Gayle Caldwell

In Loving Memory
Gayle Caldwell
February 20th, 1941 – April 14th, 2009

By Tom Pickles

In 1993, Gayle participated in a successful reunion of nine of the early Christy alumni at the Ice House in Pasadena – billed as A Gathering of Minstrels.  The performance was well received and lead to a summer-long schedule of concerts in 1994 in Oakhurst, just south of Yosemite, in a venue of their own called “SierraLand.”  A CD of the concert remains as a chronicle, with Gayle’s contribution to the Christy blend untarnished by time.

In 1991, just before in 50th birthday, Gayle moved to Ft. Bragg on the northern California coast, to fulfill a vision she had of growing roses by the sea – not far from her sister, Carole.  She found sustenance in the beauty that surrounded her, in her family and friends, and, of course, in her music.  She had many private piano and voice students. She was musical director for several of the "Gloriana Opera Company" musical productions as well as for the Mendocino Art Center, where she produced occasional Sunday afternoon concerts that displayed her eclectic musical tastes -- everything from classical to ethnic folk.

In recent years, Gayle thought of herself primarily as a composer.  She was happiest when at the piano "writing", as she called it.  Her last major project – one that was very precious to her – was the recording of a new CD.  The title song – “All Is One” – was a very personal expression of her feelings about life and the loss of her daughter, Melissa.   In her characteristic quest for excellence, she took well over a year to complete the project; along the way, a number of top flight musicians stepped forward to help her, notably Alex deGrassi and Paul McCandles.  It took all her remaining strength to make that CD and she was immensely proud of it.   She had every right to be for the album is classic Caldwell – haunting melodies, poetic lyrics of human insight and honesty – all sung in Gayle’s rich, expressive voice.   “All Is One” is mature work of exceptional quality -- work of a caliber that would make a father very proud.

Through the cold winter months of early 2009, Gayle experienced a succession of draining physical setbacks.  By the end of season, she was just tired – ready for the next stage, whatever that might be.  On April 14th, the soul of Gayle Caldwell moved on.


 

by Gayle's sister, Lisa


Gayle was the oldest of 6 daughters, I am the youngest.  She was 17 years older than I and had left home by the time I was born, so my early knowing of her was more about the events surrounding her than Gayle herself.  From a young age I remember seeing her on TV singing with the New Christie Minstrels. She was fiercely compassionate, politically astute and engaged.  She was a great cook.  She was sensual, beautiful and fragile...complex.  We talked about her life as a musician and songwriter. She shared the story of flying to Las Vegas to meet with Frank Sinatra around the time he recorded Cycles.  They were at a restaurant that he owned (or held powerful sway in) and she, being a vegetarian, requested a variation on the menu.  The waiter said that he was sorry but they didn't have whatever it was or couldn't make it, and Frank played the power card big time and insisted in no uncertain terms that the guy find a way to get it for her. She said it was a weird experience.  He treated her like a queen, but at the expense of others.  
 
I hadn't seen too much of her over the past few years, though we would keep in touch via email, exchanging poetry, thoughts about our 92 year old mother Esther, or our excitement over the last election.  Speaking of our mother, she got her first tattoo at age 80 when my niece died.  She has continued to get tattoos everytime someone she loves dies.  She went in 2 weeks ago and got a treble clef tattooed on her upper arm for Gayle.   I think she has about six now.  It's funny, but in some ways that simple act of my mother's is one of the things I most appreciate about her.  It's strangely comforting...
 
Anyway...Cycles was, I think, a  kind of a lifeline for her.  She made a CD of mostly original music last year on which she re-recorded Cycles.  (It had been on an earlier album she made for A&M records in 1969 called "Celebration of Life").

CYCLES
Writer: Gayle Caldwell


So I'm down and so I'm out
But so are many others
So I feel like tryin' to hide
My head 'neath these covers
Life is like the seasons
After winter comes the spring
So I'll keep this smile awhile
And see what tomorrow brings

I've been told and I believe
That life is meant for livin'
And even when my chips are low
There's still some left for givin'
I've been many places
Maybe not as far as you
So I think I'll stay awhile
And see if some dreams come true

There isn't much that I have learned
Through all my foolish years
Except that life keeps runnin' in cycles
First there's laughter, then those tears

But I'll keep my head up high
Although I'm kinda tired
My gal just up and left last week
Friday I got fired
You know it's almost funny
But things can't get worse than now
So I'll keep on tryin' to sing
But please, just don't ask me how

Gayle's Website