A perfect song. For solitary stares into the distance in the high of summer. I guess there are a few songs that I hold so close to my heart that they’re hard to share; this is one.
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young are embedded very deeply in my emotional DNA. I discovered them around age 10, and because my angst glands developed early, I found a lot of meaning in their sublime harmonies and poetry. Stephen Stills is my favorite because he writes simple songs that are just soul-crushing in their profundity. This particular song, “4+20,” has never meant to much to me as it does now, having just turned 24.
Sometimes when I think about my favorite music, about the folk singers and rock stars of the 1960s, I get sad about the miasma of death that surrounds their work. Well, that might be a little melodramatic — maybe just the pressing weight of time. Where their music bloomed youthful once, now it’s got an oldie sort of quaintness. As we are now, you will be; as you are now, we once were.
Awhile back, I saved this Youtube comment I found about this song, on some other random live recording. It’s absolutely amazing, and said everything about it that I couldn’t articulate.
i can smell the room where i first heard this, as i listen. new carpet and there’s a hint of cigarette smoke. outside sits a ‘67 chevelle on a gravel driveway. this sound was an island of reason in a very confused little town on the prairie. we had these little discoveries on black discs of plastic. they were hard to find before computers and we shared them in person and listened together with the reverence of communion.
I like that this song is about youth, but it’s also about the end, and being alone. I guess it’s about feeling the hourglass run out, even though time is on your side.
A different kind of poverty now upsets my soul
Night after sleepless night, I walk the floor and want to know
Why am I so alone?
Where is my woman? Can I bring her home?
Have I driven her away?
Is she gone?
Funnily enough, this song never makes me feel depressed. It makes me feel very present; alarmingly alive. Because I think about Stephen Stills, singing, 24 years old, and how just for the few minutes he played his guitar in front of this crowd, nobody got any older.