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Tuesday, 27 September 2016

"The Dutchman" by Steve Goodman

Stephen Joshua Goodman
The Dutchman is lovely song made (a bit) famous by the Chicago-born singer-songwriter Steve Goodman. He didn't write this particular song but his version is by far the best one.
I recommend listening here and coming back to read about it!
The lyrics are printed below if you want to follow along.

THE DUTCHMAN by Michael Peter Smith                      
The Dutchman's not the kind of man                                       
Who keeps his thumb jammed in the dam  
That holds his dreams in,                
But that's a secret that only Margaret knows.           
When Amsterdam is golden in the summer,
Margaret brings him breakfast,  
She believes him.
He thinks the tulips bloom beneath the snow.
He's mad as he can be, but Margaret only sees that sometimes,
Sometimes she sees her unborn children in his eyes.

   Let us go to the banks of the ocean
   Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
   Long ago, I used to be a young man
   And dear Margaret remembers that for me.
  
The Dutchman still wears wooden shoes,  
His cap and coat are patched with the love
That Margaret sewed there.
Sometimes he thinks he's still in Rotterdam.
And he watches the tug-boats down canals
An' calls out to them when he thinks he knows the Captain.
Till Margaret comes             
To take him home again              
Through unforgiving streets that trip him, though she holds his arm,
Sometimes he thinks he's alone and he calls her name.

   Let us go to the banks of the ocean
   Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
   Long ago, I used to be a young man
   And dear Margaret remembers that for me.

The winters whirl the windmills 'round
She winds his muffler tighter         
And they sit in the kitchen.
Some tea with whiskey keeps away the dew.  
And he sees her for a moment, calls her name,
She makes the bed up singing some old love song,  
A song Margaret learned              
When it was very new.           
He hums a line or two, they sing together in the dark.
The Dutchman falls asleep and Margaret blows the candle out.

   Let us go to the banks of the ocean
   Where the walls rise above the Zuider Zee.
   Long ago, I used to be a young man
   And dear Margaret remembers that for me.

It's a sad story about growing old, dementia and long-lasting love. But, it's not entirely sad, having some wistful elements of nostalgia. I like the lines:
"And he sees her for a moment, calls her name,
She makes the bed up singing some old love song".
Such a clear picture is painted in those two lines.
Steve Goodman died of Leukaemia in 1984 aged just 36. He had known his illness was terminal for some time but kept on working and writing. His most famous song is The City of New Orleans made famous by Arlo Guthrie.



8 comments:

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

Folk music is the music of my heart. I love the stories; I love the melodies. Steve Goodman sounded so much like John Denver, another one we lost too soon.

bazza said...

Hi Arleen. Same here! I think Steve Goodman's voice was a little richer than John Denver's though.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - what a fantastic song ... I could see what he was describing as I read through the song - very evocative. Sad to lose a talent so young ... cheers Hilary

bazza said...

Hello Hilary. I am happy that you liked it. It's a song that is under-appreciated in my opinion!

Sherry Ellis said...

Steve Goodman was gone too soon. Such a shame to lose such talent!

bazza said...

Hi Sherry. I have been away from my Blog for a while - taking a short break in France and family events! Steve Goodman was certainly gone too soon!

Annie ODyne said...

I never imagined lovely The City Of New Orleans was not [son of a composer] Arlo Guthries own composition. 'I'll be gone 500 miles 'fore the day is done'. Whenever I recall a lyric/melody not heard for decades I always wonder if the composer would be amused at the time/distance it could prevail over.
I had been thinking of the wit/intelligence clear in the Condon portrait up above, and here is the same Goodman who became his name. Very sad he died too young when some vile people live on and on who could have gone instead.

bazza said...

I was also surprised when I discovered that fact about City of New Orleans. Also when I found that Steve Goodman had not written The Dutchman!