Monday, May 22, 2017

Bob Marley - No Woman No Cry



I like Bob Marley; I think everyone does. I do not however, love Bob Marley, I would by lying if I said so. This is slightly unexpected I suppose, because I fall into a category of human being where it is socially expected that I should love Bob Marley. In my youth, I partook in social ritual of marijuana and Bob Marley at many parties, and during that age of enlightenment it is a common experience for the participant to fall in love with Bob Marley’s music. I failed that rite of passage I guess. Though I did listen to multiple iterations of Marley’s greatest hits dozens of times, and I certainly enjoyed it every time, nonetheless, my heart and ear never submitted to the groovy beats of Bob Marley.

I like reggae, again, I suspect just about everyone does. I do not however, love reggae, which likely goes a long way to explain the last paragraph. Again, not to repeat myself, but in my informative years I was exposed to massive amounts of weed and reggae, but my ear was never fully seized by this super chill genre of music, despite enjoying it at length on countless occasions. I deeply appreciate the influence reggae has had on bands I hold very dear, like The Clash, and The Police, and while the source inspiration was cool it was never glorious to me and my likings.

I spent my high times more so as a Pink Floyd and Uriah Heep fan, that is just who I am.

So now that I have established my lukewarm fondness of Bob Marley and reggae, I suppose it is time to get to the point. In an very necessary on going effort to keep myself as calm and strong as possible, I find myself recalling past indulgent pleasures, and while I wait for Trudeau to legalize marijuana, I am forced to re-embrace the cool comfort of the most chill music in the world, and that is inarguably reggae.

I am a poor Marley fan, I have never owned any of his albums and have only listened at length to various versions of his greatest hits, so I am now very familiar with songs like “Jammin,” “Buffalo Soldier” and “I Shot the Sheriff,” but I think his most touching song is possibly “No Woman No Cry.”

A quick, and cheap interpretation of this song would be something to the effect that, “so long as you have no woman in your life, you will have nothing to be sad about.” It is a simple mathematical equation; no woman = no cry. This is naturally incorrect. Not only would a glance at the lyrics dismiss this analysis immediately, but this would be a truly bizarre message for a peaceful, loving man like Marley to preach. Alas I was once guilty of thinking this way, for I was young… and probably too stoned to listen to the lyrics sensibly.

In reality, Marley has created one of his many political songs in “No Woman No Cry.” Marley, being the peaceful and loving man he is, is singing to a female companion and friend not to worry, everything is going to be alright, and before he says those things he says:

No, woman, no cry.

Please take note of the commas, for they bring structure to the sentence, and we can see by the separation of the first “no” from the word “woman,” that Marley is speaking directly to a woman, and he is instructing not to cry.

But why is it important not to cry? Well Marley tells us:

I remember when we used to sit,
In the government yard in Trenchtown,
Observing the hypocrites,
As they would mingle with the good people we meet.
Good friends we have, good friends we’ve lost,
Along the way.
In this great future, you can’t forget your past,
So dry your tears, I say.


The two verses that follow hereafter express a greater sense of social interaction and slightly less political directness, but with or without an element of the political, the general message holds strong all the same. The struggles and troubles of the past, as painful as they may be, cannot be forgotten, but they can be overcome. So, you know, dry your tears.

As I said before Bob Marley was a man of peace and despite the cool embrace of sadness in “No Woman No Cry” there is an overwhelming positive message within. It is not just in the repetition in where Marley flatly states “everything’s going to be alright,” but also in every verse. For in every verse there is this constant remembrance of community; the good people we meet; the making of fire lights; the cooking of cornmeal porridge and the sharing thereof. It is a beautiful sentiment, that together, with cooperation and friendship the only natural outcome is a great future. It is both incredibly uplifting and optimistic. I expect no less from the greatest icon of the most chill music genre ever.

I have always connected with one specific line for completely personal reasons, and it is kind of funny that it has stuck to me for so many years:

My feet is my only carriage,
So I’ve got to push on through.

For me, this has been literally true for most of my life. Admittedly this is a strange line to single out and identify as a personally meaningful but it stuck with me. I mentioned in the last review, Iggy Pop’s “The Passenger” how it has taken a frustratingly long time to acquire a driver’s licence, which in the continent of North America is effectively a death sentence to personal transportation, you see sometimes these reviews have a theme, and sometimes that theme is something as tangential as I have walk around too much. On the upside, my legs are strong and I am ready to run a half marathon next week.

Many a marijuana evening I would sit there pondering if Bob Marley had to walk around Kingston as much I have had to walk around Calgary. I wondered if he too was too gooned to drive, or if he was too poor to afford a car and that he and I had this in common. These are important questions, well, at least to me. I mean we both had to push on through, then again mind you, we all do.

“No Woman No Cry” really is a lovely song of humanity and hope, and the casual listening rans the risk of never learning just how beautiful it really is. Even a lukewarm fan like me cannot deny the value and love of a song like “No Woman No Cry.”

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- King of Braves

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Iggy Pop - The Passenger



Iggy Pop has had a long career. Despite his many albums, songs and tours, Iggy is best known for his early works, both with The Stooges, but also his first few solo albums.

When people think of Iggy Pop most of them probably think of “Lust for Life,” Iggy’s biggest hit song, and what a fantastic song it is. Not only is “Lust for Life” most likely Iggy’s catchiest song, and therefore the best suited for radio play, but in some regards it captures a vital aspect of Iggy’s personality and life, for he indeed had a lust for life. Iggy was a hugely influential rock star who heavily indulged in drugs and partying, truly a man who lusted for life.

After “Lust for Life” the song most people think of is “The Passenger” and both of these songs are from Iggy Pop’s second solo album titled “Lust for Life.” It is a hell of an album “Lust for Life,” and part of that might have something to do with David Bowie. In 1977 Bowie was in Berlin working on his trilogy of albums, “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger.” While there he spent a meaningful amount of time working, and producing albums, with his friend Iggy Pop. The result of this collaboration was Iggy Pop’s first two solo albums “The Idiot” and the afore mentioned “Lust for Life.” Notably the song “China Girl” off of “The Idiot” was later performed by Bowie on his 1983 album “Let’s Dance.”

When punk rockers think of Iggy Pop they are probably more inclined to think of Iggy Pop’s earliest work with The Stooges, and probably most notably the highly important and insanely impressive album “Raw Power” which can rightly be contributed as one of the earliest pioneer works of the punk rock genre.

Despite having been around for so long and having made so many albums and written so many songs, it is interesting that the bulk of Iggy Pop’s work is known primarily just as the “Lust for Life” album and those hit songs that came from it. His work is a deeper well that is worth drinking from, but today I will focus on one of those two hit songs, because it is a song of deeper meaning than initial inspection revealed to me and indeed most.

When I think of Iggy Pop, I often think of drugs. Now could I not? Iggy Pop spent a very unhealthy amount of time on a drug induced rampage, getting himself arrested and disrupting his own concerts. It is fun, and even funny, looking back on some of his more deranged antics, but when observed all at once it is really rather frightening what Iggy put himself through. Iggy Pop is something of akin to The Door’s Jim Morrison, in just how far out of control he was, but a key difference is that somehow Iggy Pop survived and is still alive to this day. Iggy even released a new album recently “Post Pop Depression” which I have been listening to on youtube and it is pretty good.

“The Passenger” is the song I have always held as Iggy’s most enjoyable, or at least, the song that rang in my ear the longest. I felt a unique connection to “The Passenger” because I had a unique take on it. In a very literally sense I was a passenger in life. Due to a combination of factors, it took me a frustrating long time to acquire my driver’s licence, and living in a country like Canada, and a city like Calgary, where the population density is extremely sparse and mass transit being largely non-existent, getting around was extremely difficult, and thus I had to rely on the kindness of friends to drive me, thus I was in a constant position of passenger. There was one upside to this, I was never the designated driver, and thus spent many evenings gooned in the passenger seat being driven around.

Which brings me back to Iggy Pop’s drug habit.

I had always casually assumed that Iggy Pop, like myself, was too gooned to drive and thus found himself in the passenger seat seeing the world through the passenger side window, dazed and confused, but safe and more or less happy. This explanation made sense, Iggy Pop was a drug fiend and presumably could not, or at least should not, have been driving for most of his rock and roll career. How simple of an explanation, how simple an interpretation, naturally it is not the true message.

As time passed and lyrics were listened to more and more, and I learned more about the icon Iggy Pop, I knew “The Passenger” had more to it than a simple observation of being escorted about while intoxicated. I later learned that the song was written while Iggy Pop was riding the S Bahn in Berlin, and this connected with me because I have been to Berlin and I got around exclusively using the S Bahn. Still there was something more going on in these words in this song, it was much less to do with the literal act of travelling, and so much more to do with being led.

“The Passenger” is truly about not being in control. We can link this to alcohol and drugs and having handicapped facilities and thus no longer being in control, but as I said before, this is deeper than that. “The Passenger” is about not being in control of your own life.

There are so many variables in the world, so many factors and consideration raining upon us at all times, and they are in a constant state of flux, often times the sheer volume and unpredictability of life is so overwhelming that everything feels like chaos. There is no solution to this stress, or feeling of being powerless, we simple must soldier on, make the best of what we have, and manage as best we can with what we can control. We can let go, and let the current of the river take us. We can be a passenger and watch the world from under glass and believe that everything was made for us. Try our best to stay strong and calm.

This too connects with me, and I suspect virtually everyone who has ever lived.

In a fever dream, not long ago I came to realize that everything I had control over in my life was extremely well managed, it was only the elements where others possessed influence over me that were seriously harming and hurting me. As frustrating as all this is, it made me in no way unique, we are all passengers unable to take perfect control of our lives. Sometimes we can only go where the S Bahn takes us. Sometimes all we can is ride, and ride and ride.

“Lust for Life” expresses a strong element of Iggy Pop’s personality and life, and equally so does “The Passenger,” for this life is no less, and in fact probably more so at the time of writing this song, chaotic, and he was surely both literally and symbolically a passenger. So, we all are too.

- King of Dreams