Happy Independence Day!

Jul 4, 2012 by

We like our holidays here at Old 67, and the 4th of July is no different.  Or maybe it is, our logo is an American made car; we pay homage to one of the most quintessentially American authors, ever; and we revel in being part of a country that encourages us to be brash and audacious.  We might bitch and complain, even rage, about our Government and the choices that they and our citizens make, but that’s because we can, because we live here and not somewhere else.  Say what you will, but as revolution spreads around the world, citizens of those countries look to us and what we symbolize.  Our leaders may tell you that other countries hate us for our freedom, but it’s not true, they love us for it.

It’s not a perfect country, by any means, but neither are we – and we’re OK with that.

In honor of the 4th and our love of music, we present today’s song – “Independence Day” by Elliott Smith.

Smith grew up in Texas with a less than ideal home life, before moving to Portland to live with his dad.  He started playing and writing music at a young age, winning an award for an original piece at an art festival when he was 10 years old.  By the time he reached high school he was playing around with home recordings, writing songs that he would later rework and record, and using drugs and alcohol.

Smith suffered from depression, ending his life when he was 34, in one of the worst ways I can imagine – stabbing himself in the chest.

Often mislabeled as Folk, Smith’s music was pure unadulterated Pop.  Complete with lush guitar work, swirling vocals and lyrics that could easily be the brush strokes of an impressionist painter.  He distinguished between the two styles in an interview with MTV, to paraphrase “Folk usually has one message that is clear and distinct; Pop might have many messages or none at all”.  Smith’s struggles with drugs and depression were well known, and if one wants, you can easily find those themes in his songs, even in “Independence Day”, but doing so sells his songs short.  Like his guitar work, his lyrics are deeply layered, simple at first then more complex as you sift through them.

In the two videos below, you get the studio version with densely layered guitars and drum loop (the first time he ever tried anything like that); and you get the stripped down solo performance that we have all come to expect from Smith.  I like both versions, the album a little better, but it is a joy to watch him play live, especially when he smiles.  Smith said the transitions were his favorite parts of songs.  That is very much showcased on “Independence Day”, he effortlessly slides up and down the guitar neck moving from one chord progression to the next.  Its music that you can see with your eyes closed.  Go ahead and try it, you’ll see.

While this may not be a particularly patriotic song and it’s certainly not about July 4th, it’s American through and through performed by one of our lost treasures.  Hope you enjoy!

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