Midweek Music Break: Water Music

[Image: “The Death of Diarmuid, the Last Handful of Water” (1945), by Jack Butler Yeats.
The title alludes to the ancient Irish tale known as The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne.]

One of my favorite playlists is called “Water Music”: songs about and/or titled in such a way as to emphasize good old H2O — rivers, oceans, rain and snow, teardrops, wading-swimming-surfing-and-diving… It’s also one of my biggest, most wide-ranging playlists (if burned to CD, it would span several disks). It amazes me how much music, across all kinds of genres, references the stuff in a non-peripheral way — not always literally, but often as metaphor for something else.

This week, with Hurricane/Tropical Storm/what-have-you Sandy on my mind, bits and pieces of that playlist keep jumping out at me. A great many of those songs could fit quite nicely with the headlines of the week, and I thought of songs that hammered at the literal (if not — haha — littoral) use of “water” and related terms. Creedence Clearwater Revival, “Who’ll Stop the Rain?”; the Doobie Brothers, “Black Water”; the Sons of the Pioneers, “Red River Valley”; “Bridge over Troubled Water”… “Tracks of My Tears”… our old friends “Cry Me a River” and “Wade in the Water“; and — whoa — Johnny Cash’s “Five Feet High and Rising.”

But you know what? It’s kind of tacky to go that way: almost jocular, almost making light of what Sandy has wrought. (For much the same reason, I’d imagine, CNN has reportedly banned the term “Frankenstorm” from its broadcasts.)

Instead, let’s turn to Warren Zevon, who grabs for much more than the literal in his “Fistful of Rain”:


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  1. Ah, Zevon. You are warming to him, eh? Very, very nice selection. :)

    (And I wonder if he might have thought about global warming at all.)

    • Still not sure Zevon is someone whom one “warms to.” But yeah, after a year I can say I appreciate him more… especially if I don’t try to listen to a bunch of his music all at once, but rather mixed in here and there among other artists. You know: if you’re at a river- or lakeside, skimming stones, every now and then you finds a piece of bottle glass which, when flung, takes off across the water like a possessed creature, and your heart thuds. But if every thing you picked up was glass, all you’d get would be a bunch of cuts on your fingers. :)

  2. s.o.m.e. one's brudder says:

    given the actual lack of water in the now desired to be forgotten Sandy (barely felt like rain, if you ask me), maybe something around a “windy” theme could work. And as always, there’s no body like WZ to craft an appropriate song for a disaster.

    • That would be the “Sky Music” mix, maybe. Especially because I broadened its definition to include all forms of meteorological phenomena.

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