Tuesday, April 29, 2008

It's always on nights like this...

...when I discover something unexpected and moving. I've listened to this song, called "Nelly Gray" almost a couple hundred times, and yet, I haven't really paid any attention to what it was about at all.

Tonight, in the midst of another slog of editing, I decided to take a break and put on some good ole New Orleans traditional jazz. Up comes this song and for the first time I really listened to what the lyrics were about. I got so sad I could hardly stand it.

What's the song about, you might ask? For those of you not as eclectic in their musical tastes as I, and haven't heard this song, let me give you the rundown:

[jump to continue - click header]

In a long green, valley on the old Kentucky shore
Sure I've whiled many happy hours away,
Just a sitting and a singing by the little cabin door
Where lived my darling Nellie Gray

When the moon had climbed the mountain, and the stars were shining bright
I'd take my darling Nellie Gray
And we'd float down the river in my little red canoe
While my banjo so sweetly I would play

One night I went to see her, but she's gone the neighbors say
And the white man had bound her with his chain
They have taken her to Georgia for to wear her life away
As she toils in the cotton and the cane

Oh, my darling Nellie Gray, they have taken you away
I'll never see my darling anymore
They have taken you to Georgia for to work your life away
And you're gone from that old Kentucky shore.

Now my canoe is under water, and my banjo is unstrung
I am tired of living, anymore
My eyes shall be cast downward, and my songs will be unsung
While I stay on the old Kentucky shore

Now my eyes are getting dimmer and I cannot see the light
Hark there's someone a-knocking at my door
Oh I hear the angels coming and I see my Nellie Gray
So farewell to the old Kentucky shore

Oh, my darling Nellie Gray, up in heaven, so they say
And they'll never take you from me, anymore
Oh I'm coming, coming, coming, as the angels clear the way
So farewell to the old Kentucky shore

This entire song is about the separation of the singer from their lover and because they simply can't stand the pain of it anymore, they kill themself.

Talk about some heavy shit! In all my troubles and horrible happenings (and there have been some I wish I could forget), I've never felt anything remotely close to what this song is about. And all this time I've been listening to it, ignorant of all that pain, like it was just pretty music. Fuck.

So here's my new MO: from now on, when I listen to a piece of music, I'm gonna try and be a little more aware that these notes and words aren't just for me to get something out of. They're about people and their lives and the shit they have to go through. I need to remember that true and honest music deserves some respect.

I guess what I'm saying is,

instead of just listening, I'm gonna try and hear.

1 footnotes:

Alexandra said...

My version of this... I don't just listen to music, I try to feel it too. I've never understood the concept of "hearing music".You can hear it and understand meanings, lyrical words can make a picture. But if you can feel those words and feel what they're trying to show, then that's another thing.

Do you get it?