Monday, February 15, 2010

Music Monday, Lyric Lundi

If you're feeling a little low and want to throw yourself into the depths of despair, not much is more effective than putting a little Janis Ian on your stereo. I suppose you could also turn on FoxNews, but that's as likely to lead to laughter as it is to tears, if you're not quite low enough. Janis, on the other hand, can lead to tears even if you're feeling on top of the world.

Man, is she ever bleak. And, yet, she manages to capture heartbreak so perfectly in so many different ways, doesn't she? I'd like to know if there is a single seventeen-year-old girl (or former seventeen-year-old girl, or even future seventeen-year-old girl) who isn't convinced old Janis has some sort of hidden video camera in her bedroom. She doesn't reserve her doom and gloom for seventeen-year-olds, though. No, she manages to capture heartbreak throughout one's entire life, well into old age.

Sometimes, however, even when we don't want to be thrown into the depths of despair, we are truly in the mood for a little heartbreak. I'm not sure why that is. Maybe it helps us feel we're not alone, that all humans share in the ups and downs of life, or maybe we are looking for someone who seems to be worse off than we are at the moment, to remind us that we should stop feeling so sorry for ourselves, that others are surviving real horrors while we are whining about hangnails. Whatever the reason, when I am in that sort of mood and want some music to accompany it, it's hard to beat Ian's strong voice and strong lyrics.

When I was in college, Sheena Easton came out with a version of one of my favorite Janis Ian songs that my roommate Tina and I listened to over and over and over again (Tina, like I, is an obsessive music-listener. We don't easily get sick of our favorite songs), because a friend of ours had taped it for us, and neither of us had the Janis Ian version. I find it funny now to think those lyrics so touched two 20-year-olds, neither of whom had such "long winters" in their pasts nor near-futures (if at all). But it's not really any funnier than to think that I was touched by "At Seventeen" long before I reached that age. Anyway, since we are in the midst of winter, I think it highly appropriate that I ought to bring you a Music Monday/Lyric Lundi that features this particular song. I hope none of you is suffering through the type of winter mentioned here, but if you are, my heart goes out to you.

In the Winter
by Janis Ian

The days are okay
I watch the TV in the afternoon
If I get lonely
The sound of other voices
Other rooms are near to me
I'm not afraid

The operator
She tells the time
It's good for a laugh
There's always radio
And for a dime I can talk to God
Are you there?
Do you care?
Are you there?

And in the winter extra blankets for the cold
Fix the heater, getting old
I am wiser now, I know, but still as big a fool
Concerning you

I met your friend
She's very nice what can I say?
It was an accident
I never dreamed we'd meet again this way
You're looking well
I'm not afraid

You have a lovely home
Just like a picture
No, I live alone
I found it easier
You must remember how I never liked
The party life
Up all night
Lovely wife
You have a lovely wife

And in the winter extra blankets for the cold
Fix the heater, getting old
You are with her now, I know
I'll live alone forever
Not together now


Anne Camille said...

It's been so long since I've thought about this song. I went immediately to You Tube to find a copy to listen too. This was one of my favorite albums when I was a Sr in college, and this was one of my favorite cuts on that album. I had been sure when I was 17 that At Seventeen was about me and the song still brings back this place memory of riding the bus home from school. I thought for sure I was that brown-eyed girl whose name no one could pronounce, and the ugly duckling 17 year old girl singing the song, but the other songs, such as this one, spoke to me more when I was 21.

Emily Barton said...

Cam, you, too, huh? Just one of the many things we have in common, I guess.