Monday, June 4, 2012

Talk to me of Mendocino: in memory of Kate McGarrigle

Continuing with my musical posts, I have been haunted of late by the song Talk to Me of Mendocino written by the late Kate McGarrigle and performed by the McGarrigle Sisters on their debut self titled album released in 1975.

My friend, colleague and former school mate Des Lewis alerted me to this version of the song from the wonderful Transatlantic Sessions series.

Another version of the song appears on their 1998 CD The McGarrigle Hour and features Kate's children Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright. The sleeve notes for that CD describe it as a  "song of yearning for the road".

I have taken to playing both versions of the song over and over to appreciate the song's power.

It is a profound and beautiful song that combines melancholy and yearning for place, past and home, with the realization that a time comes when we must leave that place and embrace the excitement and lust for life that comes from seeking new experiences, new people and new places.  This is a fundamental and necessary human experience, so beautifully reflected and captured in McGarrigle' song.

For me it evokes and engages so many thoughts, memories and emotions. The song is all the more poignant following Kate McGarrigle's early death from cancer in 2010.

The power and beauty of the song seems to encapsulate something of what the poet John Keats called "negative capability", which, as I understand it, is the human capacity to hold what appear to be contradictory ideas and feelings at the same time, and accept the validity and power of both, without seeking for simple resolution or truth.

The place referred to in the song- Mendocino- is a county in the north of the state of California best known for its coast line, redwood forest and wine.

Talk to me of Mendocino
I bid farewell to the state of ol’ New York
My home away from home
In the state of New York I came of age
When first I started roaming
And the trees grow high in New York state
And they shine like gold in Autumn
Never had the blues from whence I came
But in New York state I caught ‘em
Talk to me of Mendocino
Closing my eyes I hear the sea
Must I wait, must I follow?
Won’t you say “Come with me?”
And it’s on to Southbend, Indiana
Flat out on the western plain
Rise up over the Rockies and down on into California
Out to where but the rocks remain
And let the sun set on the ocean
I will watch it from the shore
Let the sun rise over the redwoods
I’ll rise with it till I rise no more
Talk to me of Mendocino
closing my eyes, I hear the sea
Must I wait, must I follow?
Won’t you say “Come with me?”

- By Kate McGarrigle

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