Monday, April 18, 2011

Louder Than Words


"Louder Than Words"
by Jonathan Larson
from tick, tick ... BOOM! (1990)
Why do we play with fire?
Why do we run our finger through the flame?
Why do we leave our hand on the stove,
Although we know we're in for some pain?

Oh, why do we refuse to hang a light
When the streets are dangerous?
Why does it take an accident
Before the truth gets through to us?

Cages or wings?
Which do you prefer?
Ask the birds.

Fear or love, baby?
Don't say the answer ...
Actions speak louder than words.

Why should we try to be our best
When we can just get by and still gain?
Why do we nod our heads
Although we know the boss is wrong as rain?

Why should we blaze a trail
When the well worn path seems safe and so inviting?
How, as we travel, can we
See the dismay and keep from fighting?

Cages or wings?
Which do you prefer?
Ask the birds

Fear or love, baby?
Don't say the answer ...
Actions speak louder than words.

What does it take
To wake up a generation?
How can you make someone
Take off and fly?
If we don't wake up
And shake up the nation,
We'll eat the dust of the world
Wondering why ...

Why do we stay with lovers
Who we know, down deep, just aren't right?
Why would we rather put ourselves through hell
Than sleep alone at night?

Why do we follow leaders who never lead?
Why does it take catastrophe to start a revolution?
If we're so free, tell me why?
Someone tell me why
So many people bleed?

Cages or wings?
Which do you prefer?
Ask the birds.

Fear or love, baby?
Don't say the answer ...
Actions speak louder than words.
Jonathan Larson is best known for his briliant musical, Rent, which I'm sure will grace one or two posts in this blog before it's finished.  Six years prior to the Off-Broadway opening of Rent, Larson began performing a solo "rock monologue," which went through the titles 30/90 and Boho Days, before becoming tick, tick ... BOOM!  After Larson's untimely death and the smash success of Rent, his solo work was restructured by David Auburn (playwright of Proof) into a three-person musical and the score was streamlined.  Since then it's had numerous professional productions, including an off-Broadway run in 2001, an American tour, and a West End production as well. 
The piece is strictly autobiographical and concerns the 30-year-old Larson, who worries about his age and lack of success as he struggles to become a professional artist in New York City.  Of all the songs in the show, "Louder Than Words" is the one that will make me stop and listen.  The incisive lyrics cut straight to the bone, as do many of the lyrics in his later work, Rent.  They are intense and so incredibly unforgiving.  I'll save Rent and the story of Larson's tragic untimely death for a later date ...

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