It all started in the 60s, at the height of "the folk craze," with "Marijuana Smoke," a burst of juvenalia about the joys of weed that remained hidden away for seven decades ... until now! Here it is, the first song Lory Kohn ever wrote, in The Year of Our Lord 1968:
And it's continued for ... some 52 odd years. If you're scoring, that's four decades last millennium + three decades this millennium = seven decades.
Lory in approximately 1968, when he launched his songwriting career with "Marijuana Smoke."
The tune that broke the seven-decade barrier is "The Color of Hay, a catchy co-write with Bay Area fiddler John Croziat. This latest addition to the extensive Kohn catalog was recorded earlier this month (January 5-10, 2020) at a Listening Room Songwriting Retreat in Idyllwild, CA. Here's a rehearsal run-through captured with a Zoom handheld :
Lory's first and last recorded songs have a few things in common:
- They're both quick and dirty duets with "bluegrass" musicians, with erstwhile Milkmen manager Victor Levine providing banjo and vocals on "Marijuana Smoke" and John Croziat adding fiddle and vocals to "The Color of Hay." That's strange because no other such stripped down duets appear anywhere in Lory's Silo of Hits stored between 1968-2020!
- These two songs came to fruition at a pace markedly faster than Lory―who practically invented the word compulsion―customarily spends churning out new material material. "Lolita" is probably the only other song that came together anywhere near as quickly.
With gems like "Color of Hay" still materializing, we get more evidence that in all probability Lory's a SuperAger. What's that? According to Emily Rogalski, Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University, "Scientists believe the average person's mental capacity peaks in their thirties and begins to decline thereafter. SuperAgers follow a different trajectory. Their brains seem to age much slower, and when they reach the age of 70 or above, their brains look and behave like the brains of people decades younger." In other words, there doesn't seem to be any appreciable drop-off in Lory's creative and performing powers even after seven decades.
With "The Color of Hay," we get, of all things, an Irish/Arabic tune in 6/8 timing. Veering away from 4/4 time is another first for the versatile tunesmith.
"I've always wanted to write a song in waltz time," Lory revealed. "Tried it out in 3/4, but it just seemed livelier in 6/8."
"Hay" is the tale of an Irish lass pining away for her man, the local miller, who's gone off to fight in the Crusades. It's hard for her to process such a shattering event. She finds it as inexplicable to describe as, say, the color of hay. She flashes back to happier times, though the absurdity of it all leaves her somewhat tongue-tied (but not entirely). There's a twist: the role of the female protagonist is played by none other than Lory himself.
Lory and fiddler John Croziat in 2020, debuting their catchy duet ,"The Color of Hay", in Idyllwild, California.
Odd that Lory would gravitate to an Irish tune, as DNA testing would reveal that he's a different kind of ish altogether, one which he has in common with name sound-alike and fellow contender for The Best Combined Songwriter and Prosewriter Of All Time, Leonard Cohen. But what really sets "Hay" apart are the fiddle lines played in an eerie yet seductive Arabic scale, conjuring up visions of the conscripted lover battling away in the Holy Land.
What act does Lory feel would do a great job singing the intended female vocals?
"The Corrs sisters come to mind; they're Irish, they're great singers, and they feature a fiddle player."
Not a bad idea. And how does he feel about cracking the seven-decade barrier?
"I can't say I ever expected to write songs over seven decades, or at least ones that weren't total gibberish," Lory told a reporter. "But I'll take it."
That leaves the rest of us to wonder: could there still be more at the door?