Birches – A Married Couple’s Love Song
Written and performed by Bill Morrissey
In his song, “Casey, Illinois,” Bill Morrissey sings, “Now I’m not young in a young man’s game,” a sad truth; playing and listening to rock music favors the young. The quintessential rock music still flows from Elvis’s braggadocio and broken heart rhythm and blues and Chuck Berry’s car songs. We grow excited about that new young band (Kings of Leon, anyone) and often forget or shake our heads over the Stones in their 60’s still trying to rock and roll. Many of the best artists have continued to produce as they enter their senior years and their audience ages too.
Yet much of the best music comes from older artist dealing with themes of maturity and much of the audience has aged too. Think of Dylan’s recent work – perhaps more resonant that anything he has ever written. Neil Young still thrashes about trying to make sense of the world as he sees it while Van Morrison still seeks his vision, only not as a young man would. Springsteen’s movie song, “The Wrestler,” grapples with finding victory in accepting one’s fate. Dylan’s song “Red River Shore” – arguably one of his best ever – may make no sense for the 20-year-old college student who lacks the experiences to understand, but it resonates with sadness and recognition to the older listener.
Bill Morrissey’s “Birches,” a love song as moving as any you will hear, stands as an example of a song that the young man or woman may not comprehend, but will rivet the middle age man or woman as it captures the small defeats and victories that infuse a marriage. Those familiar with Morrissey know the intricate craftsmanship that goes into his story-songs: concise, rich and telling details. Others have likened him to minimalist short-story writers like Raymond Carver, though the better comparison seems to be Andre Dubus given the New England settings, the deep empathy for their characters and the underlying spiritual dimensions in their work.