Saturday, October 19, 2013

One-Song Saturday

The song is only 2:38 long.  There is nothing to it but a voice backed by a competent mandolin.  All day I have been playing it over and over.  After about the fourth time, I declared this "One-Song Saturday" and have been faithful to the song ever since, playing it as I drove alone, while waiting for my wife and my friend to pick up muffulettas for the trip home, later as we drove through the rain to the farmer's market, again back to the hotel and then on to Commander's Palace.  I played it again off and on as we stopped and started our way up Magazine Street.

Originally appearing in the soundtrack for the film, Into The Wild, "Rise" came my way via my friend Tommy, who like most musical friends, can send songs that make me shake my head because they don't work for me and can introduce me to songs that make me shiver from their sheer beauty.  This is the latter.

Longtime readers of this blog know of my penchant for the anthemic, the desperate, the defiant in the songs I love most.  Although "Rise" is too short and simplistic to be an anthem, it still stands as a personal stance against difficult times, and I can only imagine where it appeared in the context of the movie (which I haven't seen).

Such is the way of the world
You can never know
Just where to put all your faith
And how will it grow?
Gonna rise up 
Burning black holes in dark memories
Gonna rise up
Turning mistakes into gold...

Such is the passage of time
Too fast to fold
Suddenly swallowed by signs
Lo and behold
Gonna rise up
Find my direction magnetically
Gonna rise up
Throw down my ace in the hole

I love the spiritual desolation of the lyrics.  This is a song about not knowing what to do, not knowing what to turn to.  It is a speaker trying to convince himself that he can turn things around, that despite everything, he has one last chance and he's going to play it.  Do we need to be young man on a misguided odyssey in Alaska to know what that is about?

No consistent Eddie Vedder fan myself, the song verifies for me that there is a kind of song that only he can sing.  His phrasings on instrument and in voice so perfectly match the feeling of "Rise" that there would be no point to anyone ever covering it.  Additional instruments, a rearrangement, other or different voices?  What could these contribute?

"Rise" is a small song, but it is a perfect one, at least as defined by needing nothing else added to it.

And I say that while fully acknowledging that most songs this abstract are doomed to failure.  It is so difficult to capture a listener with a generalized plight.  But I fell in love with the song months before I learned it was from the film, and it spoke to me immediately.  Perhaps the lines which open each stanza do the trick:  by alerting us that "the way of the world" and "the passage of time" are circumstances we can neither understand or keep up with, Vedder has spoken to our common condition.  Then, the chance to spend 2:38 with a fellow traveler who doesn't have that much more to say about except to be there with us is comfort enough.

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