Monday, November 24, 2008

... for the grace of God; Judee Sill, sweetly singing crayon angel

An hour ago I was listening to my brand new Judee Sill CD and weeping.  The tears fell as I heard the well-remembered harmonies of her second album, Heart Food. And the lyrics. 
Soldier of the heart, how'd you get so strong, 
soldier of the heart, take me along. 
Soldier of the heart, how'd you get so true.
soldier of the heart, I'm marching with you.
The battlefield's so cold, take my heart as a token, I long to give it to you.

Flying after a faraway cry,
I wandered to a brink so high,
Plunging down to the last degree,
The next thing I knew I came to,
And saw he was carrying me.  - Soldier of the Heart

I can't tell you how many times I listened to Sill's album, Heart Food, thirty-three years ago with a baby, a toddler, & a newly reawakened faith in Christ and in the Catholic Church. Her music was so beautiful, and so inspiring -- spiritual without any sentimentality, rocking and folking with Texas twang, cowboy lyrics and gospel rhythms. 

I see the vigilante watching in the deep of the night.
I always find him where his heart is, he's fighting the good fight
He smells a scent of trouble and prepares to leave,
He's got his eyes on the horizon reaching higher,
He's got his eyes on the horizon and his boots on his feet.

When I was stranded at the crossroads it was dismal and gray.
When I asked him for directions, he showed me the good way.
And if the sky is swirly still his face never swerves
Because his heart is always faithful reaching higher
You know his heart is always faithful to the captain he serves.
- The Vigilante,

I thought she must be a mystic, living a solitary life of the spirit and putting all of her faith into her songs.

Ten years ago I started looking for her work again. I could only find a few mentions of her on the Internet. I did discover, sadly, that she had died of an overdose of drugs many years before, and that her life had been troubled in very many ways, not the least of which was her refusal to rush her music into production for the sake of capitalizing on what modest fame she had acquired. 

A lot can happen in ten years. Judee Sill's music has attracted a new generation of fans, and her albums have been re-issued.  Last week I bought Judee Sill, Abracadabra: The Asylum Years which includes all of Heart Food as well as her first album Judee Sill, and a bunch of bonus tracks, mostly acoustic versions of songs from the albums. 

The tears I cried just now were tears for the lost boys and girls of my generation. We baby boomers, widely despised of late, came of age just as the Catholic Church -- giddy with the early, wild implementation of Vatican II -- failed to keep its head while all about it were losing theirs and blaming it on them. 
Chase him to the bottom, 'til I finally caught him,
Dreams fall deep.
Where voices come a-chiming, singing and a-rhyming,
Ringing and a-whining,
Hear them weep.
Still the echoes aching, leave us not forsaken
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison.
Now eveming shadows come and hum the requiem,
Kyrie eleison, Kyrie eleison,
Kyrie eleison.
- The Donor

Not everyone lost their way. But many of my generation put flowers in their hair and wandered out into the night looking for the Holy Spirit in all the wrong places.  
Beautiful Pearl, when will You reappear?
Mysteries unfurl and become so clear
When I feel You near.
- The Pearl

Read Will Yaryan's appreciation, Judee Sill: Out of the Mud a Lotus Grew in his Religion, Sex and Politics blog. It includes a link to Judee performing "The Kiss" in 1973. 

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