This week’s Free Ride muses on the songs of Burton Cummings, who turns 64 today. Most people will recognize his voice and keyboard work from the Canadian supergroup of the late 60s, The Guess Who, which he formed with guitarist Randy Bachman. For a take on the freedom theme, we can look at this groups 1968 album, Wheatfield Soul, which included their breakthrough hit, These Eyes. It speaks of the lack of freedom that follows when the love of your life breaks your heart:
These eyes cry every night for you.
These arms long to hold you again.
The hurtin’s on me yeah,
But I will never be free no my baby, no no.
You gave a promise to me yeah
and you broke it, you broke it. Oh, no.
Cummings went on to a long solo career after the break-up of The Guess Who, and charted a few hits. The 1990 Plus Signs album gives us a different take on the freedom theme with the song Free. Cummings speaks about this song in terms of his “growing up” and coming to terms with some of the heartache and hurt he had caused in his life: I’ve been less than fair to a lot of people, a lot of friends through the years. I look in the mirror and it makes me sad. “Free” is advising people to do what I’m in the process of doing: leave the emotional baggage, regret is a useless emotion. “Free” is Burton trying to be grown up.
And you must have courage,
you must be curious,
You must try absorbing
all the things that you can see
You can search for a lifetime
for the meaning of one word,
If you were to pick one word,
that word should be “free”.
It’s an interesting lyrical journey from the heartbreaking lack of freedom in These Eyes to the brighter eyes of Free. Here at year’s end, may all the heartbroken of the world make their way on that journey.