From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Hurtin', Leavin' and Longin' (12)—Cold Day in July

[a] Summercold  RF
Weather, despair, and sunrise team up this week for a full dose of misery in one of the saddest "summer songs" ever written. This is not Alan Jackson singing "Chatahoochee," and there will be no upbeat musicality mixed with images of tubing down the river. In our lyrics, the happiness of yesteray is washed away in a flow of surprise and melancholy. Things were going to last forever, and one of the best ways to say that—outside of diamonds, I guess—is that it would take something as outrageous as a cold day in July to make bad things happen.

I first heard this song in the early 1990s, when Suzy Boggus and Joy Lynn White each recorded Richard Leigh's work. Leigh has done well for himself in Nashville, and knows how to mix images and words in an almost contrapuntal manner. Crystal Gayle gave him his biggest hit with "Don't it Make My Brown Eyes Blue" in 1978, for which he won the Grammy given for the best country song. "Cold Day in July" didn't do quite as well in the marketplace, but it has been a hidden classic ever since it was written. The Dixie Chicks covered the song in 2000, bringing it to number nine on the Billboard Country singles chart.

It is a simple mixture of seasonality and longing. The three artists who performed it its first decade had quite similar overall interpretations, yet each gave it an individual stamp that was distinctive in its own right. I heard Joy Lynn White's version first, and still love the way she frames the message. It is not very often that I feel that other versions of a song I like are just as good. This would be one of those songs. Take a listen to the renditions I was able to pull together, and (as always) make sure that you pay attention to the lyrics. They are deceptively simple here.

           Cold Day in July
           (Richard Leigh)

The moon is full and my arms are empty
All night long I've pleaded and cried
You always said the day that you would leave me
Would be a cold day in July
Your bags are packed not a word is spoken
I guess we said everything with good-bye
Time moves so slow and promises get broken
On this cold day in July

Sun's comin' up comin' up down on Main Street
Children shout as they're running out to play
Head in my hands
Here I am
Standing in my bare feet
Watching you drive away
Watching you drive away
You said that we were gonna last forever
You said our love would never die
It looks like spring and
It feels like sunny weather
But it's a cold day in July

Repeat Chorus 

The moon is full and my arms are empty
All night long how I've pleaded and cried
You always said the day that
You would leave me,
Would be a cold day in July
Here comes that cold day in July

So how do we follow up solstitial chill with East Asian poetry? With equinoctial longing, of course. It is actually not very difficult to find excellent lyrics to juxtapose (remember that juxtaposition is what we do in these posts; we never want merely to "echo" the song with pseudo-identical Asian lyrics). Shen Yue (441-513) has what is for me a perfect accompaniment to Cold Day in July...and it was written about fifteen hundred springs and summers beforehand.

       Lament of Separation
          Shen Yue (441-513)
          Springtime charmed the traveler
          And the traveler charmed the springtime, in turn
          Slanting rays of early morning light let fall their colors
          Placid dew is sprinkled on the icy, congealed river ford
          Springtime birdcalls rise among the fresh, budding leaves
          And fragrant vapors move through growing duckweed

          One morning, far away and blocked from my homeland
          Myriad li separate me from the lovely dawns of memory.[1]



[1]Shen Yue, Lament of Separation [北哉行]. Complete Works of Shen Yue. [沈約全集]. Translated freely by Robert André LaFleur.

Sunday, July 24th
Holding On to Nothing But the Wheel
More misery next week, as Patty Loveless drives her pain away.

No comments:

Post a Comment