Gonna Die With A Smile If It Kills Me

The musical ramblings in Jon's second album range from bluegrass to scat, from Irish love songs to tunes for small people. Original songs include "Just Kidding", which advocates perpetual childishness and immaturity, and "Long Ago Lady", a tribute to his home state of Vermont. Buy Gonna Die With A Smile If It Kills Me at The Gailmor Music Store.

The Vermont Vanguard Press: "Give it a listen, because there aren't many albums being made for optimists, these days."

Read the Lyrics
To view the lyrics, click on a "Song Title" below.
Listen to Song Samples
To hear song sample (in mp3 format), click on the "ListenMusic"
(Philo Records) 1980 Release
  1. Gonna Die With A Smile If It Kills Me | ListenMusic
  2. Randy and Ned Go To School | ListenMusic
  3. Prayer To The Serifos Sun
  4. Ae Fond Kiss
  5. Gotta Have A Hook
  6. Rooty Toot Toot For The Moon
  7. Woody
  8. Maiden Of Eden
  9. Just Kidding
  10. Last Sun
  11. Jumbo The Elephant
  12. Long Ago Lady | ListenMusic

Gonna Die With A Smile It It Kills Me: Lyrics

-- Life's much too short to be miserable. In that spirit, here's a bit
of simplistic-though-sincere philosophy that I've found useful, more so
with each passing headline. 

Well, I've been begging for the blues, since the days of Eve and Adam 
'cause I've been trying to write the blues, and it's hard when you ain't had 'em 
These days I'm getting mighty close, but I can't seem to stay morose for long, when I sing this song: 

I'm gonna die with a smile if it kills me 
Gonna guzzle life's wine till it fills me 
'cause today might be my last dawn-breaker 
And if tonight I meet my maker 
I'm gonna dress all up and take her on the town 

Life to some is a golf shot, if your first attempt don't make it 
A stroke is all you lose. Drop a new life and start naked 
Well, I've got no time to play that way. I never liked golf anyway at all. That hole's too small 

Now, the smile's not insipid, like the one on the button 
And the "have a nice day" bumper sticker makes me want to sin 
To laughter I'm addicted, and the grin that I'm a glutton for 
Has nothing artificial 'cause the grinning is within 

Today I read the morning blues, and the type-set tears got to me 
But I'm determined to refuse to let it keep me down and doomy 
I know I can't clean up the mess, but I sure as hell can't help, depressed 
So I'm gonna seize the time (sound bite ends at end of song) 

Randy and Ned Go To School GO TO SCHOOL
-- These two canines came from the same litter (sheepdog, poodle,
collie, German shepherd - the girl got around), but Randy looked like a
spiffy, black and white border collie, while Ned was a huge, gray
sheepdog the size of a large, hairy school bus. Different personalities,
interests and hobbies, as well. ( The wonder of genetics) They made
invaluable suggestions during the creation of this tune. 

Got a dubious story about a dubious duo, doo-wah 
Supposedly came from the same womb. Must've been quite a dame, their ma 
Randy named after Newman, most of the time I think he's human 
Ned just looked like a Ned, what a classic thoroughbred! 
They just moseyed their lives away 

Even in high school, Randy was a dandy, indeed 
"Best-Dressed", "Winning Smile", voted "Most Likely To Succeed" 
Ned was a jock. He could tackle, he could block 
Off the field, he was a lamb, had the charm of a clam 
With his long-haired letter sweater of gray 

To say they were spoiled is a joke. It's a wonder we never went broke 
What with Randy's dry cleaning bills and Ned taking diet pills 
They had us by the collar all the time 

We'd planned to send Randy to School to major in the absurd 
But they told us their striped quota'd been filled, and they stamped him "DEFERRED" 
Got accepted to Yale in his white tie and tail 
With his minor in drama, gave the dean such a trauma 
They sold him his degree 

Poor Nedley got drafted, but they came to an agreement 
They discharged him just because he didn't know what "enemy" meant 
But he starred on the varsity at Brown , when he was there 
'twas a dream come true, I always knew he was a bear 
And he barely passed by a hair 

Duos come, duos go, duos fall 
Bud and Lou, Stan and Ollie, et al 
Though diplomas they were given, they just love for a living 
Man, you won't believe me, till you've seen our boys 

-- The lyrics preceded the music by a couple of years. I sat on a bluff
overlooking the tiny Greek Cyclades island of Serifos in 1971, and took
apart a dried sea urchin skeleton as I wrote. Gazing down at the
whitewashed village, I envied the idyllically simple lifestyle and
naively dreamed that we could all live that way. Then I roller-bladed
back to my hotel room, grabbed the remote and surfed through the cable
channels. (the last sentence is an untruth)

Cast a crying shadow on the mansions fraught with hate 
On polished, plastic palaces where life begins too late 
Burn the blemished, superficial skin that does not feel 
And if your force destroys their venom, then our scars will heal 

Guard every island where nature has her say 
Shine on the mountain road, the peasant and his way 
On those who love, let every dove alight, and if you can 
Fill the cup of evening wine again for every man 

Sing your song across the skies. Teach the deaf to harmonize 
Feed the fire of love to smother every fear. 
We'll be a chorus when you rise. We'll be a chorus when you rise. 

When will the pangs of hunger turn to grains of sand? 
Why do the wealthy reap the harvests others planned? 
Who sends the poor to fight the war for rich men's pride? 
Where can a down man go, where he won't have to hide? 

Smile on the growing fields, where hands caress the soil 
Send soothing rays where ultra-violence used to boil 
From a dirge your love song blossoms, sung in war-less weather 
Your colors will embrace our promised land, and then together we can...

-- We sang this in the University of Pennsylvania Glee Club. I had the
solo. Maybe I need to relive my moment in the sun. Maybe I can close my
eyes and imagine myself standing there in Madison Square Garden in 1970,
in my white tie and tails, wailing this Robert Burns lament before
hundreds, nay thousands of enraptured alumni, friends, and my entire
family tree (both of them). Maybe I just love the hell out of this song.

Ae fond kiss and then we sever. Ae farewell and then forever 
Deep in heart-wrung tears I'll pledge thee. 
Warring sighs and groans I'll wage thee 

Had we never loved, sae kindly. Had we never love, sae blindly 
Never met or never parted, we had ne'er been broken hearted 

Fare thee well, thou first and fairest. Fare thee well, thou best and dearest 
Thine be ilka joy and treasure, peace, enjoyment, love and pleasure 

-- A saga of a big-time record deal. The event here-depicted was perhaps
the most important of my life. Experiencing the New York City music
business in the early 1970's taught me that staying small and making
music my own way is what my life should be about. I am eternally
grateful to the music and publishing executives, managers, agents and
the white-collar authority figures of Polydor Records, who made the
decisions without an iota of regard or respect for the art itself. They
helped me discover and solidify my self-awareness, my reverence for and
profound love of music, and my professional priorities. At least the
studio engineers and technicians appreciated the music, itself. I'm a
lucky guy to have had a taste of the big-time. Fortunately, I was able
to spit it out, before I was poisoned. I'll never have to wonder what it
must be like. 

We'd spent two years filling water holes. Those worn-out tunes were running dry. 
Same folks asking for 'em and talking through 'em. We just stopped trying, by and by 
Our desperation led to demo tape. Put down our best tunes for the ride 
Our city slickers took 'em 'round the town. Guess it pays to have a bastard on your side. 
	They were told: 

	Gotta have a hook to have a hit. Doesn't matter if you don't feel it 
	Grab 'em with a hook they gotta hum on the can, in the bath, behind the wheel 
	It may leave some with a sleepless night, but it can't be wrong if the suckers bite 
	They'll thank us all in due time 

We called our worms in the Big Apple. We had to hear the latest slime 
They simply said to call 'em Monday. Seemed like they said that every time 
We took the train instead of calling. Had to remind 'em who we are 
Eavesdropped on high-pitched conversation. Real glad they left that door ajar. We heard: 

They can't be talkin' 'bout musicians (fools that we were, and so naive) 
Must be 'bout prostitutes or fishin', but they had evil up their sleeve 

Our tunes didn't "kill" 'em, didn't "knock 'em out". Sounded like some odd cretin tongue 
We gathered they'd be needing changes. There'd be time for moralizing when we're done 
So we got back on that assembly line. Cranked out some contact paper tunes. 
Our good old boys got us that wheeler-deal. We signed our lives away like loons. Small print read: 

Gotta have a hook.... 

So we laid our tracks down in three short days. Producer said "bye, hope you dig" 
Then he went out and spent his twenty thou on synthetic makeup and a wig 

When we heard all the damages, and heard our souls go down the drain 
The way they drained all the meaning from our tunes, we called that company to complain 
Tape machine said: 

-- Greg Brown's classic. I'm proud to be one of a zillion folks who do
this tune. I'm not sure what it means (even Greg, himself, has said he's
not sure), but it makes me feel good. 

The whole kit and kaboodle is in disrepair. There's nowhere to go. It's not here 
Little captains and cuckoos from here to Timbuktu are counting their dough in the mirror, singing: 

	Rooty toot toot for the moon 
	It's the biggest star I've ever seen 
	It's a pearl of wisdom, a slice of green cheese 
	Burning just like kerosene, burning just like kerosene 

He was just some young, white kid, trying to sing tough and black, with gravel and spit in his voice 
He laughed at the things we do. The radio laughed, too. I held up my arms to rejoice, singing: 

So, God bless motorcycles and far-out, heavy trifles. You know you can't memorize Zen 
Hang your hat on your nose. Don't hide in your clothes. Smile at someone. Begin to begin, singing: 

-- I learned this, one evening, at a small gathering in my home. No one
seems to know who wrote it, so I'll give credit to that incredibly
prolific songwriter, Traditional. It's bluegrass for lovebirds.

Woody knows nothing but pecking on the bough. All the sky is blue 
I never knew, till I met you, what love sweet love could do, could do 
What love sweet love could do 

Jaybird pulls a four-horse plow. Sparrow, why can't you? 
'cause my legs are long and thin. 
They might get broke in two, in two. 
They might get broke in two 

Redbird sitting on a sycamore limb, singing out his soul 
A big, black snake crawled up that tree. 
Swallowed that poor boy, whole. 
Swallowed that poor boy whole 

I am just a country boy. Money have I none 
There is silver in the moon, gold in the morning sun, gold in the morning sun 

-- This song is a result of having been utterly smitten by the woman who
eventually became my wife and the mother of my children. Eden, New York
is her home town, Irish is most of her ancestry, and this one's for
Catherine Alice Murphy. 

'twas a crank-up-the-woodstove Monday, in the hue of a pewter sky 
Soprano wind sang an aria for me that winter, '79 
For, on that otherwise cold day, my blood flowed warm and true 
This fire in me was kindled there by the glow of the Maiden of Eden 

Soft as an Irish drizzle, bold as the Irish Sea 
Through turquoise eyes, her soul choir sings a loving melody 

Now, I've not been a love-song writer. My words fall pale and thin 
In sonnet and on canvas, all I feel's been finer said 
But my pen pours joyous juice, now, though the meter may not ring 
I fear no dearth of reason or rhyme, for of ecstasy I sing 

Maiden of Eden, unfairly fair is she 
I revel in her spirit and in all she understands 
Maiden of Eden, the luxury of her love 
So rich and sweet with song am I, for the joy of being her man 

-- The more I sing and work with children, the greater I see the need
for kids to really act their age. There is nothing sadder than the kid
who hasn't had a childhood. We've got to squash this desire of kids to
hurry up and be grown-up, and the nasty habit some adults have, of
facilitating it. Here's to perpetual childishness and immaturity! 

I think I'll go for a stroll with my favorite troll 
Take a ride on the back of my dinosaur, Jack 
It's such a fine day to fly, I guess I'll be a jet plane 
And if a grown-up person asks me what I'm doing, I'll explain 

Just kidding, just being a kid 
Just kidding, from Montpelier to Madrid 
So good to be kidding. What a world we're all in 
Don't know how we'll grow up, but what a way to begin 

After a hard day in the dirt, how about a cookie for dessert 
Better give me an extra twelve. Might have to entertain an elf 
Oh, yes, and two or three for Mary. Don't forget her little lamb 
And if a grown-up person tells me: "ACT YOUR AGE!" I'll say: "I AM!" 

I play with a gold kid named Gill and my blue buddy, Bill 
Got a pink pal, Pauline and her sister Sal, who's green 
Orange Al's a good friend. Purple Pete - what a guy 
Big folks don't understand our rainbow, prettier than any in the sky 

I'm a kid, small and proud! Sing it long, sing it loud 
Getting larger every day. I guess it's gotta be that way 
But there's one thing I know, and I'll never forget 
I'll always be a kid inside, no matter how big I get

-- This song is a reflection of a most desolate time for me. I had just
arrived in Europe, after having terminated my relationship with the New
York City music business (See GOTTA HAVE A HOOK, a few tunes ago).
Feeling already quite alienated from mainstream American policies and
politics, I now felt as though even music had let me down. Across the
Atlantic I flew, toward a new beginning and perhaps a new country.
Writing this helped me get through a difficult and seemingly
interminable chapter in my life. 

Once was a child, homeland forsaken. A labor of love, she was crying 
Weaned on a dream, never to waken, so young to be gray, now, and dying 
Planted a seed, grew to a tree in time. No fruit did it bear, ne'er to blossom 
Branches too weak for even a child to climb fell without warning. Nobody knew to cry 
Oh lord, forgive us. We've sinned too long 
Heaven help us 
The love's all gone, now. There's no more dawn, now. We've seen our last sun go down 

Once was a land, supposed to be free there. So everyone sailed to the New World 
So many souls, no air to breathe there. And the praying's in vain, now, in the broken-promised land 
Pity the child nobody wanted, nowhere to climb, nothing growing 
In the land of the lie and the home of the haunted, with the face of an old man, but a child inside 

-- A friend comes up to me and says "Give this a listen. It's really
bizarre, and I think you'll like it." So I hear it, love it, learn it
and record it. Folks from child-care centers to senior centers seem to
enjoy it, for a multitude of reasons. This classic, by the wild and
crazy Englishman, Leon Rosselson, is truly a song on many levels. Choose
your level. You may change your level at any time. Even swapping levels
with a friend is permissible. I wish I'd written this, and probably will.

Jumbo the elephant, he wasn't elegant, and his intelligence was small 
But he was a helluva nice sort of elephant, willing and mild, like a lovable child 
Obedient to everyone's call 
Jumbo lived in the jingle jangle jungle of a concrete town 
He worked clearing debris, hauling girders, heaving timber till the night came down 
Never known another home, he was as happy as he could be 
Everyone gave him buns, etted and petted him playfully 

And the mayor, who owned half the town and Jumbo, too 
And the mayor, taught him all the things that an elephant should do 
And the mayor, when the town turned out for the liberty parade 
And the mayor, when the crowd waved flags and the brass bands played 
Proud as a cat in his cock-a-doodle hat, the fat mayor sat
-- on the elephant's back 
Jumbo, the elephant.... 

Sunday evenings, all the town folk gathered in the market square 
They came to watch the elephant performing all the tricks that he'd been taught by the mayor 
He could dance, he could prance, everyone laughing to see the fun 
Rhumba-ing, lumbering, keeping the time to the beat of the drum 

And the mayor
-- the ways of an elephant were ways he understood 
And the mayor
-- gave Jumbo champagne as a treat for being good 
And the mayor
-- had the word of command as the great beast bowed 
And the mayor
-- mounted like a rajah to the cheers of the crowd 
Proud as a cat in his cock-a-doodle hat, the fat mayor sat
-- on the elephant's back 

Jumbo the elephant.... 

Then one Sunday, as the dry winds flickered through the summer heat 
The mayor was riding Jumbo, at the head of a procession, through the crowded street 
Suddenly, for all to see, Jumbo stopped, heard the mayor call his name 
Silently, defiantly, Jumbo was playing another game 

And the elephant
-- raised his trunk and trumpeted, shattering the sky 
And the elephant
-- the crowd fled in terror as they heard his jungle cry 
And the elephant
-- rampaging and trampling through the town 
And the elephant
-- "Jumbo!" cried the mayor, as he was hurled to the ground 
A tit for a tat, you could hear the bones crack, as the elephant sat
On the fat mayor's back 

Jumbo the elephant, he wasn't elegant, and his intelligence was small 
But he was a helluva nice sort of elephant, till he turned wild, like a violent child 
You can't trust an elephant at all 

-- When asked why I live in Vermont, I usually sing this song, which can
be embarrassing in a public bathroom or at a golf tournament. This is,
however, my musical gift to a state which has given, and continues to
give, more gifts to all of us than we could ever count or repay. 

My reason for being is music, and to reach a few hearts, if I can 
There's nothing that feels like the feeling of touching, and with the gift of a song I can try 
There's a jewel in the heart of New England, where the music I live by is born 
She's a simple, sweet tune for the asking, and she's home 

For the love of Vermont, for the warmth of her hand 
For the freedom she shares with the souls of the land 
Where the gentle belong, and where to feel is to be strong 
She's bestowed her song on us all 

She tells you to follow what feels right. Gives you reason to love what you are 
She's allowed me to live by my music, and my heart 
Now the tunesmiths can sing there till their voices but whisper 
And the poets can rhyme till the tides have no rhythm 
And the potters can throw till the wheel of the world spins no more 

For the love of Vermont.... 

Now, my words may be trite and a trifle old fashioned 
From some antique century in time 
But to me she's a long ago lady of pride and compassion 
With elegant wrinkles I long to hold on to 
She's a maid of an era the country's forgotten 
Save Vermont