Early morning in a now quiet university library, most of the students gone for the summer, thinking about a Guy Clark song. Not what I’m supposed to be here for but when a song gets into your head what else can you do but go with it?
It’s called ‘My Favorite Picture of You’ and it’s been the song of this past week since a friend from the American South sent it to me as a present. A song so strong, so elemental that no other song can live with it.
I mostly don’t like music videos, they get in the way of the music and my imagination. But sometimes when I particularly like a song I’ll nose around and see if I can find a film of the writer singing it somewhere. It helps me understand, get closer to the truth of their song. If it has a truth, if it’s not just a song.
‘My Favorite Picture of You’ has a truth. The truth of two lives and two deaths.
Guy Clark explains the writing of it by holding a polaroid of his wife Susanna up to the camera. She has recently died. It’s an old polaroid from the 1970s he’s had pinned to the wall of the workshop where he writes his songs and makes his guitars. The song and the picture both being about one afternoon in the 1970s when she nearly left him. So it’s a song it took him half his life to write. His last great song too, as he dies himself soon after the film of him singing it.
I’d had the song running round my head all of last week already. Walking along I’d find myself singing bits of it even when I’d thought I was thinking of something else. The song would not be ignored.
But it was when I’d found the film that the song moved into the front of my mind, Friday this was, and stayed there.
So that over the weekend I’ve listened to other music, some jazz and a lot of classical, but no other songs, no words. No other song being able to live with this one.
Which is why I thought I’d write this down. This realisation of how strong a song can be. So I’ll remember, and so maybe you’ll want to hear it, see it?
Here’s the film.
‘Almost’ he says. Still working on it.
What stays with me is the song, of course, it’s beautiful almost to the point where the word beautiful isn’t good enough for it. But also there’s its being about a moment of truth. That in the end what he remembers, what’s loved, is a moment she was so angry with you she almost left, you almost lost her. The fire of her, the principles of her, the this far and no further of her. The rage of her ‘I am’ and the glory of being loved by someone that strong, of her absolute demand that you measure up right now, in this moment of truth.
It’s that good. That true.