Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pickin' On A Big Ol Jet Airliner

I had intended to wind down my Pickin’ On week with a Steve Miller tune oft performed by my beloved Dixie Bee Liners. (This just in, new to me—the Bees will be at The Ark on June 3 and right here in Cleveland at the Beachland on June 4.) Such an MP3 does not yet exist, and so I intended to substitute this rendition by the Sawtooth Bluegrass Band, which just isn't the same.

But nothing beats the original. No, not Miller, but Paul Pena, the man who wrote the tune Jet Airliner. Here’s a ‘Tube of Pena performing the tune live. Incredible. Pena was born in Massachusetts, nearly blind at a young age but born a musician through and through. Before his death in 2005 after a long battle with a pancreatic illness, Pena left a musical legacy of extraordinary depth and reach.

Some of this music journey for me the last five or six years has brought some interesting discoveries and grateful lessons like this. Exploring American music uncovers a lot of untold stories, like the man who wrote Jet Airliner who was also the subject of a documentary film about his journey to Tuva. That film won a Sundance Film Festival award and an Oscar nomination. But that was probably the most recognition he ever received, and even then he was just a character in his own story.


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