Forever & Always

January 8th, 2009

lake.jpgYou may recall that one of the “A Holiday Benefit, Vol. II” silent auction items was a “Custom Benjamin Wagner Song.”

This was the pitch: “Singer/songwriter will collaborate with YOU on a song. At the end of the process, you’ll get two (2) signed CDs with YOUR song plus original album art. Minimum Bid: $75.”

At the end of the night, the item had three bids. I decided to take them all, netting 826NYC $386. I followed up immediately with each bid (actually, one bid came from a loose affiliation of four friends), only one of whom had a specific mission and pressing deadline in mind: a song for her parent’s 35th anniversary on Christmas day.

Now, I’ve haven’t practiced patronage before, nor have a done much co-writing (let alone with a non-musician), so I wasn’t terribly clear on how to proceed. And while I know it wasn’t really going to be my song, it would be my name and my voice on at least two CDs. I didn’t want it to suck.

So I suggested to my patron that she and her two siblings do a simple, free-association exercise by sitting at their computer, thinking about their parents, and typing every word that came to mind. The words came in three separate emails, each with its own set of unique — and in many cases, uniquely unusable — words (my favorite unusable one was “Peter Lugar Steak Sauce”). It wasn’t until I received the eldest brother’s list and read the phrase, “Love Forever & Always,” that I knew where I was headed. So I spent a few Saturday mornings with the three pages of words spread out in front of me, and improvised around the words.

Here’s what I came up with:

In the backseat a photograph framed in my mind
The family together for a fall weekend drive
The colors don’t fade as the years roll by

With the lake in the distance as we drive through the day
Passing the time in the usual way
The foliage flies but the color never fades

I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always
I vow to endeavor in all of the small ways for you
I’ll love you forever, for all of the seasons
For all the right rhymes dear, and all the right reasons
I do, I love you

A fireplace waltz in the light of the stars
The flicker flames, a bouquet of flowers
A family is made in these long, golden hours

I’ll love you forever, I’ll love you for always
I vow to endeavor in all of the small ways for you
I’ll love you forever, for all of the seasons
For all the right rhymes dear, and all the right reasons
I do, I love you

The song opens with a photographic device, which, I came to find out, was prescient as the kids loaded the MP3 along with a bunch of family photos into a digital frame. Our little song, “Forever & Always,” then, was the soundtrack to their first twenty-five years. Which, I’m told, they loved.

Three final notes.

First, I wrote the song thinking about Franya’s parents, but also imagining about Abbi and me in twenty-five years.

Accordingly (and secondly), I’ve come to think of “Forever & Always” as the b-side to “Promise.”

And finally, this recording is just a rough demo of me in the my closet with a guitar and microphone. With limitless time and budget, it would be far more symphonic. Imagine strings. And harmonies.

Oh, and I know it’s a little cheesy. But I figure, after twenty-five years of marriage, Franya’s parents deserve it. And anyway, cheese is delicious.

So, enjoy…

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