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Song Lyrics That Make Me Think

November 18, 2006

I checked out Great Big Sea\’s latest album, The Hard and the Easy,from the library the other week. It\’s an album of traditional Newfoundland folk songs, ranging from songs about mermaids to pulling dead horses out of ponds to love songs. Some of my favorites are \”The River Driver\”, \”Captain Kidd\”, and \”Old Polina\”. You can hear some of those songs on the band\’s MySpace page (and you can hear \”Captain Kidd\” on my page)

So I\’ve been listening to this album almost every chance I get the last few weeks. Some of the songs, like Old Polina, are high energy songs about nothing in particular (\”our boat is the fastest on the sea\”, or \”remember the time we pulled Sam\’s dead horse out of the pond?\”). Others, though, seem to express or embody something different. At least, what they express is more compelling to me.

One of those songs is \”The River Driver\”, track 3. The first part of the chorus goes:

I\’ll eat when I am hungry,
and I\’ll drink when I am dry –
get drunk whenever I\’m ready,
get sober by and by…

Somehow this reminds me of being satisfied, content. In some way maybe its lazy, but the idea of just taking care of your basic needs is really compelling to me. Have a need, address the need, done. Don\’t get caught up in trying to outdo yourself, or do better than your neighbor or your father. Take care of what you need.

Then again, the idea of getting drunk \”whenever I\’m ready\” isn\’t so appetizing – so there\’s a layer of either desperation or depression in the song as well.

The second song that strikes me in some way is \”The Mermaid\”, track 4. It\’s far less deep and meaningful, but it\’s pretty funny. The singer is a sailor whose fallen in love with a mermaid, but bemoans that his beloved is half fish:

Cause her hair was green as seaweed
Her skin was blue and pale
Her face it was a work of art
I love that girl with all my heart
But I only liked the upper part
I did not like the tail

Eventually, the mermaid leaves him – and he\’s alone in the ocean until the mermaid\’s sister comes along:

But then one day she swam away
So I sang to the clams and the whales
Oh how I miss her seaweed hair
And the silver shine of her scales
But then her sister she swam by
And set my heart awhirl
Cause her upper part was an ugly fish
But her bottom part was a girl

Yes her hair is green as seaweed
Her skin is blue and pale
Her legs they are a work of art
I love that girl with all my heart
I don’t give a damn about the upper part
Cause that’s how I get my TAIL

Like I said – it\’s not deep or meaningful. But it does make me chuckle every time I hear the song, and these days that counts for something.

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