Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Life is Large – The Kennedys

Life is Large

Performed by The Kennedy’s and written by Pete and Maura Kennedy

Click here to listen to the song as recorded for the album of the same name, Life is Large.  You can see a video of a live performance from the 2007 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival that captures the spirit of the song and the Kennedy’s. You can buy the song from iTunes here.

Friday morning, sun breaking over the trees, the grass glistening, my boy John Lee chipper about heading off to school and the day seems ripe with possibilities. A perfect time for the hippie anthem “Life is Large” by the Kennedy’s.  

How do you want to be remembered?
A raging fire or a dying ember 

How can you say no to the jingle-jangle urgings of the Kennedy’s? They’re a husband and wife team – part folk duo, part travelling show – based in the East Village who, as their personal legend tells it, celebrated their first date by visiting Buddy Holly’s grave. This song embodies the spirit of Buddy Holly’s bursts of pop magic. Maura takes the lead vocals with vocal harmonies coming from Pete and friends Peter Hosapple (of the dbs), John Gorka and Susan Cowsill (of the Cowsills), all sounding as if they’ve never had so much fun before in their lives. Imagine a movie musical parade carousing down Main Street and their calling everyone to come along. That’s Pete Kennedy leading the throng with his guitar and Maura high-stepping to her own vocals. Hey, that’s Roger McGuinn(of the Byrds) riding in the float playing his 12-string guitar.

Life is large
Bigger than the both of us
Life is large
All you need is just a little trust
Be yourself and stand your ground

Don’t you let nobody turn you round
Life is large

Sure, it’s hokum, but it’s good hokum. The song sails on the energy of the band, the enthusiasm of the vocals and the sheer conviction of the possibilities that we can connect to something larger than ourselves. The first two verses play on clichés that do little more than provide the set up for the rousing chorus. We see a tired man coming home alone to his TV and the “hollow in his soul, a hollow in his heart.” We meet the woman who had enough and finally hit the road:

She had a bad situation it nearly took her down
And then one day, I guess it just got old
She packed her bags and hit the road
Filled the tank and took control

The last verse captures the philosophy of possibilities, the sheer exuberance conveyed by the music:

You’ve only got one chance to walk this line
And if you should get lost or stuck in time
Just believe this road does not end here
How do you want to be remembered?
A raging fire or a dying ember

Play it loud. Let yourself go. Life is large.

_ _ _ _ _ _

The Kennedy’s met in 1992 in Texas while Maura toured with her band The Delta Rays and Pete played guitar in Nanci Griffith’s tour band. Soon enough, Maura joined Nanci Griffith’s tour (replacing Iris Dement) and the duo began opening the show. They tour incessantly, play everywhere and seem to bring the fun to the party. Maura Kennedy is doing some solo work now and the pair has teamed with Chris Thompson, Rebecca Hall, and Ken Anderson to perform as the Strangelings.

You can check out their website. You can read their joint biography here. Their website offers a full menu of online videos.  You can find them on Facebook. WFUV offers a number of live interviews and performances with the Kennedys in their online archives.

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One Response to “Life is Large – The Kennedys”

  1. The Kennedys have long been a favorite band of mine, and it is never too late for anyone to discover them. Sometimes time can pass by earlier albums such as this one (they have 10 now!) but the title track and other cuts here are still staples of their live act.


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