Let That Bird Fly Away

Let That Bird Fly Away_Moment3

This is not a song about birds, not even in the Swingin’ Sixties British sense of the word. This is a song about letting go.

Getting old is the process of letting go but some things are harder to let go of than others, and sometimes they follow you into your dreams.

This is one of those songs you’ve heard about where the writer wakes from a dream with the song in his head. I brought the phrase and melody with me from the dreamworld and went right from the bed to the piano to work it out.

The videos within the video are some of my recent observations…

Let that bird fly away
Find a new kind of inspiration
Don’t keep her in that cage
Not in that cage or any other
Let that bird fly away

She’s brushing back her hair
from eyes that hold another world
of possibilities,
realities and mysteries
Let that bird fly away

Let that bird fly
Let that bird fly
Let that bird fly away

There’s more for you to see
Places that you can’t imagine
There’s more for you to be
There’s more pieces to this puzzle
Let that bird fly away
Let That Bird Fly Away_Moment5

I’m Not Afraid (live)

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s noticed that these are kind of dark times in some ways. There’s a lot of anger and hate in the air, you can feel it, people are…everybody seems like they’re pissed off. I hear people yelling on the streets, at each other, and it can be discouraging, of course. It just feels like everybody’s got their back up against the wall and nobody feels understood or appreciated. Everyone’s brittle and it feels like it’s just going to take one spark to set off cascading tragedies. But, at the same time, there are advances in medicine, and communications, and energy, and almost every field, that we can’t even keep up with, that I believe is going to usher in a better world, the world that philosophers from Jesus to Ringo have been telling us about – a world of peace and love. Peace and love – it’s coming. I believe it’s coming. But before we get there we’re going to have to tear down some very old, very thick, very stubborn walls of bigotry and hate. And the oldest and thickest and stubbornest is probably the wall of fear so I think one of the best things we can do in times like these is to say – or to sing – I’m Not Afraid. That’s the name of this song…

I’m afraid of losing you
I’m afraid to lose me too
I’m afraid to hurt the people I love
But I’m not afraid of anything else

I’m not afraid of crazy people
Hateful, angry, violent people
Powerful people or the people who crave it
People who want to blow the world up to save it

I’m not afraid

I’m not afraid to hear the truth
Tell me anything you want to
Tell me how I drive you nuts
Tell me why you hate my guts

I’m not afraid to lay with you
To work, or fight, or play with you
I’m not afraid of unhappy endings
Or starting all over again

I’m not afraid

I’m afraid of losing you
I’m afraid to lose me too
I’m afraid to hurt the people I love
But I’m not afraid of anything else

 

 

I Love You So Bad It Hurts (live)

i love you so bad it hurts 2_Moment3

I got two girls
One’s in heaven and one’s below
One I love with all my heart
And one I do not know

Townes Van Sandt

I didn’t know it as I was writing this song but it turns out to be about two women, with the verses alternating between thoughts of each of them. There’s something that fascinates me about the painful parts of love because even when it hurts, it feels so much better than anything else. Although Vinnie’s lead on this song feels pretty good too.

 

I love you so bad it hurts
with a kind of pain that I don’t mind at all
I love you so bad it hurts

I love you so much I don’t
have anything left for anyone else
I love you so much I don’t

I love you so much I can’t
drink enough so I can forget
the way your love burns like a lit cigarette
but I love you so much I’ll never regret
That I love you so much I can’t

I’ve loved you so long I can’t see
all the way back to the morning before
my love came knocking around at your door
and I might as well admit that I’m yours
I’ve loved you so long I can’t see

Robert Hunter 1941-2019

Fare you well my honey
Fare you well my only true love
All the birds that were singing
have flown, except you alone

robert-hunter-blakesberg-1200x632
Photo by Jay Blakesberg

I am not qualified to call myself a Deadhead in the same way that I am not qualified to call myself a Christian. To be a Christian you need to believe in the divinity of Christ, and to be a Deadhead your favorite band needs to be the Grateful Dead. Still, I am a great admirer of both entities and in part due to the same thing: their words. Jesus wrote The Lord’s Prayer and The Sermon on the Mount, stone cold classics in any book. Many, if not most, of the greatest lyrics of the Grateful Dead were written by Robert Hunter.

In the early days of rock music when artists like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Buddy Holly did something that set them apart from most popular music of their time. They played and sang songs that they also wrote. For the next few decades most of rock’s lyricists were also musicians and/or singers. Robert Hunter, along with a few notable contemporaries like Eddie Holland and Bernie Taupin, left his mark on music history through words alone.

On the Dead’s third album, Aoxomoxoa, there are listings for The Band, The Supporting Musicians, and The Crew. Under the last heading is the line “The Words – Robert Hunter.” By their sixth album, American Beauty, seven names are listed as The Dead – the six musicians in the band and “Robert Hunter – songwriter.”

The inspiration behind songwriting is as close to divinity as anything I have experienced. As it was for Hunter, who remembers one sacred afternoon holed up in a hotel room with a bottle of booze and his muse this way:

Once in a while something would sort of pop out of nowhere. The sunny London afternoon I wrote ‘Brokedown Palace,’ ‘To Lay Me Down,’ and ‘Ripple,’ all keepers, was in no way typical, but it remains in my mind as the personal quintessence of the union between writer and Muse, a promising past and bright future prospects melding into one great glowing apocatastasis in South Kensington, writing words that seemed to flow like molten gold onto parchment paper.

In the swirling events of this season from the global (climate disasters) to the national (impeachment) to the local (Yankee playoffs) to the personal (some heavy shit), it is easy to lose track of the radar blip that was the news of Robert Hunter’s death. Lyricists of his caliber are so rare that those of us who love this music will be doing ourselves a favor if we block out the rest of the distractions in our life for a few minutes and meditate on the work of this man’s life.

Fare you well, my honey,
fare you well my only true one.
All the birds that were singing
are flown, except you alone.
Going to leave this brokedown palace,
On my hand and knees, i will roll, roll, roll
Make myself a bed by the waterside,
In my time, in my time I will roll, roll roll
In a bed, in a bed,
by the waterside I will lay my head.
Listen to the river sing sweet songs
to rock my soul
River going to take me
sing me sweet and sleepy
sing me sweet and sleepy all the way back home
Sing a lullaby beside the water
Lovers come and go, the river roll, roll, roll
Fare you well, fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul
Going to plant a weeping willow
On the bank’s green edge it will grow, grow, grow
It’s a far gone lullaby, sung many years ago
Mama, mama many worlds I’ve come since i first left home
Going home, going home, by the riverside i will rest my bones
Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul
Fare you well, fare you well
I love you more than words can tell
Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul

 

Lucky Man

luck
Illustration by Michele Marconi

 

Are you what is called a lucky man? Well, you are sad every day. Each day has its great grief or its little care. Yesterday you were trembling for the health of one who is dear to you, today you fear for your own; tomorrow it will be an anxiety about money, the next day the slanders of a calumniator, the day after the misfortune of a friend; then the weather, then something broken or lost, then a pleasure for which you are reproached by your conscience or your vertebral column; another time, the course of public affairs. Not to mention heartaches. And so on. One cloud is dissipated, another gathers. Hardly one day in a hundred of unbroken joy and sunshine. And you are of that small number who are lucky! As for other men, stagnant night is upon them.  

Victor Hugo

He had white horses
And ladies by the score
All dressed in satin
And waiting by the door

What a lucky man he was

White lace and feathers
They made up his bed
A gold covered mattress
On which he was laid

What a lucky man he was

He went to fight wars
For his country and his king
Of his honor and his glory
The people would sing

What a lucky man he was

A bullet had found him
His blood ran as he cried
No money could save him
So he laid down and he died

What a lucky man he was

Citysketch: A saxophone in the park

I bought a sketchbook on my way to work yesterday and needed to break it in with a quick sketch. At lunch I went to Central Park and came across this man playing saxophone. It finally feels like winter has retreated and left behind hopes for better days ahead. The melody is All The Way, written by Jimmy Van Heusen and made famous by Frank Sinatra’s 1957 recording.

Fun fact: In 1953, Sinatra slit his wrist in a suicide attempt, distraught over his divorce from Ava Gardner, and it was Van Heusen who rushed him to the hospital.

The lyrics to All The Way were written by Sammy Cahn:

When somebody loves you
It’s no good unless he loves you all the way
Happy to be near you
When you need someone to cheer you all the way
Taller than the tallest tree is
That’s how it’s got to feel
Deeper than the deep blue see is
That’s how deep it goes, if it’s real
When somebody needs you
It’s no good unless he needs you all the way
Through the good or lean years
And for all the in-between years come what may
Who knows where the road will lead us?
Only a fool would say
But if you’ll let me love you
It’s for sure I’m gonna love you all the way

Slit Skirts

townshend

Aging gracefully is one of the great challenges in the life of a rock’n’roller. Many artists have pissed away their maturity chasing the tail of their youth. Just as many have gone to an early grave without having to confront the challenge. Then there are the few who tackle it head-on.

Pete Townshend was a great help to me when I was a teenager. He found words for thoughts I was too inarticulate to express. His band’s Quadrophenia was blaring in the background of my first kiss. And as he got older he found words to express the bittersweet nature of aging.

 Slit Skirts, from Townshend’s 1982 album All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes takes on the subject with his usual musical bravado and some unusually literary lyrics.

Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts…

I was just thirty-four years old and I was still wandering in a haze
I was wondering why everyone I met seemed like they were
Lost in a maze
I don’t know why I thought I should have some kind of
Divine right to the blues
It’s sympathy not tears people need when they’re the
Front page sad news.
.
The incense burned away and the stench began to rise
And lovers now estranged avoided catching each others’ eyes
And girls who lost their children cursed the men who fit the coil
And men not fit for marriage took their refuge in the oil
No one respects the flame quite like the fool who’s badly burned
From all this you’d imagine that there must be something learned
.
Slit skirts, Jeanie never wears those slit skirts
I don’t ever wear no ripped shirts
Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts.
Knee pants, Jeanie never wears no knee pants
Have to be so drunk to try a new dance
So afraid of every new romance
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
Romance, romance, why aren’t we thinking up romance?
Why can’t we drink it up true heart romance
Just need a brief new romance
.
Let me tell you some more about myself,
you know I’m sitting at home just now.
The big events of the day are passed
and the late TV shows have come around.
I’m number one in the home team, but I still feel unfulfilled.
A silent voice in her broken heart complaining that I’m unskilled.
And I know that when she thinks of me, she thinks of me as him,
But, unlike me, she don’t work off her frustration in the gym.
Recriminations fester and the past can never change
A woman’s expectations run from both ends of the range
Once she walked with untamed lovers’ face between her legs
Now he’s cooled and stifled and it’s she who has to beg
.
Slit skirts, Jeanie never wears those slit skirts
And I don’t ever wear no ripped shirts
Can’t pretend that growing older never hurts
Knee pants, Jeanie never wears no knee pants
We have to be so drunk to try a new dance
So afraid of every new romance
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
.
Slit skirts, slit skirt
Jeanie isn’t wearing those slit skirts, slit skirt
She wouldn’t dare in those slit skirts, slit skirt
Wouldn’t be seen dead in no slit skirt
Romance, romance, why aren’t we thinking up romance?
Why can’t we drink it up true heart romance
Just need a brief new romance