Friday, March 31, 2006

Grandma's Hands

By Josh Lamkin
I just heard Bill Withers' "Grandma's Hands" for the first time. I'm probably the last person on earth to hear this song, but I 've listened to it maybe twenty times in the last day and a half. There's something about that song that is getting inside me, stirring me up, making me remember things I haven't thought about in a long time. I miss Soul/R&B music that was simple the way artists like Withers, Marvin Gaye, and Sam Cooke used to make: understated, smooth, emotional, real. I really do like modern Soul/R&B, but I find it so often over-embellished, and the songwriting just isn't close to the quality in a song like "Grandma's Hands." I really believe Bill Withers is talking about his grandma. I can really feel how much she mattered to him.

Grandma's hands
Used to hand me piece of candy
Grandma's hands
Picked me up each time I fell
Grandma's hands
Boy, they really came in handy
She'd say, "Matty don' you whip that boy
What you want to spank him for?
He didn' drop no apple core"

But I don't have Grandma anymore
If I get to Heaven I'll look for
Grandma's hands

My grandmother, my dad's mom, was an amazing lady, the life of the party, a great cook, generous, caring, devoted, the consummate Grandmother. She lived in Harlem, Georgia, in the same house, which she and her husband bought as newlyweds for $9000, from 1944 until she died in the mid-nineties. She had three tremendous pecan trees in her back yard. The grass didn't grow well under them so the yard was mostly sandy with a few lonely patches of grass. In the fall when the pecans started falling off the trees and getting in the way of the neighborhood football games in my grandmother's back yard, my brother and I would clear the playing field by collecting huge baskets of pecans that my grandmother would use in pecan pie.

When I listen to a song like "Grandma's Hands" I can still feel the sand in my shoes and the smooth, dry pecan shells in my hands. I can smell her fresh-baked pies cooling in the kitchen. I can hear her calling to us from the back door. Bill Withers knows what I'm feeling. I never loved missing my grandma so much as when I heard "Grandma's Hands."

Bill Withers - "Grandma's Hands"


Blogger newwavegurly said...

I know what you mean about "modern" R&B and soul, but if I may make a suggestion?

A friend of mine turned me on to Lewis Taylor's album "Stoned" and I loved it from the minute I heard the first song. You might want to give it a listen.

1:20 PM, April 04, 2006  
Blogger Lamkini said...

I will definitely check him out. Thanks!

1:47 PM, April 04, 2006  
Blogger newwavegurly said...

You are quite welcome. Let me know what you think.

5:21 PM, April 05, 2006  

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