Song composed by Gunnar Madsen and Richard Greene
Performed by The Bobs
One of the greatest concerts I have been privileged to attend was a day long folk festival on the outskirts of Boston some twenty five years ago. Thinking back on the list of performers, I think they were using the looser definition of folk music that extended the boundaries well beyond what one might have heard in Greenwich Village in the early sixties. Each performer took to the main stage starting in late morning. Many also circulated through two smaller tents during the course of the afternoon. As with all such scheduling, the choices were difficult, but we made it to the small tent for what may well be the most incredible musical confluence that I have experienced. The Bobs came out and introduced their new friends, Mahlatini and the Mahotella Queens. Amazing artists separately, they then proceeded to work out an improvisation that turned into a riff on the music of the Who and then ventured off into realms undiscovered. Honestly, the content is gone from memory, but watching the members of each group defy their inability to find a shared spoken language and still create beautiful music… the communication beyond words.
Finally though, The Bobs were alone on the stage as Mahlatini and the Mahotella Queens had places to be. Gunnar Bob took the small audience into their confidence and announced that he was leaving the group, but that they already had new member Joe Bob on board (no real surprise since he was standing right there). Then Gunnar introduced this new song that he had written after seeing Hare Krishna walk past his house one morning.
Few groups have a backlog as amazing as The Bobs, including Grammys, cover tunes, originals, and stunning arrangements. So, why this song? I love virtually everything they have done, but there is something about that mix of cynicism and empathy that I sense here that is a rarity in all art forms. Dramas succeed sometimes, but songs are so brief, so gone in a moment. Clearly, the Krishna in the song is messing up on the expected vow of poverty, but isn’t poverty our expectation and not necessarily his? Even the Janet mentioned in the song- well, we thought he was celibate. Perhaps he still is. Once again, the song is about expectations as much as human failings. Why must Krishna be only one thing? Art that gives us a minute or an hour to see ourselves in the other, be it that joy of driving the fast car or meditating quietly in the corner- that is art that can be remembered three decades later.
Now, A Capella is a beautiful thing, but there is nothing like the experience of hearing the walls shake from a single bass voice- the story of Jericho seems it might be plausible in that moment. The Bobs have just such a bass in Richard Bob Greene. For a bonus for those aficionados of a little humor in their music, Greene occasionally produces other groups- check out Davinci’s Notebook. The album that he worked on with them is head and shoulders above much of the rest of the competition.
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 284 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out are released regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry are posted irregularly. Notifications are posted on Facebook which you can receive by friending or following Craig.