While pretty much all of my songs are personal, not all of them are directly-so – or at least not as directly as From Here to You. For instance, songs involving love that didn’t work out, (i.e. Shadow Talk, et al from other albums) – those I’m involved with right up to my eyeballs. But a song like Got a Notion is an indirect description of the frustration of trying to ever know what any woman wants, and why it’s so hard to communicate.
That introduction aside, suffice to say that From Here to You fits perfectly with at least the title of the album, since it came about after a 50+ year lapse of being in the life of my birth-father, as it had indeed been ‘the longest time’ since either of us were in the same room together, until Wednesday, November 25, 2015 – the day before Thanksgiving, nearly 3 years ago, now.
The song was inspired primarily while I was considering using a drawing I had done many years ago as part of the cover art for the new record. As I chewed on whether or not to use it, and reminisced over the drawing’s history (drawn shortly after I began dealing with some of my good ol’ family-of-origin ‘issues’), I began musing about how it was that I inherited my ability to draw at all, from my father, Bernal, (or ‘Pop’ as I call him).
So, the idea began to percolate for a song that would reflect having had many of his more artistic talents passed down to me (though I wish some of his mechanical abilities would have made it into my gene pool – I barely know which end of a screwdriver is the proper one to hit the nail with (grin).
I made a trip to Virginia to see my sister Kat, in November of this year, and while there, she mentioned she’d written a poem about inheriting some formidable artistic talents and traits that were clearly passed down to her from our father. She would later send me a copy of the poem, and I found it truly inspiring, and exactly the direction I wanted to go with my song.
But this was a relationship that had lots of fits and starts – it went all the way back to the early 1980s, when Pop and I were first back in touch by postal mail, but for reasons of lack of context at the time, I lost interest, and didn’t find being in touch terribly gratifying, and so we discontinued.
A decade later, my older brother Victor had gotten in touch with him more directly, even making a trip to Ohio where Pop lives, and found great fulfillment in pulling together the ties that bind that had been either non-existent in years past, or were frayed and nearly unseen.
I still had no interest at that time in getting back in touch, which caused some friction for those who thought it a near ‘must’ in rebuilding our past, and so some pushing and shoving, pulling and tugging went on, until everyone relented, and we all went our separate ways.
More conflict when we tried again in the early 2000s, only to fail over more push/pull from all sides, until Christmas of 2014, when I’d inadvertently sent a group email that I’d forgotten included my sister Kat, (I sent a short-story from an equally personal childhood experience, called Another Christmas Carol), and Kat managed to rekindle the fire with her gentle style of stoking, rather than anyone else’s efforts (including my own), to pour gasoline on it.
Email contact was made once again, and things went more smoothly this time; but ambivalence and trepidation remained, for some months – gradually subsiding as our communiques virtually went through the filter of Kat’s calming affect, and reflective demeanor – she was a fine mediator in this particularly vulnerable instance, and was very helpful towards helping both Pop and I navigate waters once riddled with debris.
We finally had our first face-to-face visit the day before Thanksgiving 2015, and while it wasn’t a Hallmark movie moment, we warmed rather quickly to one-another. When the time came to address more difficult topics that were loaded with myriad questions and potential resentments, out of respect for one-another, we planned well ahead, and created a ‘warning word’ to let the other know we were treading either too heavily, or into territory one or the other of us wasn’t comfortable with yet, and would need to end the discussion. And it worked – rather nicely, as I recall.
So by the time I actually sat down to write the song, all of what you read here, and more, was embedded into the thoughts and feelings that would go into it. The first verse was from specific memories of leaving home with our mother, as we abruptly abandoned their bad marriage and never returned; along with the memory from one other brief visit while my older brother Victor and I were still living in Maine with an adopted aunt and uncle. While this verse would also muse on the remarkable nature of coming full-circle and seeing the road rising before us all, and leading us home. As this was more or less the introduction to the song, I decided this should be the verse our older brother would sing – plus, older brother – first verse – kinda old school, but I like it.
The second verse describes the more complicated nature of dealing with strong wills, and the sense of ambivalence, and of stubbornness, until one or the other of our hearts might reconsider, and bend in a more positive direction. That would be my verse to own and sing. It still reflects the somewhat odd complexity of my relationship with my father, which while no longer contains any ambivalence, it still contains odd echoes from a past I actually find I know very little about – having heard but one ‘side’ of the story all these years. But present-day things are more complex to me as well – but only if I find myself “thinking about it too much,” maybe. Anyway…
The last verse I credit almost entirely to my beloved sis, Kathryn Tate Jacoby, for her remarkable poem was the greater catalyst for being able to complete this verse quite as well as I believe it came out – way to go, Kat. Indeed, her poem of a very similar vein was so pivotal in creating this verse, that I’ve rightly credited Kat with co-authorship of the lyrics to the song – and well-deserved that credit is.
The ‘from here’ in the title isn’t just from Pop to Vic, Kat, and me – it goes even further back than that – knowing that these features to us all go back generations (as Pop is into tracing our family tree back to Scotland, so some of it all of course came from the Tates who walked the highlands, there).
But ‘from here’ is also meant directly from ‘this’ here – from the perspective where I sit, I wanted him (you, Pop) to know both how much he means to me (us), and how grateful I am to have the gift he is to me, even after 50+ years, and the gifts of these pretty remarkable (and very much fun) traits that do things like make music for others to enjoy.
From Here to You could also include the words “and back again” in the title, because that’s really the gist of it all – as we’ve truly ‘come full circle’.
And in our case, “it’s love,” that’s made that happen…