Wednesday, January 30, 2013

simple gifts

It's strange how the simple things in life go on while we become more difficult. 

Richard Brautigan (30 january 1935 -1984) poet, novelist & short story writer

that richard brautigan he always had a way to write plain and unravel life's complexity!

for decades one of my absolute favorite songs has been the shaker hymn simple gifts.  whenever i start feeling overwhelmed and i start becoming more difficult,  i turn to the lyrics of this pure and simple song for a bit of strength and clarity. 

the song was written and composed in 1848 by the shaker elder joseph brackett. outside of shaker communities the song was virtually unknown for almost a century - then in 1944 aaron copland used the tune for the score of ballet appalachian spring.  since copland's shout out for the tune and song - the song has been covered widely, new verses have been written, in 1963 the tune was even borrowed and adapted by english songwriter sydney carter for his song lord of the dance.

although i knew judy collins covered the song, until today i never saw this video!  wow, look how young judy is and her hair, well  it is so short - so unlike the image of judy collins emblazoned in my mind's eye!

according to the info accompanying the youtube posting:  
Judy Collins sings "Simple Gifts" for the February 1963 TV broadcast of Dinner with the President, the 50th anniversary celebration of B'nai B'rith in Washington, D.C. President Kennedy received a Democratic Legacy Award and spoke during the broadcast. Several years later, Judy recorded "Simple Gifts" for her 1970 Whales and Nightingales album.

photo: detail of a mural celebrating the legacy and diverse community of slavic village, a neighborhood located in southeast cleveland.   november 2012


The Blue Elephant said...

There must be a rhetorical form with a name that would define something that gives you what it is talking (singing) about it. You are right on the effect of SIMPLE GIFTS -- you are left with a feeling of pure simplicity that erases weighty and complex masses of information that cannot be heard because they lack the spine of sincere simplicity. I guess SIMPLE GIFTS will survive many versions, even distortions -- In its league is AMAZING GRACE that also has a healing effect, and may survive the ten thousand renditions of it.

Steve Reed said...

Interesting -- I've never heard any musician cover that song, much less Judy Collins. I do know the Aaron Copland version. In fact, Dave has been working on a special arrangement for several weeks now for his band students. (He's combining it with another Copland piece, "Fanfare for the Common Man.")

Speaking of Richard Brautigan, I just bought the new biography of him by William Hjorstberg, "Jubilee Hitchhiker." It looks interesting, and also HUGE! I'll be reading it for weeks and weeks...

Watson said...

The photo reminds me of the Visitation urban Monastery in Minniapolis. A friend spent 6 months there on a "monastic experience" and writes about it at:
She can tell the story better than I can.

Anonymous said...

Simple gifts are always the most profound as are small things and tiny habits. I have been reading a bio of Max Ernst, and one of my favorite phrases of his is "The Power of Small Change" which I think is always more sustainable.