The music of life

With a version of my awesome band the Bay Bridge Beat

I believe everyone has an interest they get energy from and is a life long pursuit. And I believe it’s something that entertains us. That’s because we need elements in life that make us happy. Happiness is a key to my meaning of life. Being happy has been a cure all for me. I’ve found humor to be a step towards being happy (even dark humor – I started calling myself the “boneless chicken”). Laughter has always had a healing effect on me and I love sharing it with others. Mary Ann tells me it’s humor that makes this journey more tolerable. I always love telling jokes, especially Jewish humor, which makes us laugh at ourselves.

Mostly, I have found music to be a constant element in my life that has brought me happiness. Since high school, when I taught myself guitar, I’ve gravitated to friends who were also musicians. My hippie years were taken up playing with friends to all hours of the night. I also remember playing banjo in an old timey band in Central Park on weekends, drawing crowds and collecting enough money for a Subway’s sandwich.

Other fond memories include going to the Fillmore East to see Jethro Tull and Eric Clapton (with Delaney and Bonnie). I remember hearing the Beatles for the first time, Jefferson Airplane, then Black Sabbath and Led Zepplin. Then on the folksy side with Joni Mitchell, CS&N, James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel.

Most of all, it is playing music with others that has brought creativity, intellectual challenge, and comradeship to my life. After years of being self taught, I felt I was driving without a license that moved me to take music more seriously. I also decided to switch my instrument to bass guitar when someone at work was selling a beautiful bass and amp for cheap. I studied music theory, jazz, and upright bass. All of that provided me the opportunity to play in a rock band, a blues band, a raggae band (being the only white guy in the group), and of course a jazz quintet. I enjoyed playing all of the music, especially jazz. After 5 years of jazz, I got the itch for a bigger project, one that had a lot of energy to it. I had my mind set of putting together a horn-based funk band like the ones James Brown and Tower of Power had. I had no idea where to start. I always had this philosophy that if you leave yourself open, the opportunity and desire will find you.

It actually started at my temple. I wanted to volunteer at temple, but in a way that used my talents and that motivated me. So I started a house band for the temple, called the Tikvah Tones (my temple name is B’nai Tikvah). It was made up of congregants, some who I am still close to today. We would play fundraisers and holidays. The one missing instrument was the drums. Luckily I had a friend who was a drummer who agreed to be a part of this. Soon, I started talking to some of the band members about my idea for the funk band. The drummer, Tom, and I invited Marty on guitar and Barack on sax to join.

I’m a big believer in fate. I believe when fate and your openness to it align, than stuff happens. So it was that I started a new job, and a not a month into my first project, I ran into Casey, who was a consultant on the project. Casey and I used to work together many years ago at Apple. We both played music then. Among catching up on life, I introduced the idea of playing music together. We both were very much into the concept of a big funk band. So between Tom, Casey, Marty and Barack we started down the path of a 10 year reign of the Bay Bridge Beat. The band members changed (including Marty and Barack), but the music and the camaraderie has given me inspiration and challenge for so long, for which I am incredibly grateful. I am known as a connector and music was one activity through which I brought people into my life and to each others lives. A testament to that happened at a fundraiser Marty put together for ALS called Harrypalooza. It had the Bay Bridge Beat and other musicians I’ve played with before as the entertainment and the attendees were close friends and members of my temple’s community, even some I was surprised seeing. But it was music that brought us together early on and kept us together ever since. I’m truly blessed.

It was also music that created a new hobby over the years – instrument making. There is a reverence I have for makers of instruments and my curiosity about how instruments worked. I was lucky enough to find a luthier who ran a workshop on building guitars and Ethan and I went together. My first project was working with him on a beautiful electric bass.

Since then, I built four more. It gave me great pleasure to slowly craft each one, learning as I was going and making mistakes along the way. It was a form of meditation for me working with my tools and wood. I’m proud of my work and have some beauty to leave behind.

For all the things I’ve done in music, I am missing many things deeply now. I look at my basses and I can’t play them. I look at the ones I built and my tools in the garage knowing I can’t work with them. I go to a Bay Bridge Beat gig and watching someone else in my place. Funny thing about this is that my muscle memory (what’s left of it) move automatically as if I’m playing it myself. And of course the comeradery with a great group of people I’ve bonded with over the years.

Loss is a big part of my situation. In order to cross over from loss is to call it out and grieve for it. Then the hard part is letting go. Letting go of our losses and burdens is what I have found to be the key to getting to happiness and mindfulness. I’ve learned one needs to be able to forgive, forget, and let go to realize their potential.

More to come…

5 thoughts on “The music of life

  1. Music, yes! Taking the train into Manhattan to go to a Jazz Club; hanging out in my 1st apartment with a joint and lots of records; your lighting up Stevie Wonder for me; you and my brother playing guitar – Music ever present. Had no idea you were making guitars. Talk about Living Your Life!

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  2. I am so in awe of your sense of adventure and perseverance to learn both how to create music and how to create musical instruments. You are truly a renaissance man. I love your writings. Thinking of you. Happy Father’s Day

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  3. Harry, thank you for another beautiful post. I love your humor and your music is a gift that uplifts so many. My prayers and thoughts are with you each and every day.

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  4. I know the inability to play the guitar was a big one, time to substitute that with going to see some live shows!🎸🎼

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