Sunday, June 8, 2008

Advice: Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances

Daniel Johnston: Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances (original)

Dot Allison: Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances (cover)

Clem Snide: Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances (cover)

Don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Respect love of the heart over lust of the flesh
Do yourself a favor: become your own savior
And don't let the sun go down on your grievances

And when you wake up in the morning
You'll have a brand new feeling
And you'll find yourself healing
So don't let the sun go down on your grievances.

If a severe manic depressive with an unhealthy appetite for Mountain Dew, who is known for such manic episodes as throwing an airplane ignition key out the window while the plane was still in the air, gives you advice, should you take it?

Oft-hospitalized indie musician Daniel Johnston is known for being a serious oddball, an outsider in a world of outsiders, but his lyrics and songcraft are celebrated by a significant slice of music world and beyond – from David Bowie to Kurt Cobain to Simpsons creator Matt Groening, themselves a fairly untrustworthy group of advice-givers. His lo-fi production and wavery falsetto first hit the world through a series of self-released cassette tapes recorded on a $59 boombox; according to Wikipedia, common themes in his music throughout his career have included "unrequited love, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and comic book superheroes...a propensity to proselytize for his conception of Christianity, warning about the devil, and a fixation on the number 9."

Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances is one of Johnston's most covered songs, and it's a recognized classic, most recently appearing on the seminal Oxford American annual Southern Sampler CD for 2007; both covers, above, come from double-length tribute albums from a veritable who's who of fringe musicians from the indie world. Personally, I think the titular sentiment is sensible – resolving grudges quickly, and in the light, seems like sound advice regardless of the source. And from there, the song brims with words of similar wisdom, and other suggestions for psychological health, which seem equally sound.

Johnson's background lends an air of legitimacy to the lyrics, too; this is someone who has been in therapy, and knows, intellectually at least, how to keep the demons at bay, even if on occasion, he is known to force others into the shower to rid them of theirs. But Johnston's history, plus a fluidly changing chorus, also flavors this advice with a sinister implications about what the dark might bring. Caveat emptor, as with all advice, and don't say we didn't warn you.


brendan said...

fantastic post. i'd give anything to write songs nearly as good as daniel johnston's.

boyhowdy said...

Thanks, brendan.

Johnston is a relatively recent discovery for me, but the more I hear, the more impressed I am. Incredible how much these powerful songs shine through the original anti-production, like a post-electronic version of the field recording.