A foreward to “Songs of Home, pt. 2”

Feb 3, 2015

Pho Vietnam Restaurant in Fort Smith

 

3 February, 2015

Songs of Home, pt. 2- a foreward.

As I performed the songs from Songs of Home, pt. 1 last year, most commonly on acoustic guitar, in an opening slot at a music club, sometimes to a good crowd, sometimes to three passers by who happened to stop for a beer, or to a coffee shop audience where I could hardly hear myself over the crowd, I started to notice a moment in the show that seemed to catch everyones attention, regardless of what room I was in.  The moment is when I tell the story behind the song “Eric and Lily”. 

The song has always been a personal favorite from Songs of Home, pt. 1, because of the relationship I have with it.  It is most definitely a “song of home” for me, and an ode to where I wrote it:  Fort Smith, Arkansas.  The story before the performance usually goes something like this:

“I grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, a manufacturing and shipping town on the Oklahoma border.  The town has a few claims to fame, but one fact about Fort Smith that a lot of people don’t know is that after the fall of Saigon in 1975, Fort Smith became the home to many Vietnamese refugees. 

So if any of you need an excuse to stop in Fort Smith some day, you can find a Vietnamese Pho kitchen on any corner, and all of them are great.  As I was writing “Songs of Home, pt. 1” I knew I wanted to represent this aspect of the town, and so this story is about my favorite of the restaurants, and the story about it’s owners. 

It’s a classic ma and pa cafe called Pho Vietnam, and it’s owners are Eric and Lily.  As they were boarding a helicopter to leave Saigon in 1975, Eric was shot in the back of the head.  The bullet went through his neck and came out his cheek, and he was forced to board the helicopter and fly 30-something hours to the United States, where he stayed in a Florida hospital for months, having reconstructive surgery on his jaw, as well as other surgeries, before being sent to Fort Smith.  I grew up eating at their restaurant, and I just figured that if I didn’t write them a song, no one would.” 

I think through writing this song I was sort of forced to look outside the box of what is typical subject material for “Americana” or “Songwriter” music in this day and age.  Being a Nashville student of the post-Ryan Adams era, the songwriter is sort of focused on singing songs to the love sick, to the restless youth, to the self destructive side of our personality.  The songs typically have the singer as the narrator, are usually arranged and produced in a sort of a roots based, “stripped down” style, and usually come from a sad place, where the singer has lost a lover, or never had a lover, or is reacting to a once passionate love that has faded. 

So I think what I like most about this song is that it forces me to notice all of those trends, and then realize where I have departed from them, and where I could depart from them further going forward (or not depart from them).  Also, it’s just a good story about home, and a perspective on home that at least makes me look at the idea from a different angle than I normally would, which was the main goal I had when I started writing the “Songs of Home” series, and is at the forefront of my approach to “Songs of Home, pt. 2”.  I will share more details on part 2 in time, but for now, listen to the album version of “Eric and Lily”, and check out the lyrics as well.

Eric and Lily leased this old fillin’ station

November 1984.

Lily’s worked ten hours a day in the kitchen,

Eric the Banh Mi, the green tea, the floor;

Tiled in vinyl and dirty from time,

From each muddy boot, each spill of pho.

Two kids through school on the cash only dive,

American “Ma and Pa”.

*

From gravity’s fall on a Saigon home

To this any American town

Stories are told all over the country

But most of them ain’t written down.

So if you don’t listen, you’re likely to miss ‘em

and they won’t always be around.

*

Eric was shot in the back of the neck

while boarding a chopper to flee

The land he was born, with Lily beside him,

To a far away hospital, just refugees.

Nine months of surgery, forty years sore,

And he never could talk like he once did.

But I hear his story in the scent of the tea,

and when he takes my order, and thanks me.

*

From gravity’s fall on a Saigon home

To this any American town

The stories are told all over the country

But most of them ain’t written down.

So if you don’t listen, you’re likely to miss ‘em

and they won’t always be around.

*

I go when the crowd thins, about two or three

as Eric cleans up the last tables

she brings their meals, and they sit together,

and I’m in the corner, the news on TV.

Some story ‘bout divide, and a split constitution

but I was listening to them speak Vietnamese.

The whole conversation, the decay of the nation

brings me back to these refugees

*

From gravity’s fall on a Saigon home

To this any American town.

The stories are told all over the country

But most of them ain’t written down.

So if you don’t listen, you’re likely to miss ‘em

and they won’t always be around.

1 comment

  1. Anita Delp says: February 3, 2015

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