Uit de kast

Keith Haring

Door mijn eerste grote liefde was ik in staat om op mijn 23e uit de kast te komen tegenover mijn ouders. Het was 1977.

Ik was het al een tijdje van plan maar durfde niet. Tot toen, die dag.

Mijn ouders woonden in een dorp nabij Amersfoort. Ik ging daar heen in het weekend en ook dat weekend kwam ik op zaterdag, nam een loeiheet bad en viel al zwetend in slaap.

De volgende dag begon ik tegen mijn moeder toen mijn vader naar de WC was. Waarom ik had gewacht tot hij naar de WC was begrijp ik eigenlijk niet, want uiteindelijk reageerde hij heel goed.

‘Ik moet je wat vertellen’,  begon ik, ‘ ik ben lesbisch’.

Mijn moeder schrok zichtbaar. Ik geloof dat ze op stond en haar handen aan haar broek afveegde.

‘ Je moet het zelf aan je vader vertellen,’ zei ze

Mijn vader kwam weer de kamer binnen.

‘Onze dochter moet je wat vertellen,’ zei mijn moeder.

Dat ging niet zo als ik gehoopt had. Ik had gehoopt dat zij het zou vertellen maar dat deed ze niet en zo ging het niet. Nu moest ik het aan mijn vader vertellen.

‘Ik ben lesbisch,’ herhaalde ik.

‘Oh,’ zei mijn vader. Hij lachte en leek opgelucht. Ik verdenk hem ervan dat hij blij was dat ik me niet aan de een of andere kerel zou gaan verbinden. ‘Mij maakt het niet uit. Je bent mijn dochter en ik houd nog even veel van je.’

‘Ik ben zo bang dat je eenzaam wordt,’ zei mijn moeder.
Ik dacht aan al die vriendinnen waar ik elke donderdagavond in het Vrouwenhuis muziek mee maakte, de vrouwen die ik daar in mijn hart had gesloten en waarvan ik wist dat ze mijn hele leven lang vriendinnen zouden zijn, wat ook zo is, al zijn er nu nog maar drie vrouwen over van die groep, de anderen zijn overleden of een andere kant op gegaan.

Hierna spraken we er niet meer over. Een keer vertelde mijn moeder dat ze in een café zat met mijn vader en er een Leger des Heils soldate langs hun tafeltje was gekomen met de Strijdkreet. Het Leger des Heils had een tijdje eerder uitgesproken dat homoseksualiteit een zonde was en dat je als homoseksuele man of lesbische vrouw geen lid van het Leger mocht zijn. Hadden mijn ouders eerder altijd  een Strijdkreet gekocht om op die manier het Leger te steunen, dit keer zei mijn moeder dat ze niks wilde kopen en ook niks wilde geven.

‘Mijn dochter is lesbisch,’ had ze gezegd, ‘en daar zijn jullie tegen, dus dank u wel, voorlopig koop ik geen Strijdkreet meer’.
Ook merkte ik dat sommige mensen, kennissen van mijn ouders, niet meer kwamen op de vele feesten die mijn ouders altijd gaven. Het was bij ons de gewoonte dat elke volwassen vriend of kennis van mijn ouders door ons oom of tante werd genoemd, dus toen ik vroeg waarom ik Tante Nel nooit meer zag zei mijn moeder dat Tante Nel nare dingen had gezegd over mensen zoals ik en dat zij (mijn moeder) daar geen prijs op stelde. Ze maakte woorden met mensen die tegen homoseksualiteit waren maar sprak er met mij nooit over. Wel met mijn zus die ze deelgenoot maakte van het verdriet en de angst die ze voelde over mijn levenswijze.

Droom…. zoveel

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor blonde carmen

In mijn droom was zij, waar ik mee meer dan vijfentwintig jaar geleden enorm verliefd op was: Carmen. Ondanks deze Spaanse naam was ze Hollands, lang roodhaar, blauwe ogen, bekend van tv, maar ik was geen fan.  Ik zag haar voor het eerst in het COC, ik zou het nog kunnen uittekenen. Tussen de deuren naar de disco en de bar, ze passeerde me rechts en keek me uitnodigend en lachend aan. Niet lang daarna kwam ze bij me eten en begon iets moois. We hadden veel pret in bed en ze zei zulke lieve dingen. Mooi en grappig en bijzonder.

Het hield niet stand, ik had een relatie en wilde deze ‘trouw’ blijven, ik stootte Carmen van me af.

Ik bleef verliefd, ik hield van haar en hield van haar. Ik zag haar vaak, we gingen uit in dezelfde gelegendheden en elke keer was er een moment van schoonheid en liefde tussen ons, iets anders kan ik het niet noemen.

Ik was net wees geworden en volkomen de weg kwijt, zij had net een relatie beeindigd van jaren en was ook de weg kwijt, nog iets meer dan ik.

Ze kreeg een fatale relatie met een dierbare vriendin van me die me eerst om toestemming vroeg want ze wist hoe verliefd ik was op Carmen. Natuurlijk, zei ik, doen.

Soms kwam Carmen bij me eten, ik kookte iets lekkers, we zaten in de tuin en hadden diepe gesprekken. Alhoewel ik alweer zes keer verliefd was geweest op iemand anders was ik ook altijd nog verliefd op Carmen.

Tot Carmen me liet zitten, ze had zichzelf uitgenodigd maar kwam niet opdagen. En liet ook niks weten. Dit was zo een enorme afknapper dat de liefde abrupt ophield.

Een piepklein zwak hield ik.

Ik zag haar nooit meer.

Vannacht was ze in mijn droom, ze zag er verlopen uit, haar mooie rode haren waren korter, ze leek weinig op de sexy meid uit het COC. Ze keek me zwoel aan en zei:
“Jij en ik hebben wat. Iets moois, iets dieps. Ik weet wel wat je voor me voelt. Ik voel het ook”.

Maar ik voel niks. Alleen die herinnering.

 

Get Past the Pain of Unrequited Love

The hurt is real, but you’re not alone.

It sounds romantic: To love someone with all of your heart and soul, whether or not they love you back. But the reality is very different. The pain of loving someone who doesn’t feel the same way about you can be almost unbearable. It certainly doesn’t feel romantic. It just feels devastating.

How do you deal with it?

1. There’s no way to get around it: Rejection hurts. Your heart has been broken, and there’s a real physical sensation of pain. I talk about this in my post on dealing with break-ups, but it’s worth repeating here. Even if you know that your heart can’t really break, you’re feeling like it’s doing exactly that. There’s a physical pain in your chest, and the rest of your body feels bruised and aching as well.

Recent research has shown that we feel an emotional wound in the same way (and sometimes in the same part of our brain) as we feel physical injury. Phrases like “broken heart,” “wounded spirit,” or “hurt feelings” are not simply metaphors. According to a group of researchers headed by Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan, evidence shows that emotional pain activates the same part of your brain as physical pain.

So to start with, acknowledge that you’ve been injured and you need to take care of yourself. You need to be gentle and kind and nurture yourself just the way you would if you had a physical illness. This doesn’t mean you should go to bed and waste away. It actually won’t help. But whether you’re at work or school, go easy on yourself. Don’t expect yourself to turn in a peak performance. But by plugging away, putting one foot in front of the other, all the time acknowledging that you’re feeling hurt and sad, you’ll gradually get your life moving forward.

2. Know that you aren’t alone. According to social psychologist and my PT colleague Roy Baumeister, 98% of us have suffered from unrequited love at one time or another. One of the problems with this kind of rejection is that it’s not enough that you feel sad, lonely and broken-hearted. It also makes you feel bad and ashamed—and you start to worry that there is something deeply wrong with you.

You start to ask yourself painful questions, like what does this person, whom you value so much, see in you to make them want to stay away from you? You start to soothe yourself with food—a pint of ice cream, a bag of cookies—and then you feel even worse. Oh yes, you say to yourself, I’m a sloth, I’m a pig, that’s why I’m not lovable.

But if this happens to other people—many of them smart, attractive and very lovable—then it’s not about you not being good enough. It’s maybe about this not being the right moment for the two of you, or about you not being the right partner for you both.

One friend who suffered miserably from an unrequited love told me, when she finally came through on the other side, “I’ll always have a tender spot for him. It’s just that I wasn’t the right person for him. I understand that now, and it doesn’t even hurt. But boy was it hard to get here!”

3. Try to see if falling for someone who doesn’t love you back is a pattern in your life. According psychologist Phillip Shaver, falling in love with someone who will reject you can be a repeated pattern for some people. This may be particularly true if you had repeated experiences in childhood with what is called “insecure attachment,” that is, a sense that the adults on whom you depend are regularly not accessible at the times when you most need them (it is important to note that this does not result from a parent who doesn’t respond to every childhood need immediately or exactly the way a child wants!).

One way to try to think about this is to ask yourself if you have ever fallen in love with someone who rejected you before. Try to honestly assess whether or not there is some sort of pattern here. If so, you may be trying to find someone who will undo the pain of childhood rejections or abandonments; but unfortunately, in many cases in these situations we end up unconsciously choosing someone who will repeat, not undo the pattern, reinforcing feelings that you really are unlovable, as perhaps you believed as a child; or that you’re doomed to be disappointed, rejected and abandoned. You may end up more convinced than ever that you simply cannot trust anyone. Either way, your choice is likely to end up confirming your fears of abandonment rather than providing you with a new experience.

4. Ask yourself if you would rather not have loved the person at all. Is it true, what Alfred Lord Tennyson’s (link is external) poem says?:

“I hold it true, whate’er befall; I feel it, when I sorrow most; ‘Tis better to have loved and lost Than never to have loved at all.”

Maybe in the moment of the worst pain, you’d rather never have loved; but there is sometimes something exquisitely beautiful in such a love. It makes us feel alive in a very special way. It also, of course, hurts like very few other things do.

5. This might not help you much, but there is evidence that unrequited love hurts the person who is loved as well as the one who is doing the loving. In a study of more than 200 incidents of unrequited love, Baumeister found that rejecters suffered from guilt and anxiety and often reported feeling like they were victims. Baumeister reports that many of the pursued said things like, “I never hurt anyone before,” and talked about how awful it made them feel to know that they were doing it now.

6. Finally, give up the quest for closure. Everyone agrees that one of the hardest parts of unrequited love is accepting that it is not ever going to be what you want it to be. You may keep looking for evidence that it’s over, but what you may really want is proof that it could happen.

In the song “Chasing Pavements,” Adele (link is external) captures the never-ending loop of the search for proof:

“I build myself up and fly around in circles; Wait then as my heart drops and my back begins to tingle; Finally could this be it? Should I give up or should I just keep chasing pavements, Even if it leads nowhere?”

The answer? It may sound harsh, but there are actually two solutions: In one, you learn to accept that, for whatever reason, and for however long, this circle is the pattern you’re going to live with. If you come to that conclusion, then try to find some ways to be comfortable with it, to let go of your self-criticism for being in this place and with your fantasy that closure of some sort is just around the corner. Or … Let go and move on, without the closure that you think you want.

Copyright @ F. Diane Barth 2014

What I like about me – 2

I have perserverance. I didn’t know this when I was younger.
I didn’t have a high opinion about myself but after all this time and all this living I know it is true.
I have perserverance.
Which means I don’t give up.
Never.
Or hardly ever.
I like that about me.

Is ze beroemd?

Melkweg ~ 2011

Melkweg ~ 2011 (Photo credit: zapdelight)

Melkweg con aparcamiento de bicis sobre el agua

Melkweg con aparcamiento de bicis sobre el agua (Photo credit: comcinco)

The main entrance of the Melkweg

The main entrance of the Melkweg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Afbeelding

Van een nieuwe vriendin krijg ik de vraag of het object van mijn heftige verliefdheid in 1980 beroemd is. Ach wat is beroemd? Ze heeft een hit gehad in de jaren tachtig. Een paar maanden nadat ze mij ontmoette kwam er een liedje van haar in de Top Zoveel terecht en het nummer wordt nog steeds gespeeld en soms gebruikt in een dance versie.

Ik leerde haar overigens wel kennen door de muziek, ze trad met haar  band op in de Melkweg waar ik toen werkte. In die tijd bekeek ik alle bandjes en vooral bandjes waarin vrouwen speelden hadden mijn belangstelling, Op de dag dat zij speelden moest ik werken en ik had aan mijn collega gevraagd of ik even kon gaan kijken naar de band. Dit deed ik op het schellinkje waar de medewerkers ongestoord naar bands of theater konden kijken.
Ik kwam aan nadat ze net klaar waren met hun eerste nummer en er ging een enorm, ongekend gejuich op. Ik was enigszins verbaasd. Het Amsterdamse publiek is meestal enthousiast maar zo’n lawaai na een eerste nummer beloofde wat goeds.

Ik vond de band ook fantastisch en vooral de geluiden die zij uit haar gitaar liet komen betoverden me. IJle, melodieuze klanken. Haar stem was zacht, zuiver en dromerig. Ik vergat de tijd en zat het hele concert op het schellinkje tot ze hun laatste nummer aankondigde en ik me realiseerde dat ik aan het werk was. Ik rende naar beneden waar mijn collega niet blij was.

Ik werkte mijn shift af en toen ik klaar was ging ik zoals elke avond dansen in wat toen de Grote Zaal heette (nu de Oude Zaal). Na een paar dansjes ging ik naar de bar om wat te drinken en daar kwam ik Haar tegen. Ik vroeg haar of zij de zangeres/gitariste was van de band en toen zij dat beaamde vertelde ik hoe ik genoten had van hun muziek en haar gitaarspel en of ze misschien iets van me drinken wilde als dank voor de muziek en misschien had ze ook zin een joint met me te roken?

Tegen allebei zei ze Ja en we gingen op de verhoging met tapijten liggen aan de linkerkant van de zaal en ik draaide een joint die we samen oprookten. Waarover we praatten weet ik niet meer maar het was een waanzinnig boeiend gesprek, we hingen aan elkaars lippen en konden er geen genoeg van krijgen. We praatten en praatten tot ‘Happy Trails’, het nummer dat elke avond de sluiting van de zaal en de Melkweg aankondigde, een einde maakte aan ons samenzijn. Zij moest haar spullen nog uit de kleedkamer halen, ik moest ook nog wat doen, dus namen we afscheid.

Toen ik de Melkweg uitliep stond ze op me te wachten en ik bood aan haar naar haar Hotel te brengen, ze nam mijn aanbod aan maar viel op de Leidsegracht in mijn armen.

Ik nam haar mee naar huis. De eerste nacht was mooi, diep, spannend, veelbelovend en lang. Heel vroeg in de ochtend bracht ik haar naar haar hotel. Ze vroeg me of ik de dag daarop naar Rotterdam wilde komen waar ze op een festival in een park optraden. Er zou een backstagekaartje voor me liggen zodat ik naar haar toe kon komen.

Ik ging en beleefde een van mijn mooiste dagen ooit. Na haar optreden liepen we de hele dag hand in hand over het festival terrein, we praatten, we lachten, we voelden ons thuis bij elkaar, het was schitterend. Die avond ging ze terug naar haar woonplaats en sprak ze de wens uit dat ik haar zou komen opzoeken.

Dag 3 – USA 2012

Megabus

Megabus (Photo credit: wrestlingentropy)

Manhattan

Manhattan (Photo credit: griangrafanna)

Ook deze nacht slaapt Jopie bij me. Zelfs Nellie heeft bij me gelegen. Ik durf het haast niet aan S te bekennen maar ze is er zelf al achter. Ik heb de wekker op zes uur gezet maar ben ruim voor zessen wakker. S heeft alles klaar gezet zodat ik koffie kan maken. De middag hiervoor heb ik inkopen gedaan bij een Aziatische winkel. Ik heb fruit gekocht, wat noten en water voor onderweg. Voor de zaak werd gedemonstreerd door twee jonge mensen omdat de eigenaar van de zaak zijn personeel slecht betaalde. Eigenlijk wilden ze me niet binnen laten maar ik ben toch gegaan. Ik eet wat ananas die ik heb gekocht en maak mijn koffie. Hierna doe ik mijn morgengongyo en mijn oefeningen. Ik wil om kwart over zeven weg. Natuurlijk ben ik zenuwachtig. Gaat het me allemaal lukken? Ik heb al gezien dat ik om naar de 34e straat te komen ik alleen maar naar het perron aan de andere kant moet en dus niet zeven trappen op of aan moet sjouwen met mijn bagage waar allemaal cadeautjes in zitten. Alles gaat goed tot de 34e straat. Daar sta ik aan de verkeerde kant van de straat op de bus te wachten, dus moet ik de straat weer terug over om naar de juiste halte te gaan. Tijdens de wandeling zie ik het gebouw dat ik me de dag daarvoor had voorgenomen te onthouden.

Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, New Jersey

Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, New Jersey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bij de juiste halte aangekomen verzeker ik me ervan dat ik goed ben. Een vriendelijk zwart meisje wijst me er op dat ik uit een automaat een kaartje nodig heb om deze overstap te maken. De chauffeur van de bus zal me er niet omvragen zegt ze maar er komen soms controleurs en dan moet je een kaartje hebben. Ze heeft gelijk. De bus laat lang op zich wachten en zit stampvol. Ik sta met mijn twee koffers. Als ik uitstap staat er een man in uniform aan wie ik mijn kaartje moet laten zien.

Om de hoek zijn de bushaltes van Megabus. De linkerkant van de stoep is afgezet mer een geel lint, er staan borden met de namen van de bestemmingen. Achter het bord met  Rochester staat een mens of tien en ik sluit me aan. Aan het eind van de straat ligt de Hudson. Deze river zal ik geregeld rechts naast me zien. Mensen sluiten zich achter me aan. Een jongen die een stoer meisje zou kunnen zijn komt achter me staan. Hij is aan het bellen, luid tettert hij in zijn telefoon en mijn oor. Ik krijg er genoeg van en ik pak ook mijn telefoon en begin in het Nederlands een gesprek met niemand. Het kalmeert me. We wachten.

SAM 2513

Iets over negenen vertrekt de bus. We gaan de Lincolntunnel in.

SAM 2515SAM 2516

Als we de Lincolntunnel uitkomen ligt New York City rechts van ons. De grote stad en de skyline.

SAM 2519

De bomen verkleuren. Ik probeer het te fotograferen maar het lukt niet zo goed vanuit een rijdende bus. Ik hoop dat ik straks in Rochester mooie plaatjes kan maken. Misschien hebben we tijd een bezoek te brengen aan een verkleurend bos. De bus rijdt en rijdt over de highway naar Rochester. Langs Verona en Amsterdam, langs Albany en Schenectady. Het landschap verandert niet. Bergen met bomen. Saai?

SAM 2520

We stoppen. Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonalds en een goede koffieplek naast gokautomaten en een winkel waar ze allerlei onzin verkopen.

SAM 2521

Het is bloedheet in de bus. De buschauffeur heeft het zelf koel maar voor ons is de verwarming tot het hoogste opgestookt. Iedereen zit te puffen. Ik ben de oudste passagier. De meeste reizigers zijn onder de dertig en zwart. Ook de chauffeur is zwart.  Na bijna alles te hebben uitgetrokken doe ik alles weer aan om de chauffeur aan te spreken. Hij schrikt erg als ik zachtjes kuch om zijn aandacht te trekken en hij reageert erg geagiteerd als ik hem vraag of er iets met de verwarming is. Hij roept Nee maar het wordt gelukkig koeler.

SAM 2530

Dit is de Hudson. De Hudson is een rivier in de Verenigde Staten van Amerika. Hij ontspringt in het Adirondackgebergte in het noordelijk deel van de staat New York en loopt via Albany naar de stad New York, waar hij langs Manhattan en Jersey City stroomt en uitmondt in Haven van New York en New Jersey. De rivier is 507 km lang.

SAM 2532

Tijdens de rit luister ik naar Norwegian Wood van de Japanse auteur Haruki Murakami en kijk uit het raam naar de borden die me bekend voorkomen van de keer dat Peter me afhaalde van JFK en ik mee ging naar Lake Scanadaga naar de cabin van Carol en Ed die over een beek gebouwd was.

Na een lange rit kom ik eindelijk aan in Rochester. We worden op een bouwplek uit de bus geladen. Ik ben totaal verdwaald. Weet niet waar ik ben en hoe naar de stad te komen. Er zijn geen taxis te bekennen. Ik bel M die me zegt naar haar toe te komen. Aan de weinige voorbijgangers vraag ik naar een bushalte. Niemand weet iets. Dan spreek ik een vrouw aan. Zij biedt aan me naar M te brengen.

~ wordt vervolgd

A conversation with Melanie

Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)

Lay Down (Candles in the Rain) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mata Amritanandamayi

Mata Amritanandamayi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Mata Amritanandamayi.

English: Mata Amritanandamayi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Melanie Safka in Charlotte, North Car...

English: Melanie Safka in Charlotte, North Carolina in February 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Beau Jarred, Melanie Safka's son in C...

English: Beau Jarred, Melanie Safka’s son in Charlotte, North Carolina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A Conversation with Melanie

Mike Ragogna: Who could this be? Why, it’s the very lovely, very iconic, Melanie.

Melanie: Hey!

MR: Hi Melanie, how are you?

M: I’m good.

MR: I have to get my clapping over with. Okay, there we go. Melanie, it’s a joy. Your latest album isEver Since You Never Heard Of Me. Traditionally, on all of your albums, we would see the credit “Produced and Arranged by Peter Shekeryk,” though this one was also produced and arranged by Beau Jarred Schekeryk, your son.

M: Yes. Beau did get to work with Peter, and he always says, “I’m so grateful, I got to work with dad on this album,” because Peter is strictly old-school and Beau is best of both worlds, new school and old school.

MR: Because you guys taught him well.

M: Well, Peter was all about the feel and capturing the feel. He would let the artist reign. That was his gift–to really let the artist come out with the album they wanted to come out with. Beau is much more in control of everything. In the technology realms, you sort of have to be in control of everything. But the magic part is making that appear as if it happened with the spontaneity and the magic of a live session.

MR: Let’s go into that. The marriage of traditional recording and modern technology really benefited you on this album. You even have a couple of spiritual songs such as “Motherhood Of Love.” I guess you’re a follower of Mata Amritanandamayi, right?

M: Amma. I’m not exactly a follower, but I’ve gotten an embrace from Amma, and it is an amazing, magical experience. It’s nothing that I could take with me for the rest of my life except in memory, but I think you have to do the hard work yourself, the meditations and the chanting. I think it’s not just the hug from Amma, although I’ll tell you it’s a nice way to jumpstart any kind of spiritual practice.

MR: Yeah, that’s what a lot of people who’ve gotten the hug have said.

M: They say that?

MR: Yeah, as far as getting a jumpstart in their spirituality.

M: Yeah, that’s exactly it. I’m always amazed when somebody thinks of something at the same time as I do.

MR: Oh, that wasn’t to downplay your experience.

M: No, I think it just occurred to me that that’s what that is. The other day, I just thought of something and I thought, “This is amazing! I have to put this out!” and there was another person who thought of this already and I thought, “How is that possible?”

MR: Well let’s talk about that for a funny moment here. What about those times, when you think you’ve had the most original idea for a song and you put it out and somebody else has the same idea on another record?

M: Yeah, that’s what happened with “Beautiful People.” I had a song that I had just written called “Beautiful People” and we produced it and Peter had it put out on Columbia records and Columbia had just released the Kenny O’Dell song “Beautiful People.” So they made me change the title of mine to “My Beautiful People,” which was not exactly what I had in mind, but they were Columbia records, so they won, but it was totally a different thing. His went like [sings] “You’ve got to be one of the most beautiful people in the whole wide world. It’s true, it’s true, it’s true! And I love you.”

MR: [laughs] Thank you for that concert just then! Melanie, in the context of you putting out your own album and self-promoting it and touring for it, you’ve been indoctrinated into the new model for the music business. Those days of needing a major label to promote your record, market you and break you are kind of going away.

M: Oh, they’re gone! I mean…that’s if you’re interested in mainstream media. If you want to be a celebrity for the sake of being a celebrity, you know, being promoted and having your face everywhere, you need a major label. I’m just amazed. Half the people, I see their faces and I say, “They’re famous for being famous,” you know, that phenomenon that’s reared its head in the last ten years or so, people that are emerging. And you’re like, “What do they do? Do they sing? Do they act? Do they write?” The amazing thing is that you don’t need to have a major label, but what your competition is–and this is what I’ve been discovering–is this flood of mediocrity. Yes, we can get everything directly, but we have to weed through the guy who plays the broccoli and whatever it is. Somebody gets their name out as a YouTube artist and people get famous for being good at getting themselves out there. Quite frankly, most creative people are not the best at getting themselves out there, so again, the competition is the flood of mediocre or less than mediocre people. I just wish people who don’t do something would stop wanting to be famous. What is the deal? Why don’t they just do something useful? You can write songs or poetry as a hobby, you don’t have to take up people’s valuable time.

MR: Well, if they play the broccoli, I have to see that. Hey, Melanie, what about the fact that everybody can be a star for five seconds, because of machines like American IdolThe Voice, and all that?

M: Well, that’s degrading, especially American Idol. That’s demeaning, that’s degrading. It brings out the worst in us. I just hate that sort of degradation.

MR: Anyway, enough of they, them, let’s talk about you! I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to throw out some Melanie hits because, hey, they were hits.

M: That’s true! I did have to live that down, being a person who was called a “folk singer.” There was a whole group of folk people who just didn’t think I belonged because I had a hit record; that was called “selling out.” Unbeknownst to me, I sold out because I had a record that was being played on the radio, and that in itself was highly suspect.

MR: Yeah, you sold out because you merely contributed to the culture songs like “Lay Down (Candles In The Rain),” one of the great Woodstock-era anthems. How could you!

M: Well, you know what was really the most wonderful comment? Jerry Leiber was a good friend of Peter’s–Peter having been my husband and producer–and he had a phone call and told Peter something. Peter said, “You have to tell this to Melanie” and he put Jerry Leiber on the phone. I hated when he would just hand me a phone…

MR: …yeah, Peter did that to me and you a few times.

M: “Here, say hello to Mike!” “Hey Mike!” [laughs] So I was put on the phone and Jerry Leiber said, “You and The Beatles have had this knack for…” to paraphrase, to make commercial music blend with art. I think that was one of the most amazing compliments that anybody’s ever paid me. He always loved “Look What They’ve Done To My Song, Ma” and he was trying to convince me to do a version called “Look What They’ve Done To My World.”

MR: Okay, now let’s go back to “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).” As I’m nodding to your contribution to the culture, you’re also one of the heroes of Woodstock, and people know you from other hits like “Brand New Key,” “Nickel Song,” and your versions of “Ruby Tuesday,” “What Have They Done To My Song, Ma.” And there’s “Psychotherapy,” “Animal Crackers,” “The Good Book,”… You have quite a few classics. Looking at that body of work, what are your thoughts?

M: Well, it all just continued. I never stopped. When people say things like, “Melanie from the sixties,” it’s like, “Well, yeah, from the sixties, from the seventies, from the eighties, from the nineties to the new millennia, and into the beyond.” You want to know what my feeling is about that era, the sixties and seventies? As far as genre, they never knew what to do with me. Pop music was so forgiving at one point. They had The Edward Hawkins Singers with “Oh, Happy Day,” and then there’d be Connie Francis or something or Nancy Sinatra, you know what I mean? All kinds of music were coming together and the source of different genres were crossing over, so you’d hear on a pop radio station with all kinds of different influences. It was a near renaissance on Earth and people were investigating and pulling from different sources. Art was alive and music was alive, because of this interest from artists. Basically, people were doing things because they were interested. Now they’re doing things because they want to be interesting.

MR: Wow, good point.

M: It’s such a different place to come from. “Ooh, I’m going to look like this, and I’m going to sound like this, and my voice is going to do things like this,” just doing things to get people to look at them. “Look at me, look at me!” It’s unpleasant. Back then it was, “Oh, listen to this, this classical thing with the strings…I would go to SIR, the studio instrument rental place in New York city and bump into Laura Nyro who was looking for some interesting percussion to use on her session and I was looking for different flute-y type instruments–maybe a didgeridoo, you know? But it was because it would express what I wanted to express, not because, “Ooh, everybody will see that I used that and I’ll be so interesting.” It’s totally different motivations. The reason why people say that there was a value in that era of music–is it just nostalgia or is there something else? And, of course, there is something else and it comes down to motivation and intention.

MR: There’s something I wanted to throw out at you. There are a lot of indie artists out there, and I would even include you and your son in this, as far as people who are interesting, indie acts, many of whom you can find on the internet if you search. Unfortunately, we don’t get to hear it all. A lot of music seems regional again, like it was in the fifties.

M: Yeah, that’s definitely possible. I mean, I don’t think that is such a terrible thing because then they’re backing it up with performances and people have a reality on what they actually do.

MR: Good point. Now, I wanted to talk about a few other things that you’ve worked on, for instance, your book Tales From the Roadburn Café.

M: I’ve been writing journal entries for some years, and I just put them out on my website and people have been reading them. I don’t read well on a screen. I like to have stuff on paper, I like to turn a page. I’m not a big Kindle person. I’ve tried, but you know, there’s something that’s missing without the ink. I like ink on paper and I like it with books. I decided I was going to collect some of the journal entries and put them out in a book called Tales From the Roadburn Café. We published it ourselves.

MR: I want to read what it says on the front cover. “Whimsical observations told with pathos by the iconic music festival queen with photographs by Beau Jarred Shcekeryk.”

M: Yeah.

MR: You have always been about “family,” it seems. Your husband produced your albums, your kids performed on them, and you’ve all been so supportive of each other. That’s a very hard thing to do when you’re in entertainment, isn’t it?

M: Yeah, it really is, make no mistake. And over the years, so many people were really, truly envious of it, and it’s bizarre because it’s such a hard life. Being in the entertainment business at all is a very hard life. I tried to talk my kids out of it. “Be a vet or something. Something where people aren’t going to attack you,” because you’re really a target! I love that they’re all artists. I didn’t necessarily want them to pursue that as a career, but they all did. My daughter Leilah is a writer in Nashville, and Jeordie sings out in Arizona all the time. She’s actually in Chicago singing right now, and writing. She has her own website and she’s very into social media. I’m just dabbling with Twittering and stuff like that. We’ve just been a gathering of artists, really.

MR: And this latest album, Ever Since You Never Heard of Me was, of course, a family project. But then again, the last few projects you’ve released have been about the family as well.

M: Well, I never think of it that way, but I guess you could see it that way.

MR: And when you read the credits, it’s pretty obvious, you know?

M: Yeah.

MR: You’ve got yet another project going right now, one in the theatrical field.

M: Yeah! Well, before Peter passed away, he gave me an empty journal. He said, “You have to write a book. Everybody wants to hear about what you have to say.” I said, “I can’t get the order right, and it just doesn’t fit me to do this. I think you have to be very old to write a book of memoirs and I’m not old enough.” I would just back off from it all the time, but on this last road trip, we were going on tour and be in Massachusetts and Colorado. We were going to do it by car the whole way, and we packed it up, and he gave me this leather bound journal and said, “I want you to start writing this book. Just write it, it doesn’t matter what the sequence is or the order. Just do it and we’ll worry about that later.” So I didn’t do anything. I didn’t write a thing. But a few nights after Peter passed away, I realized that the story–and it is a story…it’s some story–it was our story, because really and truly, I don’t think there would be a public Melanie if there weren’t a Peter Schekeryk. I was his only client and he was dedicated to spreading the word. In fact, his last words were, “It was Melanie,” because I found this out. He had gone to upgrade his phone at a Best Buy so I wasn’t with him, and I wanted to know how it went down. The guys from Best Buy came in and they were crying. They said he came in and he said, “Did you ever hear of “Melanie? No? Oh, you’ve got to check her website,” and he had them put the website on so they could see who I was and he said, “Melanie was the one who started the lighting of candles at concerts. People don’t know this, but look,” and he was showing them this stuff but then said, “I don’t feel so good.” He keeled over and his last words were, “It was Melanie.”

MR: Oh, my God.

M: When they told me this, I had to write it, and I started the book with, “Sometimes you don’t know it’s a story until it has an end.”

MR: I’m sorry you had to go through that.

M: So this is going to be a musical. I call it a musical mystery comedy of errors.

MR: Let’s take a look at that for a second. I love the fact that you’re doing this, and with a beautiful dedication to Peter as well. I have to tell you, how I came into Melanie was of course through the singles, but I also came into your music through a magnificent album. I know everyone says Photograph is your best, but I came in through Madrugada, which I feel was an album of emotions that had music to it.

M: Yeah, thank you. That’s absolutely a great way to say it.

MR: Right from the beginning to the end, it was just one of those magic records. Also, with Peter, I had spoken to him over the years, getting a call from him like every six months, his trying to work something for you. I was never in the right place until I was at BMG, since they owned your old Buddha Records masters. But my point is that, yeah, it was always about trying to get something going for Melanie.

M: Right, exactly. He was on everybody’s time zone. He would get up at four and be talking to England. He was a one-man Melanie campaign.

MR: And those orchestral arrangements that he came up with were magnificent, I really think so.

M: Oh yeah, and some of the things that he had to do to get those strings. He was a producer for CBS when I met him, and he actually lied to CBS and told them it was a session for a group he was producing called The Marshmallows, a psychedelic group, and it was me, but I had no idea what he was up to. I had a full-out orchestra with a string arranger and the New York session strings and I did it live. It was “Beautiful People.” That’s going to be in the musical. It’s called Melanie and the Record Man and it’s going to be at the Blackfriar Theatre in October in Rochester, New York. So if you’re in and about, or not, if you want to just come in and see this…

MR: …and if people did want to get tickets, I imagine there’s a website?

M: Yeah, it’s Blackfriar’s Theatre in Rochester, New York.

MR: All right. Melanie, what advice do you have for new artists?

M: Wow. God. I would just say examine what your motives are and be careful what you wish for. People ask me this a lot. Listen…listen to things that move you and then if you have something to add to that, great. If not, maybe you want to be an archaeologist or something. Not everybody has to be a famous person. But okay, if you’re beyond that and this is what you’re going to do and no matter what this is what you have to do, if you’re driven and you know what you’ve got to do, then just follow that.

MR: Beautiful. Now, you’re going to be touring, ain’t ya?

M: Yeah. Go to my website and we will put the dates up. I’m going to be at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on November 9th, and I’m going to be at the New Hope winery in Pennsylvania on the 23rd and there’s talk about a European tour and about dates in Florida and Texas, but nothing is absolutely solid yet.

MR: And don’t forget about that Fairfield, Iowa, date!

M: I know! When am I coming to Fairfield?

MR: We’ve got to figure this out.

M: I’ve never performed in Iowa.

MR: Iowa wants its fair share of Melanie, too, you know. Hey, let’s close with a thought or two on a special song from Ever Since You Never Heard of Me, “I Tried To Die Young.”

M: I think there was this “Never trust anyone over thirty” sort of thing, there was this thought that nobody cool ever gets old. We all leave before we get ugly. Of course it doesn’t happen.

MR: Too late for me!

MS: The good die young, so here we are.

MR: [laughs] Any other words of wisdom?

M: Oh, gosh. Nothing’s coming out. I’ll Twitter it.

MR: [laughs] You got it. Thank you very much, Melanie. I really do appreciate your time. It’s been beautiful. You truly are beautiful people.

M: Thank you.

Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mike-ragogna/conversations-with-melani_b_1908414.html