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    A New Year’s Valentine

    Photo By Christopher Turner

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    We have now “turned the page” on 2018. For many, it was with great relief and couldn’t come soon enough. I’m in that camp. For some, the year’s page was turned with happiness, closing a chapter on a stellar year. Some hesitantly turned the page with trepidation of the unknown. Regardless, time is something we cannot control. We aren’t given the option of, “No, thanks, I’ll just stay in 2018 a little longer.” 2019 is here!

    Father Time continued his steady march throughout the last year. He’s not a pretty vision with his long beard, crumpled robe and carrying an hourglass representing time’s constant one-way movement. It’s a bit frightening when he grabs his scythe to kill off the last year! In his final act, he hands the new year over to a bouncing baby, who doesn’t have a clue what to do with the year ahead.

    Bobby Jo Valentine

    Here’s the good news. There’s a baby in charge! It’s a brand-new day. We get to raise him up the way we want! Considering he goes from toddler to grave in just 12 months, the first few weeks are critical before he hits his teenage years and knows everything.

    Music is my guide every single day of my life—much like for many of you. This is the time we put our holiday music to bed and begin fresh with brand new playlist for 2019. If you live in the Bay Area, the music from Dear Evan Hansen is probably on the top of yours. And deservedly so.

    In 2018, I found much music to fill my heart, console and uplift me. It was also exciting to discover a new artist, Bobby Jo Valentine. My husband and I were definitely tardy to the party, considering that he is from the Bay Area, is one of today’s hottest LGBTQ artists and has been touring the country for the last six years. I was certainly aware of him as an artist, but we had not had the opportunity to get to know his music. That all changed in October.

    Simply stated, Bobby Jo’s music helped us face Father Time and his scythe and make it through the last part of 2018. His music is magical, deep, thought-provoking and heart-healing. Bobby Jo is no stranger to struggle and it shows in his music. He grew up Baptist and, like me and many of us, is recovering! He also lost his home in the Santa Rosa fires a year ago. More on that later.

    I decided to write about him in this new year’s article because of two specific songs. Bobby Jo is as much a poet as he is a composer and troubadour. The Gay Journal called him “the love child of Gandhi and Stevie Nicks.” The lyrics of both pieces deal with the end of the year, saying goodbye and looking forward with hope. His newest song is “Dear December.” Here is an excerpt of the lyrics:

    Dear December
    End of years
    Rest in Peace, all you
    hopes and fears
    Beneath chimneys
    Embers glow
    Some things bury
    Some things grow
    Now it’s colder
    Now I’m older
    Now I’m fuller grown
    Now I’m trying to let my heart come home.

    We too busy to sing our songs
    We who’ve wandered for far too long
    Dear December, so you know
    I am letting my heavy heart come home

    As I said, this is only a small excerpt of the whole. It truly touched us in so many ways. The second, “Something You Happen To,” reached us in much the same way, especially at the turn of the year. Another excerpt:

    december thirty-first
    pull up the shiny hearse
    put in the old year
    break the reverse gear
    the past pulls out your driveway
    forever out of reach

    so let go all the dark things
    that have been done to you
    life isn’t just what happens
    it’s something you happen to

    so let the new year grow
    take it sure and slow
    never look back
    except to learn or laugh
    wounds are our greatest teachers
    scars are our strangest strength

    and every moment dances
    along with the way we move,
    life isn’t just what happens
    it’s something you happen to

    Each of these songs touched me with the deep look at the passage of time, the difficulties and the hope.

    Where can you help with the fund and hear Bobby Jo sing? He reaches each person in the audience as few I have seen. In December and January, Bobby has been performing benefit concerts for the Campfire Relief Fund—something obviously near and dear to his own heart and life. He has already raised over $50,000 from these concerts for the relief efforts.

    Where can you hear Bobby Jo sing and help with the fund? Good Question. He is currently Artist in Residence in the South Bay. This is his base as he tours the country. On January 26, SFGMC will be hosting Bobby Jo on the final concert of his two-month tour for Campfire Relief. Stay tuned for more details on that. Mark the date on your calendar and watch for more info.

    In this new year, I hope you find moments of reflection and peace. I hope you find many of those moments in music. It will carry you through this year ahead. Maybe, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, you will spend a little time researching new music and new artists and make your own 2019 playlist. Why, you might even make a mix tape for someone special!

    And as for the bouncing baby named 2019, hang on. Teach him well. He’ll be hanging around for 12 more months before you get to trade him in on the new 2020 model!

    Happy New Year one and all!

    P.S. You can learn much more about Bobby Jo at his website ( http://www.bobbyjovalentine.com/ ) and find his music on YouTube.

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.