Volkswagen GTI Commercial. For this 1984-85
Volkswagen GTI Commercial, I translated the GTO song to be sung by Rory
Dodd who previously backed up Bonnie Tyler on Total
Eclipse of the Heart, as well as Meatloaf, The Police, Air Supply
and many others. I taught
him how to pronounce it, and he did so, perfectly.
I didn’t get to sing that day because the ad company claimed
that the song wasn’t “German enough” – they wanted something
that sounded guttural. While
Rory was recording the Yeah-Yeah’s, I was sitting in the studio,
adding “R” sounds. I
first saw the finished commercial on the Johnny Carson show, then again
during the Football games. When
I attended a party given for Ravi Shankar, one of the guests told me
that it was his daughter’s favorite commercial.
I didn’t believe him, of course, but he called her in and made
her sing it – in German. I
just searched for the title on the internet.
Someone – probably the producer or someone from the ad agency
– has posted the lyrics, along with the beginnings of a second verse.
That had never been aired. The
person stated “Found the lyrics to this old GTI commercial which is my
favorite gti commercial so I thought I would post them just for fun.”
The commercial itself can be found on U-Tube at
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I’ve been active
singing with Pete Seeger and NJ Friends of Clearwater, both in their
teaching programs, as the Stage Manager of their Annual Festival and as
Co-Coordinator (with Isis Ra) of their monthly Circle of Song in Belmar,
NJ. Many of the songs on
this CD reflect my activities with NJ Friends of Clearwater.
I highly recommend joining them.
They are a great group of people who have their hearts in the
Living in Paradise
was written as a children’s reggae-rap song. Long before rap acquired a
mixed reputation, I loved doing chants.
They give everyone a chance to “sing along” – not only
great singers. Children love
them. Many of my songs were
written with children in mind – all of them are suited for children.
…….God and the River is based on a Native American
to the Sea was written
on a day when we had to cancel a NJF Clearwater teaching event on Sandy
Hook because a storm was brewing. I
was the only one who stayed behind, walking in the storm, pretending
that it was a beautiful day.
Mother Earth is one of my collaborations with my friend, the drummer Isis Ra.
…….It Takes One was inspired by Julia Butterfly Hill’s
book “One Makes the Difference” and also by Pete Seeger, who rarely
passes by candy wrappers, papers, cigarette butts and other nasty things
that people throw in our streets and parks.
It made me get into the habit of carrying plastic bags wherever I
go. The least I can do is
offer to help Pete pick up the litter and carry it.
We live on a beautiful planet.
If everyone did this, it could stay that way or become even more
the River Flow deals
with a small river called “Mehde” in my home town Zeven in Lower
Saxony, Germany. In addition
to the story now told in the song, I had written one more verse about
the time when the local government attempted to straighten the riverbed
to prevent the flooding that happened every spring.
It caused more flooding, and the river has since been returned to
its old bed. So much for
messing with Mother Nature.
written for Mindy Fradkin’s beautiful radio program “The Smile
Revolution” about the healing power of simple sincere smiles.
…….Dear Mr. President is a song written by Gigi
Goldstein. Please check out
“Peace Will Be Ours” under “Visualize Peace !” below, another
Gigi Song. In the not too
distant future, I’ll be releasing twelve songs of hers that I recorded
in the past and played to her before she died.
I also had her original sound recordings cleaned professionally
and will release her songs and comments on a double CD
that will benefit the Ethical Society in Maplewood.
She loved that place and said that it offered her refuge.
Gigi approved of this
recording, but asked me to mention that she used the word “… 21 guns
– the kind that murdered
me” instead of my sanitized version “,,, 21 guns – the kind that
The Morning After was written after some storm before Sandy.
It rings even truer now.
Somewhere in the Middle – Isn’t that where we always find the truth?
And isn’t that the only place where we all can meet?
Planet Earth is a collaboration with Joe Petraitis.
It’s another kind of love song.
Beautiful Planet was written before the 2010 NJ Friends of Clearwater annual Festival.
In the Pete Seeger tradition, I used the folk melody of The
Virgin Mary had one Son, hoping that everyone would be able to sing
along. As it turned out, no
one knew the original song and I had to teach it from scratch anyway,
which turned out to be an easy task.
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…….As the Crow Flies was written by Bob Norman, the former Editor of “Sing Out” Magazine.
Bob would open his home for us once a month, let us eat his food,
while giving us his free
advice on the songs we were working on.
When he became ill and couldn’t do a scheduled performance, we
– Spook Handy, David Massengill, Bob Mecklenburger, myself and others
– offered to help him. To
his surprise, we memorized his songs.
Sadly, we ended up singing the same songs at his Memorial Service
a few months later.
I Am is one of my collaborations with drummer Isis Ra.
She’s been doing many of her song ideas as chants, always
hoping to expand them into songs. Isis
is chanting along with me in this recording.
We Will Have Peace is a 7-language version of this song from my
CD Visualize Peace ! Some
of my friends from many countries (see the “Lyrics” page of this
Website for their names) have helped me translate it into their
languages. When I perform
it, I teach the English version to the audience and ask them to keep
singing it in English. I add
the other languages, stressing that they may sound different, but
we’re singing exactly the same thing at the same time.
This song is fun at NJ Friends of Clearwater’s Festivals.
The signers call what they do “the 8th language.”
River was written by Helga Kaefer who usually writes and
performs Christian songs.
I assume it’s meant to be sung at baptisms..
Think About These Things was inspired by Pastor George E.
Britt. I’ve been attending
his services more or less regularly at Asbury Park’s Allen Chapel AME
(African Methodist Episcopalian) Church.
This particular sermon was based on Paul’s Letter to the
Philippians. I interpret
Paul to be saying “You become what you think– let it be something
Alive was inspired by a dream about my favorite late
Uncle, Otto Lühmann. In the dream, we
stubbornly refused to admit that we couldn’t make contact across the
borders of the realms where we were.
We did manage to touch hands.
What puzzled me most when I awoke was that Uncle Otto was alive
in my dream – I was the one who was dead.
Your Eyes was also inspired by one of Pastor Britt’s sermons.
Feathers is another of Isis’ chants, one she learned
from Ganima, a Native American woman with whom she used to perform.
When Ganima was alive, she told Isis that she was hoping to make
it into a complete song. We
called Dale Lakata to help with the writing and the vocals.
Together, we finished it in less than half an hour.
All three of us had the feeling that Ganima was with us right
then and there.
Hope Road started with an Exit sign on Route 18.,
That’s the road we Jersey Shore residents use when the New
Yorkers tie up “our Parkway.” One
morning I had a little time on my hands and decided to check out what I
might find on a road with such a promising name.
I took notes which turned into this song.
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To John is
a relatively recent recording of my very first song, in its original
version. It was written in
Bob Gibson’s first songwriting workshop in 1974 at the Old Town School
of Folk Music in Chicago. Rich
Warren of WFMT was first to record it then.
I am proud to say that my friend John, after he became the
President of his law firm, did much to improve the working conditions of
his employees. When one of
his children came down with Cancer, he took a year off his job to be
with her. He also took the
time to sail to Europe with two of his children.
The Dark Before the Dawn.
Sometimes I wonder whether Pete Seeger’s song Quite
Early Morning was on my mind when I wrote this song.
I didn’t realize that he created the line “don’t you know
it’s darkest before the dawn” until I translated that song for him.
I recall that I was experimenting with different musical styles
and wanted to sing The Blues.
Peace Will Be Ours was
written by Gigi Goldstein. Fred
Sebastian organized a Concert for Peace at the Maplewood Ethical
Society. Spook Handy and
Gigi also participated in it. I
loved her songs so much that I asked to buy her CDs.
She had none, and she mentioned that she hadn’t even written
down or taped any of her songs. I
offered her to record at my house, not realizing that she was too ill to
do so. Fred finally called
me to tell me that Gigi was in the hospital in Morristown – that all
her songs would be lost if I didn’t get there quickly.
I went and taped 25 on a small tape recorder.
During the weeks that followed, I found more songs in bits and
pieces on my answering device. One
more was given to me by her son at her Memorial Service.
With her permission, I added the verse about singing together and
taking the hands of our neighbors.
a “hit” of sorts with several volunteer organizations.
I strongly believe that, to be happy, we need to find our
“mission in life” and go after it with all that we can.
But even when we know that we’ve found it, it’s still nice to
be acknowledged. I tried to
do that with this song.
Sees God is about one of my heroes:
Sr. Mary Rose McGeady took over Covenant House, a charity
for runaway children and teenagers, after it became riddled by scandals.
She accomplished more for the children with fewer contributions.
The song was written for and played at her retirement party.
…….Find a Way is
a collaboration with Becky Raveson, who co-wrote a number of songs on Love
Matters. We tried for
long to write it as a love song, but that simply didn’t work.
One day it hit me that it should have been a Peace song.
I sheepishly picked up the phone to tell Becky, “You just wrote
a Peace Song.” I wasn’t
sure whether that was what she would have wanted to do.
To my delight, she loved the idea.
…….Alison is a
collaboration with Joe Grant, co-founder of the Canadian Folk band
Tanglefoot. Joe loved this
young singer who covered his hauntingly beautiful song Selkirk
Settler’s Lullaby. He
was devastated when Alison signed up to go to Iraq.
We’re glad to say that she survived and hope that she will be
War No More was written when the Iraq War started.
We Can Change was written just about the same time as the
previous song, while I was traveling in Germany, marveling at the
changes since I left the country.
…….Raise Your Voice is
a collaboration with Pete Seeger and an unknown woman who asked him to
finish her idea about 30 years ago.
I completed the song. Pete
corrected it. In this
recorded version, I am doing half of the song in German.
The complete English lyrics are posted on the “Lyrics” page
of this Website.
…….Where is the Soul. Finally,
we managed to complete a recording of Joe Petraitis’ beautiful song.
I love this song so much that I’ll travel wherever Joe is
performing, so that we can sing it together.
We Will Have Peace. My
father shouted this across the street in Germany during World War II,
before he was arrested for not supporting the War effort.
Fortunately, he didn’t stay in jail long because, by that time,
losing the War to the Allies became a more important issue.
Sometimes we need to put our desires “out there” and let the
Universe take over. Peace
seemed impossible in Germany at the time.
Yet it arrived only a few months later – soon enough for me to
grow up in times of Peace. A
long time ago, while starting an organization for international
students, I learned that most people in all countries want Peace – we
can reach out to them instead of starting Wars.
feel free to download Soon
We Will Have Peace. It
works well as an audience chant because the lyrics are simple and can be
called out before each verse. Feel
free to perform or record it, giving me credit as the writer.
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CD LOVE MATTERS is still
available. It contains
mostly songs I wrote with and for other people, but also a few that I
wrote for myself. The
instrumentation was done by MJL Studios in NYC:
Check the Box! was one of the first rap songs ever written.
I was inspired by my friend Ed Williams, the Urban Poet, who wrote his
poetry about growing up in the Fort Greene, Brooklyn Ghetto and read it
to jazz music. Becky, Brenda and I had a great time collaborating
on this song. It was recorded three times by singers other than
Land of Love was the first song I recorded with Michael
LaGennusa of MJL Sound. It was co-written with Joe Ford, who now
makes his living as a producer. When Joe sang it, it sounded much
like a Peter Gabriel song. My version may not be what he had in
mind, but here it is anyway.
The Real Thing was written the day Wilburt Russell was
buried. He was Asbury Park's City Manager, one of the major forces
for turning that City around.
Ticket to Knoxville is based on a true story told to me
by my Tennessee Aunt Hilda: My Dad's Mom went to the U.S. around
the turn of the last century, together with a girl friend. She was
rejected at Ellis Island because of an eye problem and had to return to
Germany, where she married her girl friend's brother. I never knew
my grandparents, but when I went to the U.S., I searched for the
mysterious person who had sent Care Packages to my family after World
War II. That’s how I
found Hilda. She visited me in New York and our family in Germany.
But I was in debt and had an awful job - I didn't dare to go and
visit her. I lost the job anyway. When I called, her phone was
disconnected. Twenty years later, I went to Nashville, a place
where she had always wanted to take me, and I drove from there to
Knoxville, talked to her neighbors and saw her house – actually it was
a baby-blue-and-white trailer in a trailer park. (Does that
qualify me to write Country Music, or what?) If you're related to
Hilda Barth of Concord, TN, would you please contact me because we're
family. If you were her friend, I'd also love to hear from you.
The neighbors told me she died suddenly after breaking her hip.
Don't Give Up On Love was written for Didi, Rere and Paul - you
know who you are. And also for myself. The fact that divorce
has become more common doesn't make it easier for the kids – and for
the grownups too – my Dad didn’t survive it when I was taken from
Too Soon was written for the funeral of Tony Miranda, my friend
Hilda's brother (no relationship to Hilda’s House, which was named
after my Aunt Hilda Barth). Tony was always “there” for us,
ready to help whenever we needed him. He became the innocent
victim of a violent mugging that caused his death two years later.
I was honored that his family translated my song into Spanish.
When I was writing it, I was also reminded of the victims of September
11, of my best friend Harvey who died of AIDS and of my Dad, who died
when I was twelve.
song Love Matters is
about a real person named Kathy who teaches in a vocational school in
Newark, N.J. and has better results there than most of the teachers in
the affluent suburbs nearby - I know she isn't doing it for the money.
Chrome, Crystal and Glass, a 1980s rewrite of my very first song
written during Bob Gibson's first songwriting workshop at the Old Town
School of Folk Music in Chicago. For those who don't know Bob, he
was the forerunner of the folk wave of the '60s. When he dropped
out, his manager took on Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary,
among others. I remember how I first sang this song in Bob's
class: I was so nervous that no one could hear me. I
couldn't believe my ears when Bob said, "That was beautiful – can
we please hear it again? It went better the second time, and after
that Bob took me to record it to Rich Warren at WFMT, a local radio
station to record it.
TRIBUTE TO THE WORLD TRADE CENTER:
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My CD TRIBUTE TO THE WORLD
TRADE CENTER (and the Video POETRY
IN STONE) are still
available (please see "Contact" for ordering information).
I am presently giving all proceeds to Covenant House in NYC.
The first song, We Will Always Remember You,
was written in memory of Michael LaGennusa’s friend Harry Ramos who,
according to the Asbury Park Press, was "last seen on the 42nd
floor helping someone." He wasn't a fire fighter or police
person on duty. He simply represents the spirit that this country
POETRY IN STONE:
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song Poetry in Stone celebrates
the beauty of the World Trade Center before September 11. For many
years, I have been selling my photographs of the buildings – I
truly loved them – and I used these photographs to produce the
Video for Poetry
in Stone, showing them
only in their perfect condition and honoring the Missing by name.
BIOGRAPHIES THAT ARE FORTHCOMING
the help of Neil O’Connor, a historian with whom I was teamed up at
Brookdale College, I am also working on several biographical and
autobiographical works and a CD dealing with German History.
Some of the CD’s song lyrics are included on the “Lyrics”
page of this Website.
made the discovery that my father had been a resistor who helped some
people escape from Germany and who later worked for the Allies, which
made me want to know much more about my family’s history.
In my autobiographical work, I am also including material about
my relatives and about growing up in post-War Germany and living with
its realities, like the Berlin Wall.
photographic biographies are about my mother’s second husband who was
one of the early SS bodyguards, a photographer whose work I inherited.
We are piecing together much about the everyday life of a guard
and soldier as well as a supply officer during World War II.
We are including diaries and original letters, even a story he
taped for me of how he visited a gay cousin, who managed to survive in
hiding in Prague by marrying a Jewish woman, only to be killed by the
Soviets on a rampage against everything German.
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