Ignored Obscured Restored
I wanted to write something patriotic to honor our Independence Day. There is so much turmoil today that we need something to bring us – all Americans – together. After quite a bit of thought, I decided on Paul Simon’s “America”, originally on the Simon and Garfunkel album Bookends.
The song was used to great effect in one of the Muscarella family’s favorite movies, Almost Famous. In the “America” scene, Anita Miller (Zooey Deschanel) is leaving home to become an airline stewardess. Her mother (Frances McDormand) and little brother William (Michael Angarano) stand watching as the car is packed for the journey. Before she takes off, Anita whispers to William… “One day you will be cool. Go look under your bed. It will set you free.”
Everyone needs a big sister like Anita!
“America” evokes Anita’s yearning for freedom and mobility. It is a travelogue of a bus trip across the US. True Americana. References to real places (Pittsburgh, Saginaw), roads (NJ Turnpike), and the nostalgia of Mrs. Wagner’s Pies.
First Aid Kit recorded a beautiful version of “America” that is today’s SotW.
But what really grabs me today is the first two lines of the final verse. That’s when the previously playful road trip (“Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces”, “She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy”, “I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera”) turns somber.
Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
These lines seem to capture the anxiety and isolation many of us are feeling in these times of COVID-19, racial tension, and economic insecurity.
First Aid Kit performed “America” live, at the Polar Music Prize (a Swedish music award), in front of Paul Simon in 2012. Simon was so moved, he gave them a standing ovation and seemed to be close to tears.
If their performance was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me.
Happy Independence Day!
Enjoy… until next week.