One Perfect Song: Have a Little Faith in Me

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“Have a Little Faith in Me”
Written by John Hiatt
Recorded by John Hiatt
Released May 29, 1987

It is said that the music you encounter in your late teens and early 20’s is imprinted on you for the rest of your life. This is the music you love, the music you always go back to, the music by which all other music you listen to will be judged. I first heard the music of John Hiatt when I was 21 years old.

I fell in love with the music of John Hiatt because I fell in love with the story of John Hiatt. John Hiatt was an alcoholic, troubadour Nashville songwriter. Originally from Indiana, Hiatt went to Nashville in 1972 when he was 18 years old, and became a staff songwriter for a local studio and performed with a few bands. He wrote one song for Three Dog Night, and had other songs covered by Willie Nelson, Freddy Fender and Willy DeVille.

Success was elusive. A few of his songs found their way to low chart positions, but always by other artists. He released album after album. He continued to drink. Nothing was working.

Then, in the mid-1980’s, Hiatt got sober. In February 1987, he went into the studio to record what would be his 8th album. Jim Keltner on drums. Nick Lowe on bass. Ry Cooder on guitar. Each one an amazing, experienced musician in his own right.

Money was tight, and so was time. They only had 4 days in the studio. Though the songs were carefully crafted and beautifully written, they had to be quickly recorded. Nick Lowe had only just gotten off the plane from London to Los Angeles when he was brought directly to the studio to record his bass part on “Memphis in the Meantime.” He barely knew the song, and his slightly out of sync bass line serves the song incredibly well. The musicians gelled. Hiatt was in top form. The songs were perfect.

“And after we get good and greasy
Baby we can come back home
Put the cowhorns back on the Cadillac
And change the message on the Code-a-Phone”
-“Memphis in the Meantime

“I ain’t no porcupine
Take off your kid gloves
Are you ready for the thing called love”
-“Thing Called Love”

“Yeah, you’ve seen the old man’s ghost
Come back as creamed chipped beef on toast
Now, if you don’t get your slice of the roast
You’re gonna flip your lid
Just like your dad did, just like your dad did”
-“Your Dad Did”

Bring the Family is a country-rock masterpiece album. Every song is beautifully crafted, and the lyrics are shining with anger, regret, love and hope. He sings in the first song, “but right now I need a telecaster through a vibro-lux turned up to ten.” Hiatt knows how to write a song.

Although Hiatt had the lyrics and basic music for “Have a Little Faith in Me,” he was having a hard time coming up with an arrangement for the band. Producer John Chelew encouraged Hiatt to sit down at the piano to run through the song once so everyone could hear it fresh, and contribute ideas. Unbeknownst to Hiatt, Chelew ran the tape as he sang, and the final version on the album is the recorded rehearsal.

The song is simple, yet sincere and heartfelt.

“When the road gets dark
And you can hardly see
Just let my love throw a spark
Have a little faith in me.”

Hiatt whispers, then sings in falsetto. He strains to share passion and emotion. The lyrics are not groundbreaking, but they tell a truth. He is singing to us. He is singing for us.

In time, Hiatt would record a gospel tinged version with a full band, and though he regularly performed the song solo on the piano during his shows for years, my favorite version is the more lively version with two guitars, bass and drums.

John Hiatt is one of our finest song writers, and yet it is not the craft “Have a Little Faith in Me” that makes it so special, it is the performance. Captured on tape by chance, full-throated, passionate and raw.

“When your secret heart
Cannot speak so easily
Come here darlin’
From a whisper start
To have a little faith in me.”

I first heard “Have a Little Faith in Me” when I was 21. That was 30 years ago. It’s still with me.

One Perfect Song: Here Comes the Sun

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“Here Comes the Sun”
Written by George Harrison
Recorded by The Beatles
Released September 26, 1969

It’s a gray, rainy day today in Chicago. But, it is warmer today than it was yesterday, and I hope it is colder today than it will be tomorrow. The promise of spring is here, and I am thinking about “Here Comes the Sun.”

“Here Comes the Sun” is a sonic, joyous masterpiece. It has a sound that is at once sweet, inviting and optimistic. Spring is here. It is warmer outside. “That ice is slowly melting.” We are immediately part of this song because we connect to the promise of springtime, and the excitement it brings.

Paul McCartney and John Lennon were always the primary songwriters in The Beatles, but George was always given one or two slots on most of their albums. “I Need You” and “You Like Me Too Much” on Help! “Think for Yourself” and “If I Needed Someone” on Rubber Soul. These are some of the finest songs in the history of rock and roll music, but when they are on an album next to songs like “You’re Going to Lose That Girl” by John Lennon or “I’ve Just Seen a Face” by Paul McCartney, they are invariably going to suffer in comparison.

georgeharrison03However, Abbey Road would signal an arrival, of sorts, for Harrison. “Something” on the first side of the album, and “Here Comes The Sun” on the second side. If these were the only two songs George Harrison ever wrote and recorded, he would widely be considered one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century. Frank Sinatra once famously said that “”Something” is the greatest love song of the last 50 years.” Soon, The Beatles would break up and George Harrison would release All Things Must Pass, an amazing triple album filled with classics he had been writing through the years.

Abbey Road is the last album that The Beatles recorded together, even though Let It Be was released approximately eight months later. The recording and collaboration process of Abbey Road during the spring of 1969 was particularly difficult for all members of the band. On the verge of breaking up, tensions were high in the studio, drug use was rampant, and the band was quickly falling apart. Harrison needed an escape from the negative studio atmosphere, and he found refuge at Eric Clapton’s estate. Sitting in the garden on an April afternoon after a particularly cold February and March, Harrison wrote “Here Comes The Sun” as way to welcome springtime, and to share his relief at being able to get away, if only from a little while, from the band that had become the source of so much pain, and artistic limitation.

“Here Comes The Sun” is one of those songs you have probably heard hundreds of times, so much so that when the song is on, it becomes nothing more than pleasant background noise. But find a moment…put on a pair of headphones. Really listen to this song.

Listen.

It starts with an achingly sweet melody played on an acoustic guitar (capo, 7th fret), a Moog synthesizer comes in, in harmony with the guitar, and everything is gently slowed to a pause George begins to sings the chorus to open the song.

“Here comes the sun, doot n’ do do
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right”

George is joined by Ringo’s snappy snare drum and a lush string section as we are brought into the first verse.

“Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter
Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right.”

Who of us can’t identify?!?! The tempo picks up, driven by Paul’s impeccably fluid bass, and we feel relief. We feel peace. We feel the joy and the warmth of the sun hitting our face in the garden. Instruments continued to get layered upon another, and the celebration continues. The song ends with the simple, repetitive line “Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.” This song has become part of who we are, and a part of the way so many of us welcome the warmer days of springtime.

It’s funny to think, but before the Abbey Road album was released in 1969, the world had not yet heard “Here Comes the Sun.” Before 1969, springtime brought no such universally recognized anthem. Before 1969, anyone humming “doot ‘n do do” would be singing alone. For over 5,000 years of recorded history, nobody had ever experienced the delight of unexpectedly hearing the song played on the radio on a beautiful April afternoon. Can you imagine not knowing “Here Comes the Sun?”

“Little darling, the smiles returning to the faces
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been here
Here comes the sun
Here comes the sun, and I say
It’s all right.”

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It’s all right.

Strategy, Impact and Empathy: 3 Keys to Yammer Success.

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Organizations launch Yammer networks with big dreams, high hopes and lofty expectations. Yammer will put constituents within easy reach. An audience will be created. Connections will be made in ways that will make messages easy to share. Economies of scale will be achieved. Our mission will move forward, and our organization will become stronger.

However, once the Yammer network has been launched, organizations too often make posts on Yammer only as an afterthought. Yammer is not seen as a way to engage an audience as much as a way to push information out. We have become so accustomed to sharing information “at” people, we routinely ignore the opportunity Yammer provides to have conversations “with” people. Content for email and websites is usually carefully planned. And then, only as time and opportunity allows, posts that echo that content are also made on Yammer.

But don’t sell Yammer short, and don’t minimize its potential impact. When Yammer is used as a way to engage, organizations can have conversations with their audience that deepen and strengthen its mission and message. When Yammer is used as a way to share resources, it becomes the beginning of a conversation, rather than the end of a creation cycle.

With just a little planning and preparation, Yammer can easily become an incredibly effective part of your overall communications efforts when you remember to post with strategy, intent and empathy.

  1. Letter SPost with STRATEGY: How is Yammer part of the overall communications strategy? How is the information you have to share crafted for your website, as opposed to email, as opposed to your Yammer network? While email is a suitable platform to make people aware of information, it is not a suitable platform to engage people with that information. Bring them to Yammer because you want to hear from people, you want surface reactions to what is being shared, and you want people to discuss your information amongst themselves.
  2. searchPost with INTENT: If information is shared on Yammer as only a means to mark off a procedural checkbox so we can say that yes…information has been shared on all available platforms, a valuable opportunity will be missed. We carefully craft messages for our websites. That message is then changed for our email. Make one more change, and craft the message for Yammer in a way that will encourage replies, questions and further sharing. The nature of each of these platforms is different and powerful, as is the way information is best shared on those platforms.
  3. Letter EPost with EMPATHY: When creating messages and sharing information on Yammer, do so with empathy. Imagine you are a member of your community. You are a leader. You are busy. You want to connect with the information being shared, but you don’t have time to click, search and find. You just want to find the information you need, you need to make immediate sense of the information, and then you need to move on. How can you post that information in such a way that your post will be easy to find, easy to understand and easy to share? Empathy is the key.

The success of any information being shared, on any platform, will be directly reflective of the level of strategy, intent and empathy invested in that effort. Don’t make use Yammer as an afterthought. Use the unique nature of the platform to engage your audience, to inspire them to action, and to provide opportunities for meaningful engagement.

Working Out Loud: Week 9

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I play the guitar. I like to play the guitar. I’ve been playing the guitar for a little over 10 years now. I’m not very good, but I like playing. 12744335_10153917431997902_20172829185019112_n

When I first began to play the guitar, I did not think I would be an expert on day one, but I wanted to learn how to play, so I stuck with it. I knew it would take time. After 10 years, I know lots of basic chords, I can play some barre chords, and I have fun playing music with other people.

In Week 9 of Working Out Loud, we learn about making contributions in a variety different ways, such as blogging. A key aspect of Working Out Loud is “leading with generosity.” What do we have that we can share? How can we be generous with what we know? How can our knowledge serve others, and be the basis of rewarding, ongoing relationships.

We can tweet useful facts and links to articles. We can email attachments to people we respect, and hope that they will have the time and inclination to open our emails. We can blog. Blogging is a wonderful way to share what you know, and an effective way to be transparent and generous. But, as John Stepper points out in Working Out Loud, while it is a very accessible platform, blogging is not very easy. In fact, just like the guitar, or cooking, or public speaking, most people won’t be very good at blogging when they first try. Mr. Stepper writes “I wrote hundreds of blog posts before I was able to write this book.”

Reading Working Out Loud provided me with the inspiration to try blogging. I accepted the fact that, in order to become good at blogging, I had to develop the habit to write often. Only if I wrote often would I become good. I started my blog on September 1, 2016, and made it clear that I did not know what I was doing. In fact I wrote “I don’t really know how to do this. I don’t know who will be reading my ramblings and musings. I am not even sure what I will be writing about.”

I published the blog. I linked to it from Facebook and Twitter. Zero views. I wrote again, and again, and again. My blog about the day I met Mavis Staples got 10 views. My blog about a very public complaint that was made about my work got 76 views, and the blog I wrote about my experience at the 2016 Microsoft Ignite Conference got over 160 views.

Though I have become somewhat addicted to studying the statistics of my blog, I resolved early on to write only for myself. I love it when people actually read what I write, when people accept my generosity. As I blog more and more, I hope I will become a better writer.

So be generous. Write if you like to write. Write about things that make you happy, things that you care about. Even if no one reads your blog (PLEASE…READ MY BLOG!!!!) it will be worthwhile.

Just as with any other creative or professional discipline, whether  you are writing, coding, leading or playing the guitar…the more you practice, the better you will be. Be good.