365 AMERICAN JOY-GIVERS for 2021: The Leaves of Funny Grass Birthday Party

(Photo from Unsplash) 

The Great Lawn of Central Park in the middle of bustling Manhattan is the setting for “The Leaves of Funny Grass Birthday Party.” At some point in their life, all the American joy-givers attending this party have enjoyed some splendor on the grass in New York City. 

“KEEP OFF THE GRASS,” a Broadway musical revue is the party entertainment. This 1940 show was originally choreographed by George Balanchine, “The Father of American Ballet.” Tonight, the songs performed by Barbra Streisand, Lizzo, Carol Burnett and Willie Nelson include: “This Is Spring,” “On the Old Park Bench,” and “I’ll Applaud You with My Feet.” 

Jay Leno provides stand-up comedy about grass, and the free-spirited “Father of Free Verse,” Walt Whitman wows with readings from his poetry masterwork, “Leaves of Grass.” 


You sense the joy the minute your bare feet glide onto the green carpeted meadow. HOORAY FOR THE JOY-GIVERS! (Note: The comments attributed to these famous joy-givers come from words they have written or said.) 


April 24—BARBRA STREISAND (born BARBARA Joan Streisand) is a rare EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) award winner. The singer, actress and film producer has been working for seven decades. She began as a nightclub performer. “Billboard Magazine,” honored her as “The Greatest Female Performing Artist of All Time.” She has sold 68.5 million record albums, tying Mariah Carey. Ms. Streisand has nine Golden Globe awards, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She’s one of the few American joy-givers like Cher and Lassie who is so well-known is known by one name—BARBRA. 

April 25—WALT WHITMAN was a poet, essayist, sensualist and humanist. His major poetry collection, LEAVES OF GRASS, has inspired multitudes of “free verse” poets. The aspiration of his art was to exalt the common person through epic writing. During the American Civil War, he served as a nurse. A major theme of his poetry is about healing. Modernist poet, Ezra Pound, said of Whitman, “He is America.” 

April 26—CAROL BURNETT, born in San Antonio, Texas, is best known for her groundbreaking comedy variety show, “The Carol Burnett Show.” The comedian, stage/screen actress, singer and writer has a television career that spans seven decades. She is recognized as “one of America’s most-cherished entertainers” and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by her fellow Texan, President George W. Bush. She has been given our country’s highest award for humor, the Mark Twain Prize. 

April 27—LIZZO, Melissa Viviane Jefferson, was named “Time Magazine’s Entertainer of the Year” for 2019. This singer, rapper, songwriter and…get this…flutist, attained mainstream success with her third album, “Cuz I Love You.” Lizzo already has three Grammy Awards and a BET Award. For some new joy this week, search YouTube for her urban pop singles: “Juice,” “Tempo,” “Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell.” Lizzobangers, her fans, get the whole place rockin’ to “Big Grrrl Small World.” 

April 28—JAY LENO is a television host, comic and writer. He did “stand-up comedy” for many years and became host of NBC television’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992 to 2009. He is inducted into the “Television Hall of Fame.” Leno writes a regular magazine column titled “Motormouth” which highlights his car collection and offers automotive advice. 

April 29—WILLIE NELSON is a musician, songwriter, actor, activist and one of the most-treasured artists in country music. Willie calls country music, “Three chords and the truth.” He wrote his first song at age 7 and joined a band at age 10. During high school, Willie toured with a group called, “Bohemian Polka.” Among the song hits he penned are: “Funny How Time Slips Away,” “Hello Walls,” “Pretty Paper” and a giant hit for Patsy Cline— “Crazy.” Per Grammy.com, Willie Nelson has had 52 nominations and 10 wins. 

April 30—GEORGE BALANCHINE (born Georgiy Melitonovich Balanchivadze), invented American ballet. The Russian-American dancer/choreographer was the co-founder of the New York City Ballet. He was known for his musicality, expressing music with dance and working extensively with leading, contemporary composers. He received these awards: the French Legion d’honneur, Kennedy Center Honors, Austrian Decoration for Science and Art, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (USA) and inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. Oh, also a crater on the planet, Mercury, was named in his honor. 


“Do anything, but let it produce joy.”—Walt Whitman 

“I don’t care what you say about me, just be sure to spell my name wrong.”—Barbra Streisand 

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.”—Walt Whitman 

“When you have a dream, you’ve got to grab it and never let go.”—Carol Burnett 

“If he don’t love you anymore, just walk your fine ass out the door.”—Lizzo 

“You can’t stay mad at somebody who makes you laugh.”—Jay Leno 

“God has blessed you richly, so get down on your knees and thank him. Don’t forget the less fortunate or God will personally kick your ass. I’d love to do it for Him, but I can’t be everywhere.”—Willie Nelson 

“If you don’t feel challenged, it’s because you are not doing enough. Comfortable is lazy.”—George Balanchine  

“I’m not weird, just different from people who aren’t different.”—Barbra Streisand 

“Keep your face always toward the sunshine—and shadows will fall behind you.”—Walt Whitman 

“Comedy=Tragedy + Time.”—Carol Burnett 

“Growing up is being less childish and more child-like.”—Lizzo 

“Here’s something to think about: How come you never see a headline like: “Psychic Wins Lottery.”—Jay Leno 

“Indecision may or may not be our biggest problem.”—Willie Nelson 

“Music must be seen and dance must be heard.”—George Balanchine 

I’m not a legend. I’m a work in progress.”—Barbra Streisand 

“We were together. I forget the rest.”—Walt Whitman 

“No one ever said life was fair. Just eventful.”—Carol Burnett 

“You know you’re a star, you can touch the sky.”—Lizzo 

“Scientists think they can now clone an all-white zebra. Now, I’m no expert, but isn’t that a horse?”—Jay Leno 

“If you can be content right now, then you’ll always be content, because it’s always right now.”—Willie Nelson 

“Why are you stingy with yourselves? Why are you holding back? What are you saving for—for another time? There are no other times. There is only now. Right now.”—George Balanchine 

“Art does not exist only to entertain, but also to challenge one to think, to provoke, even to disturb, in a constant search for truth.”—Barbra Streisand 

“Every moment of every day is an unspeakably perfect miracle.”—Walt Whitman 

“Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head.”—Carol Burnett 

“Thick thighs save lives.”—Lizzo 

“According to a new survey, 90% of men say their lover is also their best friend. This is kind of disturbing when you consider man’s best friend is his dog.”—Jay Leno 

“Do you know why divorces are so expensive? Because, they’re worth it.”—Willie Nelson 

“I’ve got more energy in old age than when I was younger because I know exactly what I want to do.”—George Balanchine 

“Just SCREAM! You vent, and the body just feels good after a good old yell.”—Carol Burnett 

“I like simple things like elastic waists, so I can eat.”—Barbra Streisand 

No, I’m not a snack at all. Look baby, I’m the whole damn meal.”—Lizzo 

“Thanksgiving, when the Indians said, “Well, this has been fun, but we know you have a long voyage back to England.”—Jay Leno 

“When evolution has been outlawed, only the outlaws will evolve.”—Willie Nelson 

“God create, I do not create. I assemble and I steal for everywhere to do it.”—George Balanchine 

“I’m the best audience one could find. I love to laugh.”—Carol Burnett 


APPETIZER—Barbra Streisand Lemongrass Prawns (epicurious.com) 

SALAD—Jay Leno Bluegrass Salad (myrecipes.com) 

ENTRÉE—Willie Nelson GrassFed Goat with Goat Island Beer (recipe below) 

SIDE DISH—Lizzo Pho You with Lemongrass (allrecipes.com) 

BREAD—Carol Burnett’s Mama’s Family Grass Bread (thefreshloaf.com) 

BEVERAGE—Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass Herbal Cocktail (mr.bostondrinks.com) 

DESSERT—George Balanchine White Russian Mini-Trifle (yummly.com) 

ONE TO GROW ON—We will have to wait until June 29, 2021 for this book to be published but it sure promises to be worth it. Titled “Willie Nelson’s Letters to America” and co-created with Turk Pipkin, this hardcover-only book begins with Willie’s “Dear America” letter, and closes with “Dear Willie,” a letter to himself. Willie Nelson wrote this new book to give hope to the country he loves as we prevail through hard times. He honors his personal heroes and heroines from our founders to the present and beyond. “Willie Nelson’s Letters to America” will be a very popular gift for the 2021 holidays. 

As “The Leaves of Funny Grass Birthday Party” celebrants were readying to hit the road, Willie Nelson winked and said, “God knows I love this grass.” He gestured to the lush greensward which the Central Park landscape designers, Olmstead and Vaux, originally created as a meadow to be mown by sheep and goats. Then, Willie, “The Red-Headed Stranger,” picked up his guitar and got everybody up and moving with this tune… “On the road again, goin’ places that we’ve never been. Seein’ things that we may never see again, and we can’t wait to get on the road again.” 



                                            (Source: americangrassfed.org) 


  • Goat roast large enough to serve 4-6 people 
  • 1 bottle of Goat Island Brewery Richter’s Pilsner 
  • 1 tsp black pepper 
  • 3-4 cloves garlic 
  • 1 onion 
  • 2 tsp sugar 
  • Juice of one lemon 
  • Salt to taste 


Grind up the garlic, onion, sugar, pepper and salt with the lemon juice in a blender. Then, mix with the beer. 

Marinate the meat in this mixture overnight. 

Bake at 375F for 2-3 hours (depending on the size of the goat roast) until tender, basting with the juices periodically during the cooking time. 

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Ben South