The Lyrics That Live With Me

When Lou Reed died, there was some great news coverage, such as the NY Times obituary, and much absurdity – which I guess could be predicted. My local news stations struggled to explain him to those who’d never heard of him. Here and there a reporter would add personal viewpoint (“He singlehandedly invented alt rock!”) to the obit pablum. Pablum. Does anyone still know what pablum is?

Not for the first time, I was grateful and impressed with how social media responded. Facebook, for example, didn’t just spread the news of his death, but also filled with tributes from people to whom Reed had mattered. Many simply quoted song lyrics that were important to them, which started conversational riffs that were moving and healing. I wish social media had been available when we lost Lennon! Or Strummer!

All of which got me thinking about what song lyric I would quote if another of my musicians dies before I do. There are certain songwriters who have been so important at some point in my life – so transformative – that their deaths would leave permanent holes. Even if I haven’t listened to (or thought about) some of them for decades, I need them to be in the world.

Below are the lyrics I might post. Although who knows what might instead occur at the time. When Alex Chilton died it wasn’t Chilton’s words or Big Star’s lyrics that surfaced, but Westerberg’s tribute song, Alex Chilton.

I’m in love, what was that song? 

Here is one of my lists. What would yours be?

 Leonard Cohen

 I have tried in my way to be free.

Elvis Costello
(note: the link has lyrics altered for TV!)

And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
trying to anesthetize the way that you feel.

John Doe

You are the lump in my throat
I am the aching in your heart.

Bob Dylan

I can’t help it if I’m lucky.
Okay here is where I acknowledge what a silly exercise this is.
The proper Dylan lyric changes hourly.

Exene & John Doe

She had to get out. Get out. Get out. Get out.

Patti Smith

Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine.

Bruce Springsteen

The dogs on Main Street howl because they understand
If I could take one moment into my hand

Graham Parker

Life isn’t good enough. Music makes it good enough.
(Actually that quintessential Parker line
comes from an interview not a lyric.)

Kelly Joe Phelps

like a shine-eyed Mr. Zen
actually I’d probably use the lyrics that Corinne West
surely wrote for him in “Whiskey Poet“,
You took some chances
now the silence is your friend
As will I be in the end

Chris Thile

I’d probably quote his stage observation
that he lives vicariously through his own songs.

Paul Westerberg
(Live video without image.
Song that truncates unexpectedly.
Yup. Those were our ‘Mats.)

Look me in the eye and tell me I’m satisfied.

Neil Young

I am just a dreamer but you are just a dream.

This post responds to a recent WordPress weekly writing challenge about music that matters.)


The Daily Prompt: Silver Linings

We could debate whether silver linings exist in reality or in attitude but the answer may not matter. Either way, from my perspective, the ability to perceive silver linings is essential to happiness, contentment, and peace of mind. Silver linings are all about the ability to hope, to get past the inevitable bad and ugly times with the belief it gets better.  Many other people have thought about this, too, that’s why we have anonymous sayings like

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

or the Springsteen  lyric

It ain’t no sin to be glad you’re alive.

or Eugene O’Neil’s

Man is born broken. He lives by mending. The grace of God is glue. 

I know a young woman who tried to kill herself this year. Twice. In between, she found a boyfriend – apparently also preoccupied with death – who did then kill himself. I have struggled and flailed to find the right words or argument that would convince her to keep going, to not give up. But I realize it won’t be anybody’s words that turn her around. The desire to live has to come from the inside.

When I was younger I was obsessed with not getting tricked or fooled and I was always determined to Know the Truth in every situation. I don’t think I care about that nowadays. I’m not saying I believe everything I read or hear. I’m not saying I’ve lost interest in truth. All I’m saying is that a suspicious nature takes a severe toll.

It is a fantasy to imagine I or anyone can live without illusions. Optimism is a kind of illusion. Optimists live longer and happier lives. (There are scientific studies about this so it must be true.) My current thinking is that I am going to believe that things will work out and life will evolve in good ways. Maybe on my deathbed I will say Wulp I was sure wrong about that. but in the meantime I will have enjoyed many days of hope and enthusiasm rather than bitterness and resentment.


Wildfires make nasty air.

Wildfires make for gorgeous sunsets.

Wildfires make gorgeous sunsets.

This post topic comes from The Daily Prompt.