“Time is the wildest bird
It flutters just beyond your reach
It does not argue judge or preach
No time flies, time flies”
Randy Brown from the album Dream Big
In case you are wondering why “Randy Brown” recorded this month’s lyric, I wrote and recorded this song “Tempus Fugit” long before I added my middle name, Lewis. It seems there are other artists in different genres with the name Randy Brown ( here and here ). A pretty common name, it turns out, in the music world. That really wasn’t a problem in 2007 when my first solo album Dream Big was released. CDs still ruled and places that sold them sorted music by genre. There were no other “Randy Browns” in the folk genre bin, so there was no problem. However, when streaming became the primary way folks connected with music, it became a problem. The big change was that artists were no longer subjugated to a genre bin in the record store. While genre is still a thing, artist names and song titles have become the primary way we locate music, so duplicate names in different genres have become a huge problem for artists. Hence, I added my middle name for my most current releases. As of today and as far as I can tell, there are no other “Randy Lewis Browns” in music.
“Tempus Fugit” is a song about the unrelenting passing of time and is Latin for “time flies”. I did not know that until, at age eight, I asked what the strange words on my grandfather’s clock meant, and he told me. I wrote the song in my early 50s and still play it at shows today in my 70s. It is a song that still excites me to share with audiences. To be honest, most of my audiences tend to be around my age, so we have a lot in common. The second verse states, “Time it is a bird of prey that stoops and strikes my precious things and carries them on mighty wings.” That is the heart of the matter. Time gives us precious things and then all too often takes them away long before we are prepared to lose them.
I am writing this column at 6 a.m. on Christmas Eve 2022. I couldn’t sleep so I got up, stoked the fire in the wood stove and sat down to ponder where my life is now. This has been an interesting year. I released a new record, Wind of Change, started writing this column for Americana Highways, (thanks Melissa Clarke) and became a septuagenarian. So, here on the eve of my 70th Christmas, I am thinking a lot about what is past and how quickly it has flown by. I remember friends lost and found as well as moments, both sweet and sad. Yes, I guess thoughts like these are to be expected as we get older.
Every decision we make leaves behind a path untraveled. I sometimes ask myself the inevitable ‘what-if’ questions. Such as, what if I had pursued music as a full time job at age 20 rather than having a career in the corporate world? My life, no doubt, would have been very different. In those days, the only path to real musical success was a record deal. Record companies were the sieve that filtered out who would have an opportunity for a career and who would not. I certainly, and thankfully, did not have the talent, songs, or drive to make it in the professional world in those times.
So instead my wife, Barbara, and I raised a family in small town Texas, had fulfilling careers, and were involved with local charities, service clubs and deeply in our children’s lives. Our two children have become amazing adults, both in successful long term marriages, and have given us two wonderful grandchildren who give us much joy. My happiness cannot be overstated and I have absolutely no regrets at the outcome.
During all those years, music remained in the background. I played in local country cover bands on weekends for too many years. That meant hauling equipment into almost every VFW and American Legion Hall within a hundred miles most every weekend. We played old country songs to beer soaked two-steppers from tiny stages in front of worn hardwood dance floors until the lights flashed last call. It also meant arriving home at 3a.m. and waking up with my pillow and guitar case smelling of stale cigarette smoke and beer, made worse because I had long ago given up smoking. But those venues were the college of my musical education, even though I wasn’t a fan of the music we played at the time. But without those years of experience, I would not be where I am today. In fact, musically, much of what I write today is directly influenced by the time I spent in those venues. Goes to show, you never know.
In rural Northeast Texas during the 70s, 80s and into the 90s most counties were dry. Meaning that alcohol was not legally available without a 25 to 30 mile drive to the closest liquor store in some enterprising town that determined the money derived from alcohol sales was more important than the wrath of the local Baptist preacher. But every small town had a VFW, an American Legion or possibly both. In most cases these establishments represented the only bars in town and became the primary locations for drinking, dancing, and consequently, country music bands. Original music was frowned upon by these establishments as we were viewed primarily as human jukeboxes. We played the songs they requested while they drank, danced and hung out. We were paid a decent wage for our efforts and even became local semi-celebrities among the attending crowd.
When my daughter, who was then in junior high said “Dad when I am old enough I’m gonna go with you when you play,” I decided that they were not fitting places for her and therefore not proper places for me to be in order to set a good example. So I willingly gave it up and focused on writing and playing my own songs. I and two talented writers and musicians: John DeFoore (finger style wizard) and Dirje Childs (amazing cellist), formed a folk/swing/jazz trio called Jealousy Motel. Over our eight years together we recorded two albums and played many shows in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. It was a totally new and wonderful experience for me.
I had either written or co-written 19 of the songs recorded by Jealousy Motel, which in turn gave me the confidence to strike out on my own as a solo artist in 2004. What a rewarding and exciting trip that has been: so many great audiences, new friends and fantastic experiences. I intend to continue on that path as long as the muse holds out and I am able.
I have many regrets in my life, as do all of us. At least those of us that who will admit it. Things said and unsaid, things done and not done still haunt me. But as the years have piled up into decades to almost 3/4 of a century, I also see that even regrets can be a positive thing if we choose to learn from them. In hindsight, I can’t nor would I change most of the choices I have made in my life. I have been both extremely lucky and unbelievably blessed. So here on the eve of another Christmas I thank everyone that has made this crazy life possible so far. I am one lucky man though I admit that I sometimes forget that fact. But at this moment I am in awe of where I stand. I hopefully have years ahead of me to use the lessons I have learned from my regrets. I have to constantly remind myself that time flies and to grab every minute. I hope you do too. So here is to the New Year, 2023, though that number seems so strange to me. Shouldn’t we be in flying cars by now? Happy Holidays to all, see ya down the road.
Until next time…
Randy Lewis Brown may be an over-the-hill, baby boomer and cranky old coot, but he is also an award-winning Northeast Texas-based singer-songwriter and self-proclaimed “performing philosopher”. Despite his years, and an early bedtime, he remains steadfast in attempting to decipher the intersection of spirit, faith, science and the human condition, always trying to maintain a sense of wonder and whimsy in his occasionally clever folk-Americana songs and stories.