Monday, September 11, 2006

Not your typical 9/11 post

The blogosphere is ripe with remembrances for 9/11. I have no problem with this - it was a watershed moment in the history of this nation, certainly in the recent history of this nation. It affected everyone and brought everyone together for a brief period of what I consider to be some of the most divisive times ever seen by this nation. But rather than focus on the death, destruction and the political divisiveness that was also born that day, I decided to look at a few of the songs that were inspired by 9/11.

It was inevitable that songs would be written about this day. Some were good, some decidedly awful (the Daryl Worley song "Have You Forgotten?" springs immediately to mind.) I mean, Madonna may have rhymed New York with dork, but this guy actually rhymed "bin Laden" with "forgotten." Ugh. I found a few really good ones I thought I'd look at.

1) Fleetwood Mac - Illume (9/11) (iTunes)
Stevie Nicks' stab at remembering 9/11 comes off pretty much like I'd expect it to for her. It's nearly incomprehensible, but she's so darn sincere in it. Here's what she has to say about the song, because, God help me, I can't really figure it out.

"Illume" is a very interesting song actually. I wrote it after September 11th, you know, so it was one of the first I wrote after those tragedies. It’s just about making it, you know. I was sitting there, thinking about those horrible tragedies in October of 2001, and I was sitting there with just me in the room, and the candle was lit. I love candles, you know. And my heart was still so heavy from everything, and I didn’t know quite what would happen, and we were all like that, confused. I didn’t set out to write a September 11th song, it just happened. It goes “Illume, says the candle that I burn, a reflection in the window,” and that’s just about the inspiration for the song. And I tell you, my heart was so very heavy and full at this time, I was so confused. And then there are some other parts…( Pause) “And I am alone with my thoughts, And how we could make it – And what we have been through, all of the trauma.” I also wrote one called “Get Back on the Plane,” and a song called “The Towers Touched the Sky,” but it was just too depressing.

2) Mary Chapin Carpenter - Grand Central Station (iTunes)
This is perhaps one of my favorite songs about 9/11. It's so tastefully written and beautifully sung. One the first anniversary of 9/11, Chapin heard an NPR story about a ironworker who worked at ground zero. So moving was his experience that he walked to Grand Central Station every day after his shift was over to guide the lost souls to their trains home. You can listen to NPR talking to Carpenter about this song here, but to be honest, I couldn't get the audio to load. Maybe it's just my computer.

Here's the lyrics:
Got my workclothes on full of sweat and dirt
All this holy dust upon my face and shirt
Heading uptown now just as the shifts are changing
To Grand Central Station
Got my lunchbox, got my hard hat in my hand
I ain't no hero mister, just a working man
And all these voices keep on asking me to take them
To Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station

I want to stand beneath the clock one more time
Want to wait upon the platform for the Hudson Line
I guess you're never really all alone
Or too far from the pull of home
And the stars upon that painted dome still shine

I made my way out on to 42nd street
I lit a cigarette and stared down at my feet
And imagined all the ones that ever stood here waiting
At Grand Central Station, Grand Central Station

Now Hercules is staring down at me
Next to him is Minerva and Mercury
I nod to them and start my crawl, flyers covering every wall
Faces of the missing all I see

Tomorrow I'll be back there working on the pile
Going in and coming out single file
Before my job is done there's one more trip I'm making
To Grand Central Station, Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station, Grand Central Station

3) Tori Amos - I Can't See New York (iTunes)
This one I recently came across. I wouldn't classify myself as a Tori Amos fan, but I've been listening to more of her music ever since I started listening to Casey Stratton. It's a little more along the lines of the Fleetwood Mac song in the fact that lyrically, it's not very straight forward and you could completely miss the 9/11 allusions unless you are, as this blog's title demands of you, pay close attention. had this take on the song back in 2002.
I've had a few debates as to whether or not this is in, in fact, a 9/11 song. The conclusion? I don't know. The parallels are there. The concept of the album was a journey around and across America and each song has a location on a map. "I Can't See New York" is mapped as a flight from Boston to New York, the same taken by several hijacked planes on 9/11, and the obvious sight of a missing landmark in the skyline could be the reason for an inability to see New York as could some form of role-playing on the part of Ms. Amos as one of the passengers so blinded by fear that they cannot see anything, let alone New York. Then there's the Native American theme. In this song it's played out with the metaphor that borders are not really visible from a plane, so that the land is really everyone's. Hence, not being able to see New York as lines on a map are not the same as that seen from a plane. All that being said, it is a beautiful song wonderfully arranged and performed. 9/11 storyline or Native American or something completely different it has an underlying driving power to it. And it sure as hell makes up for the last album, Strange Little Girls.
Music, for me, is a great healer. Hopefully, 5 years out from 9/11, healing can continue.

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