first fruits of the Gretchen Peters’ workshop

I had a great time at the Cambridge Folk Festival, but a real highlight was a Sunday Morning songwriting workshop with Gretchen Peters. She was wonderfully down to earth and unnassuming and full of really helpful nd thought-provoking comments, many of which she illustrated by singing her own songs. One of her key ideas was to tell stories through small vivid details and minute particulars rather than grand sweeps and she illustrated this with a fine song called Five Minutes, about five minutes in the life of a waitress on her cigarette break during which we get glimpses that add up to a whole life. Reflecting on that tight focus and the deliberate restriction of the window through which you see things, I suddenly saw a way of telling a story I’ve been meaning to tell for a while, so I went down to my woodshed and wrote this song today:


It took two loving bodies,
And their comfort through the night,
And two hearts beating faster
To bring Billy to the light,
About a thousand kisses
Saw that baby on his way,
But it only took one finger
To blow it all away

It took one mothers labour pains
And a skilful midwife too,
Two grandmas knitting double-time
Those clothes of baby blue,
It took years of love to raise him
With room to grow and play
But it only took a second
To blow it all away


We cannot count the multitude
Who made us what we are
The many friends who formed us
And carried us this far;
A hundred acts of kindness
That no one can repay
One finger, and one trigger
Can blow it all away

It took that teenage boy awhile
To find his own two feet
And he took his best friend with him
On that sixteenth birthday treat
The two boys took a shortcut
Down a darkened alleyway
And walked into the crossfire
That took Billy’s life away

I don’t know how the gunman
Tells the story of that day
He was ‘taking care of business’
When some kid got in the way
We make it hard to grow up right
And hard to make things pay
But we sure make it easy
To blow everything away

It took forty-seven minutes
For the funeral to pass
Though it felt like we were crawling
Over miles of broken glass
I saw it all in front of me
When I closed my eyes to pray:
The finger, and the trigger
And the life they took away


Filed under imagination, Music, Songs

6 responses to “first fruits of the Gretchen Peters’ workshop

  1. excellent, Malcolm!
    I look forward to hearing you sing it…

  2. Pingback: August 2010 newsletter « Blog: Gretchen Peters: Grammy Nominated, Nashville Folk-Country Singer-Songwriter

  3. Pingback: Dancing Through the Fire -My New CD | Malcolm Guite

  4. Pingback: Gretchen Peters: Grammy Nominated, Nashville Singer-Songwriter: August 2010 newsletter

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