Continued from the previous post on “Bicycle Built for Two” and my father:
#3 -- It is a bittersweet song.
The melody is bouncing and joyful. The lyrics are about a rejected proposal of love. There is a sense of joy – or maybe it’s peace – being brought into what could have been merely tragic or merely tearful.
I suppose this speaks to an entire worldview, a perseverance combined with insight into all things working for good that makes the unbearable bearable.
If I were to get all psycho-analytical about it, I would guess that bringing up “Bicycle” on that particular subway ride with Mimi was a way of bringing the comfort and wisdom of my father into a situation where I didn’t have my father himself.
When I was a kid, another student in my class passed away. Not someone I knew real well, but that was the first death of someone my age. My dad took me to the wake.
He didn’t say much on the ride there. He let me ramble; I can’t remember what I talked about.
He didn’t say much on the way back. We stopped at a drug store, and he bought me a small bag of M & Ms.
He didn’t say much; yet he shared with me a great wisdom. There are times when the most astute insight is silence -- quiet comfort. And where the only appropriate answer to big sorrows are small graces.
Mimi and I would sing that song often after that. It was always a celebration; always a connection.
#4 -- It is a self-deprecating song.
My dad, as I said before, was a judge, which implies a certain comportment of dignity. But one can’t take oneself too seriously, and choose to be on the receiving end of “You’re half crazy if you think that that will do!”
I find it interesting that my dad enjoyed being on the goofy end of a goofy proposal song.
Not that there is any of that false humility going on here – in fact, it takes a level of security in oneself to be open to a decent ribbing. It is said of Johnny Carson that he was funny when he was “on;” but he was hilarious when he bombed.
It was in taking the badness of the joke onto himself – transferring the failure into human foible – that redeemed the joke. And in the process, bolstered his dignity. (As opposed to a selfish “I don’t get any respect” tack.)
My dad has a humor that, by embracing the goofy, embraces humanity.
It is a humor of grace.
I suppose to be complete in my profile, I should also do an in depth analysis of his other song.
Would it be too much of a stretch to find spiritual profundity in “Little Brown Jug?”
Just my thoughts,