May Playlist

The themes for May are Dreams, wishes, and graduation as well as Hispanic songs (for cinco de mayo reasons)

Andar Conmigo

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.  

Full Playlist

Here’s the full Youtube playlist followed by links to individual songs:

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