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Category Archives: lyric interpretation

I’m Alive

Orange Beach, AL

Orange Beach, AL

Lovin’ this Kenny Chesney/Dave Matthews collaboration, lately.

  I’m Alive, Kenny Chesney with Dave Matthews

I’m pretty much in the “order” camp and don’t believe in consequences, so I think that certain things are put in our path to show us the way, teach us lessons, wake us up, whatever.  This song seems to be one of those needed entities, coming along at just the right moment to comfort, heal, encourage appreciation.  It speaks to me for several reasons.

First, the lyrics.  While I absolutely adore the melody of this song, I’m a lyrics maven.  For me, the power of the words are what really defines a song, and these particularly speak to me:

So damn easy to say that life’s so hard
Everybody’s got their share of battle scars
As for me I’d like to thank my lucky stars that
I’m alive, and well

It’d be easy to add up all the pain
And all the dreams you sat and watched go up in flames
Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain
But not me, I’m alive

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathin’ in and out’s a blessin’ can’t you see
Today’s the first day of the rest of my life
And I’m alive, and well
I’m alive, and well

Stars are dancin’ on the water here tonight
It’s good for the soul, when there’s not a soul in sight
But this boat has caught its wind and brought me back to life
Now I’m alive, and well

And today you know that’s good enough for me
Breathin’ in and out’s a blessing can’t you see
Today is the first day of the rest of my life
Now I’m alive, and well
Yeah I’m alive, and well

I’m a bit sympatico with Kenny Chesney due to his love of water, beach and life, in general, and most of his songs absolutely resonate with “everyday” people on everyday issues and concerns.  We visit the beach fairly regularly and recently spent the Labor Day weekend there.  Every time I go to the beach, it presents an opportunity to unwind, relax, and contemplate.  (And I am a World Champion Contemplater.)  This is a perfect song for that.

Second, it makes me feel good/better and makes me thankful for this day and for things to come.  It reflects on the fact that LIFE IS HARD.  And, it is…but as my BIL says, “God is good”.  While we all have trials and tribulations, we all have great triumphs and joys and really, isn’t that what makes it worth getting out of bed every day?  So, while I’m caught up in the tornado of life with Senior year, college choices, house selling, house building, aging parents, job worries, etc., etc., it illuminates the fact that HEY!  I’M ALIVE.

Lastly, this song shows that country isn’t all twang based (yes, Shrew I’m looking at you).  This is a song that Dave Matthews’ fans can accept and relate to — hell, even love.  Kenny truly is more crossover than most Country artists and songs like this one really show his broad influences.  I think when you boil it all down, a good song is a good song.  As when Ray Charles did Country, it brings a new credibility to the once twang-laden genre.  It’s all about the emotion…the kun-NECK-shun.

So, take Kenny’s song to heart today.  While you trudge through whatever hell you suppose you have, remember….YOU’RE ALIVE!

 

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An Unlikely “Champion”

A long-time music milestone was broken this week.  LeAnn Rimes’ How Do I Live was toppled as the longest-running song on the Billboard Top 100, which held the previous record of 69 weeks.  So, you’d think such an accomplishment (I mean we’re talking a nearly five quarters, here) would be championed by the Jonas Brothers, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift or any of the plethora of other bubble gum rockers that are always being thrown in our face.  But, no, this time the record goes to the unlikely champion of Jason Mraz, and his stalwart release, I’m Yours.

jason mraz

Now I love(d) this song.  I first heard it through my kid, who recommended it because he knows “my style”.  However, he liked it too.  So did his guy friends and of course, so did his girl friends.  Like most popular songs that are well liked, I’m Yours, spent several months around and on the top of the charts and got decent radio play, but nothing to indicate that it would still be around over a year later.

This song has lived since 2005, when it was written.  Mraz started performing it live in 2006 and the audience always had such a positive reaction that he eventually included it on his 2008 release We Sing. We Dance. We Steal Things.  (Yes, Mr. Mraz is quite amusing…for more, see his website www.jasonmraz.com)

But, 71 weeks with no sign of dropping off?  Why?  I mean, I’m Yours is catchy and highly entertaining, has great lyrics and is performed with great emotion, but isn’t it similar to Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry, Be Happy?

As far as I can tell, the song hasn’t had significant label backing, hasn’t been featured in any movies, isn’t attached to a mega star, and isn’t a novelty sensation.  It just keeps hanging around…and is now nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year.

Is it the coffeehouse delivery of Mraz that is so familiar?  Or, is it the simple pleasure of the song?  The appeal across age, ethnicity, or geography?  Is it the connection of the lyrics?  Is the simple “happiness” of the song?  Is the song just that good?   You tell me…

Take a look/listen to Mraz’s performance of I’m Yours and give me your theory as to why it has been “the little single that could”.

 

Note:  I included this extended live version because I think it really demonstrates the song the best.  Here’s the lyrics to review, as well…

Well, you done done me and you bet I felt it
I tried to be chill but your so hot that I melted
I fell right through the cracks, now I’m tryin to get back
before the cool done run out I’ll be givin it my best test
and nothin’s gonna stop me but divine intervention
I reckon it’s again my turn to win some or learn some

But I won’t hesitate no more,
no more, it cannot wait
I’m yours

Well open up your mind and see like me
open up your plans and damn you’re free
look into your heart and you’ll find love love love love
listen to the music at the moment people dance and sing
Were just one big family
And it’s our godforsaken right to be loved loved loved loved loved

So, i won’t hesitate no more,
no more, it cannot wait i’m sure
there’s no need to complicate our time is short
this is our fate
I’m yours

Scooch on over closer, dear
And I will nibble your ear

I’ve been spendin’ way too long checkin’ my tongue in the mirror
and bendin’ over backwards just to try to see it clearer
But my breath fogged up the glass
and so I drew a new face and I laughed
I guess what I’d be sayin’ is there ain’t no better reason
to rid yourself of vanities and just go with the seasons
it’s what we aim to do
our name is our virtue

But I won’t hesitate no more,
no more it cannot wait
I’m yours

well open up your mind and see like me
open up your plans and damn you’re free
look into your heart and you’ll find love love love love
listen to the music of the moment come and dance with me
ah, la one big family
it’s your god forsaken right to be loved, loved, loved, loved

open up your mind and see like me
open up your plans and damn you’re free
look into your heart and you’ll find love love love love
listen to the music of the moment come and dance with me
ah, la happy family
it’s our god forsaken right to be loved loved loved loved

it’s our god forsaken right to be loved loved loved loved
listen to the music of the moment come and dance with me
ah, la peaceful melodies
it’s you god forsaken right to be loved loved loved loved

 

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The Day the Music Died: Part 1 – American Pie

americanpie1

….A long, long time ago….

Singer/song-writer, Don McLean penned one of the most recognizable songs ever recorded.  American Pie is part of our musical and American lexicon.  Not only does the song lament the change in music with the passing of Buddy Holly, but it catalogues the changes and additional “deaths” of music through the decade of the ’60s.  There is a real dichotomy in this era.  The mutation of music in the 1960s provided revolutionary new sounds, electric music and much different attitudes.  While many would look at this as positive progression, many also mourned the loss of the music of the past, as well as the innonence of the time.

  American Pie, Don McLean

McLean has never commented extensively on the meaning of the song, preferring to let the aire of mystique remain.  When asked what the song means, he generally gives the elusive answer of “It means I’ll never have to work again” or “It’s the story of America”.

For my personal experience, I spent many a high school night memorizing every word of every verse, rewinding my cassette recorder over and over again to get every word.  On the way home after a night out, my friends and I would pop the tape into the car cassette player and passionately belt out the lyrics.  I imagine that American Pie has been a staple on playlists across America for the last 35 years.

Perhaps the most eloquent explanation of American Pie is the original Rolling Stone review from ’72 by Lester Bangs:

Don McLean’s “American Pie” has ripped out of nowhere and taken the country by storm both in its album and truncated single versions. It took exactly two weeks to shoot to the top of the charts, everybody I know has been talking excitedly about it since first hearing, and, even more surprisingly, it has united listeners of musical persuasions as diverse as Black Sabbath and Phil Ochs in unbridled enthusiasm for both its message and it musical qualities.

All of which is not so surprising once you’ve heard it, because it is a brilliant song, a metaphor for the death and rebirth of rock that’s at once complex and immediately accessible. For the last couple of years critics and audience alike have been talking about the Death of Rock, or at least the fragmentation of all our 1967 dreams of anthemic unity. And, inevitably, somebody has written a song about it. About Dylan, Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Stones, Byrds, Janis and others. About where we’ve been, the rush of exhilaration we felt at the pinnacle, and the present sense of despair. Don McLean has taken all this and set it down in language that has unmistakable impact the first time you hear it, and leaves you rubbing your chin–”Just what did that line mean?”–with further listenings because you know it’s all about something you’ve felt and lived through. A very 1967ish song, in fact, in the way it makes you dig for deeper meaning, but not the least bit mawkish.

It opens with a slow, mournful sequence about reading the headlines about the deaths of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper while delivering papers as a child, then into the chorus: “Bye bye, Miss American Pie/Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry/Them good ole boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye/And sayin’ this’ll be the day that I die.” Then all at once it rears up and charges through the years in a giddy rush: “I was a lonely teenage bronckin’ buck/With a pink carnation and a pickup truck,” the “Book of Love,” sock hops in the gym and puppy jealousy, and then into the heart of the myth, where Dylan is a Jester “in a coat he borrowed from James Dean,” laughing at the king “in a voice that came from you and me.”

The halcyon days of Sgt. Pepper are brilliantly caught: “The half-time air was sweet perfume/As the Sergeants played a marching tune,” but suddenly the Jester is on the sidelines in a cast, the stage is taken by Jack Flash (“Fire is the devil’s only friend”), and Altamont, the Angels and the despairing resentment the Stones left many fans with pass in a dark panorama. Finally coming down to the levee again, where the good old boys are draining the bottles and talking as if it’s all over, as they did when the plane bearing “The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost” fell and as they will again and again through the years. It’s just the old Calvinist sense of impending apocalypse and perdition, but they’re good old boys anyway and we can’t resent them because we too “believe in rock ‘n’ roll/And [that] music can save your moral soul.” Because they’re us.

“American Pie” is a song of the year, and its music is just as strong as those lyrics, propelled with special resonance by the piano of Paul Griffin, who played with the Jester when his myth was at pinnacle. The single version is considerably shorter than that on the album, and I only wish that I could recommend the latter unhesitatingly. Unfortunately, the eight-minute hit is the only tune of real substance and vitality on it; the rest is given over to a series of moody, rather bland songs stereo-typically deriving from the Sixties folk tradition and the current proliferation of songwriters specializing in introspective, watery poeticizings. Shucks, I almost wonder from struggling to keep my attention on them whether “American Pie” won’t be the only important song Don McLean will ever write. But maybe that’s being premature and petty; because he did write it, and we needed it, did we ever. If you’ve ever cried because of a rock & roll band or album, or lain awake nights wondering or sat up talking through the dawn about Our Music and what it all means and where it’s all going and why, if you’ve ever kicked off your shoes to dance or wished you had the chance, if you ever believed in Rock & Roll, you’ve got to have this album. (RS 100)

LESTER BANGS

I have to disagree with Lester on the rest of McLean’s American Pie album.  There are several great tracks on this album, with Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) as a particularly compelling song about artist Vincent Van Gogh.

  Vincent (Starry, Starry Night), Don McLean

Don McLean was friends with folk legends The Weavers, as well as Pete Seeger and briefly attended Villanova with Jim Croce.  McLean’s style is very much in the vein of old-time singer/songwriters with tunes that are easy on the ear and hard on the mind.  His songs MEAN something.  They’re not catchy and snazzy, they are deep.

A young girl named Lori Lieberman attended one of Don McLean’s performances and was so touched by it that she wrote a poem, entitled Killing Me Softly with His Blues.  Composers Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel later turned that poem into a song immortalized by Roberta Flack as Killing Me Softly. 

   Killing Me Softly, Roberta Flack

It was later re-mixed and covered by The Fugees.

MUSIC MAVEN Trivia:  Lori Lieberman went on to provide music for the critically acclaimed Schoolhouse Rock…”I’m just a bill, only a bill…”

NOTE:  I refuse to post  covers of American Pie, as among those that attempted it, the Madonna and The Brady Bunch (a kid you not) versions are hideous.  Garth Brooks does a minimally decent rendition but it doesn’t come close to Don McLean. 

Don McLean immortalized the great Buddy Holly, paying apt homage to the legend’s musical importance and ensuring  Holly is known to new generations.  American Pie is proof that songs with meaning, songs than resonate with listeners, are recognized, treasured and endure forever.

Tune in tomorrow for the next installment in The Day the Music Died series.  Until then, if you’re so inclined, take a look at Music Maven’s take on American Pie‘s lyrics, verse by verse.

  Click here for Music Maven’s Lyric Interpretation of American Pie

 

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Cortez the Killer

cortez-2.gif

He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun
On the shore lay Montezuma
With his cocoa leaves and pearls
In his halls, he often wandered
With the secrets of the worlds
And his subjects gathered round him
Like the leaves around a tree
In their clothes of many colors
For the angry gods to see
And the women all were beautiful
And the men stood straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So that others could go on
Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones
They carried them to the flatlands
And they died along the way
But they built up with their bare hands
What we still cant build today
And I know shes living there
And she loves me to this day
I still cant remember when
Or how I lost my way
Cortez, Cortez
He came dancing across the water
Cortez, Cortez
What a killer

Off Neil Young’s 1975 album, Zuma, Cortez the Killer is about the explorer Cortez and his confrontation with the Aztecs. To me, CTK is a metaphor that illustrates the finding of the thing you’ve been looking for the hardest and that you cherish as perfect or your heart’s desire and by finding it, you destroy it — realizing it was just a dream after all.

The original:

Neil Young

Two GREAT covers:

Warren Haynes and Dave Mattews

Grace Potter

 

Hallelujah….What do it mean?

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Baby, I’ve been here before.
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.

Yeah I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch,
But listen, love is not some kind of victory march,
No it’s a cold and it’s a very broken Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, (Hallelujah…)

There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below,
Ah but now you never show it to me, do you?

Yeah but I remember, yeah when I moved in you,
And the holy dove, she was moving too,
Yes every single breath that we drew was Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Maybe there’s a God above,
As for me, all I’ve ever seemed to learn from love
Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.

Yeah but it’s not a complaint that you hear tonight,
It’s not the laughter of someone who claims to have seen the light
No it’s a cold and it’s a very lonely Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

I did my best, it wasn’t much.
I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch.
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come all this way to fool you.

Yeah even tough it all went wrong
I’ll stand right here before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

This Leonard Cohen song has garnered much attention regarding the meaning of the song since it was first introduced. While there are several bible references, they’re not all from the same “story”. I’m interested in everyone’s personal interpretation of these lyrics. Is it about the parallels of David’s struggles before God? Is it just using familiar understanding to tell a more personal story? Is it about a relationship?

You tell me. Here are a few discussion guides that might give you some fodder for your gray matter to contemplate.

Gray Charles discussion of Hallelujah.

Here are Leonard Cohen’s comments about the song.

And, here are every version of Hallelujah that I could locate (thanks to Gray’s direck-shun to My Old Kentucky Blog):

Smörgåsbord of Hallelujah

Lastly, these are the ones that interest me the most.

The Writer Leonard Cohen

The Definitive Jeff Buckley

The Classic John Cale with cello & violin

The Legend Bob Dylan

The Movie Rufus Wainwright

The Chicks Allison Crowe

sheryl crow

Imogen Heap

The Modern Gavin Degraw

The Adaptive Rocker Bon Jovi

This is your assignment, if you choose to accept it. Tell me, in 200 words or less, what this songs means to you.

 
 

BOLD as Love…what do it mean?!?

Time for another Johnny Boy perusal. John Mayer covers Jimi Hendrix’s Bold as Love on his Continuum CD. Written by Jimi Hendrix in 1967, there is much speculation as to what the song is trying to convey. The lyrics, included below, are very interesting and revolve around the colors of the rainbow….think ROYGBIV from 7th grade.

Tell me your thoughts on the Mayer vs. Hendrix versions as well as your interpretation of what Jimi was trying to say and maybe, why John Mayer chose to include it on Continuum.

Bold As Love – John Mayer

Bold As Love – Jimi Hendrix

Oh, and…..just who IS “the axis”?

Bold As Love lyrics

Anger he smiles, towering in shiny metallic purple armour
Queen jealousy, envy waits behind him
Her fiery green gown sneers at the grassy ground

Blue are the life-giving waters taken for granted,
They quietly understand
Once happy turquoise armies lay opposite ready,
But wonder why the fight is on

But theyre all bold as love, yes, theyre all bold as love
Yeah, theyre all bold as love
Just ask the axis

My red is so confident that he flashes trophies of war and
Ribbons of euphoria
Orange is young, full of daring,
But very unsteady for the first go round
My yellow in this case is not so mellow
In fact Im trying to say its frigthened like me
And all these emotions of mine keep holding me from, eh,
Giving my life to a rainbow like you
But, Im eh , yeah, Im bold as love
Yeah, yeah
Well Im bold, bold as love (hear me talking, girl)
Im bold as love
Just ask the axis (he knows everything)
Yeah, yeah, yeah

ETA: Perhaps the album cover may hold clues.

hendrix.jpg

Today’s Trivia: Jimi Hendrix’s idol and a heavy influence was one Mr. Elvis Presley….thank ya, thank ya vary much.

Today’s Trivia 2: Jimi Hendrix played gee-tar for a short time in Little Richard’s Band….makes ma toe shoot up in ma boot.

 
 
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