For starters, I’d like to point out that I blame Anthony over at “Runaway American Dream” for this week’s topic. This is not a bad kind of blame, more of a fact check, in case this post goes south and no one likes it. I once again fell under his spell and was perhaps led down an errant path. This often happens when I visit his site. I do my regular check-in, just trying to be neighborly, and he will ensnare me with his fascinating takes on life and relationships and, here’s the kicker with this post, music. The man knows of which he speaks.
Anthony recently did a post on his (current) Top Ten folk songs. One of the contenders on his list was Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer”. I tried very hard to give his other mentions fair justice, but the game was basically over when I stumbled across that pick. I heart this song greatly, and as I happily hit “play” on the audio clip that Anthony thoughtfully (and usually) provided, I knew what was going to be served at this Sunday’s park lark. (By the way, the following are not necessarily my favorite wistful songs of all time, they are just the first that popped into my head. I invite you to add your own thoughts in the comments, as a favorite song can tell you quite a bit about a person. Or nothing at all.) And here we go…
ONE. Simon and Garfunkel – “The Boxer”
I’ll just chastely paste my comment to Anthony and call it good.
“I’d have to go with ‘The Boxer’ in this batch, although it’s fair to say that I didn’t know a few of them. The song has helped me escape and transcend at times when I really needed to do so. The ‘I am leaving, I am leaving’ bit, the soaring of the lie la lies, and that exhale at the end. Goose bumps, even now…”
TWO. Cat Stevens – “Father and Son”
I’ve babbled about this song before, so excuse the repetition, but the lyrics are an encapsulation of what I experienced with my own father. Our relationship was strained, to put it mildly (which should come as no surprise to many fathers and sons) and there was a wall that I so wished was not there, but it was, and the division was sharp. Cat Steven’s decision to sing the song in two different octaves to represent the two figures makes it even more powerful, more real. As a young lad, I would put my headphones on and bellow both parts, trying to find meaning, trying to find peace. (Much to the chagrin of anyone within a five-mile radius.)
THREE. 10,000 Maniacs – “Verdi Cries”
At first listen, this is merely a song about a young woman on holiday, absorbing and learning and processing. Yet it’s much more than that. The mood, the imagery, and Natalie Merchant’s tremulous-into-powerful vocals evoke a time and place that seems enchanting, even though it’s already dusted with regret and loss. And that instrumental part at the end? Holy cow. You can sing along with it. Or at least I do. Then again, I can sing along with any sound that moves me, because I do believe that making your own kind of music is one of the most satisfying ways to spend your time.
FOUR. A Chorus Line – “Original Cast Recording” (The Broadway play, not the crappy movie.)
This selection might make Anthony cringe, not sure, and I’m somewhat violating the rules by including every song in this seminal musical. But as a young gayling in the very red state of Oklahoma, the lyrics spoke to me immensely. (I ordered this, on 8-track, as one of my initial selections when I joined the Columbia House mail-order club. Remember that mess? They lured you in with a mesmerizing “8 tapes for the price of one!” shtick and then you were forced to order an additional 400 albums at full price before you satisfied your “contract”.)
Still, I played that soundtrack with a vengeance. I know every word to every song and, no surprise, I would bellow said songs until my family members desperately perused brochures featuring places they could send me to make the madness stop. I wanted so much to be in a place where nobody judged, and even if they did, we could all come together in the rousing finale with lots of high-kicks and some semblance of glittery peace.
FIVE. Oasis – “Wonderwall”
I can’t begin to tell you how many times, late at night, when I’m in a funk because the day up to that point has been a suckfest, that I’ve maneuvered to YouTube and watched and listened to this song via my ubiquitous headphones. It’s not the greatest video in the world (I skewered it on my original Backup Dancers From Hell site back in the day). Liam Gallagher’s vocals can be almost discordant at times (although he gets props for the lack of concern about what you might think, the determination of his tone). And I don’t even know what some of the lyrics mean. But the concept of someone, somewhere, being able to save you just by being there at the right time, well, who doesn’t yearn for that when the night is empty and the past haunts?
Okay, then. This might be the shortest “Park” I’ve done. And the least humorous. Neither of which were my intentions. I just started typing and let the words give the road shape. I like the songs that invite you on a journey that you didn’t expect, but once you get there, something feels like the home that should have been and you decide that it might be mighty fine to sit a spell and revel in the wisps of familiar truth. And hit the replay button…