Tuesday, August 2, 2011

John Dawson Read: A Friend Of Mine Is Going Blind

I was home on Christmas break during the winter of 1975 and John Dawson Read’s “A Friend of Mine is Going Blind” was being played quite a bit on a station that I discovered while home – WYEP-FM, Listener Supported Radio. There was something about this sad tune that touched me – as many sad songs do.

There are other songs in this same vein that have had a similar effect upon me. To name some, the song “Real People” on Mac McAnally’s debut album that spoke about a school aged boy named John with a brain tumor. Another is Don McLean’s ballad about the self inflicted torture of Vincent Van Gogh that was simply titled “Vincent.” I wrote college English essay on Van Gogh and that song. Even the internal conflict found in The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” made it my favorite song from their “Who’s Next” LP.

I don’t know why I’ve been drawn to these songs over the years, but there is probably something deep in my psyche that causes me to relate. Neither am I depressed or despondent, but perhaps I rid myself of these negative vibes through the music of others via sublimation.



While Read’s album failed to chart, amazingly the single did at #72 on the Hot 100. I bought the album for myself that Christmas. See if you find a touch of pathos in John Dawson Read’s song about his friend, Tommy Davidson, who was suffering from Muscular Dystrophy which began to manifest itself in the form of blindness . . . “but through the dimness, he sees so much better than me.”



Live Version



Lyrics

While the lyrics on this song are beautiful, there are several occasions that will make the grammar police wince. In order to make the rhyme, John Dawson Reed is forced into using the subjective "I" when the objective "me" is the correct form. Just pretend that when he sings "so much better than I" that a "do" follows and everything will be ducky as they say.

A friend of mine is going blind, but through the dimness
He sees so much better than me
And how he cherishes each new thing that he sees
They are locked in his head, he will save them for when
He's in darkness again

He can't read books and he can't paint pretty pictures
But he understands so much clearer than I
For he knows that all he's missing with his eyes
Is more vivid in the mind of the man who's going blind
And that's why he doesn't mind

Won't you sing Tommy Davidson of things that you have seen
Sing of winter's bite and summer nights
And places you have been
Of dew drops and forget-me-nots and silver silky sheen
Lain across the morning meadow on the hillside

And this friend of mine, he plays guitar and sings his song so well
And he sings so much better than I
He can sing you any pictures in your mind
He will sketch them out in rhyme, draw the details in the lines
And he'll colour it in time

And oh how he loves his guitar, and it loves him
And they play so much sweeter than me
As if to say that come the day that he can't see
He will have at his command so much beauty in his hands
That the loss won't come so hard

Won't you sing Tommy Davidson of things that you have done
Sing of silver seagulls sailing into evening's golden sun
Sing of city streets and villages and people on the run
Tell the people how you know it Tommy Davidson

A friend of mine is going blind but through the dimness
He sees so much better than me
And how he cherishes each new thing that he sees
They are locked in his head, he will save them for when
He's in darkness again.

1 comment:

  1. ...wow...outta the blue I Google John Dawson Read +Tommy Davison because as well as you, I was listening to my radio, Jimmy Roach to be exact on WDVE in Pittsburgh in 1975 and heard John Dawson also. "A friend of my is going blind" stuck with me all these years the same way it did you 40 years+ what it is about THAT song...

    In any case thanks for sharing your Pittsburgh experience. I noticed the call letters WYEP right off the bat as benig a PGH station Native Pittsburghers know PGH stuff.

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