Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

Indian legislation’s on the desk of a do right congressman
And he don’t know much about the issues so he picks up the phone
And asks the advice of the senator out in Indian country
A darling of the energy companies ripping off
What’s left of the reservation

I learned the safety rule
I don’t know who to thank
Don’t stand between the reservation
And the corporate bank
They’re sending federal tanks
It isn’t nice but it’s reality

Bury my heart at wounded knee
I said deep in the earth
Won’t you cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at wounded knee

We got these energy companies
Who want to take the land
And we got churches by the dozens
Trying to guide our hands
And turn our mother earth
Over to pollution war and greed
No no

Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
I said deep in the earth
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Won’t you cover me with pretty lies
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee

We got the federal marshals
We got the covert spies
We got the liars by fire
And the FBI
They lie in court and get nailed
And still Leonard Peltier goes off to jail
(the bullets don’t match the gun)

Bury my heart at wounded knee
An eighth of the reservation
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Was transferred in secret
Bury my heart at wounded knee
We got your murder and intimidation
Bury my heart at wounded knee

My girlfriend Anna May
Talked about uranium
Her head was full of bullets
And her body dumped
The FBI cut off her hands
And told us she died of exposure

To bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
I said deep in the earth
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Won’t you cover me with your pretty lies
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Talk about a revolution
They stole my land
They won’t steal my soul

We had the gold rush wars
Why didn’t we learn to crawl’
And now our history gets written in a liar’s scrawl
They tell me “don’t be so uptight
I mean honey you can still be an Indian
Down at the y on saturday night”

Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee
I said deep in the earth
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Won’t you cover me with your pretty lies
Bury my heart at wounded knee
Bury my heart at wounded knee

Bury my heart
It was an eighth of the reservation
Bury my heart
Yeah was transferred in secret
Bury my heart
Got your murder, murder, murder and intimidation
Bury me
Bury me
Bury me
Bury my heart
Bury my heart
Bury my heart
Bury my heart

By Buffy Sainte-Marie.  Just to put an exclamation point on my last blog. 

The Expansive Writing of Bob Dylan

Lately I have been trying to discern what in particular gives Dylan’s writing a unique power. Entire books have been written on the topic, entire semesters have been taught.  I am not going to solve the conundrum here. 

However, as someone that has spent more time than is healthy studying song lyrics, there is something I notice time and time again.  Dylan has not only been prolific for most of his career, but his words also often gain power through sheer volume.  I am a huge fan of Morrissey.  Although he has written expansive songs like The Queen is Dead, he often writes couplets that are powerful statements in and of themselves.  Leonard Cohen, someone by whose own admission is not prolific, yet is closer to Dylan in style, spends a lot of time finely crafting certain lines. 

If you take many Dylan couplets, although with his huge catalog he has written brilliant couplets as well, they are not always powerful in and of themselves.  But by the time you get to the 7th couplet in 4th verse of a Dylan song (hypothetically), Dylan songs are often astounding for the sheer amount of language he packs in them, they begin to take on a cumulative poetic power. 

Where some writers get their power from cutting back until what lies before them is a finally crafted sculpture, Dylan almost seems to stand out of the way and let his subconscious pour forth.  Line after line, image after image, floats past until the amount of imagery leaves the listener overwhelmed and breathless. 

Sure, that is not all he is doing.  There is a difference in power between Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone and Springsteen’s similar wordy Blinded by the Light.  (I love Dylan and Springsteen, but I would be lying if I said the latter contained the poetic force of the former.)  Dylan performs alchemy.   He does get that missing piece of the puzzle that many others cannot find no matter how talented they are. 

This is not to say that Dylan cannot write shorter more traditional songs.   He can of course.  Again this is also not to say that Dylan cannot write great one liners and couplets, as he has done that as well.  There are also many other elements at play to make a song powerful.  However, I think,  if you are interested in what Dylan does, this is a good facet of his writing to examine. 

New James McMurtry Out Today

James McMurtry’s new album Complicated Game is out today.  McMurtry is one of the best songwriters in America.  I probably won’t be able to review the new album until next week.  In the meantime here is one of the tracks off of it.  I’m really looking forward to diving into this record when I get the time.

Winter Song by Nico

Winter Song by Nico.  Most of the people I know, from Texas to Pennsylvania and beyond, are in a deep freeze.  The period between New Years and spring is the hardest part of the year as far as I’m concerned.  Even the great Hunter Thompson could not survive this season as he titled his suicide letter, “Football Season is Over.”  I’ve never really taken to winter, either to its sports or its color scheme.  However, there is a strange and dark poetry, a certain kind of magic, that winter can bestow, that I would be a fool to deny.  This song, from Nico’s timeless Chelsea Girl album, is a prime example:

Winter Song

The snow on your eyelids that curtsy with age
Is freezing the stares on tyranny’s wings.
The bitter is hard and the warmth of your skin
Is diseased with familiar caresses.

Withdrawing from splendor and royal decay
Among all the triumphs and jaded awards
The angry and blazing circus of sun
Blasphemes as the crown prince arises.

You cannot beget all the sins that you owe
To the people of paradise magic
Pretend to answer passion and form
With foreign rationalizations.

Primroses are the jewels that lurk
Among masks of pleasure that flicker with doubt
Embraces of fame that’s simultaneously fear
To advance and demand to be recognized.

The river shall flow through hollow green faces
Of caricature’s resentment etched out of the tongues.
Both reluctant princess asleep before birth
The classical sensitive failures.

The worshipping wicked cling to the dark of your heart
Lying there and wait with your angels
Moan and ravish from dawn to dusk
The avaricious young lovers.

In My Secret Life, Leonard Cohen, and Songwriting

In My Secret Life by Leonard Cohen.

In my secret life
In my secret life
In my secret life
In my secret life

I saw you this mornin’
You were movin’ so fast
Cant seem to loosen my grip
On the past

And I miss you so much
Theres no one in sight
And were still makin’ love

In my secret life
In my secret life

I smile when Im angry
I cheat and I lie
I do what I have to do
To get by

But I know what is wrong
And I know what is right
And Id die for the truth

In my secret life
In my secret life

Hold on, hold on, my brother
My sister, hold on tight
I finally got my orders
Ill be marching through the mornin’
Marchin’ through the night
Movin ‘cross the borders of my secret life

Looked through the paper
Makes you want to cry
Nobody cares if the people
Live or die
And the dealer wants you thinkin’
That its either black or white
Thank God its not that simple
In my secret life

I bite my lip
I buy what Im told
From the latest hit
To the wisdom of old

But Im always alone
And my heart is like ice
And its crowded and cold

In my secret life
In my secret life
In my secret life
In my secret life

This song has always meant a great deal to me.  The lyrics as usual, for Leonard Cohen, are masterful.  If you take a line or a couplet out of the song, there are a couple good ones, but they are fairly simple.  However, the way he builds imagery throughout the track means that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.  Also those last verse lines leave the song with a sense that the narrator hasn’t resolved any his conflicts, other than to possibly live with his contradictions:

But I’m always alone
And my heart is like ice
And it’s crowded and cold

In my secret life

One will notice that a lot of great songwriters leave one with a sense of mystery, they leave things unresolved.  This allows a song to keep going, even once you are done listening.  It starts the imaginative process, but doesn’t fill in every blank, making the song yours as much as theirs.  It becomes something you can take out into your life with you.  Now there is a difference between performing that trick, and just being vague to the point of meaningless.  The best writers know how to give you enough to pull you in, but leave enough space for the imagination of the listener so that a song will register on a personal level.

New Brian Wilson Video

I’m a huge Brian Wilson and Beach Boys fan.  He has a new album, No Pier Pressure, coming out this year and above is a video for the first song released from it, The Right Time.  I’ve only heard it once, on computer headphones, so I don’t want to say too much.  Those gorgeous Brian Wilson harmonies are present, with the bridge especially moving.  It’s great to see Al Jardine and David Marks, two Beach Boys, taking part.  I couldn’t help but smile watching it.  Hopefully some of you will feel the same.