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Archive for the ‘Gentle medicine for the holidays’ Category

 

when it was more important to dream than clean my room

 

When I was a teenager, and like other teens suffering from an awkwardness in inverse proportion to my romantic longings, I liked to sit by the fire during the holiday season and listen to sad music till tears rolled down my cheeks.  It was great.  Certain inchoate desires—to live a happening life, to be loved by a boy, to be Mary Tyler Moore, to just, just experience something I didn’t know what, something beautiful and swooning—such feelings found release there in the darkened rec room with the fire crackling and popping and the scratchy Richie Havens album on the phonograph.  For a really good cry, Haven’s decidedly uncheerful “I Can’t Take it Anymore” was gentle medicine.

 

I still need a sad song around the holidays.  Listening to music that draws out tears is as beneficial as lancing a cut.  For a short four-tear cry I listen to Lizz Wright’s “Dreaming Wide Awake,” a beautiful and lush song well-served by its title.

 

For a lighter kind of melancholy, I turn to Wilco’s “One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend).”  Actually, it’s not just a holiday song for me; I’ve been listening obsessively since Wilco released their latest album in September.

 

The song is about a man struggling with memories of a difficult father.  The man’s dead father was a condemning sort who condemned the son for not believing in a condemning God.  Songwriter Jeff Tweedy explains the spiritual issue at the center of the song:  “Now he’s [the father] going to know he was wrong and that there is an only loving God.”  It sounds heavy in summary, but bouyant and rollicking to listen to.

 

Wilco Jeff Tweedy Nels Cline by groovescapesTweedy is a real poet if you ask me.  Certain lines in this song, like so many Wilco songs, have earned a life of their own.  They walk around quietly in my head like old people, wise and world-weary.  Here’s one:

 

What I learned without knowing

How much more I owe than I can give

 

And another:

 

I fell in love with the burden

holding me down

 

You have to listen to the lyrics in context, so I encourage you to link here.  Be sure you have 12 minutes to spare.  And another 12 minutes after that because you may want to listen again and allow a mood of pleasant melancholy to wash over you.  It’s just the loveliest loveliest song.

 

My husband and I are going to a Wilco concert this weekend and we’ll hear it live.  Surely we’ll have yet another conversation about the meaning of the lyrics.

 

Here they are:

 

This is how I’ll tell it

Oh, but it’s long.

One Sunday Morning

Oh, one son is gone.

 

Against the weather dawning

Over the sea

My father said what I had become

No one should be.

 

Outside I look lived in

Like the bones in a shrine

How am I forgiven?

Oh, I’ll give it time.

 

This I learned without warning

Holding my brow

In time we thought I would kill him

Oh, but I didn’t know how.

 

I said it’s your God I don’t believe in

No, your Bible can’t be true

Knocked down by the long lie

He cried I fear what waits for you.

 

I can hear those bells

Spoken and gone.

I feel relief I feel well

Now he knows he was wrong.

 

Ring ’em cold for my father

Frozen underground

Jesus I wouldn’t bother

He belongs to me now.

 

Something sad keeps moving

So I wandered around.

I fell in love with the burden

Holding me down.

 

Bless my mind, I miss

Being told how to live.

What I learned without knowing

How much more I owe than I can give.

 

This is how I tell it

Oh, but it’s long.

One Sunday morning

One son is gone.

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