40 Forever: The Tale of David Lowery


Sunday, August 21, 2011

A cumulative tale by David Lowery

Lowery, David. The Palace Guards. Santa Monica, CA: 429 Records, 2011.
Album cover by Michael Wertz.
My favorite song from David Lowery’s solo album is a dreamy waltz called I Sold the Arabs the Moon. What I like so much is that the words sound like the scenes they are describing–even if you just say them aloud. For example, the phrase “English the sea” sounds like a soft wave crashing onto the seashore of Lyme Regis.

And I was the man who sold the English the sea
They wanted the afternoon breezes it bore
The sweet smell of spices from over the sea
The afternoon showers it brought during tea
-David Lowery

It goes a lot deeper than that. In his blog 300 Songs Lowery explains that the song was inspired by a phrase in a book by Gabriel García Márquez, and a helicopter flight over Iraq.

García, Márquez G, and Gregory Rabassa.
The Autumn of the Patriarch
. New York: Harter Row, 1975.

I like the song because it sounds pretty. I also like that it has the same story structure as a lot of children’s books. Like The House that Jack Built, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, and Drummer Hoff, I Sold the Arabs the Moon features a list of actions that builds and repeats. In the first verse he sells the Arabs the moon, next the English the sea, and finally the Yankees the sky.

Emberley, Barbara, and Ed Emberley. Drummer Hoff. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, 1967.

David Lowery has a blog called 300 Songs where he explains the stories behind the hundreds of songs he has written. Even if you aren’t familiar with his music, you will like reading his blog. It’s full of great stories and insights.

To hear “I Sold the Arabs the Moon” played live, come to CampOut 7. It will be the music festival of a lifetime.

by Rebecca Hickman

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