On our way to my son’s preschool one day last week, the boy asked me to turn some music on. So I punched the stereo power, and out blared the Richard Thompson CD I’d been listening to a day earlier, Action Packed: The Best of the Capitol Years. The song was “Cooksferry Queen,” an upbeat tune with a snare drum and bass line that drive the song’s rhythm. The song kicked in at about the middle, just before the musical break, during which my son shouted: Mommy, you know what? This music is is making my heart dance!
I knew exactly what he meant. Between the drum and bass, my crappy/buzzing minivan speakers, and the volume, my heart was dancing in my chest, too. At the preschool, we sat in the car and listened until the song’s abrupt downbeat end, at which point the poor kid groaned.
I’ve played the tune for him every day since then.
About a year ago, my daughter, then six, had a different response. I my sucked my daughter in the first time with “The Goldilocks Song,” more appropriately known as “The Uninhabited Man.” The refrain:
Who’s been sleeping in my bed?
Who’s been sitting in my chair?
Who’s been sipping my bowl?
She liked it! Then we listened to more songs, and she ultimately came to favor “I Feel So Good,” a song about a recently released inmate who’s on the prowl.
Perhaps that’s not the most appropriate theme for a six-year-old, but sometimes you just have to live on the edge. Of course, living on the edge meant living in fear that she’d one day sing a verse along with Thompson:
Now I’ve got a suitcase full of fifty pound notes,
And a half-naked woman with her tongue down my throat.
I feeeeeel so good. I fee-eeeel so good.
Over time and on many a car ride, my daughter had a chance to hear the album a few times. One night, she had laser focus and asked a lot of questions about the lyrics, mostly because she was hearing different words than Thompson was singing.
Her: Why is he missing the stew?
Me: He’s not saying, “I’m missing the stew.” He’s saying, “I misunderstood.”
So as my daughter asked questions, I’d explain what Thompson was singing about. If you’re not familiar with this collection, let’s just say it’s not the happiest set of songs you’ll ever hear. But the songs are great, nonetheless.
I told her that “1952 Vincent Black Lightening” was about a young miscreant who was shot in the chest by police and who gave his motorcycle to his girlfriend as he died. And that “Waltzing’s For Dreamers” was about a lonely man asking a lonely woman to dance with him. Then of course I had to explain about the stew and what it was Thompson misunderstood (“I thought she was saying good luck, she was saying goodbye”). Finally, during “I Can’t Wake Up to Save My Life,” I explained that Thompson really was singing about a nightmare he couldn’t wake up from. That was apparently the last straw for my girl, who exclaimed: …why does this guy have a problem in every song???
Dear Lori and Daughter,
You can’t write a Country song if you don’t have a problem, but you can write a Julie Andrews song. I’m normally somewhere in between, but the Capitol compilation obviously highlights my troubled side, something I should have been rather more vigilant about.
Yo, Richard, is that the best you could do?
I guess I should be happy Thompson answered the question at all, but I’ll admit I was hoping for some of his humor in the reply. The Julie Andrews comment has me wondering if he was taking a swipe at my (obviously brilliant) kid, as if she asked her question because all she knows of music is “A Spoonful of Sugar” or some other Mary Poppins-like tunes.
I’ll have Thompson and you know that my daughter is perfectly happy to listen to some depressing adult music, thank you very much.
Maybe Thompson just had an off day when he answered my daughter’s question. Or maybe he just missed the stew.