Wonderful Redwood Tree

On October 2, 1968, Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson signed the act that established Redwood National Park in California.  The law put 58,000 acres in the control of the National Park Service.  And in 1978, the government added an additional 42,000 acres to the park.

The law making the area into a national park was a culmination of decades of work by preservationists.  In the late 1850s, loggers were harvesting many of the redwoods.  But by the early 1900’s, a Save-the-Redwoods League started buying up land to preserve the trees, and California began designating areas as state parks.

Fortunately, we can still enjoy the massive trees at Redwood National Park, as well as see other giants at Sequoia and Kings Canyon national park (one of my favorite national parks).  Sequoia and redwood trees have many similarities, but they also have many differences, such that sequoias are the largest trees by volume while redwoods are the tallest.

Van Morrison’s “Redwood Tree”

The greatest song about redwood trees would have to be Van Morrison’s “Redwood Tree.”  The song first appeared on his 1972 album, Saint Dominic’s Preview, which is probably my favorite Van Morrison album.

“Redwood Tree” begins with a boy and his dog looking for a rainbow.  And the song ends with a boy and his father looking for a lost dog, who is never found. But the song is really about memories of youth and what we learn as we age.  The redwood tree of the title provides a protective force.

And it smells like rain,
Maybe even thunder;
Won’t you keep us from all harm,
Wonderful redwood tree.

Although “Redwood Tree” was released as a single, it only barely broke into the Billboard Top 100.  At the time, reviewer Stewart Parker in The Irish Times called the song a “simple but tuneful ditty.” Rolling Stone referred to the song as a “beautiful, sensuous cut.”

Over time, many defenders have praised the song.  The Telegraph lists “Redwood Tree” as one of thirty Essential Van Morrison Songs.  It notes that this three-minute song about childhood is “perfection.”

Decide for your self as you celebrate the protection of these wonderful trees with a listen to Van Morrison’s “Redwood Tree.” For a bonus, below is a demo version of the song that appeared on The Genuine Philosopher’s Stone collection.

What do you think “Redwood Tree” is about? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    Van Morrison: “It’s a Long Way to Belfast City Too”

    On August 31, 1945, George Ivan Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, although we came to know him as Van Morrison. So today is a great day to listen to some Van Morrison music, even though I never need much of an excuse to hear songs such as one of my favorite all-time songs, “St. Dominic’s Preview.”

    Imagery in “St. Dominic’s Preview”

    The song “St. Dominic’s Preview” is the title track from Van Morrison’s 1972 album. It is a song of images, beginning with a line about cleaning windows, a reference to Van Morrison’s working class roots and an early job as a window cleaner.

    The song describes the streets of Belfast during the Troubles, while also dashing across the ocean at times to check San Francisco, Buffalo, and “every Hank Williams railroad train,” but always returning to gaze out on Saint Dominic’s Preview.

    What is “St. Dominic’s Preview” About?

    In the excellent book about the album, Saint Dominic’s Flashback: Van Morrison’s Classic Album, Forty Years On, Peter Wrench writes that he sees the title song “[a]s a series of largely autobiographical shards from a young man who has travelled the world and achieved a great deal, but doesn’t feel nearly as settled or satisfied as people might expect.”

    By another account, Van Morrison’s idea was to center the song around “a church called St Dominic’s where people were gathering to pray or hear a mass for peace in Northern Ireland.”

    In many ways, the sound of the song is more important than any specific image, as I loved the song long before I had any idea about what a “St. Dominic’s Preview” might be. In the music, you hear the sound of seeking life, familiarity, and comfort.

    So it does not matter whether or not you pray to St. Dominic or live in Belfast.  We all need more songs that hope for peace and comfort. “I think it’s about time, time for us to begin.”

    In the above video, Van Morrison performs “St. Dominic’s Preview” in Ireland in 1979. In related news, Legacy Recordings acquired the rights to albums in Van Morrison’s back catalog and is reissuing albums including St. Dominic’s Preview. The company released a 37-track, compilation, The Essential Van Morrison, on August 28, 2015.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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