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Otium cum Dignitatae

Monday, August 15, 2005

The songs that saved your Life

The last few years have been rough, to put it lightly. The decline of indicator species on the planet has mirrored the decline of indicatory good things in my life, and the world stage itself seems to be entirely run by nutjobs hardly unparalelled in history, but unique as far as my lifetime goes.
What we need is a song. There is a song written by one Steven Morrisey, of the band The Smiths, circa 1988 or so, that is entirely comprised of a monologue about the primary role songs play in our lives: "But don't forget the songs that made you cry/and the ones that saved your life/yes you're older now/and you're a clever swine/but they were the only ones that ever stood by you."
Quite so. I once attempted to make a list of the songs that saved my life, but I'm not going to keep on with the list-mania that has sort of ruled my posts of late.
I was just listening to Nick Cave's "The Lyre of Orpheus" album a little bit ago, while doing the dishes. Good old Orpheus is all too familiar to we who have spent too much of their lives reading mythology, and artists all over western civ. are fond of invoking his name when they are in the mood to maunder about being An Artist. Something big must have happened to old Nick in the last few years; either he fell in love, or he found God, or both. Most of the songs on that album (and its sister album, "Abbatoir Blues") are addressed to either the love of his life, or God, the way many of the best love songs are: you can't tell.
There's one on there where he says: "Everything is collapsing babe/all moral sense has gone/it's just history repeating itself/and babe, you turn me on." I love what he's doing there: apocalypse! Apocalypse! But it's always been this way, and-heeeyyy...
At this moment, I'm listening to "You Forgot It In People", by Broken Social Scene. The song playing right now is 'Looks Just Like The Sun', which is an imperfect piece, left with its guts and struts showing: you can hear a door close in the background at one point, and someone is saying, "Keep going. On one...two..." You get to see inside their heads as they make this statement about how there is the beauty, and it is sometimes a lie, but sometimes the lie is all that keeps us going. It is the prerogative of fools and children to point out that the emperor ain't currently wearing anything: the rest of us came to that conclusion a long time ago.
As I've said too many times: the one thing I can think of that all religions (and all those who are not religious) have in common is the notion that this world we inhabit is incurably fucked and evil. Nonetheless, that isn't a reason not to try, as I think most of the above-mentioned ultimately decide. And don't forget: people are flawed vessels, yes, but they're capable of things that are pure magic, and are holy, in the highest sense. The title "You Forgot It In People" is a warning, and a reminder. Don't forget.
The song that springs to mind right now (and there's way too many of them, but...) is "These Days", by R.E.M. It was released back in the early '80's, when the activist consciousness was reawakening, after slumbering for much of the '70's. We looked around, noticed that there were still many battles to be fought: demons only sleep.
I nearly suggested to Howard Dean last summer that he needed to adopt this song as his anthem (much as Bill Clinton adopted "Don't Stop (Dreaming About Tomorrow)" by Fleetwood Mac, a shrewd choice by a shrewd man). This was when a large number of us realized that the Clinton legacy was all lies and smoke, and the last thing we needed was another Democrat who claimed he was a centrist, then turned around and did everything the Republicans had been wanting to do for twelve years (welfare 'reform', the 'Defense of Marriage' act, NAFTA, the mishandling of a national health plan, etc.). We knew that Al Gore was a hideously bad choice, and Kerry couldn't get elected dogcatcher in a county entirely populated by cats, and anyway...
Well, the chorus goes like this:
"By accepting nature's burden (I think that's what it says), we are young despite the years. We are concerned. We are young, despite the times."
Funny thing is, "nature's burden" to one side, like all great art, it says the same thing to all people, regardless of ideology. If you knock out the part about nature and put in 'God', you've got something evangelicals everywhere could sing. It appeals to liberals too, in that it suggests the eternal youth at least espoused by the remains of the '60's movement.
Ahh, but old Howard got done in by the Democratic Leadership Council, and the media. I dunno. Maybe I'll get my way and Bill Richardson will run, and I'll tell him to use the song.
Oh hey-the best epitaph for Peter Jennings that I've seen yet is this one, tacked on to the end of 'The Daily Show' the other evening: Jon Stewart and Peter Jennings are seated side by side, both reading Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation.
Jennings says, "I mean, it's impolite to laugh, but..."
Stewart says, "It's like it was written by a little kid!"
I laughed out loud; something I rarely do.



Blogger carrier said...

Bro, the line is "Fly to carry each his burden." I'm not sure what that means, but the funny thing is the song is from an album titled "Life's Rich Pageant." Funny because you are of course...Rich.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

This comment looked lonesome here all but its ... lonseime. Now it has a companion. :-) ... Notice that I have alugged out of the Slough of Despondency over at my joint. ...

6:06 PM  
Blogger Erudite Redneck said...

damn it: slugged.

6:06 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

"Fly to carry each his burden". Beautiful. Almost biblical in its choice of tense.
The chorus, of course, is:
"Ohhh...Sunny out these days. Have big problems; take this joy, wherever, wherever you go."
At least I think that's what it is. Carrier, you seem to have found a lyrics website or something that told you the goods. "Life's Rich Pageant", I'm told, is a quote from the Pink Panther movies.

9:09 PM  
Blogger carrier said...

The miracle of the internet. I've cleared up many a mystery lyric in this way. Turns out CCR wasn't giving bathroom directions after all.

10:03 PM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

Hm. Yer up watching "Law and Order" too, huh?

10:22 PM  
Blogger carrier said...

You lost me on that one. I hit the hay shortly after that post and a bit of scribbling over at C1. Couldn't wait to get into bed with Mr. Kesey's Sailor Song.

Actually I've never watched Law and Order. But I remember when I was a kid that Dick Tracey retired from being a cop and opened a garden shop named...Lawn Order. What is the price of tea in China? Time to deliver the U.S. mail.

6:34 AM  
Blogger rich bachelor said...

And of course, I slaughtered that chorus completely: the other half is "We have hope despite the times."

2:55 PM  

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