19 December 2009

Closing doors?

I’ve been listening compulsively to Anne Hills 1998 album Bittersweet Dreams. I get the concept.

It’s the last cut particularly of which I would like to speak here. Anne closes this bittersweet album with Eric Anderson’s “Close the Door Lightly,” a song from the mid-1960s, from a vinyl album I own, by a performer I actually met walking the streets of Greenwich Village and whose shows I attended at the Gaslight Café. I was sixteen or seventeen then, and I wanted very much to be a beatnik, but I became a hippie.

I have always loved that song—have two versions of Eric Anderson singing it—but am finding her version heartbreakingly beautiful and sad. Heartbreaking, yes, in a literal sense of the word; every time I listen to her, I feel a slight tear in my heart (an interesting homonym here—it looks and refers both to a ripping and a leaking, to destructive and lachrymal action.). What is bittersweet here is the idea that there will be a leaving, and there is a bitterness as there must be to leavings such as this: “close the door, turn around, don’t whisper out my name, for like a breeze, it’ll burn a dying flame . . .” But there is a sweetness to the leaving as well: it has been a relationship not unpleasant, and it is a quiet door closing that should occur.

At that historical moment, there were other songs with similar sentiment: Don’t think twice, it’s alright, and It was the last thing on my mind. There was movement in the air, but it came at a price. I accepted the movement, but I wonder if it were possible to ever know the price.

Later, Dylan would sing You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go. Oh, things were lovely now, I think, but there was going to be a leaving, and that was not going to be an easy time, though it was inevitable.

I’m oversimplifying, as I must. It’s a protective strategy. “Who was the one who stole your time, and who was the one who stole your mind, And who was the one who made you feel unkind, so fare thee well sweet love of mine.” A sad, bittersweet ownership.


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