Sunday 22 July 2012

American Pilgrim

 Lyrics and music by Marion Parsons © 2003

A road song about travel in the US; see below for further notes. 

I hiked into the canyon, I worshipped with the whales
Read Steinbeck to the redwoods, and Walden round the trails
I tasted two great oceans and I sifted desert sands
In caverns chill, on wooded hill I vowed to love this land.
But all the forest said was, “Hug your own damn tree
You think that we don’t care, and you’re as right as you can be
You brought no spark to lift the dark that’s just before the dawn
So keep moving on, moving on, moving on.”

I searched for inspiration from the brave, the dead, the free
I murmured in Manhattan, and I knelt at Wounded Knee
I traced the secret railway and the names upon the wall
And I yearned for Reverend King to come back and lead us all.
But all the preacher said was, “Have your own damn dream
You think the ocean notices each earnest little stream?
Pride and shame are just a game that’s over when you’re gone
So keep moving on, moving on, moving on.”

From Carnegie to Graceland, paid my reverence to the muse
I drifted round the Delta sound, still pregnant with the blues
I went down to the crossroads on a Mississippi night
I baited my old six string and I waited for a bite.
But all the devil said was, “Tune your own damn axe
You think that I’m so short of souls I need more two bit hacks?
I can tell you’re dying to sell your queen out for a pawn
So keep moving on, moving on, moving on.”

I was weary from my travels, too lost and tired to roam
When I found a tent revival and I prayed to make it home
This futile road and aching load would soon come to an end
And gentle rest with pilgrims blest the Lord to me would send.
But all St. Peter said was, “Save your own damn soul
Get off the property, and don’t come back until you’re told
It’s not for you to pick your time or say your journey's done
So keep moving on, moving on, moving on."

I wrote this song while I was planning a bus tour of the US.  The third verse makes an allusion to the legend that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to learn to play blues guitar; the devil appeared to him at a crossroads and offered to tune the guitar.  See this article at the Mudcat Blues Museum for more information about this legend.

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