Ok, so I left one particular song off of my first list of tearjerkers. This song has got to be the most personal song I’ve ever heard. And I had a very interesting experience with it. So it gets its own blogpost.
Lithuania by Dan Bern
To me, Dan Bern is the most provocative songwriter out there. In Lithuania, he sings about his deceased relatives. “These are my ghosts, Uncle Emmanuel, Uncle Ely, Aunt Mia and my grandparents Jennie and Tobias, none of whom I’ve ever met . . . My only link to them was my Dad. He knew them. He knew me. Now he’s gone too.”
Dan’s relatives were shot dead in the streets of Lithuania during The Holocaust. He sings about how his “ghosts” impact his American life. “Sometimes I want to get next to them. Sometimes I want to drive them all away. Say you’re not my ghosts, I live in sunny California. I drive a 1992 red Chevrolet. I drive fast and I drive as far west as anyone can drive. 8000 miles from Lithuania and if I could escape by driving further than I would. But it doesn’t get me anyplace new . . . Sometimes I want to dance on Hitler’s grave and shout out Groucho Marx, Lenny Bruce, Leonard Cohen, Philip Roth, Bob Dylan, Albert Einstein, Leonard Bernstein, Harry Houdini, Sandy Koufax . . .and then I want to sing as loud as I can, watch the chandeliers swing dangerously overhead proclaiming Kristallnacht is over, I say Kristallnacht is over, the only broken glass tonight will be from wedding glasses shattered under bootheels.”
So . . . Wow.
Ok,so I had an hour and a half drive to a customer, a retailer way up north in Berlin, NH. (Wow, why am I just now recognizing the significance of the fact that I was driving to a town named BERLIN?) Anyway, I had just recently heard the song Lithuania. I listened to it at least six times consecutively as I drove. I was so moved by the song that I just kept replaying it. I got to the store and had to wait for the owner to stop working with another vendor. This vendor though was wearing black shitkickers and had a shaved head. He was selling Nazi paraphernalia to the store owner. I stood there transfixed by what I was watching. I couldn’t believe that I was seeing this and after having just listened to Lithuania over and over. I kept thinking, “what would Dan Bern do.”
When they were done, the store owner turned his attention to me. He asked how I’ve been and expected to see my products. I told him that I didn’t think I wanted them sold in a store that also sold Nazi paraphernalia. We had a good long talk about it and he discussed his liberal credentials and his battles, legal and otherwise, with Lyndon Larouche.
I’m not proud to say that I did end up selling to him. But I am at least pleased that the next time I spoke to him, he told me that he no longer carries Nazi paraphernalia.
Crazy experience! Makes me think there’s more to this world than meets the eye.
- Alan Likes Music