Thursday, February 25, 2010

Joni Mitchell “If”

All Time Top Five Songs that shouldn’t make me cry, but do . . .

Though she’s one of the greatest songwriters alive, Joni Mitchell used someone else’s words for this song---the 1896 poem by Rudyard Kipling.

In light of yesterday’s post about crying while thinking of my daughter growing to womanhood, you might think that this song makes me cry because it makes me think of my son (who’ll be born in 6 weeks) growing up to be a man.

But no, the fatherhood angle isn’t what makes me shed a tear.

No, it's the Simpson's use of "If" that does it to me, believe it or not.

In the early episode called “Old Money,” Grandpa Simpson meets woman named Bea in his nursing home. They have just begun a romance, when Bea suddenly passes away, leaving her fortune to Grandpa. Grandpa spends the episode trying to figure out how he should spend the money. A good chunk of the episode is about the indignity of growing old, as Grampa is treated like burden by his son, his grandkids and the nursing home staff.

Wanting to do something that will honor Bea’s memory, Grandpa takes the money to a casino, to try to increase his pot so he can help as many people as possible. And when Homer tries to stop him, Grandpa recites an abbreviated version of the Kipling poem:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch - and toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

The episode ends with Grandpa using his money to improve his nursing home, inviting his senior friends inside with the line, “C’mon in Friends, Dignity is on me.”

Gets me every time.

The speech starts at 20:25

From time to time on Every Day I Write The Blog, I do a week’s worth of my five favorite songs on theme. For the All Time Top Five rules, see this previous post.

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