When words are married to a melody equally as powerful as they are, things happen. Lyrics change, and where there was once no understanding, sometimes the notes are the answer. They awaken deaf ears, or passions we’ve turned our backs on.
I haven’t been writing as much lately. The rejection got to me. I continually preach how I’ll never stop trying, I’ll always love writing before all else, and I won’t give up my dream of sharing it. However, I did…a little bit. I was angry at my writing. It became like a little gremlin that wouldn’t shut up no matter how tightly I closed my ears. I found myself screaming into pillows and imagining pulling the writer out of my chest to lock it in a box. However, much like the tale-tell heart, it beat so loudly. I let it drive me mad, and busied myself with anything I could to avoid it. I never thought I would see the day…
Then it happened. I heard one of those songs that only come out every couple decades. I heard a new sound that jolted me to life. I heard the melody before the words. It was sultry and grinding. It was folksy and bluesy. It was modern with antiquated traits. It was some place where the ghost of Janis Joplin mingled with Lady Antebellum if such can be imagined. It may only get to be heard…
I closed my eyes and breathed in saw dust from a mill dirty men were working at nearby. I saw a barefoot woman in a second-hand, dirt-washed, floral dress pacing in a barren front yard in front of her shack. I saw a newspaper thrown down beside her declaring World War 2 was over, but was more concerned with the blood stain on her right shoulder. I hadn’t yet decided where it had come from, nor if she is insane or just drunk. I do however know she is thirsty. She’s thirsty to be touched, loved, or just noticed. I think she was probably born cursed and is more earnest than people know. If she is at the point of madness she’s been driven to it. She’s strong, but probably won’t be forever. The daisy in a Dixie cup she picked for herself gives her away. Oh my…Where did this character come to me from? It happened in a flash. I think I can make something of her…was it simply a few bars of a song?
Then I snapped out of it and heard the words,
“Billie Jean is not my lover. She’s just a girl who claims that I am the one. But the kid, is not my son.”
It was drawn out, pushed, like the singer was forcing himself out of a heat stroke on a southern August day in the Carolina sand hills. They had covered a MICHAEL JACKSON song in such a way they showed me Billie Jean herself. I saw her before I heard her name, and now she’s inspired me.
The band, The Civil Wars told me the story of girl with a deep sadness about her who just tries to be a good time. They told me the story of someone who was once beautiful but used and denied to the point she lost herself. They told me something Michael did not. They told me her side.
Now I have to write the rest of the story. I now see the next level, the rawness, the pain. I see the man who did this to her, and I see a gun in another lovers hand. I see a washed up war-time pin-up, and I see bastard child with a curse hanging on her head as plainly as her Mama’s. I hear old southern accents, like the kind my grandparents use bustling about, and I smell moonshine on all their breaths. I think…I think I just might have a novel in spite of my rebellion against it. I think one form of art reached out and stroked another, and I think I am grateful.