It seems like forever ago since I went out to hear live music and felt the excitement of a great performance and mingled with friends and fellow music fans.

Yeah, we’ve gone out a few times in the past year; really, you could count on one hand and have a couple fingers left over.

I know live music has continued to exist in recent months and I salute all those musicians who are continuing to perform their art in very difficult circumstances. However, some of us have individual concerns or medical conditions that have precluded us from taking the chance of going out and spending much time around other people.

At first, it was thought that you might as well be careful for the few months it would take to get ahead of this virus. And then, as the months went on and on and the vaccine became available, the thought turned to “why get careless and get sick now after all this time when the cure may be so close?”

As much as I miss going out, I’ve gotten pretty accustomed to the reclusive lifestyle. My late-night tendencies have become accentuated; I rarely go to sleep before 2 or 3 in the morning, I’ve done a lot of reading, I’ve caught up with some movies and TV that I never seemed to have time for previously, and I’m continually amazed at the endless great music that’s available.

Social media has its drawbacks, as we all know. But I’ve found it to be a great way to stay in some kind of touch with friends, especially with all the posts on Facebook from musicians all over the country, especially the ones I admire from right here in Western New York. I still buy CDs and merch from musicians, after seeing and hearing their posts about new music. But the library of music from all around the world that is at your fingertips through whatever streaming device you use is just astounding.

You can find almost anything. I’ve amused myself many times by making playlists around a particular theme. My favorite bands, certain time periods in my life, events that were important to me, special occasions and even music from books or TV shows; they all become eligible for a playlist.

One that I recently enjoyed making and listening to is from the book “Simon the Fiddler,” by Paulette Jiles, a western set in Texas in the 1860s. Incidentally, she also wrote “News of the World,” which was turned into the latest Tom Hanks movie. There are at least 30 songs mentioned in the book that Simon and his bandmates played at various locations, and I think I found every one of them:  old-timey public domain songs, Irish, Scottish, a lot of tunes that were familiar even if the title wasn’t. There were some great surprises, like finding James McMurtry singing “Red River Valley.”

We all know the impact great music can make on a movie. I caught up with all four seasons of the TV series, Fargo. I love this series and I noticed throughout that the music was great in every episode. So, I made a playlist of 50 or so of my favorite songs, including the Fargo theme song. Artists like John Lee Hooker, the Flatlanders, Nathaniel Rateliff, Fats Domino, Blind Boys of Alabama, Jeff Tweedy, Golden Gate Quartet, Riders in the Sky, CCR, Son House, Spirit, and many more. In particular, I love Jeff Russo’s version of World Party’s “Ship of Fools.” And Andrew Bird, appearing as an actor in Season 4, reminded me of his music, which I went back to with a new set of ears.

The SAM Foundation has been dormant for the past year, as we’ve all just been hanging on and hoping the world would get back to normal.   We had many activities and events going on with the Foundation, so we were able to build up a lot of momentum. The challenge will be for us to get things moving again to help expand appreciation of the music we love. We’ll need you, and all of us, to do that.

This is a time for cautious optimism that this summer and fall will be a return to something like what we had before. The good news for Rose and me is that by mid-April we’ll both be a couple of weeks past our second vaccination. It’s almost time to ease back into the WNY community.

Bob McLennan
SAM Foundation Board Member



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