Tift Merritt: “Icarus”

Icarus painting Today’s song of the day is “Icarus” by Tift Merritt. The song takes the story of Icarus in Greek mythology as its inspiration.

In Greek mythology, Daedalus created wings for him and his son Icarus to escape a tower where they were imprisoned. Because the wings were made of feathers and wax, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too low, where the seas would wet the wings, or too high, where the warming sun would melt the wax. Once in the air, though, Icarus forgot his father’s warning and began flying higher and higher. The sun then melted the wax, the wings fell off, and Icarus fell to the sea and drowned. The story is often used as a warning against hubris (flying too high).

NPR describes Merritt’s version of the story as “not Greek mythology’s tragic tale of hubris, but rather an expression of the impulse to cradle a fragile spirit and nurse it back to health.” But recently at MerleFest, Merritt did invoke the theme of hubris in describing the song.

She explained that the song is about dreaming versus hubris. Adding a political note, Merritt added that at least Icarus was dreaming, but certain modern political figures define what hubris really is.  I wonder who she means?

A rush of breath, a turn of touch;
The up and down arch of loving so much;
The way your heart will race and rise;
A tear handing in long, slow dive.

Oh Icarus,
There’s a wing down in each of us;
Faster than the speed of sound inside,
Everything flies.

“Icarus” is from Tift Merritt’s album, Stitch of the World, released in January 2017.

Image of Jacob Peter Gowy’s The Flight of Icarus painting via public domain. What is your favorite Tift Merritt song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

I Have to Leave You: Glen Campbell’s Adiós

Campbell AdiosGlen Campbell, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2011, has given his fans one last gift of a final studio album, Adiós.  Campbell recorded the album after his Goodbye Tour and the filming of the documentary I’ll Be Me.

The new album features some of Campbell’s favorite songs.  Rolling Stone claims the album “stands among Campbell’s best – heartbreaking and imbued with poignancy, but sung with the same pure, sparkling vocals that are a distinguishing hallmark.”

Songwriter Jimmy Webb wrote the title track, “Adiós,” along with three other tracks on the album.  Webb wrote several of Campbell’s biggest hits, including “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston.”

Like the song that had been billed as Campbell’s final song in September 2014 — “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” — the lyrics to “Adiós” achieve special meaning considering Campbell’s medical condition.  But it is not a new song.  Linda Ronstadt had an Adult Contemporary hit with it in 1990.

And “Adiós” is not new for Campbell either.  Webb has explained that he and Campbell used to play the song all the time in various places, including their homes, hotels, and dressing rooms. Check out the recording of the song, produced by Campbell’s longtime friend Carl Jackson.

Don’t think that I’m ungrateful,
And don’t look so morose;

Jackson explained that in order to help Campbell record the songs, he printed the lyrics in big print.  And sometimes they did one line of a song at a time. But, Jackson explained, Campbell had no trouble remembering the melodies and the correct keys.

Adiós will hit stores and the Internet on June 9, 2017. Other tracks on the album include a duet with Willie Nelson on his song “Funny How Time Slips Away.” Also, the album features Campbell’s interpretation of  “Everybody’s Talkin’.”

Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Dolly Parton Covers Brandi Carlile’s ‘The Story’

    Dolly Parton The Story When Brandi Carlile released her song “The Story” on the album of the same name in 2007, the song immediately became a “pullover” song for me.  In other words, the song is so moving that if you first hear it in the car, you have to pull over to do nothing else but listen to it.

    The fact that the song was later used in a television show (Grey’s Anatomy) and TV commercial (General Motors) did nothing to reduce the power of the song.  Other artists, like Sara Ramirez and LeAnn Rimes, have covered the song, although the original still remains the definitive version.

    But now Carlile is revisiting her entire 2007 breakthrough album with other artists covering songs from The Story for a good cause.  The new album with an incredibly long name, Cover Stories: Brandi Carlile Celebrates 10 Years of The Story – An Album to Benefit War Child, features such artists as Kris Kristofferson, Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Pearl Jam.   And all proceeds go War Child U.K., which works to help children in refugee camps displaced because of conflicts.

    But who do you get to cover the title song, which is so memorable because of Carlile’s aching vocals?  Well, you find a living legend with a great voice and a heart, which is what Carlile did.  Dolly Parton takes on “The Story” on the new album.  And while she may not make you forget Carlile’s version, Parton does what she does so well.  She gives a powerful and heart-breaking vocal that is an immediate classic.

    Listen to Dolly Parton’s version of “The Story.”

    Cover Stories: Brandi Carlile Celebrates 10 Years of The Story – An Album to Benefit War Child hit stores and the Internet on May 5, 2017.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young & . . . Tom Jones?

    Tom Jones Long Time Gone

    On May 10 in 1749, the tenth and final volume of the novel Tom Jones by Henry Fielding was published. Many consider the comic story, whose full name was The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, one of the earliest and most influential English novel. When many people hear the name “Tom Jones” today, they are likely to think of the Welsh singer with that name.

    Tom Jones, the singer, was born as Thomas John Woodward on June 7, 1940. People know Jones for a number of hits ranging from “It’s Not Unusual” in 1965 and “Green Green Grass of Home” in 1966 to a cover of Prince’s “Kiss” in 1988 with Art of Noise. But from 1969 to 1971, Jones also hosted a TV variety show, This is Tom Jones.

    Jones’s show featured a variety of guests that led to some great pairings that allowed Jones to show off his vocal range, such as an amazing duet with Janis Joplin. Another unusual pairing from 1969 that surprisingly works well is Jones singing with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

    Check out Jones singing “Long Time Gone” with CSNY, which also features great vocals by Stephen Stills. I wonder if Jones and Neil Young ever shared a stage again. But based on this performance, I would buy a ticket.

    David Crosby wrote “Long Time Gone” as a response to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. The group, without Tom Jones, performed the song at Woodstock. “Long Time Gone” is a political song challenging authority that remains relevant through the decades.

    And it appears to be a long,
    Such a long, long, long time before the dawn.
    Speak out, you got to speak out against
    The madness, you got to speak your mind,
    If you dare.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Lead Belly: “The Hindenburg Disaster”

    Hindenburg Lead Belly

    On May 6, 1937, the German passenger airship Hindenburg caught fire while it attempted to dock at a naval station in Lakehurst, New Jersey. Thirty-five of the 97 people on board the ship died, along with one worker on the ground.

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    Many people would listen to Herbert Morrison‘s recorded reports on the radio.  The horrible crash — along with Morrison’s cry of “Oh, the humanity!” — helped end public confidence in the use of airships as a means of travel.

    This video puts together Morrson’s reporting with some separate color footage from the scene.

    Lead Belly’s “The Hindenburg Disaster”

    In the years before television, songwriter often responded quickly to write songs about a major disaster.  And Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly, used his songwriting skills to tell the story of the Hindenburg in “The Hindenburg Disaster.”

    Lead Belly recorded his song for the Library of Congress on June 22, 1937.  Check out his version of the story in “The Hindenburg Disaster.”

    “The Hindenburg Disaster” appears on Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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