SO LONG is the tenth song on AN UNWAVERING BAND OF LIGHT.
For me, writing mode and reading mode are inextricably intertwined. Fiction, poetry, biography, music memoirs, theory and analysis. “Most of the things you absorb you will ultimately secrete,” says Tom Waits. During the making of AUBOL I found myself moving into a new realm of reading: dark historical events. This led me to a series of articles about what is known as the Jonestown Massacre.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event, here are the basics: On November 18th 1978, Jim Jones, founder and leader of the Peoples Temple, ordered over 900 Temple members to consume Flavor Aid poisoned with cyanide. This incident was the single greatest loss of American civilian life in a non-natural disaster until the events of September 11, 2001.
As I read more and more about the events surrounding this nightmare, I learned that a handful of Temple members managed to escape by hiding, or in one case, by pretending to already be dead. The survivor who captivated me (and became the subject of “So Long”) was a five-year-old boy who hid in the surrounding forest until the mass suicide was complete.
I spent a lot of time poring over the Time Magazine photographs of the aftermath. These photos are not for the faint of heart. Imagine 900 people all dead where they stood, side by side, husbands and wives embracing even in death. Now imagine what it would be like to emerge from the forest, a young boy, and see everyone you have ever known, lying still on the ground. This child walking through a sea of people he knows, the state of whom he cannot possibly comprehend, haunted me and became the central image of the song.
Hear/buy the album version: iTunes / bandcamp / CD & NEW 2XLP VINYL
Once a week (or less than once a week, but never more than once a week) I will share a story about a song from the new album AN UNWAVERING BAND OF LIGHT here on Tumblr, until I run out of songs. Math suggests this will go on for a total of eleven weeks… but remember that time has no meaning here.