Random ramblings of a mind damaged by years of disuse and abuse. Also a place to go to be bored to tears.
The Random Cartoon
Words to live by...
"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."
(The right to looseness has been officially given)
By the way... there's a crossword at the bottom of this page
Thursday, March 29, 2012
I hear it even today
You know how a song pops into your head for no particular reason and just festers there? The other day, I kept hearing the first line and the refrain to "Midnight Special" rattling around up there. I am not sure whose version. Probably this one by Credence Clearwater Revival... CCR - The Midnight Special
I started wondering what it meant, what it referred to by the refrain:
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me, Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me, Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me, Let the Midnight Special shine a everlovin' light on me.
There are, I have read, two interpretations of those lines. In both, the "Midnight Special" is a train, but in one interpretation the prisoner is hoping for the train to take him away from prison, to freedom. In the second interpretation, it's a desire to walk in front of the train and be killed.
I had not thought of that song for many years and, in the past, never considered the meaning of the refrain. But when the song popped into my head recently, I immediately thought the second interpretation was the right one.
You see, prisoners are never released late at night. And hearing (and seeing the light from a train shining into your cell) a train while in prison is a reminder that you are not free, that you aren't going anywhere. I can much more easily see the train to be a metaphor for death, for eternal freedom from a hard life.
Trains are mournful things referenced in many folk songs and run throughout the Blues genre. Maybe Johnny Cash caught the feeling best in "Folsum Prison Blues"...
I hear the train a comin' It's rollin' 'round the bend, And I ain't seen the sunshine, Since, I don't know when, I'm stuck in Folsom Prison, And time keeps draggin' on, But that train keeps a-rollin', On down to San Antone.
Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues
Nothing like a train's mournful whistle (if you can go back to the old steam engine days, the diesel engine's horn is just not as sad) to signify loss and pain... and the promise of freedom from it all.
Maybe it's because I grew up near the tracks. My earliest years were spent in a house only a couple of blocks from the Long Island RR. And after we moved to Florida, we were no more than a mile from the Florida East Coast Railway line. In Florida, the trains were all diesel by the time we moved there but in the early morning, before dawn, even that horn sounded forlorn to me as I lay there in my bed.