songs of longing tagged posts

Brilliant Songs #22: Greg Brown’s “Rexroth’s Daughter”

One of the things I love about Greg Brown’s “Rexroth’s Daughter” is Brown’s refusal to offer any kind of explanation or backdrop to the somewhat mysterious title, which is encompassed in the only line he repeats in the song’s 72 lines: “I’m lookin’ for Rexroth’s daughter.”

This is consonant with a certain strain of creative artist who simply wants to have his or her work stand on its own, meaning what it means to anyone who comes across it, without shaping a viewer’s/reader’s/listener’s response via either explanation or the creator’s biography.

That said, we can surmise easily enough that the reference is to the great poet Kenneth Rexroth, often called the “father” of the so-called “Beat Generation” literary movement that grew up around him in 1950s San Francisco, and which included the poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, among many others.

Rexroth was a self-taught intellectual ...

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Brilliant Songs #4: Jason Isbell’s “If We Were Vampires”

There are times when a song or a phrase, a picture or a wisp of cloud, a gnarled old tree or a glance from a stranger, hits us like a bomb, but a good kind of bomb—one that shakes us out of the stupor we too often descend into as we forsake sharing with our own lives the precious gift of our true and careful attention.

And so it was, apparently, with rootsy singer-songwriter Jason Isbell and his complete absence from my radar (Just how did that happen?) until late last night when my music aficionado friend Kevin saw fit to send me a link to an Isbell song, and the bomb exploded.

The song—“If We Were Vampires”—helped Isbell and “The 400 Unit” of musicians that serve as his backup band win a trio of awards the other night at the American Honors and Awards Show in Nashville. Best Song, Best Album (which contained the song) and Best Duo-Group of the Year.

All well and good, but in the case of a...

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Reflections on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”

Sometimes I think life effectively ends the morning you wake up and you’re no longer able to look forward to something. It can be just about anything: your cup of coffee, the gaze to your garden in the first rays of the sun, a favorite show or sports event on television, the opening of a newspaper or log-on to email, the dive back into the book you fell asleep with the night before, the walk with the dog or meetup with a friend or family member at lunch.

Anticipation is everything, it seems—the pull forward to something that awaits, the zest and expectancy with which we tell ourselves in the quiet of our heart: “Oh, this will be good!” (To which we often append the colloquial expression we kindly share with those whose presence we anticipate: “Can’t wait!”)

Yet anticipation carries within it the seed of its own problem: Will the reality measure up? Will the actual conversation or lunch or bal...

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