Listen to this track by former angry young man turned happily-married stalwart singer-songwriter Graham Parker. It’s “Partner For Life”, an ode to love, commitment, and the realities of adult relationships as featured on Parker’s 1995 album 12 Haunted Episodes.
By the 1990s, Parker had been prolific as a writer and performer, even if his mainstream success didn’t match that of his contemporaries to whom he is often compared; Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson, both of whom held Parker as an influence. He had become, and remained to be, a cult artist.
Parker had been through the wringer with various major label record companies as a result, suffering a lack of support and poor sales of his albums. Or was it the other way around, with the lack of support resulting in his cult status?
Either way, he’d established himself as an artist with a consistent body of work, despite the hardships and vicious cycles he’d experienced while tangling with the majors. He certainly succeeded in consolidating a lasting core audience, doing so by being a steadfast songwriter, record maker, and tireless live performer.
By this record, he’d cut the shackles of major label skulduggery loose and gone indie on the Razor & Tie label. As such, there is a certain liberation that can be heard in a song like “Partner For Life”. And there is another kind of liberation to be found in this song, too.
With this song, the rewards and challenges of marriage and parenthood are central. Looking for meaning to bolster one’s commitment to those relationships, even when separated from loved ones, is the engine that drives the emotional core of the song. This is a portrait of a man who is looking for ways to stay connected, even when on the road alone without them.
In some ways, this is something of a rebellion against the rebellion when it comes to the life of a rock musician. Instead of hotel rooms strewn with drugs and groupies, we’re given ruminations of paintings on the walls with “couples intertwined as if fighting for their lives”, which in one way certainly describes the nature of adult relationships.
Here, fighting for one’s life is about identifying and clinging to what’s really important, with that fight being the key engine to self-discovery. And really, that is a kind of liberation too. It’s a kind of freedom that can only be found when you decide to put everything into what you’ve come to realize will provide the best return, especially as you grow older; security, love, and the unique treasure that comes from knowing, and being known by, another person.
If you’re going to write a love song, you don’t get much better inspiration than that.
Graham Parker is an active musician today, soon to release a new record with his former war buddies The Rumour later in 2012; Three Chords Good. The reunion came out of a recent documentary about Graham Parker, Don’t Ask Me Questions which in part traces the thread of Parker’s career as a cult artist, with worldwide fame just out of reach despite his obvious talent and the esteem of his fellow musicians. The film was partially funded by die-hard Parker fans.
For more information, read this article about Graham Parker & The Rumour and their involvement with Judd Apatow’s new movie, tentatively titled This Is Forty, coming out later this year.
And of course, don’t forget GrahamParker.net for up to the minute news.