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Deconstructing Lyrical Mythologies: The Boxer by Paul Simon

Friday, December 7th, 2018

The Boxer by Paul Simon peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100.   Rolling Stone ranked the song No. 106 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[1]

From the last album Paul Simon recorded with Art Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water, Simon had this to say to Playboy Magazine about the song in 1984:

Playboy: “What inspired it?”

Simon: “I think I was reading the Bible around that time. That’s where I think phrases such as ‘workman’s wages’ came from, and ‘seeking out the poorer quarters’. That was biblical. I think the song was about me: everybody’s beating me up, and I’m telling you now I’m going to go away if you don’t stop. By that time we had encountered our first criticism. For the first few years, it was just pure praise. It took two or three years for people to realize that we weren’t strange creatures that emerged from England but just two guys from Queens who used to sing rock’n’roll. And maybe we weren’t real folkies at all! Maybe we weren’t even hippies!”

To me, this song is a classic example of the hero’s journey:  Young Boy leaves small town for big city, Boy gets kinda beat up by shitty people and adverse circumstances,  Boy emerges from experiences as the “fighter” that “still remains.”  The adventure of self-discovery, revelation, and acceptance relayed in one of the most widely accesible formats.

Based on the snippet from the Playboy interview above, I believe that this is true whether or not that is what Paul Simon was aiming for.  It’s tucked away into the subtext that I’ve emboldened for your convenience.  Go ahead, re-read it.  I’ll wait…..

There is NO THING blatantly misogynist about this song (Ok…the use of the word “whore” is arguable).  BUT!  It joins a multitude of hero’s journey tales that are classically reserved for the masculine or male experience.   The Iliad, Odessy, Aneid, Paradise Lost…and on and on….

They (dudes) get to hear the “call to adventure.”  They get to “depart” into the greater world, find mentors, test allies and enemies, and they get to ultimately return home a hero.

Sign me the FUCK, UP! 

A typical feminine or female experience is potrayed more prominently in smaller, more domestic sound bites of pithy, interpersonal dramas (see two previous entries) in which the protagonists ultimately get stuck in a circulatory hell of their own making.   *Snore…

I will offer Alice Walker as a counter to this norm.    However, due to the sheer fact that her characters are such underdog heros, the epicness of their plight, when compared to the Godlike or demi-godlike status of trojan warrior ex-patriots is lost on subtler ears.

Another writer who has written tomes of material to counter this trope is Ani DiFranco.   Sure, she’s got some of the classic feminine experiences in her writings, she’s a woman, after all.   But she doesn’t rely on the more generally accepted experiences of her gender alone to tell her stories.    She relies on her experiences as a person who has lived the hero’s journey and writes about it with zero fucks given about her acceptance into the mainstream gastrointestinal tract of pop storytelling.

Dar Williams is another.

Brandy Carlile’s album, By The Way, I Forgive You is chock full of epic anthems from all KINDA angles and perspectives.

But these examples are most sincerely the exception, not the norm AND I digress….

The boxer is such an exquisite example of a hero’s adventure, I wanted to make an example out of it.

Here’s a version of the original that will give you a glorious earful:

For this edition of Deconstructing Lyrical Mythologies, I’m not going to annotate the lyrics so much as I’m just going to appropriate them for the purposes of giving the feminine genders (let’s remember, tis’ a spectrum) a hero’s narrative of similar ilk.  Here’s what I mean by that:

Let’s break it down. 

In bold are the lyrics I’ve altered for the purposes of re-gendering the story.  Truly, I didn’t have to do much to alter it.   Enjoy!

I am just a poor girl, though my story’s seldom told.

I have squandered my resistance for a pocket full of mumbles such are apologies.

All in defense, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.  Lie lie lie lie lie lie lie

When I left my home and my family I was no more than a girl

in the company of strangers, in the quiet of the free health clinic, sitting scared.

Laying low, seeking out the quiet quarters where the unassuming go,

looking for the places only they would know.

Lie Le Lie…..

Asking only equal wages I come looking for a job, but I get no offers.

Just a come-on from the suits along Fifth Avenue.

I do declare, there were times when I was so lonesome I took some comfort there.

Lie le lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie lie

Lie Le Lie…….

Well I’m growing out my winter coat and wishin’ I was gone, going home

where the windowed, corner offices aren’t teasin’ me

cheatin’ me, goin’ home.

Interlude

In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by her trade

and she carries the reminder, of every bloke that laid her down

and fucked her till she cried out, in her anger and her shame

“I am bleeding, I am leaving”, but the fighter still remains.

Lie Le Lie…

Oh!  BTW, now it’s a punk-rock song.  Here! Have a listen!

Our stories are not cut and paste, but much of the collective narrative at large is categorized quite consistently into certain gendered experiences.

Hopefully the likes of the previous writers I mentioned, along with Lady Gaga and others may eventually change that.

I wanted an adventure and I didn’t see that kind of adventure being demonstrated for women like me.   So, I borrowed one and it feels truthful because, well….a lot of it IS true for me.

I’m willing to bet that if it rings true for me, then it probably rings true for others.

Do you have a song you’d like for me to de-mythstify?   Let me know in the comments below!

Deconstructing Lyrical Mythologies: Jolene by Dolly Parton

Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Where were we…….?          Ah, yes.   Jolene.

Man, I love this fucking song.

Jolene: Written by Dolly Parton and released in 1973, nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and coming in at No. 217 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of “the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004.

Admit it, my ladies.   There is deep recognition in this song.

It is a rare woman who at some point in her life hasn’t been confronted with the realization that she WASN’T the fairest of them all in the eyes of HER fairest of them all.    And that shit SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCKS.

Before we plunge our incisors into the meat of this gem, I want to set it up so you can see it properly.    There are a couple of reasons why these lyrics are so effective and why the song grabs you right in the lady-nuts.

  1. It leans heavily on the idea (Nay!  The completely internalized, digested, and assimilated understanding) that aesthetic beauty is currency, and that this currency is the only asset with which one can attain love and companionship.  This is especially weighty if you are a woman/girl/female-identified.  But honestly, our perfection-driven consumerism, much like the patriarchy, affects everybody, able or not.
  2. That the partner with which the protagonist is so enamored is utterly voiceless and, frankly not to be addressed.  Ever.  It’s not even a consideration.   “Don’t bother the man with your petty feelings, honey.   Let him follow his boners into every pretty face he pleases!  You can’t stop it!!  I know you can see his boner!!!  For GOD’S sake, DON’T TELL HIM YOU CAN SEE HIS BONER!!

Good?   Great.

Onward!

Here is a rendition by Miley Cyrus because she (and her band) kills it, dayed.

Let’s break it down:

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene”  (Repeating the name of the woman who threatens to come between you and the love of your life opens the song with a mysterious sense of either desperation or romance.  Both?  We don’t know yet.   The song is just getting started.)

“I’m begging of you please don’t take my man” (THERE it is!)

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene” (I’m leaning towards desperation here.)

“Please don’t take him just because you can” (We don’t know Jolene yet, and I’m not sure the protagonist of our story does yet, either.  However, this line appears to hand Jolene the majority of the power in this dynamic.  Is Jolene the kind of woman who would seduce a man even though he is married to another woman?  Are ALL woman THAT kind of woman? In the next verse, we start to understand why the power is skewed toward Jolene and away from the protagonist.  (Fun Fact: Dolly Parton recalls that she wrote this song about a woman who flirted with her then-husband in a bank.  The description of her, however, is that of a young fan that requested an autograph at one of Dolly Parton’s shows.)

“Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green
Your smile is like a breath of spring
Your voice is soft like summer rain
And I cannot compete with you, Jolene.” (WhooooooooBoy.  My heart just floats away into pieces every time I hear this verse.  Recognizing the complete and unattainable game of your opponent is…..devastating.   No competition.   I mean, WE know that Dolly Parton is a stone cold fox, ever since she first appeared and now, in her 70s.  But, in this song, we are all NOT Jolene, and that’s the expertly crafted point.)

“He talks about you in his sleep
There’s nothing I can do to keep
From crying when he calls your name, Jolene.” (Here Dolly takes us deeper down the depression hole of “he’s literally speaking Jolene’s name while he’s lying unconscious next to the protagonist.  Maybe this was after they had made love?  Maybe he wasn’t in the mood that evening because she wasn’t Jolene?  Neither scenario is fun, but there you have it and now you know what my mind does when I don’t have it tethered to something productive.)  

“And I can easily understand
How you could easily take my man
But you don’t know what he means to me, Jolene.” (Again, the power is ALL Jolene’s because 1)beauty and 2)unreasonably deaf-mute man.  But “PLEASE.  He means something to me!!!!   SOB!!” 

Here is where I take issue with the song:  How is a relationship with someone that you can’t talk to about your most vulnerable insecurities, meaningful?  Doesn’t he have a say in the matter?  What if he DOESN’T want to be with Jolene, he just mumbles about her in his sleep because the human mind and body are weird as FUCK?  I mean, I have weird sex dreams about people I know all the time, but I DEFINITELY don’t want to be with them romantically.”

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene”
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him just because you can.” (I know that the function of a repetitive chorus is to be the emotional metronome of a song, but this particular chorus does a genius job of maintaining a quickening sense of desperation.  When paired with the rhythmic and consistent picking of the acoustic guitar, UGH!!  IT HURTS SO GOOD!)

“You could have your choice of men
But I could never love again
He’s the only one for me, Jolene.” (Here’s where whatever is left of my heart crumbles and disappears into a puff of dust.  I know that feeling.  That feeling that you logically understand is false, but can’t help feeling it anyway when you first break up with someone.  It’s the feeling that there won’t ever be anyone as perfect for you, ever again.   It is not real, but it feels. so. real.)
“I had to have this talk with you
My happiness depends on you
And whatever you decide to do, Jolene.” (Again with giving Jolene all of the power.   I WISH the protagonist would go talk to her damn lover.   We aren’t given a reasonable explanation as to why she doesn’t.  Not even a little.  Is he violent?  Is he emotionally absent?  Is he an ACTUAL angler fish?  I wish this song wasn’t so complacent about this seemingly insignificant piece of the puzzle.    To me, this is the most insidious part.   It’s that it doesn’t seem to matter.  That we aren’t entitled to the man as a presence in our emotional plight, even though he’s a major source of it.)

“Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I’m begging of you please don’t take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don’t take him even though you can
Jolene, Jolene” (Enough already.  I’m exhausted.)

I love this song.  I will never NOT love it.  I hope I haven’t ruined it too much for you.   Or….Rather….I hope I’ve ruined it just enough so that you don’t identify as strongly with the protagonist anymore.  Because you are beautiful and you are worthy of unconditional, supportive and nurturing companionship, regardless of who your Jolene may be.

Next up: The Boxer by Paul Simon

Do you have a song you’d like me to de-mythstify?   Let me know! Comment below!

Three Great Gigs To Attend!

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

There is something for every type of music connoisseur this week!  Dinner and music, Intimate House Concert, or Full Concert with Strangers!                    Check it out!!

WEDNESDAY!

The Monkey House

FRIDAY!

Speisekammer

SUNDAY!

Red Door House Concert

Hope to see you soon, out in the great big world!

Deconstructing Lyrical Mythologies: Stand By Your Man by Billy Sherrill & Tammy Wynette

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Ok.  I KNOW I promised Jolene first.  But then someone mentioned THIS fucking song, so here we are.

I ALSO know that I said I would “respectfully and lovingly” deconstruct these songs.   So, “respectfully and lovingly”…. 

Fuck it.  I’m re-writing this shit.

I mean, just WATCH this video of Tammy Wynette singing this song.  She’s basically just Stepford-Wifing her way through it….

Let’s break it down:

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman” (Duh)

“Giving all your love to just one man.” (Just one?  ONE?!!  HA!!!!)

“You’ll have bad times” (UGH!!)

“And he’ll have good times,”  (AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!)

“Doin’ things that you don’t understand” (Seriously?!  Let’s not play dumb, honey.  We are not dumb.)

“But if you love him you’ll forgive him,” (Noooope.  No no no.   If you LOVE someone you hold them accountable!  WHY is this still not basic knowledge?!)

“Even though he’s hard to understand” (How can you forgive something you don’t understand?!  That’s not forgiveness, that’s Stockholm Syndrome.)

“And if you love him oh be proud of him” (Wait….we’re giving him a gold star?   For WHAT?! For playing?! Is this where you follow up with “Don’t hate the player, hate the game?” The game needs players or it isn’t a thing!!  WHO DO YOU THINK INVENTED THE DAMN GAME?!?!)

“‘Cause after all he’s just a man” (Oh!  Yep.  Guess what men are!!  Just GUESS!!  They’re HUMAN FUCKING BEINGS!! Not disobedient angler fish, for FUCK SAKE!!)

“Stand by your man,”(Shit….. Why?  What’s he gonna do now!?)

“Give him two arms to cling to,” (Oh, NOW he needs something?)

“And something warm to come to” (Microwave a Hot Pocket, Motherfucker.)

“When nights are cold and lonely” (COUCH!!)

“Stand by your man,” (Boooooooooooo!!!!!!)

“And show the world you love him” (Why does the world have to know our business?!?)

“Keep giving all the love you can” (You BETTER keep giving, so you don’t lose your damn mind…)

“Stand by your man” (Stop telling me what to do!!!)
“Stand by your man,” (Middle Finger on WhatsApp 2.17)

“And show the world you love him” (Again, none of their damn business)
“Keep giving all the love you can” (Middle Finger on WhatsApp 2.17)
“Stand by your man” (Middle Finger on WhatsApp 2.17)

 

Nope!  No more of this driv.

Here,  I re-wrote this shit: 

Stand On Your Man

Sometimes It’s hard to be a woman

Taking all your shit from all the men

You’ll have bad times

They’ll have good times

and leave all the shame in your hands

 

But if you love them, stand your ground
even if they’re standing on it too
And if you love them, stand right upon them
‘Cause after all, we’re people too

 

Stand on your man

immobilize his arms too

give him a stare that cuts through

those lies, so bold, and ornery

 

Stand on your man,
And show the world you’ll hold him
Keep giving all the weight you can
Stand on your man.

 

Stand on your man,
And show the world he’s faking.
Give fewer fucks thank you think you can.
Stand on your man

—————————————————————————————–
THERE!!! I FIXED IT!
*Fuck!*

Deconstructing Lyrical Mythologies: A Promise

Wednesday, October 10th, 2018

I see so much amazing happening right now.    SO. MUCH.

This may be a very odd thing to read from me, especially at this time.  Especially because I’ve been spitting a million furies on my social media feeds.  Especially because much of my music is spiced with frustration borne of my own, sloppy relations with the menfolk.

Trump, Kavanaugh, Weinstein, Louis CK, and all the other fat, old pukes that can’t, for the life of them, understand how basic, human civility works.   What ARE women…really?

But let me assure you, I believe this is a good thing.   The Band-aids are coming off hard and bringing a few short-hairs right along with them.  Painful?  Yep.  But, to quote a character from one of my favorite children’s tales The Never-ending Story, “It has to hurt if it’s to heal!”

Women everywhere are stripping back the bandages that shield their raw and fetid wounds.   In doing so, we are also stripping off the coverings of what the menfolk did to wound.

Good.    Keep pulling.

Pull harder.

These pullings are revealing the depth of what it means to be under a patriarchal system.  It is crouching in every crevice of our culture and has been for hundreds of years.   We are ALL living it, and we are ALL (men, women, girls, boys, and every single human living on the entirety of the gender spectrum) oppressed by it.  In fact, I believe that ironically, the patriarchy is the MOST inclusive system out there.  Nobody is safe and we ALL suffer underneath it.    Yes, even the bloated old goats of the 1%.  They are the most miserable and fearful of us all.  Seriously, stop kicking us.  We are already down here.   sheesh…

The stories are being revealed in  the music industry, the tech industry, the gig economy…..new Hollywood AND old Hollywood!   Just check out what Molly Ringwald has been talking about lately.  Sigh…….poor John Hughes….

I want to help.    I want to keep this unveiling going until we have shined this light in every creepy-ass corner.

Here’s what I’m going to do to contribute: 

I’m going to lift the veil on some of the most beloved songs I know.   I’m going to destroy them for us so we can start writing them again.    I’m going to do so in the most loving and respectful manner that I can, so that when I do hear, sing, or play them in the future (and I will), I will do so with a new reverence that I have built around them for myself.   They won’t hold me in that awkward “I love this song but it makes me feel weird” limbo any longer.

Deconstructing Lyrical Mythologies will be my contribution to the lifting.

You will be able to find one song a month, deconstructed and/or re-imagined from the inside out.  I’ll probably share them on social media too, but they will all live here.

There is so much lifting we still need to do and we could use all the muscle we’ve got.  Lift wherever you feel inspired to lift.

I’ll start with Jolene by Dolly Parton.

Did I mention this is going to hurt?

I’m sorry.   I love you.

Hardly Strictly Sideshow!

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

The biggest free show in San Francisco is coming up and we want to get you all warmed up for it.   We’d like to be your “musical fluffers”, if you will.

 

We know there is no alcohol on the festival grounds, save the folks selling tall-boys out of coolers in the woods.  So, if you’re hankering to get a stiff drink in your system before rolling out to the park, we’ve got you covered!

Catch my band and the Curt Yagi Trio from 4-6pm at Milk Bar on the historic Haight Street!  We will keep you entertained while you fill the tank and wait for your favorite bands to hit the stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass.

Saturday    October 6th     No Cover!!    21+     4-6pm  Milk Bar

 

See you at the Sideshow!

I Have To Go Do This….Thing

Monday, September 10th, 2018

I recently gave notice at my place of employment.  I have been there for 12 years.   I’m terrified.

This wasn’t something I did out of spite for maltreatment at my job.  It wasn’t out of exhaustion (though, some days I wonder how I managed to squeak by), it wasn’t because I was angry or felt undervalued.  There may have been a bit of boredom involved, but that’s MY fault.

I have been batting this idea around like a lazy tabby for a few years.  Most of my close friends and family are well aware of my ongoing waffling.  But all of this doesn’t lessen the shock of having done the damn thing.   I’m not going on to any other company, nor am I planning to seek traditional employment for a while.  Our current economy is not kind to my kind.  I will have to sign up for Obama-care, I will have to seek other support for dental/mental/physical care.  Tax season is going to be WEIRD.   I will have to fight for every dollar in a manner I have not had to do in the past.   I recognize how big of a deal this is.

Have I mentioned that I’m terrified?

This place took good care of me.  It anticipated my needs, it encouraged my growth, it challenged me to seek out my own blind spots and supported me in enlightening them.  Additionally, it actively noticed my talents, even if they had nothing to do with my day to day responsibilities AND provided a platform in which to play in THOSE areas as well.   This place made it clear to me that it valued me and wanted me around.  It invested in me in ways that I never expected a job to do, which is why it took me so long to tell it that I wanted my leave.  It’s totally all me, not…..it.

It feels like a SUPER amicable breakup where I get to keep most of the items I’ve accumulated over the years AND I get joint custody of the campus pets I’ve come to pet-sit over the years.   We may even hang out again in the future, who knows!!

I need to see if I can do this.  I must know if I’m truly fashioned for this kind of a life.  I need to see what would happen if I dedicated all of my time to this musical aspiration of mine.

Part of me feels too old.  I’m almost 40 and I’m starting NOW?  Sure.  What else am I going to do with the 60 years I have left, more or less?  Who am I going to be THEN?  What bullshit thought forms will I have sloughed off in the process? What bullshit thought forms will I gain? Who will I meet out there?  Friend or foe?  How much more music can I possibly make!!?!

This is the sort of shit that keeps me up at night.  And I LOOOOOOOVE sleep.  For the sake of my sanity, I must find out.

So, this is my formal announcement to the world, universe, God, Source…..whatever you want to call it.

I have to go do this thing.  Please write?

Alpha (Work in Progress)

Friday, May 25th, 2018

was once a girl on top.  I had attitude and a knowledge that I was powerful and could change things. It was built into me as if it was an application the software came with.   When I saw mean or unfair behaviorfrom anyone, I would fearlessly expose it.     I became confused when the behavior that I had modeled when presented with the same unfairness wasn’t practiced.   I was mortified Why weren’t my values being reflected back to me in the behavior of the people I respected

It was a profound feeling of worthlessness.  I didn’t understand that others were fearful because I didn’t know what that fear felt like.  

So I forged ahead with my fearless. 

 

Until one day a boy told me I was not pretty.   

It was a statement of fact that I was not being invited to reason againstso I didn’t.   I reflected on all the times I was left suspended after a personal affront.  I was left waiting for another human to expose it.  I thought “Maybe this is why?” Now I was afraid 

was not being invited to reason againstso I didn’t.  Over time his statement became a part of me. A new organ that materialized between my senses and my understanding of myself.  

This new organ metabolized everything I heardsawatesmelledlovedand distilled it down to 

“I didn’t get this test right because I am not pretty.”  “I didn’t get invited to this party because I am not pretty.”  “I didn’t get into this college because I am not pretty.”  “I didn’t get this job because..” “This response because….” “This love because….” I was not being invited to reason againstso I didn’t.   

We are  all alphas, in the beginning.  This is how they tame us.   They lump our worth into a quality.  A grace, a charm, a sin.  We are not warned when this will come and we aren’t prepared to wage against it.  The real danger is not that they do it.  It’s that we believe them.

That we are not invited to reason againstso we don’t.  We are not taught that this is an option. 

That the very statements they make about us are based on assumption.  That we are put on this Earth to enlighten, to educate each other, to enrich beyond the senses.  To invite each other to reason beyond our individual experiences.

That what we observe of each other isn’t fact, it’s an invitation.

THANK YOU!

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

THANKS to everyone who came out to the Back Room in Berekely!  We had a hootenanny and a half and hope you did too.  

 

Image Credit @santossocialclub

Next EZ and the Mightiest Machine show will be at 8pm on Wednesday, June 13th at the Milk Bar!  Hope to see you cityfolk out there!

 

EZ and the Mightiest Machine at the Backroom!

Monday, February 26th, 2018

Poster Designed by AJ Leighton

 

On Saturday, April 28th, I’m stoked to be playing with my band, The Mightiest Machine at the cozy Backroom in Berkeley.     This venue is perfect for our songs and you will get a rare opportunity to experience our show the way it is intended: Up Close and In Your Lap.

It’s ALL AGES and BYOB, so bring everyone and whatever is in your minibar!

We are pleased to be joined by the fabulous Eileen Torrez

Eileen Torrez!

Please tell your friends and mark your calendars as space is limited!  This is going to be a delightfully fun hang.