When I was a freshman in college, I had two English professors. The first of which I had my first semester. She was very into grammatically correct sentences, following rules, and ripping all of her first year students a new asshole at their very first meeting with her (I remember leaving her office for the first time, in tears after such an ass-ripping).
The second of which English professors, whom I had the pleasure of meeting my second semester of college, taught Creative Writing, and felt that rules should be learned well so you knew when to break them correctly. He was pleasant and eccentric and open-minded. I remember leaving his office the very first time after a one-on-one meeting feeling elated, overjoyed… maybe even hopeful that I had a future as a writer, someday. I even remember the paper I was writing that we had been discussing. He had asked the class to write and analyze a short story or narrative that was personal to us. Because I’m a pain in the ass, I had asked if I could use a song instead of a story. To my surprise, he said, “Yes. As long as there is a beginning and end that can be interpreted as a short story.”
I chose LA Song, by Beth Hart. I remember hearing the song on the radio in high school, and it grabbed me like a feral magnet. I couldn’t get it out of my head. I bought the album and devoured every song on it. I memorized each lyric, each chord progression, each emotion. Every song felt like a personal glimpse into Hart’s life: a chance to look at a dissected soul that had yet to pass onto another world. It felt as if she were daring each of us to look at the shameful parts of ourselves–and laughing at our cowardice when we flinched.
Her LA Song chronicles the life of a woman who is depressed and feeling as if everyone around her is the problem, til she leaves and realizes… nope. She’s been her own problem the entire time.
-Beth Hart, LA Song
She’s got a gun, she’s got a gun
She got a gun she calls the lucky one
She left a note right by the phone
Don’t leave a message ’cause this ain’t no home
And she cried and she cried, and she cried and she cried
She cried so long her tears ran dry
Then she laughed and she laughed, she laughed and she laughed
Cause she knew she was never comin’ back
Long story short, Professor 2 was way more enthusiastic about my writing than Professor 1. He loved my creativity in using a song instead of like, an Edgar Allen Poe poem or a short story. He loved hearing about a new songwriter he hadn’t heard of before. He loved how I didn’t really care for convention or rules, and instead just relied on my own ear and intuition. I was encouraged after leaving his classroom. I felt as if I had left a parallel dimension and entered into the real world over Christmas break. A world where only professors like Semester 2 guy were in charge and none of Semester 1 ladies were in charge.
Imagine my surprise when I found out from older students, that Semester 1 and Semester 2 English Professor were married. Not only were they MARRIED, but they were married TO EACH OTHER.
I can’t describe this to you, friend. I imagine it would be like finding out two beloved people who were married, suddenly divorced. That is maybe the only thing I can liken this to: finding out one beloved person and one terrible monster person were united in holy matrimony. My head was reeling. I couldn’t imagine how two people who had the same interest (writing) but were at opposite ends of the spectrum, ended up together. It made my brain vomit. Nothing made sense. I couldn’t understand how two people who had such vastly different interpretations of my writing (Semester 1 Professor was one of only 2 B grades I received my entire college career) could live harmoniously under the same roof.
Years later, I still think about that, obviously. How two people who seem so different, could make it work. How two people who clearly see the world in such different lights, could ever find themselves in each other…
But then, I went to a Beth Hart concert. The one who started all of this. The songwriter who fueled the fire for Semester 2 Creative Writing in Freshmen English.
And you know what? She didn’t even play the LA Song. In fact, she didn’t play one song I knew. And I know a lot of Beth Hart songs. More than most people. She talked a lot about the people who knew her when she wrote LA Song… but she didn’t play it. She was onto new things. She was the New Beth Hart, but with the same old support system she always had.
Just singing different songs.