In the post show rush last night I managed to leave my harmonica on stage. I’m heading back downtown to retrieve it so I can continue my Dylan & Young impersonations on the rest of the tour. I decide to walk and all goes well until the New York grid system starts to slide sideways towards the East river and I lose my bearings. A girl walking towards me adds to my confusion: she has the words East and West tattooed just above each knee. I decide to trust her sense of direction and just hope she was walking the right way up 3rd avenue.
Last time I was in New York, this part of town provided the inspiration for a song I’d been struggling to write the lyrics for. I only had one line. An impossible line. The sort of line that comes glued to the melody and yet gives no indication of where the song should go from there:
“I said I’d make things easier, take that umlaut off your name.”
What situation could their possibly be where that would make sense? Why would anyone need an umlaut removed from their name?
On a tour of the Tenement Museum I learnt of the truly tragic events in 1904 that led to a large percentage of the women and children from New York’s Germanic community dying in a paddle steamer accident on the East river. In one afternoon this powerful trading community was decimated, never again to recover it’s influential position among New York’s business owners.
I often wonder what America would look like today had this not happened and even how it would have affected later events such as the USA’s involvement in both world wars.
My song ended up telling a small, personal story with that fateful afternoon as a backdrop. I was planning on playing it for the first time last night but then my set was cut short and I never got the chance. So I’m telling you now…
Ps. The song “If you were coming you’d be here by now.” will be on my next album.
French version published daily on the ROCK MADE IN FRANCE website:
October US tour day 4 – New York umlaut « Enlève ce tréma de ton nom »