Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Joanna Newsom - Sadie

This won't be a cover entry, yet instead will be devoted to what is frankly one of the most amazing songs I have ever heard, "Sadie." I began this blog with a Joanna Newsom track and expressed my love for her music and everything she stands for. However I cannot begin to describe the abundance of feelings her music makes me experience. It's impossible to describe, but this following excerpt from TinyMixTapes summed it up better than I'd expect anyone to. I wish I was this articulate...

"Her songs are stories that evoke fairy-tale melancholy and become the warmest part of your being upon first listen; they are a woven tapestry of child-like candor and sagely wisdom. Using the harp strings to seemingly endless depth and fullness, her voice coos and croons with an unabashed child-like timber as endearing as the first butterfly of the spring. Her music is that which makes us call forth a part of ourselves, that we have long neglected, and for this it sounds familiar as a sister’s gentle sigh, but it is also a vehicle to render us breathless at the beauty inherent in musical honesty".

Sadie is such a beautifully composed piece of art that on occasion it's sincerity will cause me to break down into tears, especially when watching a video of it live. I have not yet had the pleasure for that experience in person, but on the fateful day when I do, I'm sure it'll be like a near religious experience. Her vocal performance just reaches out inside of you in what feels like an attempt to affirm that you are living and have the ability to emote and experience feeling. The song's quality lyrically is breaktaking, with so many degrees that I wasn't fully aware of until I read an interview with her about the song itself. In its most simple basis it acts as a memoriam for Joanna's much beloved dog Sadie, with the hindsight advocation for the need to acknowledge our mortality and not put off things we want to do the most. It implies that a dog shouldn't bury a bone for a rainy day- it's just a material object. It's something best to be enjoyed at the moment while you still can. The bone can be anything in your life you've ever put off, all the things you've wanted to do but feel that you have all the rest of your live to complete them. It's also the connectedness you have with others and your feelings towards them, how relationships we gain in life are such a significant bond that we should never underestimate. It'd be tragic to die leaving all these left behind unfulfilled. Love, any form of it is what holds everything together and unlike its beholder it lives on forever.

Joanna Newsom on the meaning of "Sadie":

"There are actually three stories; as with almost all of my songs, there’s this recurring triumvirate structure that imposes itself without my even realizing it at first. The three subjects are always connected, but often in merely intuitive or symbolic ways. In this particular song, the most straightforward subject is my then-dog, Sadie, who passed on recently. She was a lovely white Labrador who liked nothing more in the whole world than to play fetch. And I’ve always been impatient about that; I’d look at the soggy pinecone dropped at my feet while I was trying to get into my car, and I’d say, "I’ll play with you later."

The second subject of the song is a friend, my age, who was diagnosed with cancer. I remember marveling at the reaction of people around me, the way they sprung to action, finally articulated to her their love and appreciation, finally made those lunch dates they’d always talked about...and I sheepishly include myself in this phenomenon. It wasn’t disingenuous; it was just that our collective illusion, that we have forever to let someone know how loved she is, had been shattered.

The third subject is one of my most beloved friends, whom I’ve grown apart from. We had this sort of running argument, or a running series of disagreements founded on the same fundamental points of divergence, and if we had been close at that point, talking every day or whatnot, then those disagreements would have seemed like nothing. But because our correspondence had fallen behind, and we’d developed insecurities and bitterness, these disagreements became all-consuming; we fixated on them, let resentments build around them, let a silence build between us. And I remember just having my breath taken from me in one sickening moment when I paused one day to imagine what I’d do if this friend fell ill with cancer, like my other friend. I knew that I would fly to be with her, stay by her side forever if I had to, and revel in her extraordinary rarity, intelligence, kindness, forget all the shitty stupid petty small points of contention between us, because they were so insignificant in light of our own inevitable mortality".

Joanna Newsom - Sadie

Sadie, white coat
you carry me home
and bury this bone
and take this pine cone

bury this bone
to gnaw on it later, gnawing on the telephone
and 'til then we pray and suspend
the notion that these lives do never end

and all day long we talk about mercy
lead me to water, Lord, I sure am thirsty
down in the ditch where I nearly served you
up in the clouds where he almost heard you

and all that we built
and all that we breathed
and all that we spilt
or pulled up like weeds
is piled up in back
and it burns irrevocably
and we spoke up in turns
'til the silence crept over me

and bless you
and I deeply do
no longer resolute
oh when I call to you

but the water
got so cold
and you do lose
what you don't hold

this is an old song
these are old blues
and this is not my tune
but it's mine to use

and the seabirds
where the fear once grew
will flock with a fury
and they will bury
what'd come for you

and down where I darn with the milk-eyed mender
you and I and a love so tender
stretched on a hoop where I stitch this adage
bless our house and its heart so savage

and all that I want
and all that I need
and all that I've got
is scattered like seed
and all that I knew
is moving away from me
and all that I know
is blowing like tumbleweed

and the mealy worms
in the brine will burn
in a salty pyre
among the fauns and the ferns

and the love we hold
and the love we spurn
will never grow cold
only taciturn

and I'll tell you tomorrow
oh Sadie, go on home, now
and bless those who've sickened below
and bless us who have chosen so

and all that I've got
and all that I need
I tie in a knot
and I lay at your feet
and I have not forgot
but a silence crept over me

so dig up your bone
exhume your pinecone, Sadie

I'll end this packed entry with a live performance video of "Sadie." I love how the first line is met with such roaring applause and cheers that Joanna giggles through "white coat."


Katherine said...

Curious. I was also very struck by this song - probably my favourite on the albumn - but what I took out of it was quite different. No doubt due to my own experiences of the last few years, I took it to be a song about existential crisis ("all that I knew is moving away from me"), disillusionment with faith ("up in the clouds where he almost heard you"), and drifting away from God, but being unwilling to break the tie completely ("I have not forgot, but a silence crept over me").

Interesting to learn what she was really meaning, though it's always nice when a song can be so amorphous that it can be applied to all sorts of situations and emotions.

baroquepop said...

Thanks for the Newsom quotes. I thought I'd read somewhere before that Sadie was made up, but this seems definitive. Is that Sadie in the background of the pic I wonder?

Songs about dogs can be touching enough anyway, so needless to say Joanna takes it to a whole new level, combining it with themes of mortality. The whole album is great, and this track is exquisite. One of my favourites too.

Danielle said...

I have a dog named Sadie, Sadie Sue, she is 13 years old. She will be my maid of honor next week in our wedding. This song means the world to me and Joanna's music reaches my inner senses that are hard to communicate. I love Sadie so much (my dog and the song) I guess a week before the wedding I am revisiting so many important loves in my heart. Sadie is certainly one of them. I'm just glad she is there at 13. I also wanted to say, my father-daughter dance is "Clam, Crab Cockle Cowrie"
For some reason, it's just perfect.

Thank you Joanna, for such beautiful music!

Brad said...

Thanks for posting this! Speaking of Newsom, Roan Press's new book, "Visions of Joanna Newsom" is now available for pre-ordering exclusively via our website: