25 October 2002
Drink the wine while it is warm
Richard Harris, I suspect, will be remembered mostly for his acting, but to me, he'll always be the raspy not-quite-a-singer-but-what-the hell voice of Jimmy Webb on some late-Sixties records that were so far over the top you could intercept lightning bolts on the way up.
The archetype, of course, is the seven-minute-plus "MacArthur Park", in which Harris' voice sounds like W. H. Auden's face, "like a wedding-cake left in the rain." But this soggy saga is only the beginning: "The Yard Went On Forever", a song about heroes and Hiroshima that has the audacity to incorporate a children's chorus singing De profundis, leaves the "Park" in a cloud of dust. With examples like these to guide him, Harris began to write, and his best-known composition, the spoken-word "There Are Too Many Saviours On My Cross", alternates between absolutely stunning and positively cringe-inducing, though the hair still stands up on the back of my neck on the last line:
Our Father, who art in heaven, Sullied be Thy name.
There will be another song for him; someone will sing it.