Monday, November 18, 2013

Of All the Ridiculous Songs I Love

And the ridiculous songs I love are legion -- from the old campfire favorites I'll launch into at the drop of a hat ("He always SINGS ragtime music to his cattle as he SWINGS back and forth in his saddle...") to novelty nostalgia ("Oh yes they call him the Streak, Lookity, lookity! Fastest thing on two feet!") and just the other day "Signs" was the only song on the radio that could tempt me to stop the dial surfing, turn it up and bellow, "THE SIGN SAID YOU GOT TO HAVE A MEMBERSHIP CARD TO GET INSIDE! HUNH!"

But of all the ridiculous songs I love, Donna Fargo's "The Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A." has got to be the height of silly profundity.

Fargo combines minor-keyed prosaic simplicity and nearly bat-shit crazy lyrical inventions like bojangle clocks and skippity-doo-dahs into a funny concoction, but my very favorite moment of the 1972 song is when she shifts into a higher register and goes into the frenzied ecstasy of "Now you be careful, gotta go, I love you, have a beautiful day!" It's sheer joy but also denial and memory and sad hope in the era of the Vietnam War when so many men were not safe at home but half a world away, killing and dying. A great companion piece to Tammy Wynette's "Talking to Myself Again," another country classic about a woman playing house with the ghost of her long gone lover.

You can read "Happiest Girl" straight or you can read it crooked. Straight, it's a little manic, but sweet, while crooked, it's a howling cry of irony. That's the way Big Love played it and Lana Del Rey, who is surely the most lethargic girl in the whole etcetera.

A perfect November song for me, the month when PMS + DST + GFA = SAD. Throw some JFK anniversary in there and you've nearly got FML.

But that sounds ungrateful and this is the month of gratitude which I do have, I have it in spades. So grateful for my dear dear girls and their hard-working daddy and our wonderful community, my Girl Scouts and the girls' patient teachers and sunlight and hot tea and my cousin Becky's 50th surprise party and fun Bears and Bulls games and my brother's new job in California and a calendar crowded with good things like this weekend's plans to take Aunt Ruth and her sister Aunt Susan to Miami for Ruth's 90th birthday.

It's all good, people, and when someone asks, "How are you?" I'm not lying when I say, "Really great!" even though I was sobbing yesterday as I drove through the end of the Sunday storm to the store. It's November and I accept it. This is cyclical and I'm supposed to be down and low in this darkening month. The sun is going to come back and so is the spring so why not cry in sympathy with the heaving wind and the splattering rain? It's all good. Christmas cheer is on its way and even more fun and ridiculous songs to sing.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Another Reason to be Grateful to Lou Reed

Here is a gorgeous song from Okkervil River, a band I found out about this week from reading "A Reason to Keep Singing," a tribute to Lou Reed by its lead singer Will Sheff.  

Sheff writes: "(Reed's) music changed something in us and changed what we wanted to be. We didn’t want to make people happy. We wanted to make people hurt. We wanted to make music for adults, music that didn’t lie to you and feed you a line of shit. And then if we did make happy music, that happiness would have a genuine impact on people because it would be real happiness, happiness that coexisted with the real knowledge of pain. That happiness—like the happiness in 'Sweet Jane'—wasn’t false. It was something you could really hold on to."

The entire remembrance is here and it's so good.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Beautiful Thing To See On A Rainy Day

In case you're feeling gloomy on this rainy day, maybe you've got candy hangover, maybe the aftermath of last night's fun has let you down, perhaps Thanksgiving vacation feels too far away (I could go on and on, but I'll stop there), if you need a lift, I have something to share with you.

Watch this beautiful act of compassion and heroism.

A Buffalo, New York bus driver was crossing a bridge when he noticed a woman standing outside the overpass railing. Darnell Barton, a father of two, stopped the loaded bus, called his dispatcher for help, then went to help the woman who was staring at the traffic below her. Barton put his arm around the woman and asked her if she wanted to come back over the rail. She said, "yeah."

Watch as Barton helps her across the rail and sits down with her to talk. Help came soon after.

Read the entire story here.