The themes for May are Dreams, wishes, and graduation as well as Hispanic songs (for cinco de mayo reasons)
Artist: Julieta Venegas
Why it’s a May Song: Cinco de Mayo, dreams and memories
This is a fairly simple song really, but that’s part of its beauty. “Andar conmigo” literally means “go with me,” and more colloquially it means “date me.” But this song uses both senses of the phrase. It seems to be not only an invitation to start a relationship, but an expression of a deeper philosophy. The singer is inviting the listener to experience all that life has to offer with her, rather than merely offering herself. It seems very Daoist to me. Aside from the Spanish language aspect (IE Cinco de Mayo), I think it also fits the theme of dreams and memories. She speaks of telling the story that’s inside her, a story that still continues.
Here are the lyrics with translation:
Hay tanto que quiero contarte
Hay tanto que quiero saber de ti
Ya podemos empezar poco a poco
Cuéntame, qué te trae por aquí
There is so much that I want to tell you
There’s so much I want to know about you too
We can start right now little by little
Tell me what brings you here
No te asustes de decirme la verdad
Eso nunca puede estar así tan mal
Yo también tengo secretos para darte
Y que sepas que ya no me sirven más
Don’t be afraid of telling me the truth
That never can be as bad as you think
I also have secrets to give you
And you should know they don’t serve me any more
Hay tantos caminos por andar
Dime si tu quisieras andar conmigo
There are so many ways to go.
Tell me if you would like to go with me x4
Estoy ansiosa por soltarlo todo
Desde el principio hasta llegar al día de hoy
Una historia tengo en mi para entregarte
Una historia todavía sin final
I’m anxious to release everything
From the beginning to today
A story I have inside me to give you
A story that still has no end
Podríamos decirnos cualquier cosa
Incluso darnos para siempre un siempre no
Pero ahora frente a frente, aquí sentados
Festejemos que la vida nos cruzó
We could tell each other anything
Including to give ourselves for forever a forever no
But now, face to face, here are feelings
We can enjoy what Life has put before us
Martha -Tom Waits
“Those were days of roses,
Poetry and prose and Martha
All I had was you and all you had was me”
One of the themes of May for me is graduation,which goes beyond pomp and circumstance to any song about momentous life changing events and looking back to how things were back when you were a different sort of person. Along those lines, there is no greater song in my opinion than Martha. This song is the story of an old man catching up with a woman that was a girlfriend of his from 40 years ago. This song really covers all the wistful, beautiful sadness that the passage of time creates.
Oddly, this is a song that Tom Waits wrote as a young man in the early seventies. Tom Waits worked as door man and piano player at a bar and you can hear a little of the Billy Joel piano man in his style here. Later on Tom Waits became a move character actor and moved into a different style of music where he sounds like some demented carnival barker, which is fun, but I always prefer his more melodic tunes like this one.
Almost all of Waits’ songs have an arresting narrative quality. This one in particular has this intriguing character of an old man regretting letting the love of his life go some forty years ago. You think of all the time and experience that have occurred and yet…And yet…
Where did Tom Waits get this story? It seems too vivid to not be in some way real. In his youth, Waits worked many odd jobs, and he would write down “phrases and snippets of dialogue he overheard”
He might have generated the story of Tom Frost and Martha from one of those conversations. I have an alternate theory though. Think of it as a lie that might accidentally be true. Perhaps Tom’s mother Alma was the Martha of the song. Perhaps Alma named Tom after her Tom Frost. Alma raised her children after separating from Waits’ father when Waits was 10 years old. Did Alma tell her children stories of an old flame she had when she was younger? Did Tom Waits simply put to words and music a fantasy of his mother’s of her old lover catching up with her?
Probably not, but I like it as a conspiracy theory.
While Strolling through the Park one Day (the Fountain in the Park- Hit Co. Masters)
I was strolling through the park one day
In the merry merry month of May
This video is from a guy who sings all the parts of a barbershop quartet by himself. It’s a nice version but it’s not the one I listen to on playlists. The version done by the Hit Co. Masters is a little longer and has some instrumentation.
This is, of course, that song sung by various characters in Looney Tunes cartoons. “I was strolling through the park one day, in the very merry month of May.” One cannot create a thorough list of May songs without including it.
Almost Like Praying
Artist: Lin-Manual Miranda and MANY others
Why it’s a May song: (Puerto Rico so it’s vaguely related to Cinco de Mayo, but it’s also about a prayer for the people of Puerto Rico so it’s like a wish or a dream)
I first heard about this song on an episode of the podcast Song Exploder . Miranda talked about wanting to do something for the place he grew up after it was devastated by hurricane Maria. Wired magazine had a good article on this and how badly it was handled and what people did to solve the problems that arose because of it. Miranda, being a song writer, did what he could do, which was write a song and get everyone he knew to help with it, and then give all the money he made from it to the relief effort.
Miranda is best known for his work on the musical Hamilton, which is extremely popular, but doesn’t really seem like something I’d be into. I’m not a fan of rap music generally, although there are exceptions. More specifically any attempt to combine education with rap has always struck me as being particularly dumb. But I haven’t seen Hamilton; so I might find I like it after all. Almost like Praying has a section or two of rap, but it is mostly a melodic work consisting almost entirely of the names of the cities of Puerto Rico. As an amateur poet I find the skill with which Miranda managed to group all the cities into rhyming patterns impressive. He also uses several styles of music from musical, to rock, to rap, to reggaeton. Even without the humanitarian aspect, the song is simply interesting and fun to listen to. I only know one or two of the many artists involved, but that too is intriguing. Finally I’m a fan of Steven Sondheim, mostly from Sunday in the Park with George, but West Side Story is a neat one too and the repeated use of the line from the song Maria was an elegant and well-implemented device.
Here’s the full Youtube playlist followed by links to individual songs:
- Rainbow Connection Me First and the Gimme Gimmes– A hard rock take on a muppets classic-Music video
- Burritos Sublime-music only
- Tequila The Ventures-music only
- Almost Like Praying Lin-Manuel Miranda-music video
- In the Midnight Langhorne Slim-music video
- Jolene Cake-A life performance from 1993
- Alocatel MIS-Music video
- Martha Tom Waits-music with lyrics
- Andar Conmigo Julieta Venegas-music video
- Pride of San Jacinto Reverand Horton Heat – music only instrumental
- Adios Maria Cactus Blossoms-live performance
- Porque Te Vas-Aurora Y La Academia-Music video
- Paradise Lost The Herd-Live performance
- Over the Rainbow Me First and The Gimme Gimmes-music video
- Otona no Kusuri (Adult Medicine) Go! Go! 7188-live performance -poor quality
- Como los Olivios Bebe-live performance
- The Impossible Dream (The Quest) Man of la Mancha-clip from movie
- O Girlfriend Weezer-music with lyrics
- Nothing Gets Crossed Out Bright Eyes-music with lyrics
- Night Wind Sent Blondie-live performance