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#1073936 - 02/11/15 10:54 PM "Elephant"......best song this decade?  
Joined: Jul 2009
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Michael W. Brown Offline
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Michael W. Brown  Offline
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Gun Barrel City, Texas
For my money, this song has touched me deeper than any other in the past 10 years. IMO, this is what we all strive to write. I feel this song is as close to perfection as one can come as far as the marriage of song and story and lyric. (Link to song and lyrics below.)
If you don't know who Jason Isbell is may I suggest a listen to "Southeastern."

I've included an article by David Patterson who breaks down the song that many say is a "masterclass in songwriting."



Jason Isbell’s “Elephant” is the Best Song of 2013
January 31, 2014 ~ david r patterson

“She said, ‘Andy, you’re better than your past’ / Winked at me and drained her glass / Cross-legged on the barstool like nobody sits anymore.”

In these opening lines, Jason Isbell culls his listener with the vivid imagery, authentic voice, and sexual tension that spills from the edges of “Elephant.” The words reach out of the speakers and clutch your throat, threatening to crush your layrnx. So you listen as if your life depends upon it.

“Elephant” is honest songwriting that isn’t handed out often these days, or any days for that matter — a prescription to medicate the narcissistic anthems that abound.

Isbell continues, “She said, ‘Andy, you’re taking me home’ / But I knew she planned to sleep alone / I’d carry her to bed and sweep up the hair from the floor.” God, the tenderness of sweeping up the hair of the cancer patient Andy wishes to sleep along side. I feel the song give a sharp squeeze to my throat. What’s beautiful about these lines is that Isbell doesn’t fall into the melodramatic; rather, he lets his details show us the complex emotions Andy is feeling. All songwriters take note of the nuance.

Here’s the kicker: “If I had fucked her before she got sick / I’d never hear the end of it / She don’t have the spirit for that now.” It’s the aching desire of all great writing wrapped up into twenty-four words — it’s the human condition, the wanting of what we can’t have. The use of the pejorative here adds to the raw energy of this song. It’s not a song about the easy emotions of love; it’s a song about death and loss and fucking. It’s an open wound.

“Elephant” also doesn’t commit the sin of being an earnest song about someone dying of cancer. The song contains humor. The dying woman gets drunk and makes cancer jokes with her “sharecropper eyes and her hair almost gone.” Isbell hits all the emotional notes available to him in this story. We laugh despite our tears.

As the song continues, Andy and this woman sing country songs and smoke dope. Isbell writes, “We’d burn these joints in effigy / Cry about what used to be / And try to ignore the elephant somehow.” Isbell elevates the act of smoking to a grand gesture of protest against their impending injustice.

In the narrator’s final epiphany, he wails, “There’s one thing that’s real clear to me / No one dies with dignity / We just try to ignore the elephant somehow.” Those lines are chilling and appropriate for this narrator. He goes through this experience and understands that life will [naughty word removed] you up and won’t even allow you a proper goodbye.

“Elephant” is a song about cancer and drinking and smoking and singing country songs, but Isbell hoists it to greatness. It’s a song about being human, with all the pain and ecstasy that entails. It holds you by the throat with a whisper. It’s a song too honest for the Grammy’s, but for my money, it’s the best song written in 2013.

(Now listen.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHJhyrrUTgc

She said Andy you're better than your past,
winked at me and drained her glass,
cross-legged on the bar stool, like nobody sits anymore.
She said Andy you're taking me home,
but I knew she planned to sleep alone.
I'd carry her to bed and sweep up the hair from the floor

If I had fucked her before she got sick
I'd never hear the end of it
she don't have the spirit for that now

We drink these drinks and laugh out loud,
bitch about the weekend crowd,
and try to ignore the elephant somehow
somehow

She said Andy you crack me up,
Seagrams in a coffee cup,
sharecropper eyes and her hair almost all gone.
When she was drunk she made cancer jokes,
she made up her own doctor's notes,
surrounded by her family, I saw that she was dying alone.

I'd sing her classic country songs
and she'd get high and sing along.
She don't have much voice to sing with now

We'd burn these joints in effigy,
cry about what we used to be,
and try to ignore the elephant somehow.
Somehow

I buried her a thousand times,
giving up my place in line,
but I don't give a damn about that now

There's one thing that's real clear to me,
no one dies with dignity.
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow.
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow.
We just try to ignore the elephant somehow.
Somehow.
Somehow.




Related article

http://www.thesongsurvives.com/2013/06/jason-isbell-elephant/



Write on, Man,
Michael W. Brown, f.k.a. "bluesriff"

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
#1073939 - 02/11/15 11:18 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
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Barry David Butler (D) Offline
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Barry David Butler (D)  Offline
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Hey Mike....thanks a bunch for turning me on to this song and this amazing Artist. The song is a cruncher especially to me as I have cancer. I have recently written a song about Women with Breast Cancer and the men who love them.

Jason's song is way too profound for the Average guy and will Never be heard by the masses which is a Terrible Shame. Even if they take out [naughty word removed]....I don't think so. HE should be HUGE but don't think HE Fits in to The Music Scene of today. His voice is also amazing. Thanks.

#1073940 - 02/11/15 11:26 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Barry David Butler (D)]  
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Calvin Offline
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Calvin  Offline
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yes, thanks Mike, I had never heard this song before, very powerful


Calvin


http://www.soundclick.com/bands/0/calvinstewart

#1073944 - 02/12/15 12:10 AM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Calvin]  
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Michael W. Brown Offline
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Michael W. Brown  Offline
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Gun Barrel City, Texas
Barry/Cal,

It's my pleasure. Please take a moment to check out another of my JB fav's, "Decoration Day."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kwyh3zQ6vPg

I can't get enough of this guy. It's sad how they get left out of mainstream American music.

Check this one, too!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NaUCDqWzy1k

Enjoy!

Last edited by Michael W. Brown; 02/12/15 12:13 AM.

Write on, Man,
Michael W. Brown, f.k.a. "bluesriff"

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
#1073945 - 02/12/15 12:49 AM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
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Vicarn Offline
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Vicarn  Offline
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UK
I think this is perfection in a song, Michael.
I don't think it's too profound for the average guy but it may be too painful for the average guy.
I'm thankful you brought it here though.

Vic


It's never too late? Yes it is, so do it now.

If, given time, a monkey can write the complete works of Shakespeare maybe there's hope for me.

http://store.cdbaby.com/cd/vicarnold2

http://www.soundclick.com/vicarnold

http://soundcloud.com/vic-arnold

#1073949 - 02/12/15 01:47 AM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Vicarn]  
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Michael W. Brown Offline
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Michael W. Brown  Offline
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I agree!!! Check out his live double album, as well!

thanks vic!


Write on, Man,
Michael W. Brown, f.k.a. "bluesriff"

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
#1073967 - 02/12/15 11:34 AM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
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Everett Adams Online content
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Everett Adams  Online Content
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,NL Canada
It's not always the best talents that make it, many things come into play, money being one.

#1073968 - 02/12/15 11:42 AM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Everett Adams]  
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Colin Ward Offline
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Saint Petersburg. FL
Jason is doing pretty well. He played in the Drive-By Truckers before going solo. He will never be as famous as an AH like Kanye West, but has a real career.

One of my favorites of his is called Traveling Alone, done here with his wife. His songs have a definite family resemblance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uySNnupUsXc


Colin

I try to critique as if you mean business.....

http://colinwardmusic.com/

http://rosewoodcreekband.com/


#1073970 - 02/12/15 12:52 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Colin Ward]  
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Wendy D Offline
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He's famous in my world. But I'm a total "off the beaten path" kind of listener anyway. I've been a fan of Drive By Truckers for a long time but had not gotten around to listening to JI's solo stuff. I need to get this. Thanks for posting it.


http://www.reverbnation.com/wendydumond

https://soundcloud.com/#mamby-p

http://www.reverbnation.com/donsechelski

Link for Blackfoot Daisy band


You think I'm just another jive folk singer but I'm a master in the art of criminology..Tom Russell
#1073971 - 02/12/15 01:00 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Wendy D]  
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Michael LeBlanc Offline
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Michael LeBlanc  Offline
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Louisiana
yeah,great song,i also knew him in Truckers.

#1073975 - 02/12/15 02:39 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael LeBlanc]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Ray E. Strode  Online Content
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Brunswick, Ga. USA
Humm,
The Vocal is a bit shallow in the video. It could be a bit more up front. Otherwise not bad.


Ray E. Strode
#1073985 - 02/12/15 05:18 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
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MidniteBob Offline
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MidniteBob  Offline
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Raleigh, ya'll
What is this salty water running out of eyes and down my cheeks?

Thanks Mike! Let the masses keep the Top 40...Their loss...

Midnite


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1073989 - 02/12/15 06:01 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Michael W. Brown Offline
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Michael W. Brown  Offline
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Thanks Guys and gals for the follow.......Jason's music is essential listening for songwriters, IMHO.
Appreciate the comments.



Write on, Man,
Michael W. Brown, f.k.a. "bluesriff"

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
#1073990 - 02/12/15 06:20 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
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Michael W. Brown Offline
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Michael W. Brown  Offline
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Nice one, Colin.......hadn't heard his duets.

Sok Midnite, Nothin like a some Jason Isbell to clean out the soul a little, brother.

Thanks ya'll for lookin in.



Write on, Man,
Michael W. Brown, f.k.a. "bluesriff"

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
#1074010 - 02/12/15 08:04 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
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MidniteBob Offline
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MidniteBob  Offline
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Raleigh, ya'll
Originally Posted by Michael W. Brown
...

Sok Midnite, Nothin like a some Jason Isbell to clean out the soul a little, brother.
...


Amen to that Michael...And as a way of thanks, I'll pass back this link to you...Which is the last song that brought that salty water from my eyes.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uKGWpqnS8E

Yeah, Bro, thanks for introducing me to Mr. Isbell...

'Preciate it!

Midnite


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1074019 - 02/12/15 09:40 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Kevin Emmrich Offline
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Crozet, VA
Jason's pretty huge in the americana arena, he is pretty dang well known and successful. He's got a lot of great songs. I hadn't heard this one, though.


"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The 'hard' is what makes it great."
Kevin @ bandcamp: Crows Say Vee-Eh (and Kevin @50/90 2019)
#1074023 - 02/12/15 10:17 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Kevin Emmrich]  
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Michael W. Brown Offline
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Michael W. Brown  Offline
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Gun Barrel City, Texas
Absolutely Kevin,.....I'll go as far as to say his live album is one of the best live albums in a great while. I typically am not a fan of live albums....this one is well produced and, well, it's Jason!!!

Brother Bob, Never saw that cut of Jesse W. before.....wow.....I could feel the ole tug at the heart-strings on that one.
Excellent !!! ....and thanks brother!


Write on, Man,
Michael W. Brown, f.k.a. "bluesriff"

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
#1074056 - 02/13/15 01:05 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
Joined: Oct 2007
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Wendy D Offline
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Wendy D  Offline
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I know it is an artistic choice on Jason's part, but his use of the "F" bomb in the song takes away some of the impact for me. Maybe it's because my mama beat my ass with a broom for using that word in the house when I was an angry teen, but I just feel his guy could have said "If I had her before she got sick" and the song would have been better. The other choice is so crass and to be frank, I hate that he did that.

I'm not above using a few curse words in a song and I know it was a choice he made to include it, but I think it holds the song back a little. This is just my own personal take on it.

The line "surrounded by family, I saw that she was dying alone" did make me think of when my dad was dying. We were all gathered around his bed in the hospital room and suddenly wakes-up, looks up at us in a very amused and almost defiant manner and says, "Why are you all here? You must think I'm dying."

What could we say? After a long pause, I looked at him and said "Yes, that is why we're here. You are dying." To which he replied "well hell.." and went back to sleep.



http://www.reverbnation.com/wendydumond

https://soundcloud.com/#mamby-p

http://www.reverbnation.com/donsechelski

Link for Blackfoot Daisy band


You think I'm just another jive folk singer but I'm a master in the art of criminology..Tom Russell
#1074072 - 02/13/15 03:50 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Wendy D]  
Joined: Dec 2014
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Duke Sheppard Offline
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I've been an Uber-fan of Isbell's since the early days of Drive By Truckers; All of my favorite DBT songs were his. His album "Southeastern" is a masterpiece in my opinion, and I don't see how he can top it, but I'll always be a fan.

Elephant tears me up every time. If anything, I think the F bomb adds impact to the song.

What a fantastic songwriter, guitarist, and singer!

#1074091 - 02/13/15 07:57 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Duke Sheppard]  
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Michael W. Brown Offline
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Michael W. Brown  Offline
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Gun Barrel City, Texas
U said it, Duke!!!



Write on, Man,
Michael W. Brown, f.k.a. "bluesriff"

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
#1074092 - 02/13/15 08:06 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
Joined: Jul 2009
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Michael W. Brown Offline
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Michael W. Brown  Offline
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Gun Barrel City, Texas
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Wendy. At first listen, I would of had to agree with you. Before I knew the "story" behind the song, I was taken aback by the f-bomb and thought why would any one change direction like that in a song? It seemed, at the moment, incongruent with the mood that was set. After a few listens, "I got it"...now, I can't picture the song without it. IMO, he takes us through ALL the emotions he's experiencing during this difficult time and not just the obvious ones.

One must get fed up with "trying to ignore the elephant, somehow," or knowing that this girl you care for is dying.

Shocking, yes...but oh so honest!!!!



Write on, Man,
Michael W. Brown, f.k.a. "bluesriff"

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
#1074093 - 02/13/15 08:23 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Wendy D]  
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Barry David Butler (D) Offline
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Barry David Butler (D)  Offline
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Sebring, Florida USA
I'm NO Prude but I didn't like [naughty word removed] in the song either.

#1074100 - 02/13/15 09:39 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
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MidniteBob Offline
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MidniteBob  Offline
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Raleigh, ya'll
Originally Posted by Michael W. Brown
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Wendy. ..

One must get fed up with "trying to ignore the elephant, somehow," or knowing that this girl you care for is dying.

Shocking, yes...but oh so honest!!!!



This is being written on my IPhone, so I'm limmited...

Re. The F-bomb...'nough said ...

Re: Wendy( who I am the BIGGEST fan of:-) You also used the word "ass", which caused me giggle after giggle, because an "ass" is the donkey who God once spoke through to Balam(??)....

Bottom line, in regards to this song...

There is no Bottom Line...Except..."Did it move you?"

And apparently it has....:-)

Midnite

Editting to add...Now that I'm back at a computer...

Perhaps Wendy might have better phrased the body part that got the whuppin' as "butt"????...:-) :-) :-)Why bring an ASS into the equation...:-)...rewrite and rewrite and rewrite....Or just let it flow...And count our Blessings, because this is why God gave us Music...

Midnite



Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1074107 - 02/13/15 10:34 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Wendy D Offline
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Wendy D  Offline
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I was supa busy at work today & wanted to come back to this. Summarizing medical reports and bending people to my will leaves only a tiny fingernail clipping of my mind for contemplating words and art. It occurred to me that the song is more about Andy than the woman. The line "you're better than your past" made me think he left us a bread crumb. His feelings, who he was has been changed. I think the word shows how he saw her before, an object, a conquest. Admired maybe but also distant. As she becomes human to him, he becomes more human.

Shazam.

Bob-stop being a pain in my **s.


http://www.reverbnation.com/wendydumond

https://soundcloud.com/#mamby-p

http://www.reverbnation.com/donsechelski

Link for Blackfoot Daisy band


You think I'm just another jive folk singer but I'm a master in the art of criminology..Tom Russell
#1074109 - 02/13/15 10:48 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Wendy D]  
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Wendy D Offline
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Wendy D  Offline
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I should mention that Bob & me are old pals. I am not normally so rude..


http://www.reverbnation.com/wendydumond

https://soundcloud.com/#mamby-p

http://www.reverbnation.com/donsechelski

Link for Blackfoot Daisy band


You think I'm just another jive folk singer but I'm a master in the art of criminology..Tom Russell
#1074111 - 02/13/15 10:56 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Wendy D]  
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Duke Sheppard Offline
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Duke Sheppard  Offline
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Colorado
Originally Posted by Wendy D
I was supa busy at work today & wanted to come back to this. Summarizing medical reports and bending people to my will leaves only a tiny fingernail clipping of my mind for contemplating words and art. It occurred to me that the song is more about Andy than the woman. The line "you're better than your past" made me think he left us a bread crumb. His feelings, who he was has been changed. I think the word shows how he saw her before, an object, a conquest. Admired maybe but also distant. As she becomes human to him, he becomes more human.

Shazam.

Bob-stop being a pain in my **s.


Great observation. Thanks.

#1074115 - 02/13/15 11:55 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Wendy D]  
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MidniteBob Offline
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MidniteBob  Offline
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Raleigh, ya'll
Originally Posted by Wendy D
I should mention that Bob & me are old pals. I am not normally so rude..


And in response to Wendy, my next Thread was gonna be "What was the last song that inspired you to "Keep On Goin'"...And "About Memaids" was mine, but that is WAY to much Heartfelt for me to share....or perhaps, I should blackmail her with???,.. "About Mermaids"....yup, way too personal, but that's what JPFolks is about.

Midnite--Who will also answer to--Bob

Blessings....To All involved ,..:-)

Midnite


Satchel was right. Something is gaining on me.

The Shoebox & Dinner at Eight trailers available at:

http://www.twometer.com/Two_Meter_Studios/HOME.html
#1074147 - 02/14/15 11:36 AM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: MidniteBob]  
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Everett Adams Online content
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Everett Adams  Online Content
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,NL Canada
If that word was put there for shock value, it worked. It got my attention but was not necessary.

#1074163 - 02/14/15 02:10 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Everett Adams]  
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Michael W. Brown Offline
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Michael W. Brown  Offline
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Gun Barrel City, Texas
Wendy,

Awesome breakdown of the song. Although based around the main theme of Cancer, we can still receive it so differently based on our individual history, expectation, tastes, culture, experience...... still we're all over the place as far as the authors motivation, the actors, the victims and our own....and we are ALL RIGHT.

Allowing for more listeners that freedom to tap into the song more emotionally is what makes a song "successful."

"Shock value"? Hmmmm, if you have to use words to "shock," there's something missing in the music, story, lyric......

I believe it worked in this song but for reasons not yet mentioned. Personally, I feel, one, the author has a foul mouth and uses "F***" quite liberally and/or the frustration of never having sex with this object of his desire, created the outburst.

Am I right? Is Wendy? David? Bob?.....

Yes, we are....and No we are not.

That's the beauty of music. It's NEVER wrong in how it makes you feel. And WE are NEVER wrong in feeling that way!


Last edited by Michael W. Brown; 02/14/15 02:12 PM.

Write on, Man,
Michael W. Brown, f.k.a. "bluesriff"

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."
Mahatma Gandhi
#1074166 - 02/14/15 02:50 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Michael W. Brown]  
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Ray E. Strode Online content
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Ray E. Strode  Online Content
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Brunswick, Ga. USA
Humm,
After reading the lyrics more closely I can say this song is about as shallow as it gets. Nothing about it says, Best song of the Decade. Sorry!


Ray E. Strode
#1074702 - 02/21/15 12:12 AM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Ray E. Strode]  
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Duke Sheppard Offline
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Duke Sheppard  Offline
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Colorado
Originally Posted by Ray E. Strode
Humm,
After reading the lyrics more closely I can say this song is about as shallow as it gets. Nothing about it says, Best song of the Decade. Sorry!


You are either Bruce Springsteen in real life, or a troll. Maybe both. LOL

Last edited by Duke Sheppard; 02/21/15 12:13 AM.
#1074754 - 02/21/15 05:08 PM Re: "Elephant"......best song this decade? [Re: Duke Sheppard]  
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AaronAuthier Offline
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AaronAuthier  Offline
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Canada
What an amazing song that I will listen to now and then. I owe you one Michael.


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