Saturday, January 1, 2011

Want of a Nail, Happy New Year

Husband and I stumbled on a New Year's Eve special that was so fabulous!  It was a compilation of clips from a web show called Live from Daryl's house.  Daryl Hall, as in Hall & Oates, has invited all these great musicians out to his farm to jam.

One of the guests was Todd Rungren, and they played an old song Todd wrote with Bobby Womack in the late 80's.  It's called Want of a Nail.

I had never heard the song before, and I can't say enough how deeply it resonated with me.  I've been playing the Youtube video of it again and again today, on this first day of the new year.

The song is based on an old proverb, this is from Wikipedia:


For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.


This proverb has been around in many variations for centuries... and describes a situation where permitting some small undesirable situation will allow gradual and inexorable worsening.


The rhyme is thus a good illustration of the "butterfly effect", and ideas presented in chaos theory, involving sensitive dependence on initial conditions; the initial condition being the presence or absence of the horseshoe nail.


An important thing to note is that these chains of causality are only seen in hindsight. Nobody ever lamented, upon seeing his unshod horse, that the kingdom would eventually fall because of it.

Here are the lyrics for the song:


I've been wrong
I had plans so big
But the devil's in the details
I left out one thing
No one to love me
No one to love me
No one to love


For the want of a nail, the world was lost
For the want of a nail, the world was lost


For the want of a nail, the shoe was lost
For the want of a shoe, the horse was lost
For the want of a horse, the rider was lost
For the want of a rider, the message was lost


For the want of a rider, the message was lost
For the want of a message, the battle was lost
For the want of the battle, the war was lost
For the want of a war, the kingdom was lost


(such a tiny thing)


You're askin
What's all this talk about horses and war?
Put yourself in the place of a man at the forge
And day after day you live a life without love
Till the morning you can't take it anymore
And you don't get up


Multiply it a billion times
Spread it all round the world
Put the curse of loneliness on every boy and every girl
Until everybody's kicking, everybody's scratching
Everything seems to fail
and it was all for the want of a nail


Tell me what else could the answer be
Don't hold back now
Give me all your love
just a little more love
A little tiny bit of love


I've been wrong
I had plans so big

The Want Of A Nail lyrics © Warner-tamerlane Publishing Corp; Humanoid Music

Damn.  Nothing like real musicians playing real music on real instruments, and what an incredible song.

Enjoy it.  Happy New Year.



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