King of Birds popped up in my Pandora today. I haven’t heard it in a while but it reminded me of my first band obsession, R.E.M. Thanks to MTV in the 80’s, I discovered many artists; Cindy Lauper, Culture Club, Men at Work, and R.E.M. I owned at least an album or cassette of each. The first R.E.M. video I saw was for It’s the End of the World as We Know It, after that was Stand. I bought the cassette and became obsessed. I knew every song, the order, and the words, well as much of the words as one can with Michael Stipe.
Then I had to go buy the previous albums and memorize them too. Even today I can hear pretty much any song from Murmur (mostly) through Green and tell you which song goes next. After that it starts to get hazy.
Singer sing me a given, singer sing me a song
One of the first songs I performed in front of mostly strangers was Swan Swan H off of Life’s Rich Pageant. I had sung in church choir when I was a child and did a song for a camp talent show but this was my freshman year at college. I had managed to make a handful of friends but they hadn’t known me more than a couple of months. This was also alumni weekend so 99.9% of the crowd I hadn’t even met. But somehow I screwed up my courage and stood on a stage by myself, without musical accompaniment, and belted out a song I still don’t fully understand but find hauntingly beautiful.
Standing on the shoulders of giants, leaves me cold
What I like about R.E.M. are beautiful lyrics completely open to interpretation. And believe me a lot of their songs have changed meaning for me over the course of my life. I didn’t think much of the shoulders of giants line at first but as I tried to make my way in the world it’s meaning kind of smacked me in the face. I’m all for appreciating the past and those who made contributions then to make my life easier now. But then there comes a point where the next generation can’t make their own way because they aren’t allowed to do anything because the older generation knows better and has more experience. Never seeming to realize that someone had to have given them a chance one time as well. That was me and a lot of activism when I was younger. Part of the reason I left. I didn’t want to be in charge and I know I wasn’t always right, but I wanted to be at least listened to and be able to contribute. Maybe that’s all changed, but the idea of going back leaves me cold.
There’s time to teach