Monday, November 07, 2011

Dory Previn: Doppleganger

"Would you care to stay till sunrise?
It's completely your decision" ~ Dory Previn
Once in a while something leaps out from the shadows to bite you on the ass...if you're lucky. I live for those moments, those rare occurrences of fate and serendipity that produce a new discovery. Enter Dory Previn. Not really new - we already met years ago. My mum was a fan in the early 70s, along with Judy Garland and Helen "I Am Woman" Reddy...

It was during the heyday of the women's liberation movement, Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem and the National Organization for Women (NOW). Previn represented the bohemian side of the zeitgeist, sort of a Blonde on Blonde-era Dylan in drag. She was once married to André Previn until Mia Farrow snatched him away, but at least she got a great song out of it: "Beware of Young Girls."

Bob Dylan was a big fan and for a brief time she stood tall among the other songwriting divas of her age like Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Janis Ian. A cross between Harpo Marx and Dorothy Parker, she could slay all and sundry with her vagabond wit and charm the rest with her mythical iguanas....

"Lady With The Braid" has to be the greatest song ever written about the consequences of unfastening a braid...

Yes, it's official - my mother had (has) wicked taste! I remember seeing Previn's Live At Carnegie Hall album kicking around the house when I got older, but I wrote her off as too fey and much too patchouli. She reminded me of my grade 2 teacher with those tinted glasses, hoop earrings and crochet...I wasn't interested. But time changes taste and taste changes everything.

Previn was institutionalized during the mid-60s and like most extreme experiences, it made her songs all the more complex and powerful. "Doppelganger" is a profound meditation on our complicity with evil...not something you'd expect to hear from a pop song, unless you consider the tunes of Bertolt Brecht Top of the Pops material...

I’ve seen him in the headlines, and on the evening news,
I saw him on the sidelines when stones were thrown at Jews,
And marching in Montgomery, pretending that he cared,
I saw him wink, as though some old conspiracy were shared

Last night I found obscenities scrawled across my wall,
I swear I can’t repeat the filthy words that I recall,
And then the most immoral, damned insulting thing of all,
As I read each line
I noticed
his handwriting
was identical
with mine

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