Wednesday, March 16, 2005

"Father and Son" - Cat Stevens (Footsteps in the Dark)

I love Cat Stevens. I think he's one of our greatest songwriters of all time. I tried to find his Footsteps in the Dark CD for my dad's Christmas present, but I sadly discovered that most major record stores have banned his work because he's a firm believer in Islam. :( I won't say anything more about that.

This song is so unique in that it tells a story, and Stevens actually sings the parts of two different characters, a father and a son. He uses a different vocal color for each character - a lower, almost tired-sounding voice for the father. He sings in a much higher register for the son, and his voice is more passionate.

The accompaniment seems to be an acoustic guitar (played by Stevens), a piano, some percussion, and possibly a second guitar or bass guitar.

Father:
It's not time to make a change,
Just relax, take it easy.
You're still young, that's your fault,
There's so much you have to know. (HC)
Find a girl, settle down,
If you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy. (PAC)

*This section is a double period.

I was once like you are now, and I know that it's not easy,
To be calm when you've found something going on. (HC)
But take your time, think a lot,
Why, think of everything you've got.
For you will still be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not. (PAC)

*This verse is the same melody, but has a thicker texture in the accompaniment.

Son:
How can I try to explain, when I do he turns away again.
It's always been the same, same old story. (HC)
From the moment I could talk I was ordered to listen.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away. (PAC)
I know I have to go. (interpolation - PAC)

*The son's theme uses the same melody, but is sung an octave above so it sounds almost completely different. Stevens also vocally embellishes a little bit. There is also a much different texture in the accompaniment - some percussion, a second guitar, and piano that are not used in the father's sections. This suggests that the son is more passionate and energetic than the father, who's older and wiser.

A verse-long instrumental break occurs with a guitar solo on the melody.

Father:
It's not time to make a change,
Just sit down, take it slowly.
You're still young, that's your fault,
There's so much you have to go through. (HC)
Find a girl, settle down, if you want you can marry.
Look at me, I am old, but I'm happy. (HC!!!!)
(Son: Away, away, away, I know I have to make this decision alone - no)

*The original, quiet texture used for the father's first section is used again here. It's very interesting that the father's theme ends on a HC this time, NOT a PAC. Also, his theme is much shorter than the first time around. This could suggest that the argument is growing in intensity, and that perhaps the son has interrupted him?

Son:
All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It's hard, but it's harder to ignore it. (HC)
If they were right, I'd agree, but it's them you know not me.
Now there's a way and I know that I have to go away. (PAC)
I know I have to go. (interpolation - PAC)
(Father: Stay, stay, stay. Why must you go and make this decision alone?)

*Again, the son's theme has the same texture as the first time it was sung through.

Jonny Cash and Boyzone have done covers of this song. :)

1 comment:

Scott Spiegelberg said...

You made a nice point about how the underlying harmonies can provide commentary on the lyrics. It does look like the first section is a period, not a double period. The latter would require four phrases.