Project 194, Day 11: The Truth Will Make Us Free

This is the first song in Project 194 that I’ve included from my musical B.G.D.F., a show that I wrote over the period 1982-84. The singer here is a very young Gregg Edelman, who plays the role of Ted, a copywriter in an advertising agency (which is what the initials in the title of the show refer to). Gregg had just arrived in New York City, fresh from Northwestern University; since then, he’s gone on to have a very interesting career, originating, among others, the role of Stine, the writer, in City of Angels, and Cliff Bradshaw in the Broadway revival of Cabaret directed by Hal Prince. Three writers – do you detect a pattern here? The pianist is Hank Leftwich, and my chum Dick Aumiller directed this production and let us use his apartment to record these tracks.

I was a college student back in 1968.
Majoring in English Lit,
I was into all kinds of shit.
Brothers and sisters,
That’s what we were in ’68,
And it was great.
Give us a cause and we’d demonstrate!

I showed a lot of promise
Back in 1968.
Boy, that kid could really write!
People praised me left and right back then.
I guess I had a lot to learn
But it was wonderful back then to know
The truth would make us free
The truth would make us free.

I was a campaign manager back in 1972
Working as a volunteer.
“Save the world” was my trip that year.
Movers and shapers,
That’s what we were in ’72,
A cocky crew.
There wasn’t a thing that we couldn’t do.

Everyone still had dreams to dream in 1972.
I could really write a speech.
I knew what to say to reach the crowd.
I guess I had a lot to learn
But it was wonderful back then to know
The truth would make us free
The truth would make us free.

I’m a writer, I’m a pro,
You would think that I should know
That a writer who can show the truth is really needed.
Nowadays I hardly try
Has my talent all run dry?
I wonder where in the hell is the truth
Now that I need it?

I work in advertising now, it’s 1982.
Things are different nowadays.
My job’s a fraud, but at least it pays.
Getting and spending,
That’s where it’s at in ’82,
I’m telling you.
I write what the client says is true.

Who can say what’s right or wrong in 1982?
It all depends on point of view
It all depends on what and who you are, right?
Well, look at me,
How much I earn.
I must still naive,
‘Cause I still believe
The truth will make us free!
The truth will make us free…
But no one knows the truth,
Especially me.

It’s often hard to look back on my old work without cringing, but this is a creation from thirty years ago that brings me considerable pleasure and a feeling of pride when I examine it now. The music has a plangent, melancholy quality that tugs at my heart, and the harmonic language is rich and evocative. Gregg does a brave and skillful job of navigating a challenging and expressive melodic line; of course there are little clams (clam-ettes), notes that need to be tuned, and the piano (it was a spinet in director Dick Aumiller’s apartment) needs tuning too, but this one’s not as much of a cringe-maker as I expected.

What strikes me about it today is my obsession with the theme of promise and loss, one that I returned to with What Happened To The Song in Realities. It seems like I continue to fuss (through the mouthpiece of the characters I’ve written for) over the question of squandered potential – both songs are sung by characters considering the promise and how differently things turned out from what we expected. As I’ve noted before, I feel nostalgia for my youth – it was a great time, and I often think how much I’d give to be able to go back to a time I recall as being characterized by enormous vigor, enthusiasm, creativity. I was too young and stupid to know to be afraid or constrained by what I wasn’t allowed to do, and I hadn’t been seduced by the effects of a comfortable life. Now I’m more comfortable, that’s certain, and I enjoy a certain feeling of wisdom and experience that feels (on good days, anyway) like it gives me power and depth and status. But still – being young has its advantages.

If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194. Want to receive daily songs delivered direct to your inbox? Sign up here!

One thought on “Project 194, Day 11: The Truth Will Make Us Free

  1. Pingback: Day 111: The Final Task | Notes from a SAVI Savant

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