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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

Tune o’ the Day

Everybody knows the rock classic “I Fought the Law,” in which an inmate explains how he ended up in the slammer. The song was written, ironically enough, by a Texas 21-year-old with a clean record.

That Texan is musician Sonny Curtis, who in 1959 became lead singer/guitarist of The Crickets after the death of Buddy Holly.

The Crickets recorded “I Fought the Law” in 1960, and it went nowhere. Then, in 1965, the tune was covered by the Bobby Fuller Four, another popular regional band. This time, it got national attention.

Curtis is still around today and is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fuller died in 1966 at age 23. His death was ruled a suicide, but various alternate theories exist, including one claim that he was murdered by mobsters involved in the recording industry.

I Fought the Law” has been covered 50-odd times over the years. The song is notable for its simplicity, for the inmate’s candor about his plight, and for his clear lack of remorse for having pursued a life of crime.

Bobby Fuller Four

I Fought the Law

By the Bobby Fuller Four, 1966
Written by Sonny Curtis

I’m breakin’ rocks in the hot sun.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I needed money ’cause I had none.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I left my baby, and I feel so sad.
I guess my race is run.
But she’s the best girl I’ve ever had.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I’m robbin’ people with a six-gun.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I miss my baby and the good fun.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

I left my baby, and I feel so sad.
I guess my race is run.
But she’s the best girl I’ve ever had.
I fought the law, and the law won.
I fought the law, and the law won.

 

 

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Pop music was never my thing, and for years, my practice has been to ignore it. I may have missed a few good songs that way, but I spared myself from enduring the huge mass of bad ones.

However, occasional exceptions get through and get my attention. Such was the case in 1979 with “Just When I Needed You Most” by Randy VanWarmer.

VanWarmer said he wrote the song six months after a painful breakup with his girlfriend. That’s probably why it rings so true.

He never became a major star, but he kept recording, and, during the 1980s, he began writing songs for a variety of country singers and groups (The Oak Ridge Boys, Alabama, Charley Pride). Sadly, he died in 2004 of leukemia at age 48.

If your legacy is a heartfelt love song, well, that’s pretty cool.

VanWarmer

Just When I Needed You Most

By Randy VanWarmer, 1979
Written by Randy VanWarmer

You packed in the morning, and I
Stared out the window, and I
Struggled for something to say.
You left in the rain
Without closing the door.
I didn’t stand in your way.

But I miss you more than I
Missed you before, and now,
Where I’ll find comfort, God knows.
‘Cause you left me
Just when I needed you most.

Now, most every morning, I
Stare out the window, and I
Think about where you might be.
I’ve written you letters
That I’d like to send,
If you would just send one to me.

‘Cause I need you more than I
Needed before, and now,
Where I’ll find comfort, God knows.
‘Cause you left me
Just when I needed you most.

You packed in the morning, and I
Stared out the window, and I
Struggled for something to say.
You left in the rain
Without closing the door.
I didn’t stand in your way.

Now, I love you more than I
Loved you before, and now,
Where I’ll find comfort, God knows.
‘Cause you left me
Just when I needed you most.
Oh, yeah, you left me
Just when I needed you most.

You left me
Just when I needed you most.

 

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One day back in 2002, my mom called and said excitedly, “Rocky, have you heard that new Johnny Cash song, ‘The Man Comes Around’?” I had not.

“Oh, you need to hear it. Johnny Cash is always good, but this song is something else. It’s… biblical.”

She tried to explain, but it was futile. I had no idea why the song had her so amped.

When I finally heard it, I understood her enthusiasm.

The song was the title tune on Johnny’s 2002 album “American IV: The Man Comes Around.”

Wikipedia explains it thusly:

“There are numerous biblical references in the lyrics. A spoken portion from Revelation 6:1–2 in the King James Version introduces the song. The passage describes the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, each heralded by one of the ‘four beasts’ first mentioned in Revelation 4:6–9.

“The musical portion then begins with Cash reciting that ‘the man’ (Jesus Christ) will one day come to pass judgment. The chorus indicates that these events will be accompanied by trumpets, pipers, and ‘one hundred million angels singing.’ The voice of the Lord in Revelation is often likened to the sound of a loud trumpet. Revelation 5:11 states that John saw that there are millions of angels in Heaven.

“The song also alludes to the Parable of the Ten Virgins from the Gospel of Matthew with the lyrics ‘The virgins are all trimming their wicks,’ a reference to the virgins’ preparation of the Second Coming of Christ.

“The phrase, ‘It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks’ cites Acts 26:14, where Paul the Apostle describes meeting Jesus while traveling to Damascus. It is a reference to a Greek proverb where a kicking ox only injures himself by attempting to kick against a goad, intended to represent the futility of resisting the Lord.

“Elsewhere, the song mentions the wise men who bow before the Lord’s throne, and cast their ‘golden crowns’ at the feet of God. Revelation 4 refers to elders who worship the Lord and ‘lay their crowns’ before Him. ‘Alpha and Omega’ refers to Jesus Christ. ‘Whoever is unjust… etc.’ is a quote from Revelation 22:11.”

Mom was right. Johnny Cash going Old Testament biblical is something else.

The Man Comes Around

The Man Comes Around

By Johnny Cash, 2002
Written by Johnny Cash

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder:
One of the four beasts saying: “Come and see.” And I saw.
And behold, a white horse.

There’s a man goin’ ’round takin’ names.
An’ he decides who to free and who to blame.
Everybody won’t be treated all the same.
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the man comes around.

The hairs on your arm will stand up
At the terror in each sip and in each sup.
Will you partake of that last offered cup
Or disappear into the potter’s ground
When the man comes around?

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singing.
Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin’, voices cryin’.
Some are born and some are dyin’.
It’s Alpha and Omega’s Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home.
The wise men will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they’ll cast their golden crowns
When the man comes around.

Whoever is unjust, let him be unjust still.
Whoever is righteous, let him be righteous still.
Whoever is filthy, let him be filthy still.
Listen to the words long written down
When the man comes around.

Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers.
One hundred million angels singing.
Multitudes are marchin’ to the big kettle drum.
Voices callin’, voices cryin’.
Some are born and some are dyin’.
It’s Alpha and Omega’s Kingdom come.

And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
The virgins are all trimming their wicks.
The whirlwind is in the thorn tree.
It’s hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

In measured hundredweight and penny pound.
When the man comes around.

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
And I looked, and behold: a pale horse.
And his name that sat on him was Death.
And Hell followed with him.

 

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The 1973 film “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kidwas a major hit, and so was Bob Dylan’s soundtrack. The album became a best-seller.

Most of the songs are instrumentals and supportive of the plot, but the exception was “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which turned out to be a significant hit single in its day.

The song is slow, simple, and emotional. It consists of the last words (I assume) of a mortally wounded (I assume) deputy sheriff to his wife. One music critic called the song “an exercise in splendid simplicity.”

PG&BK

Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door

By Bob Dylan, 1973
Written by Bob Dylan

Mama, take this badge off of me.
I can’t use it anymore.
It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see.
I feel I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Mama, put my guns in the ground.
I can’t shoot them anymore.
That long black cloud is comin’ down.
I feel I’m knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.
Knock, knock, knockin’ on Heaven’s door.

 

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Tune o’ the Day

I’m a big fan of Concrete Blonde, the alt-rock band from California in the 80s and 90s. They released some of the best and most intelligent music of the time.

Moreover, their lead singer was the incomparable Johnette Napolitano, whose magnificent voice is as captivating today (she still writes and records) as ever.

The band’s self-titled debut album in 1986 was a solid hit. Among its many great tunes: “Dance Along the Edge,” a thinking person’s love song.

Concrete Blonde

Dance Along The Edge

By Concrete Blonde, 1986
Written by Johnette Napolitano and James Mankey

Sometimes, we laugh like children.
Go running hand in hand.
I never felt like this before,
I never will again.

Sometimes, we cry like babies.
And I hold you to my heart.
I just can’t stand to see you sad,
It tears me all apart.

And we’re so afraid, and it’s such a shame.
There is no reason we should doubt it.
And the things we want to say, we’ve never said.
And we look away, and it’s all okay,
And never really talk about it.
It’s a shame the way we dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

We always seem so careful.
We’re always so unsure.
Our past mistakes, they make us shake, eyes on the door.

When do we stop searching
For what we’re searching for?
Then when it comes, we question love, and try for more.

And we’re happy here, but we live in fear.
We’ve seen a lot of temples crumble.
Some of flesh and blood, and love is under glass.
Will we come undone? Will we turn and run?
And will we know it when we find it?
It’s a game the way we dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

And we’ll walk the line, and we’ll do our time
For just as long as we’ve been given,
And pretend that we don’t hear the things they’ve said.

Can we promise love? Is it all too much?
And do our old souls still believe it?
It’s insane the way we dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

Dance along the edge.
Dance along the edge.

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Tune o’ the Day

When the rock band The Cars released their debut album in 1976, they had me at “Good Times Roll,” the first tune on the album.

To me, The Cars are in a special category because I like pretty much all of their songs, not just the familiar hits.

I can count on one hand the bands that clicked with me like that. And, no, I won’t burden you with the list.

One of my favorites among The Cars’ tunes is “Drive.” It’s a melancholy song, a lament by someone in a relationship with an addict or an alcoholic, trying to snap the person out of it, and probably about to give up. It’s a moving and beautiful song.

A relatable situation, simple and effective lyrics, and a captivating melody. This is good stuff.

cars-the

Drive

By The Cars, 1984
Written By Ric Ocasek

Who’s gonna tell you when
It’s too late?
Who’s gonna tell you things
Aren’t so great?

You can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Who’s gonna pick you up
When you fall?
Who’s gonna hang it up
When you call?
Who’s gonna pay attention
To your dreams?
Who’s gonna plug their ears
When you scream?

You can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Who’s gonna hold you down
When you shake?
Who’s gonna come around
When you break?

You can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

Oh, you know you can’t go on
Thinkin’ nothin’s wrong.
Who’s gonna drive you home tonight?

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The 1995 folk song “Lake Marie” by John Prine is an odd one. It’s a beautiful ballad that combines three storylines — A Native American legend, the rise and fall of a marriage, and two gruesome murders — and weaves them together with sausages sssizzlin‘ on the grill.

Lake Marie is a real place in southern Wisconsin. Prine knew the lake from summer vacations there as a Chicago teenager.

He found the beginning of the song, the story of the Indian tribe, in a local library. The middle section, about good times at the lake and meeting a girl, is largely autobiographical. Prine explained the third section, the murders, in the late 1990s:

“The suburbs were kind of thought to be a pretty safe place at the time. And then some of these unexplained murders would show up every once in a while, where they’d find people in the woods somewhere.

“I just kinda took any one of them, not one in particular, and put it as if it was in a TV newscast. It was a sharp ‘left turn’ to take in a song.”

And it works very well.

prine-j

Lake Marie

By John Prine, 1995
Written by John Prine

We were standing,
Standing by peaceful waters.
Standing by peaceful waters.
Whoa, ahh oh, ahh oh.

Many years ago, along the Illinois-Wisconsin border,
There was this Indian tribe.
They found two babies in the woods. White babies.
One of them was named Elizabeth.
She was the fairer of the two,
While the smaller and more fragile one
Was named Marie.

Having never seen white girls before,
And living on the two lakes known as the Twin Lakes,
They named the larger and more beautiful lake ‘Lake Elizabeth.’
And thus, the smaller lake that was hidden from the highway
Became known forever as ‘Lake Marie.’

We were standing,
Standing by peaceful waters.
Standing by peaceful waters.
Whoa, ahh oh, ahh oh.

Many years later, I found myself talking to this girl
Who was standing there with her back turned to Lake Marie.
The wind was blowing. Especially, through her hair.
There was four Italian sausages cookin’ on the outdoor grill.
And they was sssizzlin’!

Many years later, we found ourselves in Canada,
Trying to save our marriage.
And perhaps catch a few fish.
Whatever came first.
That night, she fell asleep in my arms,
Hummin’ the tune to ‘Louie Louie.’
Ahh, baby. We gotta go now.

We were standing,
Standing by peaceful waters.
Standing by peaceful waters.
Whoa, ahh oh, ahh oh.
Whoa, ahh oh, ahh oh.

The dogs were barkin’ as the cars were parkin’.
The loan sharks were sharkin’.
The narks were narkin’.
Practically everyone was there.
In the parking lot by the forest preserve,
The police had found two bodies.
Nay, naked bodies!

Their faces had been horribly disfigured
By some shhharp object.
I saw it on the news.
The TV news.
In a black and white video.

You know what blood looks like in a black and white video?
Shadows. Shadows!
That’s what it looks like.
All the love we shared between her and me was slammed
Slammed up against the banks of old Lake Marie.
Marie!

We were standing,
Standing by peaceful waters.
Standing by peaceful waters.
Whoa, ahh oh, ahh oh.
Whoa, ahh oh, ahh oh.
Whoa, ahh oh, ahh oh.

Peaceful waters.
Standing by peaceful waters.

Ahh, baby. We gotta go now.

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