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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Dos: Day 346
Fri, Dec 28, 2012

“Walk Unafraid”
R.E.M.

1998

“♫ Look me
in the eye/ And
if you see
familiarity/ then
celebrate the
contradiction/ help
me when I fall/ to
walk unafraid/ I’ll
be clumsy instead/
hold my love me
or leave me
high
♫”

What a way to start the new year. Creatively, I took a huge leap and now there’s nothing holding me back. With my verses as my only guide I am finally going all in. It’s scary but at least I have my wife, our two kitties and their belief by my side along with the ideal soundtrack for my leap of faith: It’s “Walk Unafraid” from R.E.M.’s 1998 album Up. Besides, “E-Bow The Letter,” “Unafraid” is R.E.M.’s most Patti Smith sounding song, and it’s not by coincidence as Michael Stipe explained when he said, “Its quite literal inspiration that was something Patti Smith told me, some great advice, the song title, she gave me as a lyricist and artist when I was really in hardcore writer’s block. But, I think it goes beyond me, and that’s not my self mythologizing but trying to push it further out into the world of collective experience.”

“Walk Unafraid” is what Stipe called his “favorite mantra.” He discussed the meaning behind “Unafraid” when he told Michael Goldberg in an interview with Addicted to Noise, “I wanted the song to be more universal that just me having to embark on the writing of an album. There’s a little too specific and not that interesting, so I wrote this song. And hopefully, I succeeded. I wrote this song in the same voice I tried to write “Losing My Religion” and “Everybody Hurts,” so there’s a kind of universality to it. Specific enough that it doesn’t seem like a bundle of clichés tied together. But unspecific enough that pretty much anyone could listen to the song and apply it to themselves and to their own situation and their own life and take from it what they need to. That was pretty much the idea of the song.”

Patti Smith told Michael Stipe to be “fearless” and he wrote “Walk Unafraid.” Stipe said when I asked him about my favorite Up song when said, “[“Walk Unafraid”] just feels very real. Beyond that I can’t really say much, there’s probably an element of real me in there.” I could tell he didn’t want to share too much because of his universal intent of allowing us, his listeners, to add our personal stories to Michael’s beloved Up anthem. That’s the genius behind “Unafraid” are Buck’s soaring riffs that add to universal element of Stipe’s eloquence in lyrical intensity making “Walk” one of the bravest and rarely raved song in the R.E.M. canon. Before taking your own inspirationally metaphorical leap, “♫ celebrate the contradictions ♫” by experiencing the sensation of fearlessness flying within the familiar sound of R.E.M.’s “Walk Unafraid.”

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