Amy Barlow Liberatore… stories of lost years, wild times, mental variety, faith, and lots of jazz

Category Archives: Singers

It’s been awhile since I posted one of my songs. This is about the time she sees her old love at a party and they end up making out in the coatroom. (And most of this story is gloriously, embarrassingly true.)

CLICK HERE  Loving You Today (song by Amy Barlow)

#singer #songwriter #OldGirl #GAFB #StillGotIt #strangerthanfiction

At the Great American Food & Beverage Co., Wilshire at Sixth (1979)

Joe’s behind the keys
Doug, Lisa and I singing backup until
others join the fray, Carolyn on cabasa

This restaurant is like nothing ever

Smells mingle and linger
Rib sauce, beer, whipped cream
Sweat and hot chocolate

Sounds bounce and dervish
Music: Tambourines, guitars,
ivories, voices of every color and timbre

It’s late, so Jamie takes to the piano
“Heartbreak City” in the key of frenetic
Climbing on tables, raising hell, crazed

Chuck on “Takin’ It To The Streets”
We gather around him, the army of
musicial pacifists, guitars the only weapons

No mics, just naked acoustics, so I have to
wait for a lull and take the piano with great
intention to render “Skylark” as it should be

People wait for hours outside
Munching veggie trays, waiting for
two hours just to get in

The floorboards harbor stories
of naked piano players, cooks banging
fudge pots, making fun of musicians

Of after-hours massage lines, practical
jokes magic serving starving
The life of a singing waiter or host

Poppy stops in, baby River bops in his arms
He laughs when he smells the Divine Weed
wafting from the kitchen

Enrique the dishwasher knows three words
in English: “E-spread ‘em, babeeee!”
Kitchen staff schooling him

Late nights playing pinball for free
Greggie found the key and we laugh and
drink and sing the old songs, it’s quiet now

Lights out, don’t have to go home
but ya can’t stay here…
Farewell, my youth, my touchstone

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads’ Fireblossom wanted poems about a specific place. How about a specific place and time, with specific people? For those of you who never experienced the Great American Food & Beverage Co. in Santa Monica in the 70s, this is only a taste of the wild, wickedly fun, wantonness that was the G.A. A place that holds me fixed in time and space, a place where I went from girl to woman – and from beer to beyond. Peace, Amy

Imaginary Garden With Real Toads presented me with a real challenge – a new form! Not my strong suit, but once I got going, I was on FIRE, baby! I’ve also placed this on the shelf of the Poetry Pantry at Poets United. Process notes below.

She sings
for the lonely
whose martini glasses
teeter their moods to sighs of “then”
Choosing songs with good bones, timeless, misty
Watching hookups destined to fail
Witness to a rapt drunk
who cries; to whom
she sings

The blur
of is/is not
falls upon her lightly
winds around her soul so tightly
She seeks solace in the bitter bottle
Battles blues with burn of bourbon
Diff’rent bottle, the script
would help her beat
the blur

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

First, thematic: She Sings is from my days in piano bars, where I was the only performer. Some nights I found that the sights and emotions of my customers were more interesting than my music. The reference to “good bones” is, of course, from old houses in terms of reconstruction.

The Blur can be any sort of mental disorder, when the person chooses to self-medicate rather than follow the doctor’s plan. In this case, she has received her diagnosis, gotten her meds, and won’t “play along.” Most heavy drinkers I know don’t gave the insurance or don’t realize they need a psychiatrist; I’ve seen this lead to the worst ends possible, including several suicides… and my mother’s lifelong battle with booze.

AS TO THE FORM: A Rictameter is a “form with a shape.”  The syllable count is 2-4-6-8-10-8-6-4-2.

A bit of history from the Real Toads site: Created in the early 1990s by two cousins, Jason D. Wilkins and Richard W. Lunsford, Jr., for a poetry contest that was held as a weekly practice of their self-invented order, The Brotherhood of the Amarantos Mystery. The order was inspired by the Robin Williams movie Dead Poets Society.


When first I heard Judy Garland
sing Arlen’s “Rainbow”
(once a year, on Easter, back then)
on our old black and white
I knew I wanted to sing.
I was five.

It took another singer to
show me singing vs. performing,
a girl on the Sullivan show.
We only had one channel
out in the boonies, CBS.
So Ed it was.

She came out dressed in
a plain raincoat. No gown,
no fancy hair; a string of pearls.
Her instinct must have been
to dress plainly so they’d
look at her face.

“When the sun….comes out,”
she was whispering, and at that
moment, Mom and I shushed
the rest of the family. Dad
made fun of her nose.
I was enchanted.

By the end of this Arlen tune,
she was tearing it up, full steam,
larger than life on our small screen.
She was possessed by angels,
delivered to us with the essence
of Queen Nefertiti.

I was five when I heard Judy Garland.
I was six when I heard Barbra Streisand
for the first time and I was hooked.
When I heard Judy, I knew I wanted to sing.
When I heard Barbra, I knew I had to perform.
And so I did.

© 2013 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Isn’t that video tremendous (if truncated by a verse)? Both songs cited were indeed by Harold Arlen. The first, “Over the Rainbow,” had lyrics by Yip Harburg (and was almost cut from the “Wizard of Oz” score – can you imagine? “When the Sun Comes Out” had music by Arlen and lyrics by the incredible Johnny Mercer. Arlen and Mercer teamed for many songs, and Streisand benefited from their partnership: “Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “My Shining Hour,” and many more. My BFF John and I used to play Barbra in the background during long sessions of backgammon and Monopoly… and he gifted me with a boxed set of her TV specials one Christmas.

Sunday Scribblings had “instinct” for their prompt. In addition, my new friend Gretchen Leary co-hosted dverse Interactions with everybody’s fave, Brian Miller. I’m old enough to be her mom, but we have a lot in common. We both have much to say about busting stigmas regarding mental disorders. I was going to post for Gretchen’s prompt, to write about a song that had a big effect on me, but I was… only 22 hours late for Mr. Linky! Check Gretchen out HERE. And, of course, Brian Miller’s blog is HERE. And I probably will post this for dverse Open Mic Night on Tuesday! Peace, Amy

And now for something completely different, song lyrics. You can hear the song at my music link below (sorry, can’t upload it here.)
Hope you like it! Amy

Tioga Moon (free listen at – my music site)

Tioga moon starts her song around eight
High above the maple, the color of marmalade
Spills on the rooftops and dances on the dewdrops
And drenches all the sumac in the glade…

Tioga moon, shining clear and bright
Tioga moon, shining on you tonight
When Cape Cod gets colder
and chills your shoulder,
that old Tioga moon will keep you in her sight

Oh, say…
when the gardenin’s done today
let’s escape the sun, and
run off to a place I know
where there’s shade
a little glade where the jack-in-the-pulpit grows

And then…
we’ll linger on ‘til after ten(derly you’ll call my name)
And then we’ll start to whisperin’ low
While the owls’ eyes and the fireflies
put on their show

Tioga moon, like a big brass bowl
Tioga moon shines like a prophet’s soul
When Buffalo winds blow
snow through your window
that old Tioga moon will make your insides glow
(repeat last chorus)

So stay well, sleep warm;
when the cold starts to bite,
that old Tioga moon will be your blanket tonight.

(Words and Music © 2009 Amy Barlow Liberatore)

For my third day of National Poetry Writing Month, I decided to follow a prompt, because it called out to me. Sunday Scribblings asked for poems about messengers. This is for my mother, who beat the devil and was sober the final 10 years of her life. She’s been gone 21 years now, but when I need her, just like Blanche (her mom), she is there for me. In her weakness and in her strength, so many lessons. Miss you, Mama.  Love, Amer

Message in a Bottle

For the first time in years
(and so welcome, this occasion)
seated across the kitchen table with Mom.

For the first time in years
(since I had headed west for a spell)
she was not drunk – not even tipsy.

There was a message in
the absence of a gin bottle on that table…
Gordon’s had been her steadfast companion

Now we sat and looked each other in the eye
“Amy,” she said kindly, “there’s a scratch in your voice.
You need to stop smoking pot.”

For the first time in years,
we spoke singer to singer, our voices had always been
our beauty, our careers, our all.

“I sobered up,” she said slowly, “cold turkey.”
It was true – too ashamed to go to a clinic,
knowing so many people in town.

Dad had gone to her door several times each day,
listening to the retching, passing in black coffee
and soda crackers for a solid two weeks.

But for me, quitting a joint a day was easy.
And so the message was clear: No more bottle for her,
no more buds in Buglers for me. Saved my life, she did.

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

Dedicated to the GAFB/HiPockets/Poppy Star reunion 2010, with love to all, Amers


Abandon hangups
all ye who enter here

Abandon your present
your what-happened-since-then
Embrace the ever-present past

Pick up a tambourine
Beat it til your hands bruise
Sing til it hurts
Play til your fingers remember
where their callouses were

Laugh til you cry
Live like it’s your last day on earth
Like it’s the end of your shift

Grab a cold beer, flop down here
and tell me all about it

We remain gypsies
no matter what path we chose
The world will never see anything like it again

Time and place
Ribs and space


Amy Barlow Liberatore
Santa Monica, August 15, 2010 (the morning after)

Bobby Francavillo, an old school buddy, turned me on to this young singer/songwriter.  She’s phenomenal and so is her story… look her up on YouTube for an interview about how, after a car accident left her unable to walk, holistically working 24/7 on her music helped her neurons reconnect her brain and legs, which has enabled her to enjoy a rich, full life.  Her voice is like… if Jean Arthur could sing.  I cannot say enough about her talent, nor thank Bobby enough for mentioning her on FaceBook.  I’ve bought 2 of her releases, and she saved MY mental health in a crowded layover at NYC’s Penn Station.   Proof positive that magic is all around us, healing comes in many forms, and friends are meant to share the best things in life.


Penn Station cacophony
The really big noise of
crunchy humanity made moist
by lack of air conditioning

Bad tempers, worse hygiene that
fails to be tamed by perfumes
each more putrid than the last
and all available at WalMart

I park my pack, stack my stash
under weathered and weary sandals
Pull out headphones, cause
it’s gonna be a long layover

Wheel the reel of my IPod to
Melody Gardot, she of the
quirky scat, scratched slightly
broken voice, sleek songs

Eyes closed. I serenely
accept this comfort
as it’s offered up
in her lazy tones, slowly

Crabby folks suddenly wash away
in a flood of lush love songs
Colors appear beneath my eyelids
Vivid purples and greens

Audio visual mental lava lamp
undulating, glowing jazz
In the midst of Amtrak chaos
Suddenly, vibrant beauty

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

My father could recite whole works of Robert Service, Rudyard Kipling… but oy, when he sang…


Dad sang off key
Really off key. Tragically, even.

He dwelt among women who were
descended from sirens
A wife and three daughters
gifted by God with a keen sense of pitch
and an irrepressible desire to sing

Pop couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket
but he sang along anyway
(oblivious to our pinched noses and wincing)
(yeah, we were pretty snobbish, but only where music was concerned)

He also snapped his fingers out of time
as if completely unaware that rhythm had meaning

“You sing like Dad” was a grave insult
tantamount to an accusation of
letting loose a juicy fart in the car
or getting caught picking your nose

But when Dad sang, he did light up
While we suffered for art, mercifully critiquing each other
never satisfied with the result
Dad would burst into “Mule Train” with gusto
or grin as he stumbled through “Ghost Riders in the Sky”

He never knew he couldn’t sing
He just did it anyway
He didn’t care if anybody liked it or not

A life lesson in Q Flat

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore/Sharp Little Pencil

We were challenged at Sunday Scribblings to write about swapping lives with someone. I thought about my childhood hero… and what happened along the way! Key of E-flat, if you please…

Barbra Streisand, Only Protestant

I knew I wanted to be
just like Barbara Streisand
when I was six, watching TV
Her voice, her style, her smile, and

her larger-than-life persona
completely captured me
I declare to Mom, “I’m gonna
sing like that, you wait and see”

To grow a Cleopatra nose
a neo-classic profile
To sing in high-class Broadway shows
with quirky, campy style

As Barbra aged, my interest waned
Her voice too perfect, shrill
Her long nails screamed “I’m awfully vain”
I lost the Barbra thrill

We girls have our heroes, true
And mine was quite outrageous
But I became a writer, too
Accessible, contagious

No beefy bodyguards on call
No need to lock my door
Without that fame, I’ve found my all
and still have work in store

© 2010 Amy Barlow Liberatore, Sharp Little Pencil