The Intimate Genius of Jesse Winchester

Words, so many words. Sometimes, it is helpful to have fewer of them—and set to music.

And sometimes, the intimacy of a solo singer songwriter, writing and singing soul to soul, is the perfect antidote to the vastness and almost inevitable abstractions of Big Questions and Conundrums. And few singers do “intimate” like Jesse Winchester does. It requires a peculiar kind of genius to lay one’s soul quite this bare while working to harvest the artistic and creative chops that coalesce into such timeless art.

I needed something from the likes of Jesse Winchester after the week we’ve had in these United States. Maybe you did, too.

I’d thought all week of doing a follow-up to the post on the Boston Marathon bombing, so many troublesome, ponderous questions did it raise. But as the week progressed and the words and ideas flew all over the mediasphere, a certain kind of weight seemed to descend, rendering the words unto a slowly retreating and fainter echo.

And I found myself gravitating instead to these delicate, crystalline guitar notes and the equally crystalline, perfectly matched voice behind them.

They express and encompass worlds.


If Only

If we only lived on the ocean floor

Below the waves and the storm and roar

We’d stroll along in our garden blue

Where the flowers all come and play with you

It’s true we’ll live in a great big tear

But the world above will never harm us here

Oh I, I just wonder where would I

Be without the tears I’ve cried

Unless you’re from another star

Tears are part of what we are

Where will we run to

The blues always find you

The blues they know just where to look

Oh the blues they know you just like a book

Oh the garden here if we only knew

Oh the door is so wide we could breeze on through

We could soothe our souls we could understand

See the lion lay down by the lamb

But we linger on by the garden door

Boy the old world hurts but we still want more

Oh I, I just wonder where would I

Be without the tears I’ve cried

Unless you’re from another star

Tears are part of what we are


Grateful acknowledgement for music and photography rights: “If Only” music and lyrics copyright Jesse Winchester, all rights reserved, used by permission of author via KCA Artists, Nashville ( See also or

Bird of Paradise photo courtesy of Alan R. MacNeil, all rights reserved. See:

Rose photo below courtesy of Cyron, under Creative Commons licensing, some rights reserved. See

Rotating banner photos top of page courtesy of Elizabeth Haslam, some rights reserved under Creative Commons licensing, see more at:


5 comments to The Intimate Genius of Jesse Winchester

  • Lisa Brewer  says:

    That is beautiful! Such wisdom in music. Thank you.

  • Kevin  says:

    Made my early morning Drew – as a longtime lover of Jesse Winchester – and this song in particular I've always found evocative, yet I listened to it this morning a bit differently thanks to your post/context… "… tears are part of what we are" indeed… thanks…

    This also triggers a memory, our mutual friend "Sir" Robert Miller related a story of taking a date to see Jesse 30-40 yrs ago, she had never heard of him… just solo guitar and voice, the first song, the first phrase he sang in that "crystalline voice" you mentioned, simply left her slack jawed & stunned – he can evoke such emotion in a song…

  • Dennis Ahern  says:

    Since I find that, though I try, I'm not yet living post-ironically, my first thought was "More Cowbell". Sorry.

    My second thought is that there are a few things I find which alter my mood with perfect reliability. A long bike ride or run, and music. They work pretty much every time.

  • Kevin Feldman  says:

    Ah, ain’t it great – the differences we encompass… “more cow bell” LOVE IT!!

  • Claudia  says:

    Well said…. Jesse does have a way with words, as do you!

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