BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
Hello. You caught me at a rather exciting time in the bonus round. For my 60th birthday year, I made an album. I'm doing some concerts around New York City and I even composed a concert Mass which will debut on June 7. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve, The Songwriter.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Egyptian man and boy.

I managed to snap this shot from the bus as we convoyed to the Valley of the Kings from Safaga, Egypt.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A New Tactic Against HIV: T-Cell Tweaks

A New Tactic Against HIV: T-Cell Tweaks (from Wired.com)

By Brandon Keim Email

Tcelldc



Scientists searching for anti-HIV drugs have been stymied by the fast-evolving, continuously adapting nature of the virus.

Some researchers are taking a different tack: rather than attacking the virus itself, they're targeting the cells that HIV infects.

In a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team led by National Human Genome Research Institute cell biologist Pamela Schwartzberg turned off a protein that helps mobilize immune system cells against infection.


Once T-cells were stripped of the protein, HIV couldn't get traction: the signaling pathways it normally exploits to invade a cell and copy itself were short-circuited.

...

ITK, though targeted by some drug companies for its role in asthma and allergies, "has not been really thought about in the context of HIV," said Schwartzberg. "The work provides a model for finding novel targets that can affect HIV replication."

Selective Targeting of ITK blocks multiple steps of HIV Replication
[PNAS]

Image: Courtesy of the Institut Cochin, a T-cell (blue) and a dendritic cell (yellow). The latter help calibrate immune response.

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SF Gay Men's Chorus Press Release

I love this press release from the SF Gay Men's Chorus. The concert sounds FANTASTIC. And they mention me! (The bold part is done by me).
Media Statement 04.29.08
For Immediate Release

Making Our Dreams Come True
- Spring Concert A Vibrant Mix Of Classic, Campy, And Contemporary

When the curtain goes up at Davies Symphony Hall on May 16, San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus will be singing an iconic piece of Americana, the theme song from Laverne and Shirley!

"We're following in the footsteps of Wayne's World, Friends, and Saturday Night Live, and to quote Laverne and Shirley, `we'll do it our way,' with a campy twist or two," chuckles Artistic Director and Conductor, Dr. Kathleen McGuire.

The lighthearted opening to the concert, which continues the 30th anniversary season of the chorus, sets an upbeat tone for a concert of exceptional variety. "We've got it all," continues McGuire, "everything from the poignant idealism of The Testament of Freedom, set to the stirring words of Thomas Jefferson, to West Side Story, to Mozart, to a foot-stomping finale written by Steve Schalchlin; My Rising Up."

The vibrant mix of genres is carefully crafted into the two-act concert honoring a pioneering vision in act one and premiering stunning new works by the gay composers of today in act two.

The concert marks the historic premiere of Safeer el-Layl (translation: Ambassador of the Night) written by gay Lebanese composer, Ilyas Iliya. The haunting piece is a message of hope to those seeking freedom and according to Iliya, is, "the first time that gay Arabs will hear a song about themselves in their own language."

As the second act continues, comedy and the greatest hits of classical music collide in a hilarious new work from gay composer, Eric Lane Barnes, Gay Vs. Straight, featuring the music of Wagner, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Copland, Sousa, Saint-Saëns, and Chopin.

The program also includes an uplifting new work by David Conte, with lyrics by Philip Littell. "There is nothing we won't try," quips McGuire, adding, "it's all done, of course, with impeccable style and taste."

San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus presents Making Our Dreams Come True at Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall for one night only, Friday May 16, at 8 p.m. For tickets call the box office at (415) 865-ARTS (2787) or go to www.sfgmc.org.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Goodbye to the Great Figaro.

RIP FIGARO

It is with great sadness in my heart that I must announce the passing of one of the great cat voices of our generation. Sadly, his great works will probably not see the light of day. I know he was preparing an epic musical called MASSACHUSETTS (where he was looking for "actors who can dance and dancers who can spell") and a new waffle, but when you're a cat, you sleep most of the day, and there just never seems to be enough time.

The cook book, restaurant chain, musical events, encyclopedia, media empire, religion and chain of toy stores will never come to fruition.

Figaro's daddy, my friend Michael, had never intended to own a cat. But, 20 years ago, when the Shelter had a cat adoption day, and Michael was passing through, Figaro immediately nailed him with his cat stare, declared him "pwned" and that was it.

Word has it that they slept together every single night, and I personally witnessed Figaro licking and biting Michael's nose, though I would never spread rumors, of course.

Happily, though, Figaro did leave us a blog where fellow cat Jett was allowed a word or two. But it was Figaro's innate cat intelligence that dominates the blog.

I am going to miss Figaro a lot. I know Michael is heartbroken. We still miss Thurber. And we also still miss Old Howard Katz who passed a number of years ago.

So, here's to you, Great Figaro. You brought untold hours of happiness into the life of one of my best friends in the world. And for that alone, I will always love you and remember you.

UPDATE: Michael writes about Figaro.

Coming to Norwich & San Francisco.

Unless something Gothic happens, I'm going to be Norwich, Connecticut in the next week for the opening of The Last Session at the Spirit of Broadway Theatre.

This is the one starring Kevin Wood directed by Brett Bernardini.

After working with Kevin earlier this year, and totally falling in love with his voice, I know he's capable of a great performance.



On May 16, I'm going to be in San Francisco attending the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus spring concert, Making Our Dreams Come True, A Night of Glamour and Gaiety. Aside from featuring a great work by Randall Thompson, they will sing one of the songs from my cantata, "Pantheon Bar & Grill." A song called "My Rising Up."

An Engineer's Guide To Cats.

Back Again.

I've come home from the land of the pyramids. It was an eye-opening, and possibly profound, for me, journey. But in a quiet way.

(I accompanied Jim on a trip involving his performing Zero Hour aboard ship.)

It's one thing to talk about world politics. It's quite another to go look at things in the flesh. The history. The art. The way the people live now.

The tour guide, a dark-eyed beautiful woman, said, at the Egyptian Museum said that Egyptian monotheism was created by a Pharoah (Akhnaton?) as a power play against the priest elite. (Why go to the gods through all these dressed up, politically powerful and usually corrupt men when you can bypass them entirely and just declare that there's only one God and that he speaks to you directly?)

(Sounds very Church of England, doesn't it?)

And right there before us was his coffin with the painted image of him on it. I think there were also statues of him, but I couldn't concentrate on everything at once. Damn them for not allowing video cameras. There was so much history. Too much. All I could do was run in, look at something and then move onto the next thing.

I'll update the blog, soon, but first I want to collect my thoughts and reacquaint myself with my cat.

Monday, April 07, 2008

International Circus of Pozitivities

Dear Friends of the International Carnival of Pozitivities (ICP):

It is a tremendous pleasure to announce the publication of edition 2.10 of the ICP at Mshairi .

Mshairi is our first host from Africa, from Kenya exactly, who currently lives in London. We encourage you to bookmark this edition and visit it over time so that you can enjoy each of the contributions from the world of HIV/AIDS.

This 22nd consecutive edition of the ICP features personal accounts, video, poetry, humor, a first chapter of a martial-arts fiction novel and the latest in news from the HIV/AIDS community. We hope that you will spend some time reading and that you will leave comments for the contributors.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Hemo2Homo: 21 - The Movie Review

The Hemo2Homo Connection Movie Review
21-movie-poster-kevin-spacey-kate-bosworth.jpg
21movie.jpgHomo: I know we decided to see this movie because it's the 21st anniversary of your pet virus, but I didn't spend my hours counting cards. I spent them counting the minutes I would never get back. I'm beginning to think that anything these days with Kevin Spacey is sure to suck.



Hemo: Damn, I haven't bought my ticket yet- I'm thinking about folding this hand. The prequel craze is on tilt, anyway, and I for one do not need to know what happened before Jim Carrey's 23, thank you very much. Homo: No, bleeder. This one is based on a true story -- a book I read and enjoyed. But Hollywood took out all the reality.

Hemo: Isn't that what Hollywood's there for?

Homo:
21 is a
bout a numbers genius from MIT who gets co-opted into becoming a member of a gang of card counters, one of which is the sexiest girl in school...

crips01.jpgHemo: I bet the Crips were shaking in their boots.

Homo: This gang flies over Compton on their way to Vegas, where they enjoy weekends of winning lots of money for Kevin Spacey. You can always count on Hollywood to make something better than reality.

Hemo: So why on Earth would a gang of pale-faces make money for Kevin Spacey?

Homo: Because he needs the dead Benjamins for Harvard and, apparently, the poor genius doesn't know how to fill out a form for a student loan.

Hemo: Well, he was probably too old to get a basketball scholarship.

Homo: What? No, nimrod: Kevin Spacey is the professor leading the gang, not a student member of the gang. It's the boy who becomes seduced by Vegas.

pokerchips.jpgHemo: What about the sexy girl? Homo: They have a G-Rated love scene.

Hemo: Let me guess... it happens in a hot tub at the Palms? I already saw that on the Real (Lame) World. So life is good for the pretty boy gang member, and...

Homo: Until he finally- shocker!- has a real bad night at the tables...

Hemo: ...and gets obsessed with the number 21, right? He puts all of Kevin Spacey's winnings -- plus everything he owns and cares about -- on the number 21 on the Roulette wheel... it spins, the ball pops around... and then... BAM! The number 23 comes up. Jim Carrey is the pit boss, you have to see the movie twenty-one times to notice him in the background, hence the name of the film.


Homo: Then Laurence Fishburn ties him to a chair and beats him up.

jimcarrey.jpgHemo: The Crips to the rescue! I'm about to move All-In on this one and buy that ticket. It's the only way I'll understand 22 when it comes out.

Homo: No! Cash out now! Although 21 really makes me wonder what they'd do with our inspiring, real-life story of two guys with AIDS reviewing movies. And how we'd have to promote it: Did you see that Jim Carrey had to dress in an elephant outfit at American Idol to promote Horton Hears a Who?

Hemo: I missed that major step down from talking out of one's bunghole. I bet Hollywood would call our story Homo Hears a Hemo. It would be about a world of gay men who ignore the plight of the platelet-challenged...

Homo: ... until the pink homo with big ears- me!- stands by his side. Craddling the fragile hemo close to his chest. Hemo: Yes! Brother to brother, they stand back to back, fending off the haters and counting out their life-saving HIV pills instead of cards. Homo: And Hollywood film producers would count their cash and continue the fine tradition of turning a great book into a crappy film.

Hemo: Speaking of great books, our review of The Hours really made My Pet Virus. Now available at your local bookstore!

Homo: Sales a bit slow?

Hemo: You nailed it. So, what's your final say on the movie 21? Do you think people without AIDS will respond the same way you did?

Homo: Yes. And I'd rather play Russian Roulette in a giant pink elephant costume then have to see this one again.

hemo2homo.jpgThe Hemo2Homo Connection are Shawn Decker and Steve Schalchlin.

The Hemo2Homo Connection's creators met online in 1996, and posted their first movie review in 1998. Both have been living with HIV for over twenty years, and have annoyed their friends and loved ones for longer than that. Steve Schalchlin resides in Los Angeles, CA. He is an award-winning musician, singer and songwriter. Shawn Decker lives in Charlottesville, VA. He is an HIV/AIDS educator and the author of My Pet Virus.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Hal Block Blows It.

Hal Block, the increasingly irritating panelist on "What's My Line?" was fired last night after the show. Well, back in 1953.

The first player was a female minister from Georgia who came on wearing a mink. Hal made several comments about her good looks.

Then, he makes his big mistake. We can't see it because the cameras never pick it up, but as the next contestant is signing in, an older woman, you hear a bunch of laughter from the audience.

No reference is made, but what happened is that Hal Block chased the lady minister around the studio like the Marx Brothers. He was always making lewd comments to all the pretty girls, which might have been acceptable had he not been so creepy looking.

Supposedly, Gil Fates, the producer, took Hal to a bar, told him that they had decided not to pick up his option. He went through a long list of reasons, though it all had to do with the fact that he just didn't fit in with the other panelists. He was crude. They were classy.

Also, for the past several episodes, they showed all these big TV awards they had just been awarded. So, they were ready to class up the joint now that they had established an identity.

And Hal just wasn't funny enough.

Steve Allen, though, was. He was introduced as, "A new young comedian with his own show on another network."

And Steve, BTW, "invented" the question "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" this past week of shows, a phrase that has entered the lexicon.

Anyway, Hal was fired. He made a few more appearances, but it's easy to see by how nervous he's been that he already knew he wasn't fitting in.

What's My Line's producer Gil Fates wrote about Block in 1978:

Hal Block...was a strange man. He was rumored to have come from a very wealthy family in Chicago, where he wrote material for some of the stand-out, stand-up comics in the business. He was stocky with curly black hair, heavy lips, and rather bulging eyes. He wore bow ties, stood around with his hands clasped behind his back, and smiled most of the time.

He seemed completely uninhibited by either sensitivity or propriety. He referred to Ethel Barrymore as "you doll" and planted big wet kisses on both Sister Kenny and Helen Hayes as they passed down the panel to say goodbye. For our deodorant sponsor he gratuitously coined the phrase, "Make your armpit a charmpit."

Hal was totally oblivious to the panel's distaste for his jokes or to the icy correctness with which John Daly would greet one of his appalling observations.

"You're the prettiest nun I ever saw," he once complimented a Dominican Sister in full habit.

"So what was so wrong?" he asked in defense. "She was a real doll."

You couldn't teach the meaning of good taste to Hal, any more than Star Kist could teach it to Charley the Tuna. Hal's relationship to the show was much like that of the small-town, stay-at-home wife to her rising young corporate executive husband. Hal had served his purpose when the program was young but now that we were a class product, his gaucheries were no longer tolerable.

The Three H's.

The songwriting blog at NY Times today was written by Darrell Brown. He makes a wonderful point here:
And that song must have the three H’s in it: Honesty. Humanity. And hooks.

First, honesty, because I believe that people will only put up with a lie for so long and I want my songs to last forever. For me, finding out if a song is honest or not is a gut thing. An honest song will show innocence, vulnerability and strength all at the same time: “I Can’t Make You Love Me” sung by Bonnie Raitt and written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin or Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” or “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper or Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me.” Songs that rise above the songwriter and performer and have a life of their own.

Then, it has to be full of humanity, and by that I mean the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual sides of humanity. The big themes — the brokenness and the triumph of it all. So people can relate to what I am writing and singing about.

Then, finally — and this is extremely important to a song — it has to be filled with hooks, basically because I don’t want to bore people to death with all the honesty and humanity I am parading about. Hooks, as most of you know, are an absolute staple of pop music, bits and pieces of rhyming syllables or words, rhythmic chords and melodies chiming in and out and strung together in some fresh way so they never leave your brain, so you can’t stop thinking about or humming that song wherever you go. No hooks? Then it is not a great song and never will be.


But I also love this:
Not all of the songs I write will be good ones. Actually, a lot of them will be ridiculously bad (experience has also taught me not to show those songs to anyone for obvious reasons). But when an honest, four-dimensional, hook-filled piece of humanity is finally born, there is a clue to recognizing its timelessness. There is a peaceful, non-judgmental appreciation that falls over me when I hear it, a feeling — or even a knowledge — that we songwriters really had nothing to do with its creation in the first place. It’s as if we were archaeologists at a dig and all we had to do was chip away the stone and brush away the sand that hid it from view. We were just lucky enough to be in the room that day when it showed up to sing to us.

I wrote before that I have also written some RIDICULOUSLY bad songs. It's part of the process -- and it's one of those "Freeze Points" I discussed. Where you begin to doubt the song and then lose your passion for it.

Me, I just continue on as long as I can stand it and write the song anyway, good or bad. Because I know from experience also that if you can't suffer writing the bad songs, you'll never get to the good ones.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Just In Case You Missed It.

David Archuleta has had a couple of rough weeks. He was faltering as he tried to fit into the different genres of singing being thrown at him. This week, he sings a Dolly Parton song and so completely inhabits this song, it's almost heart stopping.

I'm a total sucker for country gospel soul, and this kid knows how to sing it. He also has a quality that I've been accused of. He makes people cry.

I know I must seem like a teenager posting this. But no, it's more than that. It's professional. It's the songwriter in me is that's ringing this bell. He sings like I write.

I love the way his voice sounds in the intro section because it's not drenched in the live reverb. And watch what his voice does to Dolly. You can see her losing it right there and that's not acting.

He needs to be singing my songs. He needs to sing "Going It Alone."



Wait. I can see it now. David Archuleta singing "Out Of Many Comes One" at the inauguration of Barack Obama!

Going For An English

I laughed so hard at this, I was hurting. "Going For an English" is a classic sketch from the British variety show "Goodness Gracious Me," in which an Indian family goes out "for an English" after drinking too much, patronizing the waiter and demanding the blandest thing on the menu.



h/t: Doug who hat tipsboing boing who hat tips Neil Gaiman.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Life On Capitol Hill - Critic's Corner

Someone found a great new review of the Denver production of TLS. This is from a publication called "Life On Capitol Hill." I've included the entire review because I don't know if they archive things like this or have an permanent address. I love, love, love the opening line.

By David Marlow

The Last Session
will break your heart in two and then give it musical CPR.

    Beginning with a confession to an absent lover, musician/songwriter Gideon announces that his battle with AIDS has become too devastating. He will “off” himself after tonight’s “last session” in the recording studio. Having told only sound techie Jim, his friends Tryshia and Vickie will get the news tomorrow in a letter.

    Jim Brochu’s book for The Last Session packs a lot into this short musical. Issues of homophobia, religious snobbery and compassionate caring for friends are at the heart of this heart-tugger.

    Steven Schalchlin manages to create a score which is emotionally charged. A very fine cast delivers performances drenched in heartfelt passion.

    Samuel Wood, who played the title character in the Theatre Group’s first production of Jeffrey, has done a superb job of directing Theatre Off Broadway’s current offering. Wood has cast the five-person show impeccably. This artist seems to share Steven Tangedal’s directorial penchant for making us cry and laugh simultaneously. And he does it with expert skill.

    The musical direction by Tangedal elicits genuine and stirring vocals from one and all. Tangedal, who also created the realistic scenic design for the recording studio set, has also done a bang-up job with evocative sound and lighting designs.

    Jody Wells leads the cast as the suicidal Gideon with superb vocals that reveal a great emotional range. Carla Kaiser Kotrc is Vicki, Gideon’s ex-wife/best friend. Kotrc brings out all the great heart imaginable in this character, along with some spectacular belting. Kotrc is hilariously adept at delivering the satiric barbs given her Diva of a character by the playwright.

    Laura Chavez gives a thoroughly professional reading to Tryshia, the fiery Latina of the singing group. David Ballew is especially strong as an acerbic techie who, entrusted with the awful existential news, creates waves that turn the tide.

    Robert Riney plays Buddy, the Bible-beating, Gospel-singing cute boy from the South who is interested in singing... just not with any suicidal homosexuals. Riney is a young man with good looks and an intoxicating voice. He is as adept in the acting as in the singing, and can even make the dramatic arc of this bigoted character wind up endearing.

    Definitely not to be missed as well.

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PSAs For Safe Schools Coalition

I ws asked if we could make some Public Service Announcements for the Safe Schools Coalition, a non-profit group that helps teach educators about how to create a safe school environment for GLBT young people. It was a request from Ethan at TransFM, which is an outrageously fun "internet broadcasting network" featuring transgender performers.

After recording this one featuring Jim's voice, I made up a video to go along with it. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Song Blogging: "Out Of Many Comes One"

This time around Suzanne Vega has written the NY Times songwriter blog, Measure For Measure, describing her process of putting together a new album now that she's coming off the road. For me, what was interesting was the fact that she starts with nuggets of lyrics, some of which may turn into a song and some of which may not.

She also included a few of the nuggets.

This is different from the last blog where the Andrew Bird described himself as mostly a melodicist who "hears" the music first and then allows the words to fall into the music.

So, I thought I might jump into the songwriting process fray by describing how Jim and I wrote our submission for "American Idol."

It began when he reminded me that the deadline was upon us. We had two days to write and record this song.

THIS assignment is to "express the journey" that these singers have taken. The place they are now. The big example on their website, we read, was Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This" by Jörgen Elofsson and John Reid.

This song is the Gold standard for raking in piles of cash -- from the first season. Besides selling over a million copies, from Wikipedia:

The song is also used in television commercials for Sandals Resorts in the UK and United States.

The song is commonly played at sporting events which involve a title (e.g. Super Bowl), this song is played for the winning team of the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup, and World Series. Especially if the home team wins the title in their hometown.

And since the publishing half of the money will go to the company that owns American Idol, they want to repeat this success. And I want to HELP them repeat this success. (I'm sure the publishing terms will be crappy, but what the heck.)

So, I imagine them sitting around looking for the next "A Moment Like This" only different. Their heads are going to be set in that direction as they pick the final 20 for people to vote on. Yes, it's song by vote.

Here's the problem with this challenge. It's like saying, "Let's create another TV show like Friends."

All you get are a bunch of lame imitations of Friends, none of which anyone can stand to watch. And that's why "This Is My Now," which was chosen last year, just didn't catch on the same way, no disrespect to Jeff Peabody and Scott Krippayne, who I'm sure are very nice people.

So, I felt like we had to find a different way to approaching the subject. I mean John Bettis and Albert Hammond already wrote "One Moment In Time." (And Barbra already sang "I'm Greatest Star"). The subject's been covered.

But the assignment is to describe the journey of the singer. Not to rewrite "A Moment Like This".

THE HOOK
I looked over at Jim, without prompting him about "This Is The Moment," and said, "They want a song that describes 'the journey" of these singers. Give me a hook."

He thought for a moment, then a light came on in his eyes and he said, "I got it. Out Of Many, One."

"Perfect!" I wrote it down. Out of many, one. Out of many comes one.

Then he started riffing on it.
Out of many notes comes a melody
Out of many notes comes a song.
Okay. Now I get it. Not "Out of all these people comes me" but out of all of us together, we can create a beautiful whole.

That became The Concept.

THE CONCEPT
The Concept is, for me, the target. The underlying theme. The Thing The Song Is Saying. It's the twist that keeps it from being too obvious. The concept is that we're going to twist the hook to mean something better than "Look at me, look at me, look at me." It "Look at us, look at us, look at us, meaning audience, the producers, the judges, the tech crew. Even the musicians and songwriters! We're making this beautiful moment together."

There is definitely a big cornball risk in taking on a theme this big. Pozitivity and hope and optimism are cornball. We'll be walking a very fine line.

By the way, this is the moment when you realize this could turn into the worst song ever written. A lot of songwriters hit this point when they create and it freezes them. Luckily, I've already written some spectacularly bad songs so I don't care anymore. Life's too short. Besides, we only have two days.

As I was sitting there on the couch reading the first lines, I started to feel a gentle gospel rhythm coming over me. Something really simple. A piano, a tambourine and a bass. And voices. Harmony.

And a diminished chord. Right there on the second measure. How daring!

At this point, I knew the only way to make this sound good would be to hire some musicians, snatch a choir, go into a studio and make it real.

In one day? The song isn't even written yet. It's just a hook and concept. And I know what it sounds like in my head. As I sat there on the couch singing the song to myself, hoping to God that when I got to the piano, it would sound like what I was hearing, I realized that I could not make a perfect demo. I had to let that idea go. I would do the best I could and let it be good enough.

I mention this because this is another Freeze Moment for many songwriters. If they can't make the perfect demo, then they won't give it out at all. I come from the "do the best you can but get it out there" school. I don't judge the others. I'm just saying that Freeze Moments can be debilitating. At some point, you have to let the work go and move on.

Happily, the chord construct that I did in my head worked perfectly. I sang it out loud for Jim. He gave a suggestion or two. And off I went to my keyboard and microphone to work out some sounds and music.

I also thought, hm. This song needs to SOAR. What these singers want are great big money notes. So, I shaped the melody line in an ascending line with lovely money notes sprinkled throughout, the biggest one landing at the end. Key of F. Last note on F above middle C.

This refrain sounded good to me. It was also felt more like a chorus than a verse. Ah. This song is an AABA song. A bit old fashioned in structure, but what the heck. It's singing.

I pictured the show. They have these three kick ass back-up singers. I'd do layers of vocals in three parts.

Since I couldn't get that live feel or the soul that fellow musicians bring to a project, I played some piano, left it kind of raggedy and then layered layered on the vocals. Track after track of background vocals, some of which managed to be in tune, making it up as I went along.

Now I needed a bridge or B section. This section of the song lets a breathe a bit. It goes to different chords and then leads us back into the A Sec...

And then I did it.

In for a penny, in for a pound.

I not only wrote a key change into this song, I bumped it up a minor third. Now the last note would be A-flat. Held out as long as the singer has breath.

Off to bed.

The next morning, I finished writing the verses (after having consulted again with Jim, getting additional concepts and lyrics from him). Then I laid down the last tracks of vocals -- a total of eight vocal tracks, all layered and harmonized together. Added a bass guitar, a little acoustic, found a better sound for the tambourine, mixed it, played it for Jim, loved it.

Me, I also love it. Then I hated it. Fixed a bad vocal. Loved it. Hated it. Loved it again. Waited two hours, listened to it again, hated it, loved it, sent it.

And it's done.

Now, it goes to judges who will listen to "thousands" of songs and will pick the final 20. Then, "America" will vote for their favorite song -- and the last two people will sing it in a sing-off.

Honestly, it's a bit like trying to win the lottery. I don't even know if this is a good song or not. I usually can't make that judgment for a month or more, after I've had time to forget it and play it again as if hearing it the first time.

But as of this moment, for this kind of song, I like it. Also, it has a theme I believe in, that we accomplish great things when we unify. Very Obama, don't you think?

Hmmm... Obama...

P.S. Before you ask, I'll post the song at some point, but not while the contest is in this stage.

P.P.S. My mom and my Aunt Freida love the song, so who cares about American Idol.