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Michael Smith Interview
- Michael Smith
Michael Margaret Pat & Kate
2000, Wind River
- This musical autobiography was originally presented on stage in Chicago in 1994. The CD opens with spoken word, I found an old photograph the other day. This picture was taken the day of my sister Margarets First Holy Communion
. Enter a world, a time, a place, a life. The picture is there on the album cover, telling a thousand words, yet its Smiths words that each seem to have the power of a picture. The recurring theme Five Angels plays for the first time. Time is a cathedral/ and I come here to pray. This is the story of Michael Smith and his three sisters, their Catholic childhood in northern New Jersey, and the tragedy of their fathers suicide when they were in their teens that forever divided their lives into two parts, before and after. True to life, the childhood presented here has no foreshadowing of the tragedy to come. There is an intensity to the childhood reminiscences, a yearning to stand inside the childish bodies and look up at the world. Sister Clarissa was eleven feet tall. There is so much that goes unrequited when you are growing up, and such feelings are on a grand scale because they are your first such feelings. There are first crushes and first heroes, first favorite groups on the radio. The music and the imagery are perfect. It takes a master songwriter to explore such an emotional subject in a way that is simple and direct, yet with turns of phrase that can be savored repeatedly. There are many moments one can identify with in the humorous details of childhood. I loved my bathing suit/ It was maroon and it was fuzzy/ And when it got wet/ It weighed about fifteen pounds. The pivotal song of the album Patricias Song (63 Wilmore Road) is literally his sisters song. According to Michael, The original method behind Michael Margaret Pat & Kate was that I wrote to my sisters to get their thoughts on all of this. It is taken from a letter Pat wrote to me that I set to music and that's pretty much what she said. The only line I made up was the one about the cars moving slow-motionally. A talent for mysteriously luminous detail obviously runs in the family. It was just like being set free/ Margaret changed her name to Margie/ When we moved to 63 Wilmore Road. The second half of their lives begins at the end of this song with a ride From the house to the church/ From the church to the cemetery.
The tragedy seems to go unexplored for a while as we relive Smiths Coffeehouse Days, complete with unrequited love and misunderstood existentialism. Yet the unspoken feelings for his father resurface in memory's snapshots that express the unexpressible. Remembering how he/ Would bless himself with foam before/ He'd dive into the sea
Near the end there is another spoken word piece. Michael recalls an afternoon where he is lifting his sisters one by one down from a chair they have been climbing on.
I love being their brother. I love holding them for the second it takes to lift them down. This memory is never far from me. It occurs under the oddest circumstances. It is like that little boy, that happy little boy, is trying to tell me something. See? hes saying, see?
In reviewing this masterpiece it is hard not to feel the same way, Michael Margaret Pat & Kate
see? Michael Devlin