The People’s Music (book #96)

Ian MacDonald, 2003.

I read this mainly for the Nick Drake essay, though the others are also interesting. Argues that Drake had read about Buddhism and had a naturally Buddhist sensibility, “boiled down to the linked recognition that life is a predicament and that the world is ultimately an irreducible mystery”. MacDonald reads “River Man” as a description of enlightenment versus everyday life: “The river is the realm of material life wherein the senses wander and the mind gets lost in the flow of time and thought”. The woman in the song, Betty, considers “leaving the everyday life for the life of detachment,” but decides against it. MacDonald thinks the final lines “Oh, how they come and go” are a reference to reincarnation. Have to say this all seems a stretch to me.

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