A flame that burns within ya

It’s peculiar, this old life.

A few years back, when I was more musically active and constantly whistling promising new melodies into my tape recorder, I stumbled across a series of notes which I was sure I had heard before. This, of course, is not uncommon for a songwriter, because you are subjected to any number of outside influences seeping into your subconscious mind. As a youngster, I wrote a song that I later discovered copied Joe Jackson’s song “Got the Time” note-for-note, and certainly I never sat down and listened to that record before I wrote the song. At most, perhaps I heard it on a mix tape in a friend’s car on the way to school in the morning, or conceivably the cover version by Anthrax. I may have heard my metalhead junior high friends singing it amongst themselves. Not until my older brother sent me a copy of the song on a tape just a couple years ago did I realize how close a match the song was. In melody and rhythm, not quality, of course.

This time around, I found the series of notes bouncing around inside my brain. I thought long and hard and although they sounded familiar, I could not place them into the context of an entire song. I figured that the tune was from a trumpet warm-up book that I used in band class in junior high, and so resigned myself to not being able to think of the song that the tune was from.

A couple nights ago, however, the song revealed itself, on, strangely enough, the HBO series “Real Sex”. There was a segment detailing some town or other that had passed an ordinance barring nudity from non-theatrical performances, and a savvy strip club’s way around that rule by putting on performances of Shakespeare in the nude. I wasn’t watching too closely, because as a wholesome, clean-cut Christian with upstanding Christian morals and a cutting Christian wit, I’m not really into that type of thing, but suddenly I took notice of a song playing non-diagetically within the segment. It was THAT song!

And what was the song? “Freedom” from the musical Shenandoah. “Freedom ain’t a state like Maine or Virginia, freedom ain’t across some county line. Freedom is a flame that burns within ya, freedom is a state of mind!” The bit I remembered was only a small part of it, and over the years I had embellished it in my brain, adding rhythmic variations and intertwining harmonies, but it was no doubt THAT song. The question remained: why the hell did I know THAT song?

There are two possible answers: either I sang it in fourth grade chorus, or my younger brother sang it in fourth grade chorus. For some reason I have a better memory of the songs my younger brother sang in fourth grade chorus, including “One” from A Chorus Line, “What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor?”, “Where Is Home?”, and, of course, “We, the Children of America” (for which the sixth grade band provided musical accompaniment).

Don’t look at me like that.

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