Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Do You Want to Hear a Love Song by a Guy from New Jersey?

I've been thinking this week about who wrote the perfect love song, just like David Allen Coe is said to have written the perfect country and western song.

It had to be a story of lasting love rather than new love, which so many are about. "Love at the Five and Dime" by Nancy Griffith came to mind, as did several country songs.

"The Voyage" by Johnny Duhan is my favorite love song because my husband and I danced to it together at the blessing of our wedding. But that song doesn't say anything about gettin' drunk, mama, trains or prison...oh wait, I'm back on the perfect country song.

The song "The Dutchman" kept playing in my head. Because it sounded so real, I always imagined this to be a very old song written by, well, a dutchman. Or an Irishman, as I often hear it played around town over St. Patrick's Day.

But a Web search brought me to www.artistsofnote.com, where I learned that Michael Smith, a New Jersey native who hit the folk music scene in the 1970s, wrote it.

Chicagoans like my sister-in-law Erin might recognize the song from when John Goodman recorded it. Although, obviously, it is not as good as his recording of "Go, Cubs, Go."

"The Dutchman" tells the story of a senile man and his wife, Margaret, who takes care of him.

It begins:

The Dutchman's not the kind of man
To keep his thumb jammed in the dam
That holds his dreams in
But that's a secret only Margaret knows
When Amsterdam is golden in the morning
Margaret brings him breakfast
She believes him
He thinks the tulips bloom beneath the snow
He's mad as he can be but Margaret only sees that sometimes
Sometimes she sees her unborn children in his eyes

(chorus)Let us go to the banks of the ocean
Where the walls rise above the Zuiderzee
Long ago, I used to be a young man
And dear Margaret remembers that for me

To read the full song, go to www.artistsofnote.com/michael/lyrics/dutchman/shtml.

Why is it the perfect love song? It is sad, as love songs have to be. There is something meloncholy about such a fragile thing as love. Despite the best intentions, it often breaks. It is like handing a child a glass ornament and saying, "Don't drop it." It's only a matter of time before they do. Time conspires against love in this song, too. You imagine that when the Dutchman dies, Margaret will perish from a broken heart. And yet they fall asleep "humming some old love song." Their love has outfoxed time. And that is why it is the perfect love song.

Speaking of love, happy Valentine's Day, Justin. And thank you mom, Erin, Mike and anonymous for commenting on the blog. You guys give the best Valentines ever.


Anonymous pat brewster said...

Makes me want to go listen to Eddie Delahunt and make a request. That song has always brought tears to my eyes thinking how faithful Margaret was to love him when his mind had left him. I always wanted to be like her. Hope your dad is like her with me when the time comes!!!!

8:27 PM  

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