Monday, February 14, 2011

Now I'll never see heaven or home

Some longer pieces about CPAC '11 are in the works, but in the meantime I figured I'd take a cue from Leah and give you some songs to mull over this Valentine's Day (will I ever turn down an excuse to beat you over the head with Tom Waits?).

I'd like to start with what I always think of as a collapsitarian love song: "Tables and Chairs" by Andrew Bird.

"I know we're going to meet some day
in the crumbled financial institutions of this land.
There will be tables and chairs,
there'll be pony rides and dancing bears,
there'll even be a band,
'cause listen, after the fall there will be no more countries,
no currencies at all, we're gonna live on our wits,
we're gonna throw away survival kits,
trade butterfly-knives for Adderall.
And we were tired of being mild,
we were so tired of being mild,
and we were so tired..."

Next up: a traditional American folksong that apparently dates to the War of Forced Industrialization, "Lorena". I first learned this singing Jeff Douma's arrangement with the Yale Glee Club, and there are many variations. I've embedded Kent Stewart's version.

The beautifully haunting melody aside (not to mention its eminent singability, a quality many modern love songs, thanks to divas and autotune, fail to achieve), I've always loved how this song deals with duty, fate, and memory. As with most folksongs, there is no canonical list of verses, but here are some of my favorites:

"We loved each other then, Lorena,
more than we ever dared to tell,
and what we might have been, Lorena,
had but our loving prospered well.
But then, 'tis past, the years have gone,
I'll not call up their shadowy forms.
I'll say to them, 'Lost years, sleep on,
Sleep on, nor heed life's bitter storms.'

The story of the past, Lorena,
Alas! I care not to repeat.
The hopes that could not last, Lorena,
they lived, but only lived to cheat.
I would not cause e'en one regret
to rankle in your bosom now,
'For if we try we may forget,'
were words of thine long years ago.

Yes, these were words of thine, Lorena,
they are within my memory yet.
They touched some tender chords, Lorena,
which thrill and tremble with regret.
'twas not thy woman's heart which spoke,
thy heart was always true to me.
A duty stern and pressing broke
the tie which linked my soul with thee."

Fast forward about 150 years and we arrive at Chester French's "She Loves Everybody", which did very well on the charts in 2009.

"But you feel so clean!
Well she craves affection,
so I use protection.
And I know she loves me-
she loves everybody."

Speaks for itself.

If I can be sappy for a moment, I have to pimp Ingrid Michaelson's cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love", which is actually heartbreaking.

And the grand finale... I must admit I had a hell of a time picking just one Tom Waits song for this post, but in the end it was always "Lucinda".

Death by hanging, unforgivable and unspeakable transgressions, the criminal underworld, sacrificial love, all tied together with a beat that evokes alternately the last wheezes of a 19th century locomotive or the weary axe falls of a chain gang.

"Well, they call me William the Pleaser,
I sold opium, fireworks and lead.
Now I'm telling my troubles to strangers,
when the shadows get long I'll be dead.

Now, her hair was as black as a bucket of tar,
skin as white as a cuttlefish bone...
I left Texas to follow Lucinda,
now I'll never see heaven or home.
As I kick at the clouds at my hanging,
as I swing out over the crowd,
I will search every face for Lucinda's
and she will go off with me down to hell.

I thought I'd broke loose of Lucinda,
the rain returned and so did the wind.
I cast this burden on the god that's within me,
and I'll leave this old world and go free.
Now I've fallen from grace for Lucinda,
whoever thought that hell be'd so cold?
I did well for an old tin can sailor,
but she wanted the bell in my soul.

I've spoken to the god on the mountain,
and I've swam in the Irish sea,
I ate fire and drank from the Ganges,
and I'll beg there for mercy for me."

So, happy Saint Valentine's day! If, like me, you are single, "just remember that being alone on Valentine's Day is no different than any other day of your life."

1 comment:

  1. I remember the YGC "Lorena." I really liked it! Nice picks.