‘It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken’
I’m pulling a page from Deke’s books today, talking about a single song. I rarely do this, it’s usually albums all taken together, or something else entirely. But I’ve had this song stuck in my head for the past two days, so I thought I’d just drop this here to tell you about my love for this Tragically Hip track, ‘It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken.’
A slow, sweeping tune, found at track 4 on 2002’s In Violet Light album, it is fluid and beautiful, graceful and stirring. The backing vocals call and response “go somewhere we’re needed” with Gordie’s “find somewhere to go/grow” blend perfectly. The guitars hold our attention riveted as they’re both gently arpeggiated and then rock chorded as it builds. Fay’s drums swing just so… the whole thing moves and breathes of its own accord. You could be in a gently rocking rowboat, or on a porch swing on a summer’s evening, or gliding down a prairie highway late at night with no one else around for miles, warm and illusorily safe in your metal cocoon/bullet. It’s a moment of reflection, of a life examined and therefore worth living.
The quotation is widely attributed to John Buchan (he was also Governor General of Canada and wrote The 39 Steps!). A little further digging led me to this track, a foxtrot by Lou Gold and His Orchestra, from “Playboy Of Paris,” in 1930. Both Buchan and Gold used it as “It’s A Great Life If You Don’t Weaken,” but the message stands.
From what I could find on the Hip’s song, the title could also come from a graphic novel of the same name by Canadian artist Seth. I’ve read that book more than once, and it’s a fine, fine thing. The story of the search for an obscure old graphic artist is gorgeous, and the artwork… well, it’s Seth, so you know it’s achingly perfect. You should read it post-haste, if you haven’t already. According to Wiki, Seth said the title was a phrase his mother used during his childhood. One guesses it was a quotation passed along colloquially from Buchan, or perhaps from the Gold record.
Whatever the case, it’s the Hip’s song that I have in my head these days, and I love it. I know that, most times, when I have a song stuck in my head for long periods, like this, I usually try anything to get reprieve, to change the tune. Not this time. I’m content to let this one enjoy its stay in the dusty halls of my brain for as long as it likes.