little voice

Do you feel a song coming on?

Good, because today is lyrics’ day… the muse has decided to take a staycation – the motivation and inspiration pushed gently along the track by a show on Apple TV that I accidentally stumbled upon called Little Voice.

The show is a bit saccharine (which, given my love of all things sugary, sounds about right) and loosely based on the early experiences of singer/songwriter Sarah Bareilles.

I’m probably drawn to the romantic sentimentality of the series in direct parallel to the main character’s description of her music as: very… earnest.

Earnest is one of the ways I think of myself when I write lyrics, and most likely, my blog posts as well.

I can’t impress upon you enough the number of times I’ve sat down to write a fun and light-as-icing-sugar blog posting…*laugh track rises* – the writing angels take flight and I type away like some mad creature for 20 or 30 minutes.

Then I exit my trance and stop to re-read my first 500 words…. and… WTH? Where’s the light touch, who stole away the fun in this?

man flipping wig

I reveal myself to myself despite myself. Yup, earnest. Let’s say Earnest Lite.

OK, enough navel gazing (kind of like last week’s post with all of its exposed navels and twigs and berries!).

The song I’m writing this week: THE VACANT CHAIR.

This time out, I return to the year 1935 and a letter composed by my grandmother Margaret (Maggie) to my Mom.

It’s written less than 2 weeks after my grandfather William’s “unexpected death” at the age of 63 in the wintry chill of January.

Although I never met either of my maternal grandparents, the obituary described my grandfather as having “a kindly disposition [that] gave him a wide circle of friends and neighbours.”

I’ve written the lyrics in the voice of my grandmother; not alone, but lonely in the short winter days living on a potato and pig farm in the tiny, rural, southern Ontario town of Hillsburgh.

The soft, rolling hills of Hillsburgh (named for an early family, not the topography) can make you cry with their beauty.

In putting music to this biographical piece, I foresee giving it a misty, deep-bass moody feel in an unusual guitar tuning like that used by Beck in his song, Heart is a Drum.

I hope you find something in this song, because I know we all have or will one day have the experience of sitting down at a dining table and feeling the ghostly presence… the melancholy emptiness of a lone unoccupied chair that was once brimming with life.

(After these lyrics I’ve attached a rough recording of a song I wrote a few years back called San Lorenzo’s Bells. While practising our Spanish in Sevilla, Spain, my wife and I sat in a small square sipping cafe au lait and people watching. I spotted a tiny encounter between an older couple who appeared to be strangers… but… I could also sense a tiny affectionate connection forming in the few seconds they spoke. It was a delicious fragment of humanity that wouldn’t let go of my head.)

THE VACANT CHAIR

by Larry Green

Its cold outside today Will
there’s sun and bitter chill
The barn is full with bins of hay
tiller stowed back by the sleigh
jack and jenny eat their fill,
and the ricks piled next to the mare
it would all feel oh so normal Will
except all I see is a vacant chair

I’ll get Lloyd to fix that darn fence
the one you swore you’d get onto
like the wobbly wooden chairs
where we read poems, recited the Lord’s Prayer
me screaming so loud when you pulled my hair
back in our schoolhouse where
I never dreamed I’d live these last few days
and all I see is your vacant chair

I suppose the pet names we shared
are set loose now in the dusty sky
til Will and Maggie share our rest in Huxley
our muddy boot marks washed away
I still stand at the door in each day’s dusk
and search the fields for you out there
It’s so hard to face the dark alone
when all I see is your vacant chair

BRIDGE:

Could I ever dream
my eyes tricked by shadows and whispers
you might be the home in my heart

I guess I don’t feel it yet
I write these letters to the kids
Thinking back on our Hillsburgh picnics
I climb into our icy bed and whisper low
sharing the day’s words with your pillow
It’s good to know your pains are gone now
but mine have just begun
And all I see is your vacant chair

Did I mention it’s cold outside today Will?