Sunday, June 26, 2016

Beauty Left the Room



Charlie Peacock is a gifted song-writer and jazz player known best for his song “In the Light,” recorded by himself and by DC Talk. One of his lesser known songs is called “Beauty Left the Room.” The lyrics follow here.

Beauty Left the Room
(Lyrics and Music by Charlie Peacock)

The sky had a heartache
The truth couldn’t wait to slip out
And miss little-black-checkered-pants
Was clutching a new Coach bag

Then Beauty left the room
Beauty left the room
And the smell of America took its place
When beauty left the room

I wanna go home
Back to the house by the river
Live in the time-honored way
Owing no debt but love

When beauty leaves the room
When beauty leaves the room
And the smell of America takes its place
Oh when, Beauty leaves the room

You’ll know it when you see it
When you smell it, when you feel it, smells like
Burnt toast and repetition, Ah the repetition
All alone with a mission
We’ve got so good at saving face

The sky had a heartache
The truth couldn’t wait to slip out
And miss little-black-checkered-pants
Was clutching a new Coach bag

Then Beauty left the room
Beauty left the room
And the smell of America took its place
When beauty left the room
Beauty left the room

You can rise before the morning sun
End the day and not be done
That’s the way it is in the work of finding courage
You gotta ask yourself
Hey what’s the rush, what’s the hurry?

Here I am again, with my pencil and my paper
Listening, for a sign, for a word from my Maker
The sky had a heartache
The truth couldn’t wait to slip out
And miss little-black-checkered-pants
Was clutching a new Coach bag

In one interview, Peacock spoke of these lyrics and said that they were mostly about the smell of America, the materialism of Florida, nice Coach bags, girls in short skirts, and coffee. However, I will take a turn at interpreting the words of this song. My philosophy is that a songwriter has many meanings in his head as he writes a song, some are known to him and a few are not. Of course I am also speaking of the songs that I have had the good fortune to write. Others can always interpret a song in its relevant culture and come up with further meanings inherent in the lyrics, even if the author would not interpret the song precisely that way.

“Beauty Left the Room,” sounds like a song about what happens when we stop recognizing and appreciating beauty. The first stanza speaks of the beauty of a sky as it is about to give way to lightning and rain and the beauty of a woman in black checkered pants with a Coach bag in hand. These are things that need to be recognized for their beauty and the author is very much aware of these things in his view.

The chorus speaks of what happens when we let go of beauty and of what takes the place in the vacuum that is left behind. The “smell of America” is what replaces beauty, and one gets the sense that it is not a pleasant aroma. Verse two is like lines from a Wendell Berry book as Peacock is thinking nostalgically and wishes for times past when he lived a simpler life and owed no one anything but the debt of love. The next stanza gets explicit about the smell of America: burnt toast and repetition, mission without vision. It goes on to talk about “saving face”: looking good in front of others and following the crowd.

The song goes back to the first verse and the chorus before challenging us to ask ourselves, “What is this all about? Why are we in such a rush? The last lines challenge us to come back to beauty, come back to poetry. The poet waits with pencil in hand, waiting for the muse of his Maker to give him the words to describe beauty. It is not about facts and figures, rising before the sun, rushing to a job, or working hard. Those are part of life; but the real message of life is in the poetry. It is in the beauty.

Beauty left the room. Have we become so pragmatic, so utilitarian that beauty has left the room? Even in our churches, has beauty left the room? Beauty, poetry, and songs, have they left the room because we no longer pursue them? How do we invite this beauty back into the room?

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