Saturday, February 14, 2009

Somebody's Son

Not everything can be autobiographical. It's always a balance between fiction and feeling. I always say that writing is the process of telling the truth by lying about it. Every so often though there is a good solid personal experience that makes a compelling story.

My elder son had been hospitalized with pancreatitis. Not sure how he got it, but it was painful and disconcerting, and he had to be in the hospital for four days. At first he was fed with an IV drip and couldn't eat food. After a couple of days his spirit came back, and there was never any real danger -- just that feeling of not being able to control what was happening.

A few months later, my two sons and I were in the University of Pennsylvania Museum, and they were too young to really appreciate of the smaller or unflashy elements of the exhibits. While going through we found the mummified body of a boy who had been killed in a volcanic eruption, his body preserved. I had that flash of inspiration, on the one hand I was so worried about my boys getting hurt, and here was an example of what we will all be in a few thousand years time -- if we're lucky. This boy we were staring at, he was somebody's son when he was alive, with parents who worried about him as well.

From the above came a lyric, and since I was listening to Paul Simon's "Surprise" at the time, it was written in that style. Recently a musician named Billy Playle found it on Musicians Collaboration and wanted to work on it. He got the "Paul Simon" feel right away, but it took several tries to get the verses right, and more work to get the bridge feeling "different" --- the bridge being the flashback to the hospital.

It's a very personal lyric and one that I've wanted to hear for some time, and I'm grateful to Billy for making it happen. I hope you enjoy listening to "Somebody's Son"

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