Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Obsessions: Dimming of the Day

I developed a bit of an obsession this Fall, going into the winter. It's not often I fall deeply in love, especially with a song--so deeply I can't play or listen to anything else. But this one hit me like Romeo and Juliet from Making Movies, with its line "I can't do everything, but I'd do anything for you."

"Dimming of the Day" is one of Richard Thompson's most covered songs--it's simply beautiful. The other day I played it in the car for a friend, who said "oh I know this, it's a Bonnie Raitt song, it's so sad".

I also originally heard it as a love song, a broken-hearted, post-meltdown of love-gone-bad song:

This old house is falling down around my ears
I'm drowning in a river of my tears

It made me think of the quiet but crushing end of my marriage, and the years of working through everything wrong with me (both real and imagined). A good song will do that to you.

When listening through the filter of a continued yearning for a love gone bad, a lost best friend, it's touching and heartbreaking:

You pull me like the moon pulls on the tide
You know just where I keep my better side

What days have come to keep us far apart
A broken promise or a broken heart

and the refrain
I need you at the dimming of the day. 

My obsession led me to the somewhat all-knowing Internet. The Wikipedia entry suggests it was not written as a romantic love song, but an ode to God. Richard and his then wife Linda had recently converted to the Sufi Muslim faith, which his manager notes here:

'Richard came to me and said "look, my Mullah doesn't want me to play electric guitar. I don't know what I'm going to do about my career... I'm not going to be working."'

Linda is quoted as saying  "'Pour Down Like Silver was when Sheikh Abdul Q'adir said we could make music as long as it was to God... "Dimming of the Day", "Beat the Retreat", "Night Comes In", they're all about God...' 

The article suggests the song was written "in a centuries-old Sufic tradition of expressing divine love in earthly terms."

It's a different and differently beautiful song through that lens, but knowing Thompson I suspect he intended it to be interpreted both ways. My obsession (like playing it daily, learning it on guitar, signing it daily) ended when I started writing again; my new obsession is my own stuff, which I'll share sometime.

Live performance and complete lyrics below.



Dimming of the Day

This old house is falling down around my ears
I'm drowning in the river of my tears ("fountain" in this version)
When all my will is gone you hold me sway
I need you at the dimming of the day

You pull me like the moon pulls on the tide
You know just where I keep my better side

What days have come to keep us far apart
A broken promise or a broken heart
Now all the bonny birds have wheeled away
And I need you at the dimming of the day

Come the night you're only what I want
Come the night you could be my confidant

I see you on the street and in company
Why don't you come and ease your mind with me
I'm living for the night we steal away
I need you at the dimming of the day
Yes, I need you at the dimming of the day

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