Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An American Tune

This single-parent lifestyle is hard. Kate is in Akron with her dying mom. I'm trying to hold down the fort, work ten-hour days, write about music in the evenings, check in on my dad, be a parent to two very different daughters, cook dinner, do the laundry, mow the grass, vacuum the floors, and meet with exterminators (centipedes are the problem, not human beings; don't go envisioning Sopranos scenarios).

I listened to a whopping one song last night, way too late, right before I went to bed. I've written about it before. It's one of those songs that I've carried around with me for more than thirty years, and I never grow tired of it. It's the perfect marriage of words and melody (hat tip to J.S. Bach), and it spoke to me again last night. It almost always does, usually because "still, tomorrow's going to be another working day" is right on target about eighty percent of the time.

Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home,
so far away from home

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
or driven to its knees
but it's all right, it's all right
for we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hours
and sing an American tune
Oh, and it's alright, it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all, I'm trying to get some rest
-- Paul Simon, "American Tune"

4 comments:

Gar said...

At least you picked one good song to go to sleep on.
Sorry you are dealing with all of this. When it rains it sometimes comes down in buckets. I'll be saying a few prayers on your behalf, and may you get a tiny bit of peace throughout the deluge.

Trip McClatchy said...

Another song that has a similar feel of resignation and carrying on is "No Time To Cry" by Iris DeMent. It's unbearably great.

Better days, Andy.

James said...

Love this tune, Andy.

Had heard that Garfunkel has downplayed his disappointment at the inclusion of this song on Simon's Here Comes Rhymin' Simon in 1973. As I heard it, he privately takes credit for the idea of writing a set of lyrics to this very Bach chorale--and had hoped it would be included on 1970's Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Have you heard anything to that effect? I'm pretty sure my traditional harmony professor at Berklee told me that one, when we analyzed the chorale in class. I wouldn't be surprised if it were true, but can't find verification.

Andy Whitman said...

James, I hadn't heard that story, but it's consistent with what I do know about Art Garfunkel and his love for J.S. Bach. On his 1973 solo debut album "Angel Clare" he recorded a song called "Do Space Men Pass Dead Souls On Their Way To The Moon?," words by Art Garfunkel, music by, you guessed it, J.S. Bach.