Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Working Woman's Lament

Category: 50 Songs to Hear

SONG: Millworker
ARTIST: James Taylor
SONGWRITER: James Taylor
YEAR/LABEL: 1979; Columbia

I'm not sure I can put myself in their place. I'm sure there's a millworker somewhere who's closely approximated that song.
(James Taylor)

Songs about occupations are nothing new. Likewise, songs performed from a woman's perspective by a man are not uncommon. In 1979, James Taylor put the two together to create one of his greatest tunes, "Millworker."

The song is far from just a lament of an underpaid, overworked woman. The unnamed protagonist in this song is not only dealing with her work, which is described as "nothing but an awful boring job," but also the plight of a single mother. It is difficult to tell who the woman in Taylor's narrative hates more -- her late husband who "dies from too much whiskey and leaves me these three faces to feed" and apparently his job (he is described as a "no-good millworking man") or the job that wastes her life because she "lets this manufacturer use my body for a tool."

Solace is found in the coffee break and memories of the woman's happier childhood where she lived on a farm with a smiling father and a grandfather who told tales of his days sailing on the Great Lakes. But it's soon back to work: "it's me and my machine for the rest of the morning, for the rest of the afternoon, for the rest of my life."

Songs like "Millworker" show exactly why James Taylor was one of the most respected singer/songwriters of the 1970s.


"Terra Nova" (from JT) -- an absolutely gorgeous song from one of Taylor's biggest albums. Taylor's then-wife Carly Simon joins in the call-and-response at the conclusion.

"I Will Not Lie for You" (from Flag) -- a man who has taken about all he can after covering up for a philandering friend because she now has her sights set on him.

"Her Town Too" (with J.D. Souther, from Dad Loves His Work) -- a melancholy song about Taylor's divorce from Carly Simon ("she gets the house and the garden, he gets the boys in the band"). J.D. Souther's voice compliments the heartache Taylor poured out in this hit.

"Knockin' 'Round the Zoo" (from James Taylor and the Original Flying Machine) -- this song sounds as though it was recorded in a bar after the participants tried to consume all the product in the bar. A reminder that people -- even a "sensitive singer/songwriter" like Taylor -- shouldn't take things too seriously.

A Little Bitty Heart
Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs
Life is Too Short
I Want a Home in Dixie
I Lost Today
Down to the River to Pray
Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyeballs
A Death in the Family
Dark as a Dungeon
Bottomless Well

Long Way Home
Heart of Rome
Harriet Tubman's Gonna Carry Me Home
Entella Hotel
Desperados Under the Eaves
Crossing Muddy Waters
Cliffs of Dooneen
Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Baby Mine

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Prayers for Amy Mickelson and a Brain Transplant for ESPN

Category: News/Rant

Golfer Phil Mickelson's wife, Amy, has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The press release gives no information on how early or advanced it may be, just saying that she will most likely undergo "major surgery" in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, ESPN reporters, in their usual stupidity, posed a question about how Amy's illness would affect Tiger Woods.

C'mon, guys, a woman has cancer! Can't you leave Tiger Woods out of it for a moment and focus on PHIL AND AMY?!

My prayers for recovery for Amy and for support for Phil and their three children during this very difficult time.

And I also hope and pray the reporters at ESPN can find some tact, if not a brain.