Song of the Day #634: ‘Darling Lorraine’ – Paul Simon

After the Capeman disaster, Simon retreated to lick his wounds and three years later came back with 2000’s You’re the One. The album fared far better, both critically and commercially, and was nominated for the Album of the Year Grammy (making Simon the first artist to earn that nomination in five consecutive decades).

I haven’t given this album a whole lot of attention over the years, but in listening to it to prepare for this blog entry, I was impressed by how good it is. For some reason the long break after The Rhythm of the Saints and the hit-or-miss quality of Songs From The Capeman kind of put Simon on a back burner for me. And while this album is far from the equal of his best work, I probably haven’t given it the credit it deserves.

Take today’s song, ‘Darling Lorraine.’ It’s about as ambitious and impressive as anything Simon has ever written. He describes the “arc of a love affair,” to borrow his own phrase, from the first meeting to the fateful end. It has a lush groove and a great conversational tone… I love the voice he finds for this Frank character (“anyway, Lorraine and I got married, and the usual marriage stuff”).

This is a great song, but just about every song on You’re the One is memorable (the one exception is ‘Pigs, Sheep and Wolves,’ a mostly spoken-word track that has always struck me as awkward).

All you Paul Simon fans out there, what do you think of this album?

The first time I saw her
I couldn’t be sure
But the sin of impatience
Said “She’s just what you’re looking for”
So I walked right up to her
And with the part of me that talks
I introduced myself as Frank
From New York New York
She’s so hot
She’s so cool
I’m not
I’m just a fool in love with darling Lorraine

All my life I’ve been a wanderer
Not really, I mostly lived near my parents’ home
Anyway Lorraine and I got married
And the usual marriage stuff
Then one day she says to me
From out of the blue
Frank, I’ve had enough
Romance is a heartbreaker
I’m not meant to be a homemaker
And I’m tired of being darling Lorraine

What – You don’t love me anymore?
What – You’re walking out the door?
What – You don’t like the way I chew?
Hey let me tell you
You’re not the woman that I wed
You say you’re depressed but you’re not
You just like to stay in bed
I don’t need you darling Lorraine
Darling Lorraine
Lorraine
I long for your love

Financially speaking
I guess I’m a washout
Everybody’s buy and sell
And sell and buy and
And that’s what the whole thing’s all about
If it had not been for Lorraine
I’d have left here long ago
I should have been a musician
I love the piano
She’s so light
She’s so free
I’m tight, well, that’s me
But I feel so good
With darling Lorraine

On Christmas morning Frank awakes
To find Lorraine has made a stack of pancakes
They watch the television, husband and wife
All afternoon “It’s A Wonderful Life”

What – You don’t love me anymore?
What – You’re walking out the door?
What – You don’t like the way I chew?
Hey let me tell you
You’re not the woman that I wed
Gimme my robe I’m going back to bed
I’m sick to death of you Lorraine

Darling Lorraine
Lorraine
Her hands like wood
The doctor was smiling
But the news wasn’t good

Darling Lorraine
Please don’t leave me yet
I know you’re in pain
Pain you can’t forget
Your breathing is like an echo of our love
Maybe I’ll go down to the corner store
And buy us something sweet
Here’s an extra blanket honey
To wrap around your feet
All the trees were washed with April rain
And the moon in the meadow
Took darling Lorraine

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #634: ‘Darling Lorraine’ – Paul Simon

  1. Dana says:

    I’m right with you on this one. This is a good album that, unfortunately, doesn’t get much attention from me because, when I want to hear Simon, I reach for the greatness that is Graceland and Rhythm. I would put this album on par with Hearts and Bones, although I think the standouts from Hearts are more memorable than anything on this album.

    I’m surprised, by the way, that you call out “Pigs, Sheep and Wolves” as being a miss on the album. I can see why you find it awkward, but I still find it interesting and provocative. And it gave me one of my favorite amusing Simon lines (after yesterday’s all time politically incorrect favorite of course:)), that being…”Here comes the media with their camera asking everybody’s opinion.”

    As for today’s SOTD, the style actually feels like it could have been on Capeman. Maybe it”s just the use of the anachronistic name Lorraine or the story telling quality of the lyrics. Anyway, I do like it, although I like the opening track (“That’s Where I Belong”), “Old,” and the title track a bit more.

    I find the second half of the album to be a bit too sleepy and less distinctive–I prefer Side 1 (to the extent CDs have sides:))

  2. Kurt Hunt says:

    Glad I stumbled on this website.

    I agree this is a great album. It’s mainly due to three great songs: ‘That’s Where I Belong’, ‘Darling Lorraine’, and ‘You’re the One’. Darling Lorraine, in particular, is amazing. The other songs are mostly forgettable and a little preachy (rare for Simon – must be gettin’ old). I agree also that ‘Pigs, Sheep, and Wolves’ is “awkward”, although I think you’re being kind.

    Getting back to Darling Lorraine. He uses the same arrangement and musical stylings that he’s been using since Graceland, but I never tire of it. And in this song, he perfects it. He pulls out all the stops; the syncopation, the tempo changes, the melodic guitar, the melodic baseline. And in true Paul Simon fashion, he doesn’t skimp on the lyrics.

    Unlike just about every other popular recording artist, his lyrics work on all cylinders. His lyrics rhyme, they have meter, and they actually mean something. Not like Bob Dylan, whose lyrics, one suspects, might mean something very profound (if only you were cool enough to understand). Simon’s lyrics actually mean what they say. He doesn’t hide behind vague allusions or fill up the space with throw-away lines. He puts himself right out there open to criticism. And he always delivers in spades. Darling Lorraine is a perfect example.

    I heard an interview with Iggy Pop wherein he made a distinction between Dionysian art and Apollonian art. Iggy said his is Dionysian – it’s all about the performance in reall time. It’s all about spilling your guts on the stage (and out into the audience in his case). It means nothing at all on paper. I would say that Paul Simon is one of the few who can do great Apollonian art. His songs are beautiful on the page. There’s a lot to be said for shredding on the guitar (love Lennon’s Cold Turkey), or howling into the mic, but not many people can do what Paul Simon does.

  3. Ron says:

    “Old” and “You’re the One” are the upbeat, ‘fun’ songs on this album – but it’s “Darling Lorraine” that is the true masterpiece. It’s a marvellous piece of story-telling – from the first attraction, the inevitable arguments, the time together at Christmas – all perfectly compressed. Some of the lines are funny; the final verse is painfully sad. I find it hard to listen to this song without crying.

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