Gina Higginbotham Mother of Music Under NY

On September 29th we lost Gina Glaser Higginbotham. She was a champion of the arts, of music in public spaces and certainly of keeping music alive and thriving in the subway stations of NYC.  Gina along with her husband Tim (who still is tirelessly working as the MUNY consultant) started the Music Under New York program. What many people did not know is her own personal background as an incredibly talented folk artist in her own right.  As I post this my heart is heavy for Tim and his family at the loss of their dear Gina.  

Gina in one of her favorite places in the world, Venice.  I was always so excited to she her wearing one of my nycsubwaygirl t-shirts.

Gina in one of her favorite places in the world, Venice.  I was always so excited to she her wearing one of my nycsubwaygirl t-shirts.

Gina will be missed. As a member of MUNY since 1999 I was always in awe of Gina's ear and knowledge of music.  She championed music in public spaces and her tireless support for the program was clear every time we would connect during the annual audition process. Happy journey Gina.

Singing Goodbye for a friend

My life is music. It brings me joy even through sadness (especially). If sharing my music with others brings joy and release, then I am certainly in the right place. Today I will be singing love and joy during a very sad moment.  A dear friend lost his husband last w eek unexpectedly.  I will be singing goodbye in celebrating the life of Tim Merrell.  He had the most amazing smile.  And that is what I will be singing today. And for my friend Jose Rolan and their son Avery.

Smile by Charlie Chaplin

Smile though your heart is aching.  Smile even though its breaking

When there are clouds in the sky, you'll get by

If you smile through your fear and sorrow

Smile and maybe tomorrow, you'll see the sun come shining through for you. 

Light up your face with gladness

Hide every trace of sadness. Although a tear may be ever so near

That's the time you must keep on trying. Smile, what's the use of crying? 

You'll find that life is still worthwhile, If you just


Read about Tim and Jose in a lovely Huffington Post piece by Chef Rossi

Nelson Mandela

In 1990 I went to a Free Mandela concert at Wetlands, a wonderful NYC club (sadly no longer in existence), it was the most thrilling, exhilerating experience.  To have witnessed Mandela's release into the our 20th century world with such dignity, grace and force and then to rise up to lead the nation that had emprisoned him is beyond extraordinary.

He wrote so many inspiring words, here are some:

"Honour belongs to those who never forsake the truth even when things seem dark and grim, who try over and over again, who are never discouraged by insults, humiliation and even defeat." ~ Nelson Mandela from a letter to Winnie Mandela, Written on Robben Island, 23 June 1969 

"For every woman and girl violently attacked, we reduce our humanity. For every woman forced into unprotected sex because men demand this, we destroy dignity and pride. Every woman who has to sell her life for sex we condemn to a lifetime in prison. For every moment we remain silent, we conspire against our women. For every woman infected by HIV, we destroy a generation." ~ Nelson Mandela during the 46664 Concert, Fancourt, George, South Africa, 19 March 2005


Lou Reed Tribute

Lou Reed was part of the soundtrack of my life. His music inspired a generation. 

This past July I was invited to Lake George to perform at a benefit at Sandy's Clam Bar for a dear friend Ray Jett.  I met Ray years ago in Key West where I was living and performing.  His old music partner Pete Jarvis (still performing in Key West in the Pete + Wayne) informed me that Ray was in a nursing home with late stage Alzheimer's. The benefit was for his family and the intense cost to care for him.  How could I say no?

I reunited with Wayne Hammond (he played bass on my Retracing CD in 1998) and met cool guitarist songwriter Margo Macero.  Really fun to meet a young female guitarist with so much groove and talent.

This clip was recorded and posted by Upst8MusicFanZone

Posting videos of local bands that perform in the Capital District, Upstate New York Area... a wide variety of music... something for everyone. These are amateur one shot, one take, live on the fly videos from the fan perspective. If you know a band performing here that you would like to see video of, please drop me a message and tell me about them.

Richie Havens soul flying Freedom

Richie Havens dead of a heart attack at 72.  His heart gave out after 72 years of heart and soul and glorious rhythmic music. 

If I had to pick one artist that completely inspired me throughout my musical life I would say Richie Havens. Reading his obit today, "I'm not in show business" he said " I'm in the communications business." Well he taught me that.

My early days of learning the guitar at age 12 Richie Havens album Alarm Clock woke me up and wound my inner curiosities about civil rights, the environment and essentially the power of song.  I remember listening to WHCN radio out of Hartford, CT and getting up my nerve to call and request a Havens song.  Hard to believe, but I actually never got a chance to see him live and up close until I lived in Paris in the '90's.  He played in a tiny club, telling amazing stories and playing the hell out of his guitar. It was a rare moment of American pride to claim this man and his music as my heritage.

He showed that a cover song was not something to apologize for but to command and make your own:  His versions of Here Come's the Sun, Woodstock, All Along The Watchtower, are legendary. 

Sure there were others that inspired me to become a lifelong musician, social activist: Mitchell, Dylan, Baez too, but it was Haven's voice, his amazing right-hand strumming that had me mesmerized.  I never embraced his open tuning style, but that right hand craft work taught me that as a soloist, it's the drums and even a punchy horn section; it's the rhythmic patterns that hold a song together.

Richie Havens will be missed.  Today I sing in Union Square from 3-6pm above the N/R platforms.  A fitting place to sing out and dedicate my performance to the man, the musical guru who inspired me.

He sang "Freedom, freedom" in that low rich vibrational soulful lure. Freedom indeed.

2013-04-29 - Richie Havens goodbye 0 00 00-01.jpg

City Winery Monday April 29, 2013 memorial of Hven's ashes and guitar

official Richies Havens website

link to Richie Havens on itunes

Fallen Friends for cousin Peter

Fallen Friends for my cousin Peter

On April 4th 1989 my cousin Peter VanderPutten lost his life to AIDS.  I lived with him in his wonderful guest house The Cypress House in Key West.  Like so many of the people around me, we were all consumed with the loss and devastation.  Today I especially like to remember Peter and want to share my song Fallen Friends with you. As we remember let's not forget that AIDS is still ravaging the world. 

It's a free download.

Fallen Friends_Cathy_Grier.mP3 

FALLEN FRIENDS words and music by Cathy Grier SESAC singerfish publishing 



Fallen Friends Words/Music-C. Grier Sesac Singerfish Publishing

Where Have My Friends Gone

They Have All Fallen

Where Are My Many Fallen Friends

I keep Thinking

I Hope They Are Somewhere

Where No Anger Resides And There's No Hate

Where No One Decides What's Wrong Or Right

Before Its Too Late


Where Have My Friends Gone

Last I Looked They Were Healthy And Funny, But

Where Are My Many Fallen Friends

I Keep Looking Again


And They're Falling

My Falling, Falling Friends

My Falling, Falling Friends


Some Saw Denial

And Their Lifestyles On Trial

Some Tried To Say

Why Has The Government Looked Far Away

Numbered Days Are All Gone


And They're Falling

Falling Falling Lovers, Falling Men

Falling Women, My Falling Friends


And What We Are Missing

By Not Taking A Stand

Are The Many Numbers Too Afraid To Lend A Hand

And There's Such A Demand

Lives That Are Cut Short

And It Doesn't Make Sense

Why Can't We, Why Can't We Rise Up

And Help Find A Cure, Others Aren't Sure


And They're Falling, Falling Lovers, Falling Men

Falling Women, My Falling Friends 

And They're Falling Children

Falling Lovers, Falling Men, Falling Women, My Falling Friends


Will The Falling Ever End

Davy Jones RIP by Bob Lefsetz

March 2012: My guest blogger this month is by none other than Music Industry take no prisoners Bob Lefsetz.  I receive his "Lefsetz letters" and mostly not only am I amazed by his tireless energy, but ability to truly understand the world of music, not just the biz of music.  In Bob's world if you don't start with honest truth you get nothing in the end.  He's shameless, he's guileless, he's tough, funny, irritating and sometimes just unabashedly sentimental.  That's why I read him. Why not join his list, you don't have to be in the music biz to learn something. At least his opinion is entertaining.


And I thought love was only true in fairy tales.

The legend of the Monkees is that they didn't write their own songs, they didn't play their own instruments, the whole think was fake.


The Monkees were the first indication that we'd won. That the old guard, the establishment, our parents, were no longer in control. We had our own sitcom on TV. Featuring our music. That was a gigantic breakthrough.

But what was even better was the music was great! In the case of "I'm A Believer", spectacular! Credit the songwriters, credit the delivery, but never forget it was a band, which came together through obtuse circumstances, like so many, but went on to not only create music, but stay together, even after their eponymous television show had been canceled.

And Micky Dolenz might have sung most of the songs.

But Davy was the front man, he was the cute one, he was the one the girls swooned for, the one we wanted to be.

Even better, he had a sense of humor about himself. He was funny back then, and knew he'd lived a charmed life until it all ended today.

"Here we come

Walk down the street

We get the funniest looks 

From everyone we meet"

There's not a baby boomer alive who does not know "(Theme From) The Monkees". This was not a Justin Bieber sideshow, the Monkees had more impact than Mr. Bieber or Lady Gaga. They were ubiquitous in a three network world where we were addicted to the radio when we weren't in front of the tube.

There are classic album openers, like "Gimmie Shelter" and "Back In The U.S.S.R.", and "(Theme From) The Monkees" is a member of this club. You're hooked from the initial drumbeat. And unlike modern hip-hop culture, the listener didn't feel excluded, put down by the group, but invited in.

But the hit was "Last Train To Clarksville". It played all fall until... "I'm A Believer" took over and owned the airwaves, through Christmas and beyond.

A magical track, "I'm A Believer" pivoted on Micky Dolenz's breathy vocals, but we didn't see it as a solo cut, but a masterpiece by the Monkees. It still puts a smile on my face today. I played it incessantly back then. I have never ever burned out on it. In a pre-Internet era where we didn't have our music on demand, you listened to the radio until they played your favorite song and then you went out and bought it.

Which I did.

I even bought the songbook, so I could play the songs at home, on my guitar. Not because I thought I was gonna be rich and famous, but because I wanted to share in the joy.

And I'm stunned how joyful I feel when I hear "Pleasant Valley Sunday" today. I'd given up at this point, as you often do. I bought the first three albums and then dropped out, but years later I realized I was wrong, this was a killer track.

But, once again, Davy did not sing the lead vocal.

But not only did Davy carry the hit "Daydream Believer", he sang "I Wanna Be Free", "This Just Doesn't Seem To Be My Day" and "Look Out (Here Comes Tomorrow)", which were as big as the hits to we who wore out these vinyl records.

I saw Davy twice in recent years. Once at the Pollstar Awards, where he demonstrated the aforementioned sense of humor about himself and last summer at the Greek, as part of the Monkees reunion.

At Pollstar, Davy talked about being a fading, aged rock star. The bills for college. He mocked his height, or lack thereof. And was essentially shilling for work, that's why you present at the Pollstar Awards.

At the Greek, the band played all the hits, we reveled in the memories. They showed video, we marveled over who we once were. It was thrilling, but shortly thereafter they broke up once again and the rest of the tour was canceled.

And that's the story of rock and roll, of being a fan. We want our bands to last forever. But they almost never do. The alchemy is so fragile. But the music remains. We put our faith in it. It keeps us going.

Such that when one of its purveyors passes to the other side, we're shocked. We thought they'd be here forever, with us, like the music. We looked up to them. If they're old and gray and pass away, what is to happen to us?

I don't know if Davy Jones went to the doctor. If he adhered to his prescription. In any event, he's now gone. He was a thread, however thin, to what once was, my formative years, I didn't have a bad memory about him. But if he goes, that means I'm next.

Yes, we baby boomers are heading into our sunset years. And as we're shuffled off the horizon, they want to rewrite our history.

Let it be said that we were mad about the Monkees. Their music stands the test of time. They were trailblazers. They were not hula-hoops, used briefly and then discarded with disdain, but a group of four men we embraced warmly. They let Jimi Hendrix open for them. They created one of the first psychedelic films. Hell, to get "Head" you've got to be high on drugs. It was co-written by Jack Nicholson before anyone knew who he was. Don't pigeonhole the Monkees as a trifle, as a mere footnote, as puppets. With their television show on the air it showed us not only that we had won, but the music was the decisive weapon in our battle. Soon bands like the Jefferson Airplane would be testing limits, we'd all gather at Woodstock and blow the mainstream's mind.

We owned the country. It was now ours.

And it would have happened slower, and it would have been different without the Monkees.

Great songs, great performances... If that ain't the essence of music, I don't know what is.

Davy, we'll never forget you. 

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Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron one of my musical influences and late night radio mentors of my youth died last Friday May 27th at the age of 62.

Late at night, with only the glow from the FM dial, his "B Movie," and "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" stirred up something important in my ears.  Awakening possibility and helping me to find a place to put all my concern for the world, fear over the hypocrisy I was witnessing and the seemingly lack of curiosity from the adult universe I was soon to join. To learn what I believed in, then to stand up for it was what Gil was urging me to be..

That was in the early 70's. Today instead of a glowing radio dial there's a screen, in the hand.

So much available to learn and observe.

Where to go?

Who is the new Gil Scott-Heron?

Who was/is your youthful mentor? Leave a comment below.

Don't forget to stand up to what you believe in.