It's the Tenth of January, and I still ain't had no sleep...
Once again, it's Arlo Guthrie Day, celebrating what is perhaps my all-time favorite song, "Darkest Hour," a mysterious, dream-like song, with some of the best poetry this side of "Mr. Tambourine Man."
The song captured me fully about 11 years ago, and made its way onto my Eighth Street Symphony mix, settling in right between Neil Young's Unplugged version of "Long May You Run" and the Johnny Cash/Willie Nelson Storytellers version of "Ghost Riders In The Sky."
"Darkest Hour" is a truly magical song, with an understated foreignness that builds and builds throughout. It's a classic tale of love amidst war, but it leaves the impression more of still photographs - black & white and beautifully lit - than of a movie. Arlo captures the moments in such detail, but leaves the story blank along the way, as the greatest songwriters do, for the listener to work his way into the cracks.
I've seen Arlo twice in the past year, in November at Carnegie Hall with Pete Seeger, and in April at the Fox Theatre on his Solo Reunion Tour (Together At Last With the Original Band). In concert, Arlo tells how the song came to him in a dream, but when he woke he wasn't sure whether he was singing it or it was someone else. "I wasn't sure whether it was my song, but then I thought, what the hell, it was my dream," he says.
Well, here's to you Arlo, and I hope everybody takes a moment to themselves today, to listen to "Darkest Hour."
Arlo Guthrie - Live 2007-08-04, Freeport, Maine (entire show, zip file, 95 minutes, 177 mb)
Arlo Guthrie - story about Darkest Hour (Live 2007-08-04)
Arlo Guthrie - Darkest Hour (Live 2007-08-04)
Arlo Guthrie - City of New Orleans (Live 2007-08-04)
Arlo Guthrie - Coming Into Los Angeles (Live 2007-08-04)
Arlo Guthrie - My Peace (Live 2007-08-04)