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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 160
Sun. June 17, 2012

“Dirty Day”
U2
1993

“♫ from Father
to son/ in one
life has begun/ a
work that’s never
done/ Father to
son
♫”

It’s Father’s Day and this sinister song, one of my choice cuts from 1993 Zooropa, was actually inspired by various lyrical fatherly Irish sayings from Bono’s Dad. “I don’t know you and you don’t know the half of it”, “No blood is thicker than ink”, “Nothing’s as simple as you think,” and “It won’t last kissing time.

Bono explained the meaning of “Dirty Day” when he said—
Dirty Day is a Father and Son song. “It’s a dirty day” was an expression my Dad would use and there’s lots of him in there but it was also influenced by Charles Bukowski.”

Like most sons, I’ve had a very complicated relationship with my father. Being a poet son of an M.D. there’s always been this shadow of success smoldering over me, a sort of pressure to carry on my Dad’s mantel of triumph. But the thing is a poet’s idea of prosperity is so much different than an M.D’s—ours is steeped in personal redemption, overcoming doubts of whether our words, our crafts and our lines can give us life beyond personal riches and a career without assistance from relatives. A poet’s goal is to stand on our own beyond the podium, to recite, to reignite and to inspire—is there a dollar amount for a poet who can light a flame of inspiration under your yearning soles?

As Niall Stokes, author of U2: The Stories Behind Every U2 Song, wrote—“Co-written by The Edge, [Dirty Day] is about passing of the torch. About taking on responsibilities you don’t know if you’re cut out for.” This is how I feel when I hear Bono sing “Dirty Day.”

But how do you thrive as a creative artist in a world that’s thrives on monetary success? I feel like at age forty-one I’ve only begun to feed the potential of my poetic voice. I realize is that I’ve spent the last four decades, living & learning by losing and loving. Bono said it best in Bill Flanagan’s U2: At The End of The World, when he explained—
“When you’re thirty you’re just starting your creative life if you’re a painter or a writer. Some don’t start till their forty or probably shouldn’t […] with a lot of great artists, instead of being shooting stars, but with a lot of great artists it’s the opposite; they just got better and better.”

Dirty Day is more than about Bono’s Dad, it’s also about Charles Bukowski who inspired the last line “Days runaway like horses over the hills.” My good friend Max would love to know that I take my heed more from Bukowski, my own dad—El Viejo and my many father figures than Bono, himself.

Listen to the way that Bono reads Charles’ poem “Roll The Dice” and tell me would you rather be the lead singer of U2 or Charles Bukowski?

The best advice from Bukowski, via Bono—

if you’re going to try, go all the
way.
otherwise, don’t even start.

if you’re going to try, go all the
way.
this could mean losing girlfriends,
wives, relatives, jobs and
maybe your mind.

go all the way.”

You read that? To me there’s more power and intimacy in poetry. Give me Bukowski’s career any day of the week and thrice on Father’s Day. To leave a poetic legacy is my goal, something I learned from El Viejo and poets like Bukowski. Charles advice is akin to that of Samuel Beckett’s, he says, something Bono, El Viejo, the great Bukowski and I all subscribe to—“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Still I give Bono props for given tribute to artists like Charles who have inspired him throughout the years. Most singers would be uncomfortable sharing that they’re lyrics were influenced by his own father and the poet Bukowski. This is why I respect Bono so much—he champions art, writers, poets and other artists. In some way, I believe Bono knows artists are true creators, the life forces that bring focus, and the romantic notion of dreams to life with a pallet of words developing like mental snapshot like memories in our imaginations.

So, this Father’s Day I salute my Dad, El Viejo; my Father-in-law Chas “The Philosopher King,” my brother Rene and my best man Gregorio—all proud and dedicated father’s who I will one day love to emulate with my own extended family.

For now, I birth my poems and pen my personal explorations through song essays, proudly—living the poet’s life on “The Road Not Taken” immortalized by Robert Frost. I know I’ve only just begun making my legacy footprints but I have to thank Bono, Edge and U2 for the lyrical inspirations of “Dirty Day.” And most of all, to all Papi’s, everywhere— this one’s for you.”

For all you Garbage rocker enthusiasts and fans of Nevermind producer Butch Vig did a very smashingly post modern redux of “Dirty Day” called the Bitter Kiss—a very noisy remix with clips from director Martin Scorsese’s Departed film which I truly savor.

If not, go back to the original and check out this killer video mixing clips from another Martin Scorsese classic—this one mixes scenes from Taxi Driver and the music from Zooropa’s album version of “Dirty Day.”

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