“Here’s To You”…Tom Paxton

“So here’s to you my ramblin’ boy

May all your rambles bring you joy.”-Tom Paxton

Songwriter/Folksinger/Activist…Tom Paxton was born today in 1937 in Chicago, Illinois. Mr. Paxton is one of my favorite folksingers and I loved singing, “Last Thing On My Mind,” and so many other gems throughout the years. His creativity has given us serious songs about world events; songs about love, especially for his wife of over 45 years, Midge; fun songs for children and sing-alongs. It’s nice to know he’s still a troubadour and still out there touring with his trademark fisherman’s cap and moustache. Here’s to You, Tom Paxton, Happy 76th Birthday and May You Enjoy Many More Years of Ramblin’ Around The World singing your songs.

“In describing Tom Paxton’s influence on his fellow musicians, Pete Seeger has said: “Tom’s songs have a way of sneaking up on you. You find yourself humming them, whistling them, and singing a verse to a friend. Like the songs of Woody Guthrie, they’re becoming part of America.” Pete goes on: “In a small village near Calcutta, in 1998, a villager who could not speak English sang me What Did You Learn In School Today? in Bengali! Tom Paxton’s songs are reaching around the world more than he is, or any of us could have realized. Keep on, Tom!”citywinery







“I’m So Broke That a Dollar Bill Looks Big as a Window Shade.”-Lee Hays & Pete Seeger, “Empty Pocket Blues”

“The cry of the poor is is not always just, but if you don’t listen to it, you will never know what justice is.”Howard Zinn

“With the exception of Romania, NO developed country has a higher percentage of kids in poverty than America. Similarly, America also has a remarkably high percentage of people living in what is called “deep poverty…”-Sarah Abramsky, The Nation, 9/2013  

As we remember that 85 years ago we had Black Tuesday, the beginning of The Great Depression & last year we had Hurricane Sandy, we must realize that TODAY in 2013, in the U.S.A., more than 46 MILLION people live in poverty and so-called safety nets are being slashed by some comfortable elected officials who think Food Stamps and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) are luxuries, free hand-outs to people who can pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but are just lazy… what a load of crap

 “Come everybody listen while I sing, this high cost of living is a terrible thing. Every day you go into a store, prices hit the ceiling just a little bit more.”Oscar Brand’s version of a Woody Guthrie song


As a teacher, I knew I couldn’t teach if a student of mine was hungry. I made sure that every child had breakfast; I’d send a hungry child down to the cafeteria with a note to the cafeteria workers to please provide a breakfast. Many of my students received free or reduced breakfasts and lunches, but if they came in late, as many did, they’d miss breakfast, but NOT in MY class! Under my watch, every student had breakfast and lunch; even students who brought lunch from home, if they forgot it, I made sure they were fed. I also knew that if a student didn’t get enough sleep and fell asleep in my class, well, I let that child sleep. He/she couldn’t learn if tired…if hungry…if depressed. As teachers, we have to be very aware and observant of our students and their families and contact the proper support personnel in the school building to provide the necessary services for our families in need. Teachers are on the front lines and it’s up to them to serve and protect…Yes…it’s a War…a War on Poverty, On Violence, On Abuse, On Dysfunctional Families, On Inequality, On So Many Issues and Situations that affect our most vulnerable citizens from all over the world. Does anyone ever wonder how a teacher can teach when he/she has a multitude of student needs that must be addressed in order for their students to learn? When I think back on my long and successful career, I wonder…How did I do it?  How did I instill the love of learning…that learning is sweet, in my ever-changing classrooms?  RESPECT, and wow, does that one word contain a lot of stuff!

All the data you need is out there to document how poverty affects our society: on education; on physical and mental health; on the high school drop-out rates; on the future prison population., blah, blah, blah. “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows!” The MAN, Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues






Sunday Celebration of Writers

“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”

-Ernest Hemingway

What a day in Literary History, folks…and it’s Sunday, a lovely day to read!  We have 3 birthdays: first there’s Chinese American writer, Maxine Hong Kingston who is 73 today; then there’s Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas born in 1914 and alas, sad and tragic American writer, Sylvia Plath born today in 1932 and ended her own life in 1963. All 3 writers were part of my reading repertoire…probably Maxine Hong Kingston (The Woman Warrior) was more prevalent when I was a graduate student; Dylan Thomas was always around and Sylvia Plath during my teens along with Anne Sexton. (There was a mythological rivalry between the two.)  

“Long ago in China, knot-makers tied string into buttons and frogs, and rope into bell pulls. There was one knot so complicated that it blinded the knot-maker. Finally an emperor outlawed this cruel knot, and the nobles could not order it anymore. If I had lived in China, I would have been an outlaw knot-maker.”-Maxine Hong Kingston, The Woman Warrior

“I know we’re not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentences. But our innocence goes awfully deep, and our discreditable secret is that we don’t know anything at all, and our horrid inner secret is that we don’t care that we don’t.”Dylan Thomas quoted in Dylan Thomas: The Biography by Paul Ferris, pg. 141

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.”-Sylvia Plath

Happy Sunday Reading!




“Low Bridge, Everybody Down.”-Erie Canal Song

Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in thisworld, then it can only happen through music.” – Jimi Hendrix

A little history for this Saturday, Oct. 26th: On this day in 1825,  The Erie Canal opened up in NYS. The Erie Canal used to be studied in elementary school and popped up on history exams. I always loved the song and shared it with my students. Through music we learned English, History, Map Skills, Tolerance, Social Justice…I know, I know, I”ve written this before!  Hey, maybe there are some new readers out there so pardon me for repetition. Teachers repeat…habit of the trade!!!  

“The Erie Canal opened up western New York, and much of the Midwest, to settlement and trade. Before the canal, it cost between $90 and $125 to ship a ton of cargo from Buffalo to New York City; after the canal’s completion, that same ton cost just $4. Within the first year, 2,000 boats, 9,000 horses, and 8,000 men were working to transport cargo on the canal.”The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor

Music brings history alive and I have always promoted its use in the classroom and tried to encourage teachers to sing to and with their students and that you didn’t need a good voice!!!  Just your enthusiasm for the music was enough to inspire students…believe me, I’ve sang flat many a time! 

“I’ve got an old mule and her name is Sal

Fifteen years on the Erie Canal

She’s a good old worker and a good old pal

Fifteen years on the Erie Canal

We’ve hauled some barges in our day

Filled with lumber, coal, and hay

And every inch of the way we know

From Albany to Buffalo


Low bridge, everybody down

Low bridge for we’re coming to a town

And you’ll always know your neighbor

And you’ll always know your pal

If you’ve ever navigated on the Erie Canal”-Thomas S. Allen



“Folk Music Has Always Contained a Concern for the Human Condition.”-Mary Travers

As I’ve written before in other posts, I received my first transistor radio for my 6th grade graduation from elementary school and that radio brought such joy into my life as I listened to a great DJ, Jerry White, on WJRZ play young Bob Dylan, young Joan Baez, young Pat Sky, young Peter, Paul & Mary. I was young then too, 10? (A few months ago, Jerry’s daughter somehow found my posting and contacted me and told me, to paraphrase, that her dad, before he died, recounted those days as some of his happiest days!). I loved Peter, Paul & Mary and bought all of their albums. For my 10th birthday, my older brother took me to Carnegie Hall to see them! Their first album has them against the brick wall inside The Bitter End ( venue I frequented in the village). That album reached #1 on the Billboard Charts today in 1963. Throughout the years I used the music of Peter, Paul & Mary in the classroom and on the stage of the school to promote peace, love, tolerance, social justice, history, English, current events and just the love of music.

“If we are going to teach the world to stop hating the different, the other, then we’re going to have to start with children.”-Mary Travers

Here’s one of my favorite off the first LP that I continue to sing to this day:


“The Times They Are A-(STILL) Changin’”- Bob Dylan

“If you take whatever there is to the song away – the beat, the melody – I could still recite it.”-Bob Dylan 1965LA Free Press Interview

Today, in 1963, a young Bobby Dylan  (Phil Ochs referred to “Bobby” Dylan this way in his song, “Ringing of Revolution” as he described casting the song as a movie where Phil Ochs was cast as “Bobby” Dylan.)  was in the recording studio laying down tracks for his album, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” with such emotionally charged tracks as the title song, “When The Ship Comes In,” “Ballad of Hollis Brown,”  “With God On Our Side,”  “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” and beautiful ballads such as “Boots of Spanish Leather.”  I was 10 years old; I had an older brother and so, of course, we bought that album and all of Dylan’s albums. The album was released in 1965 before Dylan’s infamous electric guitar fury during his Newport Folk Festival performance that summer. When you read the lyrics of Dylan’s songs, they still more than hold up today. A great poet/thinker is timeless. Long Live Bobby Dylan!!!!

Certainly a “Leader of the Pack”


Is she really going out with him?

Well, there she is. Let’s ask her.

Betty, is that Jimmy’s ring you’re wearing?


Gee, it must be great riding with him

Is he picking you up after school today?


By the way, where’d you meet him?


I met him at the candy store

He turned around and smiled at me

You get the picture? (yes, we see)

That’s when I fell for (the leader of the pack)”Barry, Greenwich & Morton

Ellie Greenwich, originally a Brooklyn gal, was born today in 1940 (died just a few short years ago in 2009). Ms Greenwich by herself and also along with her then husband, Jeff Barry and with other writers, wrote some of the best pop songs in history. This songwriting team was part of the Brill Building young songwriters (Carole King and Gerry Goffin were there, too) consortium…working in the Brill Building not only gave you an inspiring work environment to create, songwriters could also get copies made, arrangements done, demos created…it served all purposes. Ellie Greenwich died way too young. Her family had a sculptor erect a statue that is on the campus of Hofstra University where Ms Greenwich graduated from in 1962.

 “Her ability to use her personal experiences to forge a direct connection to the teenage mind was the secret that enabled the Greenwich-and-Barry partnership to create hits by the week during the early 1960s, many of them in collaboration with Phil Spector. Few imagined that Da Doo Ron Ron, Then He Kissed Me, Be My Baby, Baby I Love You, Chapel of Love, Leader of the Pack, Do Wah Diddy Diddy, I Can Hear Music, Hanky Panky or Maybe I Know would outlast their allotted time in the pop charts, but so accurately did Greenwich capture the nuances of a teenager’s narrow but intense emotional life – optimism and anxiety, shyness and bravado – that, four decades later, the songs show no sign of fading into history.”Richard Williams, The Guardian, 8-27-09 Obituary

 The songs written or co-written and/or produced by Ellie Greenwich are timeless and always evoke a smile, a sing-a-long, memories and good feelings.