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Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Song Among The Sheltering Years

(cover of the sheet music, 1914)
no copyright infringement intended

I came to this song today by a chain of associations: I talked in my previous post about the journey made by an American artist in the 1870's in Morocco. The story called in my mind a movie, where a journey of three American artists in the 1930's or 1940's through Morocco was unfolding toward tragedy. The American artist from the 1870's was Edwin Lord Weeks. The movie was The Sheltering Sky, and it was based on a book written by Paul Bowles. The book is available on the web.

I intend to talk here some time about the movie and the book, they impressed me as the expression of what it is the ultimate human experience. The author lived many years in Morocco, and maybe talking about him, the book, the movie, would be an occasion to meditate on the limits of the human, to meditate on the ultimate, the absolute. I know that this is challenging, maybe one day it would come to me to say all this, as it can be that such a moment would never come.

What I want today is much more simple: the author, Paul Bowles, took the title of the book from a song he had heard during childhood. A love song, suggesting the challenge of erotic experience far away, in exotic places. The book of Bowles would talk about the challenges of Eros and Thanatos: extreme human experiences in extreme places.

The song dates from 1914: Down Among the Sheltering Trees (sending to the title of the book, The Sheltering Sky). It was composed by Abe Olman and the lyrics were by James Brockman and Leo Wood. It remained along the years very popular, and I selected here several videos with records of this song, from 1915 up to 2010. Of course the way it has been performed changed during these years, each period  brought its own universe of rhythms, its own musicality, to wrap the melody.

But firstly here are the lyrics:

Down Among The Sheltering Palms
Down among the sheltering palms
Oh honey wait for me
Oh Honey wait for me
Don’t be forgetting we’ve got a date

Out where the sun goes down about eight
How my love is burning burning
How my heart is yearning yearning
To be down among the sheltering palms
Oh honey wait for me

And now the videos:

record from 1915
(video by Cat's Pjamas)

Sammy Kaye, 1948
(video by lrh1966)

(Paul Bowles)



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