Saturday, August 7, 2021

Quote of the Day (Poet Dana Gioia, on a Beach Boys Song for ‘Every Lovesick Summer’)

“Every lovesick summer has its song,
And this one I pretended to despise,
But if I was alone when it came on,
I turned it up full-blast to sing along –
A primal scream in croaky baritone,
The notes all flat, the lyrics mostly slurred.
No wonder I spent so much time alone
Making the rounds in Dad's old Thunderbird.”—American poet-critic Dana Gioia, “Cruising With the Beach Boys," from 99 Poems: New and Selected (2016)
I’ve quoted only one-fourth of this poem. The difficulty I had in excerpting it was that the other three parts are equally vivid.
As we move into the dog days of August, many of us of a certain age think of the Beach Boys and of how, over the years, they were, in the words of a 1980 album title, “Keepin’ the Summer Alive.”
This has been the second straight strange summer in America, but what transports us, away from the ongoing gnawing anxiety of COVID-19, is the postwar culture of waves and hot rods and evanescent romance summoned by the Brothers Wilson and their bandmates.
Over nearly 60 years, the Beach Boys discography has been staggering: 29 studio albums, eight live albums, 55 compilation albums, one remix album, and 71 singles. But for me, their sweet muted melancholy that Gioia evokes so memorably probably comes the most from the likes of “Surfer Girl,” “Don’t Worry, Baby” and “Caroline, No.”

(For a less poetic but equally sound meditation on the meaning of this American band, see this May 2012 article by Huffington Post contributor Patricia Crisafulli, “Five Life Lessons I Learned at a Beach Boys Concert.”)

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