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Song of the Month #28 - “Simplify”

(Track #6 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 "Simplify."  You can listen to it for free (not available outside the USA).

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


Going blind at the age of sixteen made me very aware of the limitations I was destined to confront throughout the rest of my life.  Contending with these restrictions has been very difficult, and although my world is far less frustrating now, I still deal with many annoying situations every day.  For me, as with most people who are forced into some kind of confinement, the key to survival has been learning to adapt.  I have done this by developing some basic philosophies to help me cope with my struggles, and one of the key ideas I have integrated into my life is to live as simply as possible.  I came to this conclusion somewhat intuitively, and my instincts were reinforced when I started reading the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman.


The transcendental writers, a term often used when referring to Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman, were not authors who weaved intricate plots into novels filled with suspense.  More accurately, they were artists who embedded thoughtful philosophies into their poems and essays.  Readers of their works tend to seek inspiration and guidance from their writings rather than entertainment.  I became one of their disciples during my college years, and I have incorporated many of their ideas into my own personal philosophy.  Of their many beliefs, realizing the importance of each individual, living in the present, simplifying life, and acquiescing to whatever happens are the concepts that have been assimilated into my soul.  These notions have greatly assisted me in adjusting to my limitations, and they continue to do so every day.


In addition to assisting me with my own personal struggles, the transcendental writers helped me be a better teacher and musician.  Their ideas inadvertently coaxed me into seeking out the beauty and importance of each individual kid, kept me focused better in the classroom, assisted me in creating fewer distractions to take me away from teaching, and gave me the ability to bounce back whenever I experienced rejection.  Regarding my music, I have always tried to reach each person in the audience, stay focused on the music when I am performing, keep the ideas simple, and flow with the defeats that are eminent in the world of music.


Well, one day when I was on our front porch having one of my meditative sessions with God, Henry, Ralph, Walt, and a few other gurus I rely on for guidance, my thoughts returned to one of my favorite maxims of Thoreau’s, “Simplify, simplify.”  Most likely, my thoughts focused on this saying because life was getting a little too complex for me, and a reassertion of my focus on simplicity was necessary.  Unexpectedly, in the midst of repeating Thoreau’s adage to myself, the chorus of “Simplify” evolved.  I loved it, and I kept repeating it over and over again.  Unfortunately, I had a great chorus, but no verses to go with it.  Here is what happened.


One of the most satisfying experiences for me as a teacher has been meeting up with students who have found their niche after going through a great deal of struggle.  Usually, these students go through a process of rejecting what others want them to do in order to discover where they really want to be.  For some, they find their place by the end of high school, but for most, their role usually does not emerge until several years later.  Having watched many students face this scenario, I composed a little fictitious story about an intelligent young woman who is leading a very successful life.  Despite all her success, however, she is not happy, and she changes her life after being haunted by the words of Henry David Thoreau.


“Simplify,” pure Americana, is an exhilarating upbeat folk ballad.  It reminds the listener to follow his or her heart when looking for direction, and obviously, it suggests a great deal of comfort and satisfaction will be gained by simplifying life.  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.  Pay attention to Siobhan’s bass in this one, especially during the instrumental break!  The main character goes through a major transformation, and Siobhan’s bass playing accents the change beautifully.  Pop this one in your CD player when you are not satisfied with what you are doing with your life.  It will encourage you to listen more closely to your heart for direction, and it will definitely suggest living a simpler life is the way to go.  Hope you have time to check out the song!  I like it, and I hope you do, too!


I dedicated this song to all my students who have chosen to follow their hearts.  For a few, this was not a difficult thing to do, but for most, the journey was a major struggle.  Those who had to work hard to satisfy their souls often had to resist pressure brought on by peers who encouraged them to go down a contrary path, contend with an educational system that was not compatible with their learning styles, and fight against opposing parental expectations.  When these difficult battles were won, a comfortable and happy person emerged.  I run into many of these satisfied people around town, and I correspond with many of them who are spread around the globe.  As a teacher of English, I do not know how much I contributed to their success, but I know I did my best to get them to listen to their souls whenever they were looking for direction.  For me, reading the perfect essay was nice, but true satisfaction always came whenever I discovered one of my students had found his or her niche.


This song was inspired by Henry David Thoreau.  I was introduced to Henry back in high school, but I did not truly embrace him and his philosophies until I got to college.  In addition to helping me cope with being visually impaired, he has played a major role in contributing to my success as a teacher and musician.  I still turn to him for guidance, and he never seems to let me down.  I am truly grateful to him for inspiring this song, and I only hope one of his other maxims stirs the writing of another one.  I love being able to keep his ideas alive!  Thanks, Henry!  I look forward to meeting up with you again during one of my reflective thinking sessions on my front porch!


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 7/18/09)





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