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acoustic music in the Pete Seeger tradition

Bill Berlinghoff

Bill’s Song Lyrics

Lend A Hand!
© 2017 Bill Berlinghoff

As kids we learn to sing the songs of how our country’s great,

With spacious skies and amber waves of grain;

But growing up we see a land of greed and fear and hate,

With leaders blind to other people’s pain.


The cynics call our childhood visions myth and fantasy,

This country never was like that, they say;

But myths like these illuminate the country that could be,

A place to build a little more each day.


A country is its people, ev’ry race and ev’ry creed;

If we care about our country, we’ll attend to what they need;

We are all in this together, us and them and you and me,      

So lend a hand to keep our country free!


Our land will not be free unless its citizens are brave

Enough to make a home for those in need;

The flaming torch of liberty’s a dream we need to save --

A symbol of our freedom, not our greed.


So choose as leaders those who share the childlike dreams of hope

And not of money for the wealthy few;

Support them when they fight for those who struggle just to cope,

And fight them if they turn their backs on you.


A country is its people, . . .



The Hand of Someone Wiser
© 1984 Bill Berlinghoff

There are some who say we lead a random life,

Chance and Lady Luck are all that mark the way,

But the stars and seas and spiders say there's order in this world
And the rising sun reminds me every day, that


  The hand of Someone wiser guides the path I choose to take,

  The eyes of Someone see far down the road,

  The mind of Someone keener maps the journey of my life,

  The heart of Someone loves me as I go.


There are days when living hides the way ahead,

When this worried, working world is all I see;

I pretend that there's no question 'cause the answer isn't clear,

And that blindness is the same as being free, but


The hand of Someone wiser . . .


Is it rhyme or reason makes me what I am?

Do I need to know to love to live today?

Can the puzzle be the answer and the seeker be the goal?

Can't I just take little steps along the way, as


The hand of Someone wiser . . .


Get a Cat!
© 2018 Bill Berlinghoff

When no one seems to listen, when no one seems to care,
Find a feline, take it home, put it in your fav’rite chair;
Tell it all your woes and wishes, ev’rything that’s going wrong;
It will hear in solemn silence, maybe even purr along.

      Get a cat for friendship, tell it what you’re thinking of;
      Get a kitten just for fun, get a cat for love.

It will be a good companion, listening in its own way;
Maybe even understanding some of what you have to say.
Curling up in calm contentment, it will bring you peace of mind;
Scratch its chin or comb its fur and leave your petty cares behind.

      Get a cat …

If you train a dog to sit or fetch you stuff, it will obey;
But a cat may just ignore you, groom its tail, and walk away.
Don’t suppose it doesn’t like you, just because it won’t behave;
Give it room and it will find you; it’s a buddy, not a slave.

      Get a cat …

Cats were gods in ancient Egypt, running wild along the Nile;
Guarding grain from roaming rats and munching mice in regal style.
Living now with their descendants, it may seem like they don’t care;
Just allow for independence – when it matters, they’ll be there.

      Get a cat …

Old Love
© 2019 Bill Berlinghoff

     Love me now, as long ago, when we were fresh and young,
     When summer flowers filled the air and hopeful songs were sung;
     Love me as you did before, and let me give you mine,
     Carried gently through the years and still undimmed by time.

He lost her forty years ago, she slipped away one morning;
The fire of his early life was gone without a warning;
The healing years just dried the tears, but not the ache inside,
Locked away until the day it would no longer hide.

     Love me now, as long ago, ….

He’s found her now, not far away, as such things sometimes happen
Not totally by chance, but maybe part of some grand pattern;
Unsure at first, he finds a warm and welcoming reply,
More precious for the vanished years, a star in winter sky.

     Love me now, as long ago, ….

Listen to the Old Songs
© 2018 Bill Berlinghoff

Come listen to the old songs, ones you used to know,

And maybe even new ones like the songs of long ago

When Dad or Mom or Grandma sang or played the tunes,

The old songs sung by folks like you and me.

There’s laughter in the old songs, sung to entertain,

To chase away the blues and make us happy once again;

There’s sadness in the old songs, sung to let it go,

As singing somehow sets the spirit free.

There’s history in old songs, passed along the years,

As stories come alive again each time a person hears;
There’s comfort in the old songs, familiar and secure,

Reminding us of times that used to be.

There’s wisdom in the old songs, waiting to be heard

By anyone with wit and will to listen to the words;

And power in them helping us to stand in unity

Against injustice, hate, and cruelty.

So listen to the old songs,…


The Corner Tree

© 2019  Bill Berlinghoff

A century or more ago, an acorn opened to the ground,

Just one among a showering of promise scattered all around.

The turkeys, squirrels, deer, and chipmunks ate their fill until the snow,

While, tucked away beside a rock, that single seed began to grow.

‘Twas slow at first, when leaves emerged those days so long before my time,

As, shyly reaching for the sun, the sturdy stem began its climb;

Through fern and flower, weed and shrub, past berry, birch, and beech and pine,

Until, at last, its crown would billow high atop the forest line.

I found that tree the other day, while walking in the wood,

 An oak beside an old stone wall;

 I wondered what it would have seen in all the years it stood,

 While towering above it all.

 The growing sapling surely saw the forest being cleared away

For lumber, heat, and open land, for squash and corn and beans and hay;

And soon that oak stood proud and tall, while much around it moved and changed,

When men and oxen piled the stones, to north and east in rows arranged.

A hatchet gash and then again, the second one a quarter way around,

A double scar to signify — a corner tree, by custom bound

To stand while those around it fall to axe and saw and human hand,

A now-protected sentinel to mark the bound’ry of the land.

 Will that tree and the stones it guards be there when I am gone,

 To tell the story of its place?

 Or will the greed of thoughtless men devour ev’ry one,

 And leave the land without a trace?

A century or more ago, an acorn opened to the ground.


Silv’ry Girl

      © 1977 Bill Berlinghoff

A silv’ry girl comes breaking through my evening,

She glows like moonlight on a feathered night;

Her laughter shines and sparkles in the darkness,

And suddenly the ghosts are put to flight.

A saddened girl is talking through the wire

Of passing friends, remembered joys, and fears;

We make some music just to pass the hours,

And slowly ev’ry rain cloud disappears.

We share some seasons, sipping life together;

Not daring yet to drink it to the full;

Then right before our eyes the glass is empty

As past and future both begin to pull.

 She slips away, a shadow in the sunlight,

 Sadly silent, softly seeking rest;

 Moving on to brighten up another

 Lonely seeker on the way to happiness.


Fibonacci

© 2018 Bill Berlinghoff


It’s just a simple air, / a melody without a name;

And who would know or guess or care how it from sums of numbers came?


In Italy of old, / a scholar posed a query queer

About some pairs of hares that bred from month to month throughout a year.


From one and one comes two, / then each is from the two before,

And soon a swirling spiral mimics Nature in a flower’s core.


’Twas fancy, to be sure, a pretty chain of simple sums,

Whose ratios e’er closer come to artists’ Golden Rule!


It’s just a simple air, / a melody without a name;

And who would know or care / how it from sums of numbers came?



This song is especially for the mathematical community.
Fibonacci (Leonardo of Pisa), a 13th-century Italian mathematician, wrote a book about calculating with the then-new decimal place system of numerals that we use today. In it was this problem (loosely paraphrased):

A mating pair of rabbits produces another mating pair every month from the second month of its life on. Starting with one pair, how many pairs are there at the end of one year?

The monthly totals are 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, …,
where each number is the sum of the previous two. This sequence turns out to occur in surprising places in nature, even in a basic artistic rule about proportion.

The melody for the first line of each verse is that sequence of notes in the octave, separating digits:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, / 1, 3, 2, 1, 3, 4, 5, 5

The melody of the very last line reverses the sequence:

5, 5, 4, 3, 1, 2, / 3, 1, 8, 5, 3, 2, 1, 1


Listen

Ev’ry Day Brings Another

lyrics © 1985 Bill Berlinghoff

melody by Bruce Pratt: "Ain't It Just Like The Weather"


When the snows of the winter soak the ground and go,

When the sprouts appear and they begin to grow,

We look ahead to the time when all the apples bloom

And cornstalks start to climb toward a harvest moon.


(And) Ev’ry day brings another,

Ev’ry day brings another,

Ev’ry day brings another and another
'til the summer sets the flowers free.


They're playing in the parlor, then it's out in the yard,

And soon there's chores to do; life'll seem so hard;

They always think of something to keep us on the go,

It's like a 24-hour moving picture show.

    And ev’ry day ...


A little taste of honey, a little taste of salt,

The kids are on their own now, and it's nobody's fault

That when the front door opens it's got a hollow sound,

Just the paper and the TV and only me around.

    And ev’ry day ...


'Times I get to wonder where the seasons lead,

When the days are short, flowers gone to seed;

I guess the time is coming for someone else's turn,

Just a few more years and so much to learn.

     And ev’ry day ...


Then I get to thinking about the morning sun,

How the breezes blow and the rivers run;

I look ahead to the time when all the apples bloom

And cornstalks start to climb toward a harvest moon.

     And ev’ry day ...



Yesterday’s Lovers

©2019 Bill Berlinghoff


Chasing a life he can’t find with his wife,

He travels the bars and the streets,

Hoping to find an escape from his mind

In each good-looking stranger he meets.


Sitting alone, she clings to the phone

Like a drowning soul deep in the blue,

Talking her way through each echoing day

Without hearing a word that is new.


 Yesterday’s lovers, searching the silence,

 Looking for something to say;

 Each one afraid of beginning the ending,

 Neither one knowing the way.


Living a lie, they keep wondering why

Their romance split wide at the seams;

The vows of forever that they made together

Have faded along with their dreams.


 Yesterday’s lovers . . .


Sometimes what matters is written in chapters,

Endings may come and may go;

Turning the page without pity or rage

Can be love that lets each other grow.


 Yesterday’s lovers . . .


Independence
[a.k.a. The Twin Lakes Stagecoach Inn]

© 2017  Bill Berlinghoff


In the summer of one of my earlier years, I was drifting out west, trading music for beers;

I landed in Leadville one day in late June, / hoping to play in a local saloon;

She found me that day as I sang for some change, a lady from somewhere out east of the plains,

 “I bought an old inn,” she said, “not long ago, and I want someone there to make music.”


She wanted a show for the Fourth of July, just a few days away and someplace nearby,

Offered money, a room, and some edible fare, so I took the directions and said I’d be there;

Headed southwest from Leadville to look for the place, just a dot on the map with the label Twin Lakes;

The fact that I didn’t know what to expect seemed a good way to mark Independence.


On Route 82 up Mount Elbert a ways, stood a ramshackle inn from the old stagecoach days;

It once was a place where the stages would rest before tackling the Pass out to Aspen and west;

/ Now it seemed grateful that somebody might try to cut away bushes and let in the light,

Which is just what I saw driving up to the door; so I got out and tried to be hopeful.


 You know, independence is not what it seems,

 It isn’t the stuff made of patriots’ dreams.

 It’s lonely and scary and filled up with doubt

 When you don’t know the way that your story comes out.


The owner appeared as I walked through that door, led me up to a room on the creaky top floor;

The bed was a bunk that sloped to the wall, and the toilet was down at the end of the hall;

When she showed me around, there was not much to see, just a pool table right where my show was to be,

And her pet in a pen at the back of the inn, a black wolf that was hungry for dinner!

 

Next evening was show time, and as I prepared, it was hard to imagine why anyone cared;

There seemed to be no one for acres around – no guests and no diners and almost no sound;

But the room filled with people in time for the songs, getting louder and happier all evening long,

Ending right with a bang when a fake Leadville gang staged an old-fashioned hold-up and shooting!


 Now, a singer’s success is measured in smiles,

 The money is mostly to pay for the miles;

 That evening’s good cheer was an ample week’s pay

 To carry along as I went on my way.


That inn is still there and it’s open again, after good times and hard times between now and then;

It was called the Black Wolf for a while in the past, but without care and feeding such things never last;

Now the new Twin Lakes Inn is an elegant place, its history part of its charm and its grace;

And it lives in my soul as a rustic reminder that chances in life are worth taking!


A Song about Songs

(a.k.a. Songwriter’s Block)

© 2016  Bill Berlinghoff


I like a song to say what’s in my heart and in my mind;

I don’t know if it matters that you hear (or even care);

There’s something deep inside / that searches hard to find

A way to make the muddy waters clear.


 A song is just a little thing, it passes in the breeze;

 It’s here and then it’s gone before you know;

 A song is often sung to put the singer’s heart at ease,

 Intended more for sharing than for show.


The crafting of a simple song is not an easy chore;

A gentle song to open up the eyes (or soothe the soul);

Since words are free it’s always far too easy to use more

And hide the feeling in a glib disguise.


 A song . . .


When thoughts get tangled up or stuck in words precise and cold,

The music finds a softer, smoother way (to set them free);

And if it helps a scrap of hidden wisdom to unfold,

That song is worth the singing any day.


 A song . . .


I’d like to write a song like that some day before I go,

An easy, lively tune to sing and play (or hum along),

With wise and witty words / that leave an afterglow;

I wonder what a song like that should say!


 A song . . .


And if the song that’s sung has put the singer’s heart at ease,

It’s surely more for sharing than for show!

Chester Greenwood Day

lyrics © 2014 Bill Berlinghoff

melody by Jan Harmon: State of Maine License song

[Note: Chester Greenwood of Farmington, Maine, invented earmuffs in 1873.]


O Mister Chester G, it would warm your heart to see how your ingenuity has lasted,

Because people far and near wear protectors for the ear, just the way folks in the past did.
There’s a little more variety to earmuffs in society, but they work like they used ta;
Yes, you surely are a hero when the temp’rature is zero and batt’ries need a boostah.


It really is a mystery how many books in history / hardly give him a mention

Like the Happy Birthday song, they’ve been with us for so long that his earmuffs get no attention;

But in Farmington in Maine, Chester Greenwood is a name to be honored each December

With a frosty celebration of the warming inspiration of a chilly young inventor.


Playing hockey on the lake, when his ears began to ache, Chester tried to make them bettah;

Got some wire and beaver fur, went to Grandma, said to her, “Sew the one around the othah.”
With some velvet in between, / the ears of this young teen / soon were feeling cozy,
And this style that came to be, ’way back in sev’ty-three, made his future very rosy.


There’s a lot more to this story of obscurity-to-glory for a Mainer’s cold prevention;

How a very chilly ear launched a sixty-year career of employment and invention;

For more than half a century, the stuff from Greenwood’s factory / sold when the days got coolah,

And the troops in World War I ordered earmuffs by the ton, making Chester lotsa moolah.


Chester’s innovations led to many more creations and to products he promoted,

And his wife’s remembered yet as a feisty Suffragette by the women who have voted;

And the message for today is a useful one to say ev’ry year when we renew it:

If you ski or skate or snowshoe, you’d be very well advised to have some earmuffs when you do it.

© 2018-21 Bill Berlinghoff

Sing a Happy Song

©2012 Bill Berlinghoff


“Sing a happy song,” she said,                             

“A snappy, tappy song,” she said,

 “A song to make us smile awhile and chase our cares away;

Sing a cheery song,

Not a teary song,

We want to lose the blues and find a sunny, shiny day.”


 “We’ve heard enough of wars and woes,

 We’re tired of keeping on our toes,

 Fending off the tweets and bytes that tell us what to do;

 We need a little melody,

 A time of pleasant company,

 A song to set our spirits free,… and so… we’ve come to you.”


[short minor-key banjo break]


“I haven’t got the words,” I said,

“To chase away the clouds,” I said,

“And make the sun come shining through a weary, dreary day;

But maybe if the banjo sings

A melody on simple strings,

You’ll hear a bit of carefree cheer and hum the gloom away.”


[ad-lib banjo interlude]


“Sing a happy song . . . [Repeat first part.]


Away

© 2020  Bill Berlinghoff


If you’re not born in the Pine Tree State,
a Mainer doesn’t hesitate,

He says it to you right out straight,
He says you’re “from Away”;

You might have lived here fifty years
and worked the land or brewed the beer,

But if you didn’t start out here,
you’ll still be from Away.


Cho: Where’s Away? [Didn’t say!]
 
What’s Away?  [Couldn’t say!]
 Might be a place or thing, might be ’most anything;
 You can look but you won’t find Away!


Now, tourists come to Maine a lot,
from every state and city spot,

They come from places wicked hot,
they come to get Away;

The tourists stay from June ‘til fall,
on beach and trail, on roads that crawl,

And when they’ve shopped and spent it all,
they pack and go Away.


Cho:


Now, lots of things they and we buy
come wrapped in plastic, tight and dry,

To fill the seas and pile up high
when it gets thrown Away;

It clutters lake and road and hill,
it tangles paw and fin and gill,

And when the fish have et their fill,
they all just pass Away.


Cho:


The folks who make that stuff don’t care,
they fill the oceans, foul the air,

And when they’re shown the world we share,
they all just turn Away.

We can’t just let our planet crash!  
Before the world is filled with trash

And all that’s left is petty cash,
we’ve got to find A Way!


 Find A Way!  [Find a way!]

 Start today!  [Start today!]

 Recycle everything, don’t squander anything;

 Look and work until we find A Way!

It’s Only Stuff

© 2020 Bill Berlinghoff


“It’s only stuff,” I hear you say when walking in the door;

“You ought to throw away the things you don’t need anymore.”

“It’s time to fill a dumpster with your antiquated clutter,

Or soon there won’t be any space to navigate around this place;

I’ll have to end up sitting on your lap or on the floor.”


It isn’t really all that bad, you know as well as I;

And you don’t see the things I see behind what meets the eye;

The tools that built your cradle and the shaky childhood table,

The booklet of the silly songs we sang as we would drive along

Remind me of the good times in the days and years gone by.


The things we had when I was young were made of sturdy stuff,

Of iron, solid wood and steel, which made them good enough

To last more than a season, so there isn’t any reason

To let them go to waste and not reuse the good old things we got,

Not like the plastic parts these days that break if you get rough.


But, more than that, these well-worn things bring echoes to my mind

Of older ways in younger days, and people left behind;

The records played at dances that began those teen romances,

The letters, books, and pictures of the times and places that I loved,

It’s stuff that carries comfort as the later years unwind.


It may be old or worn or scuffed, but all of it is good enough;

All this stuff is good enough for me.



Sing to Me (COVID)

© 2021  Bill Berlinghoff


Sing to me of roses, of daffodils and wine,

Of hummingbirds and fireflies and berries on the vine;

Sing to me of summertime, of sunshine and of rain,

Sing to me of love, and help me see it all again.


They told me it was all a plot, no matter what some say;

They told me not to get the shot, that it would go away;

Now here I lie connected to a thing that breathes for me,

Just praying it will get me back to what I used to be.


 Sing to me of roses, . . .


It’s darker now, they closed the blinds and turned out all the lights

Except for the machines that keep me going through the night;

I wonder if I’ll get to see tomorrow morning’s sun,

Or if, so very soon for me, my life is really done.


 ( Sing to me of roses, . . . )


They lied to me, I know it now, and took away my life;

I’ll never see my kids again, I’ll never hug my wife;

They took it all by telling me that right was really wrong,

And, worst of all, they knew that they were lying all along!


 Sing to me of roses, . . .