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In Praise Of Great, Lesser-Known Works: The Greatest Man That Ever Lived

"If you don't like it you can shove it
But you don't like it, you love it"

I had pretty much given up on Weezer by the time Red was released last year; they'd done some catchy enough songs in the 00's, but nothing inspired like Blue and Pinkerton. Then along came the swift jab of Pork And Beans and the long wind-up upercut of The Greatest Man That Ever Lived, and I was once again laid out flat.

From informal polls, I've found that most people who aren't great fans of Weezer have not yet heard this song, so please allow me to set you straight. It is, as the subtitle says, a string of variations on the melody of an old Shaker hymn. Depending on how you count, there's 12-14 sections, each one 16 bars, different tempos, times and melodies, and they never repeat.

The apex comes at 4:38, when they break down into a 16th-century style three-part vocal counterpoint, an art Rivers learned from his private classical music tutor, before busting into a Queen "so you think you can stone me and spit in my eye!"-like punk rock breakdown and bombastic finale.

This all could have been just a compositional exercise, stringing together disparate parts, but it's more than that, because this time the parts are tied together like they belong, and at the end of one section you get another section that is exactly what you are begging for, much like Bohemian Rhapsody.

Set lists indicate that they have been playing this gem live, closing out their set with it. I'm anxious to see how they manage a Bach chorale for a festival crowd. Better than Spinal Tap's jazz odyssey, I imagine.

This is a fantastic NPR Fresh Air interview with Rivers. Check out the section at about 28:00 where he talks about 'practicing' with his friends to go to public school.



Delectable :-) - Really nice recipes. I love your weblog, carry on!

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