Literature as Song, Song as Literature

28 Jan

The brouhaha surrounding Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel award for literature reinforced my belief that songs were as much about story-telling as any novel or poem (will films ever be considered?) So I amused myself this afternoon by picking some of my favorites…

 

KEEP IT SIMPLE – KEB MO

Nobody is better than this guy for framing contemporary life in a  blues form…

 

Two cars, three kids, six phones
A whole lot of confusion up here in my home
Five-hundred stations on the TV screen
Five-hundred versions of the same ol’ thing

Y’all know it’s crazy
And it’s drivin’ me insane
Well, I don’t wanna be a superman
I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands
And keep it simple
Oh real simple

You know I called my doctor on the telephone
The lines were open, but there was nobody home
Press one, press two, press pound, press three
Why can’t somebody just pick up the phone and talk to me?

Y’all know it’s crazy
You know it’s driving me insane
I don’t wanna be a superman
I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands
And keep it simple
(Yes I do)
Real simple

(Play the blues)

Well I went down to the local coffee store
The menu went from the ceiling all the way down to the floor
Decaf, cappuccino, or latte said the cashier
I said gimme a small cup of coffee and let me get the hell up outta here

Y’all know it’s crazy
Oh it’s driving me insane
Well, I don’t wanna be a superman
I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands
And keep it simple
Oh lord, real simple

Well now I don’t wanna be a superman
I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands
And keep it simple
Real simple
Real simple

Warren Zevon – My Shits Fucked Up

Zevon bad a penchant for the perverse  ,  Werewolves of London, Life will Kill You , Gorilla |You re A Desperado…

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbhYqV17CoQ 

.

Well, I went to the doctor
I said, “i’m feeling kind of rough…”
“Let me break it to you son,
you’re shit’s fucked up!”
I said, “My shit’s fucked up?!
Well, I don’t see how!”
He said, “The shit that used to work,
won’t work now!”
I had a dream; aw shucks, oh well
Now its all fucked up, its shot out to hell
yea-eah, my shit’s fucked up
It has to happen to the best of us
The rich folk suffer like the rest of us
It’ll happen to you.

 

 

Warren Zevon Excitable Boy

 

Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best
Excitable boy, they all said
And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest
Excitable boy, they all said

He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark
Excitable boy, they all said
And he bit the usherette’s leg in the dark
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he’s just an excitable boy

He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom
Excitable boy, they all said
And he raped her and killed her, then he took her home
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he’s just an excitable boy
After ten long years they let him out of the home
Excitable boy, they all said
And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones
Excitable boy, they all said
Well, he’s just an excitable boy

But I Was Cool -Oscar Brown Jr

Chicago’s Brown was uber talented, A great voice , impeccable phrasing and , well ;listen to this …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88FdqYkxe1A

I’ve always lived by this golden rule
Whatever happens “don’t blow your cool”
You’ve got to have nerves of steel
Never show folks what you honestly feel
I’ve lived my whole life this way
For example, take yesterday

I breezed home happy
Bringing her my pay
Her note read “so long sappy
I have ran away.”
I threw myself down across our empty bed
And this is what I said

(shrieks, screams, hoots)

But I Was Cool

So I one-for-the-road it
At an all night bar
Wound up so loaded
I tore up my car
The judge threw the book at me
And when I read his sentence there I said

(shrieks, screams, hoots)

But I Was Cool

So I said she’s the only one I have to thank
So I found her and pulled my gun and fired point blank
The shot whistled straight passed that woman’s head
And killed my hound dog dead

(shrieks, screams, hoots)

But I Was Cool

As they carried me away
I was overhead to say
Be cool, stay cool, keep cool
Play it cool
C-o-o-o-o-o-l

I Don’t Worry About a Thing –Mose Allison

Easy going , smooth tenor, great sense of humor ( Your Mind is on Vacation)

 

If this life is driving
You to drink
You sit around and wondering
Just what to think
Well I got some consoloation
I’ll give it to you
If I might
Well I don’t worry bout a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright
You know this world is just one big
Trouble spot because
Some have plenty and
Some have not
You know I used to be trouble but I finally
Saw the light
Now I don’t worry ’bout a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright
Don’t waste you time trying to
Be a go getter
Things will get worse before they
Get any better
You know there’s always somebody playing with
Dynamite
But I don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be all right

 

“Now I don’t worry ’bout a thing ‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright”

The Waterboys – Strange Boat

This Scottish ensemble led by Mike Scott produced this gem…

We’re sailing on a strange boat
Heading for a strange shore
We’re sailing on a strange boat
Heading for a strange shore
Carrying the strangest cargo
That was ever hauled aboard
We’re sailing on a strange sea
Blown by a strange wind
We’re sailing on a strange sea
Blown by a strange wind
Carrying the strangest crew
That ever sinned
We’re riding in a strange car
We’re followin’ a strange star
We’re climbing…
We’re living in a strange time
Working for a strange goal
We’re living in a strange time
Working for a strange goal
We’re turning flesh and body
Into soul

 

GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY Bob Dylan

In a long career Dylan has written more than a handful of great  songs …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CwHby-YTNo

You may be an ambassador
To England or France
You might like to gamble
You might like to dance
You may be the heavyweight
Champion of the world
You might be a socialite
With a long string of pearls
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Might be a Rock-n-roll addict
Prancing on the stage
Money, Drugs at your command
Women in a cage
You may be a businessman
Or some high degree thief
They may call you doctor
Or they may call you chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes you are, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

Might be a Rock-n-roll addict

Prancing on the stage
Money, Drugs at your command
Women in a cage
You may be a businessman
Or some high degree thief
They may call you doctor
Or they may call you chief
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes you are, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
*
*
You might be a young Turk
You may be the head
Of some big TV network
You may be rich or poor
You may be blind or lame
Maybe livin’ in another Country
Under another name
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes you are, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Maybe a construction worker
Workin’ on a home
Might be livin’ in a Mansion
You might live in a dome
You may own guns
And you may even own tanks
You may be someone’s landlord
You may even own banks
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
You may be a Preacher
Preaching Spiritual Pride
Maybe a City Councilman
Takin’ bribes on the side
Maybe working in a Barbershop
You may know how to cut hair
You may be somebody’s mistress
Maybe somebody’s heir
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Might like to wear cotton
Might like to wear silk
Might like to drink whiskey
Might like to drink milk
Might like to eat caviar
You might like to eat bread
Maybe sleeping on the floor
Sleepin’ in a king-size bed
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Yes indeed, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
Or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
You may call me Terry
You may call me Timmy
You may call me Bobby
Or you may call me Zimmy
You may call me RJ
You may call me Ray
You may call me anything
No matter what you say
You’re still gonna have to serve somebody
Yes, you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well it may be the Devil
And it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Ohh Yeah
Serve Somebody

Early Roman Kings Bob Dylan

All the early Roman kings
In their sharkskin suits
Bow ties and buttons
High top boots
Drivin’ the spikes in
Blazin’ the rails
Nailed in their coffins
In top hats and tails
Fly away, little bird
Fly away, flap your wings
Fly by night
Like the early Roman kings

All the early roman kings
In the early early morn
Coming down the mountain
Distributing the corn
Speeding through the forest
Racing down the track
You try to get away
They drag you back
Tomorrow is Friday
We’ll see what it brings
Everybody’s talking
Bout the early roman kings

They’re peddlers and they’re meddlers
They buy and they sell
They destroyed your city
They’ll destroy you as well
They’re lecherous and treacherous
Hell-bent for leather
Each of ’em bigger
Than all them put together
Sluggers and muggers
Wearing fancy gold rings
All the women goin’ crazy
For the early Roman kings

I can dress up your wounds
With a blood-clotted rag
I ain’t afraid to make love
To a bitch or a hag
If you see me comin’
And you’re standing there
Wave your handkerchief
In the air
I ain’t dead yet
Ma Bell still rings
I keep my fingers crossed
Like them early roman kings

I can strip you of life
Strip you of breath
Ship you down
To the house of death
One day
You will ask for me
There’ll be no one else
That you’ll wanna see
Bring down my fiddle
Tune up my strings
I’m gonna break it wide open
Like the early roman kings

I was up on black mountain
The day Detroit fell
They killed ’em all off
And they sent ’em to hell
Ding dong daddy
You’re coming up short
Gonna put you on trial
In a Sicilian court
I’ve had my fun
I’ve had my flings
Gonna shake em all down
Like the early roman kings

“I ain’t dead yet… my Bell still rings”

Woodstock by Joni Mitchell

Camille Paglia included the 60’s anthem, Woodstock in  Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World’s Best Poems   which moved me to reconsider the song and Mitchell… “But you know life is for learning”

By the way, John Legend has a new version of Woodstock which is spellbinding…

 


I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him where are you going
And this he told me
I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm *
I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an’ get my soul free

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

Then can I walk beside you
I have come here to lose the smog
And I feel to be a cog in something turning
Well maybe it is just the time of year
Or maybe it’s the time of man
I don’t know who I am
But you know life is for learning

We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere there was song and celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devil’s bargain
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden

“God’s Song (That’s Why I Love Mankind)” Randy Newman

Probably best  known for his Toy Story score and theme song, Newman has a mordant sense of humor, as the following tune exhibits…

Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:

Man means nothing, he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest Yucca tree
He chases round this desert
‘Cause he thinks that’s where I’ll be
That’s why I love mankind

I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me
That’s why I love mankind

The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said, “Lord, a plague is on the world
Lord, no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won’t take care of us
Won’t you please, please let us be?”
And the Lord said
And the Lord said

I burn down your cities-how blind you must be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me
That’s why I love mankind
You really need me
That’s why I love mankind

Anthem Leonard Cohen

There is a crack in everything,  that’s how the light gets in …”

#############################

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: