SONG

“The Never Ending Happening”

by Bill Fay

Central Question: If the human condition is a work of art, how good is it?
Partial list of record labels on which Fay has released music: Wooden Hill, Coptic Cat, Dead Oceans; Other evocative song titles from Life Is People: “This World,” “Big Painter,” “The Healing Day,” “Jesus, Etc.,” “The Coast No Man Can Tell”; Number of tour dates scheduled in promotion of Life Is People: zero; Proviso on contact page of billfay.co.uk, “the one and only website dedicated to British singer and songwriter Bill Fay”: “NO FAN FICTION THOUGH, I REPEAT NO BLOODY FAN FICTION.”

Even in his youth, Bill Fay never composed songs an older, wiser man wouldn’t have written. He already sounds seasoned on 1970’s “Garden Song,” begging to be buried among potatoes and parsley—a humble resting place for a lyricist equally preoccupied with the cosmic and the epic. Identifying with the ingredients of a peasant’s supper, looking “for lasting relations / with a greenfly, spider, or maggot,” he sings of bonding with the natural world, beginning with the bottom rung.

“The Never Ending Happening,” the standout track from 2012’s Life Is People, Fay’s first studio album in four decades, feels like a sequel broadened in scope. It consists of a simple circular piano progression, with a burst of grainy cello toward the end. Fay’s low voice, quavering yet resonant as a kindly senator’s, pores over not only the inevitable marriage of man and earth—in a word, death—but also the lot of man while on Earth:

The never ending happening
of what’s to be and what has been.
Just to be a part of it
is astonishing to me.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

—Andrew Simmons

Andrew Simmons is a writer, teacher, musician, and athlete living in Los Angeles. He has written for Gastronomica, the New York Times, and Slate.


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