Friday, April 16, 2010

The Edie Brickell Syndrome

Most people only remember Edie Brickell from her beginnings with the New Bohemians and the hit "What I Am" with its profound - or nonsense - lyrics (depending on your affinity toward Zen thought):
I'm not aware of too many things,
I know what I know,
If you know what I mean

I loved the song and the group instantly. I purchased the cassette tape back in 1989 and discovered that the entire recording was approaching brilliant. It also brought special satisfaction that my recent ex-wife detested the song. "That is the stupidest song I've ever heard." I made sure to have the cassette in my player anytime that she was forced to ride in my truck.
Icing on the cake: my son loved the song. He would sing along in his own three year-old language and jam away.

But I really fell in love with Edie Brickell when she and the New Bohemians appeared on Saturday Night Live following the release of their second album, "Ghost of a Dog." She sang "Woyaho," rocking back and forth on the stage like a rhythmic goddess, and "He Said," a slower burning song that seemed to go on wonderfully forever. Dang, that had to be about 20 years ago, and I still remember it like it was last night. I immediately went and purchased that cassette as well.

About this same time, I decided to move to Houston. I traveled to the city and stayed at the home of a friend of a relative. I went out to the cowboy gay bar and ran into the cutest guy in the place, who told me that he was a bit shy and then took me to breakfast and talked my ear off.

As we began to date, we would swap out weekends: I would travel to Houston on most, he would visit me in rural Louisiana on some (he did comment that my local Wal-Mart had an excessive number of handicapped parking spaces - a-hole). While he was in my territory, I drove. Now, all my friends and family can confirm that I have the tendency to date a little out of my age bracket. And I discovered something: Edie did not span the generation gap. I have the irritating habit of singing along with the stereo, and one day when he was riding with me " 'Stwisted" (I believe it's supposed to mean "It's twisted") from "Ghost of a Dog" started playing:

And when it got to the line:
Crack flash of lightning
Struck from above
Knocked down a cow
And I kissed ya

he just looked at me and said "What?!"

It became a joke with all of his friends back in Houston. That relationship didn't last. Dang, he was still listening to Margaret Whiting and June Christy (and if you don't know how radically different that is from Ms. Brickell, then don't even bother investigating it ... just trust me).

But my relationship with Edie continued. I followed her to her first solo album, her vocals gracing a smooth Chris Botti jazz track, and a reunion with the New Bohemians. I was happy when she married Paul Simon (I'm a fan of his as well).

After the release of her second solo album, I got the chance to see Edie at The Roxy on Sunset Boulevard. I was living in Los Angeles at the time. It was one of the best live shows I've ever seen. Her voice was still pure and sweet, and she still reminded me of an older girl that I used to have a crush on when I was a teen (yes ... I'm gay... but I can still crush on girls). I called my son after the show. He was so excited. His first question: "Did she sing 'What I Am?'" Of course she did.

Anytime my son hears the song, I get a text. Usually it's a simple "Edie's singing."
I can still remember him as a three-year old, sitting in the passenger's seat of my old green 1978 Ford Pick-up, buckled up and singing at the top of his lungs:
What I am is what I am.
Are you what you are or what?

And Edie has no clue how much we dig her.

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