Song 49 – A New Song
Here we are again! We’re starting the 5th year of my song-of-the-month project – a new year’s resolution that barely survived its first month, but now rivals the Energizer Bunny in longevity.
Last month we wrapped up album #4, “Greene Street” – named after the street I live on because so much of it focused on me and my neighbors. This month we’re starting my fifth album, “Beauty Must Suffer” – named after an old saying that my friend’s grandmother was fond of. No matter how natural and easy someone projects beauty, it always comes at a cost. Some of those costs are obvious and immediate, and others I’m only discovering as I grow older.
This song, about the cost of falling in love, began with the chorus. I was sitting on the couch with my tenor guitar when the first two phrases just came out all at once. At the time, I had no idea why I referenced “The Sheltering Sky” (a book and movie), I just did – as if the idea had waited in the backstage of my mind for as long as it could before jumping out into the focus of the spotlight. So there it was, all proud of itself. Now what was I to do with it? Pull it off stage or go out and join it, building the whole performance around it. Thinking about the book, I choose the latter.
The Sheltering Sky ends with a fascinating bit that I’ll repeat here:
“Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don’t know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It’s that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don’t know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.” – Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky
Reflecting on that, the last two phrases in the final chorus came about quite naturally and the verses, a story about a short lived romance that nearly destroys the protagonist, quickly followed. It’s a harsh song, and, unfortunately, it’s something too many of us can relate to. But I guess that’s one reason they say, “beauty must suffer”.
Folks! I hope you had a wonderful January and stayed warm (or cool, depending on your hemisphere). Mine was great and I wrote a whole lot of new songs that I can’t wait to share with you in the upcoming months. Until then, safe travels.
As always, if you’d like to play or sing along, here are the chords and lyrics.