To Quote Sir Elton John…

“Sad songs say so much.”

Autumn Live at Queen's Park

Yesterday, an exceptionally talented fellow artist, Robin Chapman (seriously, if you get the opportunity to hear this guy, do it) asked me if I was going to sing depressing songs on this beautiful day.  It was a beautiful day, and, yes, I was going to sing depressing songs.  Although, that’s not quite an accurate description. They are written and performed by someone with severe clinical depression, and they reflect a lot of my experience. But, you’re not going to catch depression from them, any more than you’re going to catch my irregular heartbeat.

I have an advantage in that people like sad songs.  Music is a safe place to express and explore what we call negative emotions and life’s pain (and, life is FULL of pain). All the better if you’re good at it (the music, that is).

Yes, I sang sad songs, but I was glad to be doing what I love (even if I did have to wrestle with a keyboard that didn’t want to cooperate with me  – bloody electronic things *&^£”!!! – and everything didn’t go strictly to plan); I was out in the open air, making music for an appreciate audience, and that felt good.

Two moments in the day stand out for me as precious. One was, when the last performer of the day, the delicious Mo Shotter, called me back up on stage to sing some improvisational blues with her.  So, we sang ‘The Queen’s Park Blues’ together. This was a magically spontaneous and pure fun.

The other was when I was singing this song:

There’s a point in this where you see me smile, and it’s where I look into the audience and see my 6 year old son singing my song along with me. It was one of those serendipitous moments, a fixed moment where time stops.

Things had come full circle.

I was on the stage and my child was in the audience proud of his mummy and, very happily, singing one of my sad songs along with me. And, I saw myself at that age, in the audience, proudly looking up at my mother…singing along with the sad songs…’I saw the harbour lights. They only told me you were leaving’…

Pardon me while I wipe the tears. Pardon me while I smile during a very unsmiling song. And, pardon me while I cherish the songs – and the moments – that say more than the sum of their words ever could. Because they interpret what cannot be said, but only be felt.

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Creative Recycling

Years ago I wrote a poem that I’ve ended up using quite a lot on social website profiles in the ‘about you’ section. It was sufficiently mysterious while also being perfectly autobiographical, and it was easier to copy and paste the poem rather than to think of something else witty and interesting to say about myself. How better to represent myself as the arty ol’ farty I am than to describe myself with a poem? Even so, it’s been a long time since I revisited that poem or even considered it in passing.

Poets aren’t always songwriters and songwriters aren’t always poets. Occasionally, however, the two do meet together in the one, and you end up with Leonard Cohen…and me. Sometimes there are too many words and not enough music, while other times the words are not enough and there must be music to carry the few that are there. Ah, but now, I really do wax poetic. 😉

But, please, indulge me.

And, where do the lost and forgotten poems go? Is there a graveyard for the written and discarded rhyme? You may not remember those scribbled lines. But, rest assured, they remember you. You may forget the words, but the words never forget. And, if you’re quiet enough, you can hear their whispered echoes, reverberating beyond time.

And, this is what it is to be a poet.

And, this is what it is to be a poet who is also a songwriter…and, what it is to be me.