniss and Peeta to call on while trying to survive the Hunger Games.

Favorite Passage:

“One more time? For the audience?” he says. His voice isn’t angry. It’s hollow, which is worse. Already the boy with the bread is slipping away from me. I take his hand, holding on tightly, preparing for the cameras, and dreading the moment when I will finally have to let go.”

Many fans consider Catching Fire to be the best in the series, but I’m torn. It did a wonderful job of picking up where the last book left off, while also further exploring Katniss’ relationships with Peeta and Gale. Moreover, it introduced new, memorable characters and killed off another important person in Katniss’ life: Cinna. And it took the Hunger Games arena to another level by turning it into a clock with a variety of surprises for the tributes. However, I still feel it lacked a certain something that the first book had; I just can’t put my finger on it. Either way, it was a terrific read, and just like the first book, my favorite passage was at the end of the book.

Favorite Passage:

“Katniss,” Gale says softly.
I recognize that voice. It’s the same one he uses to approach wounded animals before he delivers a deathblow. I Instinctively raise my hand to block his words but he catches it and holds on tightly.
Don’t,” I whisper.
But Gale is not one to keep secrets from me.
“Katniss, there is no District Twelve.”

I just finished Mockingjay today, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know many fans were upset with how the series ended, but I wasn’t. In the beginning of the book, reading about Katniss becoming the Mockingjay and the face of the rebellion was fascinating. However, it seemed to drag a little in the middle, and then it picked up towards the end. I enjoyed the twist where President Snow revealed that the newly appointed President Coin was the one who ordered the final assault on the rebels that killed Prim. In the end, both Coin and Snow died, so I was happy. And considering the “romantic” relationship between Katniss and Peeta was the focus of this trilogy, I was perfectly fine with her winding up with Peeta instead of Gale, especially since his creation was used to kill Prim.

Favorite Passage:

“You love me. Real or not real?”
I tell him, “Real.”

Overall, this was a very enjoyable trilogy. If you like your novels packed with action, drama and romance, you should give these books a shot. And while you’re at it, check out the movie too; while it wasn’t perfect, it did the first book justice and has me excited for the sequel. To whet your appetite, I’ve included the trailer below.

My First Blogger Award

I’ve been blogging for less than a month, and today I was surprised with my first award. One of my followers, Hollin Scott, presented me with the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award,” which I now proudly display on my new “Awards” tab. Being recognized for doing good work is always a wonderful feeling, and I’m glad my blog brings enjoyment to my followers and visitors.

Since this award deals with inspiration, I’d like to share with you a song I’ve always found inspirational; it’s All The Time by Barry Manilow, and it’s about believing in yourself and realizing there are other people in the world just like you. As writers, we convey emotion through words so the reader can identify with what we create. This song’s beautiful lyrics resonate in a way that is mesmerizing, and Manilow’s heartfelt delivery only makes them more impactful. I’m certain you’ll be moved, and, who knows, maybe even inspired.

A Story Is Only As Good As Its Storyteller

When you think about it, stories are what bring us together. Whether they are sung, written, spoken, or read, their ability to connect with people can’t be denied. It doesn’t matter what language you speak or where you live, stories find their way into the lives of millions of people every day.

Oddly enough, I didn’t grow up loving to read as a child. But I do remember having my Father read me fairy tales before I went to sleep. Listening to stories about Paul Bunyan and The Emperor’s New Cloths always entertained me. While I’m sure the creative writing sparked my imagination, having a loved one read them to me made them more special.

Which brings me to an interesting point. Sometimes the story itself doesn’t matter as much as the person who is doing the storytelling. For example, many of us are quick to defend a lackluster book by an author we adore. But if the book was written by an “unknown” author, we might be more inclined to pan it.

The same holds true for music. There are many great songs, which are essentially stories on a much smaller scale. But without a great singer to convey the emotion and soul of the lyrics, a song can become quickly forgotten.

When it comes to music, Rod Stewart is one of the greatest storytellers to ever live. As a matter of fact, his career retrospective box set, which came out in 1989, was called Storyteller – The Complete Anthology: 1964-1990. This isn’t a coincidence. Rod Stewart is known for writing and interpreting songs like no other. Yes, he’s had some questionable singles and albums, but, at the end of the day, it’s all about his ability to tell a story. His warm, soulful rasp resulted in him being inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice: Once as a solo artist and the second time as a member of Faces. Needless to say, this is no small feat.

While stories are extremely influential, so are their storytellers. As I embark on my first book and my first blog, I will keep this in mind. All I can hope for is that my stories bring just as much happiness to others as my favorite storytellers have brought to me.