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David Wilcox: Watching a songwriter become a sage

January 16, 2006

Back in the 80's the pot didn't spillith over with songwriters as it does today. Even then, however, David Wilcox stood out. He covered deeper subjects than many, expressed himself in poetic devises with ease, and used elaborate tunings. He still does this today and drew quite a crowd at the Kent Stage in Northeast Ohio Friday, January 13.

Ironically, David didn't play many familiar songs. He began with many new ones and covered other writers such as Peter Mayer and Cliff Eberhardt. No one objected because Wilcox is a consumate performer. He speaks naturally between and during songs, yet the presentation is very theatrical; he leads you like an actor in a play. Of course his songs and his singing hold up too - that's why people came.

Two things happened that I'll share that didn't take place on stage. I took my student assistants backstage beforehand to meet him. I asked him to consider being part of next years NPR Christmas special "Ornaments and Icing." He responding by breaking into a song in his dressing room for just the three of us.
Ashley and Sarah were thrilled, and so was I. Somehow I can't imagine Mick Jagger doing that. I think we have our first song for the 2006 show.

The other thing that happened took place at intermission as David sat on the front of the stage. Two people walked up and mentioned songs David had written that had been performed at their weddings. One was "Hold it Up to the Light." The writer seemed genuinely pleased. The next thing I said surprised him: "One of your songs helped explain my divorce."

His eyebrows raised.

I continued: "As my ex-wife was leaving she told me to turn to the song 'Break in the Cup' if I ever wanted to understand her feelings."

He responded: "I've never heard that song mentioned in that context before." "Well," I said, "I recently went back and re-read the lyrics, especially the first part about one person giving and giving and the other receiving but letting the gift spill out of an untended crack in the cup. Eventually the giver gets frustrated." (Of course the poetry gets into much more detail and complexity, but that's the gist of it.)

His responded like the smiling sage that he is: "You seem very happy."

You know something? He's right. I'm happy that I finally understand her feelings. I'm also just plain happy. (That may be because I have no one around to make unhappy) I'm not sure the two individuals with the marriage songs understood any of this, but David was thrilled that we all had reactions. That's the intent of any songwriter....or sage, for that matter.

Posted by Jim Blum at January 16, 2006 1:07 PM


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