Shel Silverstein is perhaps best known for his book, The Giving Tree, but I learned when looking up “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” that he wrote it for the 1970s band Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show. (Anyone here remember them?) He also wrote “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash, “The Unicorn,” which was made famous by The Irish Rovers, and created cartoons and travel pieces for Playboy magazine. Not your average children’s author! (I digress.)
I remember hearing Marianne Faithfull’s songs played in my childhood home, after her song “As Tears Go By” became a hit (1965). She was a big name in the 60s and famously had a romantic relationship with Mick Jagger during those years. The 70s were a time of struggle and illness for her, but she released a record in 1976, and then really broke back onto the music scene with 1979’s Broken English. I’m not sure how popular it was in my city, but I was one of only one or two in my group of friends who owned it.
Faithfull’s late-1970s voice, affected by a very challenging life, was unlike the higher tone she had in the 1960s so with that and the more electronic sound her producer wanted for the album, it was almost like listening to a completely different artist. Broken English is quite an album; heavy with synthesizers (played by the multi-genre-straddling Steve Winwood) and her raspy vocals. The title track sets the quick, often dark tone of the album which includes a cover of John Lennon’s “A Working Class Hero” and ends with the anger-filled “Why’d Ya Do It” which, like much of the rest of the album, is co-written by Faithfull and her band.
“The Ballad of Lucy Jordan” begins with a choppy but catchy keyboard line and electronic-sounding drum. It tells of the “disillusionment and mental deterioration of a suburban housewife, who climbs to a rooftop ‘when the laughter grew too loud.’” (Wikipedia)
This song reminds me that mental health remains a major concern in our society, where many people fall between the cracks due to government cutbacks, lack of family or community supports, or the general indifference that many people show toward strangers who are struggling to make it through each day.
Wednesday of this week will be Bell Let’s Talk Day. We really need to focus on mental health every day of the year, but I believe Bell does a commendable job of living up to its corporate social responsibility by raising awareness — and funds — for mental health programs. Bell says that this year it will donate five cents for “every applicable text, call, tweet, social media video view and use of our Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.”
But even with all the progress that has been made, there is still a huge stigma about mental illness and crises. Stigma in the acceptance of those suffering, and stigma about coming forward when struggling with a mental health challenge. It’s a vicious cycle we need to break.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please, participate in #BellLetsTalk — but more importantly, check in with someone whom you think is having a hard time.
Here’s a video of the song (there’s no official channel/version that I could find, but this one provides the best resolution and sound quality at 1080p):