John Hiatt: Slow Turning
I just returned from a long weekend away with my wife to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Our honeymoon, back before we had kids, and still had some money, was a trip to Greece. The past weekend was somewhat less grand, but still enjoyable. Because there is just something great about getting away, changing your routine and seeing new things.
There is a huge difference between traveling with just your spouse, and traveling with kids. Yes, going on vacations with kids can be a pain—they need to be watched and entertained, and they often share your room. They like to do childish things, which, it is sometimes hard to remember, is what they are supposed to like. When they are younger, they only want to eat fast food, and when they are teenagers, they supposedly just want to be somewhere else (I say “supposedly” because somehow that never seemed to be an issue for us—or my kids were good at faking it).
John Hiatt is an incredible songwriter. He happens also to be a good guitarist and singer, but my guess is that, when the final report on his career is written, he will be best remembered as a songwriter. According to his Wikipedia entry, he has won two awards, Songwriter/Artist of the Year at the 2000 Nashville Music Awards, and the 2008 Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. Also in 2008, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. So, I’m not the only person who thinks he is a good songwriter (not to mention, he has been written about often on this site over the years). Despite his long career as a performer and recording artist, he is probably best known to the general public through covers of his songs, most notably Bonnie Raitt’s cover of “Thing Called Love,” the numerous covers of “Have a Little Faith in Me,” and maybe even Buddy Guy’s cover of “Feels Like Rain.”
Hiatt has the gift of being able to very quickly sketch out a character or tell a story, and his songs have made me laugh out loud, cry uncontrollably, cringe and think. And often, his songs make you nod with understanding, because he has captured something universal. “Slow Turning,” fits into a few of those categories. It is a meditation on the vagaries of life, and how sometimes things turn out for the best, even if they don’t turn out how you want or expect. I think the key line in the song, maybe the reason that Hiatt wrote the song which describes his family life, is: “And you can learn to live with love or without it/But there ain't no cure.”
But is this song about a vacation? I’m not really sure, but it certainly is about a car ride, so indulge me. In what have to be some of Hiatt’s most memorable lines, which I think most fathers can sympathize with, he writes:
Now I'm in my car
I got the radio on
I'm yellin' at the kids in the back
'Cause they're bangin' like Charlie Watts
You think you've come so far
In this one horse town
Then she's laughin' that crazy laugh
'Cause you haven't left the parkin' lot
You can just see the scene: the father, yelling at his kids, face red and eyes bulging, the kids banging on the seat—not just banging, but banging like Charlie Watts—and the mother, head thrown back, mouth wide open and cackling hysterically, because all hell is breaking loose and they are still in the parking lot.