The Rose Note
"Or Barbra Streisand--" "Cricket!" I said. "If people aren't buying masses of music, we'll have to sell something in addition that spreads the same message as the music." Cricket took a sip of coffee, her eyes cast downwards at the tabletop. Then she looked up. "Yay," Cricket said gravely. "No need to be a Debbie Downer," I said. "I don't think it will be that hard. We could start with something small, like a pen." "No, Yay," Cricket repeated, even more gravely. "Yay," she said. "You say 'yay!' 18 times a day. All your music says 'Yay!'." If anyone embodies the expression 'yay,' it's you. "Yay," I smiled. "Why not create a "yay" line using the same '60s palette we've been using on all your other visuals?" I was so excited, I spilled my coffee. Cricket lifted up the dripping mug, while I wiped off the table. "Look at this mug," Cricket said, holding it at eye level. "Plain white. Doesn't say a thing. Now imagine if it was some fabulous commotion of colors that represents your energy, and the energy of the era you love." I love when Cricket gets esoteric. I said to her, "Oh, go on..." But Cricket didn't go on at all. She tossed back her espresso as if it were a shot of tequila and headed for the door. "We've got work to do!" she said over her shoulder. And so… ladies and gentlemen, mesdames et messieurs… Without further ado… Presenting my new YAY line. We're starting small. Click here to see the C.Z. Guest, the Edie Sedgwick, the Slim Keith, the Nan Kempner and the Babe Paley. Coming soon: the Dick Cavet, the Dick Van Dyke and the Dick Clark. Pairs perfectly with my album. Yay!My graphic designer, Cricket, and I were lounging around the office --- me on my teal sofa, Cricket on the orange, mid-century womb chair----lamenting the fact that it's so hard for performers to make money on their music alone these days, when all of a sudden the telephone rang. It was my manager, calling to tell me that a radio station had added my Hanukkah single to their holiday playlist. "Yay!" I said, sharing the news instantly with Cricket. "Yay, indeed!" she echoed, both of us temporarily uplifted from our gloom. It was a short-lived happiness because we were forced back to our dilemma as the clock ticked on. "What else can a singer do to earn an income?" I wondered aloud. I was deep in thought when my phone bleeped. It was a text message from my BFF, Tabitha, letting me know that she was free that night to join me for drinks. "Yay!" I said, sharing the news with Cricket. "Yay, indeed," she echoed, nodding her head in agreement. "Drinks are always uplifting." "What about some kind of product line?" I said, thinking about all the T-shirts I'd gotten over the years at various concerts. "I think we should discuss it over coffee," Cricket said. I agreed so we went downstairs to our favorite cafe. Cricket and I have been going to this particular cafe together to brainstorm for ages, and I wouldn't consider going anywhere else even though they don't have soy milk, which I greatly prefer in my coffee to the half-and-half or skim they always serve. "Guess what, Isabel?" the barista shouted the moment Cricket and I waltzed in (that's how often we go there. They know me by name, which is rare in New York). "We finally got you your soy milk!" What were the chances! "Oh, yay!" I said, clapping in glee. "I'll say, yay!" Cricket said, smirking slightly since she simply isn't one to clap in glee. A smirk really is the closest she can come. I ordered our coffees while Cricket grabbed a table. She had a very serious look on her face when I sat down with my soy latte and handed her her double espresso. "We'll figure it out," I said, people-pleaser that I am. "If no one is buying music any more--" "--unless your name is Taylor Swift," Cricket said. "Yes, unless your name is Taylor Swift," I said. "Or Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett." Cricket added. "Or Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett," I agreed.
The holidays are officially here, my darlings, and that means that the holiday gift giving-a-thon is in full swing!
You may still be hunting for that perfect present for everyone on your long list. Feeling frazzled? Well, I have some ideas that might help you finish that shopping in a jiff! And guess what? All of them are under $25!
1. A HARD COPY OF "TROUBLE IN PARADISE"If you're here with me right now, you likely have some other music lovers in your midst; maybe even some who still likes to hold that music in their hot little hands! How about presenting them with their very own copy of my CD? And I promise: that delicious, vintage-inspired cover is even prettier in person! And wait until you see the surprise on the inside! Click here for the actual CD!
2. An MGM movie box set
You know my love for the magic of a good ol' musical knows no bounds. If you know someone else who is obsessed with them as I am, try out this box set of MGM movie musicals. It includes three of my very favorite ones, and they're great to watch with kids: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; West Side Story; Fiddler on the Roof.
3. A CLASSY BOOK
For those style-savvy gals (and guys!) on your list, here's a little book I found called The Power of Style: The Women Who Defined the Art of Living Well by Diana Edkins and Annette Tapert. It's chock-full of juicy personal stories about 14 fabulous fashion icons like Coco Chanel, Pauline de Rothschild, and Diana Vreeland with plenty of photos to "ooooh" and "ahhhh" over! You'll even see that the inspiration for my new YAY mugs (number five below) are all named after women in this book!
4. A CHAMPAGNE- SCENTED CANDLEWho doesn't love a glass of champagne? If you're experiencing some holiday shopping stress, you may even feel like you need one right now! Of course, we all have our limits. (For me, it's a glass and a half. Can you believe what a cheap date I am?). If you or your loved ones want a glass of champagne without even taking a sip, grab one of the "Champagne" scented candles included in the Rewined collection offered by West Elm. An eco-friendly bonus: The holders are made out of repurposed wine bottles!
5. A mug from my brand new "Yay!" line
Finally, in this festive season, let's celebrate together with my new Yay! line of mugs! They're inspired by my passion for mid-20th century design, and the generally glam-o-rific '60s. Let the positive message add a little extra oomph to your morning coffee!
I hope this little curated list of gifts helps you get into the spirit or over the finish line! I'd love to hear about what you're most excited about giving, receiving or enjoying this holiday season.
You do, indeed, light up my life. And now it's time for me to return the favor. Enjoy! Available for purchase on iTunes and amazon. xo,
I was so insanely full after ingesting my Thanksgiving dinner, there was nothing I could do other than lie down on the sofa in my aunt and uncle's living room and stare at their walls. Lucky for me, directly across from the sofa hung the most fabulous framed illustration. My uncle was right about the range of Bernie's work. Check out this TV guide cover of Sinatra, and the Mohammed Ali portrait below it. Fuchs was the youngest illustrator ever elected to the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, and in 1991, he was named Sport Artist of the Year by the American Sport Art Museum and Archives. Turkey takes a long time to break down, so I settled into the sofa and typed in, "Bernie Fuchs Contemporaries" to see who came up. There has always been a healthy rivalry between Coca Cola and Pepsi, and sure enough, Fuch's contemporary, LYNN BUCKHAM, matched Fuch's Coca Cola ads image for image. Another contemporary, ARTHUR SARNOFF caught my eye, too, as did COBY WHITMORE. Once I started looking at illustrated ads from the '60s, truth be told, I only stopped because I fell asleep! I blame my fatigue on the tryptophan, of course, and not on the wonderfully evocative illustrations. Like kidd gloves and rotary phones, some things just weren't meant to stand the test of time. Illustrators were replaced by computer generated graphics and by photographs that captured lifestyle with greater authenticity than an illustration could. Nevertheless, the work that came out of the earlier eras of our history are, and always will be, worth saving, savoring and studying. Each ad created by each of the men mentioned above could have their own blog posts. For now, I'll leave you with this brief introduction and see who else shares my passion. In the meantime, hope you are all safe, healthy, happy and ready to return to regular eating!! xo,My uncle is a passionate vintage car collector, so I wasn't surprised to find a Thunderbird on his walls. What did make me take pause, even in my Turkey-induced stupor, was the quality and style of the magnificent reproduction. I flagged over my host, who informed me that the artist was none other than BERNIE FUCHS, one of the greatest American illustrators in history. "He started out in a car factory in Detroit," my uncle informed me, "but he went on to paint Sinatra and Kennedy and all kinds of sports figures. He was the real deal," my uncle said, picking up an empty glass and a wadded up napkin and continuing through the room on his garbage collecting mission. Though my stomach was still gurgling, I was able to reach across the sofa to the coffee table, where my laptop rested. I typed in "Bernie Fuchs," and lo and behold! His work made the undigested turkey in my tummy do a can-can! Fuchs' "Coca Cola" ads do, indeed, epitomize '60s chic.
WARNING: THIS POST MAY EXPRESS SOME EARNEST CONTENT AND EMOTION. IT MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR ALL MY READERS.I was at a dinner party last night at which everyone was reminiscing about the Thanksgivings of their childhoods. Stuffing with apricots and chestnuts was longed for by one raconteur as if he were Proust; turkeys dressed with white doilies on their ankles were applauded; one woman recalled the Spode china on which her grandmother served the majestic meal, while the gentleman to my left regaled us with descriptions of candied yams and sweet potato soufflé topped with marshmallow. When I mentioned that I loved singing Thanksgiving songs most of all, I was met with a set of stares the likes of which may have damaged a more tender soul. "Didn't you all sing?" I asked. "Sing what?" asked the gentleman of the candied yam and sweet potato-filled youth. "Who could sing with so much food in their mouths!" joked a woman who's aunt was famous in three counties for her pecan pie. "Didn't any of you sing 'We Gather Together'?" I asked. I was met with vacant stares. "How about 'Over The River and Through the Woods'?" "Isn't that a Christmas tune?" asked Mr. Apricot and Chestnut stuffing. "What about 'This Land Is Your Land' or 'My Country 'Tis of Thee'?" I persisted, though I ascertained by then that I would be on my own. "'God Bless America'?" I tried. "'America the Beautiful'??" Crickets… It was then that I realized how musical my upbringing was, and how deeply grateful I will always be for the emphasis my clan put on celebrating with song. I've always felt happiest singing. And singing for no other reason than to express gratitude-- what could be better? Last Thanksgiving, my nephew even introduced me to a new Thanksgiving song called This Pretty Planet. I had all my guest singing a round before any of them new what was happening. Once they realized the beauty of their own voices, they carried on singing long into the night. A holiday doesn't actually feel like a holiday for me unless there's singing involved. Singing is so celebratory, I find myself depressed when surrounded by folks who, for whatever reason, don't, or worse, won't. One particular bleak year in my own life, way back when I was a teacher at an inner city school, I wrote this song for my kindergarden students. As far as I know, they still sing it every Thanksgiving at PS 64! It was recorded as a favor (just for my archives and not for any professional purposes) by my good friend, Dana Parish. . Maybe you know some kids this would speak to? Maybe it will inspire you to write your own! Here are some of my favorites. What are yours? Do you sing around your thanksgiving tables? And to my companions at last nights dinner, well… I have one word to suggest to you all: SING! Much love as always,
I love Christmas songs. All of them. From "Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer" to "Gloria In Excelsis Deo." You may wonder about this passion of mine, considering I'm Jewish. But there's a good reason for my yuletide affection. Between the formative ages of 5 and 15, I attended a Protestant school for girls where, every year, on the morning of Christmas break, the entire school got together and circled a big Christmas tree set in the middle of the school auditorium. Grade by grade, we would sing "On The First Day of Christmas," with the kindergarteners singing "fa la la" in perfect unison. After we were all seated around the tree, we would sing every christmas song the music teacher knew, including a few in Latin! By the end of the assembly, tears would be streaming down my rosy cheeks, and home I'd float... to celebrate Hanukkah with the only three Hanukkah songs that exist. There are 8 nights of Hanukkah. There are 3 Hanukkah songs. You do the math. That was many years ago. In the interim, no one has written any new Hanukkah songs, or recorded any versions of the existing ones that have made it into the general cultural consciousness. (Of course, Adam Sandler has made some funny recordings, but nothing has come out that gives me the same tingles a Christmas carol produces.) It also depresses me that there are zillions of radio stations playing zillions of Christmas songs and there aren't any Hanukkah songs in the mix. Granted, there also aren't any Kwanza songs or Denali songs that I'm aware of, but still… considering most Christmas carols were written by Jews, you'd think someone would write or record a fun Hanukkah tune! Think of all the Christmas albums that are out there! And that's just the tip of the iceberg! Barbra Streisand, perhaps the most famous Jewish singer of our time, has recorded no fewer than three Christmas albums! So, hold on to your seats my friends. Guess what's coming your way? Available the day after Thanksgiving. Stay tuned... xo,
I'm still reeling. Merton invited me over to see his new kitchen wallpaper and I swear to God, he chose the exact wallpaper my grandmother had in her kitchen; the exact wallpaper my sisters and I swore we would tear off if we could, it was so hideous. We literally joked that it looked like the garden threw up on her walls. What was going on? Did the entire world just lose their collective mind for a decade and a half? I say "a half" because that shade was so beloved it practically became the American national color in the 70s, especially if you judge by the shag carpet my grandmother put throughout her entire Vernon, New Jersey two-story ranch house in 1974. As soon as I got home from that shocking visit to Merton's, I called my brilliant graphic designer friend, Cricket, and asked for her thoughts on the matter. Cricket is an expert on vintage color palettes and wrote her entire PhD dissertation on the healing powers of the color saffron, so I knew I could trust her analysis. Cricket says that by 1964, with JFK 6 feet under and instability rising in Asia, the world was tired of the perky, mint green that virtually symbolized the '50s. Cricket explained that once Kennedy was assassinated, the country had "trust issues" which lead to a deep need for authenticity; that need for authenticity translated into an embrace of tones found throughout nature, which included shades like the avocado green in question. "But it's hideous!" I cried. "Perhaps to you," Cricket said, "but not to the masses of the '60s and '70s. After such massive betrayal--- you have to remember, darling, all sorts of people were being assassinated back then! The masses wanted to see things that felt they could trust at face value. Look at the faces our culture embraced at that time." "You also have to remember that everyone was dropping acid back then, too," Cricket reminded me. "So what you may call vomit green may have looked like emeralds from heaven to someone tripping." She sent me a few psychedelic posters from the era and got on with her day. Alone in my apartment, I sat with my hand on the phone in a deep funk. I totally get the whole, "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," notion; and I also get that beauty is about unique characteristics--- like the jolie laide gals shown above who will always have a place in the worlds' eye. But isn't there any consensus at all on what actually is ugly? I would argue that there is! We all look back on fashions of past decades and rebuke ourselves for our obsessions. Clearly, fashion reflects our psychological need at the cultural moment. It evolves because we are constantly evolving. Phew! I get it! So… Now that I have a new-found appreciation for avocado green, I have the perfect gift for Merton for the holidays! It was given to me by my grandmother and I've kept it in storage ever since. I hope Merton loves it in a way I simply can't. Hopefully, he will sit there on his throne and pontificate about the next shade from the past will become chic again. Turquoise anyone? xo,"It's the very definition of chic," Merton said, nonplussed by my chagrin. "You, Isabel, of all people, should know that avocado was the it color of the '60s." "Is that what people are calling puce these days?" I replied. But I had to concede, he had a point. Puce green, avocado green, swamp green-- call it what you will-- we all know what green we're talking about when we talk about that particular shade that was so ubiquitous in the designs of '60s. From telephones to record albums, that green was everywhere!
The Supremes' squabbles over lyrics, Tina Turner's childhood struggles or Debbie Harry's backstage routine on the Internet. But back in the day, this weekly countdown was the only time we got served up the skinny on band member battles, heartbreaks, and those gossipy "fun facts" that somehow make the songs we love sound even sweeter. Mr. Kasem's recent passing in many ways marked the end of an era, and ever since, I've been thinking a lot about my favorite songs from the AM Gold days: those toe tappin', groovy, sometimes hip-shakin' '60s '70s tunes that still get me going! While it was before my time, I loved the 1969 hit "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" by the 5th Dimension so much that I covered it on my debut album! And it's still darn-near impossible for me to hear the chart-topping Carpenters hit "Top of the World" without singing along (with or without a hairbrush microphone). What about Captain and Tennille's "Love Will Keep Us Together," which hit #1 in the summer of 1975? (You can hear my own tribute to that beauty on Trouble in Paradise!) Of course, these are just a few of the ditties that still move me. There are so many more that bring back all kinds of vivid memories every time I hear them! The fact that I was always so dazzled by the great songs I heard on the radio has made it that much more exciting to me to hear "Trouble in Paradise" hit the charts and resonate with so many people. And while there is no longer an official national American Top 40 show to be had, I can only hope all the fine folks tuning in at home have as much fun listening to that single as I did when I was rockin' around in my room on the weekend. Who else remembers those Gold AM days? What were some of your favorite songs? Let's share stories, videos ... whatever you've got! xox,Forty-plus years ago, folks flocked to the AM side of the radio dial to hear the latest, greatest pop hits. While I was certainly not around back then, I did grow up totally thrilled by the sensational sounds of Top 40 songs in the '70s and '80s, and you'd better believe I could be found dancing around in my bedroom to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 show every Sunday! The writer in me also loved all the stories we got to hear about the making of these musical gems. Of course, now we can find everything we ever wanted to know about
When hosting my radio show, The Rose Note, I used to use the following tag line to introduce the evenings playlist: "Welcome to the swingin' 60s: when Dicks were hot, and cigarettes didn't cause cancer!" I do hope my listeners understood the wink in my tone! My dear and terribly earnest friend, Ruth, chastised me not long ago during one of our occasional get-togethers at Starbucks, for promoting a negative stereotype. Honestly, I nearly drowned in my grande unsweetened green tea soy latte! As a middle child, I'm too much of a people-pleaser not to spend a moment making sure you ALL know I"m kidding!! While I'm not being all that ironic about the name Dick (there really were so many great ones in the 60s!!!! Dick Cavet, Dick Clark, Dick van Dyke, Dick Burton, Dick York…), please understand me loud and clear: I've always been shocked by the tight embrace yesterdays singers had with cigarettes!!! In my search design inspiration, I've come across dozens of cigarette ads featuring singers who, in hindsight, probably never would have picked up a smoke if they knew how lethal they'd be. And they weren't just for those dashing men folk. Broadway star Deborah Kerr, also smoked Chesterfields! (Of course her voice was dubbed by Marni Nixon in the musical King and I. I don't think Marni smoked but I can't be sure so for gods sake, don't quote me. And correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't that Ann Miller, dancing in the ad below, cigarette in hand? Obviously, back in the 60s, everyone drank hard, smoked like fiends, had a great time out listening to music… and were dead by 60. Friends! Romans! Country cats and kittens! We all know that smoking kills you. And Ruth, honey, bless your sweet, literal heart, but know, darling, know in your deepest knowledge base, that as a singer, as much as I wish I could hang around looking all cool, like Marilyn Monroe in the Lucky Strike ad below, I don't EVER, and I really mean ever, smoke cigarettes because I value both my voice and, more importantly, my life! So. I hope I've set the record straight. In the meantime, I'd be lying if I didn't say how much I admire the design of the Hi Fidelty record album cover below which features a singer I've never heard who seems to be letting the world know that smoking and drinking are the very definition of sophistication. If only she knew!!!! xo as always,Look at Americas favorite, fun-loving couple---singer Desi Arnez and the adorable Lucille Ball-- living the high life with their Philip Morris cigarettes in hand! And look! There's Bob Hope, enjoying a Chesterfield in one of the prettiest ads I've ever seen! (Remind me to ask my graphic designer to figure out what font they used). Those folks at Chesterfield sure were clever. They created a whole campaign of connected singer show-biz folks. Check out the ad below, showing Bob's BFF, Bing, and Bing's BFF's Perry Como and Arthur Godfrey! And check out Bing's buddy from the film "High Society" -- Mr. Frank Sinatra himself--- who also, it turns out, smokes Chesterfields! Who was cooler than Frank Sinatra? Well, I suppose you might say his friend and Capitol Record's partner, Nat King Cole, who also, smoked Chesterfield cigarettes. Too bad Nat died of lung cancer when he was only 45. One of the things that has always made me shake my head are photos of my heroes in recording sessions, cigarettes in hand, even while at the mic!
As a fan of classic ‘60s TV shows, I was excited to hear about the reboot of Bewitched, which will be coming shortly, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the original show’s debut. According to my spies (my friend, Merton, and my BFF, ironically, and suitably named Tabitha), the new Bewitched revolves around Daphne, Samantha’s granddaughter (whew! That was a lot of names for one paragraph!). This so-called "Daphne" is a single, precocious gal in her twenties who uses magical powers to make her life (not the world, mind you) better. I'm very hopeful that this remake will capture the whimsy of the original. Merton, however, true to form, is skeptical. "Reboots can be a horror show," he said to me over drinks last night. “Don't you remember that Charlie’s Angels train wreck in 2009? Those girls couldn’t change a printer cartridge without breaking a nail! Farrah must be turning in her grave!” Honestly, I had to agree with him. I'm also rather confused. Wasn't there a show a few years back called Sabrina the Teenage Witch? Haven't we already mined this territory? And, quite frankly, can anyone possibly out-charm Elizabeth Montgomery? What a lot of pressure for a young actress!!! Bewitched isn’t the only ‘60s and '70s gem getting redone this year. A slew of others are getting makeovers as well. Merton practically shrieked when he heard the 1968 sci-fi romp Barbarella would be adapted for television. The original film was about a sexpot tasked with finding and stopping an evil weapons inventor. Despite initially flopping at the box office when released, it subsequently became a cult classic, largely thanks to its art direction and Jane Fonda's outfits. Designed by the team of Paco Rabane and Jacques Fonteray, they were, and still are, to die for (politics aside, and you Jane Fonda haters know what I mean)! A Barbarella remake has been in the works since the late 1970s, but never quite got off the ground until Amazon Studios picked it up earlier this year. The pilot script for the new show was penned by Skyfall writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, so let’s hope for some glamour and signature James Bond fun! Though certainly not as "stimulating" as Barbarella, the Neil Simon/Garry Marshall hit The Odd Couple will also be coming back this year, courtesy of CBS. The original, with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, chronicled the many conflicts of two polar opposite divorcees sharing a Manhattan apartment and had a pretty swingin' theme song to boot! The Odd Couple reboot will star former Friend costar Matthew Perry (who's also set to co-write and produce it) as the slobbish Oscar Madison. The original show was sometimes a bit lacking in the lady department, but word on the street is that the new one will more prominently feature Oscar and Felix Unger's ex-wives and get into the men's dating mishaps, which hopefully will lead to little glimpses of New York City style. I'm such a nostalgia freak, I know I'll tune in even if the remakes are Merton's predicted "train wrecks." I'm also aware that the remakes aren't really for me or for Merton. They're for a whole new generation of viewers--- kids who are the same age I was when I discovered the originals during sick days from school. Wonder if they'll ever bring back Mr. Ed?! Should they bother bringing back favorite classics? Are remakes ever as good as the originals? When will Gilligan's Island and The Brady Bunch return? What about Love Boat and Fantasy Island? Happy Days? Laverne and Shirley? Let's talk! xoxo,