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1976 proved to be both memorable for its current events, and its significance for me personally. It was the bicentennial of the United States; what sports enthusiast could forget the Pittsburg Steelers beating the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X, 21 to 17? And what about the Cincinnati Reds, they won the World Series against the New York Yankees, 4 games to 0? Also, there was Muhammad Ali’s “KO” win against Richard Dunn in Munich. “Rocky” won best movie that year; and George Benson’s album, “Masquerade” won best record.

During the year of 1976, I was truly embraced by the Catholic churches in the bay area. Most Sunday mornings I would sing at St. Andrews in Oakland, California, or St. Columba in Berkeley, California. Singing regularly at those churches gave me great exposure, which is significant to the success of any up and coming artist. Another benefit of singing regularly, which is of equal importance to a striving artist is, it allows the musician to hone his/her craft.

Remember, my parents would not hear of me sitting around the house all summer with nothing constructive to do. So I became proactive and got a job as a counselor’s aide at St. Andrew’s Summer Camp. For me, this was much better than my parents choosing how I spent my summer, because along with having something to do, I also earned my own money. One of the kids who attended the camp that year was Angela Ray; she is the younger sister of Harriet Ray, the young lady who years later approached me about auditioning for her wedding. Now for the “great reveal”, both are the sisters of who would become my future wife. Another interesting tidbit, I met my future mother-in-law approximately five years before I met any of her daughters. She saw me sing at one of the churches when I was only 16. When my wife and I started dating, and I was introduced to her family, her mother recognized me as the young man she heard singing years prior. My mother- in- law would often share how she rushed home to tell her oldest daughter how she thought her voice would blend with this young man she had heard at church that morning. She laughed each time she got to the part about her daughter showing no interest. We were married five years later. True story! God has a way of “having His way”.

 In September of that year, I started attending a school closer to my home in Oakland. I had been attending a Christian school located in South San Francisco. Many of us whose parents are from the south, recount similar stories told by our parents of how they walked for miles to go to school, come rain or shine. As children we were amazed at how all our parents had similar stories. Hmmmm! With that being said, this is a true account of my daily routine to get to school. I got up at 5:00 a.m. each morning in order to catch my first bus, which was some walking distance from my house. I would then have to transfer to the Muni bus on 1st street in San Francisco. I would get off at Ocean Avenue in South San Francisco. Most mornings the bus would be jam packed with standing room only. I hated the commute, it was exhausting! I was excited to learn that I would be enrolling in a school closer to where we lived. Now instead of 3 hours to get to school, it would only take 1 hour. That excitement was short lived. On my first day of school, a boy, for no apparent reason, challenged me to a fight. I’m thinking, “come on, it’s my first day”. Once again I was placed in a position of having to prove myself. Without recounting blow for blow, let’s just say, I was never challenged to a fight again. However, I was sent to the Principal’s office even though I wasn’t the instigator. That was my first and last encounter with what I call the “board of education”. The “board of education” was a paddle with holes drilled in it so the air could freely pass through them, causing the most pain. I was swatted three times, leaving my behind sore. I quickly learned that this was not the education I needed, nor wanted. This experience taught me that I must figure out a better way to resolve my conflicts, and I did! By the end of that year, my eyes were opened to something new, “GIRLS”.


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My Life Is In Your Hands: by Jeff Carnie

Just As I Am

Words and Music by Jeff Carnie

 My life is in Your hands

I don’t care what this world demands

As long as I am with you I shall stand

So take me just as I am

Just as I just as I am

Just as I am I shall stand

Just as I am just as I am

Just as I am I shall stand

I will lift up my eyes to the hills

From which come my help

My help comes from you oh Lord

Which made heaven and all the earth

Just as I just as I am

Just as I am I shall stand

Just as I am just as I am

Just as I am I shall stand 

Bump de Bump  

My first song, “There Was a Boy” was written at the age of twelve. By the age of thirteen I had pinned 15 songs. These are the titles of a few of those songs, “Just as I Am”, “From All of Us to You”, “Heaven”, “Lord I Praise You”, and one of my favorites, “Peace Be Still”. Also, by the age of thirteen I had started my first band. From the moment I heard Larry Graham, I started the fast track to accomplishing my goal of becoming a musician.  My band members were, Willie on the drums, Yolleen played the piano and the guitar, and I was the bassist and lead vocalist. We traveled from church to church performing our music. In the beginning, it was a challenge convincing the churches that our group was capable and proficient enough to lead worship. Eventually, word got around about our group and we got a break; it was shortly thereafter that other churches began to contact us about playing for their congregation. I guess by definition, (receiving compensation for playing), I was now a professional musician. Although our pay was not a large sum of money, for three young kids who were living their dream, and who would have worked for free, it was a “big” deal. I remember that being a great period in my life, because I was doing what I loved, making music! 

Being a proud parent, in November of 1975, my father shared with a co-worker that I had a group that sang for different churches. This individual was a Deacon at St. Andrews Catholic Church located in Oakland, CA. He asked my father to ask me if I would be interested in singing for the Christmas Eve Mass at his church. I was so excited, I thought I had hit the big time; of course I said yes! It was decided that it would be best for me to work with their resident pianist. So plans were made for me to rehearse at St. Andrews, and meet the church’s pianist. The pianist was Richard Riley. We hit it off immediately. I played my bass and sang, while Richard accompanied me on the piano. We rehearsed the music we had chosen for the service effortlessly. It was a match made in heaven, it was a God thing! Because I was young and naïve, I didn’t realize the gravity of being given the opportunity to sing for a Catholic Mass. At that time, it was virtually unheard of the Catholic Church allowing a Protestant to lead musical worship. I now appreciate and recognize the significance of what I had accomplished; I was a pioneer in regard to breaking that particular barrier. After participating in that service, I received many offers from churches of various denominations. I recall an offer from a Catholic Sister, who worked at St. Mary’s Hospital located in Oakland. She asked if I would come and sing for the hospital the next day. I agreed, so Richard and I went and played for the patients and staff at St. Mary’s Hospital on Christmas Day. 

December 24th, 1975 was the beginning of the Carnie/Riley musical relationship, and we have been collaborating together ever since. I am grateful for the opportunities afforded me by the Catholic Church for many reasons. In February, 1976, I was approached by a young lady who attended St. Andrews, inquiring about the possibility of me singing for her upcoming summer wedding. She said she had a sister who also sang, and she wanted her to hear me sing because she valued her opinion. We scheduled an audition at St. Andrews the following Friday evening. The young lady, whose name is Harriet, arrived with her sister, I was hired that same evening to sing for her wedding. Now get this, one of the songs the bride-to-be requested to be learned for her wedding was, “One in a Million”, by Larry Graham; my inspiration for learning to play the bass guitar. Coincidence? Nah! Haha!!!!!

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For as long as I can remember, I have always been exposed to diversity. It’s now my preferred way of life. Throughout grade school, middle school, and high school, my classmates were from various economic, social, and ethnic backgrounds. Because I interacted daily with people who didn’t look like, or think like me, I gained respect and appreciation for our individual differences; this experience has richly added to the person I am today. 

In the Carnie household, sitting around being idle during the summer was not an option. My parents always sought, found, and enrolled me in some summer program. One year I participated in a photography program, another year herpetology, and perhaps the most memorable, a Jewish Community Center located in Oakland, CA. There were approximately 500 children enrolled in the program that year, and I was the only African American in the entire group; I found this to be my experience most of my life. My parents intentionally exposed me to a variety of environments because they not only wanted me to accept others; they also wanted me to feel comfortable in all situations. 

One of the counselors at the camp took a special interest in me and took me under his wings. I can’t recall his name, but his kindness left a lasting impression on me. On one occasion, he allowed me and a few of my friends to paint his Volkswagen Beetle with bold primary colors! At Jewish Camp I learned several notable things, to sing and dance in the Hebrew tradition, and to make Matzah, which is the substitute for bread during the Jewish holiday of Passover. 

That summer in an attempt to be accepted and prove that I was cool, I jumped off the high dive into the deep end of the pool. This would have worked, except for one small problem; I didn’t know how to swim. I instantly sank to the bottom of the pool. After a few moments, the lifeguard realized I wasn’t coming up, jumped in and rescued me. When I was pulled out of the water onto the deck, everyone had gathered around to see what the commotion was. You may be thinking what I did was crazy, but I wasn’t the least bit scared or embarrassed. I chose to chalk it up to one of life’s funniest moments. 

My camp experience was not all blissful. I vividly remember being called the “N” word on a regular basis. It’s one of those things that stay with you. Because I was raised with a healthy sense of confidence, I was able to overcome its sting. Besides, I was a big kid; bigger than most the kids who attended the camp. So, I decided to take my frustration to the battlefield, you know, the gridiron football field. It was there that I was able to show how really cool and tough I was. I must admit, it was satisfying to hit hard, and run over the same kids that had been so hateful. And the best part, I didn’t get in trouble for releasing my aggressions. By the end of camp, I had gained many friends, and lots of respect.  At that camp, no one ever called me out of my name again. And yes, later that summer I took a swimming class at the Jewish Camp. I learned a life’s lesson that summer. Never respond to ugly with ugly; always take the high road and allow God to work it out. Patience! 

Bump de bump!