Wednesday, November 15, 2006

BY THE WATERS OF BABYLON AND OTHER SONGS BY DON MCLEAN

This past week I put on a CD with a collection of hits by Don McLean. Although now thirty-plus years old his texts are haunting and timely. McLean is most noted for his song AMERICAN PIE, also the title of the album form which many of McLean's greatest hits came from.

However, the three songs I want the reader to recall are not the classic AMERICAN PIE but the three tunes and lyrics to "By the Waters of Babylon","The Grave Lyrics", and "Everybody Loves Me Baby Lyrics".

Quite obviously, with the tragedies of the Iraq War 2003-2006 so present in our day to day lives "By the Waters of Babylon" with its moaning refrains song in round is what many American and the nation's allies should consider singing out of respect for the victims and survivors of the man-made catastrophe:

By the waters
The waters
Of Babylon.

We lay down and wept
And wept
For thee Zion.

We remember
Thee remember
Thee remember
Thee Zion


Naturally, the text comes basically straight out of the old testament during the Babylonian captivity. Yet, many Americans today certainly feel captive to the rivers of Iraq now. We need to lament--crying tearfully--, and then we need to move on--offering aid to Iraq in non-military forms for decades to come.

The next song, "The Grave", has lyrics that could have come from either WWI or WWII. It still brings tears to my eyes and needs to be sung along and aloud with when listened to.

The grave that they dug him had flowers
Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colors,
And the brown earth bleached white at the edge of his gravestone.
He’s gone.

When the wars of our nation did beckon,
A man barely twenty did answer the calling.
Proud of the trust that he placed in our nation,
He’s gone,
But eternity knows him, and it knows what we’ve done.

And the rain fell like pearls on the leaves of the flowers
Leaving brown, muddy clay where the earth had been dry.
And deep in the trench he waited for hours,
As he held to his rifle and prayed not to die.

But the silence of night was shattered by fire
As guns and grenades blasted sharp through the air.
And one after another his comrades were slaughtered.
In morgue of marines, alone standing there.

He crouched ever lower, ever lower with fear.
"they can’t let me die! the can’t let me die here!
I’ll cover myself with the mud and the earth.
I’ll cover myself! I know I’m not brave!
The earth! the earth! the earth is my grave."

The grave that they dug him had flowers
Gathered from the hillsides in bright summer colors,
And the brown earth bleached white at the edge of his gravestone.
He’s gone.


I was listening to that song on Armistace Day this November. Despite being set in a rainy land, the words are every bit as poignant for soldiers stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Finally, one last McLean song hits American foreign policy experts--especially neo-cons--at their heart and hubris. McLean was writing to America and Americans of the Vietnam era, but itrings too true today in a post 9-11 world. Americans need to analyze this song and move on.

Everybody Loves Me Baby Lyrics

Fortune has me well in hand, armies 'wait my command
My gold lies in a foreign land buried deep beneath the sand
The angels guide my ev'ry tread, my enemies are sick or dead
But all the victories I've led haven't brought you to my bed

CHORUS:
You see, everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Now the purest race I've bred to be to live in my democracy
And the highest human pedigree awaits the first-born boy baby
And my face on ev'ry coin engraved, the anarchists are all enslaved
My own flag is forever waved by the grateful people I have saved

CHORUS:
You see, everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Now, no man is beyond my claim when land is seized in the people's name
By evil men who rob and maim, if war is hell, I'm not to blame!
Why, you can't blame me, I'm Heaven's child, I'm the second son of Mary mild
And I'm twice removed from Oscar Wilde, but he didn't mind, why, he just smiled

Yes, and the ocean parts when I walk through, and the clouds dissolve and the sky turns blue
I'm held in very great value by everyone I meet but you
'cause I've used my talents as I could, I've done some bad, I've done some good
I did a whole lot better than they thought I would so, c'mon and treat me like you should!

Because everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

Yeah, everybody loves me, baby, what's the matter with you?
Won'tcha tell me what did I do to offend you?

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