The Magnificent Return of Lane Tietgen, Part II

[Part I sits just below this post.]

In the late 1960s and early 1970s there was a lot of talk about the singer/songwriters being the real poets of the time. They were said to be taking poetry back to its oral roots. When I was a teenager, I was obsessed with this idea. I loved books and I loved songs, and I longed to be a member of the noble fraternity of poet/singer/songwriters. Much of my new book, Street Song, is about this. I don’t think the “singer/songwriter as poet” idea has held up very well. Not that it’s inherently flawed, but show business destroyed it by seducing its practitioners and turning them into rich entertainers.

But this isn’t the case with Tietgen. While currently he doesn’t make his living playing and writing music, he never quit working on his art. And it sounds to me as though he has remained true to the original idea. The music consists of the usual American blend of folk, rock, and blues with touches of jazz, reggae, Motown, and so on. I say “usual” in regard to the form, not as a comment on the quality. The quality of the music is consistently first rate and the lyrics are fresh, original, and involving. He wrote a song that, if it had been described to me, might have made me cringe. Entitled “Some Call It Evil,” it’s about GMO, and it’s fantastic.

As I say, the high point of the album for me is “Raindrops on the Page.” The first time I heard it, it sounded like a happy-go-lucky, good-time type tune. (I thought it sounded something like the Beatles doing their version of Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 and #35” with Rick Danko of The Band guesting on lead vocals.) But as I grew more familiar with the song, that happy-go-lucky quality began to feel more like triumph, which was odd once I began to understand the story the song told. It’s about great loss and deep disappointment. It’s fascinating how the music affects the lyrics. I guess you could say it’s about the glory of accepting that which is bitterly difficult to accept. I won’t say too much about the song’s internal workings. There is, after all, the joy of discovery, and I hope people reading this will have the opportunity to hear the CD for themselves. (It’s not currently available in the marketplace. If there is any interest and it does become available, I’ll let you know.) What I will say is that the song is honest in the way of all true poetry. A lot of people nowadays think that honesty is just having the balls to repeat whatever bullshit pops into your head. The more outrageous, the more courageous. But that’s not deep. For depth you have to dig, and this song digs. I’ll quote one line because the point of view is higher than that of most writers today—and I mean Dylan, too.

“She’s trying to see the whole thing through the eyes of love/and not just questions that she’s asking.”
(Lane Tietgen, Shaman Music)

I don’t hear that kind of maturity in anybody’s songs today. Sometimes this song pushes me toward the brink of tears. It’s only the song’s spirit of triumph that keeps me from having to go there.

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2 Responses to “The Magnificent Return of Lane Tietgen, Part II”

  1. embee Says:

    “It’s about the glory of accepting that which is bitterly difficult to accept.” Yes. I think the triumph comes in because this is one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. It’s rejecting the fuzzy warmth of make-believe for truth–which at first can seem cold. But there’s health in truth, and a fine clear light.

  2. Steve Berman, Songmakers President Says:

    I drove from LA to Sebastopol for a reunion of my 70s commune and happened across Lane and Terry regaling a pub audience that (insanely) seemed more interested in chatting each other up. It must be rough to be a relatively unknown musical genius, but the CD Lane gifted me is the kind that could win over a continent a decade from now – ala “Sugarman” – and as long as there are copies around, I will hope for that outcome. I sang “Sweet Alchemy” to my wife for Valentines Day. If Lane ever plays in the Southland, somebody please let me know!

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