Write a song with my dad

Russ Roberts

My dad is 87 years old. His dad was a peddler who dropped out of school in the sixth grade but who read Shakespeare and Macauley and Sir Walter Scott. My dad was the first person in his family to go to college. He entered the computer business in 1957 or so and ended up working on early warning systems trying to figure out where a Soviet missile might land if they launched a nuclear attack. My dad wasn’t on the technical side. He’d write the proposal and manage the team of computer programmers. In 1960 he showed me the computer that would calculate the trajectory of a ballistic missile heading toward America. The computer filled a warehouse.

My dad was good at his job, but inside that software project manager was a poet. Literally — he’d write poetry at night. He would tell me how he longed to be a minor American poet. Not a Hall of Famer like Robert Frost. That was beyond him, he realized. But someone in the minors or even someone who was able to have a stint in the big leagues. He gave me my love of words and language.

And when my dad retired, he started writing humorous stories, mostly Jewish fables, whimsical and funny and sometimes poignant. He’s been published in the New York Times, the Forward, the Wall Street Journal and just about every Jewish newspaper in America.

Along the way, back in the 1980s and living in the South, he had the idea of writing lyrics for country songs. He tried to make contacts in Nashville, without success. The lyrics went into a drawer and were forgotten.

But my dad isn’t going gently into that good night. He stumbled on his lyrics recently and wants to try to find someone to put them to music. He shared them with me. Here are my two favorites:

WOMAN AT THE WINDOW

by Ted Roberts

White water river on the edge of town
traveling ‘tween her banks with a roaring sound
Born up in the mountains cold and high
Over stones and boulders ‘neath an ice blue sky

White wooden house sitting by that stream
Woman at the window alone except for dreams
Body bent and twisted, but her dreams so alive
Locked in that window like love in a bride.

Dreams flew from that window like doves from trees
Joined the river where it met the sea.
Flowed all around the towns of man
Smiled on the shores of God’s green land.

White water river stood up one night
Stepped over her banks and rushed for the lights
In the white wooden house that stood so near
That face at the window showed no fear.

Awaited the embrace that would set her free
In a white lace gown of fine filigree
Joined the river and all its sound
The white of the river, the lace of her gown.

That woman at the window, like the wind is free.
Joined her sister, the traveling sea
Flows all around the towns of man
Smiles on the shores of God’s green land.

Here’s the other one:

DO YOU KNOW LILY B?

by Ted Roberts

I met her on the Greyhound bus
Leaving out of Birmingham
She was running from worn out love
I was a lonely traveling man

Through that lazy summer night
We swapped our lifetime stories
And I shared my paper bag of dreams
We chased away our worries

Can you help me find my Greyhound girl?
She said her name was Lily B
From somewhere south of Birmingham
Do you know Lily B?

The sweetest night of love I’ve known
But we only touched our hearts
The sweetest night and now she’s gone
All we did was talk soft in the dark

Can you help me find my greyhound girl?
She said her name was Lily B
From somewhere south of Birmingham
Do you know Lily B?

If only I had another chance
I’d never let her go
My greyhound girl still haunts my dreams
If you see her, tell her so

Can you help me find my greyhound girl?
She said her name was Lily B
From somewhere south of Birmingham
Do you know Lily B?

Either of these could make an awfully good country song. Or some other kind of song, maybe. But my dad doesn’t have any contacts. He’s trying anyway. Over the last few months, he’s been trying to make connections to find a collaborator who’s interested in setting his lyrics to music.

That’s where you come in.

For my dad’s 87th birthday, my sister and brother and I wanted to give him a song. But we’re not talented enough. And now his 87th birthday has come and gone and he’s working on 88.

I don’t know how to handle the copyright issue but my dad doesn’t care. He just wants his words set to good music. So go to it. Take these words and write a song for my dad. Put it up on Soundcloud and send me a link (russroberts@gmail) and feel free to also put your Soundcloud URL in a comment on this piece. If you know someone who writes music and is looking for lyrics, please share this with them.

If enough people respond, I’ll write on Medium and Twitter about the responses and see which ones people like. That will get attention for the rest of your work. And if we like one of the responses a lot, we’ll help fund studio time or whatever the next step is. So start composing, please.

Russ Roberts

Written by

I host the weekly podcast, EconTalk and I'm the co-creator of the Keynes-Hayek rap videos. My latest book is How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life.

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