Wordsmithing and storytelling

“He went to Paris, looking for answers to questions that bothered him so.

He was impressive, young and aggressive, saving the world on his own.

But, warm summer breezes and French wines and cheeses, put his ambition at bay,

And, summers and winters, they scattered like splinters and four or five years slipped away.”

This is the opening stanza to my favorite Jimmy Buffett song, whose title is in the first line “He went to Paris.”  The wordsmithing and storytelling of this song is so engaging and I love how easily Buffett sings it to let the story unfold.

Another song I adore is written by Kenny Loggins  as a tribute to his brother Colin and his first child called “Danny’s Song.” It was made popular by Anne Murray, but I enjoy the Loggins and Messina version a little more. The last stanza defines my wife which is a key reason for my enjoyment.

“Love a girl who holds the world in a paper-cup.

Drink it up, love her and she’ll bring you luck.

And, if you find she helps your mind, you better take her home.

Don’t you live alone, try to earn what lover’s own.”

Words and music. I enjoy a nice instrumental, but to me the words matter, especially when they tell a story.

A final taste is courtesy of Jim Croce in a less known song called “Lover’s Cross.” Here is the opening stanza.

“They said it was bound to happen.

It was just a matter of time.

Well, I have come to my decision

And, it is one of those painful kind.

Well, it seems that you wanted a martyr,

And, that is the one thing I just couldn’t do,

Cause, baby I can’t hang upon a lover’s cross for you.”

These three songs are from a small number I can sing word for word. You will laugh, but I would sing them to my kids as I rocked them to sleep, as I grew quickly tired of nursery rhymes. Gordon Lightfoot, David Gates and The Beatles also lend themselves well to such a mission.

The lyrics I typed are from memory, so there is a chance they are not exactly correct. What are some of your favorites where the lyrics come easily to you?

 

Glen Campbell: Good Times Again

Last night, I caught a melancholy show where Glen Campbell took us back to the many guests he had on his TV show. Not unlike, a similar review for Johnny Cash, Campbell had a wide variety of talented performers with whom he sang duets .

Fortunately, Campbell narrates the show which was filmed in 2007 before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Ironically, one of his guests was Linda Ronstadt who now has Parkinson’s Disease, so their duet of a James Taylor song “Carolina on my Mind” was especially poignant, with it such a reflective song.

He noted he likes harmonizing with female singers. He said he could sing under their voice more easily. In particular, he and Bobbi Gentry were so good together, they cut an album. They sang a beautiful rendition of “Let it be me” where there was obvious affection between the two, be it friendship or perhaps more. Maybe, that was the selling of the song, but their interaction made it special.

He also had memorable duets with Cher (“Just let me be Friends with you“) and Anne Murray (Don’t think twice, it’s alright”). He sang with Ray Charles, Ricky Nelson, B J Thomas, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, as well. He noted his friendship with Nelson dated back to when he played guitar on Nelson’s albums. They sang a terrific rendition of “Louisiana Man.”

Additionally, the show was peppered with his own hits such as “Galveston,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Gentle on my Mind,” the theme from “True Grit” and “By the Time I get to Phoenix.” What was especially nice about “Gentle on my Mind,” was he played with the writer of the song, John Hartford. That is very gracious to bring on the songwriter to play and sing with him. He also had a nice story about meeting John Wayne, whose daughter was a big fan. Through this meeting, he was asked by Wayne to act in the movie “True Grit.”

But, when you see him play, you are reminded that he is quite a good guitarist having played as a session musician on many albums as a member of the Wrecking Crew, a studio house band for Phil Specter’s wall of sound concept. He did several guitar licks while singing with his guests or on his own songs.

Since my parents watched the shows when they first aired, it was like stepping back into my childhood. Back then, you only had three choices on TV, so you watched as a family. If you have not seen the review show, it is worth the time. So, give it a peek.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman

One of my favorite Cat Stevens songs is “I’m Looking for a Hard Headed Woman.” I tease my wife (and she returns the favor) about being hard-headed. But, if you look at the lyrics of this song, you will note that Stevens is singing about looking for someone who is real and not contrived. He wants someone who is hard-headed about being true to herself and seeking the same in her partner.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will take me for myself,
And if I find my hard headed woman,
I won’t need nobody else, no, no, no.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me do my best,
And if I find my hard headed woman
I know the rest of my life will be blessed — yes, yes, yes.

I know a lot of fancy dancers,
People who can glide you on a floor,
They move so smooth but have no answers.
When you ask “Why’d you come here for?”
“I don’t know” “Why?”

I know many fine feathered friends
But their friendliness depends on how you do.
They know many sure fired ways
To find out the one who pays
And how you do.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me feel so good,
And if I find my hard headed woman,
I know my life will be as it should — yes, yes, yes.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me do my best,
And if I find my hard headed woman…

Two lines jump out at me in the song, one in the beginning and one in the end. First, he says “one who will take me for myself.” He does not want someone trying to make him into something he is not. Yet, in the final stanza, he sings “one who will make me do my best.”  He wants a partner that will help bring out the best in him. He wants his lover to believe in him and help him do the best he can. To me, that is what having the right life partner is all about.

I have used two other songs to describe my wife of twenty-eight years .In the Loggins and Messina version of “Danny’s Song” written by Anne Murray, they sing in the last stanza “Love a girl who holds the world in a paper cup, drink it up, love her and she’ll bring you luck. And, if you find she helps your mind, you better take her home, don’t you live alone, try to earn what lover’s own.” Holding the world in a paper cup is a terrific metaphor for someone who is genuine, such as my wife.

The other is from Gordon Lightfoot, “Rainy Day People.” He sings “Rainy day people, always seem to know when it’s time to call. Rainy day people don’t talk, they just listen until they’ve heard it all.” My wife is the best of listeners. In fact, she would rather hear you talk about yourself, than the other way around. And, it is raining right now and she is out helping a friend, which is not unusual.

Like Stevens sings about, once he finds the hard headed woman, his life will be blessed. My wife is one who holds the world in a paper cup and knows when it is time to call. Thank goodness she is also hard-headed, as well. For I am blessed.

My bride is easily the better half

My wife of twenty-seven years gets annoyed with me when she hears me describe her this way, but she is easily the better half of our marriage. She gets annoyed as she detests being the center of attention and does not like being put on any pedestal. Since it is her birthday this weekend (“I don’t celebrate those anymore” she says,” but I will accept presents”), I wanted to share with you how lucky I am to have her by my side.

Some of you have heard me describe my wife as the person in the last verse of “Danny”s Song” written by Kenny Loggins, but made famous by Anne Murray.

Love a girl who holds the world in a paper cup, drink it up, love her and she’ll bring you luck.

And, if you find she helps your mind, you better take her home, yea, don’t you live alone, try to earn what lovers’ own.

When our daughter asks what these lines mean, I tell her that her mom is someone who does not have any airs. She is the kind of person who can drink wine out of a paper cup and not care what people think. She is the kind of person that will listen to your troubles and ease your mind.  So, as the song says, if you find someone who will ease your mind, you better take her (or him) home. The final line of “try to earn what lovers’ own” is what it is all about. It is not about possession folks, although we have some. It is about relationships. That is what truly wealthy people have.

My wife collects relationships. She is a great listener and people will tell her their troubles. Sometimes, they tell her too many, too often and it wears her out. She tries her darndest not to let other people’s’ problems become hers, but she is so empathetic it is hard for her. That is where I come in. I try to encourage her to limit exposure to some who will truly suck the life out of her. They are kind of like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh.

People like audiences and my wife is an excellent one. I was sharing this with one of my colleagues, who is more introverted than extroverted. She said your wife and I are a lot alike. You would think my wife is extroverted when you meet her, but she would rather ask you questions and let you talk, rather than talk about herself.  My colleague said, “I would much rather get someone else talking than talk about myself.” My wife can be extroverted at times with the right audience (and sometimes with enough wine in paper cups), but for the most part she would rather listen. And, if I ever threw her a surprise party, I would likely be in the dog house for a long while.

I have also referenced Gordon Lightfoot’s song “Rainy Day People,” in describing my wife. As the song goes, “rainy day people always seem to know when it’s time to call.” My wife has a sense when she has not talked to someone in a while, be it my mom, a friend, her sister or one of our other close relatives. She truly brightens their day, as I have talked to some afterwards. They do the same when they call her, except if it is an Eeyore with a problem in need of a lengthy audience. I say that somewhat in jest, as she does get a lot out of these relationships. Yet, that is my litmus test with her. I say “are you getting something from this relationship? If not, then maybe you need to alter its terms.” She has had a few major Eeyores in her life where she needed to provide some distance for her own sanity.

My wife is also a wonderful wife and mother. She is there for me and our family of three, two boys and a girl. I enjoy watching her interact with our children. It is truly a joy, as she will let them talk. Our kids tell us (and her mostly) things most kids probably do not tell their parents. We would have never told our parents some of those things. But, we both say we would rather they tell us than not. We know when a problem exists. And, kids are exposed to so many more bad influences than we ever were growing up. We also have tried to have a house where our children’s friends are welcome. It does make it chaotic and messy at times, but we would not trade those moments for the world. And, for future parents, the greatest sound in the world is to hear your children laughing, in general, but especially with their friends. 

Let me close with something I should have said earlier. We also have made many mistakes and do get mad at each other. For younger couples starting out, you will get mad at each other. That happens. You need to work through any conflicts. Marriage is hard work. Try to keep your sense of humor and try not to stay angry too long. Talk it through when you have cooled down. Try never to say something in anger you will regret later. And, we have made parenting mistakes and will likely make some in the future.  We have hopefully learned from most of them. While we don’t have many rules, we have two big ones – treat each other like you want to be treated and try to have dinner together. This last one may not seem important, but it is huge. We even linger around the table more chatting about events of the day, funny stories, etc.

So, for my lovely bride happy birthday, sweetie. You are the best. We aren’t perfect, but we are doing alright.