One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write a song. Unfortunately, this is the third January that particular resolution has been on my list. Indeed, I’ve been wallowing in lyrical ineptitude for the past two years. The good news is, I have reason to believe that may change.
Part of the problem, I’m convinced, is that prior to now, I hadn’t come up with a good subject to write a song about. Oh sure, my inability to write any kind of verse that isn’t a limerick set in Nantucket and my complete dearth of musical knowledge may have entered into the equation — but I think with the right topic, I could overcome those.
For the past few months, I’ve racked my brain trying to figure out something to immortalize in song, but to no end. I considered writing a typical love song, but that would have roused suspicion in my wife. Then I thought I might pen a tune about my kids, but I was having a hard time working out a rhyme scheme for “Do As You’re Told, or I’ll Strangle You.”
Sadly, my muse didn’t seem to share any of my non-professional interests — namely beer, televised sports, movies, and sleeping — nor, for that matter, my professional interests: writing copy for clients at a green advertising firm. I paced the floor, tore out pages and pages of empty notebook paper. I was on the cusp of abandoning all hope of ever becoming a tunesmith. But at last, inspiration struck: I’d write a love song to the environment.
Like my songwriting ability, the environment has been suffering lately. After years of being slapped around with passive-aggressive programs like the “Clear Skies” and “Healthy Forests” initiatives, it got completely ignored during the last presidential election. And even when something like Arctic drilling surfaces in the mainstream media, Nick and Jessica still get more column inches. If ever someone (or something) needed a little love, it’s the environment.
Once I settled on this worthy topic, all kinds of song titles sprang to mind. Unfortunately, they were all flawed in some way or another. I liked “Real Planets Have Curves,” but it was a little too generic — I mean, you could write that about any planet. I rejected “You Make Me Feel So Small” because I feared the sentiment of adoration would be overshadowed by concerns about the author’s self-esteem. “I Worship You O Fertile Mother” was just too Freudian for words, and I couldn’t imagine even the countriest of country stations playing, “You May Be Two-Thirds Water, But You Don’t Look Bloated To Me.”
All this ruminating led me to the theory that most great songs probably don’t begin with titles. I decided the best way to get some inspiration was to fully embrace my subject. Accordingly, I left my home and took a long walk along the nearby Hudson River.
It was a mild, overcast day. The sky was gray, and the river looked like a slab of slate. It was peaceful, quiet, and beautiful, in a stark, monochromatic way. But in the midst of what should have been a surefire inspirational situation, all I could think about were the PCBs supposedly lurking at the bottom of the river. The thought of three-eyed fish kinda put the kibosh on romance. And a few miles upriver from where I was standing lay the Indian Point nuclear power plant, another mood dampener. I mean, imagine investing tons of emotional energy on a lover who has a penchant for Russian roulette. You give and give, and then one day … well, you get the picture.
PCBs, mutant aquatic life, nuclear disaster — it was all just too depressing. All I needed was Air Force One to fly by and dump some mercury in the middle of the river to complete the picture. The only sane response I could think of was to go home and start drinking. So I did.
But somewhere in the scotch-induced haze of the next several hours, it occurred to me that those we love are seldom perfect. They’ve got their blemishes and scars. They may be a bit damaged, but we love them nonetheless (perhaps allthemore). I realized that the environment really was the perfect object of my musical affection, because it is the chipped, cracked, and tarnished who truly need love songs written for them.
I haven’t written the song yet, but I’ll keep at it. This could be the year.