Everyday Heroes: Paying Homage To 1st Responders

October 4, 2010

This past week,  Congress passed (and President Obama signed) H.R. 3978 which is also known as the “First Responder Anti-Terrorism Training Resources Act.” It is essentially, “… An act to amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security to accept and use gifts for otherwise authorized activities of the Center for Domestic Preparedness that are related to preparedness for a response to terrorism, and for other purposes.” Source: govtrack.us

The new law expands the ability for first responders to train under more realistic conditions so that in the event of such an attack, they are better prepared to successfully provide critical care at a time when desperately needed.

However, mention the term “First Responder” to many people and you might just be surprised at the look of confusion in their eyes. It’s not a term we use every day. And, sadly, it seems that the only time we pay much attention to first responders is when a tragedy befalls one (or more) of them. Our friend, Canadian Singer/Songwriter Dave Carroll (of United Breaks Guitars fame) has set out to change all that in a big way. More on that in a moment. But first, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page:

Who are “First Responders?”

They are the men and women of our local communities who put their lives on the line for each of us on a daily basis by responding to emergency (911) calls. They are Firemen, Police, EMTs and others who have promised each of us that no matter what the emergency, they will be there for us. And it’s a promise they keep every day of their (and our) lives.

Dave Carroll knows a lot about this from first-hand experience. He’s been a volunteer fireman in his home town of Waverly, Nova Scotia while building his musical career. His brother Don (who shares singing roles with Dave in the band, “Sons of Maxwell“) is a full-time fireman in that same town.

Over the past two years, I’ve written several articles about tragedies that have taken the lives of a number of these hometown heroes. Fortunately, these are not every day occurrences. However, the emergencies in our communities that expose first responders to the danger of accidents, fires, violence, disease (and now, sadly, terrorism) happen on a daily basis. While writing this article, there have been several separate occurrences of sirens screaming past my home. The first was a police car and, later another police car followed by a firetruck and ambulance. None of these first responders know what awaits them, yet they respond without hesitation when needed.

It’s important that we never allow ourselves to forget how fortunate we are that whenever someone is in peril, there are men and women who are our friends, neighbors, brothers and sisters professionally trained in emergency procedures  keeping that promise to “be there” when needed.

Even though the heroes are the first responders, YOU and I play an important role as well: Whenever you’re driving, if you see an ambulance, fire truck or police car with emergency lights flashing in the rear-view mirror, pull over as soon as possible to let them pass. Someone’s life is in the balance and, most likely, seconds count.

Dave Carroll has written and recorded a new song in tribute to First Responders. Appropriately entitled, “Everyday Heroes,” it’s sponsored by Intrado Inc., in Longmart Colorado. For over 30 years, Intrado has been a pioneer in the development of enhanced 911 services used throughout the United States and, now, Canada.  While the song speaks for itself with Dave’s usual musical excellence, the story of how Intrado got involved with him is a fascinating one, best told by Dave himself.

So in another Grand Rants First, here’s Dave Carroll to introduce his tribute, “Everyday Heroes”:

And here’s the video:

Dave’s project to help spread awareness and to pay homage to First Responders is just beginning. Stay tuned for more on this as it develops throughout the US and Canada.

Gerry Ashley

Doobie Brothers: Listening To The Music Gets Even Better With Time

September 26, 2010

Note: If you are reading this on or before Monday, September 27th, 2010,  Cisco TelePresence will be presenting The Doobie Brothers live as part of the release of their new CD on Monday at 3:30PM (Pacific Time).   Cisco will be using their TelePresence technology enabling you to interact over the web with The Doobie Brothers as they perform selections from their new release, “World Gone Crazy.” To watch the live event via the web, go to: http://www.ustream.tv/ciscotv.

On Tuesday (9/28), The Doobie Brothers will release “World Gone Crazy” which is their first studio album in 10 years. On the surface, one might think,  “Ho-Hum, another aging band milking it… next!”  But a lot of people in the entertainment world are standing up and taking notice:

  • Industry  publications are covering this as a major event.
  • Billboard magazine is featuring them on the cover of their September 25th issue.
  • Last week, they were featured in a live broadcast on Rockline.com.
  • The “buzz” in the industry is that this CD is one of the major releases of the year.

L to R: John McFee, Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons, Mike Hossack (Source:Doobiebros.com)

One might ask,“Why the big deal?”  I mean, the Doobies were a successful rock group “back in the day” (the ‘70s and early 80s) that had a few big hits and that’s about it, right? Guess again.

That’s what those who didn’t take the time to dig into their albums might have thought. If they did a bit of research, however, they’d have found the genesis of the group consisted of fine musicians and writers whose talent surpassed many of their contemporaries. On the other hand, like so many other groups in that era, you didn’t have to look far to see talent that was also squandered from the excesses that were the trappings of the rock and roll lifestyle.  As drummer Keith Knudsen himself told me when I interviewed him in 2003,  it really WAS about Sex Drugs and Rock & Roll… in that order.  It’s not surprising that they broke up in 1982. What’s amazing is that they didn’t break up sooner.

That could very well have been the end of the Doobie’s story. But then, post rock fame, a funny thing happened: They got their heads on straight, raised families and simply matured as people.  In 1986, they reunited for what was to be a fundraiser for a fledgling organization called The Vietnam Veterans Aid Foundation (now expanded and known as the National Veterans Foundation.

It was Knudsen (who, sadly, died in 2005) that contacted nearly every musician who had been a member of the Doobies during their run from 1970-1982 to see who would be interested in getting together for this 1-time reunion. To his surprise (and joy), every member who had spent time as a member of the band wanted to be part of the concert.

They booked the Hollywood Bowl and the tickets to the reunion show sold out faster than any other concert before, including the Beatles final performance there. There were about 15 musicians on stage during the show, all former members of the band at one time or another.

The concert was so well received that  core members Tom Johnston, Pat Simmons, and Mike Hossack decided to get back together and, along with John McFee have been together ever since. Knudsen was committed to another band at the time, but would rejoin the group several years later. He was credited for the reunion, and with unanimous support from the band, continued to support the National Veteran’s Foundation over the years, donating well over a million dollars to the non-profit organization.

Upon Knudsen’s death in 2005, the group’s manager, Bruce Cohn (who owns a winery in Northern California) announced that all profits for the first five years sales of his line of award winning wine called “Doobie Red” would go to the foundation in memory of Keith.

Over the years, the Doobies have sold well over 30 million CDs and continue to sell their catalog to new, young fans who have only recently discovered the band. For the new release, the Doobies have returned to their original producer Ted Templeman who produced their earliest work and hits.  In fact, the first single from “World Gone Crazy”called “Nobody” (which is already in rotation on many stations) is an updated version of a song from their first album.

With their dedication towards top instrumental and vocal performance, they truly do sound better than they did 30 years ago. The following video is the first single from the CD to be released Tuesday showing the Doobie Brothers in the studio, intermingled with film clips of their 40 year career.

If you miss the live release on the Internet, but would like evidence of their talent live, there are numerous concert videos on youtube, but one of the finest samples you’ll see is of this rendition of the classic hit, “Taking It To The Street” with an intro that takes the audience by surprise. The below video is from the DVD “Live At Wolftrap” and features Bass Player Skylark who is currently recovering from a stroke. All of us at Grand Rants wish him a quick and complete recovery. The video also features the late Keith Knudsen on drums. His spirit, talent and activism is sorely missed. The DVD is available through Amazon.com.

In the end, most rock groups make their money, do their drugs, and eventually crash and burn out.  Once in a while, however, a group comes along that somehow “gets it” and transforms themselves from “merely a rock band” to full-fledged entertainers who respect their audience and themselves enough to dedicate themselves to their craft. After 40 years, and within their own realm, the Doobie Brothers have, in my opinion, established themselves firmly in the latter category.

To learn how to participate in the live launch of the CD and to read more on their 40 year career (as well as check on tour dates), follow this link to their web site, and join the millions who still love to Listen To The Music of The Doobie Brothers as they head into their 5th decade.

Gerry Ashley

Once A Year: Not Too Much To Ask

July 4, 2010

When was the last time you read the Declaration of Independence? Last Independence Day, right? Okay, well, July 4th is here again, so please: read it again. Remember it again. Recall those soaring words which are not mere rhetoric, but are the foundation stones of all we hold dear this very day. Let them shout to you, let them sing, let them echo in your mind and reverberate in your heart. Hold the words close. Cherish them.

As a reward, we’ll end with an inspiring video. Read and treasure the words. Then watch and enjoy a modern look at our beginning.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his assent to laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in the legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned to the people at large for their exercise; the state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migration hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands.

He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made judges dependent on his will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies without the consent of our legislature.

He has affected to render the military independent of and superior to civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by mock trial, from punishment for any murders which they should commit on the inhabitants of these states:

For cutting off our trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing taxes on us without our consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of trial by jury:

For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offenses:

For abolishing the free system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary government, and enlarging its boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule in these colonies:

For taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments:

For suspending our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here, by declaring us out of his protection and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burned our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas to bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare, is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends.

We, therefore, the representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name, and by the authority of the good people of these colonies, solemnly publish and declare, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as free and independent states, they have full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which independent states may of right do. And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.


James Taylor And Carole King – A Troubadour Reunion, 40 Years In The Making

June 26, 2010

The dictionary defines a troubadour as  “one who composes or sings verses or ballads.”

History has been littered with them. Some better than others.  But to dismiss  James Taylor or Carole King as merely troubadours would be like saying a Ferrari is merely a car… a Lear Jet is merely an airplane.

Few recording artists have sold more records. Even fewer songwriters have had a greater impact on the lives of the boomer generation.

Carole King had already been established for a decade  before James Taylor hit the scene. Together with her then-husband Gerry Goffin, King was responsible for many of the Top 20 hits of the Pre-Beatles era, including songs for  Little Eva (“The Locomotion”), and her first hit composition (at the tender age of 18), “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow”) by The Shirelles.

As the 60s progressed, so did  her songs, which were recorded by such groups as The Beatles, The Monkees, Blood Sweat & Tears, Dusty Springfield, Steve Lawrence, Aretha Franklin and others.  In fact, from 1955 through 1999, King penned or co-wrote 118 songs that made it into the Billboard Top 100, making her the most successful female songwriter of that era.

By the late 60s, however, musical styles were changing.  King divorced Goffin and went out on her own.  By 1971, she had updated her songwriting to reflect the changing times and recorded the landmark albumn, “Tapestry” which remained number 1 on the Billboard charts for 15 weeks. It also remained on the charts for 6 full years making it one of the best-selling albums of all time.

The album spawned a number of hits for her (“It’s Too Late,” “I Feel The Earth Move,” “So Far Away”). But the song that was supposed to be her first single was delayed by King so a young singer she had met could release his own rendition first. The singer: James Taylor. The song became one of his trademark tunes: “You’ve Got A Friend.”

This began a bond of friendship that has lasted over 40 years. Taylor, of course, has been a prolific songwriter on his own, writing from (by his own admission) a self-centered position. But it’s his introspective angst that has yielded his most lasting songs. From the tormented “Fire and Rain” to the biorhythmic high of “Whenever I See Your Smiling Face,” it turns out that many of us shared the same angst and the same highs. His music chronicled our lives as did King’s.

Over the years, the paths of Taylor and King have crossed musically and socially.  Two and a half years ago, the two agreed to do a concert together to mark the 50th anniversary of Hollywood’s Troubadour night club where (as Taylor puts it)  they “had played repeatedly, evidently.”

The two were accompanied by Taylor’s original backup musicians, Lee Sklar (Bass Guitar), Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar (Guitar) and Russ Kunkle (Drums):

When all was said and done, Taylor and King enjoyed themselves so much, they decided it was time to tour together. And it’s turning out to be one of the most successful tours of the year.  Several charities are benefitting tremendously from the tour as well. According to Ally Schweitzer of The Washington Post, Taylor and King have announced they have raised $1.5 Million  for The Natural Resources Defense Council, The Alliance for the Wild Rockies as well as other groups.

James Taylor and Carole King are currently touring the United States. It’s an evening to remember.  Literally. You will remember where you were and who you were with through all the sounds and music these two icons have provided for over 4 decades.  This is an opportunity that may not come again.  A great concert by two great music icons, with a portion of the ticket prices going to charities we can all feel good about. That makes it a win-win-win, in my book.  You can check the tourdates and cities at www.jamestaylor.com or www.caroleking.com (remember she spells her name with an “e” at the end).

For those of you who can’t wait to see them or can’t get to a city where they are performing, you can purchase a CD and/or a DVD of the acclaimed “Troubadour Reunion Concert” through either web site. Also, PBS is airing the concert throughout the month of June. Check your local listings for dates and times of the broadcast.

Gerry Ashley

Photos: Screen shots from the concert DVD “Live At The Troubadour” (see above for ordering information)

United Airlines Trilogy Ends On A High Note

March 2, 2010

It’s the video millions of people around the world have eagerly anticipated. And it delivers the goods! It’s the third – and final – song of the United Breaks Guitars trilogy by Canadian Singer/Songwriter Dave Carroll.

It was launched with a gala Interactive Webcast the introduced the video before Carroll took questions from the local audience as well as those watching from around the world via the Internet.

The video features some of the best bluegrass musicians around hand-picked by Carroll himself. Grand Rants is proud to have been chosen by Dave for an exclusive interview which you can read here. But before you do, sit back and enjoy some fine pickin’ and singin’ as it’s David VS “Goliath Airlines” one last time. Presenting…

 “United We Stand (On The Right Side Of Right)” 

Note: For more Grand Rants articles on Dave, just type “Dave Carroll” in the “Search” box which is to the right of the title line of this article. 

Gerry Ashley

Join Us At Dave Carroll’s Launch Party Tonight!

March 2, 2010

                                   AND YOU’RE INVITED!

Dave Carroll wants to take you to launch.  That’s launch, not lunch. And Grand Rants has your invitation right here, right now. Here’s the 411:

Dave  is a man true to his word and with that will be releasing the third and final installment of the United Breaks Guitars videos tonight (Tuesday Mar 2, 2010) via a special webcast release party. Use this link to access the live event at 7:30pm EST tonight.   Update (Tuesday, 2 PM): Please be sure to use the current link (above) to join the fun. The actual web page it re-directs you to could change. However, the above link (established at 2:00pm Tuesday) will re-direct your browser to the correct page. If you saved the link from earlier today,  please disregard it and use the current link above.

If you haven’t already read our exclusive interview with Dave from yesterday, click here to read it now.

This is by no means the last you will hear from Dave; as we like to say, United has broken his career. Since the release of the original United Breaks Guitars song on July 7, 2009, Dave has traveled extensively throughout North America as well as parts of Europe telling people his story and entertaining them with his songs.

Here are some of the highlights to date:

  • Over 9.4 million people have watched his United Breaks Guitars videos on YouTube and there are over 13 million internet references to this song title
  • Dave appeared on CBS’s THE VIEW on January 14, 2010 to talk about his whirlwind year
  • Business Schools such as Harvard and Rotman have written case studies on the power of social media based on Dave’s experience
  • Dave has spoken to hundreds of business leaders, including being invited as the keynote speaker for the Right Now Technologies North American Summit in Colorado this past fall.  During the trip, United lost his luggage again, prompting repeat coverage on Wolf Blizter’s Situtation Room on CNN.
  • Since Dave’s story was first reported by the LA Times, he has been interviewed more than 300 times, for an estimated audience of 100 million people

The coming year will be a busy one for Dave as he is putting the finishing touches on a speaking and playing tour throughout the United States and parts of Canada and Europe. He will re-release his latest recording, Perfect Blue, to include all three of the United Breaks Guitars songs, and plans are underway for a new solo project featuring more of the music from the Dave Carroll that millions have come to know.

Dave has also launching three new websites that include an updated music site and 2 other sites dedicated to helping those who have faced similar situations as the one detailed in the United Breaks Guitars trilogy.

Be sure to join Dave  for the festivities tonight at 7:30 E.S.T. We’ll be there too!

Gerry Ashley

Exclusive: Dave Carroll Files A New Flight Plan

March 1, 2010

Dave Carroll Talks With Grand Rants About The Amazing Past Year And What Lies Ahead For The Talented Singer Songwriter

by Gerry Ashley

Note: This exclusive interview with Dave Carroll is being published simultaneously with the release and posting of his third and final video in the “United Breaks Guitars” trilogy, “United We Stand On The Right Side Of Right.”  The video is now available on Youtube and here on Grand Rants (click either link).  For more information about Dave and his music both as a solo performer and with the band, “Sons of Maxwell,” visit Dave’s web site.   And for more Grand Rants articles on Dave, just type “Dave Carroll” in the “Search” box which is to the right of the title line of this article. 

A year ago, if you asked someone who Dave Carroll is, outside of his loyal fan base as part of the popular Nova Scotia band “Sons of Maxwell”  (and those working in the United Airlines Customer Service division), a good many of those asked would have been stumped.

What a difference a year (and a flawed approach to customer service by United Airlines) has made!

As most of the on-line world knows by now, Dave’s first two “United Breaks Guitars” music videos became an Internet sensation as they chronicled his 9-month battle with United Airlines over damages to his guitar caused by their baggage handlers.

After United gave Carroll their final refusal, he informed them he would make three videos and post them on YouTube, asking the public to vote for their favorite.  For those of you who have not yet seen those videos, I urge you to watch them here:

United Breaks Guitars Song #1

United Breaks Guitars Song #2

At the time, nobody knew just how viral this would become: The first video had over 1 million hits by the end of the first week, making the 20-year music veteran an “overnight sensation.”

I’ve been in touch with Dave on several occasions (indeed, Stoutcat and I have written rants in support of Dave and the first two videos and I have featured Dave in several other topics).

With the posting of this final video of the trilogy, I thought our readers might like to get to know more about the man behind the music. Dave was kind enough to give me an exclusive interview for Grand Rants. I spoke with him following his appearance on “The View” in NYC and as he prepared for a several concert dates in Europe. As we spoke, I found him to be amazingly balanced, polite and in possession of a keen sense of humor. I invite you all to come join me as I talked with Dave.

So, please put your tray tables and seatbacks in their full upright position, as the United trilogy comes to  its conclusion and Dave’s solo career takes off.
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