Sometimes you meet someone and it just seems like it’s meant to be.
That’s how it felt when I met the girl I’ll call Jennifer.
Our eyes locked as I got up to play in front of the small, coffeehouse crowd and I felt, a little, like I was playing just to her.
She was with a friend of mine — who it turned out was her ex-boyfriend — but, for me, she was pretty much the only one in the room. I’d sung a song about suicide — she’d said “Don’t you just feel that way, sometimes?” and I said, “Yeah,” — and we talked for a while about some of the ideas behind my songs, touching on love, death, and fate, suicide and responsibilty to the living. It was an interesting, surprisingly lively conversation that wound from one provocative or resonant idea to the next.
Brazenly slipping my card across the table to her, I was somehow sure that I would hear from her again… I’m not usually so confident — much the opposite. But, looking into her eyes, I felt certain that fate would bring us back together.
That Sunday I wrote the fleeting shadow of a song below, “Jennifer” (not the real girl’s name, mind you) — starting simply from that pretty name and a sad, bittersweet mood… and not moving too far from there. It was my idea to fill out the lyrics, make some sort of story about it. In my mind, the song was very much about someone ending their life.
Days went by and I didn’t hear from Jennifer, though I still felt, somehow, that I would.
Late in the week I saw my friend, Jennifer’s ex, sitting alone at the counter of my local coffee house and sat next to him. He was unusually quiet.
Finally he said, “Remember my friend, Jennifer?”
I nodded. Of course I did. She’d barely left my mind — but I didn’t say it.
I was stunned. I’m seldom truly without words but I couldn’t say aynthing.
Finally, I said, “How?”
“No one knows. She was having friends over for Sunday dinner last weekend and when they arrived she didn’t come to the door. Finally, they peered through the window and saw her lying in the kitchen. She was already gone.”
In the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think of our conversation — but she’d seemed so full of life and I was so convinced that we’d both intended to somehow see each other again…
Eventually, we found out it was a heart attack — the result of a previously unrecognized congenital defect. She was only 28.
My pals have been shuffling off this mortal coil faster than I can recover my equilibrium, here.
I guess I shouldn’t have been so surprised, Ben had been in the hospital a month or two ago with congestive heart failure. Still, though there’s not much about congestive heart failure that sounds like a walk in the park, it seemed like things were coming back together.
It looked like he’d even be going back to the work he loved: animation. He’d talked to Nickelodeon and it looked like they would be hiring him for a new project.
But it wasn’t to be.
Still, thing were looking up. He slipped into unconsciousness at his home and passed away not long after.
As a wide-eyed youth, I was always a sucker for songs like “Teen Angel,” “Running Bear” or the Everly Brothers’ weeper, “Ebony Eyes.”
“Teen Angel” is pretty well known and its title is probably close enough to self-explanatory… “Running Bear” was about two young American Indians from different tribes, separated by their tribes’ mutual animosities — and a raging river — who fall in love from opposite riverbanks and finally, overcome by love, dive in from opposite sides and perish in the rapids just as they reach each other. Makes me misty just thinking about it. Loved that hokey “Native American” tom tom beat that underlay the song, too. Bum buh bum bum. Bum buh bum bum…
The Everly Brothers’ “Ebony Eyes” is more somber… but a mid-song monologue spoken in a shaky, post-juvenile voice by one of the brothers heads straight for the top of lugubriousness. Hearing it the third or fourth time as a callow youth may well have been my first turn toward cynicism. Even though I’d been a big Everlys fan as a youngster, I remember turning “Ebony Eyes” off more than a few times.
As I wrote in the post for the previous AYoS version of this song, the lyrics were originally written around ’99 to go with a fast (142 bpm, if I recall) techno track from Deakin Scott, a young producer in Britain, who came across me on the web and wanted to collaborate.
Deakin didn’t have any idea what kind of lyrics I should put to it.
I fooled around with a bunch of ideas and eventually pulled out my acoustic guitar (which was not first reach in those days), found myself playing a classic rock ‘n’ roll progression (I-vi-IV-V, for those who keep track of these things).
I came up with the first line (“Mountains come, mountains go…” — which was inspired by a song in my favotire musical, the 1955 Kismet… ” Princes come, princes go / An hour of pomp and show they know / Princes come / And over the sands, and over the sands of time they go…” [Forrest and Wright]) and it looked like it was going to be one of those “highest mountain/deepest ocean” things but then it veered off into tragic loss.
Now, I can’t tell you why, but I have to admit that, embarrassing as it is, I find these lyrics strangely moving. They’re far from an empty exercise in pop formalism to me. I guess you’re really not supposed to admit that you’re emotionally affected by your own lyrics but… well, there ya go. Call me a silly, sentimental sap.