Here’s a curious song. It wrote itself in about 30 minutes while I was driving home from a canceled appointment. Instead of getting work done like I had expected, I ended up with this tune. But how does a song like this, with such a strange character, just pop out of thin air?
Mr Haddy, the character in the song, is a melding of the adult characters in the book and movie The Mosquito Coast – a story that’s never been far from my mind since I saw it in the theater in 1986. I’m not sure why, but it’s always lingering in the back of my thoughts. Clearly it was on my mind when I drove home from my non-appointment.
The Mosquito Coast is a story of a family, lead by a charismatic father, Allie Fox, that is told from the perspective of the oldest son. Mr. Fox believes that America, as a culture and society, is in rapid decline. He hated seeing the country’s virtues being replaced with greed, materialism and selfishness, saying, “We eat when we’re not hungry, drink when we’re not thirsty. We buy what we don’t need and throw away everything that’s useful.” He sensed that the end was near.
To save his family from a self-destructive culture and the potential of nuclear fallout, Mr. Fox moves them to the Mosquito Coast, a developing country in the tropics. There, he creates a rational utopia in the middle of a chaotic jungle. Taming the wilderness gives him a temporary happiness and confirms his belief that reason can conquer all. It is there that Mr. Fox meets an evangelical missionary and Mr. Haddy. Mr. Haddy ends up being the moderate in this story, flanked on both sides of the political spectrum by Mr. Fox and the missionary.
As the story progresses, things fall apart, as they always do. I can’t remember seeing a movie about a cultish-type leader that ended well for that man. Ultimately, Mr. Fox is killed by the missionary, but this tragedy liberates his family from the oppression of his singular world view. It is then that Mr. Fox’s oldest son says, “Once I had believed in father, and the world had seemed small, and old. Now he was gone, and I wasn’t afraid to love him any more. And the world seemed limitless.”
So this song is about the three main adult characters in The Mosquito Coast, as told from the son’s perspective. Anyone who’s taken a song writing class will tell you that’s no way to write a pop song – and they would be right. A pop song needs to have laser focus on its single subject and a chorus that hooks you in. This has neither, but it’s what popped in my head when I drove home that day.
I hope everyone had a great February. We had an early spring here in North Carolina. It makes me wonder what March will be like. If you’d like to play or sing along with my tune, here’s the song sheet. This month’s tune was a fun one for me. It’s been awhile since I pulled out the ukuleles and tapped out rhythms with chop-sticks, and it was fun to return to those older techniques.