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Some songs hit you with instantaneous love – a fanfare – an instant, pulse-racing recognition – an immediate response, like hunger attends upon the smell of baking.  But some songs are more discreet and cunning.  They trickle in and take up residence without ever imposing in the hot-and-heavy manner of the more passionate sort of song-crush.

This is one of the more discreet ones. :-)

Indeed, my taste in music doesn’t normally veer towards the delicate, or the feminine.  (Generally speaking, I will only pay money for the sort of music that I couldn’t possibly make myself.  So; very male, guitar-ish and weird stuff is my usual glass of tea.)  But when I saw a BBC documentary about Californian singer-songwriter music of the 1970s (how specific!), a performance by Judee Sill really stood out.  For one thing, I’d never heard of her, but her beautiful song ‘The Kiss’, performed at the piano, simply and elegantly and with a kind of tense, private air, as if she was being terribly honest and terribly secretive at the same time…  Well, I couldn’t believe that that song was not world-famous.  I couldn’t believe I was hearing something so pure and perfect, an absolute gem nestled in the base metal of the various droopy, male whingers who constituted most of the other artists featured.  The information that skirted across the bottom of the screen on a ticker, telling me that this lady, with her noble, austere and almost Medieval air, had died of a drugs overdose and had been a juvenile delinquent…  Goodness, that was surprising.  I wanted to know what had happened there – how one person could unite two poles: the holy muse, and the unhinged hedonist.

It seems, from what I can tell, for the information is quite sparse, that it was the contradictions in her character that best defined Judee Sill.  The teenage delinquent who ends up playing the organ in reform school.  The earthy sensation-seeker with many lovers, who at the same time craves spiritual succour and even asceticism.  It’s an interesting and not entirely sad tale, for although she died young and in mysterious and tragic circumstances, her music is not sad.  Wistful, romantic, filled with yearning, both physical and spiritual, but not sad.  It broadcasts a personality that might irritate you, exasperate you, hurt you with its selfishness and insensitivity, and then in a moment floor you with sincerity, clarity, tenderness and self-knowledge.  On a more practical note, her lyrics are both poetic and wry.  Her arrangements are scintillating, soaring things.  Her voice is unadorned, simple and unforced.

As for this particular song – ‘Lopin’ Along thru the Cosmos’ – here are the lyrics:

Lopin’ along thru the Cosmos,
And sideways I slide thru the square,
I’m hopin’ so hard for a kiss from God,
I missed the sweet love of the air…

A silver chariot soars
Thru mercury ripples of sky,
I’m lookin’ so hard for a place to land,
I almost forgot how to fly…

So keep on movin’,
Or stay by my side, either way,
I’ll tell you a secret
I’ve never revealed
However we are is O.K.

Copyright Judee Sill

It’s a slow, reflective, introspective sort of song, not one that bombards you with its showiness or its cleverness.  But it sinks in, and after a while I found myself contemplating this song a whole lot.  The meaning I take from it is that a person can be so focused on perfection, on things they don’t yet have, or would like to achieve, or that one piece of the puzzle they think they need to complete them, that they never realise what they already have – around them, in their life, in others, and in themselves.  Also I detect an air of letting-go in these lyrics – in the final verse I think she is telling someone that whether they are together or apart, in a passionate relationship or just ‘there’ at the end of a thought, it is enough for her that this person exists.  Enough that they have ever existed.  Just *that person* is enough.  No more demands, no more expectations – just two people.  “However we are is O.K.”  (It may also be directed at God – for religion was a major preoccupation of Judee Sill’s.  Perhaps she is ‘making peace with God’ – saying, “That I know you are there is enough.”  Trying to let go of forcing God into the cracks and crevices where she would like to find Him, trying to leave behind all the cryptic definitions and hats that we make God wear for our own purposes…  That is a general ‘we’, of course, since I am not religious myself.)

I love that idea.  I also cherish the other meaning that occurs to me: that, very literally, ‘however we are is O.K.’ – nobody comes into this world lacking or imperfect.  Unfortunately, many of us feel that we are lacking and imperfect.  We try to paper over the cracks with all kinds of props – alcohol to make us brave (or foolhardy); sarcasm to deflect our recognition of ourselves in others’ ‘flaws’; irony to allow us to swerve before truly committing ourselves to an honest opinion; the submerging of our own ideals and emotions in favour of others’, in aid of running with the pack, fitting in…  It’s all so unnecessary.  Although we strive to be ‘more than we are’, we can never escape being just ourselves, and really, that is enough.

Whenever I need reminding that ‘however I am, I’m O.K.’, I think about this song and about the person who wrote it, and wonder whether she ever convinced herself that she was ‘O.K.’  I hope so, for she most certainly was – O.K. and then some.

Eavesdrop, snoop, and sigh with yearning...

This journal is not a private diary, it is more like an occasional, imaginary column. Therefore, much of it is on public display. However, if you want to read my occasional attempts at creative writing, my Caution Elf tells me I should only show that stuff to my friends. You know what to do. :-)

NB: If you add me in an unsolicited fashion, please introduce yourself. Otherwise I will probably ignore you.

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