Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Old Voices and the Divorce of Love

Listening to Blackstar yesterday reminded me of Johnny Cash's devastating rendition (even Trent Reznor can't call it a "cover" - the song is Johnny's now) of Hurt, Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose, Warren Zevon's The Wind. Like Bowie, Warren knew he was dying. Cash's elegiac rumble is imbued with his redemption and his sorrow, and so unbearably intimate we experience his loss beside him, now even thirteen years since his death. Loretta is still with us, but now literally generations into her career, her voice is mellowed and frayed with age, and all the more wonderful to hear for it. She's never been shallow, but VLR is an album with a timbre she never had before, and Jack Whyte can't take credit for that.

Bowie's voice on Blackstar has that weakness; not merely the presence of death. All art has that, perhaps. But the sense almost of greeting it. Not resignation, but grace.

In these days, as I watch that grace before me - know a voice which begs for the end every night in the dark, and wish there could be relief and peace - these voices draw me, over and over again. Not because I wish to wallow in mourning before its time, but because I have a sense these voices speak a unique understanding.

Loretta, in particular, is gentle. Her faith has always been strong; there are things about her that have always reminded me of aspects of my maternal family. She seems, on the spiritual level, to be a *sweet* woman - not in the "nice as pie" sense, but in that she appears to have grace. Acceptance, even when she remonstrates to G-d himself - and strength to understand that bearing is not agreeing, even as we can't always fight.

In the video for Blackstar, Bowie carries a book and wears black and has some appearance of a traveling preacher, perhaps a prophet.

Zevon was always weird - never a novelty act, yet his "Werewolves of London" and the bouncy joke that was the unbelievably disturbing "Exciteable Boy" were so often treated as such. He terrified me as a kid, listening to that album in my living room, staring at what I thought was a pervert's face on his album cover, and his songs seeming so pop but *being* so savagely, brilliantly something-else. "The Wind" doesn't have the sepulchral resonance of "Hurt" or even some of VLR's plangent nostalgia, but it is no joke and could not be treated so. It's the honed, spare sound of an artist long experienced with his own talent and his voice. He still sounds like Zevon. He still sounds like, performed live, these songs would INSIST you bounce with them. Even recorded, there is a liveliness still there, and the occasional calculated rough edge in the guitars, in his canny voice that invites you to forget he's not on stage before you.

But when he sings "all bets are off ... I'll live with the losses" you don't forget the context, either. He knocks on Heaven's door, but it's still a song, still not All About Warren.

One of the odd things about listening to all this music that seems to resonate with this grace, this death I find before me is that not one note of it would mean anything to the person whose disposition in the face of pain has me thinking all these thoughts. It is All About My reactions, my feelings about this situation - rather like this blog.

We forget, so often, that sometimes the profoundest feelings in our relationships actually have nothing much to do with the person we share that relationship with. I've told Mr. X, my love for him isn't born of anything he does, and indeed doesn't answer to him. It has become its own entity over nearly fourteen years.

One of the ways it has been possible for me to cope, in the most-of-those-fourteen-years X has lived far, far, far away and we see each other seldom, has been the growing understanding that what I get out of loving him is not his responsibility and not his job to cultivate. It began with "I love this" or "I love that" about him. But over time, what that has borne in me is something entirely else. My admiration of him stands; and all around it, sprouting up like wildflowers, are these unexpected dots of color in my life, rooted in that admiration or desire or respect, but beautiful things unto themselves.

He's made me grow, spiritually, and not because he taught or led. Just because he is, and the ineffable alchemy of who we are - together ... and so far apart - has synthesized these blessings, dotted all around the ground where he stands in my life my mind and my heart.

This is what I hear in the old voices, drawing me. The grace of letting go of understanding - or of coming to it, as sorrowful as it can be. The grace of letting go of control. The grace of accepting wonder in what cannot make sense nor be expressed, except in deepest intimacy.

The intimacy of artists who find a way to make us hear that ineffability they have seen and can't explain any more than the rest of us.

I am reminded of the death of Marvin the Paranoid Android. "I think ... I feel good about it."


Lilac Shoshani said...

Great, post Diane! Now I understand where writing a song for my post had come from…;-) And what you wrote about Mr. X is so beautiful and true! "He's made me grow, spiritually, and not because he taught or led. Just because he is…" I love it!

DLM said...

As for the song, I'm always thinking little things should be slogans on t-shirts, or silly poems or songs. This post itself ... just one of those things I got over-thinky about. It is not very well organized, nor do I think it comes to the conclusions I thought I was making before I started tapping at keys, but sometimes I let posts stand even with these issues. So, there we go.

Donnaeve said...

Oh, your posts are always cohesive (and deep sometimes) to me! I love the way your brain works! Ah Le Sigh, to Mr. X. What a love story that must be.

DLM said...

You are so kind - there are times I wonder whether my blather is sensical at all.

As to X. It is a story, no doubt about that ... *Sigh* indeed. :)

Jeff said...

Well said, all of it. That's one of the greatest miracles of art: it tells us truths in ways that provide unexpected comfort.

DLM said...

Jeff, thank you. Comfort crops up with my brilliant online friends; I'm so grateful for all of you.