“The Weary Kind” And The Even Wearier Kind…

Oddly conflicted emotions today.
On the one hand the Oscars telecast, last night, was its usual overlong and boring self. But in spite of the predictable stuff, there were a couple of milestones such as Kathryn Bigelow’s IED smashing of the glass ceiling with her wins for Best Director and Best Picture (The Hurt Locker, of course, and on the eve of International Women’s Day no less!) and Jeff Bridges sort-of-lifetime-achievement award for not only playing but inhabiting “Bad” Blake in Crazy Heart.

But the best song, also from Crazy Heart, was Ryan Bingham’s “The Weary Kind” which was produced by T-Bone Burnett. What’s cool about this is that it was an actual song. A good song. A memorable song. Organic to the film it was in and yet it could stand alone on, say a Wilco album. Here’s a clip of Jeff Bridges actually playing the song on ABC TV.

The song, like the film, deals with the real emotions musicians feel as they tread the boards, lay down the tracks and watch, sometimes in slack-jawed disbelief, their lives fall away in the rearview mirror of their endlessly rolling vehicle. It’s important for a song like that to win. It’s important for a song like that to exist.

I guess it was even more poignant, yesterday, when I heard about the death of Sparklehorse mainstay Mark Linkhous by his own hand, at 47 years of age. Talk about the weary kind, Mark Linkhous made a career out of it. Not that it appears to have abated his pain any. His music, often informed with a post-Tom Waits gravelly quality (and a seeming kinship with Mark Everett’s songs in Eels) was an exploration of that pit of your stomach kind of sadness, that dull persistent ache that can’t be found on an X-ray, the sadness that Joanna Newsom recently described as a “fist fight with the fog.”

I’ll never forget where I was when I first heard “It’s A Wonderful Life” from the record of the same name.

Here’s a clip for the title song, directed by Guy Maddin:

Imagine me hearing this for the first time at a listening post in the Tower Records store in downtown Kyoto, Japan, and crying a little. I was a little road weary myself, my wife and I had been backpacking for six months, and about to move to Vancouver from San Francisco to start again with no prospects. We were uncertain, just like the music.

Mark Linkhous, sue me for the cliche but "gone too soon."

Like Elliott Smith before him, Linkhous chose to destroy his heart (allegedly a bullet shot to his own, Smith was a knife) as a means of ending this sad journey. How doesn’t matter, ulitmately, as much as why. And while the music leaves clues, we’ll never know exactly. He even appeared to be moving forward with a few projects, including finally seeing a green light on Dark Night Of The Soul, his long promised collaboration with Danger Mouse and film maker David Lynch.

Having made it through some of my own struggles with demons I am always saddened to hear about folks who just don’t make it. There are a lot of ghosts out there. They are not resting in peace.

Mark Linkhous was remembered by a few other artists today in a piece on Pitchfork so I’ll leave you with that link here too.

Leonard Cohen once sang, “I asked Hank Williams ‘How lonely does it get?’ Hank Williams hasn’t answered me yet, but I hear him coughing all night long. A hundred floors above me in the Tower of Song.”

Mark Linkhous, the weariest kind of tenant, has left the tower, but he did leave some achingly beautiful songs while he was here.


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