Song Lyric Sunday — Blogger’s Choice

For this week’s Song Lyric Sunday challenge, Jim Adams has given us the option to choose whatever we like. This was harder than I expected it to be because there are so damn many songs that I love. But Jim said he might make it an annual thing, so if I’m still around next October, I’ll get to choose again. Anyway, my choice this year is the song from Crosby, Stills & Nash, “Wooden Ships.”

“Wooden Ships” was written and composed by David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Paul Kantner. Kantner was a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, which also recorded the song. It was written and composed in 1968 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on a boat named the Mayan, owned by Crosby, who composed the music, while Kantner and Stills wrote most of the lyrics. It was released in February 1969 on CSN’s debut album, Crosby, Stills & Nash. It was also released by Jefferson Airplane in November 1969 on their fifth album, Volunteers. The two versions differ slightly in lyrics and melody. I’m including both versions below, but I’m partial to CSN’s version.

“Wooden Ships” was written as an anti-war song at the height of the Vietnam War, when the U.S. was also locked in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. It describes the apocalyptic consequences of nuclear conflict, a terrible vision that was on the forefront of everyone’s minds at the time. The trio “imagined” themselves “as the few survivors, escaping on a boat to create a new civilisation.”

The lyrics of “Wooden Ships” detail the potential horrors confronting the survivors of a nuclear holocaust, where both sides have totally eviscerated each other. In the lyrics, a survivor stumbles across a survivor from the other side and asks, “Can you tell me, please, who won?”

In the song, the two survivors eat “purple berries,” iodine pills, which protect them from the highly radioactive iodine-131 that comes as part of nuclear fallout.

Elsewhere in the lyrics, the survivors beg the “silver people on the shoreline” to “let us be.” These mysterious silver people were later described by Crosby as “guys in radiation suits.” The wooden ships are devoid of metal because of the risk of becoming radioactive, and they carry the survivors away from the terrors of the shores.

Unfortunately, those who do not make it aboard are exposed to radiation and die. The lyrics paint a grim picture: “Horror grips us as we watch you die / All we can do is echo your anguished cries / Stare as all human feelings die / We are leaving you don’t need us.”

Here are the lyrics to “Wooden Ships.”

If you smile at me, I will understand
'Cause that is something
Everybody everywhere does in the same language

I can see by your coat, my friend
You're from the other side
There's just one thing I got to know
Can you tell me please, who won?

Say, can I have some of your purple berries?
Yes, I've been eating them for six or seven weeks now
Haven't got sick once
Probably keep us both alive

Wooden ships on the water, very free and easy
Easy, you know the way it's supposed to be
Silver people on the shoreline, let us be
Talkin' 'bout very free and easy

Horror grips us as we watch you die
All we can do is echo your anguished cries
Stare as all human feelings die
We are leaving, you don't need us

Go, take your sister then, by the hand
Lead her away from this foreign land
Far away, where we might laugh again
We are leaving, you don't need us

And it's a fair wind blowin' warm
Out of the south over my shoulder
I guess I'll set a course and go

8 thoughts on “Song Lyric Sunday — Blogger’s Choice

  1. newepicauthor October 9, 2022 / 7:06 am

    This is a beautiful song with a horrible massage that needed to be told. Thanks for choosing this classic Fandango.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. sgeoil October 9, 2022 / 7:28 am

    Great choice! The freedom to choose can be a tough one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Marleen October 10, 2022 / 2:19 pm

    That’s a g-r-e-a-t song — and one I didn’t know he meaning of until you explained it above. It’s one of those things that stands out even if they had never done anything else (although they certainly created additional wonderful music). I very much enjoyed having both versions to listen to together.

    https://www.aei.org/carpe-diem/the-shocking-story-behind-nixons-declaration-of-a-war-on-drugs-on-this-day-in-1971-that-targeted-blacks-and-anti-war-activists-2/

    … June 17, marks the 50th anniversary of a shameful day in US history — it’s when President Richard Nixon’s declared what has been the US government’s longest and costliest war — the epic failure known as the War on Drugs. At a press conference on that day in 1971, Nixon identified drug abuse as “public enemy number one in the United States” and launched a failed, costly and inhumane “all-out offensive” on Americans that continues to today. Early the following year, Nixon created the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement (ODALE) in January 1972 to wage a government war on otherwise peaceful and innocent Americans who voluntarily chose to ingest plants, weeds, and intoxicants proscribed by the government. In July 1973, ODALE was consolidated, along with several other federal drug agencies, into the newly established Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as a new “super agency” to handle all aspects of the War on DxrXuXgXs [line through the word “Drugs” at the link didn’t carry over and I put in Xxs] Otherwise Peaceful and Innocent Americans Who Voluntarily Choose to Ingest Intoxicants and Weeds Currently Proscribed by the Government.

    But as John Ehrlichman, Nixon’s counsel and Assistant for Domestic Affairs, revealed in 1994, the real public enemy in 1971 wasn’t really drugs or drug abuse. Rather the real enemies of the Nixon administration were the anti-war left and blacks, and the War on Drugs was designed as an evil, deceptive and sinister policy to wage a war on those two groups. In an article in the April 2016 issue of Harpers (“Legalize It All: How to win the war on drugs“) author and reporter Dan Baum explains how “John Ehrlichman, the Watergate co-conspirator, unlocked for me one of the great mysteries of modern American history: How did the United States entangle itself in a policy of drug prohibition that has yielded so much misery and so few good results?” …

    ~
    ~

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen October 11, 2022 / 2:52 am

      From the quoted Harper’s magazine article (title in boldface indicating there is a link at the other link):

      ~

      At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies … and blacks with heroin [and marijuana], and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

      I must have looked shocked. Ehrlichman just shrugged.

      ~

      Meanwhile… one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Marleen October 11, 2022 / 3:17 am

      We were heading toward a destination, one evening, with a Jefferson Airplane collection on the stereo. We don’t usually listen to Jefferson Airplane. One of the songs seemed “different” to me. I didn’t know why. I had a sense there was something deeper there. The other songs weren’t so gravitational. I asked what was going on with it — didn’t get a satisfactory answer. Now I know.

      I do like the CSN take the best.

      Liked by 1 person

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