"They've all come, to look for America...."
My life is lived at the intersection of wine and music. They are my two great passions, and I’ve had the tremendous fortune to make my living in those two worlds my entire adult life. (They don’t let you make a living in wine before you’re 21, unfortunately…)
“America” is one of my all-time favorite songs – perhaps Paul Simon’s greatest composition ever. The Simon & Garfunkel version has been one of my favorite records since I first heard it on their “Bookends” album in 1968. Something about the song is haunting – it gets in my head it stays there for days on end. And this has been going on for over 45 years! Talk about enduring. Passion, drama, a search for something that’s not to be found anymore, a captivating melodic line, intriguing chord progressions, spare yet thunderous percussion – there’s just something magical about it.
“America” has been covered by disparate artists over the years, including a bizarre version by the art-rock band Yes in the early 70s. Then sometime last year I discovered that my new favorite band – Swedish duo First Aid Kit – was covering the song in their live shows, and had performed the song with Paul Simon in the audience when he received the prestigious Polar music prize in Sweden. (Amazing what you can find on YouTube these days…)
Last fall First Aid Kit released their version of “America” on a special 10” vinyl single for a Record Store Day promotion, and I chased all over New Orleans (while on a family holiday) until I finally found a copy at a funky shop just outside the French Quarter. My wife Martha probably thought I was a little obsessed. She was probably right. But then she heard the song. Now she gets it.
And of course this all ties together with wine somehow. It seems like they’ve truly “all come to look for America” – the Burgundians, that is. The Drouhins (with Domaine Drouhin Oregon) were first, of course, in 1987. Now we’ve had a flurry of top Burgundians either buying vineyards or consulting other winemakers here in the Willamette Valley, with Maison Jadot, Dominique Lafon and Louis-Michel Liger-Belair already in the game, and many more on their way if you believe the rumor mill. Vineyards in Burgundy are horribly expensive and nearly impossible to buy. When the Burgundians want to expand their production of Pinot Noir, they are coming here.
Then last week, while I was on the road doing some consulting work for Scott Paul Wines, I saw that David Letterman had flown in First Aid Kit to perform “America’ on one of his final shows, as it had been one of the songs he used to sing to his baby son many years ago. Check it out – and see if you don't find a little of the magic of “America” yourself…