Lyric of the Week: SHARI’S SONG
Updated: Jul 13
Shari was someone who I once knew
An older sister figure I would look up to
I was so inspired by the things she used to do
How I could know what she was really going through
Heart and soul on the piano together
Four parallel-fifth riff on a New Year’s Eve day
Ancient vista cruiser TV songs forever
But those forever songs, somehow they all slipped away
I was all of 19 when I got the call
It was like all of her pictures got torn from the wall
Too shocked and shaken for any tears to fall
I knew her for that long but did I know her at all
Just her name and the word “death” mentioned in the same sentence
Didn’t compute, didn’t add up, was totally wrong
But what could I do to make sense of the senseless
The only thing I could do was offer up a song
I sang, Hey you, are you there, are you still the same
It’s just me down here and I’m calling your name
Tramping down these boards saturated to the bone
Trying to figure out how you got so broken and alone
I know you’re up there crying down in the rain
Through the lightning and the thunder I can feel your great pain
Can you hear me, can you reach out and touch
‘Cause I feel just what you feel and it hurts so much.
It wasn’t for me to figure out why
It was really none of my business so I dared not try
But the memory hung over me like the overcast sky
And it didn’t clear up no matter how much time went by
There was no lamentation, there was no scream
There was calm on the surface, weird as that may seem
And life went on like water flowing downstream
Till one night, surprisingly, she came to me in a dream
I dreamt, Hey you, is that you there, you still look the same
The way I remember before the tragedy came
It’s a late afternoon in a crowded station hall
And I’m standing here waiting for my train to be called
You take my arm gently and implore me to wait
You’ll be back, you assure me, you’re in a peaceful state
I know you heard me because I felt your touch
But you were gone so quickly and I still miss you so much.
I poured my thoughts and my guts into writing the song
I arranged and recorded it and then sent it along
To some West Coast hotshot who said ready or not
I’m giving you a minute so give me what you got
It’s an important subject, he said, and I don’t want to make light
But the lyrics are cliché and the images are trite
And so rejected, I was dejected, and ever since then
I’ve been trying to make it happen between piano and pen
And she said, Hey you, are you there, are you still the same
More than 30 years later and you’re still calling my name
I’ve been up here longer than I’ve known you on earth
Now finish the song, for whatever it’s worth
Sing it and play it for everyone to hear and see
Keep my memory alive, remind the world there was a me
I saw you, I heard you, I reached out and touched
Now I trust you to do it, and it means that much.
©2022 The Hesh Inc.
Shari is the name of a dear friend of mine since early childhood. Several years older than me, she was artistic, musical, intellectual, and spiritual, and I looked up to her like an older sister that I never had. Her parents and mine knew each other since before either of us were born, and our families stayed friends over the years as new offspring joined the cast of characters. Even after my family moved away from her family's part of the world, we stayed in touch, and I greatly looked forward to all the times they would visit us or we would visit them.
The last time I visited, in the summer of 1983, the others were around but she wasn't. Nobody mentioned her whereabouts, and I assumed she was traveling or studying away from home. Then, in February 1985, one of her relatives called to inform me that she had died ... by her own hand. The news rocked my family and shook me to my core. I had encountered death in my inner circle before, but this was the first time I had encountered suicide. It was something I could not wrap my mind around, especially regarding someone who always seemed to have it together whenever I was around her.
As usual for a singer-songwriter, as I had begun to consider myself by that time, the way for me to process the sense of loss was to write a song, and I wrote what I thought was my most heartfelt and poignant song to date, which I titled "Shari." In the spring of 1986, I went into Gal-Kol Studio in Ramat Gan, Israel, with my musical partner Izzy Kieffer and several other musicians, and we laid down the tracks. The most outstanding part of the song was the incendiary guitar solo, played by C Lanzbom, and I thought for sure this would get us through the door with some producers who would help put us on the map.
By the time this recording was finished, I was still in the midst of my military service, but Izzy had just completed his, and he took the recording (part of a larger, album-length demo) with him when he traveled back to the US. Somehow he managed to get the recording into the hands of a West Coast–based producer and music manager (whose name and record label I do remember, quite well, but I'm keeping anonymous), who gave it all a listen and then got back to us with his comments. Regarding "Shari," he did away with it in several terse sentences, pretty much summed up in the penultimate verse.
I was crushed. Here I had put all my effort into writing my best music and lyrics, and this guy said they weren't good enough. What was I going to do next? Rewrite them, re-record the song, and send it back to him? Shop it to someone else? Meantime, I had the rest of my IDF stint to serve out, and the song languished.
It all hung hauntingly over my head for a long time ... the song, the producer's comments, and Shari's memory, which I felt the need to do justice by putting the song out and including it in the magnum opus that was starting to take shape. But how could I include it, if it was so tarnished by that producer's comments? If I was going to pay tribute to one of my dearest friends and deal with the subject of suicide in my lyrics, I wanted to do it well.
The song continued to languish as I went through various phases of my life, marriages, births (it's worth mentioning here that my younger daughter is partially named for Shari), divorces, relocations, jobs, bands, gigs, recordings, and everything else. I attempted several rewrites over the years but none of them rang true. But then, once I reached my mid-fifties, several occurrences—including my father's passing—made me acutely aware of my own mortality, and I began to live with the sense that there is more behind me than there is ahead of me. If I do not want to take these things—my unfinished creative endeavors—with me when my time comes, I need to pay some serious attention to them right now, complete them, and put them out there for the public. First and foremost was my only partially completed magnum opus, Soul In Exile, and first and foremost among the unfinished songs in that opus was ... "Shari."
In June 2022, I took all my versions of the song out, spread them out throughout my apartment, and began to tilt at it in earnest. Only now, the story of the state of song itself became part of the story told in the lyrics, and the title became "Shari's Song." Further, I dispensed with any attempt to get to the bottom of why she chose to end her life, reasoning that it was none of my business, and nothing that I could write could change anything anyway. I wanted to lay the song to rest, lay her memory to rest, and to find peace for her soul and within myself.
I finished "Shari's Song" on July 6, 2022, some 37 years after I first wrote "Shari." I am currently in the Jewish ritual mourning period for my father, which precludes live music and recording until a year after his passing. But once I've passed that, I plan to go into the studio, with this and all the other completed and unrecorded songs of Soul In Exile, and finally finish this monumental undertaking once and for all.