Sunday, March 30, 2014

A love lyric for Sunday

Apropos of nothing, I was running Me and Bobby McGee through my head the other day when it occurred to me that it's the best love lyric -- or lovelorn lyric -- I can think of. It has everything. The sharp in-the-moment snapshot:

With them windshield wipers slapping time
and Bobby clapping hands,
we finally sang near every song that driver knew.
The big-picture zoom-out:
From the coal mines of Kentucky
to the California sun,
Bobby shared the secrets of my soul,
standing right beside me Lord through
everything I've done,
Bobby's body kept me from the cold.
 And, above all, the keenest lament in songdom:
And I'd trade all of my tomorrows
for a single yesterday,
feeling Bobby's body close to mine.
That's not abject, it's not maudlin -- it's just the sum of human despair.

Finally, it occurred to me that there's always been a toggle switch in my mind with regard to the song's manifesto:  freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.  There's "good" freedom:
Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose:
Nothing ain't worth nothing, but it's free.
Feeling good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues,
feeling good was good enough for me,
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.
That is being happy with "nothing" -- though also arguably being left with nothing after being happy. And that's definitely the upshot of the second iteration, "bad" freedom:
Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose.
Nothing was all she left to me.
Feeling good was easy, Lord, when Bobby sang the blues,
Feeling good was good enough for me,
Good enough for me and Bobby McGee.
Not being very musical, I won't even try to account for Janis Joplin's unforgettable scat-cum-improv to close it out.

There are variant lyrics: the ones Kristofferson wrote, Joplin's version, and others. I just put it down the way I remember it -- probably closest to the Grateful Dead's. Not the best cover, but the one I imprinted.

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