“Me and Bobby McGee” (Janis Joplin)

Of course: “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” And this seeming misprision (when compared to the Kristofferson lyrics): “Nothin’ don’t mean nothin’ honey if it ain’t free.”  That is: nothing only gets interesting if and when it doesn’t cost or hurt. Until then, it’s not yet the promise of nothing, but a something of negative value. Misguidedly, however, the singer seeks a home for Bobby, and eventual reunion, through barter/trade, turning away from finitude’s infinite loss/gift. Thoreauvian, in all the wrong ways (though: are there any right ones, ontologically?).

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“Nature Boy” (Nat King Cole)

Written in the 1940s by legendary proto-hippy Eden Ahbez (“ahbe,” to friends), who, according to Joe Romersa, much later disputed his own final, key lines (“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn/Is Just to love/And be loved in return”), arguing, “To be loved in return is too much of a deal, and that has nothing to do with love.” Doubled/echoing structure of this track, as well as other versions (Jon Hassell’s comes to mind), is therefore too safe and cozy.  That is: love, to be love, should not be subjected to economic calculus, exchange, “return,” and must instead approach the (impossible/singular) limit that is the gift. (Again, that is: to be done with “fools and kings,” one needs first to interrogate the final law of Beatledom: “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”)



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