saudade palavra triste

dear friends,

a few nights ago, I was watching a tv series I haven't been keeping up with & a major character was killed off & I found myself inexplicably emotional about it. it might've been the circumstances of the death, which were familiar, or it may have been my general august anomie; can't really say. but I was thinking about the dead until I fell sleep, upon waking at 5 am & then back into zzz which was intermittently interrupted by nightmares about tornados in the east coast, kim gordon & high school cafeterias in connecticut.

which brings me to what was supposed to be this wednesday's morbid offering: songs either about death, performed by people that are now dead or make me think of my own dearly departed. luckily for everyone, that post would require way too much introspection & research, neither of which I'm clear-headed enough to do at the moment. so I'll offer one memento mori & talk about some other, more light-hearted offerings.

1. apparently somebody is making a documentary about townes van zandt so if it's any good, very soon he will be joining the ranks of klaus nomi & lev sergeyvich termin (a.k.a. leon theremin) as dead artistes exhumed commercially via docs. good on that, I say.

I discovered van zandt through an excellent compilation my moms bought called the great tomato blues package which includes a beautiful desolate slice of country blues called nothing. to give you an idea as to what mr. van zandt liked to do with himself when he wasn't plying his trade or drinking his liver to zero, he said he wrote that song after he read nikos kazantzakis' last temptation of christ. & it's fair to say that this song will not really clue you into that fact. van zandt was a fiercely intelligent man born into privilege who, for private reasons (ethical? plain old willfulness? wrong-headed romanticism?), chose to reject his upbringing & become a hobo troubadour with all the non-glamorous trimmings that come with an itinerant lifestyle.

anywho, his black angel's death song is called kathleen. young man muses about his inability to feel joy. thinks about his love, who has passed away. promises to join her in death. possibly very soon. veeeery dramatic & yet sobering since van zandt's vocal carries no drippy self-pity. just an eerie placid self-possessed tone. & this was an early number! file under: americana goth

2. junior m.a.f.i.a. put out a really shit album that I purchased just so I could listen to get money over & over again. as contributor jared is all too well aware of, listening to this song in summer whilst bouncing to the beat in your car seat is fantastical to the nth degree. a he said/she said affair that doesn't seem to connect entirely story-wise (mainly because the two people involved have vastly different degrees of ability) it's got a hook so tight, it doesn't really matter that you won't know exactly who did what & where.

first up is biggie smalls aka notorious b.i.g. who proceeds to talk about how he thought he was treating his woman pretty well (i.e. "so you wanna sip mo' on the living room flo'/play nintendo with cease-a-leo..." & giving his lady "full length mink/fat x and o links/bracelets to match, conversation was all that") right up until he realizes she has betrayed him & sold him out to the feds. so he gets a little "vexed" & starts knockin' down doors, etc. things look serious.

then comes poor, jailbound lil' kim. you're not really sure where she fits into this story of deceit but her protestations are feisty & delightfully venal. so she raps that she'd rather "count a million/while you eat my pussy". I get it. she likes money. but then again, she also states how she put up with "...all the games and the lies/hallmark cards, sayin, "I apologize"/is you wit me? how could you ever deceive me?/but payback's a bitch motherfucker, believe me". ouch. & whether or not it was her or biggie that wrote those rhymes, the words provide a terrific counterpoint to a ditty that was simply supposed to blow out the speakers in cruisin' cars back in the summer of '95 but also happens to carry enough lyrical grit to make it something like the gansta scenes from a marriage. too bad those crazy kids couldn't make it work.

3. caetano veloso is a brazilian singer known to american audiences for either his stop-breathing singing cameo in the film talk to her by pedro almodovar OR by his excellent album of covers released last year called a foreign sound. lesser known than caetano but just as huge in latin america, is the songstress maria bethania. bethania is veloso's sister, a fact I failed to realize in all the time I've been listening to brazilian music even though they have a noticeable family resemblance. color me stupid.

now it's a fairly acceptable generalization to state that most of the famous male singers from brazil tend to have soft gentle, slightly feminine, tenors. veloso is clearly in that number. in the way of random reversals, bethania, has a voice that is low & textured like the roughest of tree bark. in the wonderful live duet between veloso & bethania, meu primeiro amor, bethania carries the melody - a low rummy purr that sounds unlike anyone out there (seriously, I've heard a lot of singers, how does she get that sound!?!) & veloso supports it gently; his high winsome harmonies cradling the song from beginning to end. you don't have to speak portuguese to understand perfectly what this song telegraphs: bittersweet sadness, longing, regret & rueful acceptance.

love, d

songs to seek: kathleen/townes van zandt, get money/junior m.a.f.i.a., meu primeiro amor/maria bethania & caetano veloso


Blogger Pete Galub said...

"My Death" by jacques brel
but i don't know French so I go with Scott Walker's version..
could there be a more brutally honest song about the subject?

6:30 PM, August 04, 2005  

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