What was the desire that drove Mary Callahan as she grew from a “shanty brat” in the Southwark slums of Philadelphia to become Mae Desmond, known and respected throughout Philadelphia as the first lady of the stage? I wrote the song Just Known to try to give voice to that desire, and the remarkably talented Clare O’Malley sings it beautifully. More thoughts after the lyric…
One in a litter of shanty brats,
Scratchin’ and yowlin’ like alley cats.
Ten of us crammed in a Southwark flat.
Well, I’ll be damned if I’ll live like that!
I want more,
Aye, that’s sure,
I’m gonna get it, I swear
I want to be heard,
I want to be seen.
I want to be noticed,
Do you know what I mean?
I want to be known.
Known for my skill
Known for my craft
Known for my heart, my art —
Do you think that it’s daft
That I want to be known?
There’s plenty of kids in our family
But just one me
There’s hundreds of girls at the factory
But just one me
There’s thousands of faces like mine on the street,
Freckles and ginger hair,
But if somebody doesn’t notice me
I’ll die, I swear.
A whiff of acclaim
Yes, that would suffice
Ah hell, even somebody knowing my name would be nice!
I won’t just smile and pour the tea
And blend into the scenery.
I’ll have a life
That I can call my own.
Perhaps I won’t be famous,
I’ll be known!
This post is the logical follow-up to yesterday’s musings about the urgent necessity of song. Mae’s wish is expressed with the naive fervor of a teenager – “If somebody doesn’t notice me, I’ll die, I swear!” – and yet it’s not all that different from the way many of us feel. Of course, being noticed is risky. Calling attention to yourself leaves you vulnerable to judgment, criticism from so-called experts and others with opinions, valid or otherwise. Are we worthy of being noticed? Do we deserve the attention? Tomorrow’s song is sung by a fragile fellow who decided to shut out the world and escape its lacerating critique, but does he seem happy? You be the judge.