It’s a time for words of thanks. The last few days the news has been saying that the anticipated vaccine will begin rolling out soon, to be in place next year. It is such welcome news.
As well, the holidays are here, when people don’t act as paranoid with each other given the holiday season. It’s an unusual holiday season, of course, owing to the impact of the pandemic.
Here on WordPress, occasionally I find specific bloggers to be interesting for me, even if they aren’t well-known, at least not yet, anyway. One guy like that is Jim Adams, who has a blog and who has planned blog prompts through to 2021.
Jim has a keen interest in music and a lot of knowledge to share. Jim’s blog prompts are great.
I remember last winter when my dad pointed out to me that the link-sharing I was doing on social media didn’t seem to be too relevant, as far as he could tell. I help out my dad with his business.
While I enjoy Facebook and Twitter, the day he offered that criticism about my content, I was a little miffed. I know that my dad clowns, but I tried to look past that, to see if I could think of a better approach.
I decided a few weeks ago to take a direction that could feel more relevant, I hope, whatever the issue. I’m chancing to utilize the focus right now that Jim provides.
I’ve been blogging since MySpace, kind of a wow. On WordPress, I have done some posting with a bit of humour to it, and in the months since my dad said that to me about how I seem on social, I eventually decided I still wasn’t too far off the mark.
There aren’t too many “rules” for running a social presence. When I started to read Jim, I thought it was great because I could see that, with his idea, I could collect my thoughts about the music I like.
For November 29, 2020, Jim’s prompts include, “bird.” I know that the late Leonard Cohen made the song Bird on the Wire.
Cohen is a Canadian singer who became well-known for making music. By the mid-1960s, Cohen started to form rock and pop melodies. He had already written an expansive amount of writing, both poetry, and novels.
He studied at McGill in Montreal and made quite a name for himself through the sixties. Cohen kind of burned out about that stuff in the early nineteen seventies, but his music came to him his whole career. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame enlisted Cohen in 2008, and Leonard Cohen got a Grammy Award in 2010.
Bird on the Wire is on the record Songs from a Room, released April 1969, and is like a poem set to the sound of Cohen’s guitar. The title Songs from a Room is very simple, understating the mastery of the music.
Being able to enjoy something from the years before I was born is lucky, as hearing Bird on the Wire is an experience that has power to it, sentimental. Strange song title, eh? A listener feels like the hardships of life have been met by others just the same, whether more talented, or more fortunate.
Not to sound presumptuous, but Bird on the Wire is great that way. Leonard Cohen got into music as a popular singer when he was losing interest in writing. Wikipedia says that Bird on the Wire is a country song, a detail which surprises me, and reading that, I thought additionally that the song just has a simplicity that sets it apart from other country songs.
The country genre of music isn’t something I understand, and maybe neither is the language of love, but when I was in college, I got to study, one semester, Canadian music. Country music in the Canadian Prairies is a favourite choice of many resident Canadians.
I can infer that Bird on the Wire could be a favourite of many who can remember 1969. It was years before I was born.
There is something about cowboy music, that we’ve adopted in Canada, that reflects how life in the Prairies shaped up. The first herders calling themselves “cowboys” got to the Canadian prairies in the 1870s, riding up from the US territories of Idaho and Montana.
The romantic image of the cowboy emerged around this American subculture. British Columbia “buckaroos” likewise sooner or later adopted the cowboy appearance.
I doubt that Cohen identified with being a cowboy; he was a novelist, poet and musician. He identifies, I think, with the archetype of a cowboy’s passion. I think of the scene in the Hollywood movie City Slickers, where Billy Crystal’s Mitch Robbins character plays the harmonica at the campfire.
Curly, Jack Palance’s character, interrupts the music.
Mitch Robbins: [Playing harmonica]
Curly: Put that away.
Mitch Robbins: [Stops, then resumes playing harmonica]
Curly: I said, put that away!
Mitch Robbins: Hey you know, the first time I tried to talk to you, you embarrassed me. So I teased you a little bit which maybe I shouldn’t have done, so I’m sorry.
And now you’re sitting over there playing with your knife, trying to frighten me – which you’re doing a good job. But if you’re gonna kill me, get on with it; if not, shut the hell up – I’m on vacation.
Wikipedia explains that before writing Bird on the Wire, Cohen carefully structured the song, before committing it to tape. To tell the truth, before I read Wikipedia’s description, I hadn’t thought that the song would be identified as a country song.
Cohen’s music is usually in the genres of folk, and soft rock. Romantic country music doesn’t meld with the other interests in music I have thought of. If Bird on the Wire is a country song, it breaks, I think, with the tradition of country music that country music fans enjoy.
It’s unique that way. I wonder if a country song should be simple, but distinctive. The answer isn’t straightforward.
Sometimes answers to questions like that turn up unexpectedly, even if it isn’t initially clear where to begin, to get an answer to the question. A post like this one, doing the research and writing the content, helps me understand better something that already interests me, the music. Also, maybe somebody else interested in this blog challenge thought to say something about this specific song.
I first heard Bird on the Wire when I was in high school, the twelfth grade or so, on a simply dubbed audio cassette. Leonard Cohen passed on November 7, 2016 (aged 82).
I saw him once in concert. It was terrific.
Here are the lyrics to the song, followed by the song itself, in a video.
Bird on the Wire
Like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free
Like a worm on a hook
Like a knight from some old-fashioned book
I have saved all my ribbons for thee
If I, if I have been unkind
I hope that you can just let it go by
If I, if I have been untrue
I hope you know it was never to you
For like a baby, stillborn
Like a beast with his horn
I have torn everyone who reached out for me
But I swear by this song
And by all that I have done wrong
I will make it all up to thee
I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch
He said to me, “you must not ask for so much”
And a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door
She cried to me, “hey, why not ask for more?”
Oh, like a bird on the wire
Like a drunk in a midnight choir
I have tried in my way to be free
Songwriters: Leonard Cohen
Bird on the Wire lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC