Songs of Innocence and Experience

by Barry Drogin

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November 5, 2007

No, not the Blake. And brownie points if you thought it, but, no, not the Bolcom. I’m talking about three Songs of Innocence and Experience written by William Finn, featured in the new Off Broadway musical, Make Me A Song. I’ve seen A New Brain and Elegies, but missed Romance in Hard Times, but it is these three songs, written at an artist colony in Wyoming, that make Make Me A Song, which I saw tonight, a treat for Finn fans.

Although the almost identically titled song which ends the show has a few rhymes that are too obvious, the other two, “You’re Even Better Than You Think You Are,” which refers to three forgotten shows Finn wrote while a student at Williams College (I know one, “Jocks,” which has some fun songs, my favorite being the one sung by the born-again Christian weightlifter, consisting almost entirely of the line, “It pleases G-d that I life heavy objects over my head.”), and “I Went Fishing With My Dad,” in which a father is merely grateful that his son is willing to listen to his chatter for a spell, are two sides of Finn we love, the self-consciously amusing, and the sweetly sentimental romantic who prizes life’s littlest moments. Not that I’m sure that any of Finn’s characters have ever been “innocent,” but we can let that go.

That said, it is another side of Finn, the angry protester, who is responsible for the spectacular “Change,” sung with ferocity by Sandy Binion. It isn’t from Romance in Hard Times, in either incarnation, although it could be. It is a great, great song, one which you want to hear again, to possess, to consume and cherish and hold forever, to add to your list of favorite songs of all time. To hear it, you must go to the show (four voices - unmiked! – and piano), or buy the CD. Both will set you back over $20, but sometimes pennies, nickels or dimes just won’t cut it, and you have to fork over the bucks. The show has lots more gems that even the most die-hard Finn fan has never heard, but no one can let another day pass without hearing "Change" at least once. Songs like this don't come along very often.

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Last Updated: November 5, 2007