I was once asked if men kept journals anymore and if I was one of them. A simple question that I could only half-answer because I couldn’t speak for other guys. I used to, during my Jr. and early High School years. It was fun at first, but then became somewhat of a burden, forcing me to recall highlights of the day’s events and scribble them down with my awful physician’s penmanship in my composition book. Many times I elected to omit certain things in fear of it being discovered by someone someday. But then again, that’s the risk we all take.
Then something happened. Looking back over thoughts and feelings that I’d recorded over past weeks, I discovered a strange similarity. The songs I had written during that time period had expressed my heart’s most impactful moments much better than the historical data in my daily entries. My songs had color, passion, relativity and most important, LIFE. My songs evoked feelings in a way that EOD recaps never could. I’d been writing songs (beginning as poetry) as far back as my first creation, titled “The Sky” at age 8. And unlike my journal time, I looked forward to the challenge of converting my experiences and feelings to lyrics that both rhymed and maintained the cadence created in the first verse.
So I stopped (the journal).
In fact, outside of reading through old memories and giving them new life in a poem or song, I stopped using my journal entirely. And it felt good. In fact, it felt timely. You see I was at that point in life where my attraction to girls was powerful and could be observed in everything I said and did.
Being so conscientious about what others (particularly females) thought of me brought about a serious change in my conversation, my dress attire and everything else I thought they would notice. So naturally, my behavior created experiences of note that found their way onto that college-rule paper I thought was so cool (GONE were the days of ye, o cursed Wide-Rule paper). Then finally to my typewriter after I’d decided that it was good enough for permanency.
So I wrote and I shared. I left my works in girls’ lockers. I handed them to them personally. I snuck them into their backpacks and books, anonymously, even though they all knew it was me. I read or recited them in the lunch room (yeah, I got bold with it in college), I read them during the Writer’s Club meetings and Speech class and competitions.
And I sang them with my groups.
My life became an open book for all to read and hear.
And it felt good.
As time passed, my work migrated from school folders to sheet protectors in a massive, D-Ring binder in alphabetical order, showing the name, date, time of completion and sometimes conversations (listed at the bottom) had between myself and another collaborator, those 7 or 8 times that I used one.
They became a collection of works called “Like, Lust, Love and Loss”, my position on the world and my personal, romantic involvement within. Some songs were written on behalf of women and what they’d experienced, including advances, rejections, misdirection and sadly, even “forced” affection (date-rape in a 1991 song I wrote titled, “Don’t Touch Me”).
I could explain each subject, but it couldn’t be more self-explanatory than the four “L” words I used.
Some songs were written as jokes, some about dancing (so you have your dance tunes), some about gospel or my promises to my yet-to-be-born children. You name it, I wrote it, but most were ballads…
…about my heart.
If you actually took the time to read them all (only 3 people have asked and I’ve allowed it), you’d truly know everything I felt about matters of the heart and life in general. Life, in all of its madness. You would then truly know ME.
And what is Life anyway, if not an unplanned imbalance of imperfect, uneventful, unbelievable, immemorable and/or incredible experiences? Whew! Say THAT 3 times, as fast as you can. I know, I know. “Kenny, you think up some really odd stuff, dude.” That I do…
But honestly speaking, isn’t that what it’s all about? An existence of events, spanning from womb to tomb, that you either can’t wait to tell the world, choose to keep to yourself or flat-out wish never happened or can be eventually forgotten; albeit romance, finance, “take a chance” or “let’s dance”.
So I wrote about it. Some of it was sold to music groups. Some of it was performed.
And it felt good.
In fact, my son, the up and coming rapper that he is, has used some of it in his songs.
(Although the poetry began in 1975) I’ve written over 300 songs from 1981 until I went on musical hiatus in 2004. I’ll be submitting the entire package as one collective work for registration and copyright this year. You already know the title, “Like, Love, Lust &Loss”.
My work includes the following (for the record, I don’t like much of my work, which is funny because the ones I hate the most have been received the greatest by others). Here are a few song titles (by category) to give you a feel for what I’ve created, why and how:
- “Love Her Like She’s Mine” (1984)
- “I Wanna Be More” (1983)
- “Smile For Me” (1986)
- “Talk To You” (1994) – One of my favorites.
- “Make Love To My Mind” (1996) – Currently being rewritten.
- “Girl Behind The Counter” (1996) – There was this checkout girl (no, I didn’t say or do anything…)
- “As The River Flows” (1995)
- “Beads” (1993) – Another personal favorite and quite dangerous.
- “Slippery When Wet” (1997)
- “Unwrap My Love” 1986 – Merry Sexmas! lol
- “If You Would” (1994) – A proposal song.
- “Too Young To Fall In Love” (1986) – About my first heartbreak.
- “I Adore” (1989) – One of the few I actually love.
- “The Softest Whisper” (1994) – Written for recording artist Chante’ Moore to hopefully someday record and perform.
- “The Sounds Of Love” (The Softest Whisper, Pt. II) (1994) – Also for Chante’ Moore.
- “Silly In Love” (1996) – Another personal favorite.
- “After Dawn” (1986) – Another song about my first heartbreak. And one of my most powerful songs.
- “I Wanted So Much” (1998) – My second heartbreak.
- “How Dare You?” (1996)
- “By The Time You Read This (I’ll Be Gone)” (1988)
Yeah, this is my life.
Well, I’m writing again and this time, it’s for real. I’m in the process of gathering a ragtag bunch of musicians like myself who have long since given up on the dream of being posters on teenage girls’ walls and featured in BET’s Video Soul “Top 20” Music Countdown. We’re no longer interested in the limelight. We just wanna have fun. I’ll write more about the group later, but I’m one of the back-up singers (I don’t want to sing lead, despite their insistence) who will also play soprano/alto/bari sax (in a full horn section – I only have my alto right now). I’ll also be playing chromatic harmonica and auxiliary percussion. We’ll cover a lot of old school R&B, but mostly funk, hence the name “FPS” (Funk Preservation Society). Yes, there will be some EWF and Luther because it’s my group and I call the shots! But the people I’ve gathered so far are down with it. Like me, they just wanna play and have a good time, doing what we’re all passionate about. Our first original pieces are going to be a song I wrote back in 1995 called “Nobody To Me” and another I wrote for a group almost 20 years ago called, “Make Up Your Mind”. I’m also going to FINALLY put one of my absolute favorites to music. It’s a 1993 piece called, “I’d Rather Be”, about choosing to sacrifice a chance at uncertain love in order to protect and preserve a guaranteed, undeniably powerful and long-lasting friendship, which I have done a few times.
So yeah, the sax is feeling my fingers and lips again.
And yeah, I’m writing again; taking advantage of technology and using apps like “Songwriter”.
I’m even about to start classical guitar lessons to help me write the words and music simultaneously (in the past, for some reason I preferred writing the music to match the already-completed lyrics). Annnnnd believe it or not, I hope to learn to play the Kalimba aka thumb piano, an African instrument traditional to the Shona people of Zimbabwe and made popular in the R&B world by my musical idol, Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire. I’ve tried it before and I loved it! Out of respect for his genius, it will be tuned and played in the A minor pentatonic scale. I was hoping to take a trip back home to East Chicago in hopes of meeting the great Phil Cohran, who taught Maurice to play, but sadly, he passed in 2017. I tried back in 1985 before leaving for college, but ran out of time.
I’m writing again, baby. Because Life’s story, MY Life’s story, has so much more to tell…
Once again, I’m doing what I used to do best.
…and it feels good.
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