Last weekend, I drove three and a half hours out of the land of red-neck conservatism to attend a coalition for peace concert featuring Dar Williams. I love Dar. Why the familiarity? Why do I refer to her as I would refer to a friend or family member? For this simple reason: you can’t have a casual acquaintance with her music. Her music is like a conversation with a really close girl friend where you bare your soul; life, love, worries…..its all there. She was brilliant at the concert—just her, the guitar, and the audience.
I remember the first time I heard her music. I flew down to Arizona to visit my sister one hot week in mid-July during my college years. We had planned this backpacking trip in Zion’s National Park….my first ever. We drove from Tucson to Zion’s listening to Dar there and back. The song “Iowa” now permanently brings up images of red rocks and dusty flat vistas. That brief interaction was enough to establish a permanent relationship. Her music, oddly enough reminds me of the Pacific Northwest. Not of the actual country, but the mindset of the people—the openness, niceness, and social consciousness of their daily lives. When I moved to the east coast and suffered a major culture shock, I turned to Dar. To drive three and a half hours to once again be surrounded by people who care about social and environmental issues was well worth the investment.
She has a song, a favorite of mine and my sister’s, called “When I was a boy.” A song written to be autobiographical and one that Dar thought would be completely original—meaning that no one would quite relate. However she has found that it is the one song people relate to the most. One verse seems to be taken straight out of my memory—that of a girl running around without a shirt on. I remember telling my best friend one day, when we were quite young, that it was highly unfair boys were allowed to roam around without shirts but girls were not. Therefore, in an act of social rebellion, we ditched the shirts and ran around the rest of the afternoon with them off. Mother however, on finding us so un-attired told me in no uncertain terms that taking one shirt off, as a girl, was unacceptable behavior. Sigh. It is comforting to know however that I was not alone in my quest to be a boy.