Like the rest of the world, I am in self-isolation here in the kitchen as the COVID-19 pandemic rages. This month, I reflect on this very strange and scary experience and share some music and a poem. I hope that you are healthy and keeping a safe distance from others to help stop the spread of this terrible virus. Stay the course!
NEW ALBUM SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCHED!
March 27th marked the official launch of my new album Planting in a Drought, new songs of struggle, protest and encouragement. On that date my crowdfunding campaign to promote the album ended at 133% of goal! This project will be successful if listeners are energized to take positive action to make the world and their local communities better. My most immediate concern is to move people to register to vote, and then to use their votes to support candidates who will work for economic, racial and gender equity; take action on climate change and the environment; work for reasonable gun policies; understand that immigrants aren’t our enemies; and leverage our common interests rather than stoke fear and division among us.
I launched phase one of the promotion campaign — radio airplay. In the first week the album was already played on stations in every state of New England, a nationally syndicated radio show based in Chicago, New Mexico and internationally in Israel. I expect more radio airplay in the weeks and months ahead. Phase two is the social media campaign. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I have adjusted my strategy. At the end of April my promotion will focus on songs of encouragement. Then as the national election approaches I will move to songs of struggle and protest.
MANY GIGS CANCELLED
Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, nearly all of my shows through June have been cancelled or rescheduled. As of this writing, my May 17th CD release show at The Burren is still on, but please stay tuned for an update as more information becomes available.
For me, all of these cancelled shows is just a (big) nuisance. Music is my passion, but I don’t need that income to pay my grocery bills. For many of my musician friends, this is disastrous. If there are musicians whom you like, now would be a great time to visit their web sites to purchase their music and other merchandise. Playing their music on streaming services like Spotify and Youtube is good, but only puts a few pennies into their pockets – so do purchase CDs, downloads and merchandise directly from them. Many musicians are also offering special services that they provide remotely — like music lessons, songwriting coaching, live concerts via Facebook, Youtube etc. Please support them.
THIS MONTH’S MUSIC
Two Old Folk Songs and a Poem
“Boobs up!” I was unaware of this expression until about a year ago. At my brother-in-law Rob Ayres’ funeral, his wife Demi called the family into the back room before we were to enter the church. Demi spoke to us extemporaneously and from the heart. We were all very moved and shed some tears. After an exhale, and with a kind of resolve in her voice, she then strongly said “Boobs up!”. After a ripple of much needed laughter among the family, we filed into the front pews of the church.
Curious about the expression, recently I asked Demi where she first heard it. She told me that it was a private message of encouragement to a few faculty and staff from the then female head of the all-girls school where Rob was the business manager. Speaking with others, I have also heard some speculation that it is sometimes used by a local all-female rowing team, especially at launch time.
After a little research, it appears to have its origin as meaning quite the opposite. More colorful variants of that expression were used among common folk to mean out of service, inoperable, dead — especially referring to vehicles or machines. Apparently it is a more vulgar mid-twentieth century version of the expression belly up.
I love that this otherwise negative expression has been reclaimed by some women. Hold your head up! We can do this! I have been hearing it in my mind as we approach what experts tell us will be the greatest impact of the COVID-19 pandemic upon our hospitals and medical professionals. The expression has been a kind of bulwark against the barrage of negative images on television and the Internet — a stabilizing influence to the emotional roller coaster I am currently struggling to control.
As I connect with family, friends, neighbors and even strangers, it is obvious that many others are also struggling to maintain an emotional balance. In my house, we have been in isolation for 30 days so far, with no end in sight. Daily walks in the woods do help. Virtual meet-ups with songwriting friends also pick up my spirits.
Last week, our grandson turned nine years old. He lives only three miles from us, yet we could not attend his birthday party or give him a hug. Instead, we organized a Youtube playlist of greetings from family and friends, which I am told he played and replayed to great delight. Here is Margo and my contribution to the virtual party.
It was a tough job to drink all of that beer and create this finely tuned instrument, but extraordinary times require extraordinary sacrifices.
MAIL MYSELF TO YOU
Last week, my friend Alastair Moock told me about his initiative to support the United Way’s COVID-19 Family Support Fund. His idea was to create a support movement with musicians contributing music videos while in isolation. The response has been terrific, and just today he and the United Way have launched Quarantunes. You can view all of the Quarantunes from over forty great musicians here.
Here is my musical contribution.
“Mail Myself to You” by Woody Guthrie
© Copyright 1962 (renewed) and 1963 (renewed) by Woody Guthrie Publications, Inc. & TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. (BMI)
THE OLD MAN OF THE WOODS
Next week I was scheduled to return to the New England Folk Festival (NEFFA). My good friends Peter Fischman and Deb O’Hanlon and I were to perform a program entitled “Songs of Home.” This would have been the 76th year of the festival, and although I have lost track of the official count, I have appeared in well over half of them! Festival organizers decided to have a kind of virtual festival this year. On the weekend it was to have taken place (April 24 – 26), they will host numerous videos from those who were scheduled to perform. Beginning on that weekend, you can view those videos at the NEFFA web site. Here is my contribution to the virtual festival.
“The Old Man of the Woods” ~ Traditional
COVID-19 (A Poem)
Mixed in with all of the uplifting images of people helping each other through this extraordinary time are feelings of fear, deep sadness and uncertainty. Fortunately for us, my wife and I are managing in relative safety and comfort. This of course is a position of privilege and extreme good fortune. Yet for me (and many others) the pandemic has fueled a kind of emotional storm. Sometimes it helps to write about it and to speak those emotions out loud – like in this poem, which I wrote on a recent sleepless night.
COVID-19 (A Poem)
© 4/9/2020 Tom Smith
Heartache — she embraces me.
This dark companion by my side
That rides the tempest from the sea.
I wade into the flooding tide.
I tally all that’s swept away
And now I value twice as much;
The laughter in a street café,
To walk with others unafraid,
The warmth kindled by human touch.
My neighbor looks into my eyes
Above my home-made masking cloth.
We greet — I see him recognize
The fear my veil can not disguise
Of what may ride upon his cough.
What will be left within the sieve
When this darkness has been drained?
Will it change the way we live?
Will there be kindness left to give
When the light returns again?
Steady on, my friends!
(If so inclined, I invite you to leave a comment by scrolling to the end of this page.)
Click this link to view upcoming shows
Massachusetts United Way COVID-19 Family Support Fund
United Way of Massachusetts “We identify the most pressing issues in our community and we bring together the people we think can solve them. Right now, one of the biggest issues we see facing all of the communities we serve is COVID-19. For workers living paycheck to paycheck and families facing homelessness or other financial pressures, the ripples caused by COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on their lives.
To meet the basic needs of working families affected by the COVID-19 public health emergency, we have established the COVID-19 Family Support Fund .”
Please join me in supporting the Quarantunes initiative of Massachusetts United Way COVID-19 Family Support Fund.