I was listening to Bruce Springsteen on Dessert Island Discs talking about his favorite music and struggle with depression recently and I started thinking about the subject of “the tortured artist” It seems to me that many artists create their best work when they are experiencing tough times in life. There are many examples of this and I have previously blogged about two of my favorite albums “Blood on the Tracks” by Bob Dylan after his divorce with his wife Sara and “Tonight’s the Night” by Neil Young after the death of band member Danny Whitton.  The first (and many say best) Tori Amos album “Little Earthquakes” also had the track “Me and a Gun” which was about a traumatic life experience.

David Bowies classic trilogy “Station to Station”, “Low” and Heroes were all written when he was having emotional struggles and of course there are numerous other examples. Personally I like a sad old song sung from the heart and many classic songwriters like Loudon Wainwright, Richard Thompson and Leonard Cohen are famous for their tales of woe. Over the years I have had the great fortune to learn from Martin Simpson and we have often talked about folk music that has a jolly melody which belie a dark set of lyrics. One great example of this is “Two Sisters” also known as “The Wind and the Rain”

“There were two sisters of county Clair
Oh, the wind and rain
One was dark and the other was fair
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
And they both had a love of the miller’s son
Oh, the wind and rain

But he was fond of the fairer one
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
So she pushed her into the river to drown
Oh, the wind and rain
And watched her as she floated down
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain

And she floated till she came to the miller’s pond
Oh, the wind and the rain
Dead on the water like a golden swan
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
As she came to rest on the riverside
Oh, the wind and the rain

And her bones were washed by the rolling tide
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
And along the road came a fiddler fair
Oh, the wind and rain
And found her bones just a lying there, cried
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain

So he made a fiddle peg of her long finger bone
Oh, the wind and the rain
He a made a fiddle peg of her long finger bone, crying
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
And he strung his fiddle bow with her long yeller hair
Oh, the wind and the rain

He strung his fiddle bow with her long yeller hair, cried
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
And he made a fiddle, fiddle of her breast bone
Oh, the wind and rain
He made a fiddle, fiddle of her breast bone, cried
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain
But the only tune that the fiddle could play was
Oh, the wind and rain
The only tune that the fiddle would play was
Oh, the dreadful wind and rain”

This is not exactly the most cheerful song of course but it does make me wonder that many artists create their best work when in a dark place and many of the best lyrics come from such places. Give me a tortured artist singing a dark tale from his or her own life experience above the dreadful TV “talent shows” that seem to clog up the airwaves these days…

I do love a tortured artist and dark lyrics…

You May Also Like