Record of Life

by Joe Goodkin

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released June 30, 2015



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Joe Goodkin Chicago, Illinois

Chicago-based singer/songwriter Joe Goodkin (of Paper Arrows and The Odyssey) is proud to release his first solo record, entitled Record of Life. Record of Life chronicles family, love, loss, and remembrance in six sprawling songs, each recorded using only Goodkin's haunted 1963 Gibson ES-125t. ... more

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Track Name: Dog and Cat
I’ve got a long list of regrets that I keep in my head
I think that most people do the same
Some are big, some are small, some are louder than a train
And I spend my days trying to drown them out
Should I have gone out on the road at the first sign of success
Quit my job and burned my savings for the dream
Said “I love you” to my wife as I walked out the door
To a life of little towns and in between

Did I hide behind a ghost? Did I stop instead of go?
Was I too goddamn afraid to risk it all?
Well I’ve got another chance and I’ll say it so you know
It’s on me and me alone to rise or fall

If I’m asking for it all, I need to give it to you straight
I need to stop wrapping my words up in a code
I’m pretty good at making noise and singing things that sound profound
I take it right up to the edge and pull the punch
Like my song about divorce, it isn’t really about kids
It’s about our dog and cat and how we split them up
Maybe it doesn’t matter much, maybe I shouldn’t bring it up
And there’s regret again just when I thought I’d won

I’m going to pour everything into this record of my life
Every pain and every fear and every loss
All the things that I held back and all the things that I left out
And maybe that will finally, finally quell the doubt
Maybe that will finally, finally quell the doubt
Maybe that will finally, finally quell the doubt
Track Name: Gray
Up and down the stairs we went
In the gray of a winter that wouldn’t end
An old black dog with bad hips and a cough
Some days we’d have to carry him the last flight up
Flashback to April of ’01
I got him from the pound when he was young
My ex-wife was there as I put him in the car
But he was always mine right from the start
Through the years he kept me in line
We things we tough he was there all the time
Now he’s gray and he can’t hear a thing
But I’ll carry him up those stairs again and again
How do we say goodbye
When we have the chance to write
The last words of a precious life
How do we know to say goodbye

My grandpa’s 92 or 93
He’s been in a home a couple years at least
My grandma’s there too but just since the fall
I visit once a week, my sister tries to call
Lately he’s been having trouble with his food
Can’t see the plate and can barely chew
So they blend it up and give him a straw
And he does his best, I guess, like he’s done for so long
He loved opera and books and pulled for the Sox
Now he can’t really think and can barely talk
And I sit with him every Thursday
In his little room and we listen to the radio play
How do we say goodbye
When we have the chance to write
The last words of a precious life
How do we know to say goodbye

My grandma’s down the hall in a different place
She got sick last year but she’s okay
She saves me cans of lemon-lime pop
I don’t really drink them but I won’t tell her to stop
We look out her window and she remembers the times
Growing up in the city when her mom died
She was only six and it was just the start
She talks about Chicago with so much love in her heart
Riding the streetcars and walking to school
Dancing at the Aragon and swimming in pools
We sort through her pictures, she tells me who’s who
I’ve seen them all before but each time I learn something new
How do we say goodbye
When we have the chance to write
The last words of a precious life
How do we know to say goodbye

I met my wife in a skyscraper
I looked like Jesus and I smiled at her
I was separated two months at the time
Still wearing a ring and writing Look Alive
I sat by her at drinks that night
And something wrapped my heart up tight
Skip to 2010, the 10th of July
In front of friends and family she became my wife
We live a good life and work real hard
Been through some shit and come really far
I love her like nothing I’ve known in my heart
And I’d do anything to keep her from the dark
I’m younger than her, it never mattered much
Maybe once in awhile with the usual stuff
We’re planning our future and think of a time
When one of us might leave the other behind
She’s pretty sure she’ll go before me
But my other grandpa didn’t even make 50
And nothing is promised not even today
So I pray for the grace to grow old and gray
How do we say goodbye
When we have the chance to write
The last words of a precious life
How do we know to say goodbye
Track Name: My Friends
Me and my best friends met in high school
We did the things that every kid’s supposed to do
Like chasing girls and getting high
We saw the Grateful Dead’s last show in ’95
My friends
Have we changed?
Somewhere inside these three hearts
Aren’t we just the same
Three kids who took our parents’ cars
And drove around til dawn
I can’t believe those times are 20 years gone

One friend moved east, he disappears for months
I call and call and call until he’s had enough
He quit his job, got really dark
It wasn’t anything new but each time hits him so hard
He had a kid who gave him light
I see him once a year and worry he’ll lose his fight
My friend
Are you okay?
Can you pull yourself up to meet the light of day
I meant it every time I called and said “I’m here”
I hope you know how much I hold you dear

One friend moved west to make a life
He got a job and it was through that that he met his wife
They had four kids, two sets of twins
He ran for state office and he went on to win
When we met up in Vegas last year
We drank and laughed and drank til we were both in tears
My friend
A song still plays
When I think of thumbing 1-0-1 from Seattle to the Bay
I meant it every time I said “I love you, man”
I’m always here, just call me when you can
Just call, call me when you can
Track Name: Three Ghosts
Three ghosts came to me on the night I wrote this song
In my sleep I picked up my guitar and I could play nothing wrong
The first ghost was a friend from high school who took her life at 16
She and a classmate made a pact and sat in the garage with the car running
The day we heard my dad and I were driving back from downstate
We stopped so he could check in with my mom and he came back to car with a look as
heavy as the rain
We sat in silence for the rest of the ride and I thought about the loss
She and I had worked together in a club and I’d even asked her to prom
The following days we filled up the churches as fathers remembered their girls
We tried and we hugged and we walked and we talked how we all felt alone in the
Now it’s decades ago I don’t think of her much but every once in awhile by chance
I remember the smile on her face in the hallway when she turned me down for the

The second ghost was my wife’s ex who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge
Left two kids behind, a note on a napkin and a list of deceptions long and rich
They were a thing for four years in all, one good, one less and two tough
They bought a house and moved in together, she tried to save him but it wasn’t enough
She remembers the phone calls, the questions, the shock, when they found his car on
the Bridge
The search for a body, a shoe or a shirt but nothing was ever recovered and so it was
Just a year later when she and I met and she told me of that first night alone
Awash in a loss no one can imagine and waiting and waiting… and he’s not coming

The third ghost was my uncle Curt who passed away Christmas week
He used a gun to finish a job he’d been working on decades with drink
He lived in Seattle was estranged from us here in Chicago for most of my life
What I was told was a typical story that no one got along with his wife
Then in a turn of incredible fate not eight months after he died
My wife and I were the airport in Seattle waiting in one of those interminable lines
And an airline employee came up to us there to help with changing our flight
She looked at our tickets, I looked at her badge and realized it was my uncle’s wife
“Nancy” I said “It’s Joe…”
And my words hung in the air
She took a step back and then she embraced me as if she wasn’t sure I was there
And I told her I read the words that she wrote in the paper, so honest, so beautiful, so
And she that near the end though they’d gotten divorced she’d stayed with him in her
And after ten or so minutes we said our goodbyes I’m pretty sure that all of us wept
And the whole flight home I wondered and I
Held my wife
As she slept
Track Name: As Old as I am Now
When I was four or five on a morning in July
I road the train downtown with my dad
We did it every week, our Saturday routine
We’d take it to the end of the line
Along the I-290 rush I couldn’t get enough
Of the city passing by stop by stop
My dad would read a magazine, watch me watch the scenery
He was in his 30’s at the time
He must have been as old as I am now

I remember going through a book of the pictures that we took
Of all our family trips and birthday cakes
There was one shot of my mom with sister as a tot
Taken in the living room of our first place
My sis can barely stand so my mom gives her a hand
With a look upon her face I can’t describe
At this leaning little child with her crooked baby smile
My mom was in her 30’s at the time
She must have been as old as I am now

I was lucky growing up, I didn’t want for much
My loved ones always stayed and never left
Sure my heart was broken once and I lost some friends too young
But compared to others’ pain I feel blessed
Now I’m getting to the age where people start to go away
Lost my Bubbie on Two Twenty-Two Thirteen
She was ninety-seven years of more laughter than tears
She took her second husband’s name which was Green
For her last days on the earth she had a Nigerian nurse
Who bathed her and held her and sang to her at night
And when she finally passed in her easy chair she sat
And her nurse was there waiting just outside
We gathered in her flat, aunt, uncles, mom and dad
To eat and drink and talk about her light
And I looked at all the smiles of the people who shaped my life
And I knew someday they’d all be gone
And once they were as old as I am now
And once they were as old as I am now
Track Name: Something to Love
I am in sky above the Bay flying back to Chicago on Good Friday night
I’m drinking alone and I’m trying to write one more song for this record of my life
I was in California playing music I wrote based on Homer’s Odyssey
Sometimes I forget how lucky I am to be living something out of a dream
Sure it’s different than I imagined when I learned Appetite for Destruction in fifth grade
But the same feeling I got from Slash’s guitar I still feel in my fingers every time I play

I get to sing for people who care and go to places near and far
And whether it’s rock and roll songs or epic poetry it comes right from my heart
And the sun is aflame out the windows behind cause the earth is spinning ‘round
And the plane is dipping towards my city of light and soon I’ll be on the ground
And no matter what’s happened to me on this crooked race that I’ve run
I’m here in the air and I’m going home to the woman that I love
Coming back from doing something that I love
How lucky to have something and someone to love