Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Save the Country

Sunday I got it in my head to listen to a bunch of Laura Nyro, one of my favorite singer-songwriters. I loaded up my iPod and have been reliving her songs. Well it turns out yesterday would have been her 63rd birthday; sadly she passed on in 1997. My favorite Laura Nyro song, and there are very many Laura Nyro songs I love, is "Save the Country."

Come on, people
Come on, children
Come on down to the Glory River
Gonna wash you up
And wash you down
Gonna lay the devil down
Gonna lay that devil down

Come on, people
Come on, children
There's a king at the Glory River
And the precious king
He loved the people to sing
Babes in the blinkin' sun
Sang "We Shall Overcome"

I got fury in my soul
Fury's gonna take me to the glory goal
In my mind
I can't study war no more
Save the people
Save the children
Save the country, now

She recorded it many times; among my favorite versions is the live acoustic/vocal harmony version on the CD anthology released just before her passing; it's also been covered beautifully by many other musicians. It's such a simple statement, a sort of reworking of the old spiritual "Study War No More," and despite its late-1960s vintage, it's lost none of its evocative power. With its gospel allusions and oblique reference to Martin Luther King Jr it transcends utopian naivete, saying to me, anyway, that we can do this... if we want to.

It resonates to me now as I read an article in the paper about how the country's two unjust foreign wars are registering near zero in importance to voters in the upcoming elections. Americans are so shut off from these events it's as if we have trained ourselves not to gaze upon the horror, hoping it will go away if we don't pay attention to it. Movies about the wars go made but unseen, photos of the fighting and the dead on all sides go unprinted. I notice on the radio now it is always reported of casualties in Afghanistan that "NATO soldiers" rather than "American soldiers" have been killed in Taliban attacks, knowing that nobody will care. Except the families of the dead American "NATO soldiers," perhaps. Nevermind the total American denial of the value of Afghan or Iraqi life.

There's no election choices we can make coming up that will end these wars, that will end war. That should give us all pause. There's a lot of fury in the American soul, most of it misdirected and misguided. How much longer can Americans waste their fury on the ridiculous objects of Fox News' or even MSNBC's and ComedyCentral's contempt? So much wrong in this country and people are up in arms over government spending? There is so much to overcome.

Thanks Laura Nyro for your love and wisdom: In my mind I can't study war no more


  1. I feel like the Afghanistan war, at first, was pretty reasonable. What is your take on it?

    Also, I feel like Jon Stewart is a pretty reasonable guy. What 'objects of hatred' might you refer to from him?

  2. thanks for the reminder about her life and work. i too love her music, and feel 'new york tendaberry' helped me survive my teenage years in the 1970s. will now go play this great album and revel the magic that is laura nyro.

  3. I like Jon Stewart. He's funny, and usually gets it right. But I have this nagging feeling that the liberals like him are the yin to FoxNews' yang, and not in the good sense of balance, but in the vampiric sense of feeding off each other and perpetuating the whole mess. So when FoxNews sets the tone about what is important to discuss--like an unimportant Muslim community center in downtown NYC, the liberal response is all out of balance. Of course I respond to them also, but so often I find the issues they bring up in the first place surprising. Do you wanna argue about whether Obama is a real American, or a Muslim....or whether there is a better alternative to what he's doing. Does that make sense?

  4. New York tendaberry is a great record, Michael! So....theatrical.

    I think my favorite album of hers is Smile.

  5. I loved Eli & the 13th Confession.
    Very strong record. She's terribly
    under-rated. I'm not sure why, though
    stage fright might have had something
    to do with it. Always appreciated how
    she sang from the heart. You could usually recognize her songwriting style too.