Street Song and Street Songs

I haven’t posted anything about my book, Street Song, here in quite some time. One reason is that nothing’s happening. My agent has the book and is shopping it around, but so far there haven’t been any takers. This doesn’t worry me at the moment. It’s an unusual book—not the type of book that editors are going to fight over. I put more than 12 years of work into it, and I’m confident that it will resonate with some editor who is able to see beyond the contemporary book market. That’s not to say I doubt that the book would be of interest beyond a small pocket of unusual people. In some ways, it’s a bit of a mystery story—it’s told like one—and I think it would have more general appeal than some industry people might suppose. It’s also about living a meaningful life, and the desire for that is something that never goes away. It’s inherent in the species.

Another reason I haven’t posted anything is that I’ve been totally absorbed in a project that, while starting out as supplemental to the book, has proved to be integral to it. Street Song is in part about my short-lived effort to make it as a musician. It’s also about how the music of the 1960 and 70s reflected the lives and aspirations of a lot of people. It was almost like a religion. In some senses it really was. While writing about my own performances and the songs that moved me and sometimes changed my life, I was bothered by the fact that you can’t really do justice to music with words. I got the idea then to record a few songs as a supplement to the book. A friend of mine, Bruce Kaphan,  has a recording studio, and he was one of the readers of my manuscript as I was working on it. I told him what I wanted to do and asked if he’d be interested in helping me with it. He agreed and we set to work with only a half-baked idea of what I was trying to do. I thought at first that it would be just me and my acoustic guitar doing some of the songs I used to play on the street. But from that simple seed there grew a mighty tree—something I never could have imagined. I thought I was finished with music. Over the years, I’ve only played sporadically. But I’ve been practicing every day for hours on end, and now we have 12 songs with the backing tracks finished and awaiting my final vocals. While working on the song order I found that, without doing it deliberately, the songs I chose to record tell the same story that the book tells. Here’s the list:

Street Song (one of mine)
Strawberry Fields Forever (Beatles)
Poppa John (another of mine)
Farewell (Dylan)
Jackie Wilson Said (Van Morrison)
Sweet Thing (Van Morrison)
Highway (singer/songwriter Lane Tietgen)
On a Slow Boat to China (songwriter Frank Loesser)
You’re So Peaceful (another of mine)
Within You Without You (Beatles)
I Pity the Poor Immigrant (Dylan)
The Arrow You Want (one more of mine)

It’s an unusually eclectic mix of material that covers folk, Tex Mex, psychedelia, jazz, rock, r & b, swing, blues and bluegrass.  The instrumentation includes acoustic and electric guitar, pedal steel guitar, ukulele, organ, piano, drums, bass, saxophone, harmonica, accordion, lap steel, shakuhachi, harmonium, Weissenborn, mandolin, flugelhorn, trumpet, baritone horn, dulcimer, and electronic tamboura. We should have the whole thing mixed and mastered this summer. I’m calling the collection Street Songs and my intention is to make it a free download to help support the book. I’m quite pleased with how the songs are turning out. I’ll write more about it in the near future.

 

 

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5 Responses to “Street Song and Street Songs”

  1. stiegem Says:

    I do believe you are a musician now! Feel it in my bones.

  2. Deborah Garner Says:

    I’m looking forward to the release – I also feel it in my bones, you are a musician and an author!

    • markbittner Says:

      I think it’s not really possible to say this convincingly since I’m the one making the recordings. But the musical backing tracks, the instrumentation, have turned out extraordinarily well. All of the musicians came up with beautiful parts that worked together, even though created separately. I love listening to them.

  3. Brian Calingaert Says:

    I’m very much looking forward to the book as well as the songs.

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