Friday, September 2, 2011

Song Lyric of the Day (Chad and Jeremy, With the Ultimate Late-Summer Song)

“And when the rain
Beats against my window pane
I'll think of summer days again
And dream of you.”--Chad and Jeremy, “A Summer Song,” written by Clive Metcalfe, Keith Noble, and David Stuart (1964)

I had thought of writing this post last week, but Hurricane Irene cast its menacing shadow over everything and my desire to write anything at all under the circumstances was dampened. Now, it seems fortunate that I waited, with the temperate weather now here matching the gentle spirit of this golden oldie.

I wouldn’t want any part of any self-proclaimed oldies station that didn’t play this classic folk-rock tune. Over the years, I’ve come to dread the mugginess of New York-area summers. But if there’s a part of the season that redeems it all for me, it is the last couple of weeks before Labor Day, when the mercury moderates.

If I’m out driving, hearing “A Summer Song” immediately puts me in a blissful mood. “A Summer Song” is, in a sense, a cousin to another Sixties song, “Will I See You in September?”, only vastly superior to it. They are about essentially the same dilemma--the inevitable fallout from young love at the end of summer--but “September” is as annoying as an endlessly importunate boyfriend or girlfriend, whereas “Summer” gracefully accepts the end.

Many lyrics, when printed, look nowhere near as good on page as when they are sung; in fact, they're positively inane. Not "A Summer Song." It's not Bob Dylan, mind you, but each stanza has a sharply engraved image: silver leaves, soft kisses, distant warmth, autumn leaves, rain on the window pane. Much of the hushed quality of the lyrics takes its cue from the word "summer" by constantly using the letter "s," and enough are packed into one line to form alliteration ("Sweet sleepy warmth of summer nights").

The upshot of these images is that love invests everything in the physical world with beauty and meaning forever. Even when all you are left with is a "dream of you," the memory is supercharged, impossible to eradicate.

I came across this YouTube performance of the song from two years ago. Physically, of course, Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde are no longer the twentysomethings who, to their astonishment, stormed up the American charts in August 1964 with this wistful ballad. But they sing and play as if every word and note means the same to them now as it did nearly 50 years ago.

Above all, “A Summer Song” embodies, with shimmering grace, a truth learned with each passing year by those of us now of a certain age: that the brightest, most beautiful, most precious wonders of life are also the most evanescent.

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