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Joseph E Bird

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songwriting

the girl from the bakery

tripping down the sidewalk
in the lower part of town
going to the guitar store
my e-string’s come unwound

a tune is humming in my head
for words i’ve yet to write
and then i see you through the glass
all dressed in bakers white

ohhh mercy, sakes alive

i slow my steps and strain to look
without giving it a thought
i see you, and you see me
i know that i’ve been caught

maybe i should walk on by
be a gentleman this day
the heck with that, i’ll take a chance
this boy, he came to play

ohhh mercy sakes alive

just look at what you’ve gone and done
when i see you roll those buns
hot bread baking in the oven
but it’s you, oh girl, that i’m lovin

your hair is pulled back in a net
there’s flour everywhere
you glance at me and knead the dough
i barely take in air

you got that look that speaks to me
and yeah, i speak to you
together we can bake all day
have our cake, and it eat, too

ohhh mercy, sakes alive

just look at what you’ve gone and done
when i see you roll those buns
hot bread baking in the oven
but it’s you, oh girl, that i’m lovin

my legs are weak, can’t wait to eat,
but it’s you, oh girl, i’m lovin’


copyright 2017, joseph e bird


Editor’s Note: In his Noble Prize acceptance speech, Bob Dylan said his work is meant to be sung, that it’s not complete as a simple rhyming poem.  Same here with my so-called songs. Of course I ain’t no Robert Zimmerman, but I am, in fact, fooling around with music for these little ditties. Someday I may present them as fully imagined. Probably not, but you never know.

almost heaven

tree for web

Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River.

Take Me Home, Country Roads, the signature hit of John Denver, was adopted by my home state, in part because of the first line of the song, Almost Heaven, West Virginia, but also because the spirit of the song is about coming home to the country roads we all love so much.  West Virginians are scattered all over the world, but the mountains seem to have an irresistible pull that tells us we should have been home yesterday.

But let’s talk about the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah River.  In truth, both of those geographic features, even though they cross the border into West Virginia, are better known as Virginia landmarks. But let’s call it the songwriter’s artistic license.

It’s easy to understand how the Blue Ridge Mountains could inspire Denver and his co-songwriters.  It’s a relatively short drive from my home to the Blue Ridge Parkway, one of the most beautifully scenic highways in America.

Overlooks are everywhere.  It’s an incredible sight to see the mountains fade into the horizon miles and miles away.  Picturesque trees are works of art waiting to be painted. Rustic barns, quaint cottages, and chairs on the hillside make you want to slow down and take it all in.  And at the end of every day is the perfect sunset.

blueridge sunset

Here’s another truth.

Though the Blue Ridge Mountains are part of Virginia, there are places just as spectacular all over West Virginia.  So much so, that we tend to take them for granted. The sunset picture above could have been taken in my back yard. A mountain top view is minutes away.  Babbling brooks and rivers winding through the forest are within an easy bike ride.  It’s the stuff that inspires artists and poets.

Almost heaven, West Virginia.

 

The Ballad of the Boy from Quincy

Quincy RR yard-1917 adjusted
Railyard at Quincy, WV, circa 1917

He hopped a train out Quincy way
Rode with his brothers, to earn the pay
Stayed in the city, and worked all day

That’s how it was back then
And he’d do it all again

Just to spend his life with her.

.

She lived a ways on down the road
But went to town, to pay what’s owed
Ate lunch with pie, a la mode

At the big department store
She left there wanting more

Hoping he would come her way.

.

One day he rode the train past town
Jumped off the car when it slowed down
Hurt his leg when he hit the ground

And limped across the street
Saw a bench and had seat

And waited for the pain to fade.

.

The people gave him looks of scorn
His shirt was dirty, his pants were torn
They didn’t like him, he could have sworn

He held his eyes down low
Hoping it wouldn’t show

That he was just a kid from the sticks.

.

Down the way was the streetcar stop
Next to a tiny soda shop
He thought he just might get a pop

And then be on his way
Forget this maddening day

And go back to his home in the hills.

.

She was standing on the other side
Asking what he had in mind
He knew right then she’d be his bride

As crazy as it was
That’s just what true love does

Because their story had just begun.

.

What happened to you, you fall off the train?
You look to be in quite some pain
You kinda slow? Don’t have much brains?

At that he simply smiled
You’re wrong a country mile

I’m the sharpest man you’ll ever meet, today.

.

He bought a drink to quench his thirst
Not sure which was best, or which was worst
His bold approach was unrehearsed

He’d never met a girl like her
His mind was such a blur

But somehow, he’d make it work.

.

He found his wit, they were matched so well
He had fallen, to her spell
Her beauty, he couldn’t wait to tell

To all his friends back home
And he’d never be alone

It was just a matter of time.

.

They were wed for sixty years
Through the laughter and the tears
And then his greatest fear

She was gone in dawn’s first light
And lonely was the night

And his heart would never heal.

.

Now he’s left, he’s gone back home
Not to Quincy, not to be alone
No more trains, no more to roam

They’re walking side by side
Their love again his pride

Together evermore.


copyright 2017, joseph e bird

Sing to me a truth.

Someone once told me that he had broken up with his girlfriend and he was having a hard time getting over it. Except he said it like this:

Most of the time
I’m clear focused all around
Most of the time
I can keep both feet on the ground
I can follow the path
I can read the sign
Stay right with it when the road unwinds
I can handle whatever
I stumble upon
I don’t even notice she’s gone
Most of the time.

That’s from Bob Dylan.  His song, Most of the Time.

Larry Ellis had this to say about poets:

“A poet is a maker.  A poet is someone who attempts to convey meaning and emotion through the creative use of language.  A poet employs metaphor to spark the imagination and meter and rhyme to trigger the memory.  Would we have understood – would we have “gotten” – the meaning of the Vietnam war – as the songwriters wanted us to get it – without the music and rhythm and rhyme of, for example Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”

It’s part of an essay that he wrote making the case that the prophets of old interpreted and proclaimed the meaning of events, and did so in a poetic language that would drive home their message (or God’s message) and be remembered.  You can read the entire piece here.

Such a poet doesn’t look to the clouds to find inspiration in the ether.  The poet has something to say and is deliberate in the choosing and placement of words.

The poet says, much like Bob Dylan or John Fogerty or Jeremiah:

“Listen.  I have something you need to hear.”

 

another song

this is exceptional songwriting.

vanity

tell me what I don’t know
see which way the wind blow
spinnin like a gyro
playin with the vertigo
puttin on a big show
fakin like a puppet show
hear me up in idaho
this is it, here we go

it don’t matter what it is
it don’t matter if it true
listen what i say to you
dig my words, dig me, too

leavin on a jet plane
hoppin to the south of spain
sippin on the champagne
scared to try the cocaine
stayin home it so mundane
want to be like charlemagne
livin large, i can’t complain
it ain’t real, its all in vain

it don’t matter what it is
it don’t matter if it true
listen what i say to you
dig my words, dig me, too

tell me that you like my song
yo to me, i can’t be wrong
be my posse, be my throng
if you like, you sing along
ring the bell, bang the gong
dig it man, like tommie chong
fifteen likes and goin strong
make me feel like i belong

it don’t matter what it is
it don’t matter if it true
listen what i say to you
dig my words, dig me, too


copyright 2016, joseph e bird

fortuity

“You can be the best songwriter or guitar player in the world, but you have to work at positioning yourself so that you’re in a place where, if the stars line up, if the right man comes along at the right time, you’re on your way.”

Jim Avett – father of Scott and Seth Avett, aka the Avett Brothers

whisper hello (a love song)

a glance of the eye, the innocent look
the curl of your lips, was all that it took
we talked without words, there was so much to say
my world went to sleep, when you went away

the hollow of lonely
it shakes me with fear
i whisper hello
but nobody’s here

the care in your heart, always ready to share
you left me so humbled, my sins so aware
to witness your goodness, i now realize
it’s what i should live for, to be good in your eyes

i long for your warmth
and to kiss your sweet tears
i whisper hello
but nobody’s here

the devil he tempts, the weak ones to test
he knows how to charm, my lust is impressed
my life is now stained, there’s nothing to do
but beg your forgiveness, your judgment is true

to touch your soft skin
and hold you so dear
i whisper hello
but nobody’s here

the sound of your voice, echoes soft in my mind
i wish i could see you, for all others i’m blind
our love was so fleeting, and me, i’m to blame
i dream of the light, and live with my shame

please laugh for me honey
and bring joy to my ear
i whisper hello
but nobody’s here


copyright 2016, joseph e bird

author’s note: this is not autobiographical and i’m not depressed or missing anyone. i’ve been listening to a lot of “love gone wrong” songs lately and this is my contribution to the genre.

Robert Zimmerman

sometimes I hear a guitar player like Tommy Emmanuel or Stevie Ray and I think, what’s the use?

i came across this article about Robert Zimmerman’s songwriting. you know, the guy who just won the Nobel Prize for Literature. and i’ve come to the conclusion that i’m no more than a monkey at a keyboard.

cool stuff in the article, if you’re into great writing and poetry, anyway.

Bob Dylan

 

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