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Posted: 2022-03-14 14:40:46 By: thebay

Last Thursday night, I released my original song entitled, “These Are The Things I Crave” produced by Sean Cotton. On the track, we employed a friend and virtuoso violinist, singer/songwriter Ada Pasternak, because Shauna and I felt her accompaniment would vastly improve the song. Ada is a Russian immigrant with family ties to Ukraine, and I thought it timely to feature her now. She doesn’t need my help, because she is quite successful on her own, but her story is remarkable. All of the members of her immediate family, brother Leon, mother Rayhan, and father Igor, are musicians. She was a child prodigy who received a full scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston. Have a look at her website here: https://adapasternak.com/ 

I heard that Alvin Lee of the band Ten Years After had passed away last week. I have a fuzzy memory of watching him open for Steppenwolf at the Crystal Beach Ballroom back in the murky 80’s. It was on my bucket list to see both John Kay and Alvin Lee perform, regardless of the fact that they were not accompanied by their original bands. When the movie “Woodstock” came out, I was so impressed by Lee’s legendary performance of “I’m Goin’ Home” that I thought he was one of the best guitarists I’d ever seen. Now, over 50 years later, that performance doesn’t seem quite so exceptional, but it represents that intangible something that I find missing in much of the music I hear today: heart. Since 1969, I’ve been exposed to many remarkable musicians, but the one thing Alvin Lee did was that he SOLD that Woodstock performance to his huge audience. In my opinion, the other indescribable trait of an exceptional musician is the ability to make any band he or she accompanies sound better. To be a great musician, one needs more than technical skill.

I have spent the last 6 years hosting LYRICAL WORKERS, a radio show about songwriting and I still know comparatively little about the craft. What I do know is that my appreciation of a song is intuitive; visceral. I am much more inclined to listen to the lyrics if the delivery is good and that means, vocal performance and/or musicianship. Every week, I listen to at least 5 to 10 new songs, and a good, believable vocal performance along with a good arrangement will go a long way to sell a mediocre lyric. That is, I feel, what is missing in so many contemporary songs I hear. Now, as I spend more time deconstructing songs, I find that a good lyric is often scuttled by a weak, heartless composition. I can write songs, but it is exceptional musicians who can make those songs come alive. Ada did that for me, and I feel fortunate that Shauna found her and introduced her to me.

Right now, Ada and her family are trying to raise money to ensure that their Ukrainian relatives can flee to safety, and they, like all the rest of the free world, are horrified by the atrocities which now befall their homelands. It all seems so simple to me, good vs. evil, but I am just now waking from my Western complacency to see how complicated it all really is. I do not trust that all the reporting I see and hear is unbiased, and I do not pretend to understand why Russia has invaded Ukraine, but it’s hard to ignore the barbarism that is taking place there right now. It is abundantly clear that Putin intends to flatten Ukraine and kill anyone still remaining there, while he commits war crimes at will, as the outside world watches, paralysed by different rules of engagement. This kind of evil happens all over the world, but now it’s threatening the Western world, which has known relative peace since WWII. Will Putin move on to Western Europe after he has levelled Ukraine? Russian bombs have now landed within 17.5Km of the Polish (therefore NATO) border, so it is possible.

My heart goes out to Ada’s family in Ukraine. I feel fortunate to have met her, and to have shared my music with her, for she has that certain something that makes her musicianship exceptional; she has passion and precision. Alvin Lee had passion as well, and I believe that kind of heart still exists, everywhere. It just seems to me that it isn’t as valued as it once was. I still hold on to the fragile belief that passion and love will once again become things we do not take for granted. Ada’s music is symbolic of the spirit that may save us all. I can only hope.


Written by Jamie Oppenheimer ©2022 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED