David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 330: Ginger Leigh (Charge Laughing)

February 28, 2024

Autographed memorabilia can be such a strange thing. "Hey, would you sign this for my brother?" A moment in time capturing a person with some kind of fame, a fan, and, in many cases, a friend or family member of the fan far away and unlikely to even know the moment is happening. That moment characterized by the famous one, perhaps tired from living in the experience that defines their fame, perhaps wary of a line of more autograph seekers stretching around the room, perhaps awed by this person standing in front of them waiting feverishly for the shirt, or the book, or the poster, or the CD, to be signed, ideally with a witty bon mot providing more than just a name, who themselves are thinking of how excited some person miles and miles away will be when they are presented with this gift.

I was very touched when my sister gave my wife and me a signed copy of Ginger Leigh's Better Than Well CD. Leigh is an Austin, Texas, based artist who my sister and brother-in-law have always enjoyed. In fact, they have become such supporters of Leigh that they are named in gratitude as part of Better Than Well's liner notes. Pix and I had already had a copy of Leigh's 2002 Charge Laughing, not surprisingly an unexpected gift in and of itself from my sister, so getting this signed copy of Better Than Well was better than, well, a lot of gifts. Leigh's personal note with the signature always struck me as a great comment to leave someone she had never met, knowing, or maybe hoping, that the signed CD cover might be a small memory and legacy long down the road, well after she, my sister and I had all passed. What she wrote is, "David & Kathleen, have a great time with the music! Sending love and sweetness to you."

The "sending sweetness" is what I most love, especially since "Charge Laughing," my favorite song by Leigh, exudes sweetness in a world often dark.  "Charge Laughing" builds off of a simple strummed acoustic guitar accompanying Leigh's wry observations about life:

I'm not so sure how this came to be/

A big, big world and little ole me/

Running around on the slippery ground/

That I found beneath my feet.

By the end of the opening stanzas, her view of the world comes through pretty clearly:

There isn't much that makes me shocked/

Surprises they come around the clock/

And I just charge laughing maniacally.

When she gets to the simple one line chorus, "I just charge laughing," it builds to a frenzied guitar riff worth the charge of admission.

The second time Leigh goes into the "I charge laughing" chorus, the guitar is subsumed by a quiet background vocal, leading to lovely brief piano and guitar interludes, before the song charges into its third section.

The third time Leigh hits the chorus, we get full on frenzied guitar with background vocals, until the song, right after we get the long-anticipated maniacal laugh, fades out with more than two minutes of the lead vocal "I charge laughing" while the background vocals respond with "onward and forward and laughing I go" over the drumming. Pieces of a second background vocal, I assume Leigh again, punctuate the repeated lines, sometimes as little moans, sometimes as single words, over the drum beat and slight additional instrumentation, allowing the vocals, which sound like they came from a perfect singing chamber, to carry the song to its magnificent finish. It's Leigh's "Hey Jude" moment.

It should be no surprise that such a simple message about getting through life should appeal to me. For at least the few years of this website, right after I published It's All Academic, on the "about the author" page, I had some brief summation of all the things I had done in my career, culminating in the sentence, "I refuse to allow any of these activities to detract me from the humor and creativity that can be life." Here's the basic beauty of the song-writer/poet: keep it succinct, stupid. I wasn't terse enough to just write "I charge laughing into life."

In April, I will be in Texas for my niece's wedding. I wonder if I will get a chance to meet Ginger Leigh. It would be nice for Lincoln to put a face to the signed artifact he will uncover when he sorts through my thousands of CDs long after his mother and I are dead. I can think of no better beyond-the-grave message to him than "sending love and sweetness to you."

Ginger Leigh. "Charge Laughing." Charge Laughing. RNJ Music, 2002. Link here.

Day 329: The Doobie Brothers "Black Water"

Day 331: Yes "Roundabout"

See complete list here.