Monday, February 23, 2009

Music Monday/Lyric Lundi

I knew that, at some point, I’d have to get around to posting some Grateful Dead lyrics. Back in my early (and more ambitious) days of blogging, when Ian and I thought we could actually keep up our own blogs plus a joint blog we were writing together, I wrote about The Dead and me (and Ian) here. The Grateful Dead is sort of like “comfort music” at this point in my life. That’s weird, I know, considering the band’s reputation, its links to drug use and the Hell’s Angels, but it really is like macaroni and cheese, something I can always count on to lift my spirits and sooth me, something that brings back fond memories of good times with friends and family members and that can be put on as background music for present good times with family members and friends. (A little aside here: has anyone else noticed I’m always comparing things like books and music to food?)

From September 1986 to September 1987, I lived in what was, for all intents and purposes, an off-campus fraternity house at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, NC. Because I was the only female living in the house (six guys and me), with the exception of Late Night with David Letterman (which was on NBC in those days) and The Young Ones, I never got to watch anything I wanted to watch on TV. I wasn’t much bothered by this, because this was my first year out of college, and I was ecstatic over the fact that I was spending my first fall and winter getting to read books that were not straight off multiple syllabi. Anyway, every so often, the guys would surprise me (they must have been dropping acid or something without telling me) by deciding to watch some movie on HBO that didn’t feature a. Rodney Dangerfield, b. Clint Eastwood, or c. Chuck Norris. Believe it or not, one night, we actually watched Terms of Endearment. However, we once had a fight over the fact that I wanted to watch White Nights (I think they were jealous over my not-very-well-disguised infatuations with Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. Two fabulous dancers in one movie? Well, you know, no matter what the plot might be, that one is going to make it onto Emily’s all-time favorite movies list).

Anyway, one night, for some inexplicable reason, one of them talked the others into watching the movie Mask. I couldn’t believe my luck, as it was a movie I hadn’t seen and had had no hope of getting to see in that house. I assumed it was because my housemate had a crush on Cher or something (which he wouldn’t admit in the crowd, since in that house, it was de rigueur to go ga-ga only over stereotypical tall, leggy, thin, busty blonds – in other words, the impossible dream). Once the movie got going, though, I realized the theme song was “Ripple.” Wonderful! This was a house full of Deadheads. That theme song guaranteed for me that the channel would not be changed to watch Clint Eastwood. I loved the song well before that moment, but that night helped elevate it to an ever greater stature in my mind.

It’s a terrific song. I’m someone who is always drawn to water and who’s always loved skipping stones in water (although I somehow manage to do so quite unsuccessfully and am always amazed if my stone hops across the water the way it should), so I’m drawn to that image of the ripple in the water with no pebble tossed and no wind blown, how that little ripple can spread, and wondering what’s causing it. The lyrics are magical, the music is uplifting while also being haunting, and who could possibly hate a song with the words, “Let there be songs to fill the air?” And I like that ironic little “La dee da” bit at the end. I love to hear the Dead’s version, but I think I love, even more, to hear Ian play this one, which I can sometimes coax him into doing if it’s a special occasion or something.


by The Grateful Dead

If my words did glow with the gold of sunshine
And my tunes were played on the harp unstrung,
Would you hear my voice come thru the music,
Would you hold it near as it were your own?

It's a hand-me-down, the thoughts are broken,
Perhaps they're better left unsung.
I don't know, don't really care
Let there be songs to fill the air.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

Reach out your hand if your cup be empty,
If your cup is full may it be again,
Let it be known there is a fountain,
That was not made by the hands of men.

There is a road, no simple highway,
Between the dawn and the dark of night,
And if you go no one may follow,
That path is for your steps alone.

Ripple in still water,
When there is no pebble tossed,
Nor wind to blow.

You who choose to lead must follow
But if you fall you fall alone,
If you should stand then who's to guide you?
If I knew the way I would take you home.

La dee da da da, La da da da da, Da da da, Da da, Da da da da da
La da da da, La da da, Da da, La da da da, La da, Da da.


Watson Woodworth said...

I'm still a Dead virgin.
Besides "Touch of Gray" and "Trucking".

Anonymous said...

I'm with Nigel on this one. Best thing about the Dead is Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia - yum.

Anonymous said...

Music is so much about place (and food!) I don't think I've ever heard this song -- when I was in college it was more Talking Heads, Police, Springsteen... But now, thanks to the magic that is itunes, I can find this and listen to it!

Emily Barton said...

Nigel, I'm quite sure you have, at some point in your life, heard "Ripple," too.

Sara, oh yes, "yum!" is right.

BL, Talking Heads, Police, Springsteen...we must have been in college at the same time!