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Literature as Song, Song as Literature

The brouhaha surrounding Bob Dylan’s 2016 Nobel award for literature reinforced my belief that songs were as much about story-telling as any novel or poem (will films ever be considered?) So I amused myself this afternoon by picking some of my favorites…


KEEP IT SIMPLE – KEB MO

Nobody is better than this guy for framing contemporary life in a blues form…


Two cars, three kids, six phones A whole lot of confusion up here in my home Five-hundred stations on the TV screen Five-hundred versions of the same ol’ thing


Y’all know it’s crazy And it’s drivin’ me insane Well, I don’t wanna be a superman I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands And keep it simple Oh real simple

You know I called my doctor on the telephone The lines were open, but there was nobody home Press one, press two, press pound, press three Why can’t somebody just pick up the phone and talk to me?


Y’all know it’s crazy You know it’s driving me insane I don’t wanna be a superman I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands And keep it simple (Yes I do) Real simple

(Play the blues)


Well I went down to the local coffee store The menu went from the ceiling all the way down to the floor Decaf, cappuccino, or latte said the cashier I said gimme a small cup of coffee and let me get the hell up outta here


Y’all know it’s crazy Oh it’s driving me insane Well, I don’t wanna be a superman I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands And keep it simple Oh lord, real simple

Well now I don’t wanna be a superman I just wanna go somewhere, use my hands And keep it simple Real simple Real simple


Warren Zevon – My Shits Fucked Up

Zevon bad a penchant for the perverse, Werewolves of London, Life will Kill You, Gorilla |You re A Desperado…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbhYqV17CoQ 

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Well, I went to the doctor I said, “i’m feeling kind of rough…” “Let me break it to you son, you’re shit’s fucked up!” I said, “My shit’s fucked up?! Well, I don’t see how!” He said, “The shit that used to work, won’t work now!” I had a dream; aw shucks, oh well Now its all fucked up, its shot out to hell yea-eah, my shit’s fucked up It has to happen to the best of us The rich folk suffer like the rest of us It’ll happen to you.


Warren Zevon Excitable Boy


Well, he went down to dinner in his Sunday best Excitable boy, they all said And he rubbed the pot roast all over his chest Excitable boy, they all said


He took in the four a.m. show at the Clark Excitable boy, they all said And he bit the usherette’s leg in the dark Excitable boy, they all said Well, he’s just an excitable boy


He took little Suzie to the Junior Prom Excitable boy, they all said And he raped her and killed her, then he took her home Excitable boy, they all said Well, he’s just an excitable boy After ten long years they let him out of the home Excitable boy, they all said And he dug up her grave and built a cage with her bones Excitable boy, they all said Well, he’s just an excitable boy


But I Was Cool -Oscar Brown Jr

Chicago’s Brown was uber talented, A great voice , impeccable phrasing and , well ;listen to this …

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=88FdqYkxe1A

I’ve always lived by this golden rule Whatever happens “don’t blow your cool” You’ve got to have nerves of steel Never show folks what you honestly feel I’ve lived my whole life this way For example, take yesterday


I breezed home happy Bringing her my pay Her note read “so long sappy I have ran away.” I threw myself down across our empty bed And this is what I said

(shrieks, screams, hoots)


But I Was Cool

So I one-for-the-road it At an all night bar Wound up so loaded I tore up my car The judge threw the book at me And when I read his sentence there I said

(shrieks, screams, hoots)


But I Was Cool

So I said she’s the only one I have to thank So I found her and pulled my gun and fired point blank The shot whistled straight passed that woman’s head And killed my hound dog dead

(shrieks, screams, hoots)


But I Was Cool

As they carried me away I was overhead to say Be cool, stay cool, keep cool Play it cool C-o-o-o-o-o-l


I Don’t Worry About a Thing –Mose Allison

Easy going , smooth tenor, great sense of humor (Your Mind is on Vacation)


If this life is driving You to drink You sit around and wondering Just what to think Well I got some consoloation I’ll give it to you If I might Well I don’t worry bout a thing ‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright You know this world is just one big Trouble spot because Some have plenty and Some have not You know I used to be trouble but I finally Saw the light Now I don’t worry ’bout a thing ‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright Don’t waste you time trying to Be a go getter Things will get worse before they Get any better You know there’s always somebody playing with Dynamite But I don’t worry about a thing ‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be all right


“Now I don’t worry ’bout a thing ‘Cause I know nothing’s gonna be alright”


The Waterboys – Strange Boat

This Scottish ensemble led by Mike Scott produced this gem…


We’re sailing on a strange boat Heading for a strange shore We’re sailing on a strange boat Heading for a strange shore Carrying the strangest cargo That was ever hauled aboard We’re sailing on a strange sea Blown by a strange wind We’re sailing on a strange sea Blown by a strange wind Carrying the strangest crew That ever sinned We’re riding in a strange car We’re followin’ a strange star We’re climbing… We’re living in a strange time Working for a strange goal We’re living in a strange time Working for a strange goal We’re turning flesh and body Into soul


GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY Bob Dylan

In a long career Dylan has written more than a handful of great  songs ...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CwHby-YTNo


You may be an ambassador To England or France You might like to gamble You might like to dance You may be the heavyweight Champion of the world You might be a socialite With a long string of pearls But you're gonna have to serve somebody Yes indeed, you're gonna have to serve somebody Well it may be the Devil Or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody Might be a Rock-n-roll addict Prancing on the stage Money, Drugs at your command Women in a cage You may be a businessman Or some high degree thief They may call you doctor Or they may call you chief But you're gonna have to serve somebody Yes you are, you're gonna have to serve somebody Well it may be the Devil Or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody


Might be a Rock-n-roll addict


Prancing on the stage Money, Drugs at your command Women in a cage You may be a businessman Or some high degree thief They may call you doctor Or they may call you chief But you're gonna have to serve somebody Yes you are, you're gonna have to serve somebody Well it may be the Devil Or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody * * You might be a young Turk You may be the head Of some big TV network You may be rich or poor You may be blind or lame Maybe livin' in another Country Under another name But you're gonna have to serve somebody Yes you are, you're gonna have to serve somebody Well it may be the Devil Or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody Maybe a construction worker Workin' on a home Might be livin' in a Mansion You might live in a dome You may own guns And you may even own tanks You may be someone's landlord You may even own banks But you're gonna have to serve somebody Yes, you're gonna have to serve somebody Well it may be the Devil Or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody You may be a Preacher Preaching Spiritual Pride Maybe a City Councilman Takin' bribes on the side Maybe working in a Barbershop You may know how to cut hair You may be somebody's mistress Maybe somebody's heir But you're gonna have to serve somebody Yes, you're gonna have to serve somebody Well it may be the Devil Or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody Might like to wear cotton Might like to wear silk Might like to drink whiskey Might like to drink milk Might like to eat caviar You might like to eat bread Maybe sleeping on the floor Sleepin' in a king-size bed But you're gonna have to serve somebody Yes indeed, you're gonna have to serve somebody Well it may be the Devil Or it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody You may call me Terry You may call me Timmy You may call me Bobby Or you may call me Zimmy You may call me RJ You may call me Ray You may call me anything No matter what you say You're still gonna have to serve somebody Yes, you're gonna have to serve somebody Well it may be the Devil And it may be the Lord But you're gonna have to serve somebody Ohh Yeah Serve Somebody



Early Roman Kings Bob Dylan

All the early Roman kings In their sharkskin suits Bow ties and buttons High top boots Drivin' the spikes in Blazin' the rails Nailed in their coffins In top hats and tails Fly away, little bird Fly away, flap your wings Fly by night Like the early Roman kings


All the early roman kings In the early early morn Coming down the mountain Distributing the corn Speeding through the forest Racing down the track You try to get away They drag you back Tomorrow is Friday We'll see what it brings Everybody's talking Bout the early roman kings


They're peddlers and they're meddlers They buy and they sell They destroyed your city They'll destroy you as well They're lecherous and treacherous Hell-bent for leather Each of 'em bigger Than all them put together Sluggers and muggers Wearing fancy gold rings All the women goin' crazy For the early Roman kings


I can dress up your wounds With a blood-clotted rag I ain't afraid to make love To a bitch or a hag If you see me comin' And you're standing there Wave your handkerchief In the air I ain't dead yet Ma Bell still rings I keep my fingers crossed Like them early roman kings


I can strip you of life Strip you of breath Ship you down To the house of death One day You will ask for me There'll be no one else That you'll wanna see Bring down my fiddle Tune up my strings I'm gonna break it wide open Like the early roman kings


I was up on black mountain The day Detroit fell They killed 'em all off And they sent 'em to hell Ding dong daddy You're coming up short Gonna put you on trial In a Sicilian court I've had my fun I've had my flings Gonna shake em all down Like the early roman kings


"I ain't dead yet... my Bell still rings"


Woodstock by Joni Mitchell


Camille Paglia included the 60’s anthem, Woodstock in  Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World's Best Poems   which moved me to reconsider the song and Mitchell... “But you know life is for learning”


By the way, John Legend has a new version of Woodstock which is spellbinding…


I came upon a child of God He was walking along the road And I asked him where are you going And this he told me I'm going on down to Yasgur's farm * I'm going to join in a rock 'n' roll band I'm going to camp out on the land I'm going to try an' get my soul free


We are stardust We are golden And we've got to get ourselves Back to the garden


Then can I walk beside you I have come here to lose the smog And I feel to be a cog in something turning Well maybe it is just the time of year Or maybe it's the time of man I don't know who I am But you know life is for learning


We are stardust We are golden And we've got to get ourselves Back to the garden


By the time we got to Woodstock We were half a million strong And everywhere there was song and celebration And I dreamed I saw the bombers Riding shotgun in the sky And they were turning into butterflies Above our nation

We are stardust Billion year old carbon We are golden Caught in the devil's bargain And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden


"God's Song (That's Why I Love Mankind)" Randy Newman

Probably best  known for his Toy Story score and theme song, Newman has a mordant sense of humor, as the following tune exhibits...


Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why For if the children of Israel were to multiply Why must any of the children die? So he asked the Lord And the Lord said:


Man means nothing, he means less to me Than the lowliest cactus flower Or the humblest Yucca tree He chases round this desert 'Cause he thinks that's where I'll be That's why I love mankind


I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee From the squalor and the filth and the misery How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayers you offer me That's why I love mankind


The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite TV They picked their four greatest priests And they began to speak They said, "Lord, a plague is on the world Lord, no man is free The temples that we built to you Have tumbled into the sea Lord, if you won't take care of us Won't you please, please let us be?" And the Lord said And the Lord said


I burn down your cities-how blind you must be I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we You all must be crazy to put your faith in me That's why I love mankind You really need me That's why I love mankind


Anthem Leonard Cohen


There is a crack in everything,  that's how the light gets in ..."

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