2017

Farewell Obama

 

Tuesday night I got the chance of a lifetime.  I attended President Obama's farewell speech here in Chicago. It was an extraordinary night that I'm still processing. By the end of the night I had been standing well over 8 hours, all completely worth it to witness history. Eddie Vedder gave a powerful pre-speech performance with a Chicago choir. It was also interesting to see folks like Bill Nye, Jesse Jackson, and Anderson Cooper walking around. It was a bittersweet evening that I won't forget.

I don't think President Obama was perfect, as no president is - but I do think he is going to be a president that is talked about in the same way we talk about Kennedy and Lincoln. For me he is really the first president that has had a major impact on my life in a positive way. I became of age and political understanding under the Bush administration. Obama was the first current president that has ever inspired me to get involved in the process. 

Watching Obama and Biden walk off the stage for the very last time Tuesday night I was unable to hold back the tears. It truly felt like a light was being extinguished. I had to remind myself of President Obama's message of hope that he so eloquently conveyed in his speech. Despite my sadness I know there is still so much work to be done. It's up to us now.

"It falls to each of us to be those those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we've been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen. 

So, you see, that's what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there's an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.  If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.  Show up. Dive in. Stay at it."

 

Thank you President Obama.

 

 

The End of an Era.

Happy New Year! I hope 2017 is off to a roaring start for all of you. Please pardon my absence from writing, I have been ill for a while and then was on the road. I’m now back in Chicago and feeling great just in time for the new year. During my recent travels back to North Carolina over the holiday I was able to stop by one of my most favorite places in the world - 1218 Charlottetowne Ave, better known as The Double Door Inn.

The Double Door has been a Charlotte institution and destination for music fans and musicians alike since it opened it’s doors in 1973.  It has fostered many generations musicians including myself and so many of my colleagues. The likes of Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughn have graced the Double Door stage as well as countless blues and rock ‘n’ roll greats. Even before I was old enough to get in the Double Door was on my radar.

From the outside it doesn’t look like much. The worn paint and sagging roof make it easy to overlook. Inside the walls are lined with photos of bands and artists that have performed on it's stage. From Leon Russell to Pinetop Perkins, the Double Door is really a sanctuary of the blues. When I was finally old enough to get in the bar I quickly became a regular on Monday nights.

Photographs of bluesmen cover the walls of The Double Door

Photographs of bluesmen cover the walls of The Double Door

 

Every Monday night for some twenty odd years a group of Charlotte’s best musicians have gathered to form a band that became known as The Monday Night Allstars. Led for many years by my mentor’s mentor the great Charles Hairston, Monday nights became legendary for the band’s powerful mix of classic r&b and soul music. I’ve seen performances on that stage that I will remember for the rest of my life. The band has had a few personnel changes through the years but it has always delivered some of the best music I’ve ever heard.

Over my Christmas visit to North Carolina I set foot in this sacred place for the last time. By the time you are reading this the Double Door will have officially closed it’s doors for good. My last Monday night visit was extraordinary. There was a line out the door as the club was at capacity. Band members from all eras of the band were present to display their talents one last time. As I listened to the music that night I couldn’t help but think of all the incredible nights I’ve spent immersed in the sounds that I love so much.

I remember all the incredible musicians that I’ve met at the Double Door. The great Jim Brock, Ziad Rabie, Chris Allen, Joe Lindsay, Rick Blackwell - several of these characters make appearances on my record. I would always sit in the front row so I could study their every note. The first time I got to sing on the stage I remember being terrified. I remember being moved to tears by an amazing version of “People Get Ready” by Carey Sims and the band. I remember the first time I met my dear friends Pat and Jessica as we bonded over our shared love of music. The Double Door has been a formative experience in my life and I think most every musician in Charlotte shares that sentiment.


The next time I roll into town the old bar will be gone. I’ve heard a parking deck is taking it’s place - there’s a blues song if I ever heard one. Of course I’m sad it’s all over, but I feel so lucky that I got to experience all the things I did thanks to the Double Door. The only thing we can ever be sure of is that everything will change. As we begin this new year we can honor those things no longer with us by being present wherever we are, and taking a minute to appreciate the beauty and talent around us. Check out some video of the Double Door below.