Thursday, October 02, 2008

Deconstructing Glen Campbell

kw: musings, polemics, morality

My wife likes to watch the PBS reruns of old Lawrence Welk shows, produced by OETA. A few days back, we watched one from 1971 that, early on, featured Norma Zimmer singing a lovely, if a bit overdone, anthem of getting help from God. The next selection was a guitar trio performing "Gentle on My Mind". I was aghast, and wondered if Mr. Welk ever really listened to the words.

In verse 1, the singer says he will "leave my sleepin' bag rolled up and stashed behind your couch", meaning, "I'll be sleeping in your bed tonite, Babe." Any chance that this might be a committed couple vanishes with the next thought, that they're "not shackled by forgotten words and bonds, and the ink stains that have dried upon some line." No wonder his lady friend inhabits the "back roads" of his mind! There is no highway in his life. No, in verse 2 he's planning to be back walking along railroad tracks. No "columns" or "ivy" for him.

And verse 3 finds him bragging to this love about forsaking another one, or so he plans, in the very near future. It is no surprise that in verse 4 his appearance is less than savory: "My beard a rustlin' coal pile and a dirty hat pulled low across my face" as he settles into a hobo camp for the night.

What could possibly be romantic about this picture? This man is a serial seducer, a sexual predator, a collector of broken hearts, particularly the one he is breaking by singing of it to her. He is a bum who can't stay put. Not someone I'd ever be willing to call a friend. What was Welk thinking?

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