Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Songs I Used to Sing Her

I've added a new lullabye to my repertoire for Adinah's bedtime. It's "Love Bug" by George Jones, a sweet but thoroughly ridiculous country and western song from the Sixties. I thought she might like to know why I call her "bug" all the time (although the real reason is that back in Texas, saying someone is "cute as a bug" is a form of high praise). And now that she's starting to understand most of the words that I'm singing to her, it's about time I introduce a song that isn't about desperation, loss or murder.

My choice of nighty-night songs for Adinah has always been mildly perverse. They're all songs that I love, and like to sing (in my homely, atonal croak) but they're not exactly Blues Clues material. For a while, I was doing "Roam" by the B-52's, which is about wanderlust, and loving someone enough to let them go. That made sense (to me) because Adinah's been a world traveler since she was eight months old, beginning with a two day road trip in a Toyota Landcruiser from the north of Ethiopia to the capitol, where we met her for the very first time.

I still sing Otis Redding's "(Sitting on the)Dock of the Bay" to Deanie,and no two ways about it, that's a sad sad song. Is the protagonist actually homeless, or just achingly lonely? I don't know, but it's always killed me when Otis starts whistling at the end of the number, and that, plus the way the bass bumps, and the wave sound effects that come in, makes the record sound like the most peaceful end of the road a living human can reach. So far, Adinah hasn't asked me any questions about what that song means, but she will soon enough.

Then there's "El Paso" by Marty Robbins, the original country crooner. I must have been listening to this song since I was 8, first on AM radios, then on Radio Shack stereos, then on CDs, but it only started making me cry when I got to be a grown-ass man, fully informed about what bad love can do to a cowboy (or a NYC rock critic.) Maybe I wanted to sing it to my daughter because El Paso was the town where my father lived and died. Or I started doing this one at bedtime because it's long and repetitive and I thought that would be soothing for D. When she was small, she'd always conk out just after the hero shoots his rival dead, but way before he himself dies in a hail of bullets. But really I just wanted to sing it to myself, because it may be the most gorgeously tragic song I know, and because it really does make me think of the sound of the wind on a moonless night in the West Texas desert.

Nevertheless, now that Adinah's starting to stop me after every line of it and ask why the first cowboy hurt the second one, well, maybe I'll phase "El Paso" out of my regular set.

"Love Bug" is a bit more upbeat. The chorus goes like this:

"Well, the little itty bitty teenie weenie thing they call the love bug\Nobody's ever seen it but it's got the whole world shook up\It all started with a little bitty kiss and a hug\Just a teeny weeny itty bitty thing they call the love bug!"

5 comments:

Kristen said...

Since the very beginning, Graham and I have been the itty bitty Twitty committee. I love singing "Hello, Darlin'" to him.
Also, perversely, "Mama Tried".
And, with undoubtedly permanent unhealthy effects, "Embraceable You".
Hope all is well.
He is Risen.

pat said...

I am unschooled in the moves of Conway, but if he drawls, I'd prolly have fun sangin' him. And I think kids love cowboys, at least as much as they do knights and\or pirates....

Ed Ward said...

To pick a nit, I think that's Steve Cropper whistling on "Dock of the Bay." Somewhere I have the takes leading up to the keeper, with the two of them goofing on making seagull noises and so on, and then Otis starts to whistle and it's just awful, which cracks Cropper up. "Man, you better let me take care o' that," he says as they both laugh.

Of course, after the last, successful, take, you hear Cropper say good-bye, and wish Otis well on his weekend. The horn section's waiting for them to get out of the studio so they can do the overdubs, and Otis went home to pack for the short tour that was made even shorter when his plane went down.

Gavin said...

It's amazing what comes bubbling out of my brain when I sing to Strummer. First songs in the hospital: "Ticket to Ride," "Death or Glory," "Purple Rain." Then we went through a long phase where I sang him "Thunder Road" every night, and ultimately got so bored with it that I started doing country versions of it and so forth. Lately, Jen does more singing, and seems to favor Dylan and Lucinda Williams. But the other night, I needed to sing something and dredged Peter Gabriel's "Biko" out of the cerebellum. He cried and then went to sleep; I'm not sure if he didn't like it or was just bored by it.

pat said...

I love that you sing "Death or Glory" to Strummer. I think one calls that poetry.