© 2010 . All rights reserved.

First Take: I sing a song

I discovered my favorite American artist, Charles Burchfield, at the age of 16 while I was reading a Time Magazine in the library at Cornwall High where I used to have to wait for the bus to take me home because I lived way out in the woods, and they only made one trip there with the elementary kids. What has enchanted me about Burchfield ever since is that he painted the woods like I saw them with an aura hovering around things.

I saw the Burchfield show at the Whitney last month and learned that many of his later works he painted over earlier ones reworking his thoughts and images. Artists who redo early stuff run the risk of losing youth’s inspirational punch, though Burchfield painted masterpieces in his old age. It reminded me that in my own humble way I’m kind of doing the same thing now beginning to sing songs I wrote in my 20s, but never finished because I didn’t have the music for them, until recently when I started to play the guitar and begin this final coming together I am recording with my nephew Daniel in Philly.


Daniel


In October I took a $20 round trip bus from Chinatown NYC to Chinatown Philly Arch Street, walked to City Hall, took the Broad Street subway south to Tasker/Morris (the subway hasn’t changed in 30 years), got off and walked a few blocks to the house where Daniel lives walking up a few flights to his garret, a room packed with drums, sound equipment, bass, guitars, lots of collages on the wall cut from postcards and magazines—I saw Colette smoking a cigarette—his clothes piled on the bed and books sticking off of ledges and out of things. As soon as Daniel adjusted the sound in his intelligent clutter, and hooked up the mikes, I started to play the two simple chords of the first song I wanted to do—Daniel hadn’t heard it before. He picked up his guitar and pretty soon we were playing, and I started to sing through a piece of pantyhose Daniel’d spread over some bent wire hanger taped to the mike stand.

It wasn’t perfect, there were flubs, but it was the foundation, this first take. Daniel is the same age I was when I lived in Philly 40 years ago writing (among other things) what we were now playing, and it seemed magical, and made me happy, recording what would not be possible without him, my younger self in many ways come to meet me half way, Danny. It’s nice to live long enough to see that if you keep working there is continuity.

I used to call the song Bed of Roses but Daniel called it Asked My Love, and I think that’s what I’ll call it. It was written in three places really, New York, Philly, and the last part first in East Lansing around 1970. It’s funny being 61 and singing “I wanna die, I wanna die.” That was easier to say when I was 20.



Asked my love, “Do you love me?”
Came to me, held me close
Took a knife, cut a finger
In the blood wrote me a poem

Someday, someday
Someday, someday
Someday, someday

Love is like a bed of roses
When you lay down there’s a thorn
Even in the arms of beauty
You will lie bloody and torn

Someday, someday, etc.

Stopped by your house late last evening
Knocked on your door till dawn
I was there, the moon was fading
And my money was all gone

Stopped by your house late last evening
And you were not at home
Did you go jump in the river?
Have you gone and cut your throat?

Someday, someday, etc.

Some say that God is Love
I say Love is like a mirror
You might not want to, honey
But you gotta look in it

Is who you see
Who you think you are?
What you want to be
Is that what you saw?

Someday, someday, etc.

Bury me in an old tin can
On the edge of the promised land
Dig me down deep as you can
Cover me up with a ton of sand

I wanna die, I wanna die
I wanna die, I wanna die
I wanna die, I wanna die

The Moth and the Thunderclap by Charles Burchfield (1961)

3 Comments

  1. colleen adomaitis
    Posted 7 Nov ’10 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    the problem is i want to say but don’t have words to say – except that i wish i heard you then –
    you are a most amazing man

  2. Posted 2 Nov ’14 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    You make me feel sixteen again 🙂 . Thank you for this lovely song.

Leave a Reply