Saturday, January 27, 2007

A New Favorite Song

After seeing a recent concert by the Klezmatics, I have become hooked on Mermaid Avenue, the words by Woody Guthrie set to music by Frank London of the Klezmatics. I could hear it repeatedly for hours on end and never get tired of singing along. It's a song that makes me feel happy and good about the world. It paints a delightful picture of the layers of humanity in Brooklyn who spent time on Mermaid Avenue in Woody’s era there.

Mermaid Avenue took on a new feeling for me last night when two of our elderly guests for Shabbat dinner reminisced about their life in Brooklyn around that same time and even earlier. Florence, now age 92 and having severe vision problems, recalled working at a summer camp for kids on Mermaid Avenue. What a romantic name for a street in Coney Island!

Apparently there is still an annual parade along Mermaid Avenue.

Here are the words to this masterpiece of Woody Guthrie:

Mermaid's Avenue

In big fur coats and bathing suits
They're in the raggeldy race.

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where the fast and slow folks meet,
Where the cold ones meet the hot ones
Just a block from Coney’s beach.
Mermaid Avenue that’s the place
Where the wolves and haybags chase
In big fur coats and bathing suits
They’re in the raggeldy race


But there’s never been a mermaid here
On Mermaid Avenue
No, I’ve never seen a mermaid here
On Mermaid Avenue
I’ve seen hags and wags and witches;
And I’ve seen a shark or two
My five years that I’ve lived along
Old Mermaid’s Avenue

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where the lox and bagels meet,
Where the hot dog meets the mustard
Where the sour meets the sweet;
Where the beer flows to the ocean
(Where the halvah meets the pickle)
Where the wine runs to the sea;
Why they call it Mermaid Avenue
That’s more than I can see.

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where the saint and sinners meet;
Where the grey hair meets the wave curls
Where the cops don’t ever sleep;
Where they pay some cops to stop you
When you hit that Sea Gate gate;
Where them bulls along that wire fence
Scare the mermaids all away

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where the sun and storm clouds meet;
Where the ocean meets that rock wall
Where the boardwalk meets the beach;
Where the prettiest of the maidulas
Leave their legprints in that sand
Just beneath our lovesoaked boardwalk
With the bravest of our lads.

Mermaid Avenue that’s the street
Where all colors of good folks meet;
Where the smoke fish meets the pretzel
Where the borscht sounds like the seas;
This is where hot Mexican Chili
Meets Chop Suey and meatballs sweet;
Mermaid Avenue she’s a nervous jerk
But, still, she’s hard to beat.

And here’s how they sound with the catchy melody supplied by the Klezmatics.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like it. And it makes me want to go to Coney Island. (I've never been.)

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe they're tearing down coney island. still makes me sick to my stomach.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every once in a while I look for old photos of places online. Coney Island was good exploration.

7:55 PM  
Blogger steve said...

I love it and haven't hit the play button yet!!! a Song like this can get under your skin allright!
And I thought you said you didn't care much for lyrics... then come to find you hanging with Cohen and Guthrie and folk singers hangin' out in your Living Room!

12:01 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

I'd have loved to have gone to Coney Island to after taking a poem about it in college. I always forget..which Guthrie..Woody or Arlo who did Alice's restaurant?

I'm listening to the Induction to Hall of Fame ceremony for Joni Mitchell! A heorine of mine!

11:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I, too, am a "Mermaid Avenue" addict. I've been looking for the sheet music for months, or at least the guitar chords. If anyone has either, e-mail me.

4:47 PM  

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