The Silver Family Singers | E. Christopher Clark

The Silver Family Singers

The one constant was music.

Whether it was my mother and her guitar, my uncle and his band, or that old record that my great-grandfather made back when he was as young as I am now—whatever it was, and whatever it sounded like, there was always music. In that house on the windswept shore of Harwich, it seemed as if life really did have a soundtrack. Through all of the ups and downs—Mom’s divorce, Gramma’s, the kerfluffle between Uncle Matt and Grampa over the deed—there always seemed to be a song drifting out of the background. The waves rolled in off of Nantucket Sound, leaving a wasteland of seashells in their wake. And Mom and I walked among them, me pinching my nose and asking what happened to the creatures who had once called these husks home, she humming a song in response, something she’d made up on the spot, something about how each of these shells was like a dream deferred, deferred and deferred and deferred again, until the dreamer was dead and gone and could no longer make good on the promise they’d made to themself.

So, there was always a song, even at the bleakest of times. In fact, in putting this compilation together, I’ve discovered that almost every song my family committed to a recording, regardless of how cheery the end-result may have sounded, actually grew out of a dark moment, a moment where despair threatened to shuck the songwriter’s soul right out of his worthless hide. That each of these songwriters survived that assault and lived to tell the tale is a testament both to music in general, and to the songs they wrote in particular.

It does seem silly to me to be writing this when legal entanglements have made it uncertain that the compilation will ever see the light of day—Grampa wants his father’s salty old jazz number sanitized, while Uncle Michael is demanding an unexpurgated version—but I suppose this is what you’re talking about, Mrs. Sawyer, when you preach to us in class about writing for yourself first and foremost, and worrying about whether other eyes will see a work later on.

So, here goes. Here are one girl’s thoughts on the songs that have been the background music of my life. Here are my notes on The Silver Family Singers.

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