Song of the Week – Let’s Roll, Neil Young; I Can’t See New York, Tori Amos; My City of Ruins, Bruce Springsteen

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

Today we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrible terror attack on the United States.  In reaction, many music artists wrote songs about the horrible 9/11 events.

In November 2001, Neil young released “Let’s Roll”, a phrase that was attributed to Todd Beamer, one of the heroes on Flight 93 that crashed in PA.  Todd was heard on a phone uttering the words as he and other passengers took action to take control of the flight to prevent the hijackers from using the plane to crash into its target.

This wasn’t the first time Young quickly released a record in response to a news event.  In 1970, Young wrote “Ohio” after the May 4 shooting of students at Kent State University.  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded the song and released it in June 1970.

Tori Amos gave us the haunting “I Can’t See New York.”

Thirteen thousand and holding
In the purring
Of her engines

But I can’t see new York
As I’m, circling down
Through white cloud
Falling out
And I know
His lips are warm
But I can’t seem
To find my way out
My way out I can’t see
Of this hunting ground

Bruce Springsteen devoted an entire album – The Rising (2002) – to songs that addressed the aftermath of events of 9/11 from various perspectives.  This was an ambitious project that only someone with Springsteen’s perception could handle so deftly.  “My City of Ruins” is a hymn in the mold of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready.”

There’s a blood red circle on the cold dark ground
And the rain is falling down
The church door’s thrown open, I can hear the organ’s song
But the congregation’s gone
My city of ruins

Now the sweet bells of mercy drift through the evening trees
Young men on the corner like scattered leaves
The boarded up windows, the empty streets
While my brother’s down on his knees
My city of ruins

Now there’s tears on the pillow, darling, where we slept
And you took my heart when you left
Without your sweet kiss my soul is lost, my friend
Tell me how do I begin again
My city’s in ruins

The song’s sadness of the verses change to healing in the final section:

Now with these hands, with these hands
With these hands, with these hands
I pray, Lord (with these hands, with these hands)
I pray for the strength, Lord (with these hands, with these hands)
I pray for the faith, Lord (with these hands, with these hands)
I pray for your love, Lord (with these hands, with these hands)
I pray for the strength, Lord (with these hands, with these hands)
I pray for your love, Lord (with these hands, with these hands)
I pray for the faith, Lord (with these hands), alright (with these hands)
I pray for the strength, Lord (with these hands), come on (with these hands), come on
Come on rise up, come on rise up
Come on rise up, come on rise up

May all we Americans heal together as we mourn on this solemn day.

Enjoy… until next week.

Song of the Week – God, Tori Amos


Today’s SotW is “God” by Tori Amos.

I chose the song because it is relevant given all of the current allegations (e.g. Harvey Weinstein, Lewis CK, Roy Moore, Al Franken, and sadly, our president) that have brought attention to how our patriarchal (and often misogynistic) society allows men use their positions of power to take advantage of women or keep them down. More on that later.

Amos was a piano prodigy, raised in a very strict religious family headed by her Methodist minister father. Legend has it she could play the instrument before she could talk. When she was only 5 years old she won a full scholarship to the prestigious Peabody Institute for gifted children; the youngest person to be admitted).

By the time she was a teenager she became interested in rock music. In the mid-80s she was heading a band called Y Kant Tori Read. This was a career misstep that is obvious just by looking at the album cover and press photos. (The album still commands very high prices in record collecting circles.)

Around 1990 she went solo where she really found her footing and began a very successful career with a following that is passionately loyal.

This brings us back to “God” which was on her second solo album, Under the Pink (1994).

The lyrics are edgy, taking on Christian religion and how women are portrayed as sexless (e.g. the Virgin Mary) and how that tradition has left women in a “less than” role, even today. She challenges this dominant male point of view and the subservient role of women, singing “God sometimes you just don’t come through / Do you need a woman to look after you?”

In the book Women, Sex and Rock ‘n’ Roll – In Their Own Words by Liz Evans, Amos expands on what “God” is all about.

I’ve written a song called ‘God’ about patriarchal religion, and how it’s just fucked the whole thing up. Basically I say to Him, “You know, you need a babe and I’ve got nothing to do Tuesday and Thursday this week!” lt’s unacceptable in how it’s affected people. And it isn’t just women who’ve been affected. Men have had to cut out a whole part of themselves too, which is why we have to deal with all that shit from our boyfriends! Men and women are going to have to recognize the female energy that we’ve cut out.

Beside the thought-provoking lyrics, the music is cool. During this period, Amos mostly performed and recorded solo – just her voice and piano. But on “God” she employs a full band and electronic loops. The result is a cacophony of keys, guitars, drums and effects that yield scronks and squeals that sound like seagulls swarming above.

Over the years I’ve learned that Tori Amos is the type of artist that divides people into lovers or haters. There’s no middle ground – you either get it or you don’t. I think she’s great and “God” is one of my favorite cuts!

Enjoy… until next week.