Brilliant Songs No. 2: Dawes’s “A Little Bit of Everything”  

With his back against the San Francisco traffic
On the bridge’s side that faces towards the jail
Setting out to join a demographic
He hoists his first leg up over the rail

With those first four lines of plaintive scene setting just above a simple piano riff, songwriter Taylor Goldsmith of the folk/rock/indie band Dawes places listeners right there behind yet another Golden Gate Bridge would-be suicide jumper, perhaps reflexively reaching their arms out or emitting an involuntary and horrified, “NooooooDON’T DO IT!”

Talk about the power of words to imagine, to relate, to respond.

I am indebted to reader and friend Randall Chet for bringing “A Little Bit of Everything” to my attention in the Comments section of the inaugural entry in this “Brilliant Songs” series. I had never heard of Dawes nor this song, but I have found it staying with and accompanying me on my walks, my garden-tending, my meanderings through a darkened kitchen toward the coffee maker.

That first stanza doesn’t mean the entire song is about suicide. Goldsmith is actually after something more fundamental in this song, no matter how world-shattering suicide can be for the person leaving this earth and all those he or she left behind.

It’s probably better to catch the lyrics here, in this brilliantly rendered You Tube version, the better to frame the discussion that follows. And if you’d like to linger with the lyrics longer, as I suspect you will, they are in full at the bottom of this post.

Haunting, yes?

After the suicide scene dissolves with a brief conversation between the would-be jumper and a police sergeant who shows up representing all of us with a desperate plea to just hold on a minute (“Hey son, why don’t you talk through this with me?”), the succeeding stanzas place us in two other scenes that call forth the same basic response from the protagonists: “It” (life, sadness, hope, happiness, desire, despair) is about “a little bit of everything.”

So much for the “Why?” question that barges into every tragedy large and small.

The old man in the buffet line takes his consolation where he can—in biscuits and beans, mashed potatoes and chicken wings—though he knows and feels, of course, that whatever fires brought him to his knees will be precious little dampened by them. (Is he the father of the kid on the bridge? Maybe…)

It’s a far smaller scale tragedy, if it is even such, that faces the future bride writing her wedding invitations when intruded upon by her fiancé with the observation, “You don’t seem to be having any fun at all.”

He may be right, and the remark may hold dark portents for their coming union, but she backs him off with:

“You just worry about your groomsmen and your shirt-size.
And rest assured that this is making me feel good.”

Maybe so, but do we detect a resignation in her voice, a weariness with the burdens that come with trying to be understood, trying to weave the complexities of the human heart into the simple knits and purls of just saying “I do?”

Is she foolish in marching lemming-like toward a dead-end marriage, or just embodying a deeper wisdom in proclaiming:

I think that love is so much easier than you realize
If you can give yourself to someone, then you should

Should you? At what potential cost?

Will her confidence on that point result in a smaller death—but a death nonetheless, of identity, dreams, hope—than is suffered by the old man resigned to seeking solace in the choices offered him from a buffet line?

And that boy on the bridge—did he jump, or back off and yield to the good sergeant, only to return to greater torments levied upon him by cruelties of chemistry, dark genes, bullying by peers?

We don’t know the answers to these questions, but they resound, as questions do in all brilliant songs and poems and novels willing to ask them.

Today, this very day, our country is reeling again—again! good god, yet again!—from a school shooting outside Houston, all of us waking up to the relentless dissection of motives, recriminations, and loud disputes of What Should Be Done.

That horror is playing off against the pre-dawn exertions of a monarchy with its kings and queens, dukes and duchesses, going about the business of weaving fantasy and trying primly to catch viewers up into its sticky snare.

It’s making for odd competing headlines, from abjectness to pomp, outrage to snark.

One hardly knows where to turn, until the realization dawns: Maybe toward the little bit of everything that seems to make this mad world keep going round, in all its alternately wild, incomprehensible, peaceful and profound ways, wholly beyond rational explanation or understanding.

***

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Deep appreciation to the photographers! Unless otherwise stated, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing.

Elizabeth Haslam, whose photos (except for the books) grace the rotating banner at top of page.
 https://www.flickr.com/photos/lizhaslam/

Library books photo by Larry Rose, all rights reserved, contact: larry@rosefoto.com

Golden Gate Bridge photo by Sam Soneja, San Francisco, California
https://www.flickr.com/photos/samridhsoneja/

Landscape photo by Andrew Hidas https://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewhidas/

“A Little Bit Of Everything”

With his back against the San Francisco traffic
On the bridge’s side that faces towards the jail
Setting out to join a demographic
He hoists his first leg up over the rail

A phone call’s made, police cars show up quickly
The sergeant slams his passenger door
He says, “Hey son why don’t you talk through this with me?
Just tell me what you’re doing it for.”

“Oh, it’s a little bit of everything
It’s the mountains, it’s the fog
It’s the news at six o’clock
It’s the death of my first dog.”

“It’s the angels up above me
It’s the song that they don’t sing
It’s a little bit of everything.”

There’s an older man who stands in a buffet line,
He is smiling and he’s holding out his plate,
And the further he looks back into his timeline
That hard road always led him to today,

Making up for when his bright future had left him
Making up for the fact his only son is gone,
And letting everything out once, his server asks him
“Have you figured out yet, what it is you want?”

“I want a little bit of everything
The biscuits and the beans
Whatever helps me to forget about
The things that brought me to my knees

So pile on those mashed potatoes
And an extra chicken wing
I’m having a little bit of everything”

Somewhere a pretty girl is writing invitations
To a wedding she has scheduled for the fall
Her man says, “Baby, can I make an observation?
You don’t seem to be having any fun at all.”

She said, “You just worry about your groomsmen and your shirt-size
And rest assured that this is making me feel good.
I think that love is so much easier than you realize
If you can give yourself to someone, then you should

‘Cause it’s a little bit of everything
The way you joke, the way you ache,
It is getting up before you,
So I could watch you as you wake.

So on that day in late September,
It’s not some stupid little ring,
I’m getting a little bit of everything.”

Oh, it’s a little bit of everything
It’s the matador and the bull
It’s the suggested daily dosage
It’s the red moon when it’s full.

All these psychics and these doctors
They’re all right and they’re all wrong,
It’s like trying to make out every word
When they should simply hum along

It’s not some message written in the dark
Or some truth that no one’s seen
It’s a little bit of everything

12 comments to Brilliant Songs No. 2: Dawes’s “A Little Bit of Everything”  

  • Chris Bell  says:

    I love this song and this whole record. My favorite line is “All these psychics and these doctors,
    they’re all right and they’re all wrong. It’s like trying to make out every word when they should simply hum along.” Good theological advice!

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Yeah, I gave rather short shrift to the summary lines once Goldsmith finished with his characters, but I shouldn’t have, because the stanza you cite is freaking great writing, for sure. I also like the “matador AND the bull” reference (can’t leave either of those polarities/conjoined twins out!), and when the woman addresses her fiance directly (“the way you joke, the way you ache…”). Sign me up for the Dawes Fan Club!

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    Will the outrage over shooting at Santa Fe High School succumb in a day or two like the other school massacres? While Texas’ outrage and sympathy for the families who have been so tragically impacted by this senseless act, an act that now monopolizes the local airwaves, will this state, which unabashedly caters to NRA whims, legislate any kind of gun control law in the near future? Did Madison, Jay, and Hamilton foresee a nation in which automatic weapons would supplant flintlocks and muskets? If they had, would you they have supported any “right to bear arms” amendment? (Hell, Hamilton didn’t do too well with a rather primitive Wogden dueling pistol. Imagine his horror over the sale of an AK-47!)

    I live about 45 miles from Santa Fe. Despite the Santa Fe High School tragedy, I have no doubt that Texas will sit on its ass and legislate nothing to curb this insanity that plagues our country on a weekly basis. In fact, I know someone here who after the Sandy Hook slaughter was frantically surfing the net for the best deal on assault rifles because he feared there might be a law passed prohibiting their sale. It’s a mindset beyond my comprehension.

    Shortly after the Parkland, I wrote a lengthy poem on the history of school shootings in this country. My last stanza read:

    Benton, Grayson and Greenville heard shots/Aztec, Baton Rouge, and Savannah, too/A coffin and a hearse–all is for naught./If in the wake of mass shootings nothing ensues/Perhaps the 17 dead at Parkland’s High School/Will rise up and shout, “Enough is Enough!”/And join hands with the living and chant,“Let common sense rule!”/“People, not guns, kill” we must recant/Then, and only then, can we end this despair/ But, remember, it’s gonna take more than a prayer.

    Unfortunately, all Texas will ever do is send its prayer. Don’t get me wrong, there are many good people in Texas who feel deeply for the victims and the families of the Santa Fe shooting. They also realize that these horrific school incidents have become an epidemic. I suppose our entire debate over guns is strife with nuances both legal and emotional. “It’s not some message written in the dark/Or some truth that no one’s seen/It’s a little bit of everything” pretty much sums up our nation’s struggle with what to do about gun violence. It’s not an issue painted in black and white.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Robert, last week a reader took issue with a long-ago post of mine regarding gun control, and we had a rather lengthy, civil exchange in the Comments section. His main issue and fear, it seemed, is of some future U.S. administration establishing a dictatorship, so he wanted to be fully armed to fight for his freedom. I kept inquiring whether he saw any limit to the Second Amendment, or whether citizens should be free to buy missiles, tanks and grenades to even the playing field against government forces.

      He seemed to think that absurd, implying some kind of regulation is required, but I never was able to pin down where that limit might be for him. It certainly wasn’t assault rifles. One can debate the fine points of how much regulation of which exact guns for which exact demographic cohort we should address, etc…but as Goldsmith suggests from a different frame, that is to argue over words while the larger tune screams at us like a punk rock anthem: This country, alone in the civilized world, is awash in guns and violence and fear, and it has all become normalized, brushed off the shoulders of the NRA and its paid-for legislators like an annoying gnat that would deign to impinge on their precious, absolutist gun freedoms.

  • Randall Chet  says:

    I hate getting off into the weeds with gun control as I believe the school shootings are a symptom of something much larger, a little bit of everything if you will. Josh Marshal of Talking Points Memo addresses it here: https://talkingpointsmemo.com/edblog/is-it-really-a-big-mystery

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Yes, I hesitate to get detoured from a great song that is also about so much else. Sigh…
      I agree with Marshal as far as he goes, but what he’s leaving out is our societal, cultural and political response to these ritual copycat shootings, which adds up to a big fat zero, nothing, empty. The shooters’ narratives are pretty much all the same, and so is our complete lack of action, on even a symbolic level, to do anything about it. I think if we changed the narrative from our end, it might prompt some changes on theirs, shaking up the whole equation, but until we do, we are all stuck with the same old same old—the wringing of hands, the thoughts & the prayers…

  • David Jolly  says:

    thoughts and prayers and, don’t forget, flying flags at half-staff – making the whole mess even more political, as if somehow these kids are heroes we should honor for their sacrifice on the battlefield of the second amendment or the altar of gun rights.

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      “It’s the mountains, it’s the fog
      It’s the news at six o’clock…”

      Saw the half-staff downtown the other day, momentarily wondered what it was noting before I realized it was the Houston shooting and felt somehow discomfited by it, for reasons beyond the obvious that I couldn’t quite discern. Thanks for helping to put a finger on it for me, David.

  • joan voight (@shapelygrape)  says:

    Lovely writing Andrew: “…trying to weave the complexities of the human heart into the simple knits and purls of just saying “I do?”

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      Thank you, Joan. Much appreciated.

  • Robert Spencer  says:

    “A Little Bit of Everything” is one of those songs whose lyrics all of us appreciate because decisions are daily exercises shrouded in doubts and what-ifs. In fact, they’re minute-by-minute drills, ranging from the mundane to the life-altering. The young man cradling the rail of the Golden Gate Bridge must weigh all the possible outcomes of his decision to jump. How will his suicide impact his family? Will their anguish trump his crushing depression? The old man, homeless perhaps, must choose between biscuits and gravy or a chocolate doughnut. Which tastes better? Which costs more? Which will stave off hunger longer? The bride who’s labeling her wedding invitations reminds her husband-to-be not to worry about the tedium of licking stamps; it’s all part of love and marriage. The choice to marry need not be so stifling that one forgets what the ring is all about. In each of these cases, the decisions are final and almost always irreversible. Death. No more biscuits and gravy. Probably children (hopefully no divorce). While quoted to death, Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” does effectively and solemnly state the irrevocability of our decisions. “Yet knowing how way leads on to way,/I doubted if I should ever come back.” Also, within that process of determining the right path to take, there’s always a tinge of regret (the sigh) like the old man in the buffet line saying, “I know I should have eaten that doughnut!” Or maybe it’s as simple as Yogi said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”

    • Andrew Hidas  says:

      If only we could lead “Twilight Zone” lives, Robert, courtesy of Rod Serling, in which we get another round, a long rewind, back to some prior critical fork, and this time we take the one we hadn’t taken back then. The chain of circumstance would, I suspect, result in vastly different lives on the surface, but the more intriguing and important question, I think, is how different the alternative life would feel on the inside. Would we be essentially the same person, only with different external circumstances of job, spouses, friends?

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