(172) Cycles and Seeds, Part Two

This is a continuation of songs about fathers and sons, with connected poems and other text.

*4*

RECOGNITION

“Cat’s in the Cradle” written by Harry Chapin and Sandy Chapin

Recorded by Harry Chapin

Significant Lyrics:

Well he came from college just the other day

So much like a man I just had to say,

“Son, I’m proud of you, can you sit for a while.”

He shook his head and then said with a smile,

“What I’d really like dad is to borrow the car keys.

See you later, can I have them please?”

My thoughts: Perhaps it is just a sappy song from the seventies, but when Chapin had a hit with “Cat’s in the Cradle,” it was something that was finally being talked about.  During that time there was a lot of awareness about how our personal habits affected others — now that may seem commonplace, but the psychology of our interactions was just being brought to light. The recognition that a son has picked up not only good habits but bad habits from his father was blatantly clear in the song. Chapin was a wonderful storyteller, and although some of his songs might be a bit cheesy, he was always sincere. “Cat’s in the Cradle” pairs beautifully with a poem by W.S. Merwin called “Yesterday,” about a man relaying a conversation he had with a friend, who was telling the story of what a bad son he was. I have quoted the ending segment of the poem to go with the Chapin tune.

Text Connection:  last section from “Yesterday” by M.S. Merwin

…and my father turned

in the doorway and saw me

look at my wristwatch and he

said you know I would like you to stay

and talk with me

oh yes I say

and says my father

said maybe

you have important work you are doing

or maybe you should be seeing

somebody I don’t want to keep you…

…I told my father it was so

and I got up and left him then

you know

though there was nowhere I had to go

and nothing I had to do.

*5*

APPEAL

“This Is It” written by Cindy Walker, Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, and V. McCoy

Recorded by Kenny Loggins

Significant Lyrics:

Are you going to wait for your sign, your miracle?

Stand up and fight

This is it

Make no mistake where you are

Your back’s to the corner

Don’t be a fool anymore

The waiting is over

No where to run, no where to hide

No time for wondering why

My thoughts: In May of 1998, my father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.  His prognosis was good, but he didn’t seem to think so.  He shut down. Quit going to work, spent most of his day in bed, and within a couple of weeks stopped eating. At the time I was caught up in losing him, and had forgotten all about this song by Kenny Loggins, one that he wrote as a message to his own father with a cancer diagnosis. I have no idea what happened to Kenny’s dad, but mine didn’t last the month. I understand the plea here, as we made the same appeals to our father. It won’t change things when someone has made up their mind that “this is it.”

Text Connection:  last stanza from “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

And you, my father, there on that sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

*6*

INHERITANCE

“My Father’s Gun” written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin

Recorded by Elton John

Significant Lyrics:

From this day on I own my father’s gun
We dug his shallow grave beneath the sun
I laid his broken body down below the southern land
It wouldn’t do to bury him where any Yankee stands

I’ll take my horse and I’ll ride the northern plain
To wear the color of the greys and join the fight again
I’ll not rest until I know the cause is fought and won
From this day on until I die I’ll wear my father’s gun

My thoughts: This a song from Tumbleweed Connection, an early album of Elton John’s that was a concept album placed in Civil War era America.  It has always been my favorite album of his, although it is largely ignored. “My Father’s Gun” is all about what is left when dad is gone. What mantle does the son pick up and carry?  In this case, it is the cause of the South in the Civil War. The gun is a touchstone for all his father believed and fought for.

Text Connection:  last several lines from “For, Brother, What Are We?” by Thomas Wolfe

We are the sons of our father

Whose life like ours

Was lived in solitude and in the wilderness,

We are the sons of our father,

To whom only can we speak out

The strange, dark burden of our heart and spirit,

We are the sons of our father,

And we shall follow the print of his foot forever.

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