As the years come and go, and one marks the passing of various decades, depending upon one's personality, some celebrate the occasion in a most festive manner. Others, like me, choose to attempt to just let that particular birthday pass by without any real signs of acknowledgment. As 2017 approached, I had seen the number associated with that particular April birthday looming in the distance like a huge neon sign. And that sign reads: #70 is here!!! So, in the weeks before that date actually arrived, I wanted to attempt to put together some thoughts and feelings about just what turning 70 years of age means to me now. The remarkable thing, at least to me, was that, in getting ready to really think about all of this, when I looked at the NEWS page at the website, I suddenly realized that, 10 years ago, I had written an essay entitled "On Turning '60'"! Of course, I could not resist revisiting that page, and what I had written back then, and I found that some of what I had expressed, was still holding true today. But, of course, with age comes some deterioration, and one's life view, and world view changes.|
I was struck by one thing, given the chronology of events in the USA, and that was that in 2007, Barack Obama had run and won the election to become our 44th president. Of course, between 2007-2017, his 8 years in office had now passed, and, of all things, suddenly, Donald J. Trump, of all people, had somehow become the 45th president of the United States. I read the other day about how Bruce Springsteen had said that he was feeling "embarrassed" to be an American. Like him, I love my country too, and very much, and right now, I feel embarrassed and ashamed at what has been happening here! Not that everything was perfect during President Obama's term in office, but, for me, I felt very proud knowing that he, his beautiful family, and his assembled team were there, and were doing their best.
Having grown-up mostly in the '50s, where the life expectancy was that we might make it to 65 years old, and the number '70' seemed so ancient, out of the question, and way in the distance. So, once again, considering that some of my dearest friends and colleagues have already passed away, not to mention countless musicians and artists who influenced the arc of my creative life have left us as well, it is some sort of a miracle that I'm still around. How much longer does one have? Who knows?
I remember during my own teenage years, my father, lyricist Sammy Cahn, was asked to write the title song for Frank Sinatra's then forthcoming LP, "September of My Years. I bring this up because, at that time, Sinatra was about to celebrate only his 50th birthday, and my father was only 52 years of age. So, if September has you in your 50s, does being 70 put you into November, or later? What is one to infer from all this? For that same album, dad and Jimmy Van Heusen also wrote a wonderfully sad song titled, "It Gets Lonely Early." Both of these great songs are, in my view, beautifully autobiographical post-divorce songs for my father. If one listens to, and studies the lyrics, it becomes obvious. In the latter song, I think that even my sister Laurie and I enter into the story. So, as I make this crossing, amongst many other sentimental songs, these two come to mind.
During many of the difficult moments that my father and I endured, in what was a most difficult father-son relationship, I think that, when my father felt the most despairing about the state of things between us, he would look at me most seriously, and then, quote a line from one of his favorite songs, "September Song," and ruefully say to me, "Steve.... the days dwindle down, the days dwindle down." He was, of course, saying that, time is precious, and if I don't straighten this all out, it will escape us. Notice that I said "I" and not "we"! In his view, it was all on me!!!
And these few precious days I'll spend with you
These precious days I'll spend with you
On the creative side of things, in 2007, "BORROWED TIME" was released. Then in 2008, a miracle occurred and the 2-CD "Live in Köln '94" Set, "THE SUITCASE" was also released. This was followed by a period of time where I felt very uncertain and lost, and was having a great deal of trouble snapping out of it. But, somehow I passed through that period and then: "PARTING SHOT"(2011), followed by "SUBTEXT"(2014) were released. In each case, because of various health ailments, I really believed that that recording was going to be my last, because I was so unsure that I could even make it through another one, physically speaking. Then another series of totally unexpected events happened as BGO Records(UK) released a compilation of my three Columbia albums from the late '70s, "TIGHTROPE-THE BLUE MAN-ARROWS" and this of course was a great shot-in-the arm for sustaining my career, such as it was. Then, in early 2016, BGO Records released a 2nd compilation, of my work with Eyewitness from the early '80s: "EYEWITNESS-MODERN TIMES-CASA LOCO." For me, having these reissues happen gave me time to think carefully, and try to come-up with plan to do something in the now. I was able to find the path to doing just that, and now, here in 2017, "BACKLOG" has just been released, after being recorded in 2016! It is hard to explain just how much it has meant to me, for my spirits, that these three new recordings got done. I appreciate that more than you can imagine!
If you will allow me, let me quote loosely from the "On Turning 60" piece, with an inclusion about my near-mugging from 2016, because a portion still rings true today, probably amplified by the passage of another 10 years.
Finally, but hardly the least important component to this collection of thoughts was the presence of love during these past 10 years. During 2010, through the good graces of the cosmos, and the infinite wisdom of a dear friend, a great love arrived in my life for a brief time, but the joy that was experienced and shared then has ended-up lasting, in various forms, up to this moment. Though it was not without its difficulties, we remained in contact, but we did not see one another again for some 6 years. Through two significant relationships for her, the feelings never seemed to vanish. And then, a moment appeared, and we sought to reconnect, and rekindle what had been there. How I wanted to be so much better at it, if possible. And, in early 2016, we were together again for a time. But, in those moments, I received the gift of her love, sweetness, friendship, kindness, intelligence, sense of humor and culture, and the warmth that made me feel that I had been given the glorious opportunity to try, yet again, to understand something about what it means to feel happy, or to experience happiness. I am so grateful to her for this, and for so much more. Her unique spirit, magical energy and ebullient presence during the "BACKLOG" recording sessions helped to make a most difficult process that much more special and meaningful.
In 2004, I was inspired to begin to create a special TRIBUTES page. Initially it began as a way to honor the memory of very special musicians and artists who had recently left us. Over time, those wonderful people that I chose to write about could have come from almost any walk of life, and sadly began to include close personal friends.
And so, as we are here, looking back over my past 10 years, those tributes began in 2007 with the deep loss of Michael Brecker and continued on to the present by saluting lives such as: Joe Zawinul, Tim Russert, Gary King, Joe Beck, Isaac Hayes, Freddie Hubbard, my close childhood friend Kim Weiskopf, the beloved Venezuelan Jazz DJ, Jacques Braunstein, Alan Rubin, one of my harmonic heroes, pianist-composer-arranger, Clare Fischer, guitarist Hugh McCracken, Phil Ramone, the wonderful CBS newsman, Bob Simon, one of the two guitarists with The Chantays, Brian Carman, Lew Soloff, Yogi Berra, Salsa keyboard/arranger giant, José M. Lugo, and more recently, Bobby Hutcherson, Toots Thielemans, the pioneering Jazz recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, bassist Bob Cranshaw, legendary photographer, Chuck Stewart, the pioneering guitarist, the "Father of Fusion," Larry Coryell, flautist and Latin legend, Dave Valentín, and now, another visionary guitarist, Allan Holdsworth. If you decide to visit that page, I hope that you will enjoy reading about these very special people who left us.
Finally, it was exactly 10 years ago that I wrote about the concept of a "green field" as metaphor for one's life, and what that meant to me. Somehow, on this day, sitting here now at 70 years old, it feels all the more relevant to again share this with everyone who chooses to take the time to read it, think about what was said, and then, perhaps, apply those thoughts to the state of one's own life. So, here it is again......
The notion of a "green field" was born during a discussion with an old and dear friend about "death" or, perhaps better said, about the sense of "loss." I have never viewed myself as a particularly profound person, especially when speaking extemporaneously, but, in that moment I guess I just got lucky when I stated something resembling the following:
"....When one is in their 20s, as we look ahead, far into life and the future, as we can see it from that perspective, the green field, which lies ahead of us, seems endless, and so full of possibilities and dreams. But, as one grows older, one experiences loss in all its varied forms, divorces and separations, sadly seeing your parents pass away, seeing one's friends and contemporaries die around us (sometimes those who were considerably younger), the view of that same green field changes. Suddenly, it has become a much shorter green field, and the opportunities that remain must be guarded and treasured in a far different manner, and, from a perspective of greater maturity and wisdom. At least we can hope for that.
Like anyone else, perhaps, I fear a prolonged and/or painful death, but, death in and of itself, I do not fear. I don't know that one ever gets to do, or accomplish all that they would like, but, for my part, I have led a rich life, often times filled with beautiful and wonderful people. If it were all to end tomorrow, I could never feel cheated by anything, nor anyone, for I know that I have been a lucky man, and will leave behind my good work, and even some good deeds." You can only imagine just how much shorter my particular green field looks to me right now!
As I sit here reflecting on turning 70, I would be the first to admit that, even in consideration of everything, this is not exactly where I imagined I would be in my life if I had ever arrived at such an age. It is not that I am disappointed, or disappointed in myself, I just know that I had envisioned a life for myself that was in much better balance. In the end, I have led a life that was almost always out of balance - tilting to one side or the other! I often reflect on this quote from the great Stan Getz, who said:
In this spirit, I would say to all of you, take advantage of what is in the now, don't belabor the past, and don't spend unnecessary energy worrying about the future. But, do plan for it, in order to make better use of it. To all the wonderful people who have graced my life during these past 10 years, please know that you are in my thoughts, not forgotten, nor will you ever be forgotten.
[Photos: Steve @ 4 yrs. old, February 23rd, 1951 - Photo by: Sammy Cahn
Steve @ 69 in Avatar Studio 'C', April 26th, 2016 - Photo by: Richard Laird
Steve Khan Photo by: Richard Laird @ Avatar Studios Prisma® Treatment by: Adela Blanco
Adela Blanco with her new Nikon Camera! Photo by: Steve Khan
The beautiful green field image is actually titled "Summer Resonance" by Doug West]