Friday, December 26, 2008

Sixty Years On

The first time I ever heard the song "Sixty Years On" was in 1987. A friend of mine had gotten the Elton John album "Live In Australia" (back in the days when 12-inch vinyl albums and turntables were everywhere) and she had taped it for me. Years later I got hold of the CD, and while I was moving music onto my MP3 player (my wife gave me an iPod nano for Christmas and I moved my library onto it with considerable room to spare) I took time to listen to the album. This song is first, and I had forgotten how moving it is.

With much of what I've been talking about lately with my recent postings, this sort of fit into the puzzle. I hadn't planned it that way, but it happened, and I felt compelled to put it up here.

The song is, presumably, about a disabled combat veteran who lives in abject conditions. He has lost his dog - his only companion - and he is struggling with what little faith he has left as well as the memory of what he went through in his war experiences.

It was originally recorded in 1970. I can't help but think the references in the song were to Vietnam.

Bernie Taupin's lyrics are simple but hard to listen to. Most stories that have a blunt message are like that. What is most jarring is the juxtaposition of his subject's physical and spiritual conditions. His body is broken, and his spirit isn't far behind. But he seems to be fighting to at least keep his faith; it's all he has left.

Who'll walk me down to church when I'm sixty years of age
When the ragged dog they gave me has been ten years in the grave
And senorita play guitar, play it just for you
My rosary has broken and my beads have all slipped through

You've hung up your great coat and you've laid down your gun
You know the war you fought in wasn't too much fun
And the future you're giving me holds nothing for a gun
I've no wish to be living sixty years on

Yes I'll sit with you and talk let your eyes relive again
I know my vintage prayers would be very much the same
And Magdelena plays the organ, plays it just for you
Your choral lamp that burns so low when you are passing through

And the future you're giving me holds nothing for a gun
I've no wish to be living sixty years on

--Music by Elton John
Lyrics by Bernie Taupin

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