Here Comes The Sun

It's been a long, cold, lonely winter, but ... I volunteered, I got vaccinated, I feel optimistic. PLUS: A Joyful Playlist / Celebrating Phil Lesh's 81st with one of the best shows I've attended.

I spent the day volunteering at an Essex County vaccination site, inside a closed KMart in West Orange, New Jersey. Over 1,200 people got their first or second shots over the course of the day. I volunteered understanding that I was not guaranteed a shot but would receive one if doses remained.and they did. So one shot of Moderna in the arm. Next one in a month or so.


It was a pleasure to help, to soothe a few very nervous people, to answer questions when I could - to lend a hand in getting our nation back on track, back to some sense of normalcy. I was skeptical that my county government could pull this off but they’re doing it, and this place was filled with hard-working, dedicated staff and volunteers of all ages, races and genders. and the people we were helping were the same. Lot of elderly people getting wheeled or assisted in for their second shots, but really the whole web of humanity was represented and the feeling of togetherness and teamwork was heartwarming. That’s the America I’ve always believed in and won’t give up on. We need each other and we need a functioning government, and this last year has shined a bright light on that reality. 

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I was honored to check in Oliver Lake, the great saxophonist/writer/artist. A well-known TV talk show host also came in for his second shot, but it was during my one brief break. I get teary thinking about all the millions of people who are going to hug loved ones for the first time in over a year in the weeks and months to come. We’ve given up a lot in the last year. I haven’t seen my folks or my in-laws since last August and those were relatively brief outdoor visits. We haven’t hugged them since... whenever the last time we saw them before March 2020 was. There didn’t seem to be any reason to note the date. How can you quantify what it means to not hug your parent, grandparent, aunt, nephew, niece, beloved friend for a year or more? To not comfort a grieving loved one in person. To not gather to mourn a death or celebrate a birth. These things are what make us human. We lost them for over a year - and we’re on the verge of getting them back. 


I beg of you to get a shot when you can, to assist others in doing so however you can and to remain safe and vigilant until that day. And I assure you that if you volunteer to help others get here, you will be glad you did so. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. And I really do NOT think it’s a train.  Stages and stadiums await us. Grandmas and grandpas await us. Weddings, funerals, birth celebrations, b’nai mitzvot, confirmations, christenings, baby namings. All the things that separate us from the monkeys are in sight. 

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A nice piece on Oliver Lake. I was so happy to assist this great artist in getting his vaccine:


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A playlist for the day - “Joy.” It’s a wide range of songs that evoke that feeling in me. As always with these playlists, it’s improvisational, not epochal. I could cultivate and tweak this forever.


HAPPY BIRTHDAY PHIL LESH

Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh turns 81 today. His Phil and Friends have supplied some of the finest nights of music I’ve experienced in the last 21 years - or ever. He really did something unique, and turned his stage into a sort of Grateful Dead University, which has spawned countless graduates who will go on to keep sharing this music for decades to come, with his training and blessing. The list is endless, including Phil’s son Grahame, whose band Midnight North is about to release a great new record, Luther Dickinson, Steve Kimock, Ryan Adams, Jackie Greene, Eric Krasno, Jason Crosby, my friend and bandmate Junior Mack.

But the period that just flipped my wig was “The Quintet,” featuring Warren HaynesJimmy HerringRob Barraco and John Molo. They played a lot from 2000-2003 and thanks to my relationships with Warren and Jimmy and the fact that they were INCREDIBLE, I saw a lot of these shows and spent a fair amount of time around the band. Two shows in particular stand out as amongst the greatest I’ve ever witnessed. 4/30/01 at Roseland and 11/30/01 - the night George Harrison died. You can hear that one here.

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Alan Paul’s last two books – Texas Flood: The Inside Story of Stevie Ray Vaughan and  One Way Out: The Inside History of the Allman Brothers Band  – debuted in the New York Times Non Fiction Hardcover Best Seller’s List. His first book was Big in China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising a Family, Playing the Blues and Becoming a Star in Beijing, about his experiences raising a family in Beijing and touring China with a popular original blues band. It was optioned for a movie by Ivan Reitman’s Montecito Productions.  He is also a guitarist and singer who fronts two bands, Big in China and Friends of the Brothers, the premier celebration of the Allman Brothers Band.