Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Knowing: Dean Martin: "Gentle On My Mind"

Sometimes the invisible is just as important as the visible; intangible, tangible. As important as it can be to have an experience of something, it is in some ways even more rewarding to know that that experience is yours and yours alone, softly tucked away somewhere, to rest upon when you need it. It can make a harsh world seem more friendly and bearable, and the rough life smoother, more elegant.

I see a clear path; one away from the city, the town, the village even. It's where he walks and remembers and walks some more, parallel to the railroad track perhaps, nearby some woods where he's found a safe place to sleep...he's away from her and yet she is always there, an interior night light of sorts, a sureness that gives the randomness and, yes, repetitiveness of his life an extra dimension. As he talks/sings he unwinds his tether to her, one that is the most slack imaginable without being undone altogether; neither is one for clinging or even letter-writing.

She and he have a bond; that bond exists not as two irresistible soul mates but almost as two sides of one person, one forever there and content to see him when she can, the other out there in the civilized wilderness, rough and forever on the move. There is no great unrequited longing of romance but instead the sure knowledge that she is there, a quietly profound presence that soothes like medicine and is as solid as the earth itself. He may roam, but he knows there is that one path, that floor he can sleep on...and this gives his freedom a sweetness that takes any sense of deprivation or desperation away.

This is indeed the sweet life without caring; a genial warmth that spreads easily from the singer to the listener, and while Glen Campbell had the biggest hit with John Hartford's song in the US, it was Dean Martin's in the UK, and his laissez-faire style of singing (on his tv show he does it so lazily I can't always make out the words; not sure if Liz Fraser ever heard this or not) suits the words perfectly. The song is carefree, open, wide as the plain I imagine the narrator walks and knows well; and Martin's cheerful embracing of that joy is a pleasure, and you can imagine happily walking along with him, sharing that gurgling soup, if not envying the fact that she is constantly - though not heavily - on his mind. Is he going away from her, going towards her, orbiting her? All are possibilities, but that she and he have that connection is the point, and essentially as long as they are both safe, they are both happy.

This was Dean Martin's last UK hit in his lifetime; it neatly helps to end the decade, to give notice that the early glamorous Mad Men 60s had not entirely disappeared (and how much more secure and at ease this is than Sinatra's persistent hit of the time, "My Way"). It is also damn refreshing to hear a song of love that goes along at its own pace (in a faster tempo than "Honey" - this is the flip side of that in many ways) and is coolly but glowingly happy, instead of miserable and maudlin. Extracting the sweetness in life and teaching the zen of being happy by making others happy - of enjoying the ride, even if he has to hug himself - that is what Martin is doing here, and as it is so many times, it is a stark contrast to the top song, which is one of insecurity, aching and dread. Blessed were those at this time who could live life so easily; whose only needs were a place to eat and store a sleeping bag, catch a passing train and drink the waters of memory.

1 comment:

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, likes Miss Lena, what a stunnin'ly stellar bit of Dino-prose you have truly seems to be a true knower of our Dino. Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool...oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth. Know that your Dino-reflections are bein' shared this very day with all the pallies gathered 'round ilovedinomartin.