#894: November Snow by Rejoice

Peak Month: April 1969
7 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #7
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #126

Rejoice was a band made up of guitarist Tom Brown, bass player Nancy Brown, pianist Dick Conte and drummer Michael Patrick Moore. They were from Marin County, north of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Browns’ were a husband and wife duo and their harmonies bear strong echoes of the coffee house folk circuit blended with the gentle, hazily psychedelic Bay Area sounds of the day. Rejoice was signed by Jay Lasker, then president of the Dunhill label. Rejoice originally went into the studio with Terry Melcher as producer in April 1968. Melcher was the only son of singer Doris Day and he had previously produced the Byrds albums Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn, Turn Turn. Melcher also had produced all the albums for Paul Revere & The Raiders from 1965 to 1968, including their string of hit singles from “Just Like Me” to “I Had A Dream.” Melcher had also been the producer of the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. Rejoice were very excited to have Terry Melcher in place as their producer.

While in the middle of recording the third or fourth song on the first side of the Rejoice album, Melcher’s father passed away and Terry was gone for about a week. Eventually, the band went back to Marin County. Months later, Tom and Nancy Brown, the singers and main songwriters, went back to Los Angeles with Steve Barri as producer and completed the Rejoice album. Bari was a successful producer for The Grassroots, most of Mama Cass’s solo career (“It’s Getting Better,” “Make Your Own Kind of Music“), Tommy Roe (“Dizzy“) and Alan O’Day (“Undercover Angel“). Rejoice used the following studio musicians to complete the album: drummer Hal Blaine, bass paler Joe Osborne and pianist Larry Knechtel. Hal Blaine and Larry Knetchel were both studio musicians with the legendary Wrecking Crew from Los Angeles.

The Rejoice album was released in January 1969 and a single co-written by Nancy and Tom Brown, “Golden Gate Park,” spent one week on the Billboard Hot 100 at #96. This was mostly on the strength of the tune climbing to #10 in San Francisco and #20 in Seattle. It was a fine example of the sunshine pop tunes populating the charts in the late 60’s. The second single from the album, written by Tom Brown, was “November Snow.”

November Snow by Rejoice

November snow stretching far away,
on a California mornin’,
People talking low, gathered all to see,
a baby bornin’.

But the doctor shook his head,
and left the rest unsaid.
And the people knew someone would never be,
someone would never see a California morning.

And I can see him in the morning 
with his face shining brightly through the redwood trees.
And I can hear him in the morning, 
with his voice singing sweetly on the early breeze.
And I know that we are brothers,
though there always will be others to calm my pain.
And when I touch him in the morning,
I believe that we are one with the seasons and the rain.
What kind of man I wonder would he be?
Nobody answers but the pebbles and the sand,
and the flowers growing free like tiny dancers.

And the doctor shook his head,
and left the rest unsaid.
And the people knew someone would never be,
someone would never see a California morning. 

And I can see him in the morning, 
with his face shining brightly through the redwood trees.
And I can hear him in the morning, 
with his voice singing sweetly on the early breeze.
And I know that we are brothers,
though there always will be others to calm my pain.
And when I touch him in the morning,
I believe that we are one with the seasons and the rain.
November snow, stretching far away on a California mornin’.

“November Snow” is a song about a stillborn baby in a California redwood community. The song is sung from the perspective of a brother who is either a twin who came out of the womb first, or an older brother who was looking forward to meeting his new baby brother. In the face of a tragedy the songs’ lyrics appeal to the redwood trees, the breeze, pebbles, sand and small flowers to  convey both support, witness and ongoing presence of the spirit of the stillborn baby. Though the baby is stillborn the brother who lives believes “that we are one with the seasons and the rain.” The song imagines some of the questions people might pose if the child had lived: “what kind of man I wonder would he be?” It offers he’d have a sweet voice, a bright shining face… All that is left in the face of the loss is the November snow. And falling snow obscures familiar objects, rendering them strange and ghostly, shrouding, blanketing each object in a chilly bed. Moreover, snow in November usually points to a climate where more snow will fall in December, January February and possibly March or even April. In this way the metaphor of snow in November points to a longer grief: that what will follow will be more days of freezing cold, more snow burying what has been.

“November Snow” climbed to #7 for two weeks in Vancouver, while it’s second best performance was at #18 in their native San Fransicso.

In 2005, the Public Health Agency of Canada in a study titled, Make Every Mother And Child Count, reported that globally, 10.6 million children aged under 5 die each year, or 30,000 per day. 40% of these die in their first month of life. Many of these deaths are preventable as two-thirds are due to infectious diseases. In Canada in 1966 there were 25 out of 1,000 stillborn deaths. By 2002 there were under 7 out of 1,000 stillborn deaths. The increase in accessible health care, nutrition and sanitation were key factors in the lowering of the infant mortality rate due to stillborn deaths. In 1928 over 3% of all babies born, or an average of 30.5 out of 1,000 babies were stillborn. Other indicators of higher risk of a baby being born stillborn have been women giving birth over 40. One other key risk factor increasing the likelihood of a still birth was multiple births. Just under 2% of twin births experienced one twin being born stillborn. While triplets had a 2.4% chance of having one of their number being born stillborn, according to 1998 figures from Statistics Canada.

The May 23-25, 1969, The Aquarian Family Festival, a free concert, was held at a Football practice field across from San Jose State’s Spartan Stadium. The event was held in conjunction with the Second Annual Northern California Folk Rock Festival at The Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. All the bands played for free. The organizers called every band they knew and a lot of them showed up. The agreement with the College stipulated that people could only be present when music was playing. So performers played continuously for the entire 72 hours. A specially constructed stage allowed one band to set up while another played. Bands would show up at the site and sign up similar to signing up for a game on a tennis court. Besides hippie solidarity, playing a free concert was a good way for a local band in the Bay Area to get known. Up to 80,000 concert goers attended the Festival. Aside from the big headliner, Jefferson Airplane, for many of these groups like the Steve Miller Band, this would have been the biggest crowd they had played for in their music career so far. One of the bands performing at The Aquarian Family Festival was Rejoice. They played their first two singles as well as their final single from their album, “Sausalito Sunrise,” also written by Tom Brown.

With no commercial success, later in 1969 Rejoice broke up, with members pursuing different musical directions.

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