Tried and tested...

So far this summer I have read 18 books including Camus and Cockburn alongside mysteries,
jazz texts and theology. Having just finished Bruce Cockburn's memoir, Rumours of Grace, I thought it healthy to go back and review his music. Truth told, it isn't a great book but it did put many of his songs into context - and the poetry of these songs was printed, too. Some I knew well - like "Lovers in a Dangerous Time," "If I Had a Rocket Launcher," "Pacing the Cage" and "Get Up, Jonah" - and others were new to me.

Two new ones (to me) really touch me at this moment in my life:


+ "Tried and Tested" from You've Never Seen Everything (2003). Everything about this song works for me: the groove, the lyrics and poetry, the energy of the musicians, the blending of the personal with the political, everything.  Someone first asked me HOW I select songs to use in worship and liturgies: "Is the the lyrics, the nature of the artist's soul, what?" To which I said with a bit of embarrassment:  "No, man, it is the groove. If it doesn't speak to my body first in some way, I don't care about the lyrics." I know it sounds like Dick Clark's Bandstand - well, I like this song, Dick, because it has a good beat and is easy to dance to - but that's the truth. If it doesn't touch part of the mystery within, it is really hard for me to go back to it even if I love the lyrics. (Interestingly, that cat never came back to church... oh well.)




Tried and tested
Tried and tested

By the cries of birds
By the lies I've heard
By my own loose talk
By the way I walk
By the claws of beasts
By the laws of priests
By the glutton's feast
By the word police

By the planet's arc
By the falling dark
By the state of the art
By the beat of my heart
By dark finance
By the marketing dance
By the poverty trance
By the fateful glance

Tried and tested
Tried and tested
By the pressure to rhyme
By the wages of crime
By the drop of a dime
By the ghost of the times
By the spurs of desire
By "What does love require"
By what I waited for
By what showed up at the door

Tried and tested
Tried and tested
By the nation wide
By the tears I've cried
By the lure of false pride
By the need to take sides
By the weight of choice
By the still small voice
By things I forget
By what I haven't met yet

Tried and tested
Tried and tested
Pierced by beauty's blade and skinned by wind
Begged for more -- was given -- begged again
I'm still here
I'm still here

Tried and tested
Tried and tested
+ "Maybe the Poet" from World of Wonders (1982). This is an ode to both Victor Jara and Pablo Neruda. What I dig about this song is both the ambiguity of the poet's calling and the insistence that all cultures NEED poets - even (or especially) when they don't know it. This tune moves but is saturated with anguish and the blues and a world-beat groove..
Maybe the poet is gay
But he'll be heard anyway

Maybe the poet is drugged
But he won't stay under the rug

Maybe the voice of the spirit
In which case you'd better hear it

Maybe he's a woman
Who can touch you where you're human

Male female slave or free
Peaceful or disorderly
Maybe you and he will not agree
But you need him to show you new ways to see

Don't let the system fool you
All it wants to do is rule you
Pay attention to the poet
You need him and you know it
Put him up against the wall
Shoot him up with pentothal

Shoot him up with lead
You won't call back what's been said
Put him in the ground
But one day you'll look around

There'll be a face you don't know
Voicing thoughts you've heard before

Male female slave or free
Peaceful or disorderly
Maybe you and he will not agree
But you need him to show you new ways to see

Don't let the system fool you
All it wants to do is rule you
Pay attention to the poet
You need him and you know it

More and more I find myself disinterested and disconnected from traditional politics, religion and music but very connected to transformational sounds and actions like these. They are soul food for me in every sense. Like Cockburn writes: "Infinity always gives me vertigo... and fills me up with grace." Enjoy.


You can't tell me there is no mystery
Mystery
Mystery
You can't tell me there is no mystery
It's everywhere I turn

Moon over junk yard where the snow lies bright
Snow lies bright
Snow lies bright
Moon over junk yard where the snow lies bright
Can set my heart to burn

Stood before the shaman, I saw star-strewn space
Star-strewn space
Star-strewn space
Stood before the shaman, I saw star strewn space
Behind the eye holes in his face

Infinity always gives me vertigo
Vertigo
Vertigo
Infinity always gives me vertigo
And fills me up with grace

I was built on a Friday and you can't fix me
You can't fix me
You can't fix me
I was built on a Friday and you can't fix me
Even so I've done okay

So grab that last bottle full of gasoline
Gasoline
Gasoline
Grab that last bottle full of gasoline
Light a toast to yesterday

And don't tell me there is no mystery
Mystery
Mystery
And don't tell me there is no mystery
It overflows my cup

This feast of beauty can intoxicate
Intoxicate
Intoxicate
This feast of beauty can intoxicate
Just like the finest wine

So all you stumblers who believe love rules
Believe love rules
Believe love rules
Come all you stumblers who believe love rules
Stand up and let it shine
Stand up and let it shine 

Comments

Rick Huntington said…
Thanks for the morning inspiration...I'm an old Bruce Cockburn fan and loved being reintroduced to his music and poetry. The grove first, then the message if the grove moves you--I'm with you on that. Glad you are enjoying your moments in Montreal.
I found Bruce's book a fair read, but his self-confessed inability to relate to people one to one made it less deep than I had hoped. Still, as you say, getting the context of these songs was well worth the effort.

I find that there are songs and hymns that turn me off, but the groove of the music holds onto me--understandable, as the heart listens more deeply than the mind.
RJ said…
Thanks dear friends... I just read a biography of Zappa, too. What a dick but a fascinating and creative one at that. I like Bruce better even if his book was less than profound. Same goes for Tillich - fascinating - but not always a kind man in spite of his history.
ddl said…
enjoyed your posting! I hope that your sabbatical is going well and is everything that you and Di have needed and wanted. You both have been in my prayers...I just stopped by to see how you were and to enjoy a listen to vicarious groove :) Great photos.

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