Richard J. Chandler

Composer for Performing Musicians

Addiction: Songs of Struggle & Victory

Larry Schug book, Scales Out of Balance

Alcohol, tobacco, and prescription drug addiction were destructive themes in the lives of my five aunts on my dad’s side. I learned, as an adult, alcoholism had also been a significant detriment in the life of my grandfather that undoubtedly affected his daughters, my aunts.

I have also witnessed how frequent inebriation traumatized the lives of others who have been close to me. It is unlikely that people can make fundamental improvements in their lives and relationships if they continue to drink or escape into other addictive behaviors or chemical substances.

Yet, addiction often persists for decades, even generations, despite the carnage in people’s lives and the resulting trauma for the addict and that person’s children, close friends and family members, and romantic partners.

Minnesota poet, Lawrence Schug, wrote three poems about how his father’s alcohol addiction affected him. Those poems touched me deeply, and I was inspired to ask Larry to allow me to set them to music.

The first poem, “After Uncle Emil’s Funeral,” is set when Larry was a youngster, and his father’s brother had died; the funeral had just ended. The poem reflects on the discomfort of Larry and his brother. They were stuck out in their dad’s car, still in their “stiff Sunday suits and hard shoes” while his father drank to dull his pain in the local small-town bar.

The second poem, “Barbershop,” tells the story of his father’s failing barbershop, which his father blamed on the move towards longer mens’ hairstyles brought on by the popularity of The Beatles. “It wasn’t only the Beatles; it was the bottles.” “Whiskey behind the Wildroot. Bourbon behind the Brylcreem.”

The 3rd one, “My Old Man’s Devil,” is a victory song celebrating 20 years of sobriety during the last years of his father’s life, despite his father’s ongoing struggle not to be tricked by his devil into drinking again. “My old man told me there were nights, the devil came around, spoiling for a fight.” My old man held his devil down for 20 dry years.”

I put the songs together as a set, along with a very short instrumental interlude between the second and third poems. Carolyn Finley, voice, Ed Turley, piano, and I on alto and tenor saxophones will premier the collection on Friday, April 1st, 2022, at the Humphrey Auditorium on the campus of St. Johns University in Collegeville, MN at their Pastiche Concert.

Would you please email me for more information and let me know if you plan to attend? I’m looking forward to seeing many of you at the concert!

Richard J. Chandler

Please check out Larry Schug’s website: