Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Who knows where the time goes?

That's a question that often comes to my mind these days, now that I've reached the point where there's most likely more years behind me than in front of me, and also the title of the song that's stuck in my head lately:

Across the evening sky
All the birds are leaving
But how can they know
It's time for them to go?
Before the winter fire
I will still be dreaming
I do not count the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

Sad deserted shore
Your fickle friends are leaving
Ah, then you know
It's time for them to go
But I will still be here
I have no thought of leaving
You know I have no thought of time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

And I am not alone
While my love is near me
I know it will be so
Until it's time to go
So come the storms of winter
And then the birds in spring again
I do not fear the time
For who knows where the time goes?
Who knows where the time goes?

Words on the printed page cannot do this beautiful song justice. "Who Knows" was written by the late British singer-songwriter Sandy Denny. Her definitive performance of the song, from the classic Fairport Convention LP Unhalfbricking is unavailable on the free internets. The best I can do is this 1967 demo version. The demo gives you the feel of the song, but you can tell that Denny is still working it out. On the Unhalfbricking version, Denny's vocal is more assured, It also features Richard Thompson's intricate guitar accompaniment, which lifts that performance over the myriad cover versions that have been recorded since, the most famous being by Judy Collins.

Denny and Thompson were the leading lights of Fairport Convention's classic period, which also included the albums What We Did On Our Holidays and Liege And Lief. After their departure for solo careers, Fairport became another run-of-the-mill British folk band. Denny would record several solo albums during the 70's, as well as guest on a number of other artist's LP's. Her best-known performance today is probably the guest vocal she contributed to Led Zeppelin's "Battle Of Evermore". Sandy Denny's life came to a tragic end in 1978, when she fell down a flight of stairs at a friend's house.