Week Three

Week 3: My Life In Pictures
By Kim Davidson
(c) 2010

He was a camera tester
He worked there all his life
Oh and we didn’t know it at the time
That what he did all day
Would leave a legacy
But I got all the proof in this album laid in front of me

‘Cause there we are at the kitchen table
In PJ’s with a box of Cocoa Puffs
‘Cause it’s not just occasions and events that make a life, it’s the little stuff
He caught it all…
Now I have my life in pictures, my life in pictures, and they’re all pictures of my Dad

Sometimes we didn’t like it
But mostly we just smiled
Now there’s a chronicle of every child
Still frames and movies too
Shot on his way out the door
On days he didn’t have the time to shoot more

And there we are playing in the backyard
On Big Wheels and the monkey bars
We didn’t need to dress up or have anywhere to go to feel like movie stars
Now we have our life in pictures, our life in pictures, and they’re all pictures of our Dad

BRIDGE: He was a one-man paparazzo
Any moment could be frozen fast
We learned to be camera-ready and we caught the disease
Wanting every memory to last

So now I’ve got a camera
I snap shots of my own
And though he’s gone I know I’m not alone
When I look through the lens at
The subject of the day
I wouldn’t have it any other way

‘Cause there she is, my best friend’s new daughter
Reaching out her tiny hand to me
I keep up the tradition of capturing the world
The way that it was handed down to me…

Through my life in pictures, my life in pictures, and they’re all pictures of my Dad…

So how did this song come into being?  I think the first line of the first chorus (“there we are at the breakfast table…” ) was what jumped into my mind first—a few weeks ago–and I sang it into my little DVR to be fleshed out at a later date.  That line talks about a real picture from our family photo archives, one of my favorites.  It’s me and my sister, in matching thermal pajamas, at the table eating cereal—might not have been Cocoa Puffs, but I was working a rhyme, cut me some slack.

Me & sis eating breakfast

Me & my sister in our matching thermals, circa 1979-ish. Looks like I was right: Cocoa Puffs!

This is a typical representation of the kind of photos we have kicking around the house.  With little poetic license, the song is entirely autobiographical in so much as my Dad worked for Polaroid the whole time we were growing up, and he really did always have the latest camera in his possession for the sake of firing off test shots and bringing them into the office for whatever kind of analysis they all did after the fact.

Speaking of poetic license, when my Mom listened to the song the first thing she said to me was, “Okay, what do you think your Dad actually DID at Polaroid?”  Which was her roundabout way of saying, “He wasn’t a ‘camera tester.’”  I mean, that was part of what he did, but it wasn’t like that was really his title or overall job description.  Okay, I knew that, but it fit the rhythm and was the clearest description I could muster for my purposes.  In reality, he worked in Research and Development, and actually had a hand in building some of the technology behind some of the cameras he brought home.  Which is very cool.  But there wasn’t really a way to fit that into the song effectively.

Anyway, where was I?  Back to the past… There were plenty of times where he’d bring a camera home and we’d have a full-on photo session, in nice clothes, or showing off some toys or what-have-you.  Then there were absolutely those mornings when he’d apparently need a few more shots (or maybe he’d forgotten to take them the night before) and he would fire off a few literally on his way out the door, not caring what his subjects were doing–in this case eating cereal.  I love that he got to take most (if not all) of the photos back home with him.  I mean, especially considering that it wasn’t like there was a negative to hold onto if he’d handed the pictures in to whomever at Polaroid for good.  We grew up under the impression that photographing anything and everything was perfectly normal, and we all became crazy scrapbooking photo-hounds in our adult years.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  We have more pictures than anyone I’ve ever met, and they are such a blast to go through.  The digital age has only made us worse, but at least we don’t need anymore shoeboxes to store those shots in.

Anyway, it was fun to try and pick out language for this one.  What would get the idea across most simply and effectively?  I’m not entirely sure this one is finished, really, but it’s off to a good start.  And it might be finished, who knows?  Over time it will tell me.  I like that it’s a song for my Dad.  I wrote one for him a few months after he died back in 1998, but it’s not exactly a happy song, and no one’s ever heard it.  Maybe I’ll post it here some week if I can’t come up with anything new.  Or if the time feels right.  For now I like that there’s a song capturing his spirit, and the imprint he left on us.

I’ll tell ya what—the rhythm on this one was a beyatch to play.  This is the one drawback to doing a songwriting blog, complete with songs: the naked version, bad guitar and all.  I usually try to write to my strengths instrumentally, but sometimes I have a song that wants to be written that I ultimately can’t play very well.  That must sound weird.  I mean, I’m the writer—I can write it any way I choose, right?  Not quite.  Sometimes what you hear in your head and what your hands are capable of just don’t match in the end, and that’s not the song’s fault.  The song shouldn’t have to suffer or be held back because of my failings, ya know?  This is one I’d love to hear a studio version of someday, with some crazy hand drums and stuff… Wouldn’t that be groovy?  Yeah…


2 Responses to “Week Three”

  1. Pete Says:

    WOW!!! I know a little of the background, and this song is so very sweet. It’s specially sweet since I am in that group of daddy pappa papparazzi! Great!! KEEP GOING!! Man, I said that I will have an album’s worth of music done by my birthday in September, you give me inspiration to get going.

  2. newsongweekly Says:

    Thanks! I won’t be impressed until I get to Week 7 and surpass last year’s song count. 😉

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