Friday, April 10, 2020

Music Friday Tribute: Bill Withers Explains Why Your Love is Like a Chunk of Gold

Welcome to Music Friday when we bring you classic songs with jewelry, gemstones or precious metals in the title or lyrics. Today we pay tribute to the incomparable Bill Withers, the hardscrabble singer-songwriter-musician from Slab Fork, WV, who made an everlasting mark on popular culture with a string of classics, including "Ain't No Sunshine" (1971), "Lean on Me" (1972), "Lovely Day" (1977) and "Just the Two of Us" (1980). Withers passed away last week at the age of 81.

At the height of his popularity in 1974, Withers wrote and performed "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh," a song about broken hearts and life's hard-to-explain contradictions. In the first line of the tune, Wither compares his girlfriend's love to a precious metal.

He sings, "Your love is like a chunk of gold / Hard to gain, and hard to hold / Like a rose that's soft to touch / Love has gone, and it hurts so much."

"The Same Love That Made Me Laugh" appeared as the second track on Withers' album titled +'Justments (pronounced "add-justments"). The single reached #50 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #10 on the U.S. Billboard R&B chart. It was also a top-40 hit in Canada. In 1977, Diana Ross covered the song for her LP titled Baby It's Me.

Born on the Fourth of July in 1938, Wither's was the youngest of six children. He grew up in a small coal-mining town and struggled to overcome a stutter throughout his childhood and into adulthood. He enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17 and served for nine years. Withers was able to overcome his stuttering through the speech therapy he received in the Navy and through singing.

“Bill has been our friend for many years and is on our list of famous people who stutter," noted the Stuttering Foundation in a statement released just after Withers' death. "Like so many great singers and songwriters, such as B.B. King and Carly Simon, Bill Withers stuttered. And just as they did, he turned to singing to express himself through music because the spoken word was so tough for him. He will live on forever through his incredible songs.”

As a 29-year-old, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a music career. Withers supported his dream by working at Lockheed Aircraft. Although he was earning just $3.50 per hour, he cobbled together $2,500 to produce demo tapes.

One of those tapes caught the attention of Clarence Avant, owner of Sussex Records, who signed Withers to a record deal. His first single, "Ain't No Sunshine," was a Grammy-award-winning hit. Withers was active in the music business from 1970 to 1985 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.

Please check out the audio track of Withers performing "The Same Love That Made Me Laugh." The lyrics are below if you'd like to sing along...

"The Same Love That Made Me Laugh"
Written and performed by Bill Withers.

Your love is like a chunk of gold
Hard to gain, and hard to hold

Like a rose that's soft to touch
Love has gone, and it hurts so much

Well and why...
Must the same love that made me laugh
Make me cry?

Well now you think of love as sitting on a mountain
Think of it as being a great big rock
Won't you think before you started to roll it down
Because once you start it, you can't make it stop

I've given all I have to give
And if you don't want me
I don't want to live

Well and why...
Must the same love that made me laugh?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Why you wanna make me lay in my pillow
Just cryin' like a weeping willow

Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Why you wanna make me mess in my pillow
I'm just cryin' like a weeping willow

Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?
Why you wanna make me cry?

Credit: Image by Sussex Records / Public domain.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

Philly Couple Takes Break From Quarantine to Get Engaged Atop the 'Rocky' Steps

A Philadelphia couple recently took a much-needed break from quarantine to visit one of their favorite places — the top of the Rocky Steps at the entrance of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Emily Weiss was shocked when her boyfriend, Elly Nemtsov, popped the question in the exact spot where Sylvester Stallone's beloved character raised his arms in triumph in the 1976 blockbuster, Rocky.

In the iconic scene, Rocky — a local club fighter who has been given a shot at the title — completes an intense training session by running up the 72 stone steps. With the "Gonna Fly Now" theme building to a crescendo, Rocky reaches the top and turns to take in a breathtaking bird's-eye view of his beloved city. Rocky's climb has become a metaphor for how Philadelphians always rise to the challenge and have the power to overcome any obstacle.

Stallone told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the theme of the movie wasn't about fighting or muscles.

"It's about love. It's about passion," he said. "It's about having something inside that you know must be filled."

Which brings us back to Weiss and Nemtsov.

According to, Nemtsov had been planning to propose since the beginning of March, but with the city under lockdown due to the coronavirus, regular proposal venues, such as restaurants or parks, were suddenly off the board.

Officially, Philadelphia is allowing certain outdoor activities, such as walking, running or cycling, so the couple strolled to a place they've loved to visit — the tall steps leading to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

From the top of the steps, Nemtsov called his sister and two-year-old niece. On FaceTime, the young girl showed Weiss an art project she'd been working on. On a large piece of colored paper was the phrase, "Emily, will you be my aunt?"

At first, Weiss didn't get the hint, but when she looked back at her boyfriend, he was on one knee with a diamond ring in hand. Nemtsov's sister, niece and both couple's parents all watched the proposal via FaceTime.

"I didn't think we would be going out during this, let alone a huge milestone, so I was pleasantly surprised," Weiss told "It definitely gives us something to look forward to and talk about while nothing else is going on."

"I think it was great timing," Weiss continued, "because we just get to be with each other and we have time on our side. It gives us something to be happy about during an otherwise depressing time."

The couple is looking to tie the knot in October 2021.

Visitors to the Philadelphia Museum of Art can see a larger-than-life statue of Rocky at the bottom of the famous steps. The 8-foot, 2,000-pound bronze statue had been commissioned by Stallone in 1980 to be used in the movie, Rocky III, and has been a favorite photo op at the museum since 2006.

Credits: Proposal images by Emily Weiss. Rocky steps photo by InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA / CC BY-SA. Rocky statue photo by Bobak Ha'Eri / CC BY.

Monday, April 06, 2020

For Second Time in 12 Months, L.I. Man Finds Rare Purple Pearl in a Quahog Clam

For the second time in 12 months, an Eastern Long Island man has found a super-rare purple natural pearl inside a locally harvested quahog clam.

In light of the sad news gripping Long Island due to the coronavirus, Springs resident Alex Miller was apprehensive, at first, to broadcast his good fortune on social media, but then decided to share some photos under the headline: "Reasons to be Cheerful: Good old-fashioned LUCK."

In an interview with The East Hampton Star, Miller said, "To have that happen again, at a time when we're all going through these different emotions of separation, as well as the anxiety, and food resources, and the virus — I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I had this weird second stroke of serendipitous luck."

Miller told the publication that he hadn't gone clamming since last summer, but decided to finally get out of the house after an extended period of self-isolation. He raked up 32 keepers in Three Mile Harbor and brought them home to be shucked.

"The eighth or ninth one that I opened up, there it was, sitting on the lip, this tiny pearl," he told the Star. "I can't really describe my reaction because the last couple of weeks have been sort of numbing."

He described the perfectly round pearl as the size of a frozen pea.

In May of 2019, Miller had purchased a dozen quahog clams at Stuart's Seafood Market in nearby Amagansett. The 11th shucked clam contained a round purple pearl the size of a garbanzo bean — about three times larger than the most recent discovery.

“It is amazing. It’s pretty rare for any of our shellfish to produce pearls, let alone ones that are relatively round — then add to that it’s a wampum purple,” Barley Dunne, the director of the East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery, told the Star in 2019.

(Wampum is a traditional bead — usually white or purple — crafted by the Eastern Woodlands tribes of American Indians from the shell of the quahog clam.)

Dunne explained that for the pearl to be purple, it had to be coated with the portion of the clam’s nacre that was purple.

“If it was white, it would be kind of drab,” he said. “This is a beauty.”

The Gemological Institute of America graded last year's find and gave it a value of $3,000 to $5,000.

Natural pearls are organic gems, created by a mollusk totally by chance, without human intervention. When a foreign irritant gets into the mollusk’s shell, the bivalve secretes layer upon layer of nacre to protect itself. Over time, the layering of iridescent nacre produces a pearl.

Cultured pearls, by comparison, are grown under controlled conditions, where a bead is implanted in the body of the mollusk to stimulate the secretion of nacre.

Miller told the Star that he's not really interested in selling his set of natural purple pearls.

"The money doesn't really interest me as much as the curiosity of how rare it is," Miller told the publication. "All of my friends are urging me — and I see the glint in my wife's eye — 'Now that you have two it might make a nice setting.'"

Credits: Images via Miller. Map by Google Maps.