Saturday, January 14, 2023

The Story Goes How the Stories Go

The adolescents who played the song
And pined with mournful thoughts about it
Had an origin story for it.

The woman who was singing the song
Had attended the last performance
Of another, days before he died.

He died young and his death was famous
As his songs among adolescents
Who sang his songs and could imagine,

Easily, someone hearing him play
And being so moved that when he died
She wrote her own sad song about him.

This was gospel. It satisfied them.
Years later, someone put together
An oral history of the song

By all the people involved in it
And their recollections went like this—
There was a book with a line it

A songwriter read in translation.
He thought the line would make a good song.
His partner then tweaked and rewrote it.

They found a singer to record it.
Her version didn’t do very well,
But another singer, on a plane,

Heard it over the plane’s radio
And spent a long, transatlantic night
Reordering the verses in it.

She made her own version for her act
And had been performing it for months
When she got a recording contract

And included it on her album.
Her producer thought that it might work,
And they released it as a single,

Coincidentally just after
The more famous singer’s early death.
All told, twenty people worked on it,

Starting with the novelist who wrote,
In another language, that first line,
Which would make the song famously sad.

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