Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Top 100 Songs of 2011 -- #83: "Dear Father" -- Colin Hay

I will always love Colin Hay both for what he did in the past and for what he's doing these days. Known to most as the lead singer of early-'80s stars Men at Work ("Down Under," guys. Did it get any better?), Hay has maintained a solo career since the band split. Zach Braff is a fan of Hay in particular, featuring his music on the Garden State soundtrack and on Scrubs, and the latter featured Hay onscreen in a few episodes.

Hay's solo career was most notable in the early '90s, but the 58-year-old has remained stagnant in releasing records, with one coming out about every two years. Gathering Mercury is his most recent, following 2009's aptly named American Sunshine. The albums are polar opposite. Where American Sunshine was a brighter, more-upbeat record, Gathering Mercury is one of Hay's most poignant -- and somber -- releases.

After the death of Hay's father, he began writing the new record. While all of its songs follow the familiar themes of loss, some more hopeful than others, "Dear Father" confronts this loss head-on.

Hay is arguably at his best with the most minimal of instrumentation. My favorite song of all time is one of his -- "Waiting For My Real Life to Begin," an introspective about one's place in the world and what the future may hold. Its accompaniment is nothing more than a 12-string acoustic guitar. Another one of his greatest, "I Just Don't Think I'll Ever Get Over You," is also played with minimal accompaniment.

"Dear Father" is about as close to 'minimal' as Hay gets on the new album. Guitar in tow (and the occasional strings to bolster the tune), Hay writes an emotional letter to his recently-deceased father. The song retains the same melody throughout nearly the entire song, but it's the lyrics to really scrutinize and enjoy. "Dear father, I’ve got your photographs," he begins. "Thank God for photographs / hip hip hooray."

What ensues is a similar lyrical structure throughout the rest of the verses. In them, Hay laments his father's death and that he can no longer see him, even though he sees his reflection everywhere.

In one of the most poignant lines, Hay sings, "Dear father, I never got to say goodbye / I was singing on the River Clyde and I didn't know." As it turns out, Hay was miles from his father's birthplace, playing a show, on the night of his dad's death.

One more line, my favorite: "Dear father, you’re starring in my dreams /
And you’re stealing all the scenes / where did you go?"

"Dear Father" is a song for anyone who has experienced loss. One can only imagine how Hay must have felt composing the song, and how he feels each time he performs it. It's a beautiful song about the struggles we face after a loved one has passed, and how we see them in our lives even after they're gone.

No comments:


Blog Archive