The Kitchen Musician ~ October, 2009

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Hello Friends!

What happens when a songwriter is given an assignment that he doesn’t like? – “A Declaration of Independence“.

Tom at PCA Sept. 2009
Tom at the Parish Center for the Arts, Westford, MA. Photo: Dan Tappan.

This Month’s Music:

A Declaration of Independence
© 2009 Tom Smith. All rights reserved.
Ed. Note 4/14/2011: The name of this song has been changed to “Lick My Face” ~ Tom

I am honored to join the Songwriter Sessions this evening at the venerable Vanilla Bean Cafe in Pomfret, CT. Each month, host Lisa Martin invites three singer/songwriters to join her in this series dedicated to the craft of songwriting. I first met Lisa at an open mike hosted by my friend Carlyn Hutchins. Lisa impressed me with original music played in a folk-rock style. Tonight I am joined by Castle Bay, a celtic duo from Maine, and Jan Luby, the “absolutely tattooless woman” currently living in Rhode Island. Jan has a beautiful voice and a rich background in folk music, both comedic and socially relevant. Castle Bay is an accomplished duo who perform traditional music from Scotland, Ireland and England, and also original music that is influenced by this tradition. I am looking forward to meeting and sharing songs with all of these excellent musicians.

One interesting aspect of the Songwriter Sessions is that the audience chooses a theme for which the following month’s songwriters would write an original song. I have done this several times as part of the weekly open mike at the Amazing Things Arts Center. Host Dan Cloutier occasionally suggests songwriting exercises and then we all share our songs about a month later. I am happy to say that several wonderful songs have come from these exercises. They occupy a strong position in my regular repertoire. I eagerly anticipated the assignment. This would be a great opportunity to write an original song and compare it with some terrific songwriters who use the same theme.

The assignment… how shall I describe it? I suppose the first thing that came to mind was “what were they thinking?” It occupied my spare (and not so spare) thoughts last week. I was determined to not write a song about my dog, Oscar.  Abandoning all hope that I would “write a song to make the whole world sing“, I wrote “A Declaration of Independence”. A cop out? I’ll let you be the judge. One goes where inspiration (desperation) leads.

What would you have done?

Support independent music,

~ Tom

P.S. Taking another look at the lyrics, I just might be able to claim that I co-wrote this song with Pete Seeger, Thomas Jefferson and Bob Dylan. Do you think they will let me keep all of the royalties?

(I invite you to leave a comment. Just scroll down to the end of this page.)

Upcoming Shows

Oct. 8, Thursday 7:00 pm at the Vanilla Bean Cafe, Pomfret, CT.

Oct 10, Saturday 7:30 pm at the Boulder Coffeehouse, Fitchburg, MA

Oct 17, Saturday 7:30 pm. I am supporting Mally Smith at the Federated Underground Coffeehouse, Ashland, MA.

Click to view these and all upcoming shows.

Featured Charity: High Spirit Community Farm

WilliamMy friend and former neighbor William has an intractable seizure disorder. The life-sharing home at High Spirit Community Farm has proven to be exactly what he needs – community life and meaningful work. High Spirit opened their first community home in Great Barrington, MA in 2008. But their aspirations are even greater – to purchase a larger farm property, hire a therapeutic farmer, potters and other workshop leaders, and to have a day program offering work options for many people with disabilities.

Please join me in supporting their good work. Make your tax deductible check to High Spirit Community Farm, and mail it to 21 Bowdoin St., Cambridge, MA   02138

If you have a charity to suggest for an upcoming issue of The Kitchen Musician please send me an e-mail.

  • Tom
    October 8, 2009

    A Declaration of Independence
    © 2009 Tom Smith, All Rights Reserved

    Note: 4/14/2011 The name of this song has been changed to “Lick My Face”

    I work hard every time I write a song
    My goal is for the world to sing along
    To promote the common good, peace and brotherhood
    My hope is that each song will right a wrong

    (So) I got this invitation from this place
    “Please write a song that we can all embrace
    Sing it on songwriters’ day, at Vanilla Bean Cafe,
    And by the way, it must contain this phrase”

    Lick My face. I read the message twice
    Lick my face? I guess that is the price.
    Before I write a song to heal the human race
    I have to write a song called Lick My Face

    A dozen half-wrote songs were in my head
    I thought about just what that message said
    I had to use that wretched phrase, I pondered it for days
    As the show approached my heart was filled with dread

    (I know) I’ll take a song, pick-a-phrase and just replace
    Perhaps it won’t appear so out of place
    (Like this) ‘It’s the hammer of justice, It’s the bell of freedom
    It’s a song about love, So lick my face’


    They can’t make me write that song, it’s abuse
    I am well within my rights to refuse
    In the course of human events, this truth is evident
    Each songwriter, has the right to choose

    A subject that is worthy and in good taste
    Like those that make the world a better place
    That’s what I’m choosing now, and I will tell you how
    I’ll do it with humility and grace

    Lick my face! Go write your own damn song
    Lick my face! and we can sing along
    There’s just one thing to say before I leave this place
    Write your own damn song, Lick my face!


    The answer my friends, is blowin’ in this place
    Write your own damn song, Lick my face

  • Marc
    October 8, 2009

    Tom, I’ve heard a lot of songs in my time on this earth, but this on has them all “licked”! ;D

  • Jon McAuliffe
    October 8, 2009

    What would I have done? Written a song about your dog Oscar licking my face. But you’re obviously more original than that. Writing a song about writing a song about ‘lick my face.’ Too much, Tom. You are the Woody Allen of folk music!!

    (Note from Tom: Hmmm…. Would prefer to be known as the “Woody Guthrie of folk music” but I will take it as a compliment, Jon. 🙂 )

  • Neal Braverman
    October 8, 2009

    (Note from Neal to Tom),Hmmm

    Never compare yourself to any other Folk entertainer! You are the one and “Only”, Tom Smith, singer/songwriter that holds this website that is not only about folk music but rather your music takes all of us to so many different area’s of each of our own personal Folk! Thanks for continuing to take us on these incredible musical journey’s and keep the music in your heart coming through to us in whatever format fits them best!!! All the best to you and your family and On the topic of Lick my Face!!! It is a hoot and yet each and every song you have written holds a different and special place within me!!! Thanks for being out there!!!
    Always, Neal Braverman :)))

  • Ellis Ralph
    October 9, 2009

    What a hard worker indeed; shows that art is an artisan not just articulate artifice . . . –Ellis

  • Susan Noble
    October 9, 2009

    Not just a Declaration of Independence but an hysterical act of folkie civil disobedience. The song became more and more clever as it went on. From now on whenever someone annoys me I will at least think “oh lick my face,” if I don’t actually say it out loud. I was crying I was laughing so hard by the end of the song, so I think you did write a song for the world because laughter is so healing.
    Love you and all your music. You are a gift to all of us. Susan

    (Note from Tom: Thank you Susan. One of my fantasies, as I was writing that song, was that I would coin a new phrase. Wouldn’t it be cool if “Lick my Face!” was as common as “Kiss my a**” or “Talk to the hand” or “Sh** happens” etc. We can say exactly where it all started. Some day, I may have a mention in some wikipedia article, or an urban legend of my own. Though I would prefer to be attached to say… “Peace now” or “Have a nice day”, I’ll take what I can get. 🙂 )

  • Walt Eldredge
    October 9, 2009

    This song suggests a strain of counter-conformity in your make-up. I would like to think that I contributed to that in some small way.

    (From Tom to Walt: Hey Walt! Great to hear from you. Yes, you did make a contribution. Counter-conformity? … perhaps. Probably closer to just showing me that I had to think for myself, and that “many drops can turn a wheel, singly none”.

    To others: Walt was sort of a big brother to me in college. I had several of those, each playing valuable roles to help a shy, tentative rural boy navigate the sometimes rough waters of 1960’s Cambridge.

  • Armen Varteressian
    October 9, 2009

    I’m proud of you, Tom. You have come a long way since the Ugly Bug Ball. 🙂

    (Note from Tom: It doesn’t seem so far sometimes, Armen. Good memories.

    To others: Armen is a friend from the days when adding a 4th chord to a song was unusual. He taught me “The Ugly Bug Ball”. You can hear me sing it in a rare recording from 1979. It was a big hit with the Boston University girls. 🙂 )

  • Armen Varteressian
    October 11, 2009

    I am still the proud owner of two copies of the 1979 album “If You Want Any More, You Can Sing it Yourself” (remember albums?). One is signed by Tom and has been well-played many times, especially when our kids were young. The other is still unopened in its original protective wrapping, waiting for the day when it becomes a collector’s item worth thousands of dollars.

    There’s a lovely rendition of “Ugly Bug Ball” on that album, right between “When I First Came to This Land” and “Paddy on the Mass. Pike.”

    Tom, the BU girls would be proud. 🙂

  • Alice Chmil
    October 12, 2009

    I have that album too!!!! but sadly I no longer have a working turntable…

  • Alice Chmil
    October 12, 2009

    I would love to know how the song goes (went?) over at the Vanilla Bean Cafe…

    (Reply from Tom: Hello Alice. The Vanilla Bean Cafe session was fun. The song was a big hit. Everybody in the place sang along and seemed to get a big kick out of it. The other songwriters agreed that the phrase was not really one to inspire great lyrics. Someone from the Rhode Island Songwriters Association was there, and invited me to their songwriter’s session in January. I’ll be able to do it all again, with a new phrase. I hope the audience in Rhode Island will supply something a little more poetic. )

  • Amy Conley
    April 21, 2011

    Hysterical!!!! Thanks for sharing that with us! (regarding Jon’s comment, you are much funnier than Woody Guthrie, I think Woody Allen fits your clever sense of humor!)

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