SLOW DOWN SUPERMAN
This was my first attempt at songwriting, as I waited for seven hours on
the autobahn outside of Hamburg, Germany, with my thumb out, in vain. I
ended up taking the train. The song says "Munich". If you've
ever sung the word "Hamburg", maybe you can understand why I
Walking along, nobody by my side. Good day for talking. Think I'll bum a ride
My body's saying "have a seat". No breakfast left me dead on my feet, and I'm so high and dry
Auf wiedersehen to Munich, in the rain. My thumb is weary from the waiting game
I'm sitting here, just playing guitar. I'm serenading every car, as they all pass me by
Slow down, superman. I'll caress your new sedan
If you'll get me out of Munich before I die
Well, I've got a song or two, and I'll sing each one for you
If you'll give this loving man one fair ride
A couple of chile dogs and I'd be set, but on the highway ain't no luncheonette
My guitar used to work in the past. They see me. They're just going to fast and they don't have the time
Seems like a week, now, and I'm fading fast, and overhead's still looking overcast
If only they would hear my song, if only they would take me along, then the sun would be mine
This Dick Blakesly tune became the theme song for the Henry Wallace
presidential campaign in 1948, into the thick of which I was born. My
father was Wallace's chief speech writer and fundraising speaker, my
middle name is Henry because of the man who was my Godfather, and this
was his favorite tune, so the least I could do was make it the title
song. Besides, I love singing it...
I saw Adam leave the garden with an apple in his hand
I said "Now you're out -- what are you gonna do?"
"Plant some crops and pray for rain, maybe raise a little Cain
I'm an orphan, now, and I'm just passing through
Passing through, passing through
Sometimes happy, sometimes blue, glad that I ran into you
Tell the people that you saw me passing through
I saw Jesus on the cross on that hill called Calvary
"Do you hate mankind for what they've done to you?"
He said: "talk of love, not hate, 'cause it's getting mighty late
I've so little time and I'm just passing through"
I shivered next to Washington one night at Valley Forge
"Why do the soldiers freeze here like they do?"
He said: "men will suffer, fight, even die for what is right
Even though they know they're only passing through
'Twas at Franklin Roosevelt's side, just a while before he died
He said: "one world must come out of World War II
Yankee, Russian, white or tan, Lord, a man is just a man
We're all brothers and we're only passing through"
Gandhi spoke of freedom, one night. I said: "man, we gotta fight!"
He said: "yes, but love's the weapon we should use
For with killing no one wins. It's with love that peace begins
It takes courage when we're only passing through"
PORT OF NEWBURY
One night, Rob Carlson and I sang in Newburyport, Massachusetts. I was
quite taken with the place and its people, especially the folks of the
Atlantic Spiral Staircase Company, who convinced us to move there. So my
friend Terri Loehr and I did. Soon, we felt we owed the place a song,
and found a John Greenleaf Whittier poem about this fine Cape Ann town.
Putting his words to music, and adding some of our own, out came this
Its windows flashing to the sky, 'neath a thousand roofs of brown
Far down the vale, my friend and I beheld the old and quiet town
The ghostly sails that, out to sea, flapped their white wings of mystery
Sail me to the Port of Newbury. Feel the peace of yesterday
Meet me in the Port of Newbury, where the gulls and people play
Its beaches glimmering in the sun, and the low wooded capes that run
Into the sea mist, north and south, the sand bluffs at the river's mouth
The swinging chain bridge and, afar, the foam line on the harbor bar
Wandering down the streets of Newbury. Georgian house and Widow's Walk
Sea tales by the wharf in Newbury. Tuna boats and sailors' talk
We came and she conquered us with her Old Salt smile, and her warm, Yankee style
We left with our peace of mind, having known the grace of her time-worn face, how it shines...
Sing, now, to the Port of Newbury, of the friends and beauty there
Thanks be to the Port of Newbury. We'll take your memory everywhere
In 1974, I gave guitar lessons in Cork, Ireland, and often got paid
in home-cooked food or new music, much more nourishing rewards than
money, indeed. Witness this one, for example, taught to me by a fellow
who claimed it as Irish in origin. Turns out the English say it's
theirs, as do the Scots, Welsh and Cornish. Personally, I think it may
come from Vermont, though we're hard-pressed to find salt air around
As I walked by the dockside, one evening so rare
To view the still waters and taste the salt air
I heard an old fisherman singing this song:
"Won't you take me away, boys, my time is not long
"Dress me up in my oilskins and blankets. No more on the docks I'll be seen
And tell my old shipmates I'm taking a trip, mates, and I'll see you someday in Fiddler's Green"
"Now, Fiddler's Green is a place, I've heard tell
Where fishermen go if they don't go to Hell
The weather is fair and the dolphins do play
And the cold coast of Greenland is far, far away"
"Now, I don't want a harp or a halo, not me
Just give me a breeze and a good roaring sea
And I'll play my old squeeze box as we sail along
With the wind in the rigging just singing a song"
THE LITTLE HUSBAND
In England, a folk club is where people who hate their jobs go on a
Saturday night to vent their frustrations in song. I learned this one
from a bank manager in a tiny club crammed into the basement of a luxury
hotel in Wadebridge, Cornwall County. He said it was French, originally,
so who am I to question him? I've found an astounding number of folks
who can empathize with the spouse in question.
There was a man who made his daughter wed a husband who was shorter
He hadn't any height at all. In fact, she thought him rather small
Standing on tiptoe, he was able to rub noses with her navel
But, even that began to pall, for he was really rather small
Mother had thought the marriage night meant she would get much more excitement
But, it was not that way at all, for he was really rather small
She had a hope that with persuasion he would rise to the occasion
If he would rise, then she would fall, but he was really rather small
He wasn't like her other lovers. He got lost beneath the covers
She couldn't find him there, at all, for he was really rather small
If he were lost, 'twould be a scandal, so she sought him with a candle
She couldn't find him there at all, for he was really rather small
It was by candle, not desire, that she set the bed on fire
So that the bed became his pall, for he was really rather small
She got him out of his misfortune, but the bed, it was a-scorchin'
She had to wrap him in a shawl, for he was hot, as well as small
So then she thought she would deposit him inside the water closet
Thinking that this would make him cool, her little husband who was small
But then she pulled, from force of habit, and it drowned him like a rabbit
There was a fizz, and that was all, from her poor man who was so small
Pity the girl who weds a midget, who can do no more than fidget
If you're a girl, then never fall for one who's really rather small
Having a husband who's a pygmy leads to tragedy and bigamy
This is a story that is tall about a husband who was small
They call Connemara the "wild west" of Ireland. It's barren,
virtually untouched by modern society (at least it was when I wrote this in
1971), and hauntingly beautiful beyond words. I'd never seen such an idyllic
spot. The song doesn't do it justice, but 'twas the best I could muster.
Top of the morning, sunshine. Welcome to your home
I'm so glad you chose this land to rise in. I hope you stay
The ears of corn hear the sounds of the morn while the ocean bathes the hay
And a storm's eye twinkles with a sigh, blowing the night away
When your life in the city leaves you empty, and pollution of your senses is the crime
And the rainbow you've been chasing leads to Fool's Gold
You'll be born again, I'm told. Bring your heart in from the cold
And live your own free verse in the Connemara rhyme
Open your eyes, little sheepdog. The dawn is here, at last
It's time to show the cows and the sheep just where they're free
The cliffs preside over every tide, while the moon is on the thrown
Breezes are wild, helping every bird fly, more than any time has flown
BLUES MY NAUGHTY SWEETIE GIVES ME
Swanston, Carvon, Morgan
I heard this Swantone, Carvon and Morgan song on a Jim Kweskin Jug Band
album, and felt compelled to learn it. I'd always wanted to study kazoo,
and the sentiments herein are ones I can certainly relate to, as can any
red-blooded American with questionable values and intelligence.
Well, there are blues that you get from loneliness, and there are blues that you get from pain
There are blues when you're lonely for your one and only, the blues you can never explain
And there are blues that you get from sleepless nights, but the meanest blues that be
Are the blues that I've got on my mind, I mean the ones that are the meanest kind
The blues my naughty sweetie gives to me
Well, there are blues you get from women when you catch'em going swimming
And you haven't got a bathing suit, yourself
There are blues that get you quicker when you're drinking lots of liquor
And somebody goes and takes it off the shelf
There are blues you get when everything's in hock
And when your girlfriend doesn't answer when you knock
There are blues you get from getting in a taxi cab and fretting
Every time you see the meter jump a notch
There are blues you get from trying to keep your Uncle Jack from dying
And he afterwards forgets you in his will
There are blues you get from kissing when you're walking with your misses
And another baby shouts "HI, BILL!"
But the blues that make you want to jump and stop and shake and shiver
Yes, the blues that make you want to go and end it in the river
Are the blues my naughty sweetie gives to me
THANK THE ISLAND
Rob Carlson and I were a duo for a couple of years in the early 70's.
This is our only collaborative composition, written on and about
Martha's Vineyard, where we'd fled to get our repertoire together. The
night this tune was born, small, winged creatures were destroying
themselves against the windows, trying desperately to pursue the
brightness of the crackling fire we had going. At that moment, what we
were witnessing seemed like the meaning of life. Ah, the early 70's....
Sitting in the evening, looking for a song to play
I'd like to thank the island for a very lovely day
Everybody's napping when the moths come tapping on the darkened window pane
Flying through the night toward the light in the window, trying to come in from the rain
Up against the glass, looking for a passage to the bright and the laughing flame
But there's some things they can't see. They're a bit like you and me
It seems to take an island to bring your best out, by and by
She sends a little water when you think you're running dry
Gonna take a little time and trouble, but she'll always see you through
When city living's got you seeing double, and you don't know what to do
Well, she up and slips you something sweet and subtle and you wonder how she knew
Well, she may not watch the charts, but she's looking after you(start sound bite at beginning of "la la's")
She's just sitting in the sea. She's got nowhere else to be
I'm just sitting in the evening, looking for a song to play
I'd like to thank the island for a very lovely day
I'm sitting in the evening, looking for a song to play
As we prepared to leave Europe to return to the States in 1975, Terri
Loehr and I jotted down these little rantings, pondering what kind of
life we might want, need, end up with, be in for, etc. We didn't know
it, then, but it turned out to be pretty darn close to our Vermont
beginnings, right down to the "couple of sheep dogs"(see Randy and Ned Go To School from GONNA DIE
WITH A SMILE IF IT KILLS ME.
Lazy one, you just sit there singing, all day long with your harmony
Crazy one, don't you know your strumming leaves me humming?
Days fly by and my life gets shorter. I don't much care about the time I lose
I had this dream that the world was easy. All was simple, all was slow
Sing me to sleeping. A lazy lullaby. Oh, for a melody to dream on....
Long ago in the past you're singing. Takes me back where I mean to be
Can't return. Might as well keep singing. Dreams keep springing back to me
I long for the days in the country, my soul with the clouds floating by
Just cows and a goat, couple of sheepdogs and me
Alive and alone in a field overgrown
SAMPSON AND DELILAH
The Reverend Gary Davis
I remember first hearing Peter, Paul and Mary do this one, then The
Grateful Dead, whose version was probably the closest to the original,
sung by its creator, The Reverend Gary Davis. It made me move and moved
me the first time, and still does. Works up a fine sweat, in concert,too.
You read about Samson, you read about his birth.
He was the strongest man that ever lived on Earth
One day Samson was walking alone. He looked down on the ground. He saw an old jawbone
He lifted up that jawbone and he swung it over his head
When he got to moving, ten thousand was dead
If I had my way, if I had my way in this wicked world
If I had my way, I would tear this building down
Well, Samson and the lion got in attack
Samson, he crawled up on the lion's back
You read about this lion. He killed a man with his paw. Samson, he got his hands around that lion's jaw
And he ripped that beast till the lion was dead
And the bees made honey in the lion's head
Delilah, she was a woman. She was fine and fair
She had lovely looks (God knows) and coal-black hair
Delilah, she climbed up on Samson's knee. Said: "tell me where your strength lies, if you please"
She talked so fine, she talked so fair
Samson said "Delilah, right on my hair"
STREETS OF LONDON
This Ralph McTell masterpiece was the most popular tune in Ireland, of
all places, in 1971, a perfect example of the transcendental power of
music. I heard it in every pub and home, and it became a part of me.
Still is, and it chills me each time I sing it. Healthy chills.
Have you seen the old man in the closed-down market , picking up the papers with his worn-out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride and, hung loosely by his side, yesterday's papers telling yesterday's news
So, how can you tell me you're lonely, and you say for you that the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something that'll make you change your mind
Have you seen the old girl who walks the streets of London? Dirt in her hair, and her clothes in rags
She's no time for talking. She just keeps right on walking, carrying her home in two carrier bags
In the all-night café, at a quarter past eleven, same old man, sitting there on his own
Looking at the world over the rim of his teacup. Each tea lasts an hour, and he wanders home alone
Have you seen the old man outside the Seaman's Mission?
Memory fading with the metal ribbons that he wears
And in our winter city, the rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero in a world that doesn't care
My father was a turtle collector. People used to send him turtles of
every conceivable material, from all over the world. I inherited much of
that collection, and have added some of my own. Great animal - only makes
progress when it sticks its neck out. In Westport, Connecticut, they
started the "Order of the Turtle" award, to be presented to someone in
public life who stuck their neck out for a principle or belief. They
gave the first one to somebody, then couldn't find anyone else. So much
for the award. Here's my modest tribute to this brave, distinguished,
amphibious crusader. I had fun with word sculpture on this one.
A kitty has to slumber when he's done his little number under your bed. And you wish he was dead
When Fido licks your feet, it's 'cause he'd love that piece of meat you have in the pan. Best friend of man
A pet that needs a vet when he's tangled in the net of human kindness
Is like a man whose life's for the other folks
Till he tries to chew, but he almost chokes on his own beliefs. Oh, it's blindness
But there's a creature that I've found who's by far the best around. That's the turtle
His just dessert'll be today
He doesn't write a check out. All he does is stick his neck out to move along to his own song
It may take long to get there, but he does and you can bet there is a purpose to his life
Now, people with their neck in say: "he's loco"
But I reckon they're just jealous of his sight. I think they're right
And Mister Jones, the magnate, counts his money, so he'll stagnate while the turtle marches on
He'll soon be gone
Now, with his home right on his back, he pushes on. He don't look back to yesterday. It doesn't pay
Just count his rings and then you'll know how long this turtle's on the go. His only care is getting there
I think we'll follow his example. We've got time to plan for ample good mistakes. That's all it takes
To be a turtle is a passion. If we don't succumb to fashion, we'll be there. If we dare
We're gonna rise without delay. Don't really care what the people say.
We'll stick our necks out anyway. We're bound to benefit that way. In a world of turtles
IF WE ONLY HAD LOVE
We lost Jacques Brel, tragically, at age 39. He left us with this, among
other magnificent music. Apparently, the translator was quite the
visionary and poet, too. This English version isn't much like the
original Belgian, but it has a similar message, and do I ever love to
sing it! Impossible to follow this with anything, in concert. That's why
it closes this album.
If we only have love, then tomorrow will dawn, and the days of our years will rise on that morn
If we only have love, to embrace without fears, we will kiss with our eyes, we will sleep without tears
If we only have love, with our arms open wide, then the young and the old will stand at our side
If we only have love, love that's falling like rain, then the parched desert earth will grow green again
If we only have love, for the hymn that we shout, for the song that we sing, then we'll have a way out
If we only have love, we can reach those in pain, we can heal all our wounds, we can use our own names
If we only have love, we can melt all the guns, and then give the new world to our daughters and sons
If we only have love, then Jerusalem stands, and then death has no shadow, there are no foreign lands
If we only have love, we will never bow down, we'll be tall as the pines, neither heroes nor clowns
If we only have love, then we'll be only men, and we'll drink from the grail to be born once again
Then with nothing at all, but the little we are
We'll have conquered all time, all space, the sun and the stars