Musical Notes


Among the huge number of Wolfe-related items available on YouTube is a four-minute performance of the song "Thomas Wolfe" by the DaVincis from their 1988 LP, Eating Gifted Children (see the 2007 TWR, "Bibliography," page 174).

A much more recent song titled "Thomas Wolfe," which is available on iTunes and Amazon, is a bluesy country number by singer/songwriter Jim Rorie from his album Payin' the Fiddler (JI-RO Records, 2011). The chorus features these lines (repeated three times, including twice at the end): "I haven't seen my old friends since I was in my teens / I guess ol' Thomas Wolfe was right, you can't go home again."

The phrases "Look Homeward, Angel" (often without the comma), "You Can't Go Home Again," and even "Of Time and the River" pop up multiple times in song titles on Amazon and iTunes. We have examined only a few so far, but previews are easily accessible on both sites, and there is a wide range of musical genres available. Limiting the discussion to "Look Homeward, Angel," for example, one can find songs that have been noted in these pages before (by Johnny Ray, Jerry Vale, Steve Kilbey, Lari White, etc.), as well as others new to us: folk songs by Kari Bremnes (2003) and Buffalo Death Beam (2011); country songs by Radio Sweethearts (2000) and Eddie Dean (1967; reissued 2006); an alt-country tune by Pretty Horses (2011); a jazz/ pop composition by Benita Hill (1995); and a hard rock/metal screamer by the immortal Neon Piss (appropriately released on Deranged Records, 2012).

In "Road Trip Begs the Question: Can You Go Home Again?" (Bloomington [IN] Herald-Times, 11 November 2012), columnist Mike Leonard recounts a trip (in a rented Lincoln Continental) from Bloomington, Indiana, to Detroit with three high school buddies to relive his youth by seeing a 40th-anniversary tour of his favorite band, Jethro Tull. Leonard begins:

     There are any number of interpretations and applications of the
   theme "You can't go home again."

      Several months ago, I considered the following variant: "You may
    no longer like your favorite band at age 17, 40 years later. (A8)

Wondering if seeing Jethro Tull perform--in its entirety--their 1972 album, Thick as a Brick, would revive youthful memories or ruin them, the four friends risked it, and had a great time. Leonard concludes:

   So can you go home again--can you relive a time or a feeling or a
   sense of place--as Thomas Wolfe once asked? Most of the time, the
   answer is surely no. But it can be done. (A8)

Matthew C. Armstrong contributed two essays to Reading the Grateful Dead: A Critical Survey (Scarecrow, 2012), and in both he mentions Wolfe. In "The Education of a Deadhead: A Letter from a Novelist," Armstrong reports reading old interviews of Jerry Garcia and finding references to a number of musicians and writers, including Jack Kerouac. "In other words," he writes, "the Dead was my window into the best art America has to offer, because through Kerouac you find Thomas Wolfe, and through Wolfe you find confusions with Tom Wolfe and the rhythms of Whitman, and in Whitman is America itself" (3). Then, in " Cold Roses: A Skeleton Key to the Grateful Dead in the Music of Ryan Adams," Armstrong writes about attending a performance by Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (which happened to be at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in Asheville) during their tour to promote the album Cold Roses:

   To write sincere poetry rooted in the symbols of the land, to be
   open and adamant about your traditions, to be wildly but
   effectively prolific--this is a tradition, a type of American
   artist we've seen before. … 

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