Friday, September 5, 2008


I first came across this song several years ago. It was included on a compilation CD called "British Folk Troubadours" that Sean received as a promo when he was managing Sam the Record Man on Barrington street, and which he thoughtfully passed on to me. This version was recorded by Martin Simpson, but the song was written by a woman called Ann Lister, who I know nothing at all about. (I'd love to know something about her!) I played it for everyone I could, and their responses were always along the lines of, "Yeah, it's nice." I could not for the life of me understand why it wasn't blowing their minds. It is like how I was always stunned to learn that I could still register for classes called things like "Critical Theory" and "Feminism and Composition" at such a late date. Doesn't everyone dig this stuff? I never really think I'm that weird until I find out that I am.

The only other version I've heard was performed by Garnet Rogers when he played at Ginger's probably about a year ago. After the show I enthused about how thrilling it was to have heard him play that song live, explaining how no one I knew seemed to know anything about it, and how it was one of my favourite songs in the world. Then I told him how I also loved it that he played a Greg Brown cover, and I didn't say a word about his own stuff which was, you know, alright, but nothing to write home about. Garnet Rogers has a reputation for being kind of a jerk, but he was absolutely kind and forthcoming when I spoke to him after the show, despite my dis-by-omission.

It's kind of funny that a song about the purest, truest kind of love that one can have for another human being is one that reminds me so much of my own singularity and isolation. A carrier of heavy wings is way more than anyone should ever expect.

Oh, and when I said that thing about love songs a couple of entries ago, I forgot to say that almost all my favourite songs are love songs.

Icarus - Ann Lister (Martin Simpson, Garnet Rogers)
I never wanted to fly high
I was too fond of walking
And when you said you'd touch the sky
I thought it was your way of talking
And then you said you'd build some wings
And find out how it could be done
But I was doubtful of everything
I never thought you'd reach the sun
You were so clever with your hands
I'd watch you for hours
With the glue and the rubber bands
Feathers and lace and flowers
And the finished wings they glowed so bright
Like some bird of glory
I began to envy you your flight
Like some old hero's story
You tried to get me to go with you
You tried always to dare me
But I looked at the sky so blue
I thought the height would scare me
But I carried your wings for you
Up the path to the cliff face
Kissed you goodbye and watched your eyes
Already bright with sunlight
Oh it was grand at the start
To watch you soaring higher
There was a pain deep in my heart
The wings seemed tipped with fire
Like a seagull or a lark
Rising up forever
Like some ember or some spark
Rising from earth to heaven
Then I believed you'd touch the sun
I believed all you told me
Do a thing no man has ever done
You'd touch the stars to please me
But then I saw the white wings fail
Then I saw the feathers falter
Watched you drop like a bowl of gold
Into the wide green water
Now some are born to fly high
And some are born to follow
Some are born to touch the sky
While some walk in the hollow
And as I watched your body fall
I knew that really you had won
For your grave was not the earth
But the reflection of the sun

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