"Where’s The Ocean?"

February 5, 2009

Sometimes I wonder if it’s due to some youthful times of better living through chemistry, but there are musicians that simply slip from my radar.

I’m not speaking of random acts in whom I had, at most, marginal interest, but rather those who were, for sometimes brief periods, favorites. Then, out of nowhere, they return to your orbit.

Recently, I needed a song with the word “hope” in the title and there was Toni Childs with House Of Hope. Then, days ago, another one of her songs, Don’t Walk Away made an appearance here.

That song was on her debut, Union, which closed with a song called Where’s The Ocean? Union wasn’t a major commercial success and I don’t remember ever hearing the songs on radio or seeing any videos, but it did receive glowing reviews.

Union also received attention as Childs was grouped in with several other female artists attracting attention during the summer of 1988 (including Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega, Sinead O’Connor and Shawn Colvin).

Union did get a lot of play in a record store where I was working at the time. Actually, the love shown for the album was from one clerk, Peggy Sue.

Although Childs was unlike most of the music I was listening to at the time, Union soon became a favorite of mine during that summer. It was a potent mixture of rock, folk, and world music and Childs possessed a powerful, distinctive voice, husky and soulful.

David Ricketts’ involvement with the album also prompted me to give the record a concerted effort as I’d worn out my copy of David + David’s Welcome To The Boomtown a year earlier.

I kept track of Childs through her next two albums, 1991’s House Of Hope and 1994’s The Woman’s Boat and, then, there was nothing more.

Half a dozen years later, I became intrigued with sorting out if Childs was still making music. As I was doing some writing for a magazine called Rockrgrl, I thought it might be a good piece to pitch. But the little bit of research I did do led nowhere.

I read that she had stepped out of the limelight due to getting sick, but there was little to confirm or shed more light on the subject.

She had also had some involvement with a charity called Dream A Dolphin. I believe that the organization offered terminally ill children the chance to swim and interact with dolphins (I could be wrong).

Prompted by the reappearance of Childs in my world of late, I did a bit more research and it does appear that she did fall ill after The Woman’s Boat, but she is now living in Hawaii, is no longer sick (having healed herself through meditation), and released a new album last fall.

I once interviewed David Baerwald who, with David Ricketts, was the other David in David + David. At one point, Baerwald recounted how there had been a female singer with whom Ricketts had worked. For months, she wandered around the house where the Davids lived, working on a song, repeating the same line.

“Where’s the ocean?”

Baerwald apparently could no longer live with the drip drip drip of that one line and he finally directed her to go three blocks down and take a left.

I don’t think he actually named the singer as Childs, but as I was familiar with her music, I immediately connected the dots to her debut album.

Nevertheless, I’ve been listening to some of her music of late – for the first time in years – and there’s something still quite compelling about that voice.

Toni Childs – Stop Your Fussin’

Toni Childs – Zimbabwe

Toni Childs – Many Rivers To Cross

Toni Childs – I’ve Got To Go Now

Toni Childs – Welcome To The World

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Butch, Barack And Bob’s Benefit Bash

January 21, 2009

So, it’s official. There’s a new point guard running the show – although, from what I’ve read, the president must have been a shooting guard – possibly a chucker :-).

During the primaries last spring (and early summer) and into the general election, I read and listened to endless commentary regarding Barack Obama and the parsing of his qualification to be president. The focus was often on what he had or, as his detractors pointed out, what he hadn’t accomplished during his brief time as a U.S. senator.

And through it all, his appeal was quite simple to me. I kept hearing an exchange of dialogue from the movie Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.

While The Kid was the steely-nerved gunslinger, Butch was the brains behind the partnership. After laying out one of his schemes, Butch is told by Sundance to “just keep thinkin’ Butch. That’s what you’re good at.”

To which Butch replies, nonchalantly, “I have vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”

From the moment I saw him speak at the Democratic convention in 2004, Barack Obama struck me as someone who has vision.

And watching the mass of diverse people gathered to witness his inauguration today, I thought of Live Aid, and remembered Joan Baez greeting the globe that day as she opened the American portion of the show.

“Good morning, children of the 80s. This is your Woodstock, and it’s long overdue.”

As a child of the ‘80s, I remember a brief moment when we still had enough innocence to believe that we could save a continent simply with the help of some musicians we loved.

Has such a large portion of the humans come together to try and fix something since that July day in 1985?

And as I read online accounts of reactions from people around the world, from Kenya to Japan to Colombia and Indonesia, there was a lot of use of a word which has almost become pejorative when used by the naysayers to Obama.

Hope.

And I had to remind myself that, in the words Andy Dufresne wrote to Red in the movie The Shawshank Redemption, “Hope is a good thing.”

I have no idea if Obama can accomplish the lofty things he has proposed, but it does seem as though he has brought together a sizable amount of the humans, curious enough to believe.

And for however long that lasts, it is kind of cool.

Peter Gabriel – Of These, Hope

Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes

Toni Childs – House Of Hope

Spirits – Hope