Monday, May 28, 2007

Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

There’s a young man that I know just turned twenty-one
Comes from down in southern Colorado.
Just out of the service and he’s lookin' for his fun.
Some Day Soon, goin’ with him, Some Day Soon.

Ian Tyson

I lied the other day. I do have roses blooming,
just not on the four bushes in the back garden.

All four pictures today are roses that are blooming in my yard.
All four pictures were taken on May 20th, 2007

There’s an old song that I love, Judy sang it first for me.
It talks about a star-crossed pair of lovers.
He is rough and rowdy, she’s her father’s cup of tea.
Some day soon, I will sing it, some day soon.

I can’t remember the first time I heard Judy Collins’ cover of Someday Soon*, but I fell in love with the song immediately. I started singing it, without changing the genders in the song. Never sung it in public yet, however. That may change. Down at Borders Books in Eureka on Saturday, I wandered past the CD section and a boxed set of four Ian and Sylvia CDs jumped off the rack and into my shopping basket. The set was expensive, almost fifty dollars, but it was a compilation of all seven records the Canadian duo made with Vanguard which made it seem more affordable, somehow. And even at $50, that’s only twelve-fifty per disk, a bargain in today’s market. I knew precious little about Ian and Sylvia. I knew they were Canadian. I knew they were responsible for the song Four Strong Winds. That’s about it. I may have noticed in my Judy Collins’ Songbook that Ian had written Some Day Soon, but if so, I’d filed that in the back of my head where it was now covered with cobwebs. Looking over the list of songs on the back of the CD box, there were enough songs that I know and like that I felt comfortable in shelling out the money.

Sunday morning, I pulled off the shrink wrap and put disk one in the CD player. Turned the volume up and came into my study to check e-mail and maybe get some work done. What that means is that I wasn’t really listening to the album, just using it for background noise. Disk one played through without me paying much attention. There are twenty-six songs on the first disk, and I missed most of them, including C.C. Rider, Un Canadien Errant, When First Unto This Country, Jesus Met the Woman at the Well, and Spanish is a Loving Tongue, not to mention Four Strong Winds. I’ll have to put that disk back in the machine.

Later in the day I put disk two on, and this time I listened. I had to. The first cut on the disk is one of my favorite songs from high school days, You Were On My Mind. All I have to do is close my eyes and the group We Five are singing in my head. I had no idea that Sylvia had written the song, nor that the words were changed before We Five recorded it so as to get it past the censors. Other songs on disk two are Little Beggerman, Nancy Whiskey, Early Morning Rain, Darcy Farrow and For Lovin’ Me. Gordon Lightfoot credits Ian and Sylvia as putting him on the map as they were the first major performers to record his songs. Early Morning Rain always gets me crying. It’s one of the songs my group, The Internationals, prepared for our concert tour of northern California prisons. (Haven’t I told you about that???) Just like Johnny Cash, I have sung at Folsom Prison. But the number seven cut on disk two stopped me in my tracks. A gorgeous baritone voice was singing “blow him back to me, he’s likely drivin’ in from California.” Ian Tyson was singing Some Day Soon, and he wasn’t changing the genders. I skipped back to play the cut a second time. Then a third. Then I paused the machine and got the 12-string out. For the most part it’s the same song that Judy Collins sang, only a few words were changed for Judy’s cover. But the original words strike me as so much stronger. The main change comes in the second line of the second verse. Judy (and pretty much all the other female singers who have covered this song) sings “My father says that he will leave me cryin’.” Ian’s original words are “They [my parents] say ‘He’s not your kind. He’ll leave you cryin’.’” “He’s not your kind” really hits home, at least to me. Very much what a lot of us were hearing in the nineteen sixties. Does anyone remember Janis Ian’s “Society’s Child.” And indeed, the sixties were when a lot of us came to terms with being –or not being—society’s child.

My parents cannot stand him ‘cause he works the rodeo
They say “He’s not your kind. He’ll leave you cryin’.
If he asks I’ll follow him down the toughest row to hoe.
Some Day Soon, goin’ with him, Some Day Soon.

San Francisco is celebrating, I suppose is the word, the fortieth anniversary of the Summer of Love. We’ve been reading about fights, disruptions, all kinds of things happening that don’t seem very “loving” in this re-enactment of the hippy invasion of Baghdad by the Bay, as Herb Caen, the SF Chronicle columnist, referred to the city. I wish I’d been there for the “reunion.” I wish I’d been there for the original, instead of living fifteen minutes away across the Bay in El Cerrito. I never considered myself a hippy. In fact, I was a pretty conservative kid until the California National Guard and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office shot tear gas at me in an attempt to keep me from going to class. Nothing like having the guardians of peace destroy your health to radicalize a person.

The Chronicle has been giving us quips from various spokesmen who had something or other to do with the original Summer of Love. Can’t say I recall seeing anything from Scott McKenzie, but Lawrence Ferlinghetti appears a lot. Of course, he’s San Francisco’s poet laureate—or at least he should be. I’ll have to find a copy of A Coney Island of the Mind. The poetry will undoubtedly mean a lot more to me now than it did when I first came across it some forty years ago. Just now, in doing a Google search, I found and reread the poem “Christ Climbed Down.” Pretty powerful stuff. Although, come to think of it, if forty years later I still remember the title of the collection and even the title of one of the poems in the collection, it must have been pretty powerful stuff when I first read it.

I suppose that everyone one has triggers that take them back to their youth. But you have to admit, growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and graduating from high school as Scott McKenzie is telling us to “put flowers in your hair,” all the while our government is dropping napalm in Viet Nam to get rid of any plant life, including flowers, I’ve got some pretty potent triggers. Especially now when we seem to be making the same mistakes, and even greater ones, in the Middle East. I can’t read about Iraq without thinking back on Viet Nam. And I know I’m not the only one. I just finished Gore Vidal’s Point to Point Navigation, and he certainly connects the two. Right down to noting that in 1967 the US was ecstatic that so many Vietnamese had turned out to vote. Hmm, where have we heard that lately?

When he visits me my pa ain’t got one good word to say
Got a hunch he was as wild back in the early days.

So blow you old blue northern, blow him back to me
He’s likely drivin’ in from California
He loves his damned old rodeo as much as he loves me.
Some Day Soon, goin’ with him, Some Day Soon.

If you don’t know Ian and Sylvia, I urge you to check them out. This is the way “folk music” should have been sung—and was by a very few. Listening to three of the four disks yesterday, I spent a good bit of time replaying certain songs, crying over others. I also bought a CD of Melanie Safka’s music—her two first albums now on one CD. Something was really looking to take me back to my youth. Melanie I knew—I have several of her LPs on vinyl. Ian and Sylvia were a wonderful discovery. And while Ian and Sylvia are no longer a couple, they are both still making music separately. Ian is now living in the Calgary area and singing about cowboys. Makes ya wonder. His tour dates for 2007 include a concert in Livingston, Montana, and the Monterey Cowboy Festival. It even turns out he was in the Bay Area singing at the same time I was there for the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus concert. Had I only known that the night before the concert I attended, Ian was singing at my old favorite, Freight and Salvage in Berkeley. But then, we don’t dare let life be made up of what ifs.

But one thing I do know, Some Day Soon is going into my public repertoire!

Some Day Soon, goin' with him, Some Day Soon!

*For the record, no pun intended, Ian Tyson wrote Some Day Soon. The Judy Collins Songbook refers to the song as Someday Soon. I love Judy’s version, but Ian’s original is so much better, in my opinion. And I don’t mean to imply that Ian might have a thing for cowboys, other than for their music. To the best of my knowledge, he’s a straight arrow with a beautiful voice and a great way with words and music.

1 comment:

Carl said...

A fascinating trip down memory lane with on of my all time favorite songs. Thanks for the new perspective.