American Tune

Went to the Paul Simon concert and tribute at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) last night. It was great.
The depth and breadth of Simon's music over four decades ranks him as the greatest American songwriter of all time, in my book, and maybe the greatest songwriter period of all time. At once intelligent and sophisticated and yet accessible and infectious, so many of his compositions stand the test of time. But I must say, of all of the amazing songs, from "The Boxer," "Sounds of Silence" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" to "Still Crazy After All These Years," the whole "Graceland" album, on and on, the song that inexorably haunts me everytime I hear it - and on this night, it was beautifully sung by The Roches - is "American Tune."
The title alone brings a tear to my eye. The image of the Statue of Liberty sailing away? Forget it - it is too heartbreaking.
American Tune. Released in 1973, it hit the charts as the Sixties came crashing down on the heels of Kent State, the second election of Richard Nixon, the Watergate revelations - which re-invented cynicism in politics at a whole new level not topped until the current Bush/Cheney administration - and the humiliating end to a humiliating war in Viet Nam. American Tune was an anthem of disenchantment and exhaustion, sadly bemoaning yet accepting the loss of American idealism. To hear the song today, and to read the lyrics now, you'd think it was written just yesterday, what with government sanctioned torture, a useless, debased war and institutional corruption as a matter of course. Read them and weep.

Many's the time I've been mistaken
And many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
And certainly misused
Oh, but I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still, you don't expect to be
Bright and bon vivant
So far away from home, so far away from home

And I don't know a soul who's not been battered
I don't have a friend who feels at ease
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered
or driven to its knees
but it's all right, it's all right
for we lived so well so long
Still, when I think of the
road we're traveling on
I wonder what's gone wrong
I can't help it, I wonder what's gone wrong

And I dreamed I was dying
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly
And looking back down at me
Smiled reassuringly
And I dreamed I was flying
And high up above my eyes could clearly see
The Statue of Liberty
Sailing away to sea
And I dreamed I was flying

We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hours
and sing an American tune
Oh, and it's alright, it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all I'm trying to get some rest

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, many of Simon's lyrics are more relevant today than when they were written. The interpretations of his songs by young and older artists were unique and inspiring. Wonderful concert. Last week's "Under African Skies" performances were equally, if not more, special. Ladysmith Black Mambazo and David Byrne were highlights.


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