A tribute to Mick Scott on the day of his 54th birthday
What do a rock man from 21st century (Edinburgh – 14 december 1959), far from being a worldwide rock strar, and a pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishment, Nobel Prize for literature in 1923, have in common?
W.B. Yeats (Dublin, 13 June 1865 – Menton, 28 January 1939), Irish poet and dramatist (playwright), some think he was the greatest poet of the 20th century. He was certainly a driving force behind the Celtic Twilight (or Irish Literary Renaissance, a flowering of Irish literary talent in the late 19th and early 20th century), so important for preserving the Irish culture, its music, dances and language (Irish Indipendance is on Easter 1916). Yeats was also Irish Senator for two terms and founder, among others, of the Abbey Theatre, the Irish National Theatre. As a young poet, he collaborated on the first complete edition of William Blake’s works and in a late essays on Percy Bysshe Shelley, whom poetry he was deeply influenced. Yeats said, talking about the re-reading of the Prometheus Unbound: “It seems to me to have even more certain place than I had thought among the sacred books of the world”.
Born in Dublin and grew up between Dublin and London, a life-long fascinated by misticism, spiritualism, occultism, astrology, Irish mythology, folklore and the writing of William Blake. A very good friend of American expatriate poet and Bollingen Prize laureate Ezra Pound, Yeats also wrote the introduction for Gitanjali, a collection of poems by the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore.which was about to be published by the India Society. An Anglo-Irishman who took Edmund Spencer for its poetic model and who, according to his biographer R.F. Forster used “obscure Gaelic names, striking repetitions [and] an unremitting rhythm subtly varied as the poem proceeded through its three sections”. Only to give a snap:
We rode in sorrow, with strong hounds three,
Bran, Sgeolan, and Lomair,
On a morning misty and mild and fair.
The mist-drops hung on the fragrant trees,
And in the blossoms hung the bees.
We rode in sadness above Lough Lean,
For our best were dead on Gavra’s green.
The works of William Butler Yeats form a bridge between the romantic poetry of the nineteenth century and the hard clear language of modern poetry.
Mick Scott was born in Edinburgh on December 14th 1959, and in his Waterboys years he lived in Ireland, Dublin. He founded The Waterboys in 1983. The band, after a “short” break started in 1993, re-united in 1998, and since then they’re still playing around. Irish folk rock, thanks to this ensemble, is made worldwide widespread. They do sold out shows in England and Ireland. I had the chance to see them recently, during their Fisherman’s blues revisited tour (celebrting the 25th anniversary of their classic album Fisherman’s blues), in Padova, Italy. The magic is that the sum of the elements gives more than its simply adding: yes, of course Mick is the band’s soul, but what would it be without Steve Wickham’s fiddler and Anto Thistlethwaite’s sax and mandolin?
After 25 years from their Fisherman’s blues, where you can hear the triptic of songs (The whole of the moon, This is the sea and the titletrack Fisherman’s blues, not to mention The Pan within) that would have made the band another U2-like, but, tanks to Mick Scott good sense of reality, they didn’t become one of the greatest band in the world. Commercialy speaking, of course. Or, if you like, taking the point of view of a massive record label. Nothing to do with that stuff. Waterboy’s leader is a free man, totally. And its music, as well as his lyrics, are a confirmation of his personal, I dare say intimate, point of view, indieed.
Last, but not least, we should remember Scott’s love for poetry. Isn’t he a poet himself? A couple of years ago he finally put a bunch of William Butler Yeats’ poems into music. We should remember that William itself wrote a poem to the Fisherman, and to many of Celtic characters, both heavenly and human. So the chanter of Irish folk rock during the last 30 years, has finally had the good vibes to “bring” Yeats into a recording studio. An Appointment with mr Yeats, September 19th 2011, Proper Records. OH, what a delightful, awesome, great pleasure it is, reading to some W.B. Yeats poems and listening to them sung by one of my favourite singer-composer! Good job Mick, the Scottish(man). What you do makes me feel proud of being a human. God bless you!
Pic-cover of “An appointment with mr. Yeats”:
Here a video from BBC “Breakfast”: Mick Scott talking about Mr. Yeats:
Here a 2009 video from Irish TV3 – Mick Scott chatting about music, life on the road and WB Yeats:
Here, in a video from New York “Rock Book Show”, pretty Kimberly Austin interviews Mick Scott on his “Adventures of a Waterboys”, the songwriting process, NYC and William Butler Yeats:
Here a a few songs chosen from this album and the poems from Yeats:
THE LAKE ISLE OF INNISFREE by Yeats:
I WILL arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honeybee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.
Mick Scott’s song:
SWEET DANCER by Yeats:
THE girl goes dancing there
On the leaf-sown, new-mown, smooth
Grass plot of the garden;
Escaped from bitter youth,
Escaped out of her crowd,
Or out of her black cloud.
Ah, dancer, ah, sweet dancer.!
If strange men come from the house
To lead her away, do not say
That she is happy being crazy;
Lead them gently astray;
Let her finish her dance,
Let her finish her dance.
Ah, dancer, ah, sweet dancer.!
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread;
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floor
I went to blow the fire aflame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And some one called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossom in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands.
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.