Thursday, October 29, 2020

RIP Billy Joe Shaver, poet and truth-teller

Billy Joe Shaver, Texas songwriting legend, died yesterday at the age of 81. 

The sad news took me to one of my favorite Billy Joe songs, Live Forever, a Shaver signature song of love and the afterlife originally released in 1993 and written with his late son Eddy Shaver.

"I'm gonna live forever
I'm gonna cross that river
I'm gonna catch tomorrow now
You're gonna want to hold me
Just like I always told you
You're gonna miss me when I'm gone

Nobody here will ever find me
But I will always be around
Just like the songs I leave behind me
I'm gonna live forever now

You Fathers and you Mothers
Be good to one another
Please try to raise your children right
Don't let the darkness take 'em
Don't make 'em feel forsaken
Just lead 'em safely to the light

When this old world is blown asunder
And all the stars fall from the sky
Remember someone really loves you
We'll live forever you and I..."

Now, Billy Joe has crossed that river and caught tomorrow. 

He's been led safely to the light. 

And, we who admire his work and love his spirit have certainty that, however it works, Billy Joe is with son Eddy, a guitar-phenom who died of a drug overdose in 2000, and with Brenda, his three-time wife who died from cancer in 1999, and Momma, too, up where the Eagles soar and love replaces pain and loss.

Talking about the song Live F0rever in an 2014 NPR interview, Billy Joe said,“[Eddy] actually gave me that melody, and I carried it around for nearly a year,” he said. “It was such a great melody. His spirit’s still with me. 

"I do believe that when people pass away, the goodness, the good things they did, it seems like they melt into your likeness. They melt into your likeness, and you become a better person for it.”

For me and others who are part of Billy Joe's small but loyal group of followers, his spirit and voice of truth are still with us and we are better for it.

We will cherish his songs, the times we saw him clubs and at festivals and will try and try again to remember to hope, to laugh, to see the good and seek the truth. 

I saw Billy Joe perform many times, anytime he came anywhere nearby. I met and talked with him twice. My two pictures with him are cherished and displayed on one of our music walls. 

One, at right, was at Zydeco in Birmingham, the first time we saw him there, and at left, just two years ago, at the Elliston Street Festival in Nashville, where cheesy me wore a shirt with a picture of us together for the picture of us together.

Billy Joe Shaver and me at Zydeco

Laughing with Billy Joe in Nashville

He was my Honky Tonk Hero and dusty Texas guru. He was a songwriter's songwriter who never made it to the official big time, an Old Chunk of Coal who is a diamond now, so blue pure and perfect. 

Below is a blog post I wrote about Billy Joe Shaver in August of 2011. 

RIP Billy Joe. 

From, 8/22/2011

Billy Joe Shaver tells stories in songs, survives

Billy Joe Shaver, who Willie Nelson believes may be the best songwriter alive today, didn’t feel good Friday night when we saw him at a steamy Zydeco concert. Nevertheless, the 72-year-old sang and smiled and told some stories, and with his band of players younger-than-half-his-age, entertained the small group of loyalists who knew the words to all his songs.

But, his shoulder was hurting – he’d had surgery and probably rushed to the tour without doing much of the recommended rehab (plus he told a story about falling and being picked up by that shoulder). And, it was hot, summertime-in-Birmingham hot inside the upstairs bar-slash concert hall. Shaver’s trademark snap-up denim shirt was soaked, and he asked the crew to turn off the white-hot back lights.

Still, he sang and told his stories. A performer and songwriter for most of his seven decades, Billy Joe kept coming back from the brief breaks during drum and guitar solos to sing another one. He gave us Georgia on a Fast Train, Live Forever, Tramp on Your Street, Honky Tonk Heroes, Black Rose and That’s What She Said Last Night. He did Wacko in Waco about the altercation that landed him in court last year, charged with assault. The jury of Texans sided with Billy Joe, whose friends Willie Nelson and Robert Duvall stood by him in court.

Shaver, whose been born again a couple of times, didn’t do many of his “Christian songs,” likely because he needed that painful right arm to properly emote songs like If You Don’t Love Jesus, You can go to Hell and Get Thee Behind me Satan.

Unknown to many in the popular country world, Billy Joe Shaver is a songwriter’s songwriter and is known by loyal fans and other songwriters, especially Texas ones. Bob Dylan name-checked Billy Joe in the song I Feel a Change Comin’ On, from Dylan’s last album, Together through Life, singing “I’m listening to Billy Joe Shaver and reading James Joyce.” Kris Kristofferson, who helped Billy early during their Nashville songwriting years says, “He’s as real a writer as Hemingway. He’s timeless.”

I bought one of the six copies they had of Shaver’s book at the concert souvenir table, an autobiography called “Honky Tonk Hero” and on a normal concert night, he would have signed it for me, because that’s the way Billy Joe is. But, he left while the band was still closin’ it down. His people said Billy Joe just didn’t feel good. We could tell, and we thought, God bless him.

The book, with an introduction that is posted on his website, proves Kristofferson’s real writer statement and tells the stories – how he survived, how he lost two and a half fingers in a saw mill accident, lost his wife to cancer (married three times, divorced twice) and lost their child, guitar-phenom Eddy Shaver, to a drug overdose, and how Jesus helped him see that his gift was telling stories through songs.

The book’s introduction begins, “I was not even born yet when my father first tried to kill me.”

From that rough beginning of his father, who was half French and half Blackfoot Sioux (and 100 percent mean, Billy Joe writes) beating his pregnant mother unconscious and then leaving her to die to today when Billy Joe reads his Bible everyday and looks forward to seeing his wife and son in Heaven, Billy Joe’s life is a testament to God-given talent and overcoming the odds, and sharing some of America’s best songs along the way.

In the book, which includes lyrics to dozens of great songs covered by everyone from Waylon to Elvis, Billy Joe says of his tough beginning and beyond, “I’ve lost parts of three fingers, broke my back, suffered a heart attack and a quadruple bypass, had a steel plate put in my neck and 136 stitches in my head, fought drugs and booze, spend the money I had and buried my wife, son and mother in the span of one year.”

No wonder he didn’t feel good.

But, as Shaver says in the book, “I’m not here to complain or to ask for pity. Life is hard for everybody, just in different ways. I’m not proud of my misfortune – I’m proud of my survival. “

We are too, Billy Joe.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Ken White, we'll never know a better friend

From the day more than 37 years ago when my pregnant reporter self rode with Ken from Selma to Camden, Ala. to cover a trial, Ken White has been a forever friend. I worked at the Selma Times-Journal and Ken at WAKA, where he became famous for his sports trivia segment.

Ken White happy at a ballgame
photo from Maddie White FB post

Ballgames and concerts. Road trips and parties. Ken embraced us, brought us into his eclectic circle of friends. Ken died Oct. 11 at age 63 from complications of mantle cell lymphoma.

Ken’s remarkable ability and determination to keep his friends close – from one end of the coast to the other – never wavered. As our families grew and careers moved on, Ken stayed in touch, with a phone call after an Auburn game or a visit whenever he was in Alabama.

I saw him last when he drove the six hours to Selma to deliver the eulogy for one of those eclectic friends, Pat “Zeus” Cheshire. We laughed and cried. 

And, I know that the Mass today for Ken, a devoted Catholic who lived his faith by letting his light shine, also brought tears and laughter.

Husband Frank got to see Ken a few months ago, a great visit, he said, when Ken was in the hospital for one of the many procedures we hoped would bring a cure.

Like so many who’ve posted on his Facebook page, we’ve never known a better friend. I doubt we ever will.

Devoted friend, son and brother, proud husband to Jenny and father to Mack and Madeline, Ken White represented the best of us. 

And, he chose to see the best in all of us, we who were blessed to be in his tremendous circle of friends.

Rest in Peace, Ken. 

P.S.: Penn State won Saturday, beat Michigan 28-21, like you didn’t know.

Ken in the middle at Zeus' July 4th barbecue with
Frank Walburn, the late Danny Flowers
John and Joy Carchedi and the late Pat "Zeus" Cheshire.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Much more wrong with Moore than accusations; twelve reasons to vote for Doug Jones Dec. 12

Even before Alabama Senate candidate and twice-fired state supreme court judge Roy Moore became an alleged sexual predator of underage girls, he was known for grandstanding, criticizing anyone who disagrees with him and using religion and bigotry to promote his political goals.

He mastered these political tactics years ago.

Now, as the nation watches and late-night comedians gratefully laugh at HIM and ALABAMA, Moore has denied and criticized, stuck to his divisive tactics and ducked behind his loyal base who are bound to be getting weary of believing him no matter what.  

Because this election is important on so many levels and because Moore is troubling on even more, I offer 12 reasons why Alabamians should vote in Tuesday’s special election – against Moore – and for Doug Jones and Alabama. We must avoid the mistake of sending Roy Moore to represent us in the U.S. Senate. 

This is serious. Let’s talk truth.

Reason 1: Moore’s EXTREMIST VIEWS will cost the state and its citizens.

Alabama’s business community fear that Moore’s extremist anti-gay and anti-Islam views – plus the serious credible allegations that surround him -- will bring negative consequences for Alabama’s economy, the state’s $13 billion tourist industry and efforts to attract new business and industry. 

“Industry as a whole…they don’t want to be in a place that’s known for extreme positions. Business comes because they going to get a good workforce and more importantly, make money. They don’t want to run the risk of insulting their clients.” -- David Bonner of the Retirement Systems of Alabama, on threats by past visitors to the state’s famed Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail visitors to never return if Moore is elected. (RSA manages the retirement-pension funds of thousands of Alabamians who worked for state agencies, including teachers.)

Reason 2: DEMAGOGUERY should not win again.

A DEMAGOGUE is a leader who uses popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power. Moore fits the definition so well I half expected his picture to show up next to the word in the dictionary. Other definitions for demagogue include “exploiting prejudice…to whip up the passions of the crowd and shut down reasoned deliberation.”  

Speaking of, President Trump has endorsed Moore.

Reason 3: The ACCUSATIONS are well documented, credible and collaborated.

NOT FAKE NEWS OR LIBERAL SMEAR CAMPAIGN: The Washington Post – whose thorough and well-sourced reporting first revealed accusations of Moore’s sexual misconduct with underage girls – is known for its investigative reporting, having helped write the book on it with the uncovering of the Watergate scandal, and for its 60 Pulitzer Prizes for excellence in journalism. 

The story included more than 30 on-the record sources from Moore’s hometown who collaborated the stories of women who were pursued by Moore as teenagers. None of the women – many who don’t know each other and are not Democrats – sought out the media. In all, nine women spoke on the record about being pursued as teens by Moore, including two serious allegations of sexual abuse.

Moore denied everything, and he and his defenders questioned the timing, implied payoffs and have called the women liars.

Reason 4: Here's why now

Moore and defenders asked why the women are speaking now, 40 years later, when Moore had been in Alabama politics for years? Sure is fishy.

Here's why:
  • Good reporters followed a national selection story (Moore's first run for NATIONAL office) to Moore’s hometown, and they ASKED QUESTIONS.
  • After learning the "common knowledge" that Moore dated teenage girls and spent his off time at the Y, the Gadsden Mall and high school events, reporters contacted women who knew Moore during this time, and they ASKED. 
  • Women, likely inspired by the national ME TOO movement, were brave enough to risk ridicule to tell their truth about a man who is asking citizens of his state for their trust.
  • And, like accuser Leigh Corfman explained, the women couldn’t sit back and “let him continue without the mask being removed."

Reason 5: Alabama GOP shakedown = no conscience choice; Shelby says NO to Moore.

The Alabama Republican Party threatened elected officials with being denied ballot access for up to six years if a Republican office holder failed to support Moore, citing a rule that forbids Republican officials or candidates from supporting any other candidate including write-in candidates.
“It would be a serious error,” said party chairman Terry Latham. 

Apparently six-term Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who did not vote for Moore, didn't get the message, or the 83-year old could have cared less about the state party threat.  He wrote in the name of a "distinguished Republican” on his Alabama absentee ballot and has said "Alabama deserves better." 

In addition to what sounds a lot like blackmail by the state party, the national GOP backtracked on its moral indignation and calls for Moore to step down and is now helping to fund his campaign. President Trump, who has more in common with Moore than party affiliation, is campaigning for Moore, the candidate that beat the candidate Trump told Alabama was best for us in the primary election.  "Roy Moore denies it, that's all I can say, and by the way, he totally denies it," said the president, who has recorded a robo call for Moore, like he did for Strange against Moore back in August. 

Republicans: Remember it's a SECRET BALLOT. 

Reason 6: Moore has no answer for allegations, except lame conspiracy theory.
In Moore’s limited campaign appearances, the only answer he offers from the pulpit is basically everybody is picking on me because I’m so moral. Most often, he sends surrogates to speak with the media for him, and he’s yet to answer direct questions from reporters or Alabama citizens who are not already his followers.

It’s a massive Democrat liberal gay conspiracy. That’s the best he can come up with to explain the allegations that emerged from his home county. In his repeated denials, Moore has blamed a political conspiracy by “lesbians, gays, bisexual transgenders who want to change our culture” and Clinton-Obama liberal media agenda for fabricating the accusations of nine women.
Reason 7: MOORE’S BAGGAGE will follow him, and Alabama.

The accusations against Moore will follow him now wherever he goes – despite his denials and claims of an elaborate smear campaign. The accusations from multiple women will go to Washington with him if he does get elected to fill the seat of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who, by the way, has said he believes the women. If elected, Moore faces a promised ethics investigation in the Senate, where senators of both parties resigned within the last week amid accusations of sexual misconduct. Moore could easily become the first member of the U.S. Senate expelled since the 1860s.

“Roy Moore would be nothing but problems for the Republicans.” – political analyst Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report (from

Reason 8: ABORTION is emotional issue = votes for Moore unless...

For many Christian conservatives, opposition to abortion is the main, perhaps only, reason they plan to vote for Moore. Knowing Doug Jones is a Democrat and ProChoice, voters say he is “for abortion.” He’s a baby killer, others have said, to me.
For the record, Jones supports the law that says abortion is a legal medical procedure. He has said abortion is a personal decision and he supports a woman's right to choose. He has said that “the law for decades has been that late-term procedures are generally restricted except in the case of medical necessity. That’s what I support. I don’t see any changes in that.” Moore’s camp has claimed Jones favors “full term” abortion, which does not even exist.
The facts are that abortion has been a legal medical procedure for more than 40 years since a1973 Supreme Court decision.. It is a complicated, emotional issue. The passion of ProLife advocates is strong and based on caring for LIFE. I understand that and personally abhor the very thought of an abortion and wish they were never necessary.
However, a vote for Moore will not prevent one abortion. No U.S. lawmaker -- Democrat or Republican -- made abortion legal in the first place (something I am not sure all voters understand) and neither party has been able to change its status nationally. 
What might prevent one more abortion are programs and policies championed by candidate Doug Jones that support women’s health and access to affordable birth control, which is the best abortion preventative. This is a cause and effect that should be obvious. 
I urge ProLIFE voters to look at ways other lives can be protected too and how legal abortion can be reduced – as opposed to tactics like straight Republican voting that have not workedIn the privacy of the voting booth and secret ballot, please don’t let one "settled law" issue that your vote will not impact keep you from doing what’s best for Alabama, your faith, community and family.
Reason 9: Moore misrepresents CHRISTIANITY for sake of religious nationalism.

Moore talks about Christian values while encouraging hate and condemnation -- a contradiction that hijacks and misrepresents Christianity. This has bothered me – to distraction.

To me and to many others – including 59 ministers who released an open letter Nov. 17 – Moore does not represent Christianity and acts in ways that are contrary to Christian faith.

THE CHRISTIAN VALUE Jesus talked about is LOVE. Love the Lord. Love one another as yourself. These are the two commandments Jesus gave his followers. Love your enemies. Judge not. Let your light shine. Do for the least of these and you do for me. Forgive to be forgiven.

Clear, simple and often not easy, LOVE is our charge as Christians.

I’ve searched for LOVE in Moore’s brand of Christian values, and I am still looking. In their letter, the pastors cited Moore’s denigration of people from other religions and countries and stated goals of entangling government in religion, failure to support policies and programs that help those in need (the least of these) as reasons they could not support him.

“It is our belief that in light of Roy Moore's extremist beliefs, his patterns of behavior, and the recent allegations against him, no person of faith can, in good conscience, support him or his religious nationalism. He has done harm to our government; he has done harm to our Christian witness; and he has done harm to vulnerable people.”

Reason 10: Moore’s God-in-government argument is wrong and dangerous.

Moore’s political platform that our nation needs to put God back in government is contrary to the U.S. founding documents and Constitution. Yes, many Europeans who first came to North America were Christians. Many were fleeing religious persecution from those in power who criticized and prohibited religious practices different from “true religion” those in power preferred. Sound familiar?

The first amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Judeo-Christian values surely influenced U.S. law and government. But, history shows us that “religion” as part of government as a statutory goal should not stand. And, neither should Moore’s suggestion that the 9-11 attacks were God’s punishment for American’s lack of faith.

Reason 11: For our children – especially our daughters

If we endorse, elevate, elect a gay-bashing, demagogue who has taught that women shouldn’t run for office, said that homosexuals should be punished, perhaps executed, and that Muslims shouldn’t serve in office, what future are we creating?

Moore’s misogynistic tendencies are clear in a law and government study course he helped teach that declares that women should not run for office and should not be voted for by "moral people" The study also criticizes the women’s suffrage movement. Moore’s picture as a featured speaker is on the Law and Government: An Introductory Study Course, described as a biblical view of government and justice. Ironically, Doug Phillips, the head of the now defunct Texas-based evangelical group that produced the course, resigned after admitting to an “inappropriate” relationship with a woman not his wife, a woman who later sued, detailing an abusive relationship with Phillips that began when she was 15.
Reason 12: DOUG JONES will represent all Alabamians with decency and fairness
 - if we give him the chance.

Democrat candidate Doug Jones, given a chance, will represent Alabama with dignity and and honesty. Unlike Moore, whose campaign has been played out with sermons at church-sponsored events and little direct access to even local media, Jones has been meeting Alabama citizens where they live and talking about things they care about.

They care about health care, not losing protections in existing programs, and reversing the state’s loss of rural hospitals. They care about the economy, jobs, safe drinking water and a better future for their children and grandchildren.  These are issues Jones understands.

Yes, he is a Democrat in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the senate in decades, probably since Senator Shelby was a Democrat.  

Jones is a guy from Fairfield (where we went to high school together) with blue collar roots (our fathers and grandfathers retired from U.S. Steel) who has proven himself to be a public servant who reaches out, listens and asks questions, has an open mind and wants to represent all of us. 

Please look at Jones’ record, countenance, and his reputation as a prosecutor of murdering home-grown terrorists, and member of the community. Compare it to Moore’s record, countenance and reputation. 

Alabama voters have an crucial decision to make Tuesday.

Please go VOTE to give Doug Jones a chance to proof himself during this abbreviated Senate term.

For more reasons than I can list, we must send the message that Alabama will not let a tainted Roy Moore represent us with extreme views and harmful beliefs, NO MATTER WHAT.

We are better than that, and Alabama and the nation deserve better, too.


“Law to Moore is merely an instrument of exclusion and oppression, whether of women, teenage girls, African Americans, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, or homosexuals. He is a deluded theocrat who believes that God's conversations with him determine the meaning of the U.S. Constitution, not the words written by the Founding Fathers or their interpretation by the U. S. Supreme Court.” – Alabama historian and author Wayne Flynt

"I decided that I am done being silent. What you did to me when I was 14-years old should be revolting to every person of good morals. But now you are attacking my honesty and integrity. Where does your immorality end?' -- Leigh Corfman, one of the women who said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 14 and he was 32, in a letter to Moore released to

If we elect Moore, we're responsible for him. Roy Moore's Alabama will be a world that is hostile to our daughters and to their hopes and dreams. I will tell my daughter, who is at college out of state, to not come home. And that's probably just what Roy Moore wants - a world without strong women who object to mistreatment and control." -- former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance

“Given the economic backlash against discriminatory legislation passed in North Carolina and Indiana, many Alabamians -- mainstream Republicans alongside the chronically thwarted liberals -- are bracing, if Moore wins the election, for what Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox told me could be a "catastrophic" blow to state commerce and self-esteem…” -- Alabama native Diane McWhorter, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book, Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, the Climactic Battle of the Civil Rights Revolution

"Alabama deserves better." -- Six term U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama)

"Country over party." -- memo on U.S. Senator Jeff Flake's $100 check to the Doug Jones for Senate campaign. The Arizona Republican is not seeking reelection.

"When there's a credible accusation or two or three or four and we still bury our heads and cry partisanship, that is intolerable." -- Nancy French, best-selling author of faith-inspired books and a sexual abuse survivor.

"This idea that God puts up with secret sins from His servant for the greater good is a total crock." --Beth Moore, Bible study leader and abuse survivor.

"Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation. Leigh Corfman and other victims are courageous heroes. No vote, no majority, is worth losing our honor, our integrity," -- Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

Picture of the day:

"All of Washington is watching to see what Alabama does," 
Moore said at a Sept 26 rally in south Alabama rally.

Song of the day:

Ain't no man Righteous, No Not One

-- From the newly released BOB DYLAN Trouble No More, live recordings from Dylan's 1979-1981 Christian gospel concerts. 

"When a man he serves the Lord, it makes his life worthwhile

It don’t matter ’bout his position, it don’t matter ’bout his lifestyle

Talk about perfection, I ain’t never seen none
And there ain’t no man righteous, no not one

Sometimes the devil likes to drive you from the neighborhood
He’ll even work his ways through those whose intentions are good
Some like to worship on the moon, others are worshipping the sun
And there ain’t no man righteous, no not one

Look around, ya see so many social hypocrites
Like to make rules for others while they do just the opposite

You can’t get to glory by the raising and the lowering of no flag
Put your goodness next to God’s and it comes out like a filthy rag
In a city of darkness there’s no need of the sun
And there ain’t no man righteous, no not one."

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Extra proud: Wishing Mr. Nettles and Miss Barbara of Wilcox County could see their girl now

The day Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey held her first news conference after taking over for shamed LUV GUV Robert Bentley, I watched news coverage as the Camden native repeated her priorities of righting the ship of state into an open, transparent and honest governor’s office.

“It’s the people’s business, y’all,” she said, reflecting her public-service attitude in an Alabama drawl and a sincerity that I KNOW is authentic and earned.

Alabama Gov, Kay Ivey 
I laughed out loud (I recall it as jubilant), and my next thought: I wish Mr. Nettles could see you now.

As a 15-year resident of Wilcox County and Camden, I knew our new governor’s parents before I knew her. In the early 1990s when we moved to Camden and first met Boadman Nettles Ivey and his wife Barbara, their only child, Kay Ellen, was busy being successful in Montgomery.

In a county full of characters, Nettles Ivey was a technicolor one. He was an Auburn man whose car sported Auburn license plate number 36, a Camdenite of some substance and a smart, world-wise man who spoke his mind. Barbara was a retired banker and principled lady who, I’m guessing, spent some amount of time trying to get Nettles to behave.  

I later learned Nettles Ivey was an Army major in World War II. He worked with the Gees Bend community in Wilcox County in a federal program that helped folks buy the land where they lived and farmed and taught new farming methods for the Farmers Home Administration. Barbara worked at the Lower Coastal Plain Experiment Substation and, later, was vice president at Camden National Bank. The Ivey family farmed cattle, raised horses and grew timber.

The 1990s Nettles Ivey was a friendly jumpsuit-wearing, sharp-witted, getting-elderly man who knew me as a young Selma newspaper reporter who had moved to Camden for my husband’s job.  

One day, Mr. Nettles called me at home and asked, “Young lady, if I buy that newspaper, The Wilcox Progressive Era, will you run it for me?”  I was flattered and remember saying, “I’ve always wanted to be the editor of a community newspaper, but Mr. Ivey….I’m working for MacMillan Bloedel now, and you know Mr. Hollis would never sell YOU the newspaper.”

See, Mr. Nettles occasionally disagreed with Progressive Era Editor and Publisher the late M. Hollis Curl, an admitted yellow-dog Democrat who wrote award-winning editorials and columns, at times from that viewpoint, much to the aggravation of some, including Mr. Nettles.

That day on the phone, he said, “Yeah, I reckon you’re right, but it’d be fun wouldn’t it?”

Yes sir, it would have been great fun, and it thrills me to this day that he thought enough of me to share his dream of taking over the local newspaper (that is now run, as is fitting, by Hollis’ grandson).

When I got to know Nettles and Barbara’s daughter Kay, she was director of governmental affairs and communication for the Alabama Commission on Higher Education and a member of the Alabama Forestry Association’s communications committee that I chaired. When she raised her hand to volunteer with ideas, knowledge and time, I saw so much of her parents in Kay Ivey: her well-spoken humor, grasp of landowner issues and willingness to do her part.

Before his death at 83 in 1997, Nettles Ivey had surgery at University Hospital in Birmingham, where he met my stepmother, Emily Romine, who worked at UAB doing EKGs and said “our daughter lives in Camden!” Em is outgoing with a thin-to-invisible filter, kind of like Mr. Nettles. They hit it off during his time in the hospital, and a few months later met again at a Camden restaurant when my parents and Grandpa visited us to attend of son Will’s baseball games (that got rained out).  

Em and the Ivys said hey and hugged, and when Em asked about his recovery, Mr. Nettles unzipped his jumpsuit to show how well his scar had healed. “Nettles Ivey! Put your clothes back on right now!” Miss Barbara said.  I love that memory of the governor’s parents and one of mine,

Years passed and Kay kept succeeding, having gone from school teacher to banker to hospital administrator to legislative aide, then appointments by three governors to state positions including assistant director of the Department of Commerce, formerly known as the Alabama Development Office. She became the first Republican woman to win a statewide office when she was elected treasurer in 2002 and was reelected in 2006 by the largest vote in a contested statewide election ever. As treasurer, she posted the state’s income sources online, updated technology and instilled private sector accounting and management practices.

Still, she came to forestry and farmer meetings, and when my job was eliminated in what became known as The Global Financial Crisis of 2008, Kay Ivey – even though she had to deal with that meltdown’s slam to the prepaid college tuition (PACT) program that her office managed -- helped me think through options and freely offered to be a reference.

My point: Gov. Kay Ivey is exactly who she appears to be, speaking her mind and meaning and doing what she says.

She’s the kind of person raised by Nettles and Barbara on their farm in Wilcox County – who rode horses in downtown Camden, was Wilcox Junior Miss and the county’s Girls State representative and then then first woman elected vice president of the campus-wide SGA at Auburn University.  
The first of many firsts:
Kay Ivey, AU class of 1967
  (Photo: Auburn Digital Services/

Our 54th governor’s talk of righting the state ship with open honesty is for real for Kay Ivey, just as authentic as her south Alabama accent and her devotion to public service.

Alabama lucked out with this lieutenant governor-to-governor ascension. You watch and see.

She’s already made some good calls: out with the Luv Guv’s girlfriend’s husband and in with a swift August 2017 election for a permanent replacement for senate seat of her high school classmate and new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Organized and efficient with an accountant’s mind and a get-it-done mindset, she’s conservative but not na├»ve, has a steel-strong work ethic and a time-honed understanding of the right way to “do the people’s business, y’all.”

Gov. Kay Ivey is a blessing to a state weary of corruption, bad news and same-old self-serving politics.

In the vernacular of L.A. (lower Alabama) and of Alabama at large, our new governor is good people…who comes from good people and a good place.

And I sure wish Mr. Nettles and Miss Barbara could see their girl now. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Dylan Nobel Laureate: Bobcats vindicated

We always knew it would happen.

We Dylan people – call us Dylanologists or Bobcats or Dylanites -- knew all along that Bob Dylan is a poet, a genius of word and music, and he should win the Nobel Prize for literature sooner or later. 

We’re glad it was sooner and while our 75-year-old Nobel Laureate is still touring. He was playing Vegas on Thursday, October 13, when his selection as recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature was announced. 

Today's Bob Dylan, from a 2015 cover story in AARP magazine

The Swedish Academy cited Dylan’s “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” He is the first songwriter and musician to be so honored in the prize’s 115-year history and the first American to win since Toni Morrison in 1993.

Already, Dylan has won Grammys, an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, Kennedy Center honors and a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S., and he's written a bestselling, award-winning memoir, 2004's Chronicles Volume One. Still the NOBEL is a BIG DEAL, and still some folks are critical of his being chosen for the award and of Dylan himself, but that's nothing new. 

The day the prize was announced, I posted the news on my Facebook page (but should have posted on the multiple Bob Facebook groups I belong to). I read media coverage from across the globe which included comments from detractors who bristled and complained about a musician winning the coveted literary prize.

Bless their hearts.

Many more folks, however, think the Nobel prize for literature is absolutely deserved by an artist who has spent more than 50 years writing original songs that changed popular music and continue to inspire musicians and others.

One of the best comments from a pro-Bob expert came from former United Kingdom Poet Laureate Sir Andrew Motion, who said Dylan’s songs work as poems. His songs have “extremely skillful rhyming aspects to them,” Motion said. “They’re often the best words in the best order.”

Writing the “best words in the best order” is the goal of any writer – of songs, prose or poetry, blog posts, fiction or non-fiction – even for this newspaper reporter turned communications manager turned freelance writer, blogger and hopeful author of a still unpublished novel.

Writing the best words in the best order remains a challenging goal every time I write.  This quest and appreciation of writers and songwriters who do just that brought me to Bob Dylan in the first place. And, with each new discovery within his exhaustive body of work, this word nerd admires Dylan all the more.

Dylan’s songs express emotion, tell stories, talk of love and hate, of God and the devil, of women quite often and of mankind’s humanity and our search for more.

For most every emotion and situation, there are Dylan lyrics, Dylan words, to express what we are feeling with the best words in the best order.

Here are a few examples of how – through any emotion, situation, life lesson or human foible – we can find timeless truth in the poetry and prose of Bob Dylan, Nobel Laureate. 

Narrowing down favorite and Nobel-worthy lyrics from Dylan’s songs from 38 studio albums has taken time. There are so many carefully placed words, lines and stanzas and not enough time or blog space.

Below, after the lyrics, I list the song, date originally published and the album(s) the songs are on -- in case you need more. If you are a music lover -- if music makes a difference in your life -- and you don’t know the full range of Dylan’s work, I urge you to listen, with open mind, ears and heart, to the music with the words of this legendary wordsmith and musician. 

General wisdom and truths:

“Money doesn’t talk, it swears.” 
“It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” 
Subterranean Homesick Blues, 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

"Lot of things can get in the way when you’re tryin’ to do what’s right."
-- Honest with Me, 2001, Love and Theft

 "When you got nothing, you got nothing to lose..."
-- Like a Rolling Stone, 1965, Highway 61 Revisited

“Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain.”
 – Not Dark Yet, 1997, Time Out of Mind

“Well, my parents they warned me not to waste my years
And I still got their advice oozing out of my ears..” 
Honest with Me, 2001, Love and Theft
Genius at work:
Bob Dylan, circa 1965, about the time he
went electric with Maggie's Farm
and Like a Rolling Stone. 

On growing up:

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift..."

Subterranean Homesick Blues, 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

Just because:

“Well, my back has been to the wall for so long, it seems like it’s stuck
Why don’t you break my heart one more time just for good luck..” 
Summer Days, 2001, Love and Theft

On politics:

"While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States

Sometimes must have to stand naked..."
-- It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding), 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

On War:
You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther

When the fast bullets fly
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never

Forgive what you do
—Masters of War, 1962, Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan

On things going wrong:

“Broken hands on broken ploughs
Broken treaties, broken vows
Broken pipes, broken tools
People bending broken rules
Hound dog howling, bullfrog croaking
Everything is broken.” – Everything is Broken, 1989, Oh Mercy

– Everything is Broken, 1989, Oh Mercy
Dylan on MTV's Unplugged in 1995

On questionable fashion choices:

“You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine

Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat.”

Well, if you wanna see the sun rise
Honey, I know where
We’ll go out and see it sometime
We’ll both just sit there and stare
Me with my belt
Wrapped around my head
And you just sittin’ there
In your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat, 1965, Blonde on Blonde

When you’ve had enough of that crazy boss:
“No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more

Well, he hands you a nickel
He hands you a dime
He asks you with a grin
If you’re havin’ a good time
Then he fines you every time you slam the door
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more..” 
-- Maggie’s Farm*, 1965, Bringing It All Back Home

* Note:  Maggie’s Farm is the song Dylan played as hfamously went "electric,” stunning the crowd at Newport Folk Festival in July of 1965.

On folks always criticizing: 

"They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, “good luck”
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned
Well, they’ll stone you and say that it’s the end
Then they’ll stone you and then they’ll come back again
They’ll stone you when you’re riding in your car
They’ll stone you when you’re playing your guitar
Yes, but I would not feel so all alone

Everybody must get stoned.."
-- Rainy Day Women #12 & 25, 1966, Blonde on Blonde 

On change:
(My theme song when I was downsized)

“Standing on the gallows with my head in a noose
Any minute now I’m expecting all hell to break loose
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed..”
-- Things Have Changed*, 1999, The Essential Bob Dylan

Note* This song won an Academy Award and Golden Globe for best song in film for The Wonder Boys 

On faith:
“I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there’s someone there, other times it’s only me
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand..”
    --  Every Grain of Sand,1981, Shot of Love*
*Note: Shot of Love was one of three Christian albums, including Slow Train and Saved, the Jewish-born Dylan recorded after becoming a Christian (I think he still is…)

On faith and service: 
You may be an ambassador to England or France
You may like to gamble, you might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight champion of the world
You may be a socialite with a long string of pearls

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
n      -- Gotta Serve Somebody, 1979, Slow Train Coming

Dylan sings with 
Van Morrison and The Band's 
Robbie Robertson 
at The Last Waltz concert 

On two-faced folks:

“You got a lotta nerve
 To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning
You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning..”

n  -- Positively 4th Street, 1965, Biograph/The Essential Bob Dylan/Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits

On life... and all you want for your children and others you love:

“May you grow up to be righteous

May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
-- Forever Young*, 1973, Oh Mercy

*Notes: 1. Forever Young was first performed by Dylan live with The Band at the farewell concert and film, The Last Waltz.
2. My last will and testament states that this song is to be played at my memorial service, proving I'm a Bobcat to the end and that his lyrics can sometimes say what we want to say better than we can.

For when that haughty someone gets his or her comeuppance:

From Dylan's most famous song, Like a Rolling Stone, recorded 51 years ago and called by Rolling Stone magazine “the single best song of all time.”

“ You never turned around to see the frowns on the jugglers and the clowns
When they all come down and did tricks for you 
You never understood that it ain’t no good 
You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you 
You used to ride on the chrome horse with your diplomat 
Who carried on his shoulder a Siamese cat  
Ain’t hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at 
After he took from your everything he could steal
How does it feel/To be without a home/Like a rolling stone/
Like a complete unknown/Like a rolling stone."
--Like a Rolling Stone, 1965, Highway 61 Revisited/The Essential Bob Dylan/Bootleg series/several other live and best of albums
I could keep on and on quoting Dylan lyrics to make my point about the rightfulness of America's rock's poet laureate winning the Nobel Prize. These are just some of my favorites. 

What are your favorite Dylan line, lines or songs?

Picture of the Day:

Bob Dylan and his Band
perform in China in 2011. 

He and his spot-on
band tour extensively.

Quote of the day:
“I can write you poems, make a strong man lose his mind
I’m no pig without a wig
I hope you treat me kind
Things are breakin’ up out there
High water everywhere… "

-- High Water (for Charley Patton), 2001, Love and Theft

Blogger's note: Pictures of Dylan in this post, except for today's Dylan from,, are credited to