June 1, 2013 was the official release date of my CD “Living Through Young Eyes.”
This completely instrumental solo guitar album is a memoir of my childhood, teens and early twenties, expressed as medleys of songs I loved and learned during those years.
I made the cover collage on a table top by placing fabrics (a 1950s handkerchief, Guatemalan embroidered handweaving, an “aloha print” from Hawaii in the 1970s), small objects and pieces of paper upon which I had written the title and my name in my typical cursive script, leaving room for the vintage photos. My friend, artist/photographer Thomas Schultz took a high resolution digital photograph of the collage. I scanned photos from my old photograph albums and placed the scans on the collage photo file using PhotoShop. My father took the photo of me practicing piano in 1957. My mother took the photo of me practicing guitar in 1965. I don’t remember who took the photo of me in Hawaii, wearing a headscarf.
As I wrote in the liner notes:
I arranged these open-tuned, finger-picked guitar solos from songs I heard as a child, in my ‘teens, and in my early 20s, as a sort of musical memoir.
Growing up in Los Angeles in the 1950s, I heard the social justice songs of leftie folksingers, plus Mexican songs, cowboy songs, Stephen Foster songs, early African-American spirituals, hoary American folk songs, and patriotic hymns, at elementary school and at home, including during five years of piano lessons.
As I passed into adolescence in the early 1960s, I discovered, on the radio, sounds that resonated with my changing body and mind – songs of Eros, rebellion, and heartbreak, all based on the bittersweet scale of the blues. I began playing guitar. My cousin Janet Lebow married open-tune guitar legend John Fahey, who taught me to finger-pick open tunings.
In 1966, at age 17, I moved to San Francisco. An astonishing phenomenon awaited me: masses of young bohemians opening their hearts, sharing whatever they had, welcoming whoever was in need, and eagerly seeking greater contact with the divine spirit. Famous songwriters produced philosophical anthems further inspiring, and documenting, this blossoming.
Many of us were moved to address the grave political issues of the day – civil rights, the war in Vietnam, Native American sovereignty – through direct nonviolent action, and the best songwriters of those times gave voice to these struggles.
In 1974, at age 24, I moved to Hana, Maui, a remote village rich in traditional Hawaiian culture, to learn Hawaiian style open-tuned guitar. Most people there sang, played guitar or ukulele, or danced hula, at the frequent family luaus and community gatherings. Certain beloved songs were sung often, most of them written by Hawaiians, but “Kalua,” from a corny B movie, was a favorite for hula performance. Every gathering ended with a swaying group hug while singing “Hawaii Aloha,” the unofficial state anthem.
Alicia Bay Laurel