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Don’t Forget the Songs-365: Mach Tres: Day 127
Wed. June 5, 2013

“Mountains O’ Things”
Tracy Chapman

1988

“♫ I’ll
Be dreaming
dreaming,
Dreaming
…♫”

Most music fans would identify Tracy Chapman for her hit singles “Fast Car” and “Talkin’ About A Revolution;” my favorite cut, from her self-titled debut album, has to be the Caribbean percussion beauty that is “Mountains O’ Things.” Although “Things” shares the same themes as “Fast Car” and “Revolution,” ‘Mountains” has a more positive rhythmic vibrations spinning through this gorgeous little Latin flavored folk number.

Talking to Rolling Stone Magazine about her traditional influences, Chapman told Anthony DeCurtis, “I think what comes to people’s minds in the Anglo-American tradition of the folk singer, and they don’t even think about the black roots of folk music. So in that sense, no, I don’t. My influences and my background are different. In some ways, it’s a combination of the black and white folk traditions.

Tracey took these folk influences and began playing guitar while in school at Tufts University in Boston. Chapman’s fate changed her life the night she went to Harvard Square as she explained to De Curtis, “The first time I street-performed was in November, the night before Thanksgiving. Oh, God, it was crazy. I was hanging out with a friend of mine, and almost everybody else in the house we lived in had gone home for Thanksgiving. We didn’t have anything to do, and we didn’t have any money. I was playing my guitar, and she said, “Why not got in the square and play?” I did it. It was freezing. There were hardly any people out there. I made twenty or twenty-five dollars, and we went out and had some Chinese food!” Not only did Chapman make enough money busking to eat dinner she made a fan of Brian Koppelman, son of Charles owner of SBK one of the biggest music-publishing and production companies in the music industry. Brian told his father about Chapman and just because she went out on Thanksgiving night to play her guitar, Tracy’s future would be brighter.

David Kershenbaum was selected to produce Tracey’s debut album. David told Rolling Stone about Chapman’s apprehensions on her fear of clouding her songs in over-production, as he said, “She said right off the bat that she wanted the record to be real simple. I wanted to make sure that she was in front, vocally and thematically, and that everything was built around her.”

With producer Kershenbaum and Tracy on the same page philosophically, they did find some trouble recording my favorite cut, “Mountains O’ Things,” as David explained, “Tracy was so used to just singing and playing that when she got into the slight rhythm changes a band might add, it was somewhat disorienting for her. We had [percussionist] Paulinho Da Costa in one day, and we tried it with just Tracy and him.” It was the world beat genius of Da Costa that melded beautifully with Chapman’s voice. “Things” was the one exception when augmenting Tracy’s sound with an outside percussionist like Paulinho worked to rhythmic perfection.

“Mountains O’ Things” is my favorite Chapman songs because it reflects Tracy’s struggle with material things in her life of struggle. Tracey discussed this personal dichotomy with Rolling Stone Magazine’s Anthony De Curtis when she said, “One thing that really concerns me is a sense of balance. You know, when you’re talking about material things, it’s where those things fit into your life. Then, with relationships, too, how do you position yourself in relation to other people? It’s a fine line sometimes, trying to hold on to yourself and your own identity and either being lured into having other people define them for you or having the things around you define them for you.

“Mountains O’ Things” is more than just a vintage deep cut from Tracy Chapman’s memorable debut album; “Things” is her musing, lyrically daydreaming while on the clock about the rain of riches that may never arrive. It’s more than just lusting for fortune; “Mountains” connects to every creative soul’s struggle of attempting to live a fulfilling life as a starving artist in a materialistically driven society. Tracy doesn’t have the answers but it’s her honesty, she’s like all of her fans, we want a little comfort without giving up our honor. “Mountains O’ Things” remains a dreamer’s anthem for a better life with a backbeat of hope that will linger, easing your engines of doubt. Revisit “Mountains O’ Things” and let Tracy Chapman’s anthem reflect lyrical revolutions inside your rhythmic mind.

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