Monday, February 27, 2006

"A Child Like....

...Grace", a song on Michelle Shocked's 1996 release, "Kind Hearted Woman", is a tearjerker imperial.

What is heartbreak? has this pithy listing:
"intense sorrow caused by the loss of a loved one (especially by death)".
Let me add a subjective top-down list of heartbreaks. I'm leaving out Theological Heartbreak here, not completely comfortable going down that thorny path. This list is obviously completely subjective, hopefully reflecting the thoughts of a sane person. The last item on the list is the cause for the heaviest heartbreak.
1) Death of Self (Let's face it, when you're gone you won't be around to be brooding over yourself. And that's a good thing, is it not? Finally getting away form all of that self-involvement.)
2) A Death of a child you do not know but of whom you read/hear/see on some instrument of media.
3) A Death of a relative. (There's blood involved, so there's obligatory heartbreak)
4) Broken relationship, but no death. (A scar on the heart but (usually) not a constant stab like the next 4)
5) A Death of a close relative. (Usually a grandparent or cousin, a piece of your heart)
6) Your best friend's death (May be a relative as well)
7) Death of a Parent (Sorry Mom! I loves ya but the next choice trumps you)
8) Death of Spouse (or Partner) (Honey, I think it was somewehre in the vows along with the "obey"s and the "you betcha"s
9) (I cringe and shake just writing this down) Death of your Child

Ms. Shocked takes on # 9 with this song.

I wish you could've seen her face
How bright that sunflower shone!
With a child like Grace running all around this place
It should be said, "my, how you've grown..."

She was only three when she taught herself to read
"I do not like them, Sam I Am"

Listen to this song and I'll bet you next time you read "Green Eggs and Ham", your voice will catch at "I do not..."

She will grace our lives no more
She was only four
She died before she was five
Now it's a grave mistake
God in his wisdom makes
What does he care?
He fashioned us from clay

Lay me down in a bed of sunflowers
Overgrown and wild
I've survived my own child

...and that is life's cruelest heartbreak, making it through the balance of your life without your child(ren).

Michelle Shocked has an expressive voice, one able to take you in with a story, crossing back and forth over emotional lines. You laugh, you cringe, you cry, and then you get angry. Angry through a veil of tears, that is.

And then you realize how good (and how cold-blooded) Ms. Shocked is.
Surely she must have gone through this herself, or perhaps had a close friend who had gone through this extremity of pain!
It was all invented, all a writing exercise. Her ex-husband, veteran music journalist Bart Bull, encouraged her to write not only from experience but from imagination. And so she has, quite convincingly. (Note to Self: These women from Texas are demonically cruel; treating your heart like a rugby ball. CP, you're not included in this note to self, of course!)
From an interview in thePhildelphia City Paper, she answered,
"Q:Where do you get the ideas for your sorrowful narratives?

MS: For the most part I pull them out of thin air or "out of my ass," as my (ex-)husband, Bart Bull, would say. He's a novelist and journalist and he taught me an important lesson of fiction writing: you can name your characters and give them a setting, but you've got to listen to them tell their own stories. It's often just a matter of creating a character that resonates with my own.

Q: What's your favorite song on Kind Hearted Woman?

MS: "A Child Like Grace." I like its play on the notion that in order to return to the kingdom of heaven, you must find a childlike grace. I took that concept and then told a story about a parent who is burying her child."

So, a surprise at the end. Though maybe it's not a surprise for a woman born Karen Michelle Johnston who took on the last name "Shocked" after her release from a mental insitution. She was committed there by her mother against her will. "After 30 days, the insurance money ran out,"she said,"so I was 'cured' and they released me." She did remember her shock therapies, however, and they linger on in her name.

"Linger" is an appropriate word to end this choice of song. A Child Like Grace" is a perpetual lingerer up there in the cobwebs.

(This is #5 of Ten Heartbreakers as memed by Whisky Prajer)

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Ahh, yes, this one is good!

The heartbreaking song about loss of a child cannot be more aching, though, (IMHO)than Eric Clapton's memorial to his son, "Tears in Heaven".
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