Dance x2

Steve can’t dance. Steve has all the clichés – two left feet, is a Peter Garrett wannabe – all that shit. My father could glide across and dance floor like Astaire, my lovely lady is a svelte mover and my music-adoring daughter has all the cool moves. I have none of that – but it doesn’t mean that, when the occasion arises and I’m in a comfort zone, I will not shake my booty. In front of a class was such a place. To Spiderbait’s ‘Black Betty’, the Masters ‘Turn Up the Radio’ or ‘Daydream Believer’ (Smashmouth version), for instance, I was known to put on a show – and encourage my cherubs to do the same, despite their teenage inhibitions. My swansong in this regard, back in ’11, was a solo performance, via video-link, for the leaving students of that year. I am told it was a hit. And this scribbling features what Steve can’t do – dance.

In May 1988 Leonard Cohen had a new set of lyrics, with music, he felt worthy enough to open his show – a song he put together on an obsolete Casio synthesiser he found in a shop on Times Square. It’s that sound that introduces ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ to his audiences to this very day. It never fails – on hearing the opening refrain chills run down my spine – and then that’s repeated when that instantly recognisable voice kicks in. It’s much the same feeling many of his fans get when he launches into ‘Hallelujah’, Cohen’s eternal gift to the world. But to me, Leonard’s lullaby about ‘Dancing to your beauty with a burning violin’ sits number one on my attempted rating of his best songs – see below. Many, on line, have tried a similar exercise. This exquisite aural masterpiece of Leonard’s always makes me think of my Leigh and her incredible gifts to me – even if her Steve can’t dance.

leonardcohen

The grand old Canadian songsmith is pushing eighty-one and still touring. I wonder how long he can go on – enchanting us. And he is still such a lady’s man – just listen to Clare Bowditch, who toured Oz with him recently, on the subject of his marriage proposal to her.

There’s also another of my favourites who can’t go on forever either. John Prine is battling cancer. In 1998 he was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer. Like LC, his voice is also an acquired taste – a guy you either, like me, love – or have to turn off the moment you hear him. Prine’s cancer has added even more gravel to his instrument, with part of the right side of his neck being removed by the surgeon’s scalpel. In 2013 Prine posted, on his website, that he was now suffering from unrelated lung cancer and proceded to cancel all forthcoming gigs. This month he is bravely attempting to take to the road again. Unlike Mr Cohen, Prine is not well known on these shores, although he has visited. In the US he’s a legend of the alt country scene, regarded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation.

prine

His 1973 collection ‘Sweet Revenge’ was passed on to me by my brother Kim who had far cooler musical tastes than I back in the day. Your scribe was immediately hooked and rushed out to buy his back catalogue – and I’ve purchased each new product ever since. As is my wont, I also had a go at conjuring a top ten for him– every bit as difficult as doing the one above for the world treasure.

Prine was born in Maywood, Illinois in 1946. And just as the Man in Black discovered Kristofferson, so the latter found JP singing in the folk dens and bars of Chicago and kick stated his career. Prine has won numerous awards for his music, including Grammys. Cash considered him one of the ‘big four’ of writers to whom he’d turn when he needed a little inspiration – along with Rodney Crowell, Steve Goodman and Guy Clark. So this fan well and truly reckons Australia has, in the main, missed out on a good thing.

German_Afternoons

So why am I grouping him with Cohen for this piece? Well, coincidentally, for me it’s a no-brainer what this guy’s best tune is. It comes from one of his most attractive recordings, ‘German Afternoons’, which entered the world in 1987. As well as my top song, it contains such gems as my number six;’Out of Love’; ‘Linda Goes To Mars’ and ‘Sailin’ Around’. The ditty in question was a massive hit for George Strait and a UK one for Daniel O’Donnell. So peruse my list, check the items out on YouTube – but pay particular to the top dog and you’ll answer the query that opened this paragraph. And of course it all brings me back again to my Leigh and the fact that Steve can’t dance.

COHEN
10. I’m Your Man
09. Anthem
08. First We Take Manhatten
07. Hey, That’s no Way To Say Goodbye
06. Everybody Knows
05. A Thousand Kisses Deep
04. Hallelujah
03. Bird On A Wire
02. Suzanne
01. Dance Me To The End Of Love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic ’til I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We’re both of us beneath our love, we’re both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

PRINE
10. The Sins Of Memphisto
09. Angel From Montgomery
08. Just Wanna Be With You
07. Blow Up Your TV
06. Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
05. Aimless Love
04. Hello In There
03. Illegal Smile
02. Sam Stone
01. I Just Wanna Dance With You

I don’t want to be the kind to hesitate,
Be too shy, wait too late
I don’t care what they say other lovers do,
I just want to dance with you.

I gotta feeling that you have a heart like mine,
So let it show, let it shine.
If we have a chance to make one heart of two,
I just want to dance with you.

I want to dance with you, twirl you all around the floor
That’s what they intended dancin’ for,
I just want to dance with you.
I want to dance with you, hold you in my arms once more,
That’s what they invented dancin’ for,
I just want to dance with you.

I caught you lookin’ at me when I looked at you,
Yes I did, ain’t that true?
You won’t get embarrassed by the things I do,
I just want to dance with you.

Oh the boys are playin’ softly and the girls are too,
So am I and so are you.
If this was a movie, we’d be right on cue,
I just want to dance with you.

I just want to dance with you,
I just want to dance with you,
I just want to dance with you.

YouTube of Leonard, with Casio, singing ‘Dance Me To The End Of Love’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ye6JssTdnvw

YouTube of Prine singing ‘I Just Wanna Dance With You’ = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsTwI9FRDUE

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