Belfast Telegraph

Life is a long song with resurrection as the wonderful encore

Thought for the weekend

By Allen Sleith

I was intrigued to see Ian Anderson being interviewed on BBC1’s Breakfast News recently. He was the lead singer and creative genius of Jethro Tull, a British progressive rock band whose heyday was in the Seventies.

Anderson was their eccentric frontman, at least as famous for his outrageous costumes as his musical talent.

But this was a mellower Anderson — reflective, eloquent, made all the more engaging because of his self-deprecating humour. And, of course, he was asked to play his trademark flute, an instrument on which he excels to the extent of playing with philharmonic orchestras.

I got all nostalgic and went onto YouTube to listen to some of their songs I still have on vinyl, a particular favourite being Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day.

It starts off with the sounds of Anderson making a cuppa before developing into a gorgeous uplifting track — ah, memory lane.

I clicked on another, a 1972 composition called Life is a Long Song.

The best version is a live one in which Anderson sits to play an acoustic guitar, accompanied by a pianist, a drummer and a chamber orchestra.

It’s a crossover of several genres — folk-rock-jazz-classical with subtle shifts of mood and rhythm. The progression of the melody is wonderful and Anderson switches between guitar and flute.

It’s the lyrics that top it off beginning with an unusually arresting line: ‘When you’re falling awake and you take stock of the new day’.

In the chorus, we get the master image where Anderson sings his three-fold ‘Life’s a long song’ followed first with the line: ‘If you wait then your plate I will fill’; second with the line: ‘We will meet in the sweet line of dawn’; and then the final poignant ending: ‘But the tune ends too soon for us all’.

In the last few weeks I’ve had a run of funerals and I’ve been thinking how apt Anderson’s lines are for all those I’ve buried.

Each one led a rich and enriching life, ‘a long song’ so to speak, but nonetheless, the sad feeling still tugs the heart that ‘the tune ends too soon for us all’. Faith’s affirmation is that the resurrection is an end to all endings.

Belfast Telegraph

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