I’m taking a frivolity break tonight: my political posts take an embarrassingly long time to write, so I need to get something quick and low-effort up now so I can use tonight and tomorrow’s writing time crafting something that is more substantial and better researched.
Early in COVID, when everyone was opening up the vaults to various cultural programming in order to lift our collective spirits, I watched part of a Live from Lincoln Center broadcast with Annaleigh Ashford. Now I’ve had a bit of a girl-crush on Ashford since I first noticed her in Masters of Sex. After that, I learned what an incredible musical theater talent she is, from being the absolute best part of that TV remake of Rocky Horror, to Kinky Boots, to her revelatory interpretation of Dot in Sunday in the Park with George.
I didn’t watch the whole concert (episode. whatever-you-call-it.) during the spring. I’d been kicking myself over that carelessness, but preparing this quick post has brought me the happy discovery that the whole thing is still online—and not behind a subscriber paywall!
So, Ashford started out this concert with a set of disco hits from the 1970’s, interwoven with evocative descriptions of Studio 54 in its heyday. If you watch it yourself, you’ll see a particularly important transition happen at around the 7:40 mark:
I see lots and lots and lots of drugs
Ashford goes on to observe that
You’d have to be on drugs to write these lyrics
Which is a fair point.
Now all of this is in my mind today because I had to make a rare drive to the physical office in order to check my mail.* My commuting soundtrack happened to be a collection of late 60’s/early 70’s crooner music, including the Burt Bacharach’s hit “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.“
And as I sat at a red light, I was caught by these lyrics, closing out the final verse of the song:
Crying’s not for me
‘Cos I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining
Because I’m free…
And here’s where my brain caught air from the mental speed bump it hit. The first two lines work well, together, of course: they present the notion that there’s no use in crying and complaining about something that isn’t in your power to change.
It’s the implied causality in the transition to line 3 that made my brain melt. Is the suggestion here that you can’t stop the rain specifically on account of your emotional and psychological freedom? Like, somehow, if you were more bound by societal convention, you actually would have the power to alter the weather?
Yes, Virginia: I can overthink anything. And sometimes, like with silly existential conundrums such as this one, overthinking—pushing an idea out to its most absurdist elasticity—is 100% fun for me.**
* Alas, the piece of mail I needed has not arrived yet, so I may have to make more trips in the next few weeks. Blergh.
** BTW, the secret here is to look at the full quatrain and take them as two separate thoughts, each communicated in a couplet. Thought 1 is the one I outlined above about not fretting over what you can’t control. The actualy causality is from line 3 to 4:
Because I’m free
Nothing’s worrying me