IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

A bit of Jackson Browne

I thought I would share the lyrics of one of my very, very favorite Jackson Browne songs (hope he needs no introduction, but if you don’t know this singer songwriter click here ).  The track is called “Lawless Avenues”.

Papa hit him, mama kissed him
Made him go to catechism
With the sisters in their black and white
And all the time those city streets
Were teaching him another kind of wisdom
When to run and when to fight
Up at the playground after school
Listening to tales of the prison system
And those lawless avenues

Down on a half darkened street
A child’s footsteps repeat
And something there turns them
Down those lawless avenues

Silent joe went down so bad
He was the strongest fighter the avenues had
Stabbed in the chest–he went down swinging
Someone from some other part of town
No one even seen it coming down
And you dont hear no church bells ringing
And in the violent night the police light
Sweeps across the lots and the yards
Following those lawless avenues

Down on a half darkened street
Armies advance and retreat
And struggle to take control
From those lawless avenues

Manuelito’s sister Rosa
Ran away with a surfer from Hermosa
Manuelito, cuida a Rosa,
Hay mira como estan las cosas!
(Manuelito take care of rosa
–look at how things are)

But who could blame her after she saw
Every boy die who could have gotten close to her
Rosa es joven y solo quiere
Ver la belleza del mundo
(Rosa is young and only wants
To see the beauty of the world)

Manuel said–
You gotta fight for what you want in this life
Just before they shipped him overseas to nam
Otra guerra sin razon
Otra guerra sin fin, sin honor
(another war without reason,
Another war without end, without honor)

And she was fighting to understand
When they shipped Manuelito’s body home
All she heard was one more shot
Echoing down lawless avenues

Hoy amigo, tal igual como ayer,
La lucha en el barrio no cambia
Nuestros hijos son los que han de crecer
Por ley de la calle, viviendo entre abrazos
Y chingazos
(today my friend, just like yesterday,
The struggle in the barrio doesnt change.
Our children are the ones to grow up
By the law of the street
Living between hugs and blows)

Down on a half darkened street
Fathers and sons lives repeat
And something there turns them
Down those lawless avenues

En el calor de la calle
(in the heat of the street)
Buscan valor en la calle
(looking for valor in the street)
Hasta final de la calle
(till the end of the street)

There is so much in this text (and you have to hear the track to get the full impact, of course).  What always strikes me is the link between domestic (in both senses of the word) violence (both direct and structural) and international violence (“Papa hit him…” ,”Armies advance and retreat  And struggle to take control From those lawless avenues”); how in the end it is all just more violence (“All she heard was one more shot”, “Otra guerra sin razon Otra guerra sin fin, sin honor”); and that it is always the children and youth who suffer most (“Nuestros hijos son los que han de crecer Por ley de la calle, viviendo entre abrazos Y chingazos”).  I also really like the clever reference to “the sisters in the their black and white”–in case anybody doesn’t get this, a “black and white” is another term for a police car.

There is much more here.

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March 13, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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