Category Archives: Almanac

John Lennon writes and records “Instant Karma” in a single day

“I wrote it for breakfast, recorded it for lunch and we’re putting it out for dinner.” That’s the way John Lennon told the story of “Instant Karma,” one of his most memorable songs. It was his third single as a solo artist to appear before the official breakup of the Beatles. The only exaggeration in John’s description was the part about dinner. “Instant Karma” wasn’t actually released to the public until 13 days after it was written and recorded. This happened over the course of a single Tuesday, on January 27, 1970. By any measure, it was one of the fastest pop songs ever to come to market.

“Instant Karma” came during a tumultuous time for John and for the band he would soon leave behind. The Beatles had spent the better part of 1969 trying to decide whether or not they were still a band. They abandoned recording sessions that had just begun. And they canceled plans for their first live performances in more than three years.

New Directions

The material for both of the band’s last two albums—Abbey Road and Let it Be—was recorded that year. However Let it Be sat unreleased and without an agreed-upon producer. Lennon, meanwhile, was moving in a new direction. “Give Peace a Chance,” had already come out under the name “The Plastic Ono Band”. “Cold Turkey,” his wrenching account of kicking heroin came out that same year. By January 1970, John had walked away from the Beatles. The from down Plastic Ono Band was the only musical entity he considered himself part of.

The January 27 session came about spontaneously. Lennon wrote the song that morning and, as he said, “I knew I had a hit record.” What got the record finished that same day and gave it its incredible sound, however, was the unexpected appearance of Phil Spector that evening in the EMI studios. After several run-throughs under Spector’s direction, John said, “Suddenly we went in the room and heard what he’d done to it…it was fantastic. It sounded like there was [sic] fifty people playing.” John’s happiness with the results would lead directly to Spector’s taking over the dormant Let it Be project—a development that ended up driving a further wedge between Lennon and McCartney prior to the official breakup of the Beatles.

In Memoriam: Musicians We Lost in 2018

Ray Thomas (29 December 1941 – 4 January 2018)

Ray Thomas, flautist, vocalist and founding member of the Moody Blues, died January 4 at the age of 76.

Thomas appeared on all of the prog rock band’s albums – including their classic LPs like:

Thomas retired from the Moody Blues in 2002 after suffering from a series of health issues. In 2013, Thomas revealed that he was suffering from “in-operable” prostate cancer.

Tony Joe White (July 24, 1943 – October 24, 2018)
strong down

Singer-songwriter Tony Joe White died Wednesday, October 24th.

White had a Top Ten record with “Polk Salad Annie,” in 1969. He was also perhaps best known as the writer of “Rainy Night in Georgia,”. This song was a Number Four pop hit for Brook Benton in 1970. Furthermore, other acts covered this song including:

  • Hank Williams Jr.,
  • B.J. Thomas,
  • Shelby Lynne, and
  • as a duet by Conway Twitty and Sam Moore.

White died of natural causes at his home in Leipers Fork, Tennessee, just outside Nashville. He was 75.

Marty Balin (January 30, 1942 – September 27, 2018)

Marty Balin died Thursday, September 27 at the age of 76. 

Balin was an American singer, songwriter, and musician best known as the founder and one of the lead singers and songwriters of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship.

He co-founded the San Francisco psychedelic rock band in 1965. He played a crucial role in the creation of all their 1960s albums, He contributed to and sang lead on four top-20 hits, including;

Balin’s rep confirmed the musician’s death to Rolling Stone, though the cause of death is currently unknown.

Aretha Franklin (March 25, 1942 – August 16, 2018)

Aretha Franklin died Thursday, August 16 at the age of 76.

Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit, Michigan, where her father C. L. Franklin was minister. At the age of 18, she embarked on a secular career recording for Columbia Records. She found acclaim and commercial success after signing with Atlantic Records in 1966. Hit songs such as “Respect“, “Chain of Fools“, “Think“, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman“, “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)“, and “I Say a Little Prayer“, propelled her past her musical peers. By the end of the 1960s, Aretha Franklin had come to be known as “The Queen of Soul“.

Hall of Fame singer, cultural icon and civil rights activist who influenced countless vocalists succumbs to pancreatic cancer.



Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. We honor you today, the second Sunday in May because of all you have done for us. Today I want to share a few tidbits of information about this 110-year-old holiday.

Mother’s Day recognizes mothers, motherhood and maternal bonds in general, as well as the positive contributions that they make to society.

Establishment of Mother’s Day Holiday

The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908. Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. St Andrew’s Methodist Church now holds the International Mother’s Day Shrine.

She campaigned to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States beginning in 1905. Ann Reeves Jarvis, her mother, died that year. Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War. She created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started. Additionally she wanted to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world”.

Protests and Carnations

Although Jarvis was successful in founding the holiday, she became resentful of the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of the day. Also she felt the emphasis of the holiday was on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved.

Jarvis argued that people should appreciate and honor their mothers through handwritten letters expressing their love and gratitude. She thought people should do this instead of buying gifts and pre-made cards. She protested at a candy makers’ convention in Philadelphia in 1923. Also she demonstrated at a meeting of American War Mothers in 1925. By this time, sons and daughters were sending carnations as gifts on this day. Additionally authorities arrested Jarvis for disturbing the peace when she protested AWM’s carnation selling to raise money.

Sundays With Mom

Families all have traditions and routines. Ours was no different. Each Sunday mom began the day by dressing each of us in suits with clip-on bowties. But these were not ordinary suits. She purchased these suits at Freeman’s clothing store and they required alterations by tailors. We went to Sunday school and then sat through church. Dad gave us pencils so we could doodle during the service.

Mom prepared Sunday Roast each week. This traditional British main meal is typically served on Sunday (hence the name). It consists
of roasted meat, roast potato, vegetables like broccoli, carrots and onions,  and gravy. She put the ingredients in a roasting pan and put it in the oven before we left for church.

Eventually she tired of preparing Sunday roast and our after church lunch became a visit to the heritage cafeteria.