Making the Personal Songs Political

On Tuesday, over on Politiblog, Jared M. enumerated the ways Fred “Wimp Biscuit” Durst (whose personal site is not as you might expect) and Johnny “Boy Named Goo” Rzeznik schnucked up the Pink Floyd classic “Wish You Were Here” (scroll down–I linked to the lyrics for the whole album Wish You Were Here so you could get the feel for the whole album) for a tribute concert of some sort.

Here’s what I said in the comments for the post on Politblog:

The easiest way to wreck a good Pink Floyd song, or any song, is to make the personal political.

The best Pink Floyd songs conveyed personal experience. Think Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here (which, of course, contains “Wish You Were Here”, and The Wall.

Other, more self-consciously Save-The-World-By-Espousing-My-Whack-Job-Ideology work, notably The Final Cut, didn’t resonate because those works preached.

You can follow the trend in Roger Waters’ own work, where The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking tells a personal story of love loss and redemption, but Radio KAOS is some unlistenable parable and Amused to Death explains why the West, particularly America and Great Britain, are militaristic punks (don’t get me started on the contradictions in its messages).

David Gilmour, on the other hand, has his moments of protest, but his solo work and his Momentary Lapse of Reason and beyond Pink Floyd show that he knows that people connect best to personal messages within the music, not politics and preaching, and especially not hectoring.

So Durst and Goo have shown their tone-deafness to the reason “Wish You Were Here” resonated with listeners in the first place: it was a song from a narrator to a friend, not a manifesto.

Their update pays homage to a recognized and revered old song, but they’ve entirely missed why it’s recognized and reverered. They’ve tried to ride the coattails of the song, and the song just shrugged the jacket off, leaving them standing there with neither recognition nor reverence.

I just wanted to repost it here because:

  1. It’s a long post, almost an essay.
  2. I am too lazy to write essays on my own site tonight.
  3. I figured some of my fans (one or two of the three or four) might have listened to Pink Floyd once or twice.

Consider it a manifesto to songwriters and poets everywhere. Get your message across by singing individual experiences to individuals, not by thumping your bleedin-heart-containin’ chest.

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