Monday, June 21, 2010

Father's Day Loudon Wainwright III Style with Fairy Tales on the Side

"But I think that people - people are - are still heroes. There's something still heroic about - about failure. That's why I love it so much." - Loudon Wainwright III

More than a Month's gone by, but it feels like

(which, coincidentally, is what reading this entry will feel like... haha... no seriously keep reading - I manage to compare Loudon Wainwright III with Rapunzel! Ah-ha! NOW I've got your attention...)

God I've missed this. HI!!!!!!!!!! And Happy Father's Day.

I have decided to commemorate Father's Day through the raw genuineness of Loudon Wainwright III. I was at the bank several weeks ago and saw a flyer saying Loudon Wainwright was to play at SOPAC. I screamed all the way home.

I was there, June 4th, a Friday, with my dad and sister, and saw Loudon Wainwright in PERSON.

Best. day. ever.

Anyhow the reason I find him so fitting for Father's Day is not only the fact that he is a father, but that - I don't know - something about the way he writes and sings his songs seem to appeal to the concept of living - the medium (as in the element through which something is transmitted, like air for sound waves) of fatherhood. Though I don't think of him AS a father, which I suppose is a subset of fatherhood, since fathers aren't initially fathers DUUUH.

Before I go on to discuss sophisticated an contemplative themes between this artist, art, fathers, with hopefully some relevance to feminism, let me just get this out of the way:


Plus I told him it was my psuedonym. It's not exactly an endorsement, but now I can truthfully say that Loudon Wainwright III knows my pseudonym. Yes!

Cough Cough ok now...

Loudon Wainwright's family is known to be a bit - complicated. Broken here, broken there. Bitterness here, miscommunication there. I'm not an expert, but the general impression I get is there's several missing pieces to their puzzle and no one has any idea what the resulting picture is supposed to be when the puzzle's solved.

I found a rather informative article that I think sums it up rather well (by the way - you can click "next page" within this little window embedding and it will go to the next page within the frame - it doesn't mess up my blog entry's set up. So click away!):

- what the article says about "telling anyone under 40 your off to see Loudon Wainwright, the look uncertain and ask if he is anything to do with Rufus" is soooooo hilarious because that literally happened with my best friend. I didn't even know the answer too, which is the funny part (that and the fact that I am significantly under 40). I had to look it up. XD

Loudon Wainwright stands with two other men in a very important category for me; singers whose voices seem to hold such an essence and substance that I could cry listening to it. The two others are Cat Stevens and Bruce Molsky (by the way, have met Bruce Molsky too! Thank you, Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp).

I first discovered Loudon Wainwright III about two years ago when I watched Sandra Bullock's "28 Days" for the first time. All those sneaky and natural transitions from gaiety to self-destruction in the film (such great writing) were so well-highlighted by the music.

Looking up lyrics is what initially led me to Wainwright. Thanks to my little sister's discovery of Grooveshark (which used to be better than it is now), I found other songs of his, including "I wish I was a Lesbian" - good entertainment there.

Anyhow here are clips from the movie including him to allow you to see what my first impression of him was. Yes, he cameo-ed in the movie, listed in the credits as "The Guitar Guy."

This short song is actually one of my favorites of his. I love how completely bored and tired and grumpy he acts for the part of fellow-outpatient in this rehab center.

"Heaven and Mud"

"Drinking Song"

"White Winos"

This next one isn't a song of his, but he looks so completely grumpy and disillusioned and bored that I couldn't help but include it. Deadpan = Hilarious.

"Santa Booze"

I was particulary struck by one song, which I finally looked up online - "Dreaming." The last verse was not in the movie, most likely just a time issue.


I'd rather be dreaming than living
Living's just too hard to do
It's chances not choices
Noises not voices
A day's just a thing to get through
Living's just too hard to do

I'd rather be dreaming than talking
There's nothing to hear or to say
With ears covered mouth closed
The world is opposed
Nothing gets in or away
There's nothing to hear or to say

I'd rather be dreaming than thinking
Thoughts are small comfort to me
Dreams might be pretend
But at least dreams end
And I just can't stop thinking you see
Thoughts are small comfort to me

I'd rather be dreaming than sleeping
Just sleeping you're just as well dead
In dreams I can fly
In dreams I don't die
That's why I lie here in this bed
Just sleeping you're just as well dead

I'd rather be dreaming

I was pretty obsessed with the song actually. It was in my senior year of highschool and I was using napping as a form of escapism XD. I found his distinction between dreaming and sleeping intriguing.

Since then I'd only seen him in one other movie, "Knocked Up," and I was thrilled to find that the entirety of the credits were him singing. Later I realized that Dr. Howard looked so familiar b/c he was a smilely version of "Guitar Guy" and perhaps it might be said a better groomed version of Loudon Wainwright III. :)

In Knocked Up as "Dr. Howard"

by the way, WILL blog about Knocked Up before I die - love that movie.

Okay - before I move on, click this image if you want to see more of Loudon Wainwright various acting/ cameo clips from movies I probably haven't seen - more complete, in other words.

Soooooo, Today I was feeling somewhat down, feeling a bit like I'd be happier if I was Rapunzel (specifically, Paul O. Zelinsky's Rapunzel) in a high isolated tower doing nothing but reading books.

Nota Bene: All images below are super high-quality ('cause they are scans), so please click them! You have an 80% chance of achieving Nirvana if you do, they are that good. (If you don't like clicking the back button to return to this page, try control clicking them, and you will see an option to open the image in a new window.)

Actually I wasn't thinking so much of Rapunzel as of "Daughter" from Antonia Barber's "The Enchanter's Daughter" illustrated by Errolle Cain.

She has much in common with Rapunzel; she was taken from her parents at birth by an affluent, magical, domineering and demanding person - in her case, a magician rather than Rapunzel's witch:

She, like Rapunzel, was brought up by said power figure in a decent, if not exactly familial, way, surrounded by riches in seclusion, having seen no other human than their "parent," who themselves are unwilling to let go of their precious possession, perhaps out of pure obsession with acquired property, perhaps out of a need to preserve purity, or a potent mixture.

But what am I getting at here? What does this have to do with Loudon Wainwright or Father's Day? I'm getting there... I think.

As I said, I was feeling somewhat unhappy, and felt an urge to be in some sort of gilded cage, and, as in the case of "Daughter," the castle is kept warm and green "amid the frozen wastes" due to the Enchanter's spells.

But I knew such feelings must be fleeting, for both heroines got sick of their beloved privacy and broke free, risking everything for the chance to share their world with someone else. And surely I would do the same. Right?

I wasn't so sure. And I'm still not. But it was then that I thought of what Loudon Wainwright III calls "The Great Unknown" in his "Another Song in C."

Here's another song in c
when I play piano it's my key
if I was playing my guitar
I probably be in g the chances are

but here's another song in c
with my favorite protagonist: me
of my little world I'll tell and show
I'll sing all about it so you'll know

the people in it break my heart
and my little world can fall apart
and there's not a thing I can do
except to sing in c to you

o there used to be a family
brother sister father mother and me
we were living in our little home
we were fending off the great unknown

but the great unknown it got inside
and what happened oh it did divide
in the end the father had to leave
when he did the mother had to grieve

that's the time real trouble starts
it's when a world can fall apart
and there's not a thing I can do
except to sing in c to you

I grew up and had a family
and it broke apart so easily
all that started 30 years ago
why it's never ended I don't know
I could blame it on the great unknown
and as a kid what I was told and shown
but I blame myself and I blame her
the cruel and foolish people that we were

and the children that we had are grown
they're out fending off their great unknown
and I've noticed they're a bit like me
with a tendency to to sing in c

So by now it's clear to here I know
I don't play a lot of pee-an-oh
but sometimes a fella has to sit
just to sing about the heavy shit

and the great unknown's a hurricane
with howling wind and floods and driving rain
you might make it through, but you don't know
if right behind it there's a tornado

and if families didn't break apart
I suppose there'd be no need for art
o but you and I know they do

so I sing in c to you

I love this song. I heard it for the first time at the concert; after listening to it, it takes me awhile to drag myself back into the real world. And by that I mean; when he sings, I feel my mind GOING to "the great unknown," - a less romantic way of putting it might be that I'm spacing out, but I like putting it that way - and when the singing stops I find it hard to connect and re-align my brain and eyes.

Anyhow my POINT is in the midst of my lower mood this image of the isolated fairy tale maiden and the real-life man singing of his broken family seemed to belong next to each other, though in fact in "The Enchanter's Daughter" she is working to be reunited with her family and Loudon Wainwright's song speaks of how a family is never the same after parent's split... I think. Despite this apparent gaping disparity, I feel that both figures are majorly whistful - not just in a "Manifest Destiny" way of wanting the great unknown - ooo look lands I don't know I want to go there - not that kind.

Just this "heavy shit" - confusion, things getting mixed up. "Cruel and Foolish People." I may be missing Loudon Wainwright III's intended point but I feel this song is all about how this "Great Unknown" is indescribable and therefore terrifying - basically, a sort of gut feeling everyone has that they don't have everything under control. Which is exactly the problem the enchanter and witch from "The Enchanter's Daughter" and "Rapunzel" are severely infected with. They are all about control. When they lose control of the heroines, they become nasty, whereas at the beginning of the story they weren't necessarily the antagonists.

I've always liked to think that the essence of the "need for art" is when ambiguity is so menacing all you can do to defend yourself is throw a little ambiguity back (abstract art being the most exaggerated form of this approach). Fighting fire with fire.

I'm including these thoughts in this entry because I want to stress that the concept of the individual and it's relation to the concept of family is OVERWHELMING. I mean think about it; it's the entire question of the universe encapsulated. What's the difference between the group and the individual? What makes an individual part of a group? How many individuals make a group, are certain types of groups permanent - and if a group's number and arrangement of individuals can fluctuate, than what does that do to the identity of that group? Does it change it? I could go on, but I won't, and I now give you permission to give a sigh of relief.

And finally, back to the subject of the day, fathers. Though the magician only called his adopted daughter "Daughter" and she only called him "Father," for he didn't supply her with any other knowledge of names or anything, that's not really what I'm talking about here.

I just feel that, whether your family is breaking apart, or you are just learning that there is such a thing as "family" (as in the case of "Daughter" when the magician carelessly provides her with books to read), "The Great Unknown" is ever-present, and hopefully we can keep it in a more mystical form, as in the fairy tales... thinking of it as a mist, instead of a shadow; as a magical enigma, rather than a clogging smog. You get the gist.

(click on this for bigger size. you will thank me.)

I will never be a father; I'm pretty certain of that, being female and not predicting any future decision for a sex change. Therefore I probably shouldn't dwell too much on the essence of fatherness. However I would like to therefore point out that being a father is also an "unknown" to me. I always try to contradict E. M. Forster's theory that people, no matter how close, CAN'T ever completely connect, are incapable of any successful communication - I'm especially thinking of his "Howard's End" with the quote he provides, "only connect...". Though my father has more unknown variables in his identity than anyone else in my nuclear family, being the only male, I always hope that connection is possible, if only on the level of Loudon Wainwright's "Great Unknown."

Okay, enough with the ambiguity fighting ambiguity! Let's get back to LOUDON WAINWRIGHT and the awesome concert he held. Keep in mind; I highly admire his lyrics as well as his melodies. If you choose to watch all of the videos I provide, I hope you will listen to the lyrics as well.


Since I've written so much already I don't think I will write about how each song connects to my type of feminism, since I already covered my favorite "Another Song in C."

Basically I've included videos I found of him playing live of the songs I heard him sing live at that concert.

I was disappointed that we weren't allowed to take pictures of the concert - for of course I'd brought a camera - however thank God somebody out there either broke the rules or had special permission and I found these!

This last one is him and his daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche. I didn't know about her (b/c I was quite excusively an admirer of Loudon Wainwright) but they surprised the whole audience with an impromptu decision to have her open the show and I excessively enjoyed it, - though I still kept thinking, how long till Loudon? (Mostly because she hadn't been in the original program. But seriously - she was amazing, and has very much inherited Loudon's sense of humor - all I kept overhearing during the intermission was "she's so funny" - at least ten times! She sang a song about Coney Island that made me happy inside. Doesn't seem to be "out" to buy yet though.)

Pictures (hopefully legally) provided by Joel Dana Stern.

The only two songs I couldn't find:

-simon and garfunkel cover he was still working on with Lucy
-song about family and specifcally his being newly a grandpa (can't find it anywhere! I think he must not have published it yet or w/e)

Okay here we go!

Can't seem to find an actual video for this one but the song is great, though I don't completely get it.

Got this from youtube but the embedding was disabled and I could not easily find any other live performance video which is excessively strange considering its poularity - the only videos are of the song in the background of reels of children's babies. Huh.

"Charlie never recorded this 1897 gospel song, but is said to have played it as a regular part of his shows."

Okay, so to close here is another favorite of mine that he didn't sing that night.

... I put it in this video of mine (if you click play it'll start at the part of the video which plays "Gray in LA").

Okay! So, see you VERY soon, as I have literally nineteen drafts dating back to January that are most of them three quarters done, no lie - I WISH I was joking - and I am determined to get them out of my draft space and into cyber space! (Too cheesy? I'll come up with something better next time.)

So long, here's hoping the next entry isn't THIS long,

-Just Call Me Jo

P.S. This (below) is supposed to be "Daughter" looking down at Loudon Wainwright's official website with approval and awe, and Loudon from his site looking back up with a mutual feeling, just so you know.

P.P.S. An EXCELLENT Father's Day Poem written by the little sister. Surprisingly relevant to the theme of this entry (yes there was one) of the possible link between Fathers and "The Great Unknown."

1 comment:

  1. Yay! Happy Father's Day and all that...I read this entry and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I can't listen to anything or watch videos until tomorrow because it is the middle of the night and I don't want to wake up the father of my children. Love, Timber