Dar Williams is a folky pop singer songwriter from New York whose early career was boosted by Joan Baez recording some of her material. I first encountered her at Lilith Fair, the estrogen fest led by Sarah McLachlan in the late 90s. She’s got an endearing voice and pretty melodies, but it’s the lyrics I love, odd and funny with a social consicious. A lot of them take an unexpectedly humourous, sweet, or insightful turn at the end, and all are infused with wit and wisdom.
“Cool as I Am”
I’ve never dated This Guy, but I’ve seen the damage he leaves behind. The song’s narrator is dating someone who comments on every woman he sees, and as cool as she is, she’s fine with that … until she realizes he wants her to feel jealous and threatened.
You turn to me, you say you hope I’m not threatened.
Oh, I’m not that petty,
As cool as I am I thought you’d know this already.
I will not be afraid of women, I will not be afraid of women.
“What Do You Hear in These Sounds”
This one is a lighthearted skewering of therapy that just makes me laugh:
And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think
That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink
But oh how I loved everybody else
When I finally got to talk so much about myself
“The Christians and The Pagans”
This isn’t actually a video, just the song with that one image throughout. But what the hell, it’s a good song, about a family gathering at Christmas/solstice with a religious family, their Wiccan niece, and her female companion.
So the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table
Finding faith and common ground the best that they were able
And where does magic come from?
I think magic’s in the learning
Because now when Christians sit with Pagans only pumpkin pies are burning.
“When I Was a Boy”
This is my favourite Dar Williams song, though I couldn’t find a complete version by Williams herself online. This is performed by Jeffrey Lorien and Umeko Motoyoshi.
The lyrics are bittersweet, of a woman remembering a fearless, pressure-less childhood and lamenting what she’s lost now that she has to conform to the female gender role.The twist at the end is that the boyfriend listening to her laments what he’s lost by growing away from it.
And I tell the man I’m with about the other life I lived
And I say now you’re top gun, I have lost and you have won.
And he says, Oh no, oh, no, can’t you see?
When I was a girl, my mom and I, we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked
And I could always cry, now even when I’m alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness,
But I was a girl too.
And you were just like me, and I was just like you.