The child of bona fide hippies (Woodstock, Kent State, long hair and love beads), I grew up in houses full of music. Always, from somewhere in or out of doors, music streamed, subtly shaping and weaving itself into every memory. My mother played guitar, singing “Leavin’ On a Jet Plane,” and “Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida.” Stacks of records filled bookshelves and piled against walls. I learned early that I could get my folks to stop at a yard sale by calling out, “I see albums!” In the car, we wore out cassette tapes, all of us (though the number varied regularly) joyfully taking parts with the Carter family, the Kingston Trio, and Joan Baez. Every moment of that time has a soundtrack. It was years before I understood how “weird” this was.
Though we cycled through artists and styles, there were constants. Tom Rush. Jefferson Airplane. Dave Mallett. However I search my mind, I cannot recall a time before I knew the music of Dave Mallett. Yes, I learned the “Garden Song,” as most kids did (and do). But I also learned “Inches and Miles,” “Pennsylvania Sunrise,” “Closer to Truth,” “For a Lifetime,” and “Autumn.” If I think about it now, I can probably attribute my affinity for beautiful lyrics, poetic guitar picking, and fighting for a good cause, directly to being so fully steeped in Dave’s music.
It helps that I know Dave, a little bit, and that he is a good guy, a kind guy, the sort who always thanked me when I brought him water onstage, and who once played my favorite song, “April” (which you can find on his most recent album, Greenin’ Up), just for awkward teenage me, backstage after a show.
More though, I think the poet in him speaks to the poet in me, and over and over through the years I’ve found myself turning to his music to make right whatever emotions bubble inside me. Heartbreaks, cross country moves, new babies, moments of terror, communions with the land, and quiet celebrations have all found outlet in one or another of those songs.
As I looked through the photos I’ve taken recently, and collected my thoughts to put words on this “page”–words about violence and courage and spring and change and growth and sameness and continuity– I realized that I’d been humming and singing one song for weeks now.
And it makes sense, of course. Because the world seems to have gone to madness, and there have been terribly bad dreams.
And today as I wander through this laughing new morning
As the clear mornin’ air takes the bad dreams away
From birthplace to graveyard in a land gone to madness
I come to this old place on the saddest of days
And I sit here watching the change of the seasons
And today I feel a bit older somehow
But like the tide and the river as it reaches the ocean
I think I’ll be alright for now.