Jam Session: 2020 NYE with the Cornelius Eady Trio

by | Dec 31, 2020 | 1 comment

Cornelius Eady offered this wonderful piece to RIFF just before Thanksgiving. Happily, we share it now as we look back and also forward. Many of us found 2020 to be a trying year, and, yet, as we move into 2021, even with “sharks circling the raft,” we still have a lot for which to be thankful. Challenges always force us to grow, whether we want to or not. The poetry of this song brings so much to heart, opening us to a New Year with readiness to face the future.

National Book Award-winner and Pulitzer Prize-nominated poet Cornelius Eady has set his poetry to song with the Cornelius Eady Trio. Eady’s songs tell the story of passing time, the Black-American experience and the Blues in the style of Folk & Americana music. Guitarists Charlie Rauh and Lisa Liu join Eady to create layered and graceful arrangements to bolster Eady’s adept craftsmanship as a songwriter, lyricist, and poet. Cornelius Eady Trio has performed at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, AWP Conference, Peabody Essex Museum, and Hill-Stead Museum and recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis, TN.

How to be Thankful

I had read once, in some dim interview, a long time ago, that Bob Dylan had written one of his great early songs, either “Masters of War” or “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall,” in a hurry.  This was around 1963 or 64, the Cold War was heating up in real fast, and that was impacting his writing: get it done now, or you might not have another chance.

Maybe I got the details wrong, but I do remember the urgency of his answer, and this song of mine, “Thanks,” was probably written from the same sense of the days ticking down towards something unpleasant, in this case, the Corona virus.

This was at the height of the first round; in the Spring of 2020, when the beds in New York were filling up, the refrigerator trucks were pulling up at the hospital loading docks for the overflow of bodies, the streets were bare, terms like “rush hour” were almost quaint, and everyone was guessing and mainly getting it wrong; you didn’t need to wear a mask: you did need to wear a mask; it was only sweeping away the old like a Darwin Broom; it was plucking kids from the rest of their youth.

What I noticed at a certain point was the arrival of text and phone calls from people I hadn’t seen for a long while—just to hear your voice, just to catch up, just to know if you were still vertical.

And it occurred to me, for the first time—our apartment in New York is only a mile or so away from the World Trade Center—that this might be something that could drift quietly into our door and lives, and detonate everything. “Thanks” was one of a series of songs I wound up calling “Pandemic Folk Song,” mainly written between mid-March and August, recorded remotely with my Folk Trio—myself, with guitarists Charlie Rauh and Lisa Liu. The first four stanzas were for my wife—just in case. The others are for what came through the phone and WiFi.

As Joni Mitchell (and William Bell) wrote, you don’t (miss) know what you’ve got (your water) till (the well) it’s gone (runs dry). Or as Woody Guthrie wrote as the dust bowl rolled towards your town like an angry, drunken fist, it’s probably good manners to turn to the person you’re about to die with and say, “So long, it’s been good to know you.” Just so they won’t leave this world wondering.

 

Thanks

        Words and Music: Cornelius Eady

 

If we don’t make it out of this one,

If the clouds burst and sweeps us away

If the game gets called on count of darkness

And the clocks run down today

 

If it’s high noon at the honeymoon

If sooner or later is here

In case it was missed between our kiss

Or said out of shout of your ears

 

Thank you, baby

Thank you friend

Some things come and go

Some things never end

 

It’s the bottom of the ninth

And two men out,

The sharks are circling the raft,

Me and you, we had a good ol’ time

We put some pins on the map

 

So if the Devil is calling the tune

And world is learning the dance,

A tip to the hand that pulled me along

When the odds weren’t even a chance

 

Thank you baby

Thank you, friend

Some things come and go

Some things never end

 

The cold flames that still hold a spark

The errors and regrets

The pal that grew up away from your eyes,

The grown up you never met.

 

The restless souls you could not hold

But left a spark in you,

The wonder ifs, and Auld Lang Syne

Time to get a message through:

Thank you baby,

Thank you, friend

Some things come and go

Some things never end

 

The phone rings, the text bell dings

It’s old so-and so

You haven’t seen hide nor hair

For 30 years

They just have to let you know.

 

A long-distance toast before we’re a ghost

Before things turn severe

If you die before they wake

They just have to make it clear:

 

Thank you, baby,

Thank you, friend

Some things come and go

Some things never end.

Listen to  THANKS here

CE: Vocal; Charlie Rauh & Lisa Liu: Acoustic Guitars; Erik Alvar; Electric Bass. Arranged by Rauh & Liu. Mixed by Lisa Liu.

 

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<a href="https://writersatlarge.com/riff/author/cornelius-eady/" target="_self">Cornelius Eady</a>

Cornelius Eady

CORNELIUS EADY is the author of eight books of poetry, including Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems. His second book, Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, won the Lamont Prize from the Academy of American Poets in 1985; in 2001 Brutal Imagination was a finalist for the National Book Award. His work in theater includes the libretto for an opera, “Running Man,” which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999. His play, Brutal Imagination, won Newsday’s Oppenheimer award in 2002.

1 Comment

  1. Allen Spath

    Bob Dylan has written many lyrics over the years and anyone old enough to have listened to his work, knows how great this person has been to the music industry. But here’s a fun fact, this giant in his industry has never has a #1 song himself. Zip, zero, notta. Did this ever derail his passion to write and put the words racing in his brain on paper for himself and others, hell no.

    Undeterred, songs like “Mr. Tambourine Man” went to the top as well as songs covered by artists like U2.

    * Wikipedia

    The Byrds’ version was released in April 1965 as their first single on Columbia Records, reaching number 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 chart and the UK Singles Chart, as well as being the title track of their debut album, Mr. Tambourine Man. The Byrds’ recording of the song was influential in popularizing the musical subgenres of folk rock and jangle pop, leading many contemporary bands to mimic its fusion of jangly guitars and intellectual lyrics in the wake of the single’s success.

    Dylan’s song has four verses, of which the Byrds only used the second for their recording. Dylan’s and the Byrds’ versions have appeared on various lists ranking the greatest songs of all time, including an appearance by both on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 best songs ever. Both versions received Grammy Hall of Fame Awards.

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