A FLIGHT FROM THE PAST
November 15, 1998

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo by Dan Chapman ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment Group

A Thought for Today

Every woman is a Renoir waiting to be unveiled.

 

SONGS ON SUNDAY

Answering Johnny Bartlettís letter on Friday got me to thinking about songwriting versus poetry. You might have noticed that since this Flight Plan series started Iíve never printed any of my songs. The reasons are complicated, but boil down to the fact that as a poet, I never think of songs as poetry. After all, unless you hear the music & the lyric to a song together they are only words if said or music if just played.

Thereís a frequently quoted story about Mrs. Oscar Hammerstein II and the following overheard party conversation: One woman says to another "Iíve just come back from the theatre where I heard Jerome Kernís new song "Old Man River." Hearing this Mrs. Hammerstein replied, "Excuse me, Mr. Kern wrote "da-da-ddah, da, te-da-da-dah . . . my husband wrote "Old Man River, that Old Man River."

My own songs, whether I write both words and music or am fortunate enough to work with talented and inventive composers, are meant to be sung not said. Nothing gets me crazier than seeing lyrics judged as poetry. Itís a mistake that critics make or do deliberately. Had I listened to those reviewers who judged me a mediocre poet because the lyrics to "If You Go Away" or "Jean" donít measure up to "The Truthful Lover" or "Now I Have The Time" Iíd have been crazier and more eccentric than I already am.

Of course Iíve been guilty of encouraging the confusion, by printing song lyrics as final chapters in my books of poetry. Though I have always been careful to label them as songs, Iíve still encountered reviews where a writer cites "One more time around Piccadilly Circus, driver follow that bus. Itís a shame the way the rich folks work us, Everybodyís Rich But Us," or "How did I get from dark to daylight till you happened to pass by? How did I find my way through life before you brightened up my sky?" as proof that Iím a less than stellar poet. Those lines certainly are not poetry, by any stretch of the imagination, And they should not be judged as such, but as song lyrics within the context of "Everybodyís Rich But Us" and "I Think of You" they do the job.

I love my songs. They are as much a part of me as anything else I do and they are my children just as "Listen To The Warm" and "Fields of Wonder" are members of the family. So too are "Seasons In The Sun", "Loves Been Good To Me", "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" and "Jean" next of kin.

Writing a different flight plan every day means trying out lots of ideas and I try out lots of different ideas. Sunday seems as good a time as any to talk about and feature some of the words to some of my songs. Poetry they ainít, but judging from the success of some of them, they arenít orphans either. So, here without the music to amplify and push them along, are words Iíve written to be sung.

Some Songs For Pet

Today is Petula Clarkís birthday. Pet is not only one of the best-loved and most popular singers the world over, she is a talented actress, a great mother and a highly successful songwriter herself.

When Glenn Gould and I exchanged long phone calls in the middle-night, we talked about everything . . . sex, pianistics, poetics, phobias, gossip Ė you name it. Most often though we chatted about our mutual love and admiration for Pet Clark. Ella Fitzgerald called her "One of a kind, with the breath control of an angel." Sinatra said of her "There isnít any better or more polished singer anywhere, I could listen to her all night." When I played "The Wind of Change" for Leonard Bernstein he commented, "My God, the lady should be singing lieder. Her range is stratospheric."

Petula can sing the most banal lyric and because of her range, depth of perception and understanding of how to turn a phrase and deliver a lyric, make it sound like the finest work of Porter, Larry Hart or Mercer. When she gets a great song, (like those tucked away in albums titled after her hits), look out.

Iíve known Pet and loved her for a few decades and over the years been lucky enough to work with her too Ė alas, never enough. Iíve sung her songs and sheís sung mine and now and again we pop up on each others albums in duets. Best of all for me, Iíve written material especially for that gorgeous and otherworldly voice of hers to sing. For me, it doesnít get much better than hearing Pet Clark bend and shape and caress my words. Again today is the birthday of Petula Clark, so near the end of this Flight Plan instead of a poem, youíll find the lyrics to a few songs Iíve written for and dedicate to her.

- RM, Sunday Morning 11/15/98

notable birthdays Edward Asner o Howard Baker o Daniel Barenboim o Joanna Barnes o Jorge Bolet o Beverly DíAngelo o Peter Dickenson o Felix Frankfurter o Bill ďC.W. McCallĒ Fries o W. Averill Harriman o John Kerr o Selma Kurtz o Curtis Le May o Frida Lyngstad o Whitman Mayo o Clyde McPhatter o Bill Melendez o Marianne Moore o Georgia OíKeeffe o Erwin Rommel o Judge Joseph Wapner o Sam Waterston

. . . and of course a very special birthday wish to Petula Clark.

Rod's random thoughts You win if you think you've won.

Love cannot be said aloud too often or spoken in silence too many times.

Habit is our worst enemy until we learn to make it our friend.

FIVE SONGS FOR PETULA
ON HER BIRTHDAY, 1998

The Wind of Change
music: Jaquine Rodrigo ē words: Rod McKuen
[Based on a theme from The Concerto de Arenjuez]


Quietly... like the breeze that blows the olive tree
the wind of change has come down from the hills
to lead me home again through the last mile of sunshine.

As easily as the moon makes patterns on the lifeless lake
man grinds the flowers of the fields beneath his heels
and you wonder if he feels... love... or even boredom.

And my friend... the wind of change is asking questions.

Suddenly there are now so many giants everywhere
so many men who think even God looks small
                when they are walking tall.
And the wind of change is smiling.
Could it be... that his smile is just another kind of frown
because he knows the world is finally falling down
                         and going back to dust
and if we trust those men who trample on the grass
emptiness is all that we can ever hope to ask for.

Listen and hear the sound of the dying grass bleed
                  itís bleeding for man
and the fool he just wonít understand.

Is it too late to change... the wind of change ?

I Think of You
Music: Francis Lai ē Words: Rod McKuen

When Iím alone at night
and thereís no one to comfort me
I think of you
and suddenly my pillow
is your face and arms.

And when the winter wind
comes chasing after me
I think of you
and itís as though Iíve crawled beneath
a blanket soft and warm.

How did I get
from dark to daylight
till you happened to pass by ?
How did I find my way through life
until you brightened up my sky ?
Was there a sky at all
till you painted it for me ?

How did I get on, till you came along ?

Who knows how many times
I pause in every day
to think of you
as often as the sun sails out
upon the silent sea
and if youíre wondering why it is
I only think of you
well itís because Iíd like to be
as close to you,
as youíve become to me,
I think of you
I think of you.

A While More With You
Words & music: Rod McKuen
[Written for but not used in the film "Goodbye Mr. Chips"]


Let me stay a while more with you
Thereís so much I have yet to learn
Do you like the colors green and blue
Let me stay a while more with you.

Let me walk a mile more with you
Thereís so many back roads left to see
We can watch them open up anew
Let me walk a mile more with you.

So much of yourself you let no one see
When youíre beside me
I wonder how much of me is really me.

Let me share a smile more with you
Thereís so many smiles Iíve yet to give
Before you came my smiles were very few
So let me share a smile, walk a mile
Let me stay a while more with you.

Kaleidoscope
Words & Music: Rod McKuen

Come with me, what wonders weíll find,
The ducks on the millpond that swim in the mind.
Come with me, together weíll go,
Where buttercups shoot through the roof of the snow.
And many the sights that weíll see.
Iíll look in your eyes and see me.

K, I, Kaleidoscope
Love is another color for hope.
Pain is a separate color from joy,
How many colors there are to enjoy.

Come with me, through valleys of green
Weíll live like the mudlark deep down in a dream,
Come with me, take hold of my hand
Iíll walk you past panthers asleep in the sand,
How lucky some people will be
To look in our eyes and see we.

K, I, Kaleidoscope
Love is another color from hope.
Pain is a separate color from joy,
How many colors there are to enjoy.

Come with me, stay close by my side
The road is so rocky, the world is so wide,
Come with me, and we will go far
Far is forever, wherever we are
How wise is our world and how new,
Youíll look in my eyes and see you.

K, I, Kaleidoscope
Love is another color from hope.
Pain is a separate color from joy,
How many colors there are to enjoy.

Friendly Sounds
Music: Francis Lai ē words: Rod McKuen

Hello my friend, my funny friend
why are you lookiní so down
make me a laugh, well, maybe half
and Iíll show you all my friendly sounds.

Listen and hear, inside your ear
all kinds of pretty things talking to you.

Listen to the rain on the windowpane
listen to the cricket on the hearth
and if you should hear thunder in your ear
itís just the friendly sounding of your heart.

I know you cry, well, so do I
but when I really get low
I think about the distance to doubt
and find itís too far to go.

So dry your eyes, pick up your pride
oh, yes, my weepy friend, Iím talking to you.

Listen to the rain on the windowpane
listen to the cricket on the hearth
and if you should hear thunder in your ear
itís just the friendly sounding of your heart.

Listen to the rain on the windowpane
listen to the cricket on the hearth
And if you should hear some thunder in your ear
itís just the friendly sounding of your heart.

© 1977, 1984, 1999 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
 
© 1960, 1963, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1974, 1977, 1981, 1984, 1988, 1998 , 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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