“How can I try to explain,
When I do he turns away again
It’s always been the same, same old story
From the moment I could talk
I was ordered to listen
Now there’s a way and I know that I have to go away
I know I have to go”
© Cat Stevens, from the album “Tea For The Tillerman“, 1970
These lyrics just fell together in about 20 minutes back in early September 2016, from what I remember. And then, the lyrics just ended up in the box file and nothing has happened to them since then, until I recently took a fresh look at them and thought damn, this is a really good lyric.
I cant describe it any other way. A conversation led to it just toppling out where five minutes previous, it hadn’t existed and I had no notion of it coming from anywhere.
I had been spending a writing and recording weekend with one of my dearest friends and closest collaborators and the conversation came round to probably something that I only understand tangentially; I have been a son, but I’ve never been a father and I never will be. I didnt have much of a relationship with my own father, being estranged from him for 40 years before being reconciled two months before his untimely passing in 2012 but the perspective I’d never seen was that which my friend was going through; that is not only watching what was happening to his own father as he was getting older but how he was dealing with the responsibility at the same time of being a father himself to his only son, a job for which I’ve heard so many of my friends say that no handbook has ever been written – you can only do what you believe at the time is right and if you allow yourself to worry about whether you’re doing something right, or what you did ten or fifteen years ago, whether it was the right things – it will eventually eat away at you and you spend years questioning your own judgement with the benefit of hindsight. And that was before he began to think about what kind of a world was he leaving for his own flesh and blood… How much, if at all can he protect his son from the world he and his peers have made without much of a care, compared to the world his own father and his peers left for him, which he previously never gave a thought to, until now? I can’t even begin to imagine what that must be like.
So, thats what led to these lyrics. A father in his autumn or winter years talking in reassuring tones to his son who may, or may not comprehend the wisdom that is being imparted to him in genuine sincerity at the time they are being said.
These were not words I heard from my own father, nor my friend from his, not that I am aware of, anyway.
They are words that I guess, if I were ever to become a father that I would like to say to a son of mine, but thats not going to happen. Its one of those subject matters that is tricky for an artist to take on from another writer, I guess. I haven’t written any music to it yet, but as I develop as a lyricist I have learned to recognise particularly good words that say all the things that I want them to – so this one will be recorded and when the KOAS project is eventually complete, this one will see the light of day. In quite what form, I don’t know yet. But I’m very happy with these lyrics and what they say and how they say it. It deserves to take on a life of its own and go on its own journey.
A few notes on individual lines; “you’ll learn to fit in where you’re meant to stand out“, I think I heard the idea for this from an online life coach. So many of us spend so much time trying to be something or someone we’re not meant to be, in somewhere we’re not meant to be, instead of just finding our place in the universe where we’re meant to stand out and shine and be all we’re meant to be. “All of those old records and songs I dont understand“; my own father was a damn good jazz musician and I am not the worlds biggest fan of the genre to put it mildly. Tracks that would have meant the world to him, I just couldnt get a handle on… but I’m now starting to learn and see them through the eyes he gave me. “Little Man, I’m so endlessly proud of you“… Not something I ever heard said to me, but I’ve seen it said so many times in the mediums of film and TV; I guess every son is always going to be a little man to their mother or father in one way or another, no matter how old they grow up to be. I guess they are words that I would have liked to have heard when I was younger but now, when I hear them its almost as if its a little too little a little too late to be absorbed as anything more than a platitude. Again, I’m kinda putting words into my own mouth that I’ll never say, and they might be slightly cheesy and schmaltzy, while wearing their usual scarf of darkness, but hey… sue me. It gives it the effect to the song that I need it to. You’re doing good, kid. No matter what it is, so long as you do it from your heart, I’ll always be proud of you.
“All of the things you are will never be undone“; we all write our own life story, our own legacy and everyones life is an inspiration to someone. What we do with this short time on earth, the legacy we leave behind, is what defines us. The goal is not to live forever: its to create something that will.
The rest of the words, I dont think need any explanation.
Dont you worry, son
None of this is your fault
Just try to be honest about all the things in life you want
I know that this is not what you want to find out
But you’ll learn in good time to fit in where you’re meant to stand out
Playing all of those old records and songs I dont understand
And there are others that are familiar like the back of my hand
Dont wait for that song that may never come
Because all of the things you are will never be undone
Ah, it all comes down to this, this day near the end
I’m not just your father, I’ll always be your friend
Little man, I’m so endlessly proud of you
You remembered to yourself you should always be true
But I know it was never easy
Pressure seems so relentless, you cant catch your breath
You feel chained to a treadmill, walking in a wheel without end
It seems no one’s listening when it makes you cry out
But dont you forget son, this is not what your life is all about
Time will come for your children to raise little ones of their own
Dont forget that they could reap the seeds of all the things you’ve sown
Please tell me son, when the weight of the world gets too much for you to bear
Just close your eyes, think of me for a moment and I’ll promise I’ll be there
© Lyrics by Steve McCarthy-Hunt 2016