This week’s words are from Jim Croce’s song “Operator” off his 1972 album, “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.”
The lyrics are:
“Give me the number if you can find it/
So I can call just to tell ’em I’m fine/
And to show/
I’ve overcome the blow/
I’ve learned to take it well/
I only wish my words/
Could just convince myself/
That it just wasn’t real/
But that’s not the way it feels”
There’s something elementally Midwestern about Croce’s music to me. He’s at his best when he’s almost apologetically honest and vulnerable, crafting emotionally rich story-telling into something bite-sized. This song in particular with it’s use of one-sided phone conversation as a vehicle to work through the uncertainty and denial of a heartbroken lover shows his ability to navigate lyrical landscapes masterfully, capturing complex emotions and simplifying them enough to make them universal. His loss songs don’t wallow in sorrow, but have a certain accepting wistfulness that make them three dimensional and genuine. I always feel like I’m sharing the room with a straightforward sage when I’m listening to Jim Croce.
The words are:
“Your mother would not approve/
of how my mother raised me/
but I do/
I finally do”
With lyrics consistently somehow both vague and specific, Mitski Miyawaki possesses the often indefinable skill of great (song)writers: the ability to make you feel as if you’re getting a glimpse of their unique worldview, a piece of their perspective, while simultaneously articulating part of your own inner dialogue in language you hadn’t thought to use yet. These seventeen words strung together this way bring up latent feelings about my upbringing, the angst of being looked down upon because of perception of my class, and ultimately accepting in semi/pseudo-adulthood that I agree with many of the values and sensibilities I was raised with. The beauty occurs when my interpretation is morphed by consideration of Mitski’s gender, race, her stated intentions of the song, and the rest of the song’s lyrics, which completely shifts the meaning and can give me insight into her worldview by attempting to use a different lens when looking at these same words. That’s how art can help you empathize, how words can help you learn.
This week’s Wordsmith Wednesday comes from the song “Avalanches” off of Jordaan Mason’s & the Horse Museum’s album Divorce Lawyers I Shaved My Head.
“But if snow is like skin
It pulls away so easy
Right from the body
What if all stripped wood is branches
And all frozen lakes are water
Then our bodies will be avalanches
Then our bodies will be avalanches.”
These words do not necessarily tell a tale or attempt to concretely describe how one feels in a given moment or remind me of something that I have gone through; what these words do is resonate deep within me a feeling of the beginning. A feeling of the existence of something before a change ensues. He presents us with our own tumultuous past and leaves us to interpret an understanding of how this has molded us into our present selves. His words aren’t necessarily grounded in anything but the nature of our being and what has gotten us there.