The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

People Who Died #8


Phil Ochs

Once I knew a sage
who sang upon the stage
He told about the world,
His lover.
A ghost without a name,
Stands ragged in the rain.
And it seems that there are no more songs.

4 comments :

Tom Sutpen said...

Scooped again, and glad of it I am to see.

I was all set to do Phil Ochs in an impending entry in that rather depressing series, but now's as good a time as any.

Good job, monsieur Cooke!

swac said...

I didn't discover Ochs until finding a copy of Chords of Fame in the library of my college radio station in the mid-'80s...but lo and behold, I knew one of his songs--Changes--from Gordon Lightfoot's cover version which I'd actually heard while Ochs was still alive (my dad is a big Lightfoot fan). So it's interesting that I at least have that connection. Tonight at the aforementioned party I met some kids who were amazed I knew who Darby Crash was before he died (and before they were born). Such is the life of the aging hipster.

Tom Sutpen said...

From one aging hipster to another (one who's got two years on you), one's distance from the younger set only grows with time no matter how much about contemporary culture you've consumed.

Though there are the ocasional surprises. For instance, about a year and a half ago, girl of some 17 summers who was a volunteer at the Public Access salt mine where I toil heard me mention Nick Drake (God only knows why his name came up) in a conversation with a co-worker, and them proceeded to get all enthusiastic about he and his music. It seems she'd been listening to his stuff for a few years. Further inquiry revealed she was also a fan of the aforementioned Gordon Lightfoot, Leonard Cohen and (yeesh) Jackson Brown.

Now my first instinct would have been to follow the male compulsion (she was aggressively hot, I thought) . . . you know, invite her over to my abode after work to listen to some Tim Buckley records or something. But . . . she was a young lass of 17 and I . . . a seasoned romeo hurtling toward 40.

No Roman Polanski am I, so I let it go.

(sigh)

swac said...

Ah, I know of whence you speak...(whence...another "w"!)...since I am not married, my attempts to find female companionship are wildly out of whack, since most of the women my age are either married with kids, or simply don't bother having a social life anymore. So I either meet young women who are old enough to be my daughter (you know, if I got someone pregnant in my mid-teens) or divorcees ten years my senior.

But at least the young women I meet have decent taste in music. So they're fun to hang out with, but morally I also feel compelled to draw a line there. But they're into Barrett-era Pink Floyd (I got one girl a copy of some pre-Piper demos and Vegetable Man and blew her mind), Nick Drake, Elliott Smith, Nilsson, Joni Mitchell and so on. One girlI know in her early '20s--also heart achingly beautiful--is in love with the music and culture of the 1930s and actually came over for a double feature of Blessed Event and I've Got Your Number, and was delighted. Sadly, she's a little lax on the getting-back-to-me front, but c'est la vie. Or c'est la guerre (I keep seeing her out with pretty, empty-headed young men), I guess.