Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Songs Called Songs: Swimming Song

Loudon Wainwright III: Swimming Song


Loudon Wainwright III -- father of Rufus and Martha by ex-wife Kate McGarrigle, and of Lucy Wainwright Roche by Suzzy Roche, who we featured below -- has made a career of wryly humorous, folky songs which hide deeply personal insight below seemingly mundane lyrics.

The oft-covered Swimming Song, which first appeared on Attempted Moustache in 1973, is a perfect early example. Though the lyrics are nominally nothing more than a list of where and how Wainwright spent the summer swimming, the subtext of phrasing and tone tells a familiar backstory of a narrator with a brash and unapologetic awareness of his self-destructive ego and show-off personality. The banal and obvious title is a masterstroke: it calls our attention to the transparency of the song's surface, encouraging us to dive in deeper.

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