Emma's Song

October 15, 2008 9:34 AM

A song I wrote in 2002 for a friend of mine, Emma Howell, after she drowned in Brazil.

I made this recording in a neighbor's basement studio, and it benefits a lot from that—it's much cleaner than the stuff I was recording myself at that point, and he had the good sense to keep me honest about not settling for a take I wasn't happy with on any of the instruments.

Even six years later, I think it's one of the better recordings I've made. I'm not sure how I managed to not post it before.

Emma was a poet and a dreamer and seemed to be or at least to want to be 18-going-on-40 for as long as I knew her. The two of us weren't especially close, but she was a kind of social glue among some of my very good friends, and a charming and charismatic being in her own right—a sort of nexus, not just for me I think but many people moving through that time and place in Portland.

When I spoke at a memorial reading for her in the last year or so, it struck me how narrowly she managed to miss the era of social internet ubiquity—she had no internet paper trail; googling turned up very little about her other than some obituaries and news about a posthumous volume of her poetry. This, I guess, will be on of those little signposts in the road, marking out her life and death.

posted by cortex (10 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite


I remember
Getting drunk for the first time
At your house on New Year’s Eve
That virgin trip

And I remember
Hanging out with you and Mary
At Coffeetime in NorthWest
And I beat you both at chess
And I’m no good at chess

And then you died
In the water
In Brazil

I remember
How you smoked your clove cigarettes
And the smoke became you
And your voice seemed to fit the smoke

And I remember
How I wanted you
How everybody seemed to want you
All the boys did
And the girls did too

I remember
How you sent me some sand
From a beach in Spain
That made my day
You made my day

And I remember
The way that Wilder’s voice
Shook on the telephone
Still seems like just the other day

He said you died
In the water
In Brazil

posted by cortex at 9:36 AM on October 15, 2008

Great song, cortex. You can really feel the emotions that are almost dripping off of your words as you sing them. It makes me feel sad that I never knew Emma, and I think that speaks volumes about your song; that you can make some dude on the other side of the world wish he'd known this woman, even for a short time, because surely someone deserving of such priase and a beautiful song must have been worth knowing.

Kudos, and kudos to your friend who wouldn't let you settle for a take you weren't happy with too!
posted by Effigy2000 at 1:38 PM on October 15, 2008

The saddess thing about life is that we are born to die.
Being taken unexpectedly only adds to that sadness.
Not to say the death is always about sadness.
So to leave this on a good note her song touched me.
posted by american caesar at 3:30 PM on October 15, 2008

It's nice to have a recorded version of this song handy. I've heard it a couple of times now and always think, "Where's that song from?" (although I think we talked about that once). Thanks for posting it, cortex. It sounds great.
posted by sleepy pete at 4:27 PM on October 15, 2008

Good show Cortex. I'm sure she would appreciate this.
posted by snsranch at 6:04 PM on October 15, 2008

posted by Jofus at 3:34 AM on October 16, 2008

Thanks for posting this, Cortex. Songs like this can be hard to come back to.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 6:42 PM on October 16, 2008

This is sweet. We should all be so lucky to be remembered this fondly.
posted by jessamyn at 5:19 PM on October 20, 2008

The emotion you convey in this gives me chills. Lovely job.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 5:58 PM on October 22, 2008

Man I saw you post this in October, and here I am in June having the courage to listen to this song again. After seven years.

This song is an example of what i think is best about your music; the ability to speak plainly and yet poetically. To be creative but not artificial.

It's also sad as hell.
posted by French Fry at 12:19 PM on June 4, 2009

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