King Harvest (Has Surely Come)

Over the weekend, going through some of the stuff my daughter brought when she moved home from Pennsylvania, my wife found a travel case full of CDs I’d about given up on. Some of them were favorites — albums I had bought on vinyl in my youth, such as Steve Miller’s "Your Saving Grace" and The Band’s "The Band."

I put The Band’s master opus into the player in my truck yesterday, and it transported me back. I love those indescribable autumnal tones and word imagery. Over the weekend, we had watched the odd, uneven "I’m Not There," and the scenes with Richard Gere wandering through the faux old-timey (vaguely western, vaguely country) landscape and town were obviously an attempt to evoke that very same feeling, especially the parts around the bandstand. Far less successful, of course.

But you know how it is when you read or see or listen to something from your youth, and you see a flaw you didn’t see back then, and you’re sorry you noticed it? An extreme example of this was the time about 20 years ago when "The Dirty Dozen" came on television, and I said to my in-laws, "Oh, let’s watch this; this is good," and then minute after awful minute dragged by until I felt constrained to apologize for it? When I had seen it at 14, it had been good; I assure you.

This was more subtle. I’m listening to "King Harvest (Will Surely Come)," which makes the October wind blow like no other, and I’m suddenly struck by the incongruity of these two lines:

I will hear ev’ry word the boss may say,
For he’s the one who hands me down my pay.

Which makes perfect sense on one level — the words being spoken by a failed farmer who wants to make a go of his new job. But, with its suggestion that the worker’s position and future are dependent upon doing the will of the boss, it’s wholly inconsistent with the repeated theme that he is now "a union man now, all the way."

This later passage is more consistent with that attitude:

Then there comes a man with a paper and a pen
Tellin’ us our hard times are about to end.
And then, if they don’t give us what we like
He said, "Men, that’s when you gotta go on strike."

But wait — maybe the "boss" is the union boss, not management. That way it works. I feel better now. (Come to think of it, I believe that’s the way I sort of unconsciously understood it years ago.)

In any case, I still love the song, and the whole album. I stopped it in the middle of the second play this morning, and put in the Steve Miller, to keep myself from getting tired of it. (It’s much better than the Steve Miller, but perhaps that’s an unfair comparison — especially since I haven’t heard the much stronger second side yet.)

All you gotta do is rag, Mama, rag, Mama, rag…

7 thoughts on “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)

  1. Brad Warthen

    I just realized, Todd Palin is a union man. I wonder who “the boss” means to him.
    Probably, as with most of us married guys, it’s Sarah. If he’s smart.
    (How’s that for a desperate attempt to apply a veneer of “relevance” to this post?)

  2. Rodney Welch

    Great song, great disc. I play it often.
    The Richard Gere section of I’m Not There was a direct homage to Dylan and the Band’s The Basement Tapes, as the story reflects both the lyrics and the circus freak imagery on the cover.

  3. H-2

    Oh, it’s relevant that Sarah is the boss. Like my husband says to my sharing with him that the man who wants to fire me at work says he can’t because I’ve *quote* got him over a barrel *unquote*. My husband says he’s the only one I’ve got over a barrel. And with that, all is well again in my world…
    But I think the real relevancy is the free-association perception that Martin Luther King’s harvest has come…in Obama.
    NO, it has NOT!!! There’s a real one growing somewhere else.

  4. bill

    “The Brown Album” is one of the best.
    The song that lingers with me?
    The Unfaithful Servant
    Unfaithful Servant, I hear you leavin’ soon in the mornin’
    What did you do to the lady, that she’s gonna have to send you away?
    Unfaithful servant, you don’t have to say you’re sorry
    If you done it just for the spite, or did ya do it just for the glory?
    Like a stranger you turned your back
    Left your keys and gone to pack
    Bear in mind who’s to blame, and all the shame
    She really cared, the time she spared and the home you shared
    Unfaithful servant, I can hear the whistle blowin
    Yes, that train is a-comin’ and soon you’ll be goin’
    Let us not bow our heads for we won’t be complainin’
    Life has been good to us all
    even when that sky is rainin’
    To take it like a grain of salt
    is all I can do. It’s no one’s fault
    Makes no diff’rence if we fade away
    It’s just as it was, it’s much too cold for me to stay
    Goodbye to that country home
    So long to a lady I have known
    Farewell to my other side
    I’d best just take it in stride
    Unfaithful Servant, you’ll learn to find your place
    I can see it in your smile
    And, yes, I can see it in your face
    The mem’ries will linger on
    But the good old days, they’re all gone
    Oh, lonesome servant, can’t you see
    That we’re still one and the same, just you and me

  5. Brad Warthen

    Yes, wonderful song. Not one likely to break into the Top 40, of course. It haunts. It’s filled with longing, regret and guilt. With the words, and without the words.
    Great song.

  6. bill

    It makes me long for pre-internet days.I think we all had healthier minds.Blow up your PC,blow up your Mac………………………….


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *