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I Hate to Repeat Myself, But . . .

Posted by purplemary54 on August 6, 2015

So apparently this is the second time I’ve reposted this song.  I’d apologize, but I really do love it.  I was reminded about how great it is when I heard a clip of it while I was catching up on Pop Culture Happy Hour.  I should probably move on to some other song by Lyle Lovett, though; he really is a terrific songwriter.

Lyle Lovett has always been an intelligent and quirky songwriter, sort of like Randy Newman for the country music set. I think he’s as misunderstood the same way Newman is, too, since his most popular songs tend to be very funny on the surface, and most people don’t look past the surface. Lovett is just considered something of a novelty act by anyone not really familiar with the depth of his music.

Lovett has always had a great range of emotions in his songs, from achingly sad (“Nobody Knows Me”) to bitingly sarcastic (“(That’s Right) You’re Not From Texas”). “If I Had a Boat,” from Pontiac, is full of Lovett’s usual lyrical wit and a yearning for freedom. It is a road song for the mind. The guy in the song imagines what his life would be like if he had a boat: “I’d go out on the ocean. And if I had a pony, I’d ride him on my boat. And we could all together go out on the ocean. I’ll sit me upon my pony on my boat.” This clearly a fanciful daydream, possibly of a landlocked city slicker who harbors romantic fantasies about both the ocean and cowboys. He is alternately Roy Rogers and Tonto and lightning, a strange combination until you realize what they stand for and what he wishes he could reject. Roy Rogers stands in for conventional relationships and marriage, but if he were Roy, “I’d sure enough be single. I couldn’t bring myself to marrying old Dale.” Tonto becomes the working man under the Lone Ranger’s boss, “cause Tonto did the dirty work for free.” But his Tonto would quit, saying “Kemo Sabe, well kiss my ass, I bought a boat, I’m going out to sea.” Lightning stands in for the kind of freedom cowboys usually represent, “I wouldn’t need no sneakers. Well I’d come and go whenever I would please.” The only obligations he would have would be to himself and his pony, and they would be out on the ocean on a boat.

It sounds kind of nice really. Might be a little smelly and crowded. But to be beholden to only yourself and the companions you have chosen is the ultimate kind of freedom. Not nothing left to lose, as Kris Kristofferson once imagined it. This is freedom with everything to gain. All directions are open and all you have to do is go whichever way the wind blows.

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