Where the Rain Don’t Fall

Since I find it impossible to meditate all day, I've also tried to blunt the political news and Pruitt's assault on the environment by listening to more music than usual. It's comforting to create the Soundtrack to my life. Much of the soundtrack consists of songs from childhood, like Bing Crosby, songs from my youth, like Elvis, or songs from my Blues period, like Bobby Blue Bland.

Occasionally, though, I found someone new that I really like, someone like Tom Russell who I discovered through Andrew Hidas' Traversing. Andrew loved "The Eyes of Roberto Duran," but I fell in love with the next song on the same album, "Blue Wing."

Russell may be a little too "Country" for my taste, but there's enough "Folk" in the album to counter that. It doesn't hurt that I like the sound of his voice and, generally, the voices of those who accompany him on the album. What really grabbed me, though, is his lyrics.

BLUE WING

He had a blue wing tattooed on his shoulder.
Well, it might have been a bluebird, I don't know,
but he'd get stone drunk and talk about Alaska
The salmon boats and 45 below.

He said he got that blue wing up in Walla Walla
Where his cellmate there was Little Willy John
and Willie, he was once a great blues singer
and winging Willie wrote him up a song

They said, it's dark in here, can't see the sky
but I look at this blue wing and I close my eyes
then I fly away, beyond these walls
up above the clouds, where the rain don't fall
on a poor man's dreams.

They paroled blue wing in August 1963
And he moved on picking apples in the town of Wenatchee
And the winter finally caught him in a rundown trailer park
on the south side of Seattle where the days grow grey and dark
And he drank and he dreamt a vision of when the salmon still ran free
and his father's fathers crossed that wide old Bering sea
and the land belonged to everyone, and there were old songs yet to sing
now, it's narrowed down to a cheap hotel and a tattooed prison wing

He said it's dark in here, can't see the sky
but I look at this blue wing and I close my eyes
and then I fly away, beyond these walls
up above the clouds, where the rain don't fall
on a poor man's dreams.

Well, he drank his way to L.A., and that's where he died
but no one knew his Christian name, and there was no one there to cry
but I dreamt there was a service; a preacher and an old pine box
and halfway through the sermon you know blue wing began to talk

He said it's dark in here, can't see the sky
but I look at this blue wing and I close my eyes
and then I fly away, beyond these walls
up above the clouds, where the rain don't fall
on a poor man's dreams, yeah, a poor man's dreams, yeah, on a poor man's dreams.

The song reminded me of a high school janitor who I really liked who had been a Hell's Angel member when he was young but had worked hard to turn his life around. Unfortunately, he got drunk and when his roommate dared him to shoot her in the middle of a quarrel, he did — and shortly afterwards called the police to turn himself in. He died a few years later in Walla Walla while serving a life sentence.

6 thoughts on “Where the Rain Don’t Fall

  1. The video, sadly, won’t play over here in the uk but those lyrics are quite something. I can see why it puts you in mind of the janitor. A sad, shocking story, that: the kind you expect to find in fiction more often than fact.

    • I’m glad you’ve discovered Tom Russell. He’s been a favorite of mine for years since I heard him sing his song “Muhammad Ali.” There’s a great compilation CD called “The Wounded Heart of America” featuring others singing his songs plus Tom Russell singing a couple himself. My favorite is “Manzanar” about the internment of the Japanese during WWII. though it folky and country I think you’ll appreciate the lyrics. check it out.

      • I liked “Manzanar” a lot, too. Sure hits locally even though I think it’s based in California. There’s another great album called “The Man From God Knows Where” that I would have to play if I were still teaching Honors American Studies.

What do you think?