Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" /
Simon and Garfunkel

It's my brother Holt's birthday -- as Facebook so helpfully reminded me, first thing this morning. (As if I needed reminding.)

What Facebook doesn't seem to know is that my brother Holt passed away over two years ago. "Wish him a happy birthday," the auto-generated message chirpily instructs me. Which, alas, I can't do anymore.  But I can think good thoughts about him. I think good thoughts about this guy most every day, but today, I'll indulge in a few extra.

Like wondering what his take might be on this year's campaign madness.  (I'm guessing, "Trump bad, Bernie good, Hillary really pretty good when all is considered.") I know Holt would've loved seeing Al Franken and Sarah Silverman take the podium last night. And I'm guessing he, like me, might've winced at seeing our mutual musical hero Paul Simon embarrass himself by trying to sing "Bridge Over Troubled Water" on the convention hall stage. Personally, I think the guy did a creditable job; this is one damn hard song to sing. But set that aside: It's a song whose message needs to be heard, over and over, so kudos to Mr. Simon for sucking it up and laying the thing out there.

And in tribute to my brother, and to Mr. Paul Simon, a few thoughts about another track on the Bridge Over Troubled Water album.

Bridge Over Troubled Water was their last album, and just about every song on it alluded to their impending break-up . . . or so I now realize. Then, not so much. I thought this was a song about an architect. And yeah, if I thought about it that was kinda odd, but what did I know?

But as a farewell song, it's a beauty. It's so tender, so wistful, and just uptempo enough that you know not to despair; they're gonna be okay. That samba beat -- god, how I love a good samba -- soothes and smooths everything out.

Art (of course) is singing, at his most angelic. That lagging syncopation -- "So / long / Frank Lloyd Wright / I can't believe your song is gone so soon." He's still a little dazed by the news, isn't he? (Me too.) "I barely learned the tune / So soon / So soon..."  What I love about this song is how it sets up Wright as a visionary, WAY ahead of his time (as he was), with the rest of us just scrambling to follow. And now WE ARE LOST, with our beacon snuffed out.

Now, Simon wrote this song but Garfunkel sang it, and I'm not about to get lost in the maze of who was the visionary and who was the acolyte. I prefer to think of it as an Escher print with endless echoes and doubling-backs and leave it at that.

The verse that really comes home for me is the next one: "So long / Frank Lloyd Wright / All of the nights we'd harmonize till dawn / I never laughed so long / So long / So long." (That "so long / so long" never fails to delight.) Then I think of all the late nights my brother and I spent talking, laughing, jumping from subject to subject with lightning flashes of irrelevant relevance ... forty, fifty, sixty years of that?  Where am I ever going to find that again?

"Architects may come and / Architects may go and / Never change your point of view," Art gently remarks in the bridge. The implied message? People who change your point of view are the only people worth messing with. Amen.

Is this song about Frank Lloyd Wright?  Not necessarily. It's about another short genius ( Paul Simon) but also about his soon-to-be-ex partner Garfunkel, a math genius in a potentially architectural way. And if you're a fan of mirrors within mirrors -- Simon wrote this song for Garfunkel to sing, knowing that those soaring high notes could only really and truly be sung by that God-given voice. As the DNC performance Monday night wincingly brought home.

And "when I run dry / I stop awhile and think of you"?  That's a prescription for getting through this season of love and loss. Because the thought of my brother still refuels my tanks, and will for a long time. Forever, most likely.


judith said...

So touching ... I had many a night of good conversation and laughter with Holt. He was certainly one of a kind.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, your love and loss on his birthday.


Beth Greene Thompson said...

Beautiful, Holly. We've had a lot of losses in the past year but not yet of a sibling. There is no relationship like that. And as you remind me, we might "find strength in what remains behind". Wordsworth felt sorry for himself, I think, but you are balanced and mature to be able to find consolation, not desolation, in the thought of the beloved. I remain very, very sorry for your loss.