I love the poetry of song, particularly popular song. Bill Withers has written some very good examples of love poetry. I suppose it might be regarded as setting either one of the Brownings to song. I often wonder what a good composer could do with the verses of, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.” Just the two of us, we can make it we try. Robert might have written those very words. Of course combine that with Grover Washington on sax and your record sales will soar to the top. Love songs should tug at our hearts, coming down in three part harmony. I cry just a little when he plays piano in the dark. When you just give love and never get love, your better let love depart. Since I fell for you, a standard torch song from the thirties, love brings such misery and pain, I guess I’ll never be the same. Feel the heart break, the blues, that empty feeling of unrequited love. Yes, Baby come back, you can blame it all on me. We swing and sway to the tunes, sigh and tear at the words, take on that sense of humbleness because we have all been there at one time in our lives. How would Barry White put it? Can’t get enough of your love, just not enough, just not enough. Who you gonna call when you turn the lights down low and speak in soft tomes to your baby?
Meanwhile, back to business. One of my sweetheart’s favorites is Wedding Bell Blues, don’t know why. We are still planning that marriage in France, we might get around to it one of these years (and yes, my name is Bill). I refer to it as Wedding Bill Blues. Then she kicks me. Still, we tell our lives in song. We often define ourselves by songs. I always felt that two of the Eagles tunes partially described my life; Take it to the limit, and Desperado. I don’t think there’s a song for a writer who drinks to excess and beats his wife, but maybe someone will write one. Of course I still live in that old world before hip hop and rap and could never understand punk or industrial strength noise. Rhyme that is more in sync with beat than melody never made much sense, sort of like marching. Hut, two, three, four, I’ve got a girl, who lives on the hill, she won’t do it but her sister will. Well, yeah, it’s got a beat and might pass for rap. About the same meaning. I won’t go into other marching lyrics, one just had to be there.
A little nostalgia is good for the soul, even if we never lived through those years. Someone to watch over me. Back in the old days song writers and arrangers use to write introductions to the main lyrics. Songs tell stories. There was a jazz great, I’ve forgotten his name, but he use to drive his fellow band members crazy playing country and western tunes, this was back in the forties and fifties,. The boys use to rag him about the tunes but he always said, “listen to the stories, man, listen to the stories.” So it goes, songs tell a story when we let them and are willing to listen. Sometimes it is the anger of the original rap, the agony of poverty, of drugs and addictions, of violent living. Sometimes we protest our conditions in society or we protest society itself. These tunes mirror our own feelings about not only ourselves but our feelings about society and the ideals for which we attribute to society. We may try to tie visual image to song, but it is that raw and refined emotion that touches us through our ears. We do not see the notes before our eyes, we only hear them. But hear them we do and in the most personal way. We forget that in our early lives as babies in cribs it is sound that makes sense of the world first, then sight. We may depend on sight to get around and see the world but we understand more or the world through sound. As we sit in a darken rooms we draw comfort from the sounds we may perceive, but in a lighted room with no sound we grow uneasy, unable to make sense of what we see. I may not recognize parts of San Francisco, but if I hear the cable car bell I know where I am.
But I am speaking of poetry, the poetry of life. I’ts a life we live, it’s the observations we make of life. I loved the way Thomas Hardy could provide that pensive comment on life through his bittersweet poetry. Life reflected through the choices we have made and not made. The roads not taken, as Robert Frost would so famously put it. It is really that simple or is there more thought required. Ah, that is the conundrum, isn’t it? What meaning do we weigh and what do we cast aside. In the summer time when the weather is hot, you can stretch right up and touch the sky. We love everybody but we do as we please. Well, not quite Stairway to Heaven (frankly I prefer the verse of Gillian’s Island sung to the tune) but you get the picture. Better to be dancing in the moonlight, a super natural delight, to be sure. So it is that we construct our world in terms of music, for bettor or worse. It is very difficult to conceive living without music, song with lyrics. One may have encountered mountain men in the Rocky Mountains, walking or riding along singing to themselves. We are humans and we love to make a joyful noise. From spirituals that praise whatever form of god we may worship to the common popular song that reverberates through a town’s tavern, we express in a verbal manner most melodic. It pleases our ears and salves our savage breasts, assuming we have breasts. Even men can be flat chested and rather devoid of muscle in that part of anatomy. Yes, just one toke over the line. One is the loneliest number you will ever do, two can be as bad as one, it is the saddest experience you’ll ever know. But Jeremiah was a bullfrog singing, “Joy to the world. Joy to all the girls and boys.” So we come to the beginning, These days I’ll sit on corner stones and count the time in quarter tones to ten…my friend.