Sunday, March 7, 2010

For when the jig is up

With St Patrick’s Day around the corner, and potted shamrocks starting to appear in the supermarkets, I’m reminded of something inadvertently shocking my sainted mother told me a while back. Though she was and is in very good health, she mentioned that when she does shed this mortal coil, she’d like her funeral service to conclude with “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.” And in scouting around YouTube for a suitable rendition (because death is something I’ve been rehearsing since earliest childhood), I was surprised to find that nearly all the uploaded renditions are conducted as though intended to accompany a parade. Slow the song down, however, and it becomes sweetly sad -- a feature of nearly all Irish music, curiously enough.

Try it and you’ll see. The most frenetic of jigs, when subdued, turn mellow and melancholy. Exhibit A: this Meg Christian song, which includes the traditional dance music of Kemp’s Jig, ordinarily performed with a carefree lilt but here turned thoughtful and soulful.

This got me musing on my own demise -- which I will consider untimely though I be older than Methuselah at the time. I hope someone will sing Bob Dylan’s masterpiece, “Mr. Tambourine Man,” for me. It makes a perfect swan song:

Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow.
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Yet so often the song’s performed like a march -- even, on occasion, by Bob himself:

But like Kemp’s Jig, slow it down and you have this aching, mournful and nevertheless sweet version by Melanie (remember Melanie?):

Mr. Dylan may well have written the most Irish song of them all.


Chris 'Frog Queen' Davis said...

Hum, never saw it that way....thanks :)


Steve Patterson said...

Well, I guess it's all context, eh? Pretty damned sad and sweet. (And kudos for not picking "Positively Fourth Street.")

I always figured I'd opt for "Sympathy for the Devil" since he'd have another cranky writer on his hands.


Unknown said...

check out-Ralph Vaugh Williams, Silent NOON! The poem written by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, pre-raphaelite, poet, painter, etc. etc. Vocalist- Maria Tiraski.

k. crow said...

This post reminds me of a funeral scene in "Love, Actually" where Liam Neeson's character's deceased wife says goodbye, "through the immortal genius of the Bay City Rollers."

Honestly, I commend your choice and your sainted mother's choice. For the record, I have not thought of a swan song, but I would like to bid the world adieu through song and I can only hope that the vocals are teeming with id. Sayonara, suckas!

Stephen said...

...about 5 years ago, David Stabler did a pice on choosing his own funeral music. He then asks readers to submit their own. I was thrilled whn mine was chosen. I am a publicity whore & I love to see me name in print. Here were my choices, although I want a memeorial & not a funeral:

Águas de Março- Jobim
Fly Me To The Moon- Sinatra
If I had A Boat- Lyle Lovett
Beyond The Sea- Bobby Darin
I Remember- Sondheim
Across the Universe-The Beatles
Once In A Lifetime- Talking Heads
& as the procession:
(I Got You) I Feel Good- James Brown

Nick said...

I would say you are morbid, however my 85-year-old father recently told me he added a caveat in his Will: To play "On the Road Again" by Willie Nelson. Makes sense I guess for an old salesman. "'Cause the only thing you got in this world Biff is what you can sell!"