music, Uncategorized

Blue Gets Its Due

As part of my effort to expose humanity to underappreciated music, I’ve previously written about what I think are really good songs that haven’t received their due attention. These things are, of course, subject to taste. But if you’ve discovered by way of my previous posts or social media comments that your taste and mine might play in the same ballpark, then you may enjoy the song I’m going to tell you about now. At the bottom of this post you’ll find a link to it on YouTube.

Blue is a song written by Mark Olson and Gary Louris, and it was a part of the album Tomorrow the Green Grass, released in 1995 by their band, The Jayhawks. The single reached number 33 in Canada. I discovered the song not by visiting the Great White North, but by having it rain down on me from the speakers in the ceiling of a Lowes store, circa 2004. In the days before Shazam, it took me a while to learn the name of the song and who performed it, but I eventually did.

I learned that the version I heard while shopping for paint and fertilizer was not performed by the Jayhawks, but by The Thorns, a trio comprised of three interesting fellows whose solo work I’d admired: Pete Droge, Shawn Mullins, and Matthew Sweet.

I was really only familiar with Pete Droge perhaps the way many are, but may not realize. His song, If You Don’t Love Me (I’ll Kill Myself), appeared in the movie, Dumb and Dumber, and provided the backdrop when Harry drilled Mary in the face with a snowball from only a shadow’s distance. That song has had a home in my Itunes library for several years. Shawn Mullins’ Lullaby from 1998 was all over the radio, but I think many people, including me, want to call it Rockaby, as that’s the most prominent word in its hooky chorus. Matthew Sweet is a veteran in the music industry and gained popularity with his catchy song Girlfriend in the early nineties.

Each member of the Thorns had successful solo careers but got together in 2003 and graced us with only one album, self-titled, before going their separate ways again. A shame only one. I bought that CD back in 2004 and have the single of Blue in my Itunes library now because I tend to be pretty rough on my CDs. The Thorns version of Blue is a beautifully produced blend of acoustic and electric guitars, with just an echo of a swirly little organ in the pre-chorus. The Jayhawks rendition is equally special, with emphasis on the acoustic guitars, piano, and strings that subtly fill in the gaps the way sweet tea surrounds the ice in a tall cold glass.

The vocal harmonies by both bands, however, are what stand out. There’s something very special about a song that can show you its yearning and share its aching with you. Hats off to both bands and especially the songwriters, who out of complete silence bring about art.

Without further ado.


Waiting For a Body

The author C.S. Lewis is sometimes credited with the quotation, “You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” I like that notion. There’s some debate about the origin of the quotation, and I don’t particularly care who gets credit, but this idea is a thread that runs through my upcoming novel, Camelot’s Misplaced Son, and I’d like to kick it around a bit.
I don’t pretend to be a deep thinker of profundities. I’m doing well to come up with a four-syllable word like “profundities”. But Mr. Lewis’s thesis does beg the question, “How are bodies assigned to souls?” We know who does the assigning – insert your deity here – but what’s the process? How is it decided which soul gets which shell to use while they’re here, and what parents?
That’s one that goes unanswered, I suppose, but for the sake of making up a wild-ass theory, let’s just say there’s a line – actually, a line and a list of parents. Please refer to the Table 4A below:



Soul                       Parents
Pat           Howard and Joan Paxton
Davis      John F. and Jacquelyn Kennedy
Joe          Clem and Clara Doe


As you can see in the list above, the next soul in line for distribution is Pat, who has the wonderful good fortune of being assigned to Howard and Joan. Total fluke. He gets to be assigned to loving parents in a relatively safe part of the world during a time of prosperity. Pat’s given the further advantage of having parents whose shell looks a lot like the overwhelming majority of shells in his part of the world. He is being set up quite nicely. Being born to a middle-class family, he’ll still need to work to create a comfortable life in his adulthood, but will have an advantageous foundation from which to launch.
Next comes Davis. He appears to be the most fortunate of this lot of souls. Davis has received the coveted assignment to occupy the fourth and final shell of the Siblings of American Camelot. Like every soul traipsing around this little part of the universe, Davis will have his problems. Everyone, no matter how fortunate, does. However, concerns caused by a lack of resources or uncaring parents will not be among them.
Next in line behind Davis, is Joe, who just missed out on a life full of advantages. When he was further back, Joe suppressed the urge to jump out of line and take a leak because chances looked good for him to land in Hyannis Port. However, when his turn arrived, he was hopping around on one foot only to find he would be put in the care of Clem and Clara Doe. Joe gets to look forward to watching Clem get drunk and take out his frustrations on Clara and the kids. Before Clem leaves the family entirely, he so discourages Joe and his siblings of there being any good in the world, that Joe’s prospects for any type of normalcy are severely diminished.
I was led to this way of thinking about twenty or so years ago, after seeing a homeless man – like our friend Joe – and wondering how close he might have been to receiving a better shell assignment. Any of us could have been Joe. Any of us Davis. I’m thankful to have been Pat.
I’ve tried to resist the urge to want to trade places with anyone. No matter how grand someone else’s life appears, you never know what they’re dealing with, or what problems they may have beneath the surface. I know my problems and can deal them, and I’m not willing to trade the two hundred bucks handed to me by Monty Hall (now, Wayne Brady) for what’s behind Door Number 1. Whether my two hundred bucks looks to others like fifty cents or million bucks, there’s nothing I would trade it for.
My point: being born at all – at all – is such an incredible long shot, that every one of us really is incredibly special. You are the result of one little swimmer, beating out about fifty million others to be the first one to the egg and plant his flag. If only one other swimmer got there first, a completely different person is created – not you. I just wish everyone felt as special as they really are, and maybe there wouldn’t be the people in the world acting out in violence and other ways to get attention.
I acknowledge all of this optimism is coming from a guy who, after all, gets to be me. If I were prone to using emogis, here’s where I’d insert a smiley facing, winking.  I, like everyone, speak from a certain perspective, a perspective which I’m thankful to occupy. So, I won’t sit here and tell everyone they should cheer up. I can’t see the view from where you sit – but I’ll give it a try if you will.