Sunday, November 25, 2012

Leftovers (Songs from Poems): Makers

Rocky Votolato: Makers


One of the many things that I have enjoyed over the past (nearly) year contributing to this blog is that it has forced me to learn more about the songs and artists that I write about, and to take more in-depth looks at the songs. You know how you can hear a song a million times, but not really know what it is about until someone says something, or you read something about it, or you simply listen to it more carefully? That’s what happened today when I decided to write about Rocky Votolato’s “Makers.”

When I saw that the theme was “Leftovers,” I figured that I could pick a song I wanted to write about and find a theme that fit. Back in June, I wrote about William Elliott Whitmore, and the great concert that I saw with my son, and I have wanted to post about the other two acts we saw that night, Rocky Votolato and Lucero. And in looking at old themes, I noticed that Autopsy IV (whose blog Nine Bullets has been a favorite of mine for a while), posted a few Lucero songs back in 2009, under the theme “Drinkin’ Songs,” which made me think of writing about “Makers.” But, although the song mentions my favorite bourbon, it really isn’t a drinkin’ song.

I’ve heard the song many times, in Votolato’s recorded version, played live, and most often, played and sung by my son and his friends. After that great concert, we both became huge Lucero fans, and I really was touched by Whitmore. But my son fell hard for Rocky, and learned to play his songs. He taught his friends “Makers” and they played it at high school cast parties and other musical events. (He also saw Votolato a number of times, met him once at a small concert and even won his guitar in a raffle. And it is quite a nice guitar.) We contributed money through Kickstarter for Votolato’s latest album, and as a premium, received the handwritten, autographed lyrics to “Makers” in the picture above.

But what is it about? Frankly, I never really focused on it—except I knew it was about death in some form. I’ve always been more of a music/gut feel kind of guy, and great lyrics, to me, are like a bonus. So, this morning, I read them, and, yeah, it is about death, and I suppose, the narrator’s rumination on death. So, why is it a song from a poem? Doing my due diligence, I searched on the Internet, and found a comment from a fan, who said that he had heard Votolato explain that the song was inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Kaddish,” written about Ginsberg’s mother. To quote this anonymous poster:

“Rocky and his friend were talking about existentialist philosophy which deals with the meaning of life, whether or not God exists, the consequences of believing or not believing... essentially the philosophy of existence. They were also drinking Makers. It just so happens that on this night they were in the same New York apartment building that Ginsberg wrote ‘Kaddish’ in.”

Now, I’m not going to rely totally on what I read on the Internet, so I read “Kaddish.” And damned if there aren’t clear connections between the poem and the song. Not to mention that the song mentions “Allen.” So, I’m sold on this interpretation.

“Makers” is a powerful song, made better by spending time with it, savoring it and enjoying it, like a great poem, or a fine glass of bourbon.

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