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Thoughts of Why

by Gary Marks

These comments were from an interview I did in 2014: Gary Marks’ ground-breaking album, “Thoughts of Why,” was recorded and released in 1978, a year and a half after his critically acclaimed recording, “Upon Oanda’s Wing.” These two recordings had distinctly different sounds, because a large musical and psychological shift took place for Marks in his mid- to late-twenties. He was moving from a jazz perspective to a rock perspective. And his lyrics were moving to more a political view, as well as questions of the spirit.

The players on “Thoughts of Why” included members of the Art Lande band “Rubisa Patrol,” (ECM Records) including Mark Isham, Bill Douglass and Kurt Wortman, each of whom also played on “Oanda.”

But it also included John Scofield and David Samuels from Gary’s first album, “Gathering,” as well as oboist Paul McCandless from the band, “Oregon,” (ECM Records).

So the band from “Thoughts of Why,” was a musical reunion from Gary’s first two records, plus Gary’s new friend, Paul McCandless, who is now known as the greatest oboe player in the world.

During this time Marks also met Catha Rexford, whose voice was so beautiful and unique that Marks asked her to sing harmony parts with him on all the tracks.

The lyrics on “Thoughts of Why,” focused on spiritual and political questions. The title track, “Thoughts of Why” posed the life question most of us come to ask at some point: “Why am I here?” But after Marks asked the question, he realized the album would be incomplete and, in fact, weakened, by not satisfactorily answering the question in another song. This became his challenge during the writing of the album.

According to Marks, “I realized this was going to take more than just thinking about things on my own without outside influences, because I had already done that, and all I’d come up with was the question.”

So during the writing of “Thoughts of Why,” he began to read books on spirituality and human history, particularly Will Durant’s “The Story of Civilization,” as well as “The Life and Times of Albert Einstein,” by Roger C. Clark; “East of Eden,” by John Steinbeck, “Think on These Things,” by Krishnamurti, “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” “The Tao of Physics,” “Be Here Now,” etc, etc.

From this new and exciting perspective he eventually wrote the last song for the album, the final track, “The Grace to Be.”

After the release of “Thoughts of Why,” Marks did not tour or promote the record, although there were requests for him to do so. His continuing insistence on not wanting to tour anymore would lead him to a seven year experiment with different styles of music, while continuing his study of piano and guitar, and asking himself the next new question, “Where do I want my music to go from here?”

This long journey eventually led him back to his roots, or what he jokingly refers to as “my de-evolution from jazz back to rock.”

The rock genre and its alluringly powerful rhythmic energy, along with a continued focus on social, spiritual, and political lyrics, were the styles and elements that became his new musical path in years to come -- the origin of which emerged from the writing and recording of “Thoughts of Why.”