Cecilee Linke

I can write you a story, teach you French, sing you a song.

Thing a Week #16 – Purple Heart

I’ll never understand the kind of people who are nice to your face but then say nasty things about you behind your back when they think no one is listening. The kind of people who will never be happy with anything you say or do and have to be mean just to be mean. If you don’t like me, don’t pretend. It’ll save us both the heartache.

I have dealt with these kind of people in my life and it frustrates me. Just be truthful to me. Don’t be nice to me when I know you are nasty behind my back. Let’s cut the high school stuff. Don’t bother wearing that purple heart in front of me. I’ve seen your true colors.

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Thing A Week #15 – Golden Bells

Casinos are fascinating places. I can see why people get lost and spend hours there. There are no windows, no clocks, nothing to indicate the passing of time. Also, it’s loud, you can drink, and there’s the chance you might just win big bucks.

Last year, I saw Tori Amos live at the National Harbor theater, the first time I’d visited that area when it wasn’t a hole in the ground! To kill time before the show, I would walk through the casino just people watching. I even spent about two dollars to see if I would win anything at one of the slot machines, and for just a minute, I got to feel like I MIGHT get lucky and become a rich woman by the end of the night. I even felt like I was an extra in an Ocean’s 11 movie, even just for a moment.

No such luck at winning anything! It was all gone in a minute!

But no wonder people try and try until they win, or more likely, lose!

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Thing A Week #14 – Scarlet

Sometimes it only takes a picture to inspire a song. My song Ballerina was inspired by a picture of, well, a ballerina! And this one was inspired by a picture, this time one on Facebook.

A mutual friend of one of my songwriter friends posted a picture of rose petals that they’d found on a beach one morning. The poster then urged their songwriter friends to write something inspired by that photo. (I wish I could find the picture, but I can’t find it now……) What came to mind was a story song, which I don’t tend to write very much. And I was further inspired by someone who posted about their aunt whose husband had passed on. This woman’s aunt and uncle used to meet at a place on the beach every morning, and in remembernace of him, her aunt scattered rose petals in the sea. then the next morning, what showed up on the beach in their special spot?

The rose petals that she’d scattered the night before!

I thought it was such a touching story that I had to write a song about it. So this is one of my character songs! The music came pretty quickly; I actually wrote it in about twenty minutes before one of my French students came to my house for a lesson. Talk about writing quickly!

Image from prwedding.com

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Thing A Week #13 – Snow in Alabama

I’m going to be honest, this song was almost forgotten by me until I pulled it out for this project! I’d written this on a whim back in early January after having the title (I thought it sounded really cool, so I wrote it down) and a vague idea of what I wanted it to be about. But it fits this month’s theme of “songs about places,” so it works!

And like Kankakee and Ljubljana, I have never been to Alabama! I’ve yet to see much of the American deep south, to be honest. I’ve seen Georgia and loved it, but haven’t seen anything between there and Texas, as far as American deep south goes.

One of my favorite groups is Pet Shop Boys. They often write really dry-humored lyrics with really upbeat music. I’ve written a few songs in that style before, and this turned into one of those dry-humored songs. In it, I’m poking fun at my own mood swings. How I can go from really happy (Alabama is beautiful and green) to sad (snow) if I’m in the right mood. Snow in Alabama = an unexpected sad mood.

And even more, I gave myself a little challenge with this song: I wrote it in 6/8 time! I’ve NEVER written a song in that signature before and I decided on that one because I was obsessed with the Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark song Joan of Arc (Maid of Orleans) when I wrote this song! 😀

Featured photo from here.

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Thing A Week #12 – Ljubljana

Another song about a place I’ve never visited.

When I was a kid, I used to play on a European geography program on my computer. I learned all the capitals, imports and exports, and the location of every European country, at least, as of the early 90s (Bonn was still the capital of Germany and Yugoslavia was still one country).

One of the European capital names that always fascinated me was the capital of Slovenia, called Ljubljana. How do you even pronounce that name? It looks so cool though! I would wonder to myself. (I know now: lyoo-blee-yah-na)

Last year, I had a dream that I was wandering around that city with my best friend Valerie. I’ve never even seen pictures of that city, but there we were in my dream, wandering around an old cobblestoned city. I felt like I needed to write a song about this dream, especially when I began reading about the history of Ljubljana. Religious wars. Being split up during World War II by a barbed wire fence to keep out the resistance. Earthquakes. Fires. Floods. Constant foreign invaders.

This city has been through it all, it seems.

I likened it to the personal struggles that Valerie and I have gone through in our lives. And despite all of the bad things that happen to us, we keep going. Just like the city. Those struggles become a part of your history. Just like in a city like Ljubljana.

Thing A Week #11 – Far From Kankakee

I gave myself a challenge earlier this month: try to write a song about a place.

So I wrote about an Illinoisan city of about 30,000 that I’ve never visited.

However, I have a connection to Kankakee.

In my genealogy hunt, I have been trying to figure out what happened to a family member about three generations back. My great-grandmother was a single mother who raised her daughter (my grandmother) during the Depression. My grandmother never knew what happened to her dad. All she knew was that he left the family before she could even remember him. All she had of him was a yellowed obituary taped to the inside of a Bible. I only wish I had the picture file from when I took a picture of it with my phone about a year before my grandmother passed away.

About a year and a half ago, I found out what happened to my grandmother’s father: he spent the last twenty-five-ish years of his life in the Kankakee State Hospital.


Now the next question: why? Why did my great-grandfather end up in an insane asylum? I’d love to know.

Because the more I know about him, the more I can find out about myself.

I’m hopeful but also dubious.

Hopeful because maybe by some chance the records have been kept. Dubious because they might not exist or I may not be able to get a hold of those records because of bureaucratic nonsense.

At any rate, this summer, I plan to dig into more of how I can find out what happened to my great-grandfather. I owe it to my grandmother.

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Image from My Life in Postcards

Thing A Week #10 – East

I was talking to my mom a few weeks ago when we somehow started talking about what it was like for my parents when they moved to the east coast in the early 80s. They are from southern California, so moving to Maryland in the winter was a bit of a culture shock for both of them. But they did it so that they could start a new life and raise their future children (ended up being me and my brother!) in love, leaving behind family dysfunctions I won’t get into, but suffice it to say, they had every reason to leave.

Sometimes I don’t like to sing a song as myself but rather as someone else. In this case, I’m my mother reflecting on leaving everything behind to start a new life. I have always grown up on the US east coast, so I can’t imagine what it would be like to leave everything behind and go somewhere far away to start over. The closest I’ve been to that was living with a family in France for three months, but even then, that was only temporary.

Also of note: since I wrote this in January, I’ve shown it to my dad, and he approved of the song!

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Thing A Week #9 – So Many Airplanes

When I was sixteen, I heard about a local songwriting seminar from my choir teacher. The event details were this: come together for a day and you could learn from industry professionals either how to be a better singer or take a songwriting class from noted songwriter Jason Blume and other pop and country writers. I had no idea who any of the industry people were but the event sounded fun. I’d started writing songs and I thought I could learn some things from people who knew more than me.

There were several takeaways from that day.

One: I was the only person in that room under the age of 30. But no one talked down to me or treated me like a kid, which was a welcome relief from the coddling I often got in school (no cough drops in class, you have to go to the clinic to get those. No pain relievers on you either; you have to go to the clinic for that. Don’t wear this. Don’t say that. Blah blah blah). I felt very grown-up that day, being around people who were all interested in the same thing as me and being on my own too. It was one of the first things I ever did on my own just for myself.

Two: I learned about something called a “hook book.” Anytime you hear an interesting word or phrase, write it down in a little notebook, and refer to that book when you are fresh out of songwriting ideas. They told us to always be aware of interesting phrases that come up in conversation. “That’s how the best songs come about,” I remember being told. The songwriters that day were pop and country writers, so they emphasized the importance of being conversational in your lyrics and in your title. “You want it to be natural,” was another thing they told us. While I don’t write pop or country music, I did take away that importance of having an interesting title.

I have kept several “hook books,” over the years, though they were never books. They were always documents on my computer. I found it faster to type my ideas rather than write them out by hand. For several years now, my “hook book” is a Notes document on my phone. It’s 2018, y’all, I’ve updated!

This week’s song was a phrase from my hook book.

Last year, I became good friends with a girl who’d just moved to the area and who, like me, spoke French. I got about a year of seeing her on a regular basis for Doctor Who marathons, Eurovision chat, and Busch Gardens trips before she moved away to find another job (she hated her government job here, for good reason). She now lives in Boston and is always super busy with her new job.

I was on Facebook one morning and decided to send her a message just to say hi because it had been a while. She’d been busy and so have I. To my delight, she wrote back a few minutes later saying hi and I got to chat with her briefly before we both had to go to work. She was somewhere in New Orleans for her job, so she didn’t have a lot of time to chat. She apologized for being so busy but her job has taken her all over the place.

“So many airplanes,” she typed.

I loved how that phrase sounded, so I immediately put it in my hook book. The phrase went around my head that week, and I began writing this song about my friend and her constant travels. I’ve known from the beginning that she was probably not going to stay in this area. She’s always been a world traveler (Malaysia, Turkey, and most recently, she posted pictures of a trip to Spain with her family!) and while she liked living in this area, she always talked about Boston and how much she loves that city. I was sad when she moved away, but I knew that it was coming.

Most of all, my friend is happy with a new and WAY better job.

And at least we have the Internet to be able to talk when life isn’t too busy on our ends! 🙂

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Featured image from: FreeVector.com

Girl and Piano #2 – Imagination (Clan of Xymox cover)

I may perform with just a keyboard and my voice these days, but I always have a soft spot for 80s synth pop.

In some cases, songs don’t hold up without the production. But in many cases, if you strip away the production, you have a song that can stand up on its own.

Like this month’s song.

If you grew up in Europe or went to dance clubs in the mid-80s, you probably heard this song at some point. Clan of Xymox (or Xymox) are a Dutch group whose music I’m honestly not familiar with beyond the music on their third album Twist of Shadows. I heard Imagination on a compilation CD of Dutch music, and this song stood out to me. It’s dark and danceable in a kind of New Order way, but with a female singer (Anka Wolbert). The danceable vibe grabbed me, then the lyrics did, and I was in love. This is one of my favorite 80s songs ever. The rest of the album is in much the same vibe as this song, but with a male singer instead (Roony Moorings).

Imagination was the third single from the Xymox album Twist of Shadows, released in 1989, and it only reached #85 on the Billboard charts. Their two other singles, Obsession and Blind Hearts, all did well on the Hot Dance Club and Alternative song charts in the US, however. Imagination remains the biggest commercial success of the group, and it’s my favorite song by them.

I didn’t use sheet music or even guitar tabs to learn this song. Instead, I began teaching myself how to play this song by ear. A few years ago, someone who I thought was a dear friend (and had been my friend for about a year at that point) ended up ghosting on me. Rather than talking to me about whatever it was that was bothering her (and I still don’t know to this day what I did wrong), she blocked me on Twitter, stopped returning my phone calls, and basically acted like the biggest coward I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.

This song gave me a lot of comfort during that difficult time. Her betrayal forever changed me. Because of her, I have major trust issues and am afraid to get close to people.

And when she comes to mind, this song helps me.

Thing A Week #8 – Celestial

I tend to write a lot of songs about space, it seems!

Like Nebulous, this song doesn’t mention the title in the lyrics at all! I’m honestly not sure what I will do this this song, though I do like how pretty it is! I wrote this as a part of a personal songwriting challenge to write a song in one hour, lyrics and music. Rather than using the title as a hook, I decided to write something that described the title. I thought about memories and how everything you go through makes up who you are, makes up your own personal sky.

Et voila!

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