My 2016 was personally full of beauty and astonishing sights. Friendly faces in foreign lands. Laughter and friendship with other Sisters of the Pen.
I published a book I haven’t yet decided I should have written in a completely different way, and it’s been six whole months! That is an amazing thing worth celebrating, and I do.
As 2017 lands on us all, I have realized that particular songs are rolling around in my head like an unresolving fugue. Their performances span over 40 years. Yet they are strikingly similar, which reminds me that the days ahead have been seen before. Each of these songs highlight the struggle between conviction, courage, numbness, complacency, cynicism and hope.
Before anybody picks at the preference for a 2016 version of a George Harrison classic, see Kubo and the Two Strings, and then we’ll talk. The movie (and the cover of the song with Japanese motifs that Harrison likely would have loved) are exactly what the fascist alt-reich is railing about: universal stories that aren’t told by straight white men. How dare we? Because we exist too, [expletive deleted].
An Artist’s Job
What startled me just yesterday was figuring out that these songs have been speaking to me for a specific reason beyond their topical theme: each was created in the voice of the artist speaking personally to the times. As a writer I know reflecting and commenting on the world is part of my job too.
So I will take a lesson from all of these voices. Even though my next book has a lot of high humor and farce, at its core it’s about identity in a world still trying to tell us all what “normal” is and handing out punishments for living outside those lines. We thought that was all going away – and here we are, back on the chain gang.
P.S. I’m not forgetting the other resolution: Fewer salty parabolas. Thank you, Holtzmann.
Doctor My Eyes – Jackson Browne, 1972
Doctor my eyes – tell me what is wrong
Is this the price
for having learned how not to cry?
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd (Gilmour/Waters), 1979
Can you show me where it hurts?…
I can’t explain, you would not understand
This is not who I am
I have become comfortably numb
Back on the Chain Gang – The Pretenders (Hynde), 1982
The phone, the TV and the news of the world
Got in the house like a pigeon from hell,
Threw sand in our eyes and descended like flies
Put us back on the train
Oh, back on the chain gang
Praying for Time – George Michael, 1990
The rich declare themselves poor
and most of us are not sure if we have too much
but we’ll take our chances
What a Year for New Year – Dan Wilson, 2002
We need it like we needed life I guess
Last one left us lying in a mess
What a year for a new year
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – Regina Spektor (Harrison), 2016 (1968)
I don’t know why nobody told you
How to unfold your love
I don’t know how someone controlled you
They bought and sold you
I look at the world and I notice it’s turning