Friday, April 22, 2011

Forty Odd Years

Finally, Loudon gets his own boxed set -- Forty Odd Years, 5 discs and 87 tracks, out in May. It's about time. Better known these days as the father of Rufus and Martha, Loudon Wainwright III has simply compiled one of the great, underappreciated catalogs in contemporary music. I've written about him before. I'm sure I'll write about him again. That's because he never fails to astonish me in his ability to peel back the layers of propriety and respectability and say the things that really go on in human relationships. This isn't warts-'n-all songwriting. Hell, this is probing the cancer at the heart of families, and putting the malignant cells under the microscope. God bless him and his dysfunctional life.

Last week I attended a family affair
And a few remarked upon my recent growth of facial hair
You look just like your father did
With that beard someone said
I answered back I am him
Even though my old man's dead
I didn't want to be him
Well at first I did
When I loved & looked up to him
As a little kid

He sent me to his old school
I was a numeral with his name
And he gave me this gold signet ring
And he wore one just the same

And I guess that I believed him
And probably it was true
When he told me I was just like him
That's what some fathers do

But a father's always older
And my dad was rather tall
Who says size doesn't matter
He was big & I was small

I needed to be big enough
To be someone someday
And I learned I had to beat him
And that was the only way

I learned I had to fight him
My own flesh blood bone & kin
But I felt I was just like him
Can a man's son be his twin?

First we fought for my mother
That afforded little joy
When he left she was heart broken
And I was still their little boy
But I started to get bigger
And to win the ugly game
When I made a little money
And I got a bit of fame

And I saw how this could wound him
Yes this could do the trick
And if I made it big enough
I could kill him off quick
But how can you murder someone
In a way that they don't die?
I didn't want to kill him
That would be suicide

I got frightened so I backed off
I let up and I was through
And in the end he did himself in
Usually that's what we do

I'm alive and he is dead
And neither of us won
It's spoiled for the victor
Once the vanquishing is done
A man becomes immortal
Through his daughter or his son
But when he fears his legacy
A man can come undone

And the beard is a reminder
I'm a living part of him
Although my father's dead and gone
I'm his surviving twin

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