Song of the Week

edited March 2013 in General
I've been meaning to start this thread for weeks now. I listen to a lot of music (as do all of us emusers!). Often I will be struck by a particular song that I have repeatedly played during the past week because it resonated with me in a special way. It might be simply because of a catchy beat, or it may be a particularly beautiful voice, or especially meaningful lyrics perfectly matched to the accompanying music. It may be any genre - a brand new song I've just discovered, an old favorite, or maybe a forgotten song that I've had for a long time but never fully appreciated.

This thread is my place to share with others the particular "Song of the Week" that stood out for me during this past week. I hope others will use this thread to post their favorite "Song of the Week," too, provide a link for others to hear, and tell us what it is about the song that has had you hitting replay over and over.

My Song of the Week for this week is "Psalm of Life".

It is on the album, "The Gift" by Eliza Carthy and Norma Waterson. It is a wonderfully done folky version of the classic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. This poem is one of my all-time favorites. Longfellow said of it, ‘I kept it some time in manuscript, unwilling to show it to any one, it being a voice from my inmost heart, at a time when I was rallying from depression.' (Longfellow’s young wife was burned to death in an accident while lighting a candle. The flames caught her skirts on fire and completely engulfed her. This was the major cause of the depression Longfellow was rallying from when he wrote ‘Psalm of Life.’)

When I discovered Carthy & Waterson had set this poem to music, I was anxious to hear what these two brilliant artists would do with it. They nail it. I love the contrast between Waterson's rough, edgy voice and Carthy's beautifully smooth one. They each have solo spotlights, and their voices blend beautifully when they sing together. There is a beautiful instrumental break in the middle with a melody that perfectly captures the spirit of the poem. I cannot think of a better way to express this poem musically than what these two ladies have accomplished.

Here are the lyrics, followed by the story behind the poem.

(What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist)

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe'er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o'erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

copied from "Light from Many Lamps"

“It was early morning. The bright sun streamed through the windows of the Craigie house in Cambridge where George Washington had once had his headquarters, and where a young Harvard professor now lived. He lived, in fact, in the very room that Washington had occupied. And as he stood gazing out of the window at the
sloping lawn and the elms, he wondered if Washington might not have stood here once feeling perhaps as he did--unutterably lonely and dejected. The young man's wife had died three years ago, but he longed for her still. Time had not softened his grief nor eased the torment of his memories. He turned restlessly from the window and wondered how to spend the time before breakfast.

He was a poet too, this young professor; but he had no heart for poetry these days. He had no heart for anything, it seemed. Life had become an empty dream. But this could not go on, he told himself! He was letting the days slip by, nursing his despondency. Life was not an empty dream! He must be up and doing. Let the dead past bury its dead. . . . Suddenly Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was writing in a surge of inspiration, the lines coming almost too quickly for his racing pen. Longfellow called his poem "A Psalm of Life." He put it aside at first, unwilling to show it to anyone; for as he later explained, "it was a voice from my inmost heart, at a time when I was rallying from depression."

But later he allowed it to be published . . .and it went straight to the hearts of millions of people. No poem ever written became so well known so fast. It was
taught in schools, recited on the stage, discussed from pulpit and lecture platform. It crossed the ocean, and spread like wildfire through England. It was translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Danish--even Sanskrit! In China it was printed on a fan and became immensely popular. A whole generation of school children grew up under the influence of Longfellow's "Psalm." Many prominent men later acknowledged that influence with gratitude. Henry Ford,
for example, memorized it as a lad, and in later years often said that the sixth and ninth stanzas came back to him all his life, inspiring him to effort and achievement. Firestone also freely acknowledged his indebtedness to the poem, as did many other famous men. Edward Bok made a special visit to Longfellow
to tell him how much the last four lines meant to him. Even Gandhi, on the other side of the world, quoted a favorite line from it just a few days before his death
("....things are not what they seem"). The call to courage and action of a man emerging from a great sorrow, "A Psalm of Life" is one of the best-loved and most widely read poems in the world. Its lines are full of and hope, its message clear and unmistakable. Its appeal is as vital and timely now as it ever was; in a recent poll to determine the nation's favorite poem, it easily won first place.

For over a hundred years "A Psalm of Life" has helped the weary, unhappy, and discouraged to be "up and doing, with a heart for any fate." No poem more richly deserves its place among the inspirational classics of mankind.”


  • edited March 2013
    Well. There is no way I can follow your thoughtful post. However. I was working overtime earlier today, and this track caught my ear & I put it on repeat on my iPod which I don't do to many songs.
    "The Clock", by The View which was 3 week's ago free iTunes downblow. bwahaha. Yes, I said iTunes picked a good one. At least it did for me, and I just listened to it again & still like it - the lead vocalist's voice just sends me & I'd like to touch the lead guitarist's hand.

    Anyway, I thought it was a perfect fit to working overtime. Although this might have been written about having cancer or something much more dire.

    The fire exit door has never agreed with me
    I’m never sure whether to burst or burn
    The fire exit door has never agreed with me
    And leave me burning and I’m born the firm

    And oh the clock ,the clock has no sympathy
    And oh the clock ,the clock’s had it’s way with me

    Sway away if you’re fed up off me
    I’ll never give you the time of day
    If you won’t get me my way
    I’ll never say something that I don’t mean
    Unless I really mean it,
    And I really mean it now

    ‘Cause oh the clock ,the clock has no sympathy
    And oh the clock ,the clock’s had it’s way with me
    And oh the clock ,the clock has no sympathy
    And oh the clock ,the clock’s had it’s way with me

    [Bridge x4:]
    There’s no fighting and no hiding
    Now my pains is gone

    And oh the clock ,the clock has no sympathy
    And oh the clock ,the clock’s had it’s way with me
    And oh the clock ,the clock has no sympathy
    And oh the clock ,the clock’s had it’s way with me
    Seal me up

    ‘Cause the clock has no sympathy
    And the clock’s had it’s way with me
    And the clock has no sympathy
    And the clock’s had it’s way with me
  • kezkez
    edited March 2013
    Oh, wow, Katrina. I like this. Hadn't heard it before.

    Full-length audio on Soundcloud
  • BTW, Kez, this is a nice idea for a thread. Not sure I will have one any time soon as I am spending so much time getting to know new things from the ECM catalog, but in time...
  • edited March 2013
    A great idea Kez - you've sent me back to The Gift to listen to this track again! Thanks for a great idea, this would go well on MiG
  • Count me in.

    Now waiting for a song to strike my fancy
  • kezkez
    edited March 2013
    Well, I am late posting my 'song of the week' for last week. It is 'Lord Duneagle' from Nuala Kennedy's new album, Noble Stranger.

    Amazon's description of the album says, "Nuala Kennedy is an Irish singer and flute player whose music features her liltingly beautiful vocals, adventurous instrumentation, and an imaginative mix of influences. On NOBLE STRANGER, Nuala's third release, the music shines with the raw energy, purpose and confidence of an artist who has come of age. Since the release of her last album, Nuala has become one of the hottest up and coming acts on the North American folk circuit."

    This album is wonderful from start to finish, but the song I kept coming back to was 'Lord Duneagle'. It is an old Scottish tragic love song similar to many of the old celtic ballads recounting the sad tale of two lovers - one goes off to see the world and in the end the one left behind dies of "true love" and the other dies of "sorrow." Such songs in the celtic tradition are usually sung mournfully and slowly, but in Nuala Kennedy's case, she puts a faster pace to the song with lots of percussion that adds urgency to the story. Kennedy's voice has a beautiful Irish lilt to it, and the musical accompaniment of guitar, mandolin and percussion is brilliant. Towards the last minute of the song, there's a mean mandolin that really wows me.

    Full-length audio on soundcloud.
  • edited August 2013
    I decided to remove this post as there is now a more considered version of it here:
  • Thanks for that GP. It's nice to get such a real slice of someplace I've never been; maybe never will; to start off another Monday!
  • @GP! Absolutely beautiful. I am going to look for that song and see if I can listen to it.

    Somebody mentioned 'song of the week' would be a good idea for MiG. Your writing about the Robert Wyatt song and your musings about it in the context of your current surroundings should go there. I was thinking about submitting some, too. I think we should do it.
  • Agreed Kez - your first piece, then GPs would be a great start!
  • edited March 2013
    This works for me: Robert Wyatt - Catholic Architecture
    ETA: - and a lovely video.

    Robert Wyatt is one of my "desolate island" artists, and has been so ever since I heard his cover version of Strangers In The Night in the radio many many years ago: Robert Wyatt & Eve Risser- Rangers In The Night - Not this version, though.

    @ Kez: Get the album !
    @ GP: Thank you.
  • @Greg, I think I will take your suggestion and submit my first 'song of the week' emusers post to Mig (if the editors like the idea). I can probably submit it this afternoon or tonight - tomorrow at the latest.

    @GP - do think about submitting your piece, too. It is too good not to.

    @Brighternow - thanks for the youtube link to Catholic Architecture, and also the Strangers in the Night. I found an mp3 of Catholic Architecture on Amazon that I will download, but haven't found a source for the album yet. Will keep looking. I want to explore more of Robert Wylie's albums, too.
  • @kez, the Catholic Architecture song is from the album Dondestan.
  • Thanks, GP, for the album info. I also thought I'd check out Rock Bottom, which sounds very appealing.
  • I wanted to make sure this great thread didn't drop too far. Also, thanks to the latest drip (Mom + Pop Beatbox) I've got my own song of the week. "Something Better" by Beat Club.

    Nothing complex here, just a solid beat, catchy guitar riff, and lyrics you can sing along with. But the thing with songs that seem formulaic is that you still have to execute the formula well for the song to be memorable. I'd say Beat Club pulls it off.
  • edited April 2013
    This next is a most excellent song to hear on the first day that feels like spring with bue skies & puffy clouds & you've just invited friends over and are tidying up the place....very energetic!
    Yea verily, give this an actual listen before ye judge. It still holds up.


    Something in the way you love me won’t let me be
    I don’t want to be your prisoner so baby won’t you set me free
    Stop playing with my heart
    Finish what you start
    When you make my love come down
    If you want me let me know
    Baby let it show
    Honey don’t you fool around

    Just try to understand, I’ve given all I can,
    ’cause you got the best of me


    Borderline feels like I’m going to lose my mind
    You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline

    (repeat chorus again)

    Keep on pushing me baby
    Don’t you know you drive me crazy
    You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline

    Something in your eyes is makin’ such a fool of me
    When you hold me in your arms you love me till I just can’t see
    But then you let me down, when I look around, baby you just can’t be found
    Stop driving me away, I just wanna stay,
    There’s something I just got to say

    Just try to understand, I’ve given all I can,
    ’cause you got the best of me


    Keep on pushing me baby
    Don’t you know you drive me crazy
    You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline

    Look what your love has done to me
    Come on baby set me free
    You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline
    You cause me so much pain, I think I’m going insane
    What does it take to make you see?
    You just keep on pushing my love over the borderline
  • Forgot to tell you, Germanprof, how much I enjoyed your post. I used to travel for work & like you, looked into the faces of the people I saw. Now I am tied to a smaller scope, yet the same strangeness is still there in the faces of the people. Different surroundings give a different perspective.
  • @Thom - enjoyed "Something Better." Yeah, I see what you mean...

    @Katrina - My first thought, Madonna? But yeah, it works. I can definitely see how it's the perfect song for exactly what you describe.
  • edited April 2013
    kez, hanh, Madonna's not everyone's first choice, I know.

    When I first changed from vinyl to CD, I bought one classical, one jazz, one rock CD . This is the best of the best. I love every track on this album, but I think I love this one the best. It changes for me over the years, and I don't know how those young musicians wrote something so timeless. I also love the MONEY track, but TIME is what has always spoken to me. How could someone in their 20s know to write the line, "And then the one day you find ten years have got behind you"? I found that line interesting when I was 15, spooky when I was 25, and now in my 50s, I'm gobsmacked.

    Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
    You fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way

    Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
    Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

    Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
    You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

    And then the one day you find ten years have got behind you
    No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun
    And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking

    And racing around to come up behind you again
    The sun is the same in the relative way, but you're older
    And shorter of breath and one day closer to death

    Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
    Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

    Hanging on in quiet desparation in the English way
    The time is gone the song is over, thought I'd something more to say

    Home, home again
    I like to be her when I can
    It's good to warm my bones beside the fire

    And hear the softly spoke magic spell
  • kezkez
    edited April 2013
    I've been playing this one over and over lately. It's a superb cover of one of Dylan's lesser known songs, Red River Shore, included on Jimmy LaFave's 2012 album. It fits the melancholy mood I've been stuck in lately, but aside from that, it is a beautiful piece of musical art. The pedal steel, reverberating guitars, piano notes and harmonica all blend together just beautifully, climaxing with a gorgeous instrumental outro.


    Tortured love songs like this are not usually described as being exactly what you would call deep or thought-provoking, but this one is. There is an excellent commentary on this song on a blog I came across, which describes it like this: "Though Red River Shore is a kind of ‘love song’, its concerns are ultimately far wider and more transcendent. In many ways it is a classic piece of romanticism, which echoes the ‘nature poems’ of Burns, Keats, Shelley and Wordsworth. The girl herself seems more elemental than real, a kind of spirit of nature who may be taken to symbolise the poetic imagination itself." Much more on the analysis of this song can be read at the blog here and definitely adds to one's appreciation of the song. Well worth reading the entire piece!
  • edited April 2013
    Well, Howdy Kez. I've been trying to find a tune that I've listened to frequently to suggest for this thread but I've mostly been listening to a rotation of the unplayed tracks in this computers itunes (the old one died). This is one I've added to my garden experiment. I'll never tire of hearing Talk Talk or Mark Hollis.

    April 5th youtube

    Here she comes
    Silent in her sound
    Here she comes
    Fresh upon the ground

    Come gentle spring
    Come at winter's end
    Gone is the pallow from a promise that's nature's gift

    Waiting for the colour of spring
    Let me breathe
    Let me breathe the colour of spring

    Here she comes
    Laughter in her kiss
    Here she comes
    Shame upon her lips

    Come wanton spring
    Come for birth you live
    Youth takes it's bow before the summer the seasons bring

    Waiting for the colour of spring
    Let me
    Let me breathe
    Let me breathe you
    Let me breathe
    Let me breathe you
    Let me breathe

    And although it's hardly been a gentle spring, it's still a time of rebirth.


    Ps Thanks for the Jimmy LaFave. I was thinking about him the other day as I was exploring
    the tip I got from amclark2 about this free album Michael Chapman and the Woodpiles - Natch 7. I'll be adding Red River Shore, Deportee and When It Starts to Rain to the experiment. I'm pretty sure there's some parts of the Natch series you'd enjoy and I've posted some links in the experiment. I'll look forward to your suggestions for this years tests.

    PPs I'll look forward for suggestions from all my old friends too. It's nice to have a tune to remember you by.
  • edited April 2013
    This has been playing in my head all morning (Sorry about the Depeche Mode commercial)

    Live version

    An oldie but a goodie

    Maybe its the wall to wall coverage and all this talk of what a good kid he was
  • edited April 2013
    Went on a romp through old Kings X songs the other day. Pleiades remains for me their masterpiece, from their second album, the great Gretchen Goes to Nebraska. I love the slow, patient build, the smouldering power of the guitars in the second half, the stately rhythm that enlists my body regardless of what my mind is doing. And I was struck again by how much they managed to do in a very short lyric:

    When I look up at the stars at night
    What could I find beyond the light
    A hundred million worlds that we ignore

    Who can restrain Pleiades or know the laws of heavenlies
    How many times have we been wrong before

    Far off in the field I see a castle
    Today the people gather at the pole
    He tried to tell us all the world was spherical
    They burned his body but not his soul

    Working back from the end, clearly it seems to refer to the scientific revolution - maybe, as someone suggested, to someone like Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for theological heresy and also held Copernican views (which very probably had nothing to do with the burning for heresy), or maybe (as I am inclined to think) just more generally/impressionistically to the times of Galileo and Copernicus. People are burned at the stake in wars over interpretation. Perhaps the present tense, "Today", hints that this is not just about the Middle Ages.

    But the middle couplet complicates the picture beyond a straight "science versus religious dogma" picture - "who can restrain Pleiades" is a line of God's speech from the biblical book of Job (38:31) from the section where God is telling Job in dramatic terms that he, Job, does not know nearly as much about God and the world as he thought he did, reminding him of his smallness in the grander scheme of things. And so the Bible is quoted but on the side of wonder and humility (the last word is "soul", not "mind" or "reason" - perhaps not only for the rhyme); the duet is now a trio, science, religious authority, and a biblical picture of God (here neither particularly against science nor necessarily for religious authority).

    The last line of the first verse, like the Job quotation, succinctly yet vividly captures the smallness of our mental worlds against the backdrop of the universe. And so the universe makes four, it's a quartet now - there are those stars too that we can contemplate just by looking up, and for which the song is titled. The rest revolves around the stars (we circle the sun, not the other way around). The first two lines now seem (to me) to carry a couple of meanings - there's the literal picture of glimpsing the universe outside the bubble of electric light (try viewing the night sky somewhere far from a city, where our own lights don't paint over the heavens), but it also seems to me to set up the rest of the lyric: when we look at the stars what does what we see say about us, reveal about the beliefs we view the world through? Just pinpricks of light, a backdrop for our own small dramas? The triumph of modern scientific reason over old-fashioned dogma? Comforting signs of a tidy cosmos in which everything is explained by faith? Something wondrous that tells of the vastness of God and speaks of humility? Who can capture Pleiades?

    Heady stuff in a small package.

    And the music absolutely rocks. Turn it up.
  • @JuJ and GP, enjoyed these!

    @GP - your insightful take on the Pleiades lyrics was very thought-provoking. I highly, highly enjoyed reading it. Really. I feel like I should say more, but I can't think of any more words that are adequate.
  • edited April 2013
    Thanks, kez :-)
  • edited April 2013
    This business with the vastness of the universe and what-not is all well and good, but what happened to Gretchen? Did she at least make it to Scottsbluff?
  • We may never know. Perhaps the penultimate line is a hint that she's ended up back where she started?
  • edited April 2013
    My personal song of the week.

    John Paul Taylor - Care Enough
    When something’s just not right
    Not the way that it should be
    We can choose to join the fight
    Or pretend we just don’t see

    But when it’s right before your eyes
    It can reach inside your soul
    There’s just no place to hide
    Let your heart take control

    When are we gonna care enough
    To let our minds see through our eyes
    When are we gonna really see
    The way things are happening?
    Oh, when are we gonna care enough?
    Oh, when are we gonna care enough?

    If a tree falls in the forest
    Five thousand miles from here
    Does it even make a sound?
    Is the question that you hear

    But the sound, it doesn’t matter
    As it’s falling to the ground
    But how many more will follow
    Til the last one’s taken down


    When are we gonna open our eyes
    When are we gonna realize
    The way it’s gonna be
    It’s up to you and me

  • @Brighternow - nice song! I did not know of John Paul Taylor. I see he mentions nature and music as his two passions and it is admirable how he has used these to further education on our environment. I particularly like the way the lyrics to the song convey his message subtly. It is an example of the best kind of songwriting, I think. The song leaves much for the listener to draw upon to reach their own conclusions, rather than over-reaching direct statements. In fact, when I first read the lyrics I came away with a completely different interpretation of the song, not knowing anything about Taylor previously. The most direct statement of the songwriter's purpose lies in the lines "If a tree falls in the forest five thousand miles from here, Does it even make a sound? is the question that you hear/But the sound, it doesn't matter as it's falling to the ground/But how many more will follow til the last one's taken down." It is a powerful statement of Taylor's motivation for writing the song, but at the same time - even as direct as those lines are - they meshed very smoothly with my own interpretation of the song which had nothing at all to do with our physical environment. This to me is good songwriting, pure and simple.

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