Day 1 of my (own twist to the) Three Day Lyric Challenge.
A song my father introduced me to is a song by Leo Kottke about a lady called Louise. Small town gossip said that “she’d act the little girl” but that in reality she was “a deceiver” and that we shouldn’t believe her, because “that’s her trade”.
The song describes how Louise received gifts from men, whose “intentions were easily traced”, insinuating that she was either stunningly beautiful and would lead men on with her appearance, or that perhaps she was even a prostitute who inadvertently had some male “fans”.
Halfway through the song Kottke describes how people thought it “kind of sad” when Louise was found dead in her room. The song paints a picture of a lonely and misunderstood woman who ended up taking her own life.
Kottke bids her farewell at the end of the song with the words “the wind is blowing cold tonight. So goodnight, Louise, goodnight”.
Leo Kottke’s guitar intermezzo is mesmerizing on its own, but with the lyrics he really tells a tragic micro-history. I am not sure when I really started to see the whole image but when I did, I really felt for Louise.
A second song has recently entered my life that has a similar effect on me. After having given it some thought I realized that it is actually the same story, but this time from Louise’ point of view.
The first time I heard the song it stopped me dead in my tracks and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This had to do with the singers vocal range and the pain he put into the song. It was only later that I learned that it is actually a cover of a Nina Simone song, called “When I was a young girl”.
The song, in the version of Marlon Williams, is over six minutes long and can be summed up by the last 4 lines (which he manages to spread out over two heart-wrenching minutes)
When I was a young girl I used to seek pleasure
When I was a young girl I used to drink ale
Out of the ale house and into the jail house
Right out of the bar room down to my doom
Be sure to listen to Nina Simone’s version too, which is beautiful as well (but less haunting).
Whoever this young girl is, all I can say is: I am sorry the world wasn’t kinder to you. Good night, sweet girl, good night.