A post about one of my favorite songs of all time, from January 7, 2013.
I'm not sure why but I've always had a weakness for love songs where it did not quite work out happily ever after, songs like Patsy Cline's She's Got You, Bread's Diary, Three Dog Night's Pieces Of April, etc. One of my favorites has always been Sylvia's Mother by Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show. (Remember when bands had legitimate names?) It tells a story of a guy trying one last time to plead with his ex- who is leaving to get married and the girl's mom won't put her on the phone. It turns out the song was written by Shel Silverstein who I thought only wrote childrens' books. Silverstein also penned big hits A Boy Named Sue for Johnny Cash and Cover Of The Rolling Stone which was another smash for Dr. Hook. It also turns out that Sylvia's Mother was autobiographical. There really was a Sylvia and Shel really did love her and she really was getting married and he really did call and talk to her mom. There were a few changes. In the song, Sylvia was going to Galveston to get married instead of Mexico and her last name was Avery instead of Pandolfi which did not fit into the rhyme scheme. The telephone encounter actually took place in the mid 1960's but became immortalized in the first hit record of Dr. Hook in 1972. I've posted two youtube clips, with the first one being the actual music video. The second are interviews made thirty years after Sylvia's Mother with both Sylvia and her mom interspersed with the song. (I do need to warn you there is a profanity in the interview clip.)
It's amazing how things we think are inconsequential turn out to be life altering. None of the three principles in this story could have imagined that from it would come one of the best known songs of the 1970's or that this phone exchange would symbolize heartbreak to many young men. (Is there any guy out there who never went through a painful telephone exchange over a young lady?) I also wonder if it might have mattered to the real life Sylvia if she could have known the young man would become famous or if she could have known her name would become synonymous with rejection. In real life, Sylvia has also become well-known apart from the song whose origin has only become publicized in the past decade after Shel's death. I think it's interesting how Sylvia and Mrs. Pandolfi had slightly different takes on their relationship than what is presented in the song. I once read a quote that said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that truth and memory are related but not identical. God gives us the ability to remember and interpret and to learn from our mistakes. Who knows if Sylvia regrets not choosing Shel or if Shel was glad in the long run to come out second. That's what makes life enjoyable- we won't find out about tomorrow until tomorrow.... and we know tomorrow has enough trouble of its own.
Applicable quote of the day:
“Moving on is easy. It's staying moved on that's trickier.”
Katerina Stoykova Klemer
Katerina Stoykova Klemer
E-mail me at email@example.com