♫ The Living Years ♫

Every now and again, I wax nostalgic and seek those songs that tend to bring tears near to the surface.  Tonight is one of those nights, and rather than be nostalgic and and teary-eyed all by myself, I thought to share the joy (?) with you, my friends.

This song is written from the perspective of a son who has a conflicted relationship with his father. After his father dies, he discovers that he and his dad had a much stronger bond than he ever realized, and the son regrets not saying more while his dad was alive.

It was written by group founder Mike Rutherford and the Scottish songwriter B.A. Robertson. Both Robertson and Rutherford had recently lost their fathers when they wrote this song, making it a very personal endeavor for both of them.

The song was written in stages. B.A. Robertson wrote the first verse before his father died in 1986, the same year Rutherford lost his dad. The pair composed the music based on this verse, and then a while later Robertson came up with the second verse. The final verse didn’t come to him until shortly before the song was recorded. Robertson was staying at a hotel in Los Angeles and was under pressure to finish the lyric before flying back to Europe. He recalls going outside to a garden at the hotel when the verse came to him.

Robertson was working with Rutherford when he got the call that his dad had died, which is reflected in the opening lines of this verse:

I wasn’t there that morning
When my father passed away

Three months before his father died, Robertson’s son was born, which we hear in this line:

I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears

The Living Years
Mike & The Mechanics

Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door

I know that I’m a prisoner
To all my Father held so dear
I know that I’m a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Oh, crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I’m afraid that’s all we’ve got

You say you just don’t see it
He says it’s perfect sense
You just can’t get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defence

Say it loud (say it loud), say it clear (oh say it clear)
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late (it’s too late) when we die (oh when we die)
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It’s the bitterness that lasts

So don’t yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don’t give up, and don’t give in
You may just be okay

So say it loud, say it clear (oh say it clear)
You can listen as well as you hear
Because it’s too late, it’s too late (it’s too late) when we die (oh when we die)
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Say it loud, say it clear (oh say it clear)
You can listen as well as you hear
It’s too late (it’s too late) when we die (it’s too late when we die)
To admit we don’t see eye to eye

So say it, say it, say it loud (say it loud)
Say it clear (come on say it clear)

Songwriters: B.A. Robertson / Mike Rutherford (gb)
The Living Years lyrics © EMI Music Publishing, Concord Music Publishing LLC, BMG Rights Management

18 thoughts on “♫ The Living Years ♫

  1. Pingback: ♫ The Living Years ♫ — Filosofa’s Word | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  2. This sounds like a great song, for anyone who had a decent relatioship with their male parent. I was not one of them, If I had been there at my father’s death, he would have been dead because I would have killed him. He raped all three of my sisters, over and over. Had I known this for sure I would have killed him much sooner!
    (The worst part is, I saw the signs, but I was too young too interpret them correctly. And by the time I knew, it was too late to save them from his horrors. They survive, but they do not live.)

    Liked by 3 people

  3. A fabulous song, with so much meaning for both of its writers. It’s heartbreaking even if you don’t know the backstory, which just enhances that.

    If you don’t know B.A. Robertson he had a string of quirky pop hits here in the early 80s. The biggest were Bang Bang and Kool In The Kaftan, but my favourite is To Be Or Not To Be, which kind of relates to Shakespeare. Could be worth a listen.

    Liked by 2 people

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