October 29, 2017

The Urge for Going

Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize in 2016 and there was a lot of discussion about whether or not song lyrics qualify as poetry.

I came of age in the 1960s and even my high school English teachers were bringing in Dylan, Paul Simon and other lyrics to get us interested in poetry. It convinced me that some song lyrics were, if not poetry, poetic.

Joni Mitchell was another songwriter whose lyrics entered the classroom. One of her songs caught hold of me one autumn day in the late 1960s. It was a version recorded by Tom Rush. He was the first major artist to record some of her songs on his album The Circle Game. Besides the title song, he recorded "Tin Angel" and the lyric that caught me, "Urge for Going."

That song, heard on a chilly, late October day, changed how I felt as I listened. Isn't that what good poems do?

Tom Rush changed the gender in the lyrics and since I had "a girl in summertime with summer-colored skin" who also got the urge for going. I can still remember sitting in a car listening to the song and not moving until it was over.

Yes, I also wanted "to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so, But she's got the urge for going so I guess she'll have to go."

I heard the song again this past week and it all came back to me again - the song, that moment, that girl.

Does the lyric stand up as a poem?

Is there a song lyric that felt like poetry for you?  Tell us about it in a comment here.

Urge for Going by Joni Mitchell 
I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
and all trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go 
I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in
I had me a man in summertime
He had summer-colored skin
And not another girl in town
My darling's heart could win
But when the leaves fell on the ground
And bully winds came around pushed them face down in the snow
He got the urge for going and I had to let him go 
He got the urge for going
When the meadow grass was turning brown
And summertime was falling down and winter was closing in
Now the warriors of winter they gave a cold triumphant shout
And all that stays is dying and all that lives is getting out
See the geese in chevron flight flapping and racing on before the snow
They've got the urge for going and they've got the wings so they can go 
They get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in
I'll ply the fire with kindling and pull the blankets to my chin
I'll lock the vagrant winter out and I'll bolt my wandering in
I'd like to call back summertime and have her stay for just another month or so
But she's got the urge for going so I guess she'll have to go 
She gets the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And all her empires are falling down
And winter's closing in
And I get the urge for going when the meadow grass is turning brown
And summertime is falling down








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