Entertainment, Friendship, Music

It’s Only Words…

Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers' Songbook (Vol. 1)I’ve written several posts about my rather schizophrenic musical tastes, and how, even as a child of the 1960’s, I never owned a Beatles album (or even a 45!) until after I got married and Mr. Right gave one to me as a gift.  My early childhood  (mid-to-late 1950s) was spent mostly in Nigeria, sometimes in places with no electricity, and our musical entertainment was limited to whatever was on the BBC World Service radio programs, or what (vinyl) records we had that we could play on the old blue wind-up gramophone.  (Pro tip 1: Don’t overwind it.  Pro tip 2: Don’t underwind it.  It was the Goldilocks and the Three Bears of wind-up gramophones.  If you gave it too much stick it would spin around at double speed, and if you didn’t give it enough, it would gradually slow down and stop, about half-way through.  It had to be just right, or it wouldn’t work at all.)  Many of our records were borrowed from the Officers’ Club, and so I suffered through the likes of Victor Sylvester (slow, slow, quick, quick slow!) and Guy Lombardo (Mother used to call him Guy Lumbago) on the instrumental front, and enjoyed a transcontinental selection of male and female singers and groups on the vocal, together with a few kids’ records we’d brought with us from the UK (Burl Ives, Danny Kaye, Flanagan and Allan, Nellie the Elephant, The Teddy Bears’ Picnic, and so on).  Almost none of if was from the emerging “pop” scene, and it wasn’t until I moved permanently to the States in 1966 that I became even vaguely aware of the genre.

And still, other than a decades-long affection for fairly traditional “country” music which developed in the early 1970s, not very much of it ‘stuck,’ and all these years later I find myself remembering well the music of my early years, and much less so the contemporary crooners of my high school and college days.

And then there were the Brothers Gibb.  You really couldn’t avoid them.  Even I couldn’t avoid them.  They were a writing and performing juggernaut, and they dominated the airwaves for years, particularly during the disco-crazed late 1970s.  (Somewhere in there, maybe 1979 or so, I took a refresher for my Red Cross Cardiac Life Support certification, and found I couldn’t even escape them there–Stayin’ Alive had been recognized as having exactly the right “beat” and timing to use as the benchmark for CPR, so we were instructed to hum it as we thumped away.  (The Brits use Nellie the Elephant, a song it can still be reliably assumed, I think, that every little British child learned at his or her mother’s knee) for the same purpose.)

But I digress.  Imagine my surprise.  Back to the Brothers Gibb.

During my youth, I never owned a BeeGees album either.  But that might be about to change, at least as regards the remaining BeeGee, the oldest and only still-living brother, Barry Gibb, he of the fabulous song-writing chops and the eerie falsetto.

His luxurious mane is looking a bit moth-eaten these days, and he’s put on a few (quite a few) pounds, but he’s kept on keeping on all these years, and has today released Greenfields, an album of BeeGees’ songs recorded in Nashville, in collaboration with a fine group of country singers.  Apparently, Barry is a bit of a fanboy.  Now that album, I will drink to! And perhaps buy.

Some of the songs are given a bit of a country twang, and the star power is considerable and includes Alison Krauss (she of the angelic voice), Sheryl Crow (a bit problematic, but she does good work here), Keith Urban (like Barry, a man with Australia in his background), Olivia Newton-John (Oz, again), and two of my personal faves, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings (she’s on the Oh Brother, Where art Thou soundtrack, and I just love this song of theirs from several years ago):

The song from Greenfields that’s getting the most press at the moment, though, is a 1967 BeeGees number on which Barry Gibb collaborates with Dolly Parton.

I’ve always liked Dolly Parton, although I don’t always like her music.  But she’s a rare bird in the entertainment world; someone about whom it seems almost no-one has a bad word to say, and someone who’s done a great deal of charitable good without a lot of fanfare and fuss.  I’m not a big fan of her strenuous attempts to defy gravity or of her not-always-felicitous (IMHO) attempts to defy the ravages of old age, but I gotta love a woman who looks me in the eye, gives me that big, dimply smile, and says “It takes a lot of time and money to look this cheap, honey,” and then giggles a sound like a squeaky oil can that makes me smile too.

Dolly and Barry join forces for Words, a 1967 megahit (one of their earliest) for the group, of which the one of the twin Gibb brothers, Robin, said:

‘Words’ reflects a mood, It was written after an argument. Barry had been arguing with someone, I had been arguing with someone, and happened to be in the same mood. [The arguments were] about absolutely nothing. They were just words. That is what the song is all about; words can make you happy or words can make you sad.

They can, indeed.  They can life you up, and they can bring you down.  We should be careful with them.

Even I remember Words, which I thought was a lovely song at the time, and I like this rendition of it in spite of, or perhaps because of, the increasing frailty in both of their voices.

The song was a great favorite of a dear friend of mine who passed away decades ago.  He loved the BeeGees, Dolly Parton, and Words. For him, this track would have been a musical trifecta.

I hope that today it’s playing in a continuous loop for him on the celestial jukebox.



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