This is the sixth of 7 blog posts about the songs on my new CD “Big Texas Sky”. As part of this posting, ‘Elegy for an Old Man’ will be available as a FREE download for a limited time.
I had this lyric in my notebook for the longest time and I even had a melody that went with it, but I could not get any farther than the four lines that I had:
I am an old man
I have an old man’s body
I have an old man’s memories
I see with old man’s eyes
I had no idea who this old man was and why he was saying what he was saying. I also couldn’t figure out if this was a verse or the chorus to the song, but I liked the melody and I liked how it felt haunting and resigned. And there it sat in my notebook for almost a year and a half. I’d often revisit and sing the melody and just draw a blank.
Then I got this insight. This man was dying. He was at Death’s door and he was making an accounting of his life. I thought about this and the song Streets of Laredo came instantly to mind. As I started to write down ideas of who and what this old man was saying I started to think about my own father and what he might have said to me if he had had the chance to.
My Dad passed away in 1985. Withered away from cancer after having been a strong presence in my life; a broad-shouldered, hard living man. He was from Texas and I always thought that if he had stayed in Texas instead of living in Cleveland, he would have been a cowboy.
I like how the four lines I had been staring at for so long became the chorus and I liked that the chorus started the song (very Beatles-esque) and tied the verses together. I don’t know if I did this intentionally, but it felt good and made sense as I played through the rough drafts.
The verses tell the old man’s story. The narrative starts out proud each time, but then ends up as a resignation to the situation at hand. I think the most telling line is in the second verse when when he relates hi interaction with his children:
My children whisper their good-byes
They stare into my eyes
In me they see their future compensation
I really thought that this song would not be received well. It’s kind of a downer. Surprisingly it has been the song that most people ask me about and want to talk about. Everybody has lost a loved one or a parent, especially at the age I am approaching, and we can relate to the resignation that this old man is talking about:
There ain’t nothing left for me
No more Christmas mornings
I’m tired to the marrow
And I’m ready to die
A note about the arrangement. I wanted to originally have a very mellow piano and bass accompaniment interspersed with a very distorted guitar sound in the vein of RadioHead or Adrian Belew. I found that the sounds were very distracting and so I opted for a more chordal distorted guitar that, in my mind, represent the old man’s fists coming down on the table as he is about to relate his story.
Take a listen and let me know what you think. This will be available as a FREE DOWNLOAD until July 16, 2012.