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A music blog by Mark Nishimura

Singer-songwriter Bad Heart performs ballads of aloneness and loneliness, keeping the ghosts of the no-no boys and Sleepy John Estes in his throat and more than a few card tricks up his sleeve. Originally from San Francisco, he currently is absorbing the city lights of Hollywood.

I am a-muse(d)

Something was lodged inside the mailbox. It took a while to pull the damn thing out. Once I succeeded and after the box stopped shaking and the bills stopped flying, I had in my hand the culprit: a package from my friend Leora Amir. “Queen Jane.” That’s her nom de plume, stolen from a Bob Dylan song. I, of course, was her “faithful slave Pedro,” taken from the same album.

The package only contained a short note and a cassette tape. On the tape’s label, written in black ink, were the following words: “Evasive Man, 1996.” This was the title of Lee’s original composition.

Now I don’t remember hearing this song before, but if I have heard it, it must have been when I was constantly escaping the city lights of San Francisco to the moonlit streets of Sacramento, my childhood home. I dropped the cassette in the tape deck and pressed play. Lee’s lively voice – recorded almost 15 years ago – came on. I laughed. I felt so humbled, so passive. You see, this song was about me.

“I’ve got a friend/he’s got seven ways around a question… he’s got guilt like a goblin in his blood/much too much to mention… Ask him a question and he will laugh if he can/he’ll quote a bluesman/he’s an evasive man…”

It’s funny to be on the other side of a song. It’s like looking at a portrait of yourself, except the focus is not on your physicality but your personality. So am I evasive? Do I know seven ways around a question? Well, sure, I was. Fifteen years ago. In my twenties. But not anymore … Well, no, that’s not entirely true. I still have a nasty habit of putting up my guard if I feel that I’m revealing too much of myself. I’ll admit, after all these years, I am much too scared to expose all of my scars. But I’m getting better, so I tell myself. Okay, how about one scar at a time?

In the tape’s companion note, Lee asked if I had ever written a song about her. Well, sort of. I know she was the muse to a couple of songs, written around the same time “Evasive Man” was recorded. They were written after one August night, when I met up with Lee in a crowded Java City coffee house in downtown Sacramento. She was, most likely, opening up to me, and I was, most likely, shutting down. Whenever she caught me doing this, she always did the same thing – she laughed. But that night she just smiled. And that smile was brighter than the summer moon. Right then, I fell head over heels in love with her. Of course I never told her this. Instead I drove back to San Francisco later that night. A couple days later, I wrote the lyrics to “Last Chance for Redemption” and “Part of Me.” A month later, I got my head on straight.

So yes, Queen Jane, those songs were created because of you. And I can only hope I have become less evasive all these years. Love always, your faithful slave Pedro.

“‘Have you ever written a song about me?’ he says/‘No,’ I say. ‘Not yet.’/We talk on the phone/He’s always in the middle of writing me a letter he won’t send/a letter he won’t end/a letter he will lie about…”

– Leora Amir, “Evasive Man”

“I wrote you a letter today/but I threw it away and pretended it never existed/I started all over again/and added the pain and the life it was missing…”

– “Last Chance for Redemption”

  1. Mark,

    I love the way you approached this blog. It’s so Griffin and Sabine. Correspondence taken off the page and notes lifted into the air filled with song and emotion~

    I love both tunes very much/he’s an evasive man~

  2. Interesting story….life is too short to be evasive…take a risk or you’ll regret it.

  3. ah…evasiveness is a behavior practiced by those who are too kind or too cowardly to be honest and blunt. nice story.

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