The Man is an audio novel set in the first decades of the 20th century
The stories and original songs are written by Steve Gillette
Track 18. “God Is Love”
Without Lorraine, Danny would retreat into his music with a kind of monk-like resignation. He lived for ideas, and for the perfection of a song. He and Johnny would work, but then he didn’t really have anybody else he could relate to. There was Young Johnny of course. But Young Johnny had graduated from college and was on his own.
Danny did a lot of his best writing during this time, but his search for some universal truth about the big issues, life and death, would take sacrifice, especially during the War. In the last few days of the battle for Europe, Little Johnny’s transport went down in the English Channel. Nothing was ever found.
Danny had to admit that he had learned very little about the world, and less about himself. A part of him was still that feral child cringing in some squalid crawlspace, swaddled in newspapers against the mean, gray cold. Was there anything he could say about the eternal — something he could honestly pass along? He put the best of his thoughts into a song and then he never wrote another.
© 2010, Compass Rose Music, BMI
Lyrically, the song is as simple as the old laments, the precursors to the blues tradition. There is some consideration given to building the case that the old cliché, ‘God is love,’ might actually be literally true – that it might be an ideal which can have merit in our time, possibly in a new way.
If I have prepared for any moment of realization in the song, it’s when I get to say, “only love, nothing more, nothing less.” The ‘nothing more’ phrase might be seen as controversial, possibly heretical to much of traditional religious doctrine, but the phrase ‘nothing less’ is what I really want to say.
That’s the part that calls upon us to recognize the power of our own intentionality, and to take responsibility for our actions and our spiritual potential. It’s why I wrote the song, and it’s why I wrote the book.
This must be the most ambitious track of the whole project. We had Scott Petito on bass, Randy Wolchek on piano, Rey Castillo on drums, Jack Williams on guitar and Nathanial Parke on cello. Peter Eklund wrote the charts for the horns and played cornet while Peter Davis played alto saxophone and Dave Davies played trombone. Greg Artzner, Terry Leonino and Kim and Reggie Harris created the vocal arrangement and sang on the recording.
God Is Love
But I will treasure the legends and the histories and the difference between the two
Stories of faith sustain us as long as we don't claim that they’re true
And the poet and the prophet and the parson must confess
God is love, only love, nothing more, nothing less
God is love, only love, nothing more
Words & Music by Steve Gillette,
© 2010, Compass Rose Music, BMI
From the Book:
That summer of 1939, Yip Harburg got Johnny and me tickets for the premiere of the Wizard Of Oz at Loew’s Capitol Theater on August 17th. The film was followed by a live performance with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. They would continue to perform there after each screening for a week.
Harold Arlen created the music and Yip Harburg wrote the lyrics. Yip told us of one emotional meeting where the studio executives had decided that the song “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” would be left out of the production. They felt it was too sophisticated for a young girl in Kansas to sing convincingly.
They also said that it slowed down the action too much. There was nothing for Arlen and Yip to do but to make an impassioned plea for them to reconsider. After meetings and discussions and a few favors called in, the song was restored. He told me the last word he heard was, “Let the boys have their song.”
In the Buckinghamshire countryside, just west of London, Waldorf Astor and his wife Nancy held court at the Italianate mansion on their estate known as Cliveden. He had inherited the title of Viscount from his father along with two influential London publications, The Observer and The Pall Mall Gazette. The Viscountess became the first woman in the House of Lords. She was famously uninhibited and outspoken.
Their estate was the meeting place of what became known as the Cliveden Set, a very influential group of political players throughout the twenties and thirties. They had supported Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement toward Germany. Lady Astor wrote in a letter to Time and Tide at the end of 1937: “I have desired to restore a sense of security in Europe by treating Germany as an equal.”
Among the regular attendees of their gatherings were powerful members of another group, known as the Round Table. This group had dominated British foreign policy since the 1890s. The group had been created by the last will and testament of Cecil John Rhodes, who wanted to guarantee the primacy of the English-speaking peoples of the world, and bring America back into the fold. Since the death of Rhodes in 1902, Alfred Milner had headed the group.
From 1920 until early in 1939, the Milner group “preferred the policy of rapprochement with Germany.” They conceived of a four-power pact between Germany, England, Italy, and France, which would stabilize western Europe. Peace would be ensured since Europe would be surrounded by “Russia on one side, and an Oceanic bloc of the British Commonwealth and the United States on the other.”
All of that changed when on September 1st, shock-troops of the German Wehrmacht crossed the border into Poland. Britain and France delivered ultimatums to Germany. Norway, Finland, Sweden and Switzerland declared their neutrality. In the U.S., President Roosevelt promised that “every effort” would be made by his administration to stay out of the war. Soon Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister.
In America life went on pretty much as it had. In September, General Motors introduced the Hydra-Matic drive, the first automatic transmission, as an option in 1940 model year Oldsmobiles.
In October, The New York Municipal Airport, later renamed after Fiorello LaGuardia, began operation. And, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, starring Jimmy Stuart, has its first showing in Washington, D.C.
Gone With the Wind had its premiere in December. Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh and Olivia de Havilland starred in the longest American film made so far, and as it turned out, the most profitable. Except for the news from Europe, the year ended pretty uneventfully.
On January 10, 1940, a German plane carrying secret plans for the invasion of Western Europe made a forced landing in Belgium, leading to mobilization of defense forces in the Low Countries. Hitler and Benito Mussolini held a secret meeting in the Alps at Brenner Pass where they agreed on a timetable for war.
In May, the Battle of France began and the German forces opened up a sixty-mile wide breach in the Maginot Line at Sedan, France, and invaded Belgium and Luxembourg. Winston Churchill, in his first address as Prime Minister, told the House of Commons, “I have nothing to offer you but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
We knew that the war would eventually involve us; we just didn’t know how it would happen. Roosevelt still promised neutrality, all the while using what strategies he could to help England and prepare the U.S. for war. He addressed a joint session of the U.S. Congress, asking for nine-hundred-million dollars to finance construction of ships and war planes.
On May 26th, we heard about British troops being evacuated from Dunkirk. This continued into early June. The British and French navies, with the help of a large number of civilian vessels, evacuated three-hundred-thousand troops from the beach of this tiny port in France.
Having suffered such a defeat, and such a blow to the confidence of the British people, Winston Churchill told the House of Commons, “We shall not flag or fail. We shall fight on the beaches, on the landing grounds, in the fields and the streets. We shall never surrender.”
By the middle of June, France had fallen. This had happened so swiftly that it struck fear into the hearts of people everywhere. We saw a photo of Adolf Hitler standing on a balcony in Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Churchill told the House of Commons: “The Battle of France is over. The Battle of Britain is about to begin. If the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.”
From July until September 1940 the German Luftwaffe attacked English air bases in an attempt to gain air superiority as a prelude to invasion. They were not able defeat the English Fighter Command.
Winston Churchill paid tribute to the Royal Air Force: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” On August 25th, The Royal Air Force carried out the first bombing of Berlin.
In the meantime, near where bombs were falling, researchers at the University of Oxford School of Pathology purified the drug penicillin. Howard Florey, and a team including Ernst Chain and Norman Heatley, published their laboratory results showing the in vivo bactericidal action of penicillin.
In October we saw Charlie Chaplin’s movie, The Great Dictator, in which he does a wickedly funny impersonation of Hitler. And in November, Roosevelt was elected for an unprecedented third term, defeating Wendell Willkie.
In December, Roosevelt presented his plan to send aid to Great Britain that will become known as Lend-Lease. He declared that the United States must become “the great arsenal of democracy.” He had already signed the ‘Destroyers for Bases Agreement’ which provided that fifty U.S. destroyers needed for escort work be transferred to Great Britain. In return, the United States received ninety-nine-year leases on British bases in the North Atlantic, West Indies and Bermuda.
In the president’s January 1941 State of the Union address, he presented his Four Freedoms, as fundamental global human rights. Norman Rockwell painted four large canvases, representing freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. These were sent around the country on war bond drives. That same month, the keel of the U.S.S. Missouri was laid at the New York Navy Yard in Brooklyn.
In April, the America First Committee held its first mass rally in New York City, with Charles Lindbergh as the keynote speaker. He told the crowd that America has no business getting involved in a European war. Roosevelt, at his regular press conference, criticized Lindbergh by comparing him to the Copperheads of the Civil War period. In response, Lindbergh resigned his commission in the U.S. Army Air Corps Reserve.
Lindbergh was highly regarded by the Germans. Hermann Göring had presented him with the Commander Cross of the Order of the German Eagle. He had toured the German military aircraft factories. He was the first American to examine Germany’s newest bomber, the Junkers Ju 88, and Germany’s front-line fighter aircraft, the Messerschmitt Bf 109, which he was allowed to fly.
To be fair, Lindbergh was not a traitor. He knew the capabilities of the German military, and was certain that they would defeat the British. He believed that because of the ocean between us, the United States was not threatened, and that there was no need to send young Americans into a war that was not our war.
In May, the British Royal Navy captured the German submarine U-110. On board was the latest Enigma machine, which Allied cryptographers later used to break coded German messages.
In a series of sea battles in the North Atlantic, the German battleship Bismarck sank the battle cruiser H.M.S. Hood, with 1,418 crewmen aboard. Only three survived. The Bismarck was located a few days later by Swordfish aircraft from the carrier H.M.S. Ark Royal and they were able to cripple the steering of the Bismark. Then in a coordinated attack it was sunk with the loss of 2,300 lives.
In June, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in Operation Barbarossa. By September German forces began a siege against Leningrad, the Soviet Union’s second-largest city. This began a desperate battle which lasted two and a half years and caused the “greatest destruction and the largest loss of life ever known in a modern city.”
According to a directive sent to German Army Group North on September 29th, “After the defeat of Soviet Russia there can be no interest in the continued existence of this large urban centre. Following the city’s encirclement, requests for surrender negotiations shall be denied, since the problem of relocating and feeding the population cannot and should not be solved by us.”
In July Joe DiMaggio ended a fifty-six-game hitting streak which broke the Major League record. His run lasted from May 15 to July 16, during which he had a .408 batting average. On July 17th, in his last at-bat against Cleveland, with the bases loaded, he faced right-handed relief pitcher Jim Bagby Jr. He hit a ground ball to shortstop Lou Boudreau, which took a hop before reaching him. Still, Boudreau fielded the ball and turned a double play, denying DiMaggio a hit.
On August 9th, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill met on board a ship at Naval Station Argentia in Newfoundland. The Atlantic Charter, which set goals for postwar international cooperation, was agreed upon at that time.
On October 18th, the film The Maltese Falcon was released in the United States, starring Humphrey Bogart and directed by John Huston. And on the 23rd, Walt Disney released his fourth animated film, Dumbo.
On November 17th, Joseph Grew, the United States ambassador to Japan, cabled to Washington, D.C. a warning, that Japan “may strike suddenly and unexpectedly.” In response to the Japanese occupation of French Indochina, President Roosevelt had already ordered the seizure of all Japanese assets in the United States.
On November 26th, an outline of a Proposed Basis for Agreement Between the United States and Japan was delivered to the Empire of Japan by the ambassador. That same day, a task force of six aircraft carriers, commanded by Japanese Vice Admiral Chūichi Nagumo, left Hitokapu Bay for Pearl Harbor, under strict radio silence.
On December 2nd, the code message “Climb Mount Niitaka” was transmitted to the Japanese task force, indicating that negotiations had broken down and that the attack on Pearl Harbor was to be carried out according to plan.
On December 7th, aircraft flying from Imperial Japanese Navy carriers launched a surprise attack on the United States fleet at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, and this drew the United States into World War II. The Japanese declaration of war on the United States and the British Empire was published in Japanese evening newspapers, but not formally delivered to the U.S. until the following day.
The British declared war on Japan nine hours before the U.S. did, partially due to Japanese attacks on the British colonies of Malaya, Singapore, and Hong Kong; and partially because of Winston Churchill’s promise to declare war “within the hour” of a Japanese attack on the United States.
On December 8th, the U.S. and Canada declared war on Japan. On December 11th, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Within hours the Congress declared war on Germany and Italy. The vote was 88 to 0 in the Senate and 393 to 0 in the House.
Clark Gable wanted to enlist. His wife, Carole Lombard, had a relationship with the Roosevelts by virtue of her work on the bond drives, and she wrote to the president about allowing him to join, but F.D.R. thought the 41-year-old actor could best serve by increased patriotic roles in movies and bond drives.
On January 16, 1942, Lombard was a passenger on Transcontinental and Western Air Flight 3. She had just finished her 57th movie, To Be or Not to Be, and was on her way home from a successful war bond selling tour when the flight’s DC-3 airliner crashed into Potosi Mountain near Las Vegas, killing all on board.
The Commanding General of the U.S. Army Air Forces, Henry H. “Hap” Arnold, offered Gable a “special assignment” with the First Motion Picture Unit following basic training. But Gable had the intention of becoming an aerial gunner. He flew five combat missions, including one to Germany in a B-17 Flying Fortress. He earned the Air Medal and the Distinguished Flying Cross.
During one of the missions, Gable’s plane was damaged by flak and attacked by fighters, which knocked out one of the engines and shot up the stabilizer. On another raid, one crewman was killed and two others were wounded. Shrapnel went through Gable’s boot and narrowly missed his head. Adolf Hitler favored Clark Gable above all other actors. He offered a reward to anyone who could capture him.
Albert Einstein and Leó Szilárd had written to the president advising him of the danger that nuclear fission could be used to create a super weapon. In consultation with Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner, they warned that Germany might develop atomic bombs and said that the United States should start its own nuclear program.
This resulted in the Manhattan Project that produced the first nuclear weapons. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada. Nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer was the director of the Los Alamos Laboratory that designed the actual bombs.
On March 22, 1941, Jimmy Stewart was inducted into the Army as a private. In February of 1942, he appeared in uniform at the Academy Awards to present the Best Actor Oscar to Gary Cooper for Sergeant York. Stewart had won that Oscar the previous year for The Philadelphia Story.
Though he subsequently narrated two training films, Fellow Americans and Winning Your Wings, and lent his star power to a few radio shows and war bond tours, he requested more flying time. Stewart was sent to Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho, and the 29th Bombardment Group, where he became a flight instructor on B-17 Flying Fortresses.
On one night flight with a student pilot, Stewart left the copilot’s seat to check on equipment in the nose and let a new navigator sit in the right-hand seat. Suddenly the no. 1 engine exploded, sending pieces of shrapnel into the cockpit and knocking the pilot senseless. With the engine on fire and wind tearing through the windows, the navigator froze at the controls. Stewart had to pull him out of the seat so he could take over. He activated the fire extinguishers and landed on three engines.
Following a few shakedown flights, Stewart’s first battle mission was to bomb the naval yards at Kiel, flying a B-24 that had been named Nine Yanks and a Jerk by a previous crew. In January 1944, Stewart was promoted to major, a promotion he had refused until it was explained to him that his junior officers could not be promoted unless he was. By that time he commanded all four squadrons of the 445th Bomb Group.
Johnny’s military history was much less glamorous. His graduating class at Columbia was approached by recruiters, and students were offered commissions and a place in officer candidate school which Johnny accepted. He was sent to Fort Meade, Maryland. Their basic training was nothing like what the non-collegiate draftees experienced according to his letters, but it was rigorous and he said he was in the best shape of his life.
Johnny had hoped for a post in military intelligence, but at least at first, was selected for menial jobs in special services, the branch of the military that had more to do with morale than weapons. Because of his exposure to the entertainment industry all his life, Johnny was well-suited for the role. I reminded him of some of the famous stars who had held him on their laps. He didn’t seem to mind not carrying a gun into battle, but welcomed assignment to England which did bring him into the range of the bombing.
As part of his duties in preparing for the peace and the reestablishment of civil order in Europe, Johnny had reached out to some of his dad’s old friends in show business. He was able to connect quite a few well known personalities with military projects for morale and public affairs.
He had been introduced to Glenn Miller in connection with provisioning him for his trip from London to Paris in the waning days of the war. Part of his job was paper-work and passport clearances for the band members, but there was also the need to ship the instruments and secure accommodations.
Paris had been liberated and there was great anticipation of a performance by the Glenn Miller Orchestra on Christmas eve just ten days away. But so many of the city’s systems had not been restored. At the last minute Glenn requested that Johnny accompany him to Paris to help prepare for the arrival of the band.
They boarded a small transport plane and headed out into the English channel. Military observers charted the C-64 airplane south from England over Beachy Head. But it did not appear over France. Subsequently, the Eighth Air Force learned that the airplane was missing and launched a fruitless search and an investigation. They concluded the C-64 went down over the English Channel due to a combination of pilot disorientation, icing leading to carburetor heater failure, a compromised fuel flow, wing ice, fuselage ice or possibly a hydraulic fluid leak. The office of Maj. Gen. Orvil A. Anderson, Deputy Commander of Operations for the Eighth Air Force, issued this statement:
“At 13:55 British Standard Time on Friday, December 15, 1944, an Eighth Air Force Service Command Noorduyn C-64 “Norseman” airplane, serial number 44-70285, departed RAF Twinwood Field with three men on board. The airplane disappeared en-route to Villacoublay Aerodrome, Versailles, France. Major Alton Glenn Miller, the famous bandleader, was a passenger on the flight. Miller was preparing to move his Army Air Forces Band (Special) from England to France.”
Bombers were still returning from raids over Germany, and some of them had unexploded ordnance in their bomb bays. They were instructed to drop these bombs before attempting to land and they would do so as they crossed the channel.
There was an established route for planes leaving England to cross the channel. One theory that came to us later was that the small plane which carried Glenn and Johnny had drifted from this specified safe corridor into the zone where bombs were being dropped.
Years later, a navigator on one of the Lancaster bombers read about the disappearance of the Glenn Miller plane and the mystery that had never been solved. He wrote that he thought he might have seen the Noorduyn Norseman beneath them as his bombardier dropped the unexploded bombs. He remembered saying, “there’s a kite gone in.”
Of all the terrible realizations that went along with this tragedy, one small consolation was that Lorraine had not lived to suffer this loss of our son. He now joined her in the sanctuary of my memory, and both would never age another day.
Left with all of Johnny’s papers from school and his letters home, I found that I spent many days in a fog of mourning. I searched for something that could carry me forward. I had no idea what kind of life I had ahead of me, only that everything that had guided my efforts for all my adult years was gone.
In Johnny’s notes, I found myself retracing his years of college and his coming of age as a man. His letters were especially engaging. One told of his impressions as he arrived in England and took up his duties. In one letter which was clearly ‘man-to-man,’ which would not have been appropriate when Lorraine was alive, as she would have been reading all of the letters as well. But here, he wrote frankly about his experience with a young English woman who was very anxious to serve the needs of the soldiers.
He had befriended her, not for the obvious reason of exploiting her vulnerability, but because he feared she was too trusting, too naive, and likely to fall into the traps of pregnancy, disease or legal jeopardy. Without judgment, he explained how part of his work had to do with distributing films and scheduling talks which dealt with the dangers of casual sex. The troops were provided with copies of American magazines. In one issue of Collier’s, there was an article about what they were calling ‘Victory Girls,’ young women and teen-aged girls who were giving themselves to soldiers.
Some of this was an understandable impulse to support the war effort, some was attributable to women being left behind and missing their men. Some of this activity was more illicit, and as difficult as it was to parse it out, some of it had to do with woman demanding to participate in a sexual liberation that had been denied to them, while they were being called upon to take on the jobs of men.
The problem was not helped by the attitude of Johnny’s superiors, who believed that women should be available to ‘service’ their soldiers. Johnny made it clear that he could wait until he was home to pick up where he left off with his romantic endeavors, and also how much he wished the war would end soon, since it stole away the years and had such a caustic effect on the spirit.
I found much to interest me in Johnny’s class notes, especially history and philosophy. I could hear myself asking the callow, naive questions that a first-term freshman might blurt out, and then following the lucid language of the text to a clearer understanding. I doubt that I would have taken any time in these pursuits if these were not my son’s pages, much of it written in his own precise hand.
In my earnest search of the books on religion, I kept asking, “why can’t it be as simple as all of us living together in a truly loving way.” Why the need for all the codification and obscurity? Can’t the truth just be as simple as the Golden Rule? Isn’t that really the basis of all spiritual teaching? Why the need for magic and miracles? At this stage of my life, I don’t need or want any of it.
When I think of the down-trodden, especially the slaves who saw their suffering as temporary, I wished that all their struggles could be relieved in this life. The promise of a better world after death, for me, had come to represent just one more way that a person can be enslaved. Why is it not possible to live in dignity, and with one’s own spiritual life intact, and not subject to any man?
The condemned man could envision his soul rising over the gray walls of the prison, and ascending to a place where his trials are at an end. There were so many examples of that sentiment in the old songs. That’s where I would start in my work to bring that hope to life in a song of my own.
© 2010, Compass Rose Music
Cliveden House, country home of Lord and Lady Astor.