First One Thing; and Then Another

Probably not grammatically correct but in the case of John Stewart’s music it’s certainly appropriate.

Recently I read an article in Smithsonian Magazine. It was an interview with Roseanne Cash and in the interview she discusses John and refers to him as her ‘songwriting mentor’. Roseanne is an excellent songwriter and her praise of John’s talent came from her heart. One of the things that John impressed on Rose was to look for the madness. I think what he meant was to look beyond the easy stuff and find the heart of the song; the part that reaches out and then won’t let you go.

John didn’t like to talk about songwriting. He gave interviews and, if pressed or bored, he would mouth some words about it but the bottom line was that it was very personal to him and he didn’t want to discuss it. He especially didn’t want to discuss it with fans.

Not long after September 11, 2001, one of my friends and a longtime fan of John’s put together a double cd of John’s songs that were specially relevant for that time in our world. He called it Overtones and he titled Disc One  Reality Interrupted and Disc Two  Aftertones. The cd’s contained some of John’s most stark and image filled songs. There are two songs on the cd that represented to me the best of John Stewart as a songwriter. It’s the combination of the music, the words and the emotion. I don’t know if I would have ever had the nerve to ask him where the songs came from or, if I did, he would have answered me. These aren’t love songs and they aren’t zipiddy-doo-dah songs.

Click the blue links to hear the songs.

Hand Your Heart To the Wind

Those Who Are Wise

One comment

  1. George Bennett

    “Those Who Are Wise…” Man. I was just listening to this classic last Sunday. Multiple times, per usual. This mobile device, unfortunately, will not allow me to acsess audio. I’m going to assume the good Mr. Rybolt is referring to the “Chilly Winds” version. The groove is so hypnotic and transfixing-primitive and universal. You can FEEL the shade of that old cedar tree…and the soft breeze. You ARE gazing at that sky, the earth beneath you. You’re pondering the deepest mysteries of the universe and existence. All this profoundness and complexity found in the simple stillness of just…being. You are your own Socrates. “Those Who Are Wise” is a deceptively simple song. It’s beauty can get by you if you’re not paying attention. Perhaps like Stewart’s point of pondering the world and our place in it. And if this isn’t the “Chilly Winds” version…does it matter?

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