Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From the rivers of my memory...

My buddy and spiritual sensei Rick sent me a link to an in-station video of Glen Campbell singing "Gentle On My Mind." Rick's message: Old guys rock. In other words, there's hope for us yet. Always.

Now Rick's younger than me. Why, he's young enough to have pet turtle. But I took the message to heart. We're working on some stuff that's pretty cool and might actually make a small difference in this troubled ol' world. Difference or not, we all should approach our projects -- indeed, life itself -- with a spring in our step. With positive spirit and purpose.

Because my mind tends to wander to the lyric quality of things, I took something else from Rick's message: "Gentle On My Mind" is one of the greatest songs ever written. John Hartford wrote some fine songs, but this was the one that gave him the freedom to pretty much do anything he wanted the rest of his life. And he stuck with the music, God bless him, because that was why he was here.

Hartford has said he was inspired to write "Gentle On My Mind" after watching "Doctor Zhivago," a movie that has given other people I know the shivers, for one reason or another. (Maybe I'll watch it one of these days and report back.)

I share a lot of lyrics on SSS and most of them you probably skip right over. Can't say I blame you. But you shouldn't skip over these. At least go somewhere and listen to the song, and it doesn't really matter by whom. Hartford, Campbell, Dean Martin, Elvis, Johnny Cash, so many artists have covered it. Maybe, like me, you'll discover a newfound appreciation for John Hartford. Or maybe you'll be discovering him for the first time.

It's knowin' that your door is always open
And your path is free to walk
That makes me tend to leave my sleepin' bag
Rolled up and stashed behind your couch
And it's knowin' I'm not shackled
By forgotten words and bonds
And the ink stains that have dried upon some line
That keeps you in the back roads
By the rivers of my memory
That keeps you ever gentle on my mind

It's not clingin' to the rocks and ivy
Planted on their columns now that binds me
Or something that somebody said because
They thought we fit together walkin'
It's just knowing that the world
Will not be cursing or forgiving
When I walk along some railroad track and find
That you're movin' on the back roads
By the rivers of my memory
And for hours you're just gentle on my mind

Though the wheat fields and the clothes lines
And the junkyards and the highways come between us
And some other woman's cryin' to her mother
'cause she turned and I was gone
I still might run in silence
Tears of joy might stain my face
And the summer sun might burn me till I'm blind
But not to where I cannot see
You walkin' on the back roads
By the rivers flowin' gentle on my mind

I dip my cup of soup back from a gurglin' cracklin' cauldron
In some train yard
My beard a rustlin' coal pile and a dirty hat pulled low across my face
Through cupped hands 'round a tin can
I pretend to hold you to my breast and find
That you're waving from the back roads
By the rivers of my memory
Ever smilin', ever gentle on my mind


  1. Totally agree on your Hartford take and this is without a doubt one of the best set of seamless lyrics written. I'm not there yet in my mind and don't know if I will be. On the turntable of my mind, the needle keeps getting stuck on the, "I'm not shackled," and I have to gently move it forward. Perhaps because I think some shackles in this sense are not all bad. Maybe it's because I too haven't had the patience to watch all of Zhivago. Then again, I haven't watched all of Disney's Fantasia either and don't know anyone who can look you straight in the eye and say they have.

  2. I'm ashamed to admit that I had to download it, but man, that was be best $1.29 I've spent in a while. The Glen Campbell version, of course. Thanks for the reminder.

  3. Truly a great song. And Glen Campbell did rock although you never would have guessed it from watching his teevee show.