Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Monday, November 22, 2004


While out and about yesterday with the toddling dude, I discovered and bought “Old Troubadour: Carl Sandburg and His Guitar Friends.” Gregory d’Alessio wrote it. He belonged to a guitar society in the 1950s that Sandburg joined, and they played together at a lot of parties. Book came out in 1987, 20 years after Sandburg died at the age of 89 in 1967. D’Alessio transcribes a parody lyric to a famous patriotic hymn by Irving Berlin that Sandburg liked to “boom out” at parties:

Goddam Republicans
Scum of the earth
We will meet them
And beat them
And show them what we are worth.
Out of Wall Street,
Came a Wilkie
He’s a silkie
Goddam Republicans
The Geee-Ohhh-Peee!

For a flicker, I considered using this as my “cover” for my November Album, but then, nah, forget it. Few people remember Wilkie and I have enough scurrilous doggerel to finish without worrying about updating Sandburg’s parody. But then I thought, wait, I’ll cover the real “God Bless America.” I’ve been performing it since shortly after the atrocity of 9-11, in a passionately ambivalent arrangement -- this is the land that I love, despite everything, it is my home sweet home, despite its bitters and its terrors; and, the song is a plea for guidance. I change one word of the lyric: “Stand beside her. Please guide her.” Please. I’d settled on “Alfie” because the lyric’s plea for love could be read as a social and a metaphysical vision -- “are we meant to be kind? And if only fools are kind then I guess it is wise to be cruel.” I wanted something to bridge the family love songs I’ve been writing with the political jokes and rants; the private and the public; one thing I’ve written since learning Alfie may do that too. I dig Hal David’s lyric. “Without true love we just exist. Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing.” I believe in love. I would have gotten rid of “true love,” with its romantic connotations, and replaced it with “real love.” And I would have added a word: “As sure as I DON’T believe there’s a heaven above, I know there’s something much more, something even non-believers can believe in. I believe in love.” Making the singer an agnostic seemed to fit the point of the lyric better; plus, it fits me. Which makes “God Bless America” an odd choice, but there you go. I was having trouble with one phrase in the singing anyway -- Bacharach songs are tricky; I wanted to undersell the climactic phrase, thinking it would bring out the meaning of the words better and give it a nice emotional spin, more pity, less fear; but since the climax is near the top of my range, it’s hard for me to get the notes out quietly -- gotta do it loud. Acchhh. I’m glad to have learned the song & may still record it. Hell, I’ve got a whole week left, who knows whither my mind will change! A man’s prerogative, you know.

Anyway, after posting yesterday, I almost finished one song and made a lot of progress on another before the toddling dude woke up from his nap, and I worked on some stuff again after work tonight. And am off to go work on some more soon.

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