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Song of the Month #25 - “The Road Less Traveled”

(Track #3 on The Road Less Traveled CD)

 

RLT Album Cover                              Lyrics:  If your web browser does not support the Flash Player* included with the Lyrics, or you are uncomfortable allowing/downloading the plug-in/add-on, you can still listen to this song while you read.  Just go to our Downloads Page and click on the link, “Buy The Road Less Traveled Songs from Napster”.  Then, click on "The Road Less Traveled."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

                                                               *Not being a techie, I use the term “Flash Player” loosely.

 

There are many roads to travel, and the one I have taken is somewhat unconventional.  It is neither a good road nor a bad road.  It is just a road, and each day my soul confirms it is the road for me to be traveling.  In my reflective moments I occasionally try to determine what influenced this odd journey, and my conclusions have varied very little over the years.

 

First of all, there is no getting around it.  Going blind at the age of sixteen played a major roll in shaping the path I have chosen.  The suddenness of losing my sight threw me into a physical and emotional isolation that still continues today.  However, this separation, while initially being a lonely experience, is now a welcomed one.  Being detached from the mainstream allows me to assess my options more carefully and choose directions more suitable for me, resulting in a contented life being affected very little by peer pressure.

 

My chosen direction was more firmly established when literature came into my life.  Thanks to Gordon Fyhr, a rather eccentric English teacher at my local high school, I drifted into reading, primarily American literature.  Reading Twain, Steinbeck, Frost, and a myriad of other American writers really excited me.  In many cases, their writings illustrated characters who were isolated from the rest of society.  I latched on to characters like Huck Finn and Tom Joad because, in a way, I was just like them.  Although our stories were different, our positions in society were the same.  We were on the outside looking in.  As I discovered more and more of these characters, I became more and more comfortable with being different because I realized it created a freedom which allowed me, with fewer self-doubts, to take a more unconventional road.

 

I picked up the guitar in 1970, and although I didn’t realize it then, this activity would become one of the major influences of my life’s journey.  I figured I would be like most college students.  I would play the guitar for a couple of years, and then it would wind up in the closet, and eventually I would give it to one of my kids.  Well, that scenario never materialized.  Instead, the guitar became another one of my appendages because it gave me so much solace and satisfaction.  With it, I participated in many small informal jam sessions, played numerous gigs, created lesson plans for my English classes, and wrote and recorded songs.  All these activities created such emotional highs that I kept returning to them, and as a result, they significantly contributed to putting me on a trip that was far off the beaten path.

 

Well, there aren’t too many women who would be turned on by a blind, alienated singer/ songwriter, and I don’t blame them.  My hat is off to all the wonderful women who have been part of my life, and I thank them for being them.  Spending time with them let me clarify for me what kind of woman would be comfortable on the path I was traveling.  I came to the realization that this woman would have to be someone who was also detached from the mainstream and not interested in an ordinary life.  Truly, I didn’t think she was out there, and then Siobhan came along and changed all that.  Our values naturally blended, and together we started an unconventional trip that is constantly being refined and redirected every day.

 

So, now that you know what factors affected the development of “The Road Less Traveled,” it is time to find out what triggered its writing.  Here is how it happened.  One summer morning, I was sitting on our front porch listening to the local oldies station.  When Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” came on, I thought of Steve Kello, one of my fraternity brothers from college.  Steve fell in love with Pat, a woman who was going to school in Florida, and he would quite often take long weekend road trips from New York to Florida to see her.  When he was around our fraternity house, he would constantly blast “Maggie May,” a hit song reflecting his emotions at the time.  To this very day, whenever I hear the song, I think of him and his cool storybook romance.  He married Pat right after we graduated, and it was great to see they were still together when I saw them at our thirty-fifth class reunion.

 

As I sat thinking about Steve and Pat and the spring of 1973, the year we all graduated from college, I thought of several other friends who were also planning their weddings at the time.  While most of them went off to start new jobs, marriages, and eventually families, I headed down the road to become an English teacher and a songwriter.  In the midst of this reflective moment, the opening lyrics to “The Road less Traveled” surfaced, and it did not take very long for the rest of the song to unfold.  I simply told the story of what happened to me as I headed down the road after leaving college.  Because a wife and family did not come along for me, the songs I wrote became my children.  When I met Siobhan, we wrote more songs, and created a bigger family.  This family, as described in the final verse of the song, will be the legacy we leave behind.

 

After I constructed the verses of this rather unorthodox journey, I realized I needed a chorus to reinforce it.  The spirit of Robert Frost must have entered my writing room because “The Road Not Taken,” one of his best known poems, jumped right out at me.  I incorporated the theme of his poem into the chorus of my song, and another song was completed.

 

“The Road Less Traveled” is pure Americana.  It is a soft sensitive folk ballad describing an unusual journey.  The song asserts that there are many ways to go through life, and it encourages the listener to assess his or her own path.  By the request of many, Siobhan and I recorded this song without the help of any studio musicians.  In addition to our basic sound of the guitar, harmonica, vocals, and bass, I gave the recording some depth by dubbing in some additional harmonies, an electric guitar, and blending harmonicas.  Pop this one in your CD player if you are searching for direction.  If you feel you are headed down a road that is not for you, the song just might be the catalyst that persuades you to make some changes.  Hope you have time to check out the song!  I like it, and I hope you do, too!

 

I dedicated this song to our “children,” the music that has come from our hearts and souls.  As the journey for Siobhan and me unfolded, we discovered neither of us wanted to have children.  Yes, I know this sounds strange, but it is the truth, and that is all I can tell you.  It just did not feel right for us.  On the other hand, we really enjoyed the students who were in our classes, and during our stint as teachers, we met many terrific kids who more than satisfied any parenting needs we may have had.  In addition to our students, our songs are also the children we never had.  We create, refine, and release them into society to impact the lives of others.  They will be the legacy we leave behind.  Like most parents, we are doing the best we can with our “children,” and we are hoping they meet with success.

 

“The Road Less Traveled” was inspired by Robert Frost.  I truly believe his spirit entered my writing room when I was searching for the chorus.  He, along with several other writers, inspired me at a time when I really needed some encouragement.  He validated that it was OK to be different, and this put me on a path where I know I belong.  My hat is off to him and all the other great writers who have brought me to where I am today.

 

We recorded this song in 2008 at Rich Cooley Studios, a little studio in Canandaigua, New York.  Rich Cooley Studios is owned and operated by Rich Cooley, an excellent singer/songwriter, music teacher, and recording engineer.  When you record with Rich, you can always count on him for a relaxed recording session with a genuine and sincere effort to produce the best recording possible.  I highly recommend Rich if you are interested in doing some recording on a small scale level.  Rich is most comfortable when he is recording a solo artist or a duo.  Check him out if this is what you need!

 

Well, there you have it.  I’ll have another song of the month for you next month.  If you have any comments or suggestions, please pass them on to me.  This is a work in progress, and I am always looking for new ways to improve it.

 

(E-Mailed 4/18/09)

 

 

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