After posting that new demo of Cactus yesterday, I thought it might be interesting to show Daddy’s original words and how they turned out as lyrics. You know, something edumacational.
Also, it gives an idea of how long it can take to put a song out there – at least for me. I just looked up the original email and it was sent February 2016! Here are the words Thomas H. Williams wrote back then (un-edited – Daddy has his own artistic license with spelling and grammar):
“if I wasn’t me I’d be a cactus,…..maybe a tall saguro, real high…..waving my long arms at the sun, or the moon beneath the high desert sky…..maybe I’d be a silver cholla….succulent by a streambed that’s mostly dry…….maybe I’d stand like an organ pipe cactus, playin’ music. and my tune would sound like the buzz of bees on the prickly pear blossom, or the slow flappin’ sound of bats as they gather nectar under the cloak of dark by night. I’d be able to save my memories, like the barrel cactus saves water, not wasting one sweet drop…….that pickly tribe, why they are beautiful…..people lookin’ long see that they mean no harm, being safe behind their thorns…..if I was a scarlet hedgehog I’d show my colors, just for you…..if I wasn’t me I’d be a cactus….and I’d soak up all the love around me like cholla sips the dew.”
I dibbled and dabbled with the idea of turning it into a song for almost a year. It was one of those ticklers – like in the movie ‘Babe’ – the idea of it just wouldn’t go away. I had most of the song in place by summer, and finally finished up the melody and new lyrics while I was on a family visit to Jacksonville in January 2017. And there are so many wonderful parts of the original that didn’t make it into the song – but each song is its own puzzle and the parts fit the way they fit. So it becomes something somewhat new.
Cactus by Williams and Williams
if I wasn’t me I’d be a cactus
I’d soak up all your lovin’ like the cholla sips the dew.
I’d use my thorns to keep our hearts safe
And I’d show all my colors, just for you
I could be a saguaro, waving so high
waving to the moon in the black velvet sky
Crowned by the flapping sound of bats flying by
Gathering their nectar by the dark of the night
If I was an organ pipe, playing you my tune
Sounding just like buzzing bees on wildflower blooms
Every kiss you’d shower would become my favorite song
And the hummingbirds would sing along
Your beauty is the flower of a wild prickly pear
With so many brilliant petals in colors so rare
Sweet magenta kisses are the fruits that you bring
Leaving me with just enough breath to sing
It wasn’t finished yet, though. I first wrote it as a bright uptempo ditty but the lyrics are pretty dense with words and syllables so I would trip over them. It wasn’t til my last trip to J’ville in August, playing it for Daddy, that he suggested I slow it down, let it breathe. I was a little resistant at first but it did feel more ‘right’. I also love fingerpicking a tune slowly like that. After coming home, I also dropped the key slightly. NOW it felt like something.
Then of course Daddy wanted a video of me playing it, so at some point during every phone call home since, while chatting with Mami, i’d hear his voice bellowing in the background ‘Where’s that video of Cactus?” Aaand here we are!