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Star Dust Celebration!



Hello Dear Ones,


I hope you had a peaceful & enjoyable holiday weekend. It was hot as blazes here, reaching 115F! So, we didn't venture out much and instead, worked on some projects. For a treat, Paul made homemade fig & chocolate chunk ice cream and we finally watched "The Greatest Showman". (Which for the record, had me reaching for Kleenex at least 4 times.) It's fitting that we watched that film because I'm starting this post with one of PT Barnum's quotes: "If I shoot for the sun, I may hit a star!" Well, lately, I've been re-training myself to take higher aim. It's a learning curve for certain, and one that's often outside my comfort zone.


I'm not timid about making my art, but the business aspect of marketing and promoting my work used to make me feel squeamish. I think that's because in our society, artists are made to feel undervalued and unworthy and insignificant. For someone who is of a sensitive nature, the auditions, the rejections, the reviews, the critiques, the bad advice, can all weigh heavily upon your soul and leave you feeling vulnerable. All that is pretty icky, so I put my focus on where I was most comfortable: Creating my music catalogue of these themed collections. These new monthly single releases are part of my "Love Outshines the Moon" collection.


It's amazing to think back to a year ago, because as I was recording the final tracks, I was doing so, not knowing where I would be today. I'd been diagnosed with breast cancer, but I didn't have all the information and testing completed and surgery was yet to be scheduled. I only knew that I had to put "Faith Over Fear" and dwell in optimism and positivity. Thankfully, a year later, I've made it through to the other side and I must say, everything takes a different tone post-cancer. I'm certainly more grateful and happier and centered. I feel more empowered and strong and courageous. I'm less intimidated by little things, like reaching out to people and telling them about my music because it's something I'm proud of and happy to be able to share.


As I've said before, I love inspirational and motivational quotes. I have a quote on the wall next to my desk which says: "You will be too much for some people --Those aren't your people". That's why I'm so delighted to have you here! You're my people; the Dear Ones, who get who I am, and what I'm about. You support my music and my art and my vision. You look forward to hearing from me and listening to my music, which makes me happy and makes me want to return the favor and create more. It also encourages me to market my music, because I know you'll enjoy it, and I know it may reach new people, who will love it, too. Which finally brings me to my story:


A few weeks back, I started writing this blog post, but as a researcher, before I publish anything, I always diligently fact check. So I was checking something about Stardust and as I was googling his name, the official Hoagy Carmichael website popped up. It's run by his family. 'Hmmmm?' I thought: 'Why not let them know about my music video?' (After all, I've recently pledged that I'm committed to joyously expanding artistic engagement, horizons and abundance.) So, I went ahead, and wrote them a heartfelt letter and shared the link to my Stardust music video. I couldn't be sure who I'd reach, but I hoped to get beyond an auto-response and maybe hear back from someone within the organization.


To my delight, within a day, I received an email from Hoagy Bix Carmichael, telling me he liked my version of his Dad's song!! That means a lot, coming from him, because it's so personal. It's not just a song; it's family; it's love; it's legacy. Those are the very things that inspire me as an artist. Those are the very things that I put into my work. The fact that Hoagy, Jr. immediately and personally wrote to tell me that my version was a "real treat to hear" makes me feel so honored and proud. I shot for the sun and I landed in the stars!


So, on that note, even though my new single Twinkle Twinkle Little Star just released last week and I have things to share about it, I'd like to circle back and welcome you to my Stardust celebration!


Sometimes, when I research a song, I can hardly find anything beyond the name of the songwriters. But for a song like Stardust, which, as Hoagy Bix says, has been recorded 2,300 times, there's a trove of information! Which is why I've taken so long to write this post. I revisited my research from years ago, and I just got entranced. I love history so much and I got all wrapped up in the stories, once again. These are so good, I couldn't keep them to myself. So, I'm going to share some history, some quotes, some special behind-the-scenes photos from the music video, and hopefully you'll learn something interesting or get some inspiration for embarking on your own creative endeavors.


Stardust is a beloved part of 20th century pop-culture. It's in the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress and the Grammy Hall of Fame. It's how composer Hoagy Carmichael, became such a pop and film icon that he even appeared in an episode of "The Flintstones," as the co-writer of the Yabba Dabba Doo song!


Today, Stardust, is seen as a standard from the Great American Songbook, but when it was written, its structure was unique and anything but standard. Nonetheless, it's become an iconic part of music history and as such, there's a whole mythology built up around it. Much of that legend can be attributed to Hoagy Carmichael himself, whose romantic description of how the song came to him, goes something like this: One hot summer night, he was walking across the campus of his alma mater, Indiana U Bloomington, and as he walked past the "spooning wall", he wistfully thought of a lost romance and the tune came to him. It was so compelling that he had to run across campus to the nearest piano at the Dadaist hangout, the Book Nook, where he jotted it down. In reality, the song was more than a year in the making, and it's unique structure was inspired by the cornet playing of his dear friend, the great Bix Beiderbecke. If you listen to the melody, you can hear how it builds like a cornet jazz improv, meandering over an octave and a third.


And though the song is inspired by Bix Beiderbecke - -who some credit as the inventor of the jazz ballad style- - the original 1927 version recorded by Hoagy Carmichael and His Pals was a rhythmic swing instrumental. (While Hoagy had put together some lyrics early on, they were never recorded, though the phrase "stardust melody" was in the original). Hoagy's publisher, Irving Mills, was also a band agent who specialized in black and jazz musicians and back in those days, it was not uncommon for multiple bands to record the same tune. So by 1929, it was pretty well known by musicians but not outside of that circle. Mills decided that to make it more popular, the song needed words and assigned the job to Mitchell Parish, one of his staff lyricists. Mitchell heard it and didn't think much of it, later recounting "When I heard it, it was a swing tune, but I didn't write it that way".


In May 1930, Isham Jones and his orchestra recorded a new arrangement that he'd written in conjunction with Victor Young. This new "pop" version was played as a lush, romantic orchestral ballad, including strings, and though it still lacked vocals, Mitchell Parish said he "heard it then as if he heard it for the first time."


Finally in 1931, the first vocal versions began to appear and as Will Friedwald says "For all intents and purposes, the Mitchell Parish text became part of American musical history with two breakthrough recordings by Bing Crosby in August and Louis Armstrong in November.


FOOTNOTES

Years later, in discussing songwriting, Parish said "If a song had a good catchy title, half the song was written. So, who named Stardust, Hoagy or Mitchell? Neither. The credit goes to Stu Gorell, Hoagy's roommate who after hearing it said it sounded like "dust from the stars drifting down through a summer night". Hoagy said " I had no idea what the title meant, but I thought it was gorgeous". (Which to a modern audience may seem funny since we've all heard of stardust, but back then, these things weren't known and seemed more poetic than scientific.


Sadly, Bix Beiderbecke who had such a strong personal and professional influence on Hoagy died on August 6, 1931, at age 28, collapsing in his landlord's arms after a delusional episode caused by years of drinking bootleg alcohol. It also believed he had a case of pneumonia. Here's a recording with Hoagy & Bix playing Georgia On My Mind .


Hoagy's story and the story behind the jazz scene of 1920s Bloomington, Indiana is so utterly fascinating. If you're a jazz aficionado, or a history buff, I highly recommend these two superbly researched and nuanced articles.

The Road to Stardust : Hoagy Carmichael and Bix Beiderbecke in 1924

by David Brent Johnson


Stardust Melodies The Biography of Twelve of America's Most Popular Songs

By Will Friedwald



(Here's a little known fact, I was accepted to undergrad at Indiana University Bloomington, for the dance school, but I chose SDSU instead.)



QUOTES


"Play me a Hoagy Carmichael song and I hear the banging screen door and the sound of an outboard motor on a lake - - sounds of summer in a small town America that is long gone, but still longed for" - William Zinsser



Loved these two next two quotes so much, that I had to create something special for them.

You'll note that the original sheet music spells "Star Dust" as two words. All subsequent printings spell it as one word. (Love that Hoagy Bix is faithful to the original.)





A FEW BEHIND THE SCENES PIX FROM THE STARDUST MUSIC VIDEO


Living room as video studio location. I see an investment in lighting in our future.


The videos we are shooting are truly co-directed and co-produced. As a trained photographer, that means having a mirror in place for me to check angles and poses, when we're shooting. The screen to the right is cropped but if you saw it, you'd see that it has notes pinned to it, including a shot list, some thumbnail storyboard sketches and lyric cheat sheets.



One of the stills we used for PR. Backdrop was created by the Paper Moon Shoppe .




Using the same photo, here's the banner that I created for my YouTube page.



Here's a different shot.


The photo above pre-dates the music video by over a year. It was a selfie that I shot in the carport of the W Hotel in Hollywood! I liked the overhead lights there and deliberately took the photo with Stardust in mind, though I wasn't exactly sure how I'd use it.

Ultimately, I used the photo to create the artwork for my song tile. Now I know better to match the outfit to the one I'll be ultimately be wearing in the music video, but truly, this artwork was created on the fly for a deadline. Even though it doesn't match the other images, I like the way it looks. It shows up wherever you buy or download my music, like Spotify or Apple Music or iTunes.


I hope you've enjoyed this exploration of all things Hoagy and Stardust. I leave you with one more quote, by Elvis Costello: "Every moment has a song. There is a time in life for Hoagy Carmichael. There's a time in life for Claude Debussy. There's a time in life for Jerry Lee Lewis. There's a time for Destiny's Child. All these things have their moment."


Thank you for inviting my music into your homes and hearts and for letting me be a soundtrack for some of your life's moments. It's my great pleasure to share my music with you. If you love it, please share it with others who will, too.


Love, light and blessings to you,

Xoj







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