Thursday, November 19, 2009

Songwriting Journal - Passion

The process of songwriting, for me, comes from a place of interpersonal exploration. Little moments with loved ones, whether frustrating or inspiring, an enticing string of words in conversation or movies or books, old memories that want to be explored – these are the things that catch a tune in my head and morph into songs. As the writing process goes along, the songs take on their own unique character and point of view, eventually bearing little resemblance to the point of inspiration, which still remains, but only as a shadow in the background.
The original inspiration for the song Passion is taken directly from conversations with my mother. I can, on occasion, be heard whining about growing up in a non-artistic household. True, there was appreciation of the arts, but since neither of my parents had artistic leanings, at least none that they acted on, they encouraged me in areas within their comfort zone (academics, athletics), and I was left to sort out the rest for myself. My efforts on stage did not go unnoticed - my father was known to swell with pride following one of my performances at school. And, I am certain that my mother did all the things moms do to support their kids in their activities, driving to and fro, buying costumes and uniforms, etc. But when it came down to it, my mother looked upon me as some sort of oddity, something outside the norm; a puzzle she knew existed but had no clue how to solve.
I think my mother was actually concerned about my path in life, and perhaps with good reason. Lawd knows show business ain’t easy. More than once she pointed out how my focus on performing arts was making my life more difficult than it need be. If only I could set aside this drive, this passion of mine, then I might have a chance at a normal and easier life. But I am who I am, and even after having children, which provided some common ground for the two of us, my work continued, and I could sense the cluck of her concern in every conversation.
My mom was certain that my drive, my passion was unique, but I disagree. I think everyone has a passion. It may involve career, a relationship, a hobby, an addiction, watching TV, or a behavior pattern that feeds some deep seated need – but we all have something. We all have a passion. So, that’s what the song Passion is about, the thing that blows you skirts up, or gets your juices flowing. Very often at live shows I’ll ask if anyone is brave enough to share his or her passion. One night, a fun lady I know announced to the room that her passion is belly dancing. So, there you have it – this song is about belly dancing, or whatever it is that lights your fire.

© cheryl fare 2007

You have a passion, she said, you have a drive
But she made it sound like something dirty,
something I should hide
You have a passion, she said, well don’t we all?
To build, to eat, to breathe, to learn
Or do nothing much at all

Hmmm I think about it all the time
Hmmm I dream about it all the time
I can’t put it down, and I can’t make it fit
No matter what I do, there’s just no cure for it
Must be a passion

What is it you crave? Can you give it a name?
Does it bloom into love, or curl back into pain?
Do you use it to heal, or just cover up
the hole in your heart that never gets enough?

You have a passion, uh-huh, you have a drive
The devil voice that calls you home,
Or the angel by your side.
You have a passion, uh-huh, well don’t we all?
To build, to eat, to breathe, to learn
Or do nothing much at all

Hmmm you think about it all the time
Hmmm you dream about it all the time
you can’t put it down, and you can’t make it fit
No matter what you do, there’s just no cure for it
Must be a passion, Just a harmless passion
A yen, an itch, a passion, I can quit when I want - passion
We all got one – passion, Can’t put it down – passion
Can’t make it fit – passion, It’s just a little passion

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beyond Brain Tumors

This week, I had the privilege of speaking at a healing service at my home church, along with my daughter Denise, age 16, a 10-year brain tumor survivor. I truly believe that our children are our finest teachers, especially those who face uncommon challenges. Denise has agreed to allow me to share her written remarks from the service with you here. Enjoy:
“Now and then we hear a story of how positive thinking and a good attitude can help cancer patients live longer. That optimism can keep us healthier and even extend our life span. Well, though some of us may believe differently, this idea is very much true. When we feel happy, we are happy towards everything and everybody. But when the bad feelings; fear, loneliness, or doubt set in we consume them. They influence our thoughts and our actions. If we let these feelings of fear take over our whole body they have the power make us sick. If I had put my fear first in front of hope and love, many years ago I wouldn’t be here.
When I was six years old I was diagnosed with a brain tumor called “craniopharyngioma”. This tumor was large and growing fast. The first time it was MRI-ed it was approximately bigger than the size of a golf ball. I was scared, sure. The morning of my first surgery I woke up and found myself tangled in my bed sheets and on the opposite side of the bed flat against the wall. I felt scared, mainly because of the things I didn’t know. What could and would happen. But I kept going through after the first surgery and then a second, and MRI’s and IVs. After the end of the second surgery I went to MCV hospital for 5 days a week for radiation. Every school day I left early, to go and get the pieces of killer cells “zapped” out of my head. Those last few remaining pieces of fear.
The thing that helped me a lot were the people that wanted to help me, to see me get through. Every day going to the hospital I would have a friend to ride in the car with, people I really loved. We would read books and share stories and often I would get little gifts J, so I walked into Radiation Oncology, Level B feeling happy. The process was long, tedious and intense. Most patients will completely lose their hair, but I didn’t. This was unexpected, and made me really happy. And that’s where I remember that I began to feel the confidence that I would be all right. And the fear began to go.
I feel that same confidence now. It’s only become a stronger part of me over the last ten years. Along with the help of the people, and surgeons and family, my confidence steadily grew, and I was cured. I cured me. I am ready to take on my challenges in life because I don’t think my small certain disadvantages can stand in my way. My only hope is that my family can fully see this in me the way I do. I want to go to college in less than two years and I know I can do it. No past can block my future - because I cured me. And knowing that, I can get through anything, anything else.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Uppity Blues Women

Saffire, the Uppity Blues Women recently gave their final farewell concert as a group, in their hometown of Fredericksburg, VA – and I got to go! The show was held on the University of Mary Washington campus, which provided me with a trip down memory lane, since I spent 4 years studying there when it was still called a college. Although a stately college auditorium is an odd fit for blues concert, the ladies of Saffire seemed quite at home playing for a full house of friends and fans from near and far, supporters from their 25 year history, and luminaries of the blues world. In the course of the evening, the tremendous trio was showered with accolades, bouquets of flowers and thundering rounds of well-earned applause.

Over the past quarter century, Ann Rabson, Gaye Adegbalola, and Andra Faye have taken Saffire from a largely local group in Central Virginia, to an internationally respected cornerstone of acoustic blues. Their impressive talents were all in fine form on Saturday night, all three showing off their abilities on multiple instruments, as vocalists and songwriters, and performers extraordinaire. The music was naughty and raucous, at times gentle and poignant, and touched on themes ranging from domestic abuse, to odes the generous attributes of the band members, and powerful anthems of pride and power. By far the greatest achievement of Saffire seems to be not only a deep musical catalogue in acoustic blues, but also the overreaching theme of empowerment that inhabits all their work. As their songs celebrate the empowerment of women, victims of domestic abuse, people of color, homosexuals, so they empower us all through the cleansing process of enlightenment. As they go on to other musical pursuits, I hope to catch each of the Saffire ladies playing their individual brands of joyfully naughty and Uppity music.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Time to Speak Out About Domestic Abuse

I had the pleasure of performing this past weekend in a benefit concert for Safe Harbor, a domestic abuse shelter and service organization in Central Virginia. Initially, I was lukewarm about the event, not because of the gig itself, but because finances (or lack thereof) had forced me to pass up on a theatre reunion kinda thing at my grad school alma mater. So, with a pout firmly in place, I said yes to the benefit gig, and even agreed to attend a rehearsal or two, since I was going to be around anyway. As things got closer, and I took the time to plug into the cause promoted by the show, it became more and more clear to me why participation was not only meaningful for me, but has become a catalyst for me to step out on an issue very near and dear to my heart.

I have always had plans on the back burner to take action, speak up, find a way to do more than write a couple of songs about the abuse us humans visit on each other. The kind of abusive behavior I have the most experience with is the yelling, name-calling, ridiculing, controlling kind. It’s a sneaky kind of thing. It doesn’t leave any scars on the outside, but you can spend a lifetime trying to run down and heal the internal damage. In some ways, I think that the walking wounded find their way to each other, no matter what kind of abuse they have suffered, or whether they talk about it openly. Over the years I seem to have collected a great number of lovely souls with abuse stories as friends. Both men and women, it seems we strive to say the right thing for a loved one who has rarely heard a kind word, be the shelter for a moment’s peace, or solace in helping each other find an authentic way to stand in our own truth.

Themes of release and healing have surfaced repeatedly in my writing, whether intentional on my part or not. No doubt I will circle back around related ideas in the future, but for now, I’m looking for something a little more tangible. Following the concert for Safe Harbor, I dialed up their website, and filled out a volunteer application form. How I will find time for this, I don’t know, as my life is already well populated with issues and causes. But, the time feels right for me to step out on this issue, and I look forward to whatever opportunities come my way.

To learn more about Safe Harbor and their crusade against domestic abuse, go to: