Loudon Wainwright III, Men

After Wimyn's Week I felt a crying need for some solid yet sensitive testosterone, and so I turned to the ever wonderful, ever challenging Loudon Wainwright--who happens to be the former husband of last week's featured songwriter Kate McGarrigle, AND the ex of another great songwriter, Suzzy Roche, she of the other great eccentric folksinging sister act.  And of course he is the father of the now fabulous Rufus Wainwright and the gifted Martha Wainwright.  And all this is relevant not only as a segue from last week's theme, but because Loudon's writing always  brings us into his personal world so searingly, and yet so humorously.  It was humor that put him on the map with the strange and overrated hit "Dead Skunk In The Middle of the Road". And many of Wainwright's songs are gentle and fun.  But the best of them have an unexpected bite.  Here's one of my faves from his album "History".  Give it a listen and then we'll talk some more...


© Loudon Wainwright III

When a ship is sinking and they lower the lifeboats
And hand out the life jackets, 
The men keep on their coats
The women and the children are the ones
Who must go first
And the men who try to save their skins
Are cowards and are cursed

Every man's a captain, men know how to drown
Man the lifeboats if there's room, otherwise go down

And it's the same when there's a war on:
It's the men who go to fight
Women and children are civilians, 
When they're killed it's not right
Men kill men in uniform, it's the way war goes
When they run they're cowards, 
When they stay they are heroes

Every man's a general, men go off to war
The battlefields a man's world, 
Cannon fodders what they're for

It's the men who have the power, 
It's the men who have the might
And the world's a place of horror
Because each man thinks he's right
A man's home is his castle so the family let him in
But what's important in that kingdom
Is the women and the children

A husband and a father, every man's a king
But he's really just a drone, 
Gathers no honey, has no sting
Have pity on the general, the king, and the captain
They know they're expendable, after all they're men

It's an interesting take on the subject of manhood, no?  I can't think of another song that has come close to making this point.  Or anyone else who has written a song about hitting his child, and the lifelong scars that can cause.  Or called his son a "tit man".  Or told us in song "...what's happened to old me? Can't get it up twice in one night get up five times to pee."

And here's one called "White Winos" which gets into some very delicate issues of parental remorse, and ends with the very gentlest suggestion of Oedipal impulses resisted.  Look and listen and laugh and weep with Loudon Wainwright III... 

Mother liked her white wine
When she was alive.
She was desperate to live
But her limit was five.
Carefully I'd kiss her
And send her off to bed.
We always stuck with white wine
We stayed away from red.

Always stick with white wine
Stay away from-
Mother liked her white wine
She'd have a glass or two
Almost every single night 
after her day was through.
Sancerre, chardonnay, chablis,
Pinot grigio,
Just to take the edge off
Just to get the glow.

You've got to take the edge off
If you wanna get the...

Mother liked her white wines 
She'd have a glass or three
And we'd sit out on the screen porch
White winos mom and me.
We'd talk about her childhood
Recap my career.
When we got to my father 
That was when I'd switch to beer.

We got to the old man
And I'd always switch to-
Mother liked her white wine
She'd have a glass or four.
Each empty bottle a dead soldier:
The marriage was the war.
When we blurred the edges
When we drank a lot,
That's when I got nervous
When the glow got hot.

I always get nervous
When the glow gets...

I still like my white wine
And I'll have a glass or two,
When I'm down I'll drink some whisky
It's something I shouldn't do.
And every now and then I'll
Take a drop of red.
When I'm with a woman
That I wanna take to bed.

When I'm with a woman
That I wanna take to-
Mother liked her white wine
When she was alive.
She was desperate to live
But her limit was five.
Carefully I'd kiss her
And send her off to bed.
Thank God we stuck to white wine
And we stayed away from-

Mother liked her white wine.