In case it wasn’t ob­vi­ous from yesterday’s piece, Grace­land  —  the re­al one I mean, Elvis’ man­sion in Mem­phis  —  is a place of wor­ship. The vis­i­tors are serene, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing be­lief not faith; a lot of them saw Elvis on TV or even in the flesh. They know that, as Paul Si­mon sings, in his love­ly, love­ly song al­so called Grace­land, that there’s rea­son to be­lieve that they’ll all be re­ceived there. And al­so just the name “Graceland” is the pret­ti­est word imag­in­able.

Graceland Mansion by night

“Poor boys and pilgrims” Paul sings, but get­ting in­to the man­sion is kind of ex­pen­sive so I guess it’s just pil­grim­s. That’s a word that brings an­oth­er kind of wor­ship to my mind, be­cause of a re­lat­ed word: Pere­grine, a fal­con whose name is cog­nate with “pilgrim” et­y­mo­log­i­cal­ly. One of the most in­tense ex­pe­ri­ences of my life was when in 1989, an em­ploy­ee of the Univer­si­ty of Water­loo, I got in­volved with the ef­fort to re-introduce pere­grine fal­cons to the area; a young res­cued bird was be­ing per­suad­ed to nest on top of the eight-story li­brary. We, the vol­un­teer­s, took shifts as watch­er­s, keep­ing track of the falcon’s move­ments, wor­ry­ing when it went to ground, re­joic­ing when it start­ed to learn to hunt. I loved that bird, the creamy beau­ty of its feath­er­s, the dra­ma of its “stoop”, a word which means di­ve; a hunt­ing peregrine’s dive is the fastest move­ment known to be achieved by any an­i­mal, ap­proach­ing 320 km/hr. A pere­grine fly­ing a cou­ple of hun­dred feet high stoops to the ground in the same amount of time you or I stoop to pick up a fall­en pen­cil; it’s awe­some. Watch­ing the pil­grim bird, I was full of rev­er­ence. Just for the bird; no metaphors or sym­bol­is­m.

Oh, I seem to have got­ten dis­tract­ed.

You have to be a lit­tle am­bigu­ous about Paul Si­mon, who got on the wrong side of some of the right peo­ple around Aparthei­d. But then he taught the world about the mu­sic of south­ern Africa, which has to count for some­thing.

You don’t have to be am­bigu­ous about Grace­land, though; it’s a beau­ti­ful tune beau­ti­ful­ly played, the chord changes are spook­i­ly epic, and the melod­ic hook on “I’m goin’ to Grace­land, Graceland” is among the sharpest any song­writ­er ev­er em­bed­ded in anyone’s mu­si­cal mem­o­ry.

This is part of the Song of the Day se­ries (back­ground).

Links · Spo­ti­fy playlist. This tune on Spo­ti­fy, iTunes, Ama­zon. Here’s a nice live per­for­mance.



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From: dubek (Jun 19 2018, at 00:13)

The documentary movie on this album is fascinating too; I think it is called Under African Skies.

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