Years ago, a friend and I got over our strange addiction to the movie The Rules of Attraction by acquiring a new drug, by becoming obsessed if only briefly with the movie Napoleon Dynamite, a wan and delicate movie whose humor still gets me to this day and whose repeatability (for me) has been bested only by that greatest comedy of the modern era, Office Space. Part of what I liked about the movie was the use of music in the prom scene where a few of the corniest songs seem almost profound.
But the song that got me the most was “The Promise” by When in Rome
I actually disliked this song at first because I thought it was Phish and I actively hated anything Phish-related when I first heard this over a decade ago. I’ve softened my stance somewhat since, but I digress. This was my first exposure to the bluegrass cover of a non- bluegrass song and to this day, I pay the extra quarter at my dive bar to play this song on the juke box. Snoop ain’t no Biggy, but he can compose some feel good rhymes.
As a result of our biggest show of the year last week with the amazing Something With Strings, I’ve been on a bluegrass kick of epic proportions. I’ve alienated co-workers, scared my dog, and thoroughly driven my roommate crazy and it feels great. At one point in my life, probably right after my Dead kick in college, I listened to the music hard as Old Crow Medicine Show and other bands of their ilk became more prevalent. This is long before Mumford, the Lumineers, and what I generally think of as the “Bluegrass Lite” era we now are at the tail-end of living. My first favorite bluegrass group was obviously Old and in the Way which featured Jerry “Dawg” Garcia on banjo and specifically, their cover of “Wild Horses” which brings it all back together for the topic of this post.
My students played this song a lot, especially while we played basketball. It was one of the few I really liked that they played and I can’t stop thinking about how they will turn out next year. Lastly, when the one student refused to jump out of a tree while we were at a ropes course the second to last week of school, I totally yelled up “Fly solo Dude!” Ultimately, I also had to jump out of the tree to set an example and the video displayed me looking like a fish on a hook, but I got my point across.
School is out and I am back in the city landscaping. I keep cruising the channels of my FM radio to find this song but it is never on. I finally Googled the lyrics and really saw how much the kids actually identified with this song because of them. It seems to be mostly about a failed relationships but, like any good song, it could mean whatever you want. Wiz is one of the few rappers who has a truly unique voice in today’s hip hop and seems to be a generally good guy beyond the whole constant references to his rampant marijuana use. He was an Army Rat kid who moved a lot so didn’t have a lot of friends, like my students, and then really made his way in the city of Pittsburgh. I digress. The song above hits me.