Sunday, June 05, 2011

Jerry Jeff Walker: "Little Bird"

Jerry Jeff Walker
(Image from Wikipedia)

Back in my own outlaw days, I listened to the outlaw country musicians -- Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and, among others, the lesser-known Jerry Jeff Walker, whom most of you might know only because of his song "Mr. Bojangles."

Walker's real name is Ronald Clyde Crosby, and he was born upstate from New York City in Oneonta during the Second World War (specifically, March 16, 1942). He first got into folk music, like Bob Dylan, and I believe that they knew each other during their time in Greenwich Village in the mid-1960s -- for one of Dylan's early albums has a version of Walker's "Bojangles." He got interested in jazz in the late 1960s and moved away from folk music, eventually settling on a jazz-influenced country sound, and he came to associate himself with the aforementioned country outlaws in Austin, Texas, where he began making music in the 1970s. That's about the same time that I moved to Texas to attend Baylor University, only 90 miles from Austin, and began to listen to Walker.

I've not listened to him much in many years, but I still love his old songs, especially an obscure one from his 1973 Viva Terlingua album titled "Little Bird" that I used to play again and again on dreary, rainy days in Waco, Texas. Walker's got one of the naturally most melodic, rich voices that you'll ever hear -- just to listen to him talk is a treat -- and he does a wonderful job with this song. Open up a second browser, come to the Gypsy Scholar site again, click on this "Little Bird" link, and listen as you follow along with the words:
Little Bird
A little bird come sit upon my windowsill,
Sat there through the falling rain.
As I watched that little bird upon my windowsill,
I saw my thoughts of you go by again.

Picture of my face, reflected on the pane,
Is it tears, or is it rain?

Remember how we talked before we said goodbye,
Too young to know the world outside our door?
We laughed and said that love was free, birds that fly the winds,
Rainy day made me think of you once more.

Picture of my face, reflected on the pane,
Is it tears, or is it rain?

No regrets about the past, see how young we were.
The world was love, and time was but a thought.
But many things go many ways, and many times but once,
Till your life is past, and your love is but a thought.

Picture of my face, reflected on the pane,
Is it tears, or is it rain?

So as my thoughts go tumbling back, I wonder how you look.
I wonder if you’ve seen that little bird.
I wonder if he’s sat upon your windowsill.
I wonder if you’ll ever hear these words.

Picture of my face, reflected on the pane,
Is it tears, or is it rain?

Is it tears, or is it rain?
I love that image of the face reflected on a window pane, the rain dripping down the glass like tears, and the even more subtle wordplay as you listen and hear "reflected on the pane" become "reflected on the pain." Walker's a clever lyricist.

And he's still around, making music . . .

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At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The lesser known"?


At 8:16 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

He ain't as famous as the others, JK, you know that!

But he can outsing and outsmart them any day of the week . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well Jeff,

There's 19 lps sitting in a storage vault. And I pay the rent. I heard him first in Austin as "a kid" and I came very near sending, as part of that vault's contents to a friend of ours in NYC.

Glad now I didn't.


At 8:32 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You've got a gold mine there, pardner.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:44 AM, Anonymous James said...

I once worked at a summer camp where JJW's daughter was a camper. He came and did a show one night. Just him and his guitar in the chow hall. He's been one of my favorites from the outlaw country scene ever since.

At 6:56 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, James. That's a nice memory, and it conforms to my image of the man.

He may have enjoyed the nickname 'Scamp' Walker, but I've always had the impression that he is a fundamentally decent fellow.

Jeffery Hodges

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